Two speakers at the "Contraception Is Not the Answer" conference used religion as their main argument against contraception. They used religion as a weapon to attempt to manipulate people into following their narrow beliefs. But it is important to remember that they do not represent the majority of conservatives, nor of Christians. This reality check is for the right and the left.
Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, President of HLI, gave a lecture called "The Infertile Soul: Contraception's Influence on Faith and Society. Euteneuer uses his position as a Catholic priest to advocate for withholding communion from women who use birth control. He tells medical professionals that their "souls are at risk" for prescribing contraception. The Reverend also told the audience that humans' relationship with God is based on fertility [note: all audio links open in new windows]. It seems unfair to me that infertile couples would be cut off from the divine, but I guess they're not able or allowed to complete the "act of marital love." That's too bad because Euteneuer also labels people without children as selfish. Yeah, I suppose it is selfish to want to wait for the right time and bring a child into a stable environment where s/he will be given all the love, attention, and resources that s/he deserves.
Euteneuer's main point is that not only does contraception lead to abortion (based on the fact that being able to control conception leads to increased promiscuity and unchastity), but that it is abortion. He emphasizes the teensy tiny eeny weeny chance that a fertilized egg might not implant due to contraception – a point which is completely unproven. Euteneuer uses religious symbolism to compare sexuality education with the apple from the tree of knowledge, implying that education is an invitation and having sex will get you kicked off the island… I mean …out of the Garden of Eden. Sounds sort of like in the old days when the Catholic priests were the only ones who could read the Bible and held all of the knowledge and control.
Rev. Euteneuer ended with three steps for action. His advice for the pro-life movment is to deny Planned Parenthood funding for birth control, abortion, and sex ed. This is despite the education and resources that organization makes available to help low-income couples, minority populations and at-risk youth to access healthcare. He also wants conservatives to misinform legislators that contraception damages women's bodies, despite lack of evidence. Secondly, he challenges the Catholic Church to reach out to Protestants and encourage them to return to the roots of their traditions – which include opposing birth control. No matter that the majority of Catholics are not opposed to contraception. Finally, he asked the audience to renounce unchastity as a lifestyle. I suppose he would be happy if women were required to wear burqas and not go out in public without an escort.
While these extreme views against contraception are not the norm, they are still disturbing. Religious leaders have great influence over their members. With great power, comes great responsibility. Hopefully, most religious leaders will realize that the responsibility for health and education is more important than conservative ideology and not use reckless rhetoric. And hopefully liberals will realize that the group opposed to contraception represents a minority of Catholics and that "Christian" does not equal religious right.
Stay tuned as our series about the emerging war on contraception continues, for more on the diversity of Christians, the second anti-contraception speaker who used religion as his main argument against contraception, and a personal look at his Protestant focus.