Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Dr. Angela Franks’ Contraception and Catholicism: What the Church Teaches and Why. Dr. Franks succinctly lays out God’s vision for relations between husbands and wives as well as for sexuality in general. The goal of the conjugal embrace of husband and wife is love and life, babies and bonding, unity and procreation; Dr. Franks points out that this is a part of “God the Father’s plan of loving goodness.” Indeed, God’s plan for each person includes his or her greatest happiness in this life and the next—not an arbitrary list of things that say, “Don’t do this…” Rather than mere moralizing or listing of rules, Dr. Franks makes Church teaching relevant to us.
Regrettably, our society is afflicted by the hookup culture and contraceptive mentality. Dr. Franks writes: “Support for contraception is usually framed in positive terms, about what we can achieve and gain from birth control. But the question that should make us think even more is the negative one: what are we fleeing from? In other words, what are we all so afraid of?” Questions such as these, and others that Dr. Franks proposes, help us to become more intentional with regards to our actions.
Much confusion and misinformation exists on what people think the Church teaches with regards to sexuality and family planning. Dr. Franks clearly and succinctly presents the what and why of Church teaching, but more importantly she shows how couples and individuals can enjoy a happier, more fulfilled life. With regards to family planning, Dr. Franks has a chapter entitled: NFP: Not Your Grandmother’s Rhythm Method. In this chapter she highlights the sympto-thermal method and shows how it is scientifically based and highly reliable—not medieval and impractical. Towards the end of the book, practical actions are provided that couples and individuals can take to improve relationships.
Recognizing that people come from different places in their spiritual journey and that couples are at different places in their relationships, Dr. Franks presents her own family’s story as well as the stories of two other couples. This is significant because God has a plan for every individual and couple. Regardless of what your practice is now, God wants to meet you where you are and take you where you need to go. Contraception and Catholicism is a great aid for us as we walk along the path God lays before us.
Part of my vocation as a priest is to make people happy—not happy in the sense of being amused or entertained, but happy as in possessing the joy which only God gives. Dr. Franks writes that, “No technology can make us happy. The only way to be really happy is to be virtuous.” Chastity is a virtue which is necessary for every person, regardless of one’s state in life. Chastity keeps our desires aright and opens our hearts to love. I recommend Contraception and Catholicism because I believe that it will help us to have happier, more fulfilled lives. In particular, I strongly recommend this short book to parents and those who are at the beginning stages of forming a family. As Dr. Franks writes, “the Church’s teaching on contraception is a call to embrace a happiness that is infinitely greater than what we can piece together from the shreds of our own plans.”