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Practical Apologetics: A Response to 'Satan's Spectacularly Successful Seven Step Strategy'

- A Catholic perspective on abortion, contraception and homosexuality

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(Last Updated:  12 Jan 2004 )

Today we're going to talk about "practical apologetics" - stuff that will be helpful in dealing with real-life issues that are likely to come up in discussions with friends and family. This doesn't mean to say that any of the other stuff in these workshops is not practical, or not "real-life" - it's just that in my experience, like in long trips in mini-vans to canoe polo training camps, or in airport lounges, or on plane flights, or at work, I've talked about life issues like abortion or the church's stand on contraception more than I've talked about things like the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Quick Index: Introduction / Abortion / Contraception / Homosexuality


I thought it would be good to start with a brief bit of scripture. It's from the Acts of the Apostles, where St Paul was accused of being a troublemaker by the Jews and brought before Felix, the goverbor of Judaea.
"But when Paul spoke to him about an upright life, self control and the coming judgement, Felix became afraid and said to him, 'Go away.'" (Acts 24:25).

I chose that verse because there are a lot of times we get the chance to talk to friends or colleagues about moral issues which involve living an upright life and self control. But sometimes we don't take the chance to speak up. It might be because we're not prepared to do so, or because we think the other person is not going to like what we have to say. But things are always a lot easier if we have given some thought to these issues and if we have some strategies ready for if the opportunities do come up. And that's what this session is about.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft wrote a very interesting and entertaining article a few years ago called Satan's Battle Plan for the Third Millennium. He doesn't say how it fell into his hands, but he claims it's actually the transcript of a speech written by Satan himself to his demons. Very interesting reading. Part of it goes like this:
Ever since I began our great war by asserting my rights, my freedom, and my self-actualization against the narrow-minded, bigoted, tyrannical, fascistic, chauvinistic, racist, sexist, homophobic dogmatism of the Enemy, ever since I proclaimed the Profound Philosophical Principle of Absolute Relativism and persuaded you to follow this Super-Enlightened Program of Revolutionary Political Correctness, we have won victory after victory. Conclusively and repeatedly we demons have demonstrated that Straight Is Stupid and Crooked Is Clever. Of course, there was that minor, temporary setback when we were forcibly ejected from Heaven. But that is more than compensated for by our assurance that our triumph is guaranteed (I promise you total customer satisfaction or double your money back) because the very essence of Heaven's philosophy is weakness and the very essence of Hell's philosophy is strength and power. Heaven relies on love (pardon the obscenity), Hell on fear. And as our delightful assistant Mack (the Knife) Yavelli pointed out so irrefutably in The Prince, it is better to be feared than to be loved because men will love you as they choose, but fear you as you choose.

In his speech, Satan goes on to describe his most brilliant work; he calls it "Satan's Spectacularly Successful Seven Step Sexual Strategy":
Step 1: The summum bonum, the ultimate end, is to capture souls.
Step 2: A powerful means to this end is the corruption of society... After all, a good society is simply one that makes it easy to be good... a bad society makes it easy to be bad. Has there ever been a time when we've made it easier for humans to be bad?
Step 3: The most powerful means to destroy society is to destroy its one absolutely fundamental building block, the family, the only institution where most of them learn life's most disgusting lesson, unselfish love.
Step 4: The family is destroyed by destroying its foundation, stable marriage.
Step 5: Marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue, sexual fidelity.
Step 6: Fidelity is destroyed by the Sexual Revolution.
Step 7: The Sexual Revolution is propagated mainly by the media, which are now massively in our hands.
Satan continues:
The simple tactic of getting to their hearts through their hormones has proved incredibly successful. Their moralists now tremble in terror at old truisms like "natural law" and terms like "objective," "universal," and "absolute" not because they really believe there is no real morality any more anywhere, only no real sexual morality. They don't defend rape, pillage, insider trading, nuclear war, bank robbery, racism, or even smoking. But they do defend fornication, masturbation, contraception, adultery, sodomy, divorce, bisexuality. "Anything goes" is their new morality, but only if it has anything to do with sex. It's hilarious to observe. They don't defend murder, unless it's in the name of sex. That is abortion, of course. If abortion had nothing to do with sex, it would never have been legalized. Abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without babies...

