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Materialistic Life

A December 2023 issue of the Wall Street Journal included an article about a company called Orchid Biosciences which has developed a test for “genetic predispositions.” (Dec. 23, p. B-11)   These include: Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autism, and so on. A woman wanting in vitro fertilization, or IVF, could then choose an embryo with the best “genetic profile.” The “excess” embryos could then be used for medical research, stored indefinitely, or thrown out.

There’s a problem here though: none of these embryos were conceived in love, and each is a living human being.

How did we get to this point, to where what was once unthinkable becomes normalized and legalized? If we trace it backwards, the order goes something like this: “sex change” operations, same-sex “marriage,” legalized homosexual acts, assisted suicide, babies conceived in petri dishes (IVF), abortion, legalized pornography, sterilization, contraception. Contraception was the portal through which these other evils entered the culture.   Why is contraception so significant? Because it tends to make those who use it have a materialistic view of human life.

What is meant by “materialism”? The New Advent Encyclopedia says “Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and which thus denies the existence of God and the soul.” Fr. John Hardon writes: “…In ethical philosophy, materialism holds that material goods and interests, the pleasures of the body and emotional experience, are the only, or at least the main reason for human existence… ”

In France, a Dr. Pierre Simon (1925-2008), who from the 1950’s through the 1980’s was an early advocate of contraception, abortion, IVF and euthanasia, foresaw the effect that legalized contraception would have on thinking and culture. He wrote:

“…we are conscious that this struggle is not purely technical, but philosophical. Life as a piece of material, there is the beginning of the struggle.”  He promoted the idea that people have a right to do whatever they want with their own bodies. He admitted that “this does violence to the Christian ethic, which considers the body a gift from God.”  He wrote that due to “the new (materialistic) view of the meaning of life introduced through contraception, society will be completely changed.”

Wanting to take down French laws prohibiting both contraception and abortion, Dr. Simon saw a tactical advantage in focusing on contraception: “To attack the law in its totality meant to liberalize abortion. (Public) opinion, however, was not yet ready for that. Therefore, we had as our first goal to take apart this amalgam. Once contraception was common and accepted by law, then abortion would be accepted. The future proved us right.”

In a 1987 article by Rev. Thierry Dejond, S.J., titled Contraception, problème de société, he wrote: “Once contraception is common in society, it brings about a new way of thinking: the body is seen as biological material with which one can do as one pleases.”   He continues, “The first consequence (of contraception) ---is practical atheism. Whenever a man raises himself to the role of ‘boss’ over his own body, he ceases to recognize and acknowledge his dependence on God…. This is not to say that the practice of contraception automatically produces atheists. But justification of the practice brings a man imperceptibly closer to the way of thinking that results in atheism.”

We can see how “the new meaning of life introduced through contraception” has caused our society to change: more incivility, lawless, violent, and disordered. The “inalienable” right to life, which our Declaration of Independence says was endowed to us by our Creator, has not been enforced. Neither have the clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of our Constitution, which say one may not be deprived of life “without due process.” The “free exercise of religion,” protected by the First Amendment, is being re-interpreted to mean “freedom to worship.”

How are we to respond to this? Dr. Charles Rice, in his book Contraception and Persecution, says that we must be mindful that “Church teaching on marriage and family is one of our strongest weapons.”    We need to speak the truth “with clarity as well as charity.”  We must pray: to Jesus through Mary and in Eucharistic Adoration. We need to trust in God’s providence, and “use our talents on behalf of a Culture of Life.”  We will not be judged on whether we succeeded, but on whether we tried.

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