Dear Fr. Joe: Why is the Church refusing to pay for birth control?

Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about the Church not wanting to pay for couples who want to use birth control: What’s the deal? Aren’t we refusing to help the poor when we do this?

A. This is a great and timely question. Right now, one of the core issues the Church has with the Health and Human Services mandate is that it would force Catholic employers to pay for artificial birth control. Why is that an issue? Why does the Church oppose married couples using artificial birth control?

This struggle may be a gift God is giving us. This teaching has been ignored by us for so long because, frankly, at first blush, it may seem strange and inconvenient. But this teaching is a beautiful part of the vast treasure that is the faith.

So, I’m inviting us all to pause today and see and rise to the challenge of embracing our Catholicism in a new and stronger way. Let’s let the Holy Spirit convict and move us into a deeper understanding of marriage in all its beauty and wonder. Can we do that? Can we pray right at this moment that God will use the words here to help us?

Good. Let’s get to it.

We’ll start with a simple reality: In this teaching on the dangers of artificial birth control, the Church showed that she had no interest in winning any popularity contest.

The fact that the Church continues to teach this should point us to a powerful reality: The Church has to teach us what God gives her, even what we don’t want to hear.

God’s love for us is total. It is complete. God poured out himself in love for us – he held nothing back. This is how God loves within himself: In the Trinity (which we call the central mystery of our faith) we have three persons completely pouring themselves out into each other through love.

This divine being, this Trinity, also pours itself into his bride, the Church. When Jesus declared us his bride, he did so on the altar of the cross: He completely and totally gave himself to us. He held nothing back, not even his last drop of blood or his last breath.

When a two people marry in the Church, they are called to watch the ultimate groom (Jesus) and the ultimate bride (the Church) and imitate that reality. The key reality to marriage that often gets overlooked is that marriage is not about two people who found each other, it’s about God drawing two people together and helping them become one with each other as a means to become one with him. Their oneness then, and all that they sacrifice to achieve it, speaks to and heals the world around them. Marriage is not about a social contract or even exclusively about human love: It’s about God’s love for the couple in bringing them the gift of their spouse and God’s love for the human race in gifting the world with a couple so deeply and totally in love.

The problem with artificial birth control is that it attacks that reality: Two becoming one is hampered when a barrier is placed between them at the most intimate moment of their marriage.

In the marital act, a couple is imitating and worshipping the life of the Trinity – they are proclaiming their deep and abiding love for each other and their desire to be one. That kind of love is all about life.

There are so many reasons the Church teaches us that artificial birth control is wrong and damaging to our human dignity – the mobi tags at left will send you directly to a couple of them. In the future, I’ll go through some of the questions/challenges posed by this issue and, hopefully, address them in a helpful way.

In the meantime, thank you for reading this with an open mind and heart. May God continue to bless us by calling us to grow in love and mutual sacrifice and commitment.

Enjoy another day in God’s presence!