In this discussion, we'll look mainly at abortion, contraception and homosexuality - these are topics that a lot of people have an opinion on, and not everyone lines up with what the Church teaches. I'm planning to share with you some of my own experience in talking about this stuff to people, to give you some idea of how I would approach these sorts of conversations, and also the sorts of questions or objections that I've seen commonly brought up. I'll also try to lay out some of the principles behind Catholic thought on these subjects.

Abortion, homosexuality and contraception are all symptoms of a messed up understanding of the value of human sexuality. And all of them attack the fundamental building block of our society, which is marriage and the family. Now I don't know how Peter Kreeft got hold of Satan's battle plans - it must have been a difficult job, infiltrating hell, probably similar to trying to drop a ring into Mount Doom. But even if he's just making it up I think he's right on the money. And unlike Satan, the Catholic Church is very big on marriage and family.

To understand that it's important to learn what marriage and family is really about. When we make our wedding vows we are committing before God to a love that has four main characteristics: it's free, total, faithful and fruitful. It's the same sort of love, on a smaller scale, that Jesus has for us. He loves us freely without us having to earn his love; he loves us totally, so much that he died on the cross for us; he loves us faithfully and forever; and his love for us is fruitful, it changes us and makes us more like him. And we are called to love each other in marriage the same way, to be totally devoted to each other for richer or poorer, better or worse, in sickness and in health, to be open to life and to bringing up children to know and love God; to be witnesses of God's love to each other and to those who see us, until death us do part.

Marriage is the most common image that is used in the Bible to describe God's love for his people. The Old Testament describes God as the husband of Israel, who remains faithful even though his bride does not. And in the New Testament we discover that the Church is the Bride of Christ. That gives us the model for marriage - husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave up his life for her. In marriage, we image that relationship between Christ and the Church, and if you're a guy and you think you're in love, if you're not prepared to die for the girl, you've got no business asking her to marry you.

The other thing is that in marriage we image the Blessed Trinity. In the Trinity that Father loves the Son with everything he has, and the Son returns that love. When you've got these two persons with the infinite power of God pouring everything they have into their mutual love, that love becomes a person too, the Holy Spirit. Christian marriage is the closest thing we get to imaging God; we have two persons who love each other so completely and intimately, holding nothing back, and that love can be so profound that nine months later you have to give it a name. That's another way that marriage prepares us for heaven: in married love we get a taste of the communion that we will have with the Trinity. Family is in some small way a reflection of the beautiful communion of love that is God.


When you think about it, abortion is really a genius kind of diabolical masterstroke. If you were the devil, and were successful in persuading mothers that it was OK to kill their own children, I reckon you'd be feeling pretty pleased with yourself.

In my experience, most people don't really give abortion a lot of thought. I think a lot of people see it as a kind of yucky subject but not one that directly concerns them so they just kind of skirt around it. But the more we are able to talk to people about it in a sensitive but persuasive way, the better off our society is going to be.

And that raises a good point concerning how you talk about issues like this with friends. Often you're talking with non-Christians, so it's not going to help to say "the Church teaches this" or "the Bible says this". But just so we get the straight scoop here, here's some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about abortion:

2322. From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a "criminal" practice, gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.

2323. Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being.

Folks sometimes have a long way to travel though before that kind of argumentation is going to reach them. So we often need to be able to present our case in secular terms, in just a simple common-sense way. But that's OK, because a big part of Catholic moral teaching is based on common-sense - it's called "natural law". There's a lot of stuff that we can know just from understanding ourselves and the world around us and just reflecting on the kind of creatures we are, and on the common sense of right and wrong that almost everyone shares. It's this shared common-sense that we need to appeal to when discussing these kinds of issues.

And today I'm not going to try to give a full-on philosophical defense of these issues. I can recommend some books that do that, but what I'm trying to do here is give a you a practical platform to work from in discussing these issues with your friends and family.

With abortion, you can boil it down to a single issue: it's wrong to deliberately kill an innocent person. Most reasonable people will agree with that. So the only thing you've got to establish is whether the unborn child is a person. That's it. The basic pro-life argument in a nutshell goes like this:

  1. All deliberate killing of innocent people is wrong.
  2. Abortion is the deliberate killing of innocent people.
  3. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

Now some people might take a hard line on this and deny the first part of the argument. They'll say that not all deliberate killing of innocent people is wrong. But I haven't met anyone in real life who thinks like that. If they did, then in theory you could threaten to kill them and if they were being consistent they'd have no reason to object.

