Yes, that's right, I want to offer two cheers for the Roman Catholic Church! You see, I'm not anti-Catholic per se, I'm just against what's wrong with the Catholic Church. That happens to be a lot, but when they get something right I'm more than willing to praise them. Particularly, in this case, Pope Paul VI, who, with much moral courage, promulgated the encyclical Humanae Vitae in the northern summer of 1968, just when the "sexual revolution" was getting underway in the West.
Recently, in an on-line discussion concerning the issue of the instability of marriage in contemporary times, prompted by some statistics on virginity and divorce (i.e. people who are virgins at marriage have a much lower divorce rate as compared with their less chaste peers) obtained by colleague LCA pastor Michael Lockwood, I stated that we need to factor in the changing social context over the last two generations in order to understand the issue more completely.
The advent of the birth control pill and the wider availability of abortion - factors which came into play in the 1960s & '70s - made both pre-marital and extra-marital sex (and presumably adultery is still a contributing factor in a lot of divorces, even if "no fault" is recorded) much less "risky" behaviours than they had hitherto been. This no doubt helped facilitate the so-called "sexual revolution", which has been disastrous in its consequences for Western societies.
This raises an interesting question for Protestants, whose churches generally approve of artificial birth control: To what extent is artificial birth control responsible for the increased instability of marriage as an institution? Not to mention the decline in the birth rate over this period, which in turn has contributed to the declining population and social instability of the West in general (and contributed to the decline of Protestant churches in particular). Is artificial birth control, particularly in the form of "the pill", simply a "neutral" technology which can be used for immoral purposes, or is it inherently immoral, as the Catholics argue?
The more I have considered this question over the last ten years or so, the more I have come to think that the Catholics may have had a valid point all along. Of course, it may be a moot point, since from what I gather very few Catholics adhere to their church's position on the matter. Nevertheless, it may be something Lutherans might wish to reconsider given what we know now about the long-term social effects of "the pill".
Slightly tangential, but if I'm not mistaken, Pr Matt Harrison, President of the Missouri Synod, recently urged families in that church to have more children. Indeed, increased fertility is these days an oft overlooked means of church growth! :0)