Bright Maidens : Wearing Crucifixes and Condoms

Week Two: Contraception
“Beyaz Yourself” by Elizabeth Hillgrove
 “Evil Don’t Look Like Anything” by Julie Robison

 We three are writing a Lenten blog post series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!
Wearing Crucifixes and Condoms

In my final year of college, I took a class on Christian Marriage and Family Life.  This was my first serious study of marriage since my Religious Education in high school.  During the course of a semester, my professor brought me up to speed on the teachings of the Church regarding marriage as a Sacrament, gave a condensed introduction to Theology of the Body, and finally convinced me of the Church’s teachings on contraception.   For years I had submitted myself to the Church’s teachings, though never fully understanding them.  My thoughts regarding Church teachings have always been this:  even if I don’t fully agree or understand, I trust that the Church is being guided by the Holy Spirit, that faithful and learned priests are studying these subjects, and that their conclusion will bring no harm to my soul.  In that matter, I realize how atypical I am.  Most Catholics, as evidence shows through studies, surveys, and real-life observation, don’t accept the Church’s teachings on contraception or sexuality.  Why?  What happened?  Using contraception, which divorces sex and procreation, and thus sex and marriage, became a mainstream practice, endorsed by many Protestant denominations for married couples, and then touted by secular culture for all.   And so Catholics who wear crucifixes and condoms were born.  
It doesn’t take a long, hard look at our culture to see the chasm between Church teachings and sexual practices of the baptized.   Take for example the cast members of the Jersey Shore.  Some are professed Catholics.  We see them bless their Sunday dinner, wear large crucifixes around their necks, and rock tattoos of crosses, Jesus, Mary, and praying hands; we also see them have sex with any willing partners, peddling safe sex, calling women “grenades,” and scoffing at a practicing Jewish woman who says sex is for marriage.  What allows them to have these attitudes?  In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote, “It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion (Humanae Vitae 17).”  Oh.  Huh.  That about sums it up.  
It used to be that parents upheld and taught sexual morals to their children.  If an engaged couple slept over in the childhood home, separate bedrooms were given.  Parents didn’t condone sexual intimacy outside of marriage.  But with the explosion of sex outside of marriage, inspired by contraception with its promise of no consequences, most parents have an anything goes policy, with themselves and their kids.  We then see this, a true text from the website, blossom in our culture:
Catholic parents paying for their children’s birth control.  What’s next?  Buying their subscription to porn and family trips to the strip club? 
Most Catholics in America are having sex outside of marriage, and thus use contraception in order to avoid pregnancy.  This is a sad fact of our time; it also indicates that the Church is not explaining her teachings well.  I think most people have a rudimentary understanding, which is combined with large misconceptions –  something akin to , “The Church says sex outside of marriage is bad, and you shouldn’t use contraception, because…the Church believes sex and marriage are special…and of course, the Church is run by unmarried priests who don’t want you to have fun…”  It cannot be assumed that the flock will look for explanations to Church teachings.  The average Catholic is not searching for Papal Encyclicals on the weekend, or scouring blogs for Natural Family Planning testimonies, or pondering the gift of virginity.  Honestly, they don’t even know these things exist.  
The Church needs to step up the promotion of her teachings, in ways that are clear, non-academic, and exciting.  Make the literature available for free.  Start talking about these subjects while kids are young.  Continue and expand outreach to teenagers and young adults.  Title groups on chastity and sexuality with bold names.  Attract attention.  Speak about it at Mass.  Use social media.  Our people are hurting – spiritually, emotionally, and physically – from the effects of sex outside of marriage, from the false freedom that contraception promises to bring.  It’s time to joyfully proclaim the truth about the Church’s teachings and bring our flock home.