More often you get folks who disagree with the second point - they say that abortion is not the deliberate killing of an innocent person, because the fetus is not a person.

But what I think most people have in their heads about abortion is that, yeah, it's wrong - but it's less wrong that some of the alternatives. Then they bring up examples like abortion in the case of rape, or abortion to save the life of the mother. We'll talk about these objections soon, because in my experience they always come up. But I have always found that if you get the personhood thing nailed down first, everything else becomes a lot clearer, and it's easier to get some agreement on the other issues.

If someone has trouble agreeing with you that the unborn child is not a person, you should at least be able to get them to admit that she is a human being - I mean, what else could she be? A Carrot? (By the way, it's also helpful to use words like "he" and "she" when talking about unborn children. Pro-abortion people always go out of their way to call an unborn child an "it", because it's easier to kill it than her).

You can then ask if there are any other human beings who aren't persons? If there are, then killing them might be OK too. Some of the people who have been put in this category in the past are Jews, blacks, slaves and people who worked in the Twin Towers for the Great Satan. But pro-choice folks don't include these groups as non-persons. Some pro-choice people might say that very retarded or handicapped humans, or very old and sick humans, are non-persons, but most of us still think this is pretty morally shocking. So to avoid this shocking position, most pro-choicers only include fetuses as members of this newly invented class of human non-persons, (or, non-personal humans). But you know what? It looks very suspiciously like this category was invented to justify the killing, 'cos its only members are the humans we happen to be now killing and want to keep killing and want to not feel bad about killing.

In reality, we have to draw a line somewhere if we are trying to work out when someone becomes a person. In the eyes of a lot of people, that line is drawn at birth, because before birth it is OK to kill the baby, but after birth it is not. But obviously at birth all you have is a change of location, and that can't be a good enough reason to kill someone. And why have a neonatal unit at a hospital? Why try to save premature babies if they're not persons?

I always find it helpful to ask if it's OK to kill someone when they're an adult. No? When they are a teenager (they can be pretty annoying sometimes)? No? When they are a toddler? When they are a baby? One minute after they've been born? One minute before they've been born? A week before? A month before? Stepping through the options like this can be a good way to get people to think of the implications of what they believe. In fact the only place to draw the line between personhood and non-personhood is at conception. From then on you've got a brand-new person with all the genetic information they need to grow and develop. All the unborn child physically needs from then on is time and nutrients, the same as children outside the womb.

Now here are some objections that always seem to come up.

Abortion and Rape
The first is abortion after someone has been raped. Notice that when someone brings this up, they are at least trying to be compassionate, trying to be sensitive to the mother who has been victimised in a horrible way. I have two responses to this. The first is to say "You know what, if this was the only reason someone could have an abortion, that would be a lot better situation that what we have today, wouldn't it? There'd be less than 1% of the abortions that we have now. That would be a step in the right direction wouldn't it?". Now while it's true that this would be a step in the right direction, abortion after someone has been raped is not an acceptable position, because it's still killing an innocent person. But if you can get someone to agree to this, then they have just admitted that more than 99% of the abortions performed in this country are unjustifiable, which means they've just agreed to a big chunk of the pro-life position. And you can then get down to the specifics of why abortion is wrong even in this case.

This is where you point out that like you have already discussed, the unborn child is still a person, and it is unfair to punish the child for an act that is totally not their fault. It's the rapist who deserves the punishment, not the baby. Beside, rape is a trauma, and abortion is another trauma, so how can that be therapeutic? Abortion doesn't un-rape the woman. The love and support of family and friends, and the innocence of the baby, and potentially the joy of parents if the child is put up for adoption, these can go some way to help in the healing process. Certainly this is a much better therapy for a woman who has been raped than to add the guilt and trauma of having her child put to death. We have to always be sensitive to the feelings of the mother in this difficult situation, but the violence of abortion is not the right solution. Besides, what if you found out that you, or someone you knew, was the "product of rape"? I have an interesting quote from a guy who spoke to a group about some of these abortion/rape issues. When he was finished a woman came up to him in tears and said:
"Thank you. I've never heard anyone say that a child conceived by rape deserved to live. My mother was raped when she was twelve years old. She gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption to a wonderful family. I'll probably never meet her, but every day I thank God for her and her parents. If they hadn't let me live, I wouldn't be here to have my own husband and children, and my own life. I'm just so thankful to be alive."

