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Contraception and Catholicism (What the Roman Catholic Church really teaches)
National Review ^ | 02/16/2012 | By Christopher Tollefsen

Posted on 02/16/2012 6:32:25 AM PST by SeekAndFind

Catholic teaching on contraception is at the heart of the controversy over the Health and Human Services mandate. Catholic hospitals and universities are unwilling to purchase insurance plans that provide contraceptive coverage. To critics, this unwillingness borders on the irrational; accordingly, they see little value in protecting the freedom of Catholic hospitals and universities to act in accordance with their beliefs.

Catholic teaching about contraception is, however, not irrational; nor is it founded, as some have claimed, on irrelevant distinctions such as that between what is natural and what is “artificial.” Rather, two lines of argument are to be found throughout the tradition of Catholic, and more generally, Christian, thought on this issue that together show the teaching to be plausible and, in the view of many, true.

The first argument against contraception turns on the way in which the conjugal act unites the married couple organically as one flesh, so as to realize at the physical level of their existence their marital commitment to become one — to make a complete and mutual gift of each to each. Together, spouses are able to perform a biological act that they would be incapable of performing alone: an act of a reproductive kind. As is well known, this act will often not come to its natural biological fulfillment, the conception of a new human being.

Yet when the act does come to fruition, that fruition is itself — or rather, him- or herself — the further realization of the couple’s commitment, the commitment that was initially realized in the conjugal act. For a couple to prevent their act from achieving its fullest realization is thus also for them to choose to block the fullest possible realization of their commitment at the bodily level — and this is precisely at odds with the commitment itself. It is for this reason that Pope John Paul II frequently characterized the use of contraception as a kind of dishonesty: The making of the commitment to a complete sharing of lives says one thing; the deliberate blocking of that commitment from its fullest realization takes back what was initially communicated.

The way in which the act of intercourse can be prevented from realizing the marital commitment is clearest in the use of barrier methods such as the condom, which rather obviously prevent the one-flesh union from even being possible. But hormonal contraceptives, while not preventing physically an act of a reproductive type, nevertheless, when used with a contraceptive intention, involve a willed refusal to allow the biological function, in virtue of which couples become physically one, to come fully to its fruition; thus, their use involves a refusal to countenance the fullness of physical union possible to the couple on that occasion.

Pope Paul VI captured the sense of this set of claims in a well-known discussion in Humanae Vitae, in which he asserted that there is an “inseparable connection . . . between the unitive and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.” To deliberately seek to remove the procreative significance of the marital act does not, in fact, leave a unitive act that has no procreative significance; it removes as well the unitive significance of the act.

Defenders of traditional sexual ethics such as Elizabeth Anscombe have argued that the embrace of contraception is a turning point for sexual ethics more generally. If it is permissible to seek less than the fullness of the real union possible on some occasion in one’s sex acts, then why stop with contracepted sex? Why not seek the less-than-full union available in sex outside of marriage, or in some non-marital form of sexual activity? No good answer seems forthcoming.

In consequence, contraception is understood by the Church both as a violation of the marital commitment — as preventing its fullest available realization — and as a gateway choice to other abuses against the good of marriage.

Contraception’s gateway character is in fact twofold, for in addition to this important strand of argument against contraception rooted in its anti-marital nature, there is also an argument rooted in its anti-life nature: To contracept is to choose to prevent a possible child from coming into existence (a choice that is not made, incidentally, when the couple abstains from the marital act — which is what happens in Catholic family planning). But human life, like marriage, is a great good; and to choose directly against that good seems wrong, and structurally similar to the wrong of homicide, and, specifically, the wrong of abortion. They are not the same wrongs, for there is no actual child in the case of contraception, as there is in abortion; but a culture shaped by collective willing of the non-existence of many possible children should be expected to extend that denial to the right to life of unborn human beings as well.

