On the Threat to Contraception – From the Archive

“In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, “Human Life”), which reemphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.

Contraception is “any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.”

The above is a direct quote of the first paragraph of “Catholic Answers” – an authoritative website devoted to Catholic doctrinal issues.

Up until 1930 all Protestant churches agreed with the Catholic position that contraception was an evil and sinful.  At the Lambeth Conference in 1930  the Anglicans, “bowing to growing social pressure” were the first to permit contraception.  All other Protestant denominations soon followed suit.

“Today, the Catholic Church alone proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception.”

“Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural-law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife.”

Notice that sex is still preserved for “husband and wife.”

“But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy,”

I guess to practice contracepton is considred, at a minimum to be self-indulgent.

Besides, contraception is condemned in scripture.

“The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. “Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also” (Gen. 38:8–10).”

So according to the Bible if one’s brother dies, is one to visit his sister-in-law and impregnate her?  I mean, why pick and choose from scripture?  Maybe God slew Onan for having sex with his brother’s wife, to whom he was not married?

“The biblical penalty for not giving your brother’s widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:7–10). But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he violated natural law.”

Right.  Now, remind me, what century are we living in?

The statement on the site goes on:

“This was reiterated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (CCC 2370). “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception” (CCC 2399).

The Church also has affirmed that the illicitness of contraception is an infallible doctrine: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative.aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive.aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997).”

Pope Paul VI predicted grave consequences that would arise from the widespread and unrestrained use of contraception.

“Consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. . It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion” (HV 17).”

How did we get here?

Prior to the coming of the pill and until the early 20th century contraception was not one of the battlegrounds of church doctrine.  The church had always opposed it but for most Catholics it wasn’t a big deal.  Confessors usually didn’t ask about it and the issue wasn’t normally discussed in mixed company.

By the 20th century, Christians in some of the most heavily Catholic countries in the world, such as France and Brazil, were among the most prodigious users of artificial contraception, leading to dramatic decline in family size.

In a 1930 pronouncement on birth control, “Casti Connubii,” Pope Pius XI declared that contraception was inherently evil and any spouse practicing any act of contraception “violates the law of God and nature” and was “stained by a great and mortal flaw.”

Condoms, diaphragms, the rhythm method and the withdrawal method were forbidden. Only abstinence was permissible to prevent conception. Priests were to teach this so clearly and so often that no Catholic could claim ignorance of the Church’s prohibition of contraception. Many theologians presumed this to be an “infallible statement” and taught it thus to Catholic laypersons for decades. Other theologians saw it as binding but “subject to future reconsideration.”

In 1951, the church modified its stance again. Without overturning “Casti Connubii’s” prohibition of artificial birth control, Pius XI’s successor, Pius XII, deviated from its intent. He approved the rhythm method for couples who had “morally valid reasons for avoiding procreation,” defining such situations quite broadly.

With options for artificial contraception  growing, including the pill. devout Catholics wanted explicit permission to use them.

Church leaders confronted the issue head-on, expressing a variety of viewpoints.

In light of these new contraceptive technologies and developing scientific knowledge about when and how conception occurs, some leaders believed the church could not know God’s will on this issue and should stop pretending that it did, as Dutch Bishop William Bekkers said outright on national television in 1963.

I mean, why would God reveal the pill to us if He didn’t want us to use it?  Was He simply “leading us into temptation?”  But hey, what do I know. I’m no theologian.

It was Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the body that promotes and defends Catholic doctrine – who disagreed.

Among those adamantly convinced of the truth of the prohibitions was the Jesuit John Ford, perhaps the most influential U.S. Catholic moralist of the last century. Although no Scripture mentioned contraception, (I believe Onan is a stretch) Ford believed the church’s teachings were grounded in divine revelation and therefore not to be questioned.

The question was left for consideration by the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, held between 1963 to 1966. This commission by an overwhelming majority – a reported 80 percent – recommended the church expand its teaching to accept artificial contraception.

That was not at all unusual. The Catholic Church had changed its stance on many controversial issues over the centuries, such as slavery, usury and Galileo’s theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. Minority opinion, however, feared that to suggest the church had been wrong these last decades would be to admit the church had been lacking in direction by the Holy Spirit.

Paul VI eventually sided with this minority view and issued “Humanae Vitae,” prohibiting all forms of artificial birth control. His decision, many argue, was not about contraception per se but the preservation of church authority. An outcry ensued from both priests and laypeople. One lay member of the commission commented,  “It was as if they had found some old unpublished encyclical from the 1920s in a drawer somewhere in the Vatican, dusted it off, and handed it out.”

The prohibitions of “Humanae Vitae” remain. Millions of Catholics around the world, however, have simply chosen to ignore them.

That doesn’t mean that the issue of contraception has gone away.  Millions of those same people, a large percentage or a majority being non-Catholic, who fight to take away the right to choose, also believe in the criminalization of contraception.

After they win the abortion battle these same folks who passed state laws virtually eliminating Choice, even in cases of rape or incest, will turn their guns on contraception.

Mark my words.  I was a young man when one couldn’t buy a condom in Connecticut.

If you believe this issue will go away, if you think pro-birthers will be satisfied when Roe is overturned, one need only look at Texas (no exception for rape or incest) and our majority  conservative Catholic Supreme Court.

.

About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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2 Responses to On the Threat to Contraception – From the Archive

  1. beetleypete says:

    Perhaps that’s why so many Catholic priests like to abuse young boys? They can’t get the boys pregnant. If I had been born a Catholic, I would have written to the Pope as soon as I could form a sentence, and asked to be excommunicated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don Ostertag says:

    Ah yes…the laws of the Church. Growing up, eating meat on Friday was a Mortiler, taking anything, even water, after midnight prevented you from taking Communion, marrying someone who wasn’t Catholic was condoned if you found a priest who would perform the ceremony, Every Mass had to be said in Latin with the priest saying most of it with his back to the congregation, Confession to a priest was a must, organs not guitars…and the beat goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

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