A Prophecy Fulfilled>
by Dick Cremins, S. J.
(According to Fr. Cremins, this article "appeared in Interfuse, the in-house journal of the Irish Jesuit Province, for private circulation, about 2002.")
Fr. Stanislas de Lestapis, a French Jesuit, died in 1999 at the age of 94. He had been a member of the Papal Commission on Birth Control and was one of the signatories of its so-called Minority Report. He had published a book on Birth Control, of which the third edition appeared in 1962, long before Humanae Vitae (1968). In Chapter 7, on "The Contraceptive Civilization," he made the following bold prophecies.
"-We do not hesitate to say that the acceptance of contraception will produce profound changes in our civilization. These changes are already taking place in countries that have officially endorsed contraception for one or two generations.
"-Voluntary numerous families will progressively disappear, and the large family will tend to appear as a monstrosity.
"-Populations and families which have deliberately become less creative will experience spiritual ageing and premature sclerosis.
"-The idea and the ideal of family happiness will be downgraded in terms of a so-called right to happiness and of what people think are the 'techniques' for achieving it.
"-Morality among the young will deteriorate. The unmarried will be more licentious. The sexuality of women will lose its connection with marriage.
"-There will be a grave change in the bond of love, due to the reversal of sexual function. It will remain fixed at an 'adolescent' stage. Society as a whole will slip into this 'transitory' stage.
"-The maternal instinct will become sterile, due to the repression of the desire for children which is innate in women. There will be a silent hostility toward life and its first manifestations: pregnancy, childbirth and even sometimes towards dolls and babies.
"-A new concept of sex, now essentially defined as 'the capacity for erotic play for the sake of the couple,' all reference to procreation now being only accidental.
"-A growing confusion between the two sexes and less resistance to 'sexual inversions': the concept of man will lose some of its masculine characteristics, while that of woman becomes less feminine.
"-A growing tolerance of homosexual behavior, as erotic play that at best succeeds in expressing personal intimacy between friends or lovers.
"-Finally, contraception will raise hope which it cannot fulfill, and will give rise to frustrations and deep dissatisfactions which will contribute to:
- the crisis of divorce and instability of modern marriage.
- the deterioration of mental health, and the lack of sexual desire in women, noted in the Kinsey Report.
- the abdication of parents confronted by their task as educators.
- the ennui secreted by a civilization that is entirely centered on a comfortable way of life and sexual satisfaction.
"We may be accused of drawing a rather somber picture. No one will reproach us for not being frank. It only remains to justify these predictions. Remember we began by saying that it is by no means easy to provide a statistical basis for them."
* * *
Fr. Lestapis goes on for twenty pages to justify separately each of his predictions, some very clearly, others less so, given the intangible nature of his subject. However, a simple observation of our contemporary world will tell us that many, if not all of them, have come to pass.
Is this just coincidence or is it because "the acceptance of contraception" actually has "produced profound changes in our civilization"?
If that is so, we can hardly treat the assertion of Humanae Vitae that "every use of marriage should be open to the transmission of life" as an open question.