Author sees cultural willingness to re-examine sexual revolution

Mary Eberstadt speaks at Bonfils hall in Denver Feb 11 2013 Credit Peter Zelasko CNA 2 CNA US Catholic News 2 11 13 Mary Eberstadt speaks at Bonfils hall in Denver, Feb 11, 2013. | Peter Zelasko/CNA.

A Catholic author believes that the "surprisingly positive" reception of her book on the sexual revolution shows an encouraging openness to reconsider cultural assumptions about artificial contraception.
"I don't think that's anything anybody would have ever predicted," said Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

In a Feb. 11 talk at the Archdiocese of Denver, Eberstadt discussed the findings of her recent book, "Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution," which was released last April. 

She said that the book has enjoyed a broad outreach and been well-received, which she attributes to changing attitudes and a willingness to reconsider the empirical evidence associated with the birth control pill.

"I think there's a lot of dialogue on that street," she noted.

Following the talk, Eberstadt told CNA that the positive reviews of her book in many Christian publications is a "really encouraging sign" that people might be starting to re-examine the perceived benefits of artificial contraception.

Years ago, while researching "Humanae Vitae," Pope Paul VI's encyclical reiterating the Church's teaching against artificial contraception, Eberstadt was amazed to find that the 1968 document had accurately predicted a wave of troubling social effects that would accompany the widespread use of birth control.

These forecasts included a "lessening of respect for women by men, a tendency for coercive governments to use the new contraceptive technologies coercively, more broken homes and a generalized rise in romantic problems between the sexes."

Eberstadt compiled non-religious evidence from medical journals, pop culture and secular society to show that while the encyclical may be the "most heavily mocked and reviled global document of the last half century," it was correct in its predictions.

Despite the impact contraception and the sexual revolution have had on society, Eberstadt said, "I definitely think there are signs of change."

Many young Catholics, she noted, have shown a great deal of enthusiasm towards the teachings of "Humanae Vitae."

"I think it's amazing how effective renewal movements within the Catholic Church are among people in their twenties," she observed.

Admittedly, she said, some people may never read her book simply because it was released by a Catholic publisher.

However, given that the book is based on scientific facts rather than theology, she hopes "that as people come across it – whether it's put out by a Catholic publisher or not – they respond to that marshaling of empirical evidence."

In her talk, Eberstadt challenged the "myths" that the sexual revolution is permanent and has made women happier, pointing to evidence within the realm of social science to refute these claims.

She also rejected the idea that Catholics are the only group that has opposed contraception, noting that the majority of Christian denominations also prohibited its use for most of their history, along with many other religious and social groups.

Furthermore, she observed, the sexual revolution and widespread acceptance of contraception have had some unforeseen consequences, such as the push to redefine marriage to include gay couples.

When the Anglican Church declared at the 1930 Lamberth Conference that contraception was acceptable in certain circumstances, Eberstadt said, it opened an unprecedented door normalizing sterilized sex between heterosexual couples, later leading to the sexual revolution, which has "made it hard to draw lines of any kind" regarding sexuality.

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Current efforts to recognize same-sex marriage are simply part of the "clear logical chain" that started with artificial birth control, she explained.

This logic can eventually lead to arguments in favor of polygamy and bestiality, she said, arguing that such acts are ultimately "footnotes" to the societal acceptance of contraception.

Eberstadt encouraged her audience to fight this ongoing trend by presenting the scientific evidence that is often ignored in discussions on contraception.

Catholics need to start "playing offense, not defense, in the public square," she said.

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