Today In Fact, 9 May

The Pill and the EU. Five years after the end of the Second World War, the French foreign Minister, Robert Schuman made a speech today in Paris in 1950. In the speech, Schuman called for a supranational community of European states. The speech marks the beginning of the European Union and today is consequently celebrated as Europe Day. It is celebrated by many but many also see the European Union as a sort of political prophylactic. The European Union is seen as a defence against social fecundity and a much wider sisterhood of nations. Those who are outside the Eurozone are very much out in the cold.

The institutional Catholic Church of course loves the European Union. It expresses so nicely their view of a wider Christendom in which the Vatican can participate but over which it has little responsibility. Pious pronouncements can be made but no actual blame can be laid at the door of St. Peter’s.

The European Union though really is a sort of political and moral contraceptive that blocks the birth of new things by keeping Europe constantly pregnant with endless rules and treaties and the vain hope that bigger is better.

As serendipity would have it, the real contraceptive; The Pill, was passed for public sale on this very day in the USA in 1960. It has revolutionized the way women are able to take control over their lives and bodies. It is designed for the user to regularly take hormones that produce the effect of pregnancy and thus reduce the fecundity of the body. One of the main developers of the Pill was a devout American Catholic, Dr. John Rock, who ironically, was baptised in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Dr. Rock’s life-work involved aligning Catholic teachings on birth control with the production of contraceptives. In the 1960’s, he published a booklet: “The time has come” which spelled-out the theological case for the Pill and other contraceptives.

The Church demurred and published its response in July 1968; Humanae Vitae, that proscribes the use of prophylactics against child birth and recommends the rhythm method. Most Catholics simply ignore Humanae Vitae. Dr. Rock was to spend the rest of his days, a disappointed Catholic.

So today might be a day to observe the birth of that great political contraceptive in 1950; the European Union and the beginning of the oral contraceptive in 1960; the Pill.

Doug Racionzer (see more of Doug’s quirky daily takes on history at http://serendipiday.blogspot.com/)