There is an interesting article in the Weekend Australian from Cardinal Pell drawing some attention to research (from the journal First Things) on the effects of contraception on sex, marriage and divorce, and ultimately the happiness (or more particularly the lack thereof) of women.
Men just won't marry...
There is considerable social research in Australia (and elsewhere) to show that the tendency of women to marry later and thus have fewer children reflects not their own preferences (such as a desire to pursue a career), but rather the reluctance of men to commit. Yet at the same time, it is women who initiate most divorces.
The reasons for this according to economist Timothy Reichert, reports Cardinal Pell, go to straightforward economics. In particular:
"...the pill has divided what was once a single mating market into two markets.
This first is a market for sexual relationships, which most young men and women frequent early in their adult life. The second is a market for marital or partnership relationships, where most participate later on.
Because the pill means that participation in the sex market need not result in pregnancy, the costs of having premarital and extra-marital sex have been lowered.
The old single mating market was populated by roughly the same number of men and women, but this is no longer the case in the two new markets.
Because most women want to have children, they enter the marriage market earlier than men, often by their early 30s. Men are under no such constraints.
Evolutionary biology dictates that there will always be more men than women in the sex market. Their natural roles are different. Women take nine months to make a baby, while it takes a man 10 minutes. St Augustine claimed that the sacrament of marriage was developed to constrain men to take an interest in their children.
Men leave the sex market at a higher average age than women to enter the marriage market.
This means that women have a higher bargaining power in the sex market while they remain there (because of the larger number of men there) but face much stiffer competition for marriageable men (because of the lower supply) than earlier generations.
In other words, men take more of "the gains from trade" that marriage produces today."
And why women are more likely to initiate divorces...
"Reichert also claims that this market division produces several self-reinforcing consequences, including more infidelity.
From a Christian viewpoint it is incongruous and inappropriate to consider baby-free infidelity as an advantage for women or men.
But younger women are likelier to link up with older, successful men than older women with young men, as any number of married women can attest after rearing children, only to find their husband has left for a younger woman.
Another consequence is a greater likelihood of divorce. Because of their lower bargaining power, more women strike "bad deals" in marriage and later feel compelled to escape. This is easier today because the social stigma of divorce has declined and because of no-fault divorce laws...."
The Church on contraception
The Cardinal goes on to discuss Humane Vitae and the Church's continuing official stance rejecting the contraceptive mentality, even while acknowledging that the majority of churchgoers do not actually accept this teaching.
But the reasons for this rejection arguably go deeper than 60s revolution in the Church. Sandro Magister has recently published a series of posts pointing to a continuing failure on the part of the Church to teach on this subject, going back to the first half of the twentieth century. Magister has pointed out that even as official statements to the Magisterium became tougher, their enforcement became slacker. Even the latest guidelines for confessors take a much softer position than HV he points out.
Turning around the contraceptive mentality, even (or indeed especially) among those who actually attend mass regularly requires a concerted effort to convert first priests to orthodoxy, then persuade them to preach and advise persuasively on the subject, and for young men and women to reject the secular cost benefit analysis alluded to in the Cardinal's article in favour of the spiritual benefits.
Don't hold your breath.