Spontaneous Miscarriage
Something else that often comes up is the fact that there are a large number of natural abortions that happen, spontaneous miscarriages. People have said to me that miscarriages happen, that unborn children sometimes die naturally in the womb, so maybe abortion isn't so bad after all. But people die naturally outside the womb too! This doesn't mean that it's OK to go round poisoning them or cutting them into little pieces. The difference between a spontaneous miscarriage and an induced abortion is precisely the difference between natural or accidental death, and murder.

"I'm personally against abortion, but..."
The other common thing is the "I'm personally against abortion...", or "I'd never have an abortion myself... but I'm still pro-choice". People often see this as a compromise position. One of the best ways to respond to this is to see how this position fits with another issue. If you're trying to be sensitive, use drug-dealing as an example:
"I'm personally wouldn't use drugs myself, but this is a private matter for a person to decide between himself and his lawyer. Lots of religious people are against drug-dealing, but they have no right to try to impose their morality on others. We don't want to go back to the days when drug dealing was done in back alleys and people died from poorly mixed cocaine. It's better now that qualified drug dealers can safely give drugs to our children. I'd never do drugs myself you understand, I'm just pro-choice about drug-dealing."

If you're not trying to be sensitive, use rape as an example: "I'd never rape someone myself, I'm just pro-choice about rape." In abortion, just like in rape, someone is horribly harmed. Being personally opposed but open to other people doing it means that you are saying that as a general rule it's OK and you don't actually care about the innocent victim.

A couple of other points is that it helps to have some idea about the stages of development of the unborn child. There's plenty of websites with pictures. has a good page on foetal development. And if you really want to challenge someone, get them to go to and check out the on-line video footage there. Also if you can describe just how abortions are performed then the description can be sickening enough just by itself to get someone to think twice about the whole issue.

Anyway, there are a whole bunch a really good arguments to prove that abortion is a clear evil. But just suppose all these arguments are still inconclusive. Suppose abortion isn't a clear evil. Suppose abortion really is a difficult, obscure, uncertain problem.

Because we think that the personhood of the fetus is the central issue of this debate, maybe it would help to look at it like this:

Either the fetus is a person, or not; and either we know what it is, or we don't know. This gives us four and only four possibilities:

  1. The fetus is not a person and we know that it is not.
  2. The fetus is a person and we know that it is.
  3. The fetus is a person but we do not know that it is.
  4. The fetus is not a person and we do not know that it is not.

So what is abortion in each of these four cases?

In case (1), abortion is perfectly OK. We do no wrong if we kill what is not a person and we know it is not a person - like if we catch a fish. But no one has ever proved with certainty that a fetus is not a person. If there was such a proof, then we wouldn't be having this debate. If we do not have case (1) we have either (2) or (3) or (4).

In case (2), where the fetus is a person and we know that she is, abortion is murder. Killing an innocent person knowing it is an innocent person is murder.

In case (3), abortion is manslaughter, which is killing an innocent person not knowing and fully intending murder. It is like driving over a man-shaped pile of clothing in the street, which may be a drunk or may only be an old coat. It is like shooting at a sudden movement in a bush which might be a deer, or might be your hunting companion. If the victim is a person you have committed manslaughter.

Even in case (4), even if abortion kills what is not actually a person, but the killer does not know for sure that it is not a person, we have criminal negligence, like seeing the coat on the road, driving over it anyway, and being lucky that there's no-one in it. This sort of negligence is condemned as immoral and criminal; and murder and manslaughter, are of course condemned even more strongly, right? We don't argue politely over whether that sort of behavior is right or wrong. We strongly condemn it, even when we don't know whether there is a person there, because the killer didn't know that a person was not there. Why don't we do the same with abortion?

The answer to that question is actually difficult to admit. If we don't see just how awful abortion is, it's not because the facts and arguments are unclear but because our own consciences are unclear, and we always try to justify the things we think might be bad but want to keep on doing anyway. We all need to think about this, because the only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. And abortion is possibly the clearest evil of our time. I think in a few years it'll be looked at like we look at slavery now. Maybe our grandkids will read about it in their history books and say "How could they do that? Were they all sick?"; "Why didn't somebody do something to stop it?".

Now there are lots of good things that can be done to help bring an end to abortion. One small thing that any of us can do though is to think about this issue and be prepared to give someone an answer when it comes up.


