For a long time one of the few popular resources on the truth about contraception has been Dr. Janet Smith’s talk “Contraception, why not.” Now we can add another resource to that arsenal. “Sex au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good for Your Marriage” by Patrick Coffin is thorough review of the subject for the popular audience.
I really like this book in that it totally told the truth about contraception, but not in manner that will make people who might being using contraception or had themselves sterilized simply stop reading. The book is filled is many short chapters that help the reader by providing the proper background so that they can understand the theological distinctions required. So for example a review on the natural law is given.
Also given is the modern historical context related to how contraception came to be accepted in modern times and the role that Anglicanism provided in putting that crack in the dam that made the constant teaching of Christianity through the time of the Protestant reformer to now to run aside from the truth. The groundwork for wide acceptance of the pill was mainly laid in the 1930s, but had been building up. Pope Paul VI “Humanae Vitae” was a shock to both Catholics and the general public who had generally expected a shift by the church on this especially regarding the leaks from the group that had advised the Pope on this. The aftermath of this was quite messy especially since this was the flowering of so much dissent and bad theology. This history the book provides on this encyclical is intriguing.
One thing that makes this book so good is that Patrick Coffin was himself once a dissenter growing up in a environment in Canada that encouraged such dissent from the Canadian Bishops Conference on down. The second chapter gives a short version of his conversion story and how it was the encyclical itself “Humanae Vitae” that started his change when he took the effort to actually read it. Given this background it helps him to understand the information that others need to know to understand this teaching.
The contraceptive mindset is one that has taken on much force yet most people don’t think much about their beliefs on this subject. To my detriment I once accepted the whole culture of death philosophy regarding children. The environmental and population hysteria of the seventies led me to many errors in belief and after having one son and one daughter I had myself sterilized at a relatively young age. I even publicly joked on the subject that having one of each I had bagged the limit and I was done. Not only that I encouraged a coworker to do the same and he did. In a list of worst things I have ever done this sterilization pretty much topped the list, but it was only as I was approaching the Church did I realize the extent of my folly and the attitude that went behind it. This book addresses such sterilization’s and why they are wrong and ways for regretful Catholics to atone for this as to the possibility for some of surgical reversals or other suggestions. I certainly had not idea of the various side-effects listed in the book and the disclaimers I signed for surgery at a Naval Hospital did not mention many of them. The spiritual side-effects are much worse.
The book also goes into the subject of IVF and other aspects of what happens when you separate sex from procreation. The subject of NFP vs. Contraception is also covered quite well and this is important since so many people get hung up on these distinction which they group as one thing. I just haven’t read anything that covered the whole topic as well and from multiple angles as this book. I think it will be extremely helpful for those who have fallen into lie of contraception to understand why it is indeed a lie and for faithful Catholics who want to have some good arguments to use in speaking with others on the subject.
For those such as myself who quite appreciate Patrick Coffin’s humor as host of Catholic Answers live you will be happy to find some of his humor in this book, but it is not intrusive and more effort is made for providing solid content than into cracking jokes. An excellent read that I hope makes it into the hands of many people.