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(Mikhail Nesterov. Taking the Veil. Source)
What is the best way of touching people's hearts, in order to bring them into the Catholic Church, so they may have Eternal Happiness? How can Christians reach out to Pagans, to make them see that: "this is Life Eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ who Thou hast sent" [Jn 17:3]?
I claim that one of the better ways is to talk about the condemnation of the Birth-Control Pill by the Catholic Church.
Before we can talk about conversion to Catholicism (using the Pill or something else), we need to clarify a few basic concepts, like "conversion" and "salvation". To simplify the discussion, let's forget about religion for a moment, and instead talk about down-filled parkas, and little old ladies.
Perhaps you've had the experience of seeing a little old lady suffer in the brutally cold weather we often get during our Quebec winters. You felt bad for that poor lady, and you perhaps tried to explain that her old, thin, beat-up winter coat was woefully inadequate. Maybe she objected, saying that her coat was "an expensive coat, well-made, purchased at Eaton's, and made out of fine woolen material". She might also have added that a down-filled parka was "un-ladylike", that she could never wear such an atrocity, and that anyway it wasn't cold outside, just a bit nippy.
There are many similarities between this little old lady's situation, and conversion to Jesus:
2.1) Some sort of "Heaven". To "convert", there needs to be something really good for you to convert to! In this case, it's a nice modern down-filled parka that keeps you toasty warm in the winter. Often, "Pagans" won't even believe that "Heaven" is possible! In our case, the little old lady will probably just stare in disbelief the first time you tell her: "Hey, it's possible to go outside in such cold weather, and be toasty warm!" If you insist, she quite possibly will then laugh at you and end the conversation right there! Deep down inside, she might really want to be able to go outside without freezing, but she will need help to realize it.
2.2) Some sort of "Hell". In a way, this is just another way of saying there must be some sort of "Heaven". If the "thing you can convert to" is a major improvement, then the current situation will be comparatively bad. In our case, "Hell" is the brutal cold which could even kill you.
2.3) Something you have to do to gain "Heaven". In this case, it would be wearing a gorgeous parka made of high-thread count Gore-Tex and filled with 550 c.c., premium-quality down.
2.4) Something you have to give up to escape "Hell". People who "refuse to convert", refuse because they don't want to give up something. If people could keep everything they like about "Hell", and gain all of the advantages of "Heaven", of course everybody would "convert"! In our example, the little old lady might not want to give up the image she has of herself as a "Winter Carnival Fashion Queen".
2.5) Somebody to "spread the Good News", and challenge the "Pagans". If you examine your personal life, you'll probably find that most of the times you've changed, you did so because somebody communicated some "Good News" to you. Did you decide to stop smoking? You probably heard many people telling you smoking was bad. Did you start using the "blue bin" to recycle? Somebody must have explained to you what was happening to our planet. Changing one's mind all by oneself is so rare and so difficult, that people who manage to do so become very famous, like Isaac Newton, or Benjamin Franklin, or Louis Pasteur.
2.6) Some rational explanation for the superiority of "Heaven". If the "Evangelist" and the "Pagan" are to enter into a dialogue about winter coats, there needs to be something common between them. They both have to understand the concepts of "cold weather", "insulation", "heat transfer with the environment", etc. They have to be able to study what materials insulate more, and why. For a person to "convert", that person has to be educated. You can move a sack of potatoes from here to there without convincing the sack of potatoes it's a good idea. But, strictly speaking, you can't "convert" men otherwise than by educating them.
2.7) Some test to prove "salvation" really works. At some point of time, either this "salvation" thing works, or it doesn't. In our example, you could send the little old lady out into the minus thirty Celsius weather, with your down parka, and tell her to just stand there for an hour and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery!
2.8) Answers to objections and elimination of disinformation. In our case, the little old lady might wrongly believe that "heavy and hard wool material" equals "warmth". She needs to correct this error, for example by having someone explain that it's mostly the trapped air that insulates, not really the wool (and hence that fluffy down traps much more air than old compacted wool, etc.).
2.9) Additional help to change the person's mind. Here, I would need to make a very long list, but I'll just give a few examples. Time always seems necessary, since people don't change their habits quickly. Good role models never hurt (remember this little old lady is probably influenced by the fashion magazines she used to read over sixty years ago, when she was a teenager!). In the case of Catholicism, of course we'd add prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Assuming we now understand a bit more what "conversion" is, why would we want to use the condemnation of contraception as our "war horse" to convert Pagans? Wouldn't that be the very worst thing to talk about?
The fundamental reason why I claim the condemnation of contraception is potentially an excellent approach to convert adult Pagans, is that truth is the best way to convert people. If the Catholic Church were wrong about the Pill, then trying to convert Pagans to Catholicism would be stupid and a waste of everybody's time.
