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Birth Control and the Conscience

9 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    The “pill” as we know it is unfortunately a form of abortion , as it kills a life allready concieved , starves it to death.It is the duty of maried people , as well as thier spititual advisers (Priests) to know this .It is very easy to say that if you do not know an action is wrong , it is not a sin .I am afraid that if you are going to drive a car , you need to know what you are doing and will need instruction to get a licence .
    The maried are instructed by thier parish priests , and if these priests are good priests indeed , they will know and obey the teaching of our holy mother the church .
    A very good parable to meditate on is when Our Good Lord says , look at the birds of the air , they do not gather into barns , for God takes care of them ….

  2. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear Paul,

    It is not nearly as simple as that!

    I point readers to the very useful article “What an abortifacient is — and what it isn’t” by Jamie L. Manson (who received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics.)

    See http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/what-abortifacient-and-what-it-isnt for the full article.

    I quote but a snippet here …

    ” “One of the well known truisms in ethics is that good moral judgments depend in part on good facts.”

    So wrote Dr. Ron Hamel, senior director of ethics for the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) in the January-February 2010 issue of their journal Health Progress.

    This edition of Health Progress focused on emergency contraception, particularly on the just treatment of women who check into hospital emergency rooms after suffering rape.

    The ethicists and medical professionals who contributed to the journal could not have known then how valuable their articles would become two years later, when the church and country would become embroiled in a controversy over contraception.

    Hamel’s words about the importance of adequate and accurate information in making moral judgments seems especially urgent now as many church leaders and commentators continue to use misleading information to argue that the HHS mandate will force employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.

    The HHS mandate allows women free access to all FDA-approved forms of contraception. This includes the IUDs (intrauterine devices), the drug Plan B (levonorgestrel) and a new drug called Ella (ulipristal acetate), which came on the market in 2010. Church officials and others have argued that because these three contraceptives are abortifacients, the government is forcing them to participate in the distribution of devices and drugs that cause abortion.

    The reality is that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the IUD and Plan B work only as contraceptives. Since Ella is new to the market, it has not been studied as extensively. But as of now, there is no scientific proof that Ella acts as an abortifacient, either.”

  3. Paul says:

    I am sure that technology of today can hinder conception without it bieng “murder” .
    However when my wife takes our kids for routine shots and checkups at the various clinics she has been to , it is the enforced duty of the nurse to discuss contraception .Now you must realise , that government clinics are mainly for the poor people , who is supplied with the pill , which is the cheapest form of contraception .Living a good and wholesome faith should not exclude the poor on the contrary , the poor and the simple is who our Lord came for , and this is exactly who the world is trying to corrupt . Advertising contraception is like advertising underwear , my human nature says nice , but my guardian angel says look the other way .Advertising contraception leads to public schools having to teach children as young as 10 years old about sex .It tries to exclude God . God became man so that man may be like Him , to proove that He gave us the ability to create , just like Him . Today a soul is born into this world , he was not with us yesterday , but today he is , how did he get here , man is the reason he is with us , God holds him in existence , because he loves him .
    But oh selfish man who forgot God , and only wants comfort in this life !

  4. Caroline Sauzier says:

    The fact that hormonal contraception can act as an abortificient is not the only reason that the Catholic Church teaches that its use (as well as the use of any other artificial means of contraception whereby the sexual act is intentionally rendered infertile) is intrinsically evil. So the argument that some contraceptives do not procure abortion and may therefore be licit in the eyes of God and His Church is lacking.

    “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception…” (Vademecum for Confessors, 1997). Humanae Vitae was not teaching something new.

    And ‘upholding the Churchs emphasis on following ones conscience and not being forced to act contrary to it’ should also uphold the Church’s teaching that “argumentation appealing to the obligation to follow one’s own conscience cannot legitimate dissent. […] Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty. It is an act of moral judgment regarding a responsible choice. A right conscience is one duly illumined by faith and by the objective moral law and it presupposes, as well, the uprightness of the will in the pursuit of the true good.” (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 1990)

    I quote from Humanae Vitae: “The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man’s dignity and confers benefits on human society.”

