0 NE of the most glaring inconsistencies in our national life is seen in the open and unrestrained manufacture and sale of contraceptives at a time when, as is shown by the discussion taking place concerning Family Allowances, there is a growing awareness of the danger in which we stand owing to the steady decline of population.
The Catholic Pharmaceutical Guild, therefore, has done well to call attention to the encouragement given by the policy indicated to the practices which assist this decline. And those speakers who supported the Secretary at the meeting recently held at the Interval Club were well within the mark when they stressed the urgency of the question and demanded, in Dr. Halliday Sutherland's words, " not talk and more talk, but action."
In any agitation of this kind it is necessary to have some single, easily apprehended point which can focus public attention. It is the fault of many excellent programmes that they are too diffuse. The number of questions raised only distract and bewilder these whom some definite and concrete issue would have enlisted in the cause. This may indicate a weakness in the popular mentality which responds to such methods, but it is one that has to be studied. The success which attends the use of slogans may not indicate a high degree of intelligence. It must ne remembered, however, that our appeal is not made exclusively to the cultured few.
The demand for legislation checking the trade in question meets the need. It is concise, challenging, practical and presents an attainable goal.
The Larger Issue
In saying this, we are not shutting our eyes to the danger of fanaticism. The type of mind which can become obsessed by one idea, urging this with relentless and unreasoning ferocity, is all too common. The slogan representing some such simple issue as that under discussion can produce a hypnotic effect that numbs the mind and canalises the will-power within narrow limits. A triumph obtained by such means is of no value and would do dishonour to the cause.
As Mr. Macbeth, the hon. secretary of the Catholic Pharmaceutical Guild, said: " The widespread use of contraceptives is an effect as well as a cause." It is favoured by the very conditions of modern life. Our civilisation is an artificial one which blunts those instincts on which family life rests. Human nature has lost its balance. The quest of pleasure divorced from responsibility has become a mania. The loss of traditional sanctions has made self-control difficult and has even caused the demand for it to be regarded as a puritanical interference with legitimate rights. As much as in the first days of Christianity, the Cross has become an offence.
To imagine that family eon. sciousness could be revived by a scratch of the legislative pen is to delude ourselves. The demand for such legislation as that suggested should be regarded as an occasion for raising these larger issues.
A Positive Programme
It is especially desirable that the projected campaign should not confine itself to negations. We are learning this lesson in relation to the menace of Communism. The opposition to this movement with which at one time Catholics were largely content had but little effect except to embitter controversy. Happily that phase is passing.
It is now increasingly perceived that, if Godless and materialistic ideology is to be overcome, we must show ourselves able to put forward our own constructive remedies for the social and economic evils from which our civilisation is suffering.
This lesson must be borne in mind when we attack the evil practices directed towards the limitation of families. The subject is one which obviously lends itself to positive treatment. It is on the family that the whole social structure rests. The domestic code sets a standard for the life of the community as a whole. The prospect of homebuilding purifies and sweetens the
period of courtship. And it is particularly important at present when women are tempted to think they can render the State more service by the manufacture of munitions for the destruction of life than by creating life that they should be reminded of the privileges and joys of motherhood.
The Catholic Context
Catholic opposition to the practices under discussion has been looked upon as a sectarian fad. It is this view which the present Interest in the population question
enables us to correct. The " sectarian fad " can now be shown in relation to a fundamental public issue—one on the right dealing with which depends no less than our ability to survive.
But this identity between the programme of a wise statesmanship looking at the matter from the standpoint of national expediency and that sponsored by the Church is not without its danger. It demands that the difference between expediency and principle should be made clear.
At a time such as this it is easy to slip into talk which implies that the teaching of the Church claims no higher justification than the support it gives to the winning of wars. It is not our part to contrive measures conducive to the supply of " gun-fodder."
We spoke in the same way as we do now in the days when the Malthusian doctrine had led our countrymen to regard an increase of population as a disaster. If we speak now as we did then, that is because our attitude is based on the consistent and fundamental teaching of our Church.
The exposition of this connection between abiding principles and present-day programmes affords us a unique opportunity to bring into view all the relevant teaching of the Church in its relation to a question which is exciting widespread interest in the public mind.
Provided that due regard is paid to the considerations named, it is to be hoped that the campaign opened by the Catholic Pharmaceutical Guild will be pursued with the courageous faith and enthusiasm it deserves.