How did we get into this situation, culturally, and how do we move forward? The root problem is the conceptual separation of sex and procreation, such that procreation is no longer recognized as intrinsic to the meaning of the sexual act. Emily Stimpson argues this in “Why We’re Losing the Marriage Question.” Catholics and Protestants both bear responsibility here — Protestants, for formally rejecting the Tradition concerning contraception, and Catholics, for failing both to teach and to live the Church’s own Tradition concerning contraception, spelled out very clearly in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
In her article Stimpson links to Andrew Sullivan’s 2003 article titled “Unnatural Law” and subtitled “We’re all sodomists now.” Sullivan is quite right on that point, namely, that the culture as a whole has disassociated sex and procreation. Endorsing contraceptive sex undermines any principled opposition to sodomy. (Nota bene, Sullivan makes some reasoning mistakes in that article, based on, among other things, a failure to distinguish between per se and per accidens, but his thesis is correct that if sex need not be intrinsically ordered to procreation, then there is no basis for the immorality of sodomy.) Mark Driscoll’s popular endorsement of heterosexual sodomy within marriage only drives home Sullivan’s point. Pounding the pulpit and quoting Leviticus 18:22, while giving the green light for husbands to have anal sex with their wives, is a moral voluntarism that collapses, as Pope Benedict showed in his Regensburg Address, under the weight of intellectual scrutiny seeking to reconcile faith and reason. But so does pounding the pulpit with Leviticus 18:22 while promoting or ignoring the practice of contraception.
How do we move forward? To address the internal problem first, we need Catholic bishops and priests to catechize the faithful on this subject, and not absolve those who have no intention to stop using contraceptives. Likewise, Protestants need to be humble enough to realize and admit that they made a mistake in going along with the sexual ‘liberalizing’ culture in the middle of the twentieth century on this issue of contraceptives. Protestantism needs to replace its moral theological deficiency concerning this subject with the resources provided by the broader Tradition (summed up well in the Theology of the Body), and a recognition of that Tradition’s authority. Otherwise, if it becomes illegal to publicly oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ (which is quite possible, given that such opposition can easily be construed as hate-speech), we will have only ourselves to blame for having promoted a conception of sexuality that made such an outcome all but inevitable.
In my experience (David here again), Protestants are not ready to concede on the issue of contraception. Although I did reject contraceptive use while still a Protestant, I think that was a bit out of the norm. And even then, I wouldnt have dreamed of seeing contraception as the grave evil that it is. As long as this is the attitude, I fear Protestants will continue down this dark path. I hope they wake up and join us though.