This dynamic is seen in the HHS mandate, which includes in its list of covered pharmaceuticals drugs such as Ella and Plan B, which are plausibly thought to work on occasion by preventing implantation of an embryo, i.e., by abortion. This willingness to lump in abortifacient drugs with contraceptives is a sign, but only one of many, of the Church’s wisdom in its teaching on contraception.

— Christopher Tollefsen is a visiting fellow of the James Madison Program at Princeton University

TOPICS: Catholic; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: birthcontrol; catholicism; contraception

1 posted on 02/16/2012 6:32:30 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Thank you for posting this; I think it may help foster greater understanding.

2 posted on 02/16/2012 8:20:45 AM PST by sayuncledave (et Verbum caro factum est (And the Word was made flesh))
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To: SeekAndFind

Humanae Vitae said it better, but its a bit lengthier. Nevertheless, it’s not a difficult read, and in what may come as a surprise to secularists, the argument is based entirely upon natural law, without appealing to divine revelation.

Here’s one astounding prophecy:

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the
doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the
consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first
consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital
infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is
needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and
especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to
keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break
that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows
accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a
woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to
being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer
considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power
passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the
precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to
resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as
are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family
difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those
contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard
this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well
happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social
life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined
to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to
intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

3 posted on 02/16/2012 8:32:44 AM PST by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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To: SeekAndFind
“This willingness to lump in abortifacient drugs with contraceptives is a sign, but only one of many, of the Church’s wisdom in its teaching on contraception.”

But that willingness to lump contraception and abortion together is the very means by which this government mandate is used to attack Catholic objections to being told that health plans must provide contraception and that abortion is just another means.

Many like myself do not see actual contraception as equal to abortion and object to the thought that someone is trying to force them to provide abortion services as though it were contraception.

Catholics may sincerely object to both contraception and abortion but honestly should note that the two are not the same.

4 posted on 02/16/2012 8:42:07 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change

They are two means to the same end, with the same result on marriage, family and culture.

However, I believe we should not, in the political arena, make this about contraception, but about the first amendment.

What the fascist liberals wish to do is divide is, conquer the Catholic Church by splitting it apart, and ultimately reducing the sphere of religion to zero - making politics the sole religion remaining.

5 posted on 02/16/2012 9:29:16 AM PST by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr
“They are two means to the same end, with the same result on marriage, family and culture”.

I disagree but that I've already said. If the argument against the mandate is to be framed as a 1st. amendment conflict then it doesn't really matter whether it's two means or, or one, it's a case of God's commandments versus men's.

On that basis I'm interested in how this “tug o’war” ends up. If the Catholic leadership blinks it loses.

6 posted on 02/16/2012 10:34:59 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Whether or not the Catholic teaching is in absolute terms correct, it is absurd to suggest that marriage is not a great good - look at the statistics on childhood poverty and crime and you have to know that the failure to coalesce in stable families is a tragedy for succeeding generations. What is it with the Democratic Party that its last two successful presidential nominees haven't lived with their natural fathers? One, yeah - but two in a row?
It seems plausible that a man who did not grow up in a stable married family would be in denial as to the benefits of that arrangement for those who do have that advantage. And being in denial about something as central to society as family is hardly a credential to sell as a virtue in a leader of government.
I've never been a Catholic, but I cherish my own First Amendment rights far to highly to feel comfortable when my compatriots see theirs assaulted. The fact that all too many Catholics voted for the creep who is now attacking their rights is a tragedy, but not a reason for any patriot to withhold support for the rights now being traduced. Even CINOs may perhaps see that the socialist creed is as antithetical to freedom as any Christian sect ever thought of being. Socialism brought us Soviet Communism and National Socialism in Italy and then Germany. Whether or not a particular traditional teaching is absolutely true, people have a right not only to adhere to it but to promote it. And they cannot promote it while submitting to a government requirement to pay people to violate it.

7 posted on 02/16/2012 10:42:54 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (DRAFT PALIN)
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To: count-your-change
First I don't think they'll blink. From another posted article:
The Catholic bishops were a thorn in the side of the Obama administration and congressmen who were looking for an excuse to fold and vote for it. It did not adequately protect life and conscience, and so they opposed its passage.