The Catholic Church doesn't teach that the Birth-Control Pill is sometimes good, and sometimes bad. She teaches that it's always bad [ CCC #2370]. The Catholic Church doesn't teach that Her condemnation of the Pill is the interim result of some imperfect negotiations between various committees. On the contrary, She says She's just faithfully transmitting the will of God to all mankind [ Humanae Vitae, #4]. The Catholic Church doesn't teach either that your conscience can decide whether the Pill is good or evil according to your personal circumstances [See among others " To Act Well, We Just Need To Obey Our Conscience!"].
This is serious: if the Catholic Church is wrong about the Pill, then the whole Catholic religion is wrong, period. If the Catholic Church is wrong about the Pill, then we'd better find out, and the sooner the better! Religions that teach errors are not good for society in general.
The last thing we should do is avoid talking about the Pill. Pagans aren't stupid. They can see that Priests who hide these teachings of the Church are either feeble-minded (if the Church's Magisterium is wrong, they are in the wrong Church!), or dishonest (if the Church's Magisterium is right, they should be proud of the truth!).
A thorough explanation of why the contraceptive Pill is bad is beyond the scope of this text, and it requires the OSThoPhiT, or some equivalent, on top of the official teachings of the Church like the CCC and Humanae Vitae. But I can already see many additional reasons why the Pill is a good way to reach out to Pagans:
4.1) Chastity is possible, and it's beautiful. See #2.1 here above. Often, Pagans don't even realize that they themselves aspire to chastity. Their arguments in favor of the Pill almost always implicitly include some admission of bondage ("It's impossible to avoid having sex", etc.). In other words, they are themselves admitting that they are slaves to their passions, that they are not free. Deep down inside, they might still feel that it would be really nice to govern oneself serenely, but that desire will often have been repressed. It's painful to be a slave, so some people attempt to simply deny the existence of freedom.
4.2) The Church has made verifiable predictions about the Pill. See #2.2 here above. Many years ago, Pope Paul VI made some predictions as to what would happen to our society if the Pill was used [ Humanae Vitae, #17]. Pagans can open their eyes and observe whether these bad things have happened yes or no.
4.3) The Pill tends to separate the wheat from the chaff inside the Church. See #2.5 here above. One of the worst things that can happen to a Pagan is to bump into a pseudo-Catholic. This poor Pagan won't be getting the true teachings of Christ! But the Pill acts a bit like a filter: real Catholics gladly accept the teachings of the Church concerning the Pill.
4.4) The Church doesn't condemn the Pill for religious reasons. See #2.6 here above. If Pagans and Catholics are going to talk, they need some common ground. The Pill is nice, because it straddles natural Law and Religion, reason and Faith. Catholics claim the Pill is bad, and they claim this "badness" can be seen using reason alone. (When I'll obtain a text explaining in detail why the Pill is bad, it won't be posted in the religious Section of this site, but in the Philosophy Section). Pagans might not have Faith, but they have reason, so they can verify if the Church is telling the truth.
4.5) The teachings of the Church work. See #2.7 here above. Pagans can see for themselves if this "Salvation" stuff really works, by observing what happens in their lives when they start using the spiritual medication that the Church recommends.
4.6) The Pill is the subject of much disinformation. See #2.8 here above. Often Pagans are not fully aware of just how ignorant they are of the teachings of the Church. If they are to examine the validity of their beliefs concerning the condemnation of the Pill, they have to start "drinking at the pure source". They have to stop gobbling up the bloated and decaying disinformation floating around in the media cesspool. But there's more! Since the Church claims the Pill is bad because of Natural Law, then Pagans must develop a deep knowledge of Science (including the Queen of Sciences, i.e. Philosophy) in order to examine the validity of this claim. Many Pagans don't realize just how ignorant they are of Science!
4.7) The condemnation of the Pill is either insane, or a kind of "sociological miracle". If the Church is wrong, then of course condemning the Pill is insane. But if not, then the Church is performing some kind of "sociological levitation trick"! Nobody these days condemns the Pill like the Catholic Church does. According to the Laws of Sociology, the behavior of the Church cannot be explained (even the Vatican Commission tasked with advising Pope Paul VI had concluded that the Pill shouldn't be condemned!). That sounds a lot like the definition of a miracle. This is important. Jesus didn't impress the crowds by letting rabbits multiply, or by getting himself wet by jumping in a lake. Jesus impressed crowds by doing unexplainable things, like feeding five thousand with a few loaves of bread, or walking on water. If you stop and think about it, when the Church condemns the Pill, She is walking on the waters of contemporary errors, without falling in. That is impressive!
Honest Pagans, if they want to condemn the Church because the Church condemns the Birth-Control Pill, must make the effort of actually examining the problem. They have to actually find out what the Church teaches, and understand why She teaches it. This "Critical Thinking Pill" might be hard to swallow, but it's the only way men can obtain true liberation.
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