    And as an aside, if anyone is thinking that the Church is totally ridiculous in expecting us to have as many children as humanly possible, she doesn’t: “The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.” (Humanae Vitae).

    And this is not the Rhythm Method that your grannies used. Go read up about NFP.

  5. Stanley Vermaak says:

    Just as well I never confessed being a thief, a drunkard and a fornicator at my first confession. At the time I didn’t think such behaviour was wrong and was just doing what my conscience said was okay, so it’s comforting to know that I wasn’t sinning.

  6. Stanley Vermaak says:

    Come to think of it, what did I even need salvation from? Was I sinning only when I went against my conscience? Because most of the time my conscience was absolutely fine with the disgusting life I was leading. It was only in hindsight that I saw the error of my ways. Can anyone help?

  7. Vincent Couling says:

    Pope John Paul II is unequivocal: To render the marital act intentionally unfruitful is intrinsically evil.

    This is in line with two Magisterial principles of natural and divine law, namely that the procreative and the unitive aspects of sexual intercourse may never be separated, and that every sex act must be open to the transmission of human life.

    There are many couples who legitimately feel that they cannot afford to have any more children. And yet, they desire to continue having sex purely for its unitive purpose, which fosters relational intimacy and brings with it a plethora of psychological and physiological benefits. And so, as a deliberate, conscious act of the free will some of these couples take great pains to avoid conception by using a highly precise scientific technique called natural family planning: this is the very meaning of the word contraception (i.e. contra, or against, conception).

    They chart the womans fertility cycle, and only have sex when it is guaranteed to be sterile. These couples have coldly and calculatingly rendered the marital act intentionally unfruitful. Their sole motive for having sex is that it should be for its unitive purpose, they have done all in their power to ensure that the sex is nonprocreative. Their intention is identical to those couples using a barrier or a pill, though their method (timing of intercourse) is different.

    Pope John Paul II is unrelenting: Contraception is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. This statement must clearly apply to all forms of contraception, be they natural or artificial. The only legitimate options open to these couples appear to be complete abstinence, or the procreation of more children.

    This impasse is clearly untenable. The courageous and prophetic words of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in his book Confronting power and sex in the Catholic Church: reclaiming the spirit of Jesus chart the way forward: If the Catholic Church is to regain some credibility after the many scandals of sexual abuse, it must first learn to speak with humility, intelligence, realism and compassion about all aspects of human sexuality.

  8. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear Stanley,

    According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you are quite right in your assessment!

    CCC 1782: Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”

    CCC 1790: A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

    CCC 1793: If – on the contrary – the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

  9. Caroline Sauzier says:

    Dear Mr Vincent Couling

    Did you really just refer to a couple faithfully practicing NFP for licit and responsible reasons as cold and calculating? You do use an argument that is embarrassingly common among those in opposition to the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics.

    As with any good, NFP can be misused (if it is used to postpone children solely for selfish reasons for example) but the NFP-practising couple is not doing something that is intrinsically evil (as would be the case with a contracepting couple).

    Contraception intentionally renders the sexual act infertile. It separates sex from one of its intrinsic purposes namely the procreative (the other is the unitive) and isolating either of these makes sexual pleasure morally disordered. Abstaining from intercourse during the naturally fertile period of a woman’s cycle is not changing anything about the sexual act; it is choosing not to have sex in the first place. The couple have not controlled when they will or won’t be fertile. It is God who created their bodies that way – just as a woman may be rendered temporarily infertile by the completely natural act of feeding her child, breastfeeding. And you can be sure that their sexual acts are never ‘guaranteed to be sterile’ by their own means or actions. The couple who chooses to remain faithful to the teaching of the Church is always open to new life even when they are engaging in sexual intercourse during a naturally infertile period.

    I have said my bit above but really, our beloved Church says it best:

    “The sexual activity […] does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.

    Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.”

    It is important and ultimately our duty as Catholics to be well-catechised on these issues as (proven by Mr Coulding above) it is easy to come up with seemingly logical arguments why the Church has made a mistake with all this. But in her wisdom she is safeguarding Christ’s Truth in a most courageous way and we (and all of society) are undoubtedly the better for it.