Second, the laity has a key role. What the regime is trying to do is split the leadership from the laity and neutralize the Church. I think, in this case, the crucial point is not the Bishops.

It will help, of course, if all religious people and their leaders join in, but Catholicism is the regime's primary target.

Thanks very much for your reply.

8 posted on 02/16/2012 10:46:20 AM PST by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr

Not to belabor a point, but it’s time for the leaders to be leaders and lead no matter what. Cheers!

9 posted on 02/16/2012 11:23:19 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: sayuncledave

The use of artificial contraceptives also is contrary to the Trinitarian nature of marriage. For Christians this should be a serious consideration just as valid as marriage being modeled after Christ and His Church.

10 posted on 02/16/2012 1:17:58 PM PST by lastchance ("Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis" St. Augustine)
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To: SeekAndFind
Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers (Catholic teaching unchanged for 2000 yrs)
Contraception and Catholicism (What the Roman Catholic Church really teaches)
6 Reasons Why Contraception is Sinful and Contrary to God's Will
Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control
Paul VI: “danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities ...”
The Truth about The Church's Teaching about Contraception.
Letter from Archbishop John G. Vlazny on the matter of freedom of conscience and decisions by HHS
Bishop Olmsted's Letter to Catholics [Catholic Caucus]
Liberty for the Amish & Quakers but not Catholics. . .

Contraception mandate prompts Peoria bishop to instate St. Michael Prayer (Catholic Caucus)
Phoenix bishop (Olmstead): defy feds on birth control
A letter from Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr concerning HHS edict
Speak honestly: abortion is ‘the killing of tiny human beings in the womb’ – Denver bishop
Bishop [Daniel Jenky] Blasts Secularist Intolerance, Calls For ‘Assertive Action’ to Defend Church
(Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik comments:) HHS delays rule on contraceptive coverage
Dolan: Natural law, not religious preference, dictates all life sacred
Religious leaders blast HHS over contraception mandate
Mandated Contraception, Sterilization: Caesar Demands Church Violate Conscience
OBAMA’S CONTEMPT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY (mandates coverage of sterilization & contraception)

Obama Admin Decides to Require Religious Institutions to Cover Free Contraception
Jews and Evangelicals stand with Church against contraception mandate
Obama Supporters Worried He May Grant Contraception Exemptions to Catholic Hospitals
Catholic college sues HHS over contraception mandate
Children of the Reformation: A Short & Surprising History of Protestantism & Contraception
Implications of Obama Admin move to force Cath hospitals to provide contraception and sterilizations
Catholic doctors’ group launches petition against contraception mandate
Contraception mandate tramples religious freedom, US bishops say
Planned Parenthood Cuts Contraception, Not Abortion After De-Funding
Contraception underlying cause of breakdown of family, sexual morality, says expert

Contraception: The Reason Catholics Have Abandoned Confession
U.S. Bishops’ Publication Urges Priests to Preach on Contraception, Sterilization, IVF
Contraception: The Bitter Pill
Catholic Bishops Warn of ‘Civil Disobedience’ Over Contraceptives [Philippines]
Relationships Market After 50 Years of The Pill
Contraception: The Bacteria Devouring America’s Soul
Christians examine morality of birth control [Ecumenical/Orthodox Presbyterian]
The Cost of Contraception: Women's Health - Response to CNN
The Connection between Contraception and Abortion
Baby Bust: The Demographics of Global Depression

The Surest Sign of a Decadent Culture
Protestants and Birth Control
The Protest of a Protestant Minister Against Birth Control

Contraception: Why Not?
The Bible & Birth Control
Our Gravest Moral Responsibility: Convert the Contraception Mentality
Contraception and Conversion
Evangelical Leaders are Ok with Contraception
The pill and 50 years of misery [the pill kills!]
The dawn of demonic deception [the birth control pill]