Now abortion is a clear-cut evil and it's often pretty straightforward to get someone to see that. Contraception is a bit trickier, especially if you are talking to non-Christian friends. A lot of folks think that sex outside of marriage is no big deal, and contraception is the great enabler of that, so if this issue comes up you're often going to find that you're arguing against someone who has a major vested interest in disagreeing with you. If you're discussing this with another Christian, either a non-Catholic or a Catholic who doesn't totally buy into Church teaching, things can be slightly different.

But first, here's what the Church teaches:
"'every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil". (CCC, 2370)

Now that may seem like a pretty hard line to take, but it's perfectly reasonable when you think it all the way through. The key to it all has to do with what sex is. Sex is the intimate embrace that the Bible describes as man and woman becoming one flesh. Now we are created in the image of God. We have this image in our nature as creatures with spiritual souls and as personalities that can think and love and choose. But there's more to it than that. In Genesis 1 where it talks about the creation of man, it says "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;'" and goes on to say "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them".

God is a Trinity, a community of love between three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As well as imaging God as individuals, we also image God in the communion of man and woman that God created right from the beginning. The union of man and woman in the intimacy of the marriage embrace is meant to form us in the image of the Trinity, to shape us so that we love in the way that God loves. We reflect the eternal exchange of love within the Trinity. The sexual union as God created it and intends it to be is supposed to be a symbol or an icon of the inner life of God.

Ultimately, that's what we are created for - when we go to heaven, that's what we share in, the life and love of God. That's the goal of the Christian life. But God gives us a taste of that by building some of that life into our nature as men and women called to love in the way God loves, called to become one flesh, which we can do through sexual love. But it's not just any old sex - sex that images God is sex that participates in the love of the Trinity, love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful.

That's why the Church has a problem with contraception. And with abortion. And divorce. And homosexuality. And just about any other sexual issue where our society and the Church take different points of view. And that's why the Church thinks that sex is so great, and encourages it so much, and thinks so highly of children.

In the inner life of God, the love of the Trinity, nothing is held back. Like I said before, between the Father and the Son, there is an infinite love. They love each other with everything they have, so their love is like them: infinite, eternal, living, a Person, God. Their love produces an eternal person as well, the Holy Spirit. It is a fruitful love, with nothing held back.

Contraception obviously does not fit that model. If sexual love is supposed to image the Trinity, then a sterile love where openness to life is rejected just doesn't work.

Now, that's all good and sounds great when you're trying to explain Humanae Vitae to a bunch of interested Catholics, or if you're giving a talk on the theology of marriage or something like that. And it's really important that we have a grasp of this sort of thing if we want to be able to whole-heartedly live out the Church's teaching in our own lives. But when you're talking with someone in your class who's living with his girlfriend and thinks that Trinity is just some chick with sunglasses in The Matrix, then unless you've got the time to do a lot of groundwork, practically speaking if you want to make an impact you'll probably need to try another strategy.

So what I've found helpful is three approaches. First, an appeal to the facts: how does contraception actually work? What does it do? Then a discussion of bad side effects of contraception, like medical risks and also sexually transmitted diseases. And thirdly an appeal to a person's sense of honour and nobility and what their conscience tells them about what true love really ought to be like. In the last two cases you're really arguing more against sex outside marriage rather than against contraception itself, but since that is what contraception is mostly designed for, that's OK.

If you can, it may help to find out how the person you're talking to feels about abortion, because that's a major consideration in discussing contraception. So, how does contraception work? The most common forms of contraception are hormonal-based contraceptives like the Pill, Depo-Provera, Norplant, the vaginal ring, and a bunch of others. They work in three ways:

  1. they inhibit ovulation (this is the primary mechanism, they stop an egg being released),
  2. they thicken the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg and fertilise it; and
  3. they thin out the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to allow for the implantation of a newly fertilized egg.

The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive. In other words, if the third action occurs, the woman's body rejects the new human being and that new baby is flushed out of the body and dies. This is called a chemical abortion. No one knows for sure what percentage of the time the third method comes into play, but even if it's a very small percentage it still results in a lot of death. Very conservative figures I've seen estimate somewhere between one and a half and four million chemical abortions happen per year in the United States.

