Contraception and Common Sense
Opponents of contraception face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, not the least of which is their position’s antagonism toward today’s common sense view of sexual morality. Opposition toward contraception is not common; acceptance of it as a personal and social good is. A few voices cry out in the wilderness, but they are just that: a few, and, by today’s standards, uncivilized.
It would be a mistake to conclude that contraception is a moral good because common sense says it is. A casual glance at history should be sufficient to observe that a morality held in common may be a corrupt and perverse morality. It would also be a mistake to conclude that the present common morality is corrupt because it radically differs from a past commonly-held moral sense, or that the past sense was perverse because it doesn’t cohere with the common sense of our progressive age. The morality of an act is not determined by its being held in common as a moral good. Common sense is a guide, not a dictator.
And yet it is a guide and not without moral weight. Opponents of contraception cannot easily dismiss its judgments or wave them away as products of a perverse age. The proposition that today’s common sense view of sexual morality is perverse requires careful demonstration. Noting the correlation between widespread use of contraceptives with other social ills does not suffice. Even if one could prove a causal relationship between common acceptance of contraception and, say, the rise of cohabitation, one would still have to show that this growing acceptance of cohabitation is also a sign of corruption.
For all the changes in sexual mores, our society has not become morally nihilistic or relativistic. Common sense may no longer reserve sex for married couples and for the primary purpose of procreation, but it retains a set of values, virtues, and responsibilities related to sexual behavior. The accessibility and use of contraceptives are considered good precisely because they accord with the commonly understood meaning and morality of human sexuality.
So contraception’s opponents, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have a long road ahead of the them. Their conflict is not with a blatantly corrupt ideology, nor is it with moral nihilism or relativism; their contention is with a rationally-coherent, commonly-held moral sense.