Researcher finds strong link between contraception and HIV
The Birth-Control Riddle
Social Science Proves Humanae Vitae
"Contraception Is Wrong. Now Here's How You Use It . . ."
Suit claims birth control warning not enough
Natural and Unnatural (father of 5 shocks mother of 1)
Planned Parenthood Uses Teens to Distribute Injectable Birth Control in Rural Ecuador
Study: Low-Dose Birth Control Pills Decrease Bone Density in Young Women
Spanish drug agency confirms grave effects of morning-after pill
Another Woman Dies of Hormonal Contraceptive in Switzerland

Study Finds Half of Women on "Birth Control Shot" Suffer Bone Problems
The Re-Birth of Population Control: Human Life Seen as a Carbon Problem
Radio Replies First Volume - Birth Control
Abortion, birth control pill linked to breast cancer, surgeon says
God before contraception (Australia)
Fighting the 'contraceptive mentality'
Birth control pill creator regrets population decline
Polluted Water, Polluted Culture (one more consequence from contraception)
Abortifacients -- The Other Forbidden Grief
NFP and Contraception: What’s the Difference?

Wisconsin requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives coverage
Contraception: The history you may have missed and would rather not know
Why does Pope Benedict talk about Humanae vitae in the new encyclical? [Catholic Caucus]
New Evangelical Documentary Exposes Abortifacient Qualities of the Birth Control Pill, Promotes NFP
In Quiverfull Movement, Birth Control Is Shunned
Press in a Dither Again over Pope’s Reaffirmation of Catholic Teaching
How Birth Control Changed America for the Worst
If You Are Contracepting, You Are Part of A Very Big Problem
Vatican and Italian government criticize sale of RU 486 in Italy
New Condom Ads Target Catholics, Latinos

St. Padre Pio, Humanae Vitae, and Mandatory Abortion
Responsible Parenthood in a Birth Control Culture, Part Two [Open]
Responsible Parenthood in a Birth Control Culture, Part One [Open]
Humanae Vitae and True Sexual Freedom — Part 6 of 6 [Open]
Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6 [Open]
Sex Speaks: True and False Prophets — Part 4 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and the Language of the Body — Part 3 of 6 [Open]
Does Contraception Foster Love? — Part 2 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and Cultural Chaos — Part 1 of 6 [Open]
Priests still suffering from effects of Humanae Vitae dissenters, Vatican cardinal says (Must read!)

"Provoking reflection" (Contrasting views on Humanae Vitae)
Humanae Vitae The Year of the Peirasmòs - 1968
Catholics to Pope: Lift the Birth Control Ban
[OPEN] The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
Catholic Clergy Challenge Colleagues to Reacquaint Themselves and Their People with Humanae Vitae
White House proposes wide "conscience clause" on abortion, contraception
“A degrading poison that withers life”
Australia Study: 70 Percent of Women Seeking Abortions Used Contraception
[Fr. Thomas Euteneuer] In Persona Christi: The Priest and Contraception

A Challenging Truth, Part Two: The Day the Birth Control Died
A Challenging Truth, Part One: How Birth Control Works
Ten Challenges for the Pro-Life Movement in 2008
The concept of the "intrinsically evil"
Pope Tells Pharmacists Not to Dispense Drugs With 'Immoral Purposes'
Massive Study Finds the Pill Significantly Increases Cancer Risk if Used more than Eight Years
Birth Control Pill Creates Blood Clot Causing Death of Irish Woman
Seminarians Bring Church’s Teaching on Contraception, Sexuality to YouTube
Abortion and Contraception: Old Lies
History of Catholic teaching on Contraception

Pope: Legislation "Supporting Contraception and Abortion is Threatening the Future of Peoples"
Contraception: Why It's Wrong
On Fox News Fearless HLI Priest Takes on Sean Hannity (may be indebted for saving his soul)
The Early Church Fathers on Contraception - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Pope on divine love vs. erotic love
Conjugal Love and Procreation: God's Design
Being fruitful [Evangelicals and contraception]

11 posted on 02/16/2012 9:51:57 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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