The fact that contraception kills unborn children became an issue for me from an unexpected source recently, and I had to give some thought to how I would practically deal with it. The superannuation scheme at the place where I work invests in the sharemarket, and when I read the investment reports every few months I would find out that sometimes the companies that the scheme was investing in were manufacturers of birth control pills. I didn't want to be giving them any of my money, so I wrote a letter to the scheme trustees outlining my problem. Here's what I said:

I'm thinking of pulling out of the company super scheme, and I wonder if you could help me with some advice. This has got absolutely nothing to do with the recent financial performance of the scheme, as I am fully aware of the need to take the long view when it comes to investment.

Instead my concern is with the companies the fund managers invest in, particularly the pharmaceutical companies in whom we are significantly invested and who almost without exception make products that I find morally objectionable: specifically, contraceptives, and particularly, abortifacient contraceptives. I cannot in good conscience have my money invested in developing products which have as a significant part of their function the taking of human life.

Human life and personhood begins at conception. Although the primary mechanism of hormonal contraceptives is to prevent conception, this frequently does not happen (between 5% and 50% of the time, according to research I have seen), resulting in "breakthrough ovulation". A secondary mechanism by which hormonal contraceptives function is to disrupt the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) which prevents a newly-conceived child from implanting in the womb and receiving food and oxygen. In these cases the new child is flushed from the womb in a miscarriage, and since the miscarriage is the result of an environment created by a foreign device or chemical, it is in fact an abortion.

I found out later that you aren't actually allowed to pull out of the super scheme (that was something in the fine print that I hadn't noticed). But the trustees did set up an alternative investment option where your money could be invested only in cash and bonds, not in the sharemarket. The returns aren't so good, but at least it's ethical.

Anyway, that's the first and biggest problem with this sort of contraceptive: you're playing Russian Roulette with your kids, and you'd never even know it.

There's a bunch of side effects too of course. The pill weakens the immune system making the woman more likely to get sick, and especially more likely to catch a sexually transmitted disease. Thinning out the lining of the uterus also increases the risk of STDs. Being on the pill and having 3 sexual partners in your life makes you 15 times more likely to get cervical cancer. The pill increases the chance of getting breast cancer by 40%. Other side effects include the following:

It seems to me that it's simply not loving for a man to insist that a woman put hormones and steroids into her body on a regular basis and to subject her to all this stuff.

As for STDs, there is something of an epidemic of these now. In the States, more teenage girls get chlamydia than the flu. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is most common STD. In itself it's not too bad, although it often causes genital warts. It sometimes goes away by itself, otherwise it can be treated, but it can't be cured. But it's a major cause of cervical cancer which in the States at least is a bigger killer of women than AIDS is. A brochure put out by the Australia and New Zealand HPV Project says "At least 75% of adults having sexual intercourse will have at least one genital HPV infection at some time of their life, most commonly between 18 and 28 years of age.".

Plus wherever you have contraception, abortion always follows, because more than anything else, abortion is backup birth control.

The other thing of course is that contraception is the great enabler of sex outside marriage. Although contraception in various forms has been around for thousands of years, it's a lot more accessible and effective now, and we have a culture that is much more open to it. There used to be a very practical consideration that people had to take into account when thinking about sex: babies. These days, with the ability to separate sex from babies, it's no surprise to find sexual morality somewhat looser than what it was in the past, because the consequences seem a lot lighter.

True love is where a man lays down his life for his beloved. It's where a man is faithful to his bride before he's even met her. The contraceptive mentality says that (a) you can't help yourself, you can't resist your sexual urges so you might as well just give in to them, and (b) it's more fun not to anyway, it's more fun to live for the moment, if it feels good, do it.

But how could the idea of someone who will only give himself to one woman and then will give himself to her completely, how could that idea not be attractive? That sort of guy has no need for contraception because he's already decided that his bride is worth waiting for. The same goes for girls.

Contraception enables the opposite - it has been a fantastic gift to guys who want to be able to use girls. It's kind of like the magazines like Cleo and Cosmopolitan which are like instruction manuals for how to get used by a guy. And of course they are completely just assume their readers are using contraceptives, because otherwise 90% of the advice they give would be meaningless. I heard about a funny piece of advice in a Cosmopolitan magazine once: on the cover it said something like "Gynacologist news that your doctor is too wimpy to tell you". So you think "Oh, cool, it'll give us the scoop." So you open it up and it tells you "How to stay free of STDs: make sure to examine the tip of a condom before sex for tiny holes to make sure that no viruses will sneak through during sex." How helpful. They don't tell you that condoms don't protect girls from seven of eight out of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. For guys it's slightly better, condoms only don't work for six of the eight most common STDs.

