Margaret Sanger, "Comments on the Pope's Encyclical," Feb 1931.

Published article. Source: Birth Control Review, Feb. 1931, 40-41. , MSM S71:0218 .

Comments on the Pope's Encyclical

Chairman, National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control

Evidently the Pope believes in birth control, although he countenances only one method, namely, continence. Physicians agree, however, that it is unwise to attempt the general application of any single method. Fortunately the Pope does not anywhere command us to have large families. It is true that he quotes the Biblical injunction, “Increase and multiply and fill the earth,” but as these orders have now been carried out, the earth is reasonably full. By crowding together we may still have a few patches left for growing potatoes, but it is widely recognized that humanity suffers from over-population.

I agree with the Pope’s statements that “the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence,” as well as procreation, are purposes of marriage, and I applaud his quotation from St. Augustine saying that “children should be begotten of love,” but I question the traditional theory that procreation is the primary purpose of sexual union. Reproduction may, indeed, be the most tangible result, but who shall say, and how can he prove his contention, that this is the primary purpose? Consider the fact that nature demands sexual union during certain periods of life and under certain circumstances when there is no possibility of child bearing. What is the logic of that, if the primary purpose is procreation?

The Pope maintains that any performance of the sexual act in a way which frustrates procreation is a "sin against nature." Yet he allows “virtuous continence," which must be somewhat of a sin against nature since it frustrates the “quieting of concupiscence,” which, he admits, is on purpose of marriage. However, I think that to say “sin against nature” is only a manner of speaking. All of us, the Pope included, are habitually defeating the ways of nature; the advance of civilization has been achieved largely by triumphing over nature.

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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project