Contraception within marriage
A lot of people will agree that sex outside marriage is wrong and distasteful and leads to all sorts of social problems, but that contraception within marriage is OK. Even a lot of Catholics ignore or try to explain away Church teaching on this. Often it's just not knowing the reason for what the Church teaches, not knowing the higher kind of love that we are called to. But contraception within marriage still has the problems of being potentially abortifacient and at the very least of not being true to your wedding vows. When we get married we promise to be open to children. When we contracept, we break that promise. Plus we are lying with our bodies. In the sexual act we are saying "I'm totally yours, I'm giving you everything I am". But when we contracept we're not doing that. Contraception within marriage is contrary to our wedding vows.

Also for when you are discussing this with other Christians, it's worth pointing out that the Bible calls children a blessing, that it calls us to be fruitful, and even says stuff like this (Psalm 127):

Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord,
fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
the sons of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them!

The only guy mentioned in the Bible who practiced contraception was called Onan. After describing what he did, the very next verse says "And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also".

One other thing is that until recently every Christian group was opposed to contraception. It was only in 1930 that the Anglicans, under a lot of pressure from the society around them, allowed for the use of contraceptives by married couples. Once they broke the ice, almost every other Christian group also caved. Now the Catholic Church stands practically alone in defending this beautiful view of human sexuality that used to be the heritage of every Christian body.

All this doesn't mean a Catholic family has to have 15 kids - although that's not necessarily a bad thing; just ask St Catherine of Siena. God has given us a perfectly reasonable way to space children if circumstances require it. Natural Family Planning is just as effective as any contraceptive method, with none of the drawbacks. I'm not going to go into details here but there's plenty of resources out there if you want to find out more about it. NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality though, if you're using it for selfish reasons without wanting to trust God and try to love the way he does.

If this teaching about contraception being contrary to true love is right, then you'd expect that married couples who use contraception would have a higher divorce rate that those that don't. And that's exactly what you do find. In the USA, the divorce rate is about 50%. Contracepting couples divorce at a rate slightly higher than the overall average. Couples using NFP have a divorce rate of between 1 and 3 per cent. The key to this whole issue is the nature of love: true love is free, total, faithful and fruitful. And because it truly expresses the image of God, it works.


Homosexuality is the other big controversial sexual issue. In this case, the majority of people you talk to are unlikely to be homosexual themselves and therefore probably won't see it as a very natural thing. But there's a big push in society today not just to legitimise homosexual relationships but to promote them as good and normal, and when you encounter this approach it helps to have given some thought to the issue.

Here's what the Church says:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The important thing to point out is that the Church is not against people who experience same-sex attraction. The Church is against the sin of homosexual behaviour. You can struggle with homosexual tendencies, with same-sex attraction, and still be a faithful Catholic, in exactly the same way as you can struggle with lust for the opposite sex. It's what you do with these inclinations to sin that counts, whether you give in to them or not. Our job is to try to live chastely and to bring every thought captive to Christ, regardless of what the sin is that we are resisting.

The Catechism goes on to say:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

There are a lot of problems associated with homosexual activity. Like with contraception, it doesn't express free, total, faithful, fruitful love in the way God intends. And a homosexual lifestyle has been shown in many studies to be very bad for those who practice it, opening them up to all sorts of diseases and other problems. A medical paper on the health risks of gay sex (which is a real eye-opener as to the dangers of this lifestyle) says this "The only epidemiological study to date on the life span of gay men concluded that gay and bisexual men lose up to 20 years of life expectancy." That's a bigger impact than smoking.

The way we're going to look at this issue though is to use a couple of dialogues that I came across recently in a Christian worldview magazine called Boundless. They are by J. Budziszewski, who is a philosophy professor at the University of Texas. I think they are good explorations of the homosexual issue and how to talk about it.

Homophobia: An Unfinished Story - Accused of being homophobic, Professor Theophilus goes toe-to-toe with a gay student.
The Seeker - This dialogue is based on actual events: the "second thoughts" of Theophilus' visitor closely resemble the real-life testimony of an ex-gay who is a friend of the author.

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