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Beginning Apologetics – How To Answer Tough Moral Questions 5/6 – Contraception

March 15, 2009

Audio of Classes:   Session 5
                                      Session 6

How to Answer Tough Moral Questions


February 15/22. 2009


A.  The controversy surrounding the Church’s teaching on contraception has created a great crisis in the Catholic Church.

•1.    Stubborn refusal on the part of many to accept Church’s absolute prohibition on all types of contraception.

•2.    Polls indicate the vast majority of the laity, and a large % of clergy, reject Church’s teaching on contraception.

B.  Humanae Vitae (1968) was greeted by a chorus of dissent.

•1.    Secular media condemned HV as hopelessly out of date.

•2.    Response of many bishops = lukewarm; some openly opposed it

•3.    Public dissent weakened the Church at a time of fighting secularism and the sexual revolution

•4.    History will record that HV was one of the most important documents of all time; rebellion against it was one of greatest tragedies suffered by the Church.


A.  Humans have a strong sexual instinct. Not surprising that people would want to contracept to avoid responsibility.

•1.    Ancient Egyptian docs (1900 – 1000 BC) give recipes for contraceptives.

•2.    Onanism (premature withdrawal) common in ancient world. Gen 38:9-10 (1500 years BC)

•3.    Ancient Jewish Talmud mentions contraceptives, as do Aristotle (Greek) and Pliny (Roman historian)

•4.    Contraception was widespread in ancient world. And the Church condemned it

•a)     Didache

•b)    St. Hippolytus (Refutation of all Heresies): condemned women who take drugs to make themselves sterile

(1)  St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom all condemned contraception.
(2)  All Church Fathers who mention contraception condemn it. NOT ONE APPROVES IT.
(3)  Likewise, NO Catholic Bishop or theologian condoned it until modern times.

B.  Problem of contraception isn’t new; dates back to the beginning of the Church. Reasons for becoming so entrenched toady:

•1.    Birth control pill appeared on the market in the 1960’s.

•2.    Sexual revolution.

•3.    World-wide uprising against authority.

•4.    Governments began to lift restrictions against contraception.

•5.    Counterfeit moral systems were substituted to justify sexual sins.

C.  A Deluge of evil influences drowned out the Church’s defense of the truth until she seemed like “a voice crying out in the wilderness”.

•III.Methods of Contraception

A.  Barriers: condoms/diaphragms

B.  Spermicides: kill a sperm cell before it can fertilize an egg

C.  Birth Control Pills

•1.    Hormones (estrogen/progesterone) with three functions:

•a)     Prevent ovulation

•b)    Prevent fertilization

•c)     Prevent implantation (abortifacient)

D.  Intra-uterine devices (IUDs)

Change the character of the uterine line to prevent implantation (abortifacient)

E.  New products:

•1.    Depo-provera = injectable depot-forming progesterone

•2.    Norplant

•3.    RU-486 (abortifacient)

F.   Sterilization

•1.    Vasectomy

•2.    Tubal ligation

G.  Correction/Explanation

•1.    There may be some conditions for which a woman needs to take hormones found in birth control pills.

•2.    This use would fall under the principle of double effect; the INTENT has to be to ONLY to treat the medical condition, NOT to contracept. 

•3.    If ANY other means of treating condition are available, they should be chosen FIRST.

•IV.Church Teaching on Contraception

A.  Church teaching is based on the natural law.; public revelation enriches/enlightens.

B.  HV teaches the following:

•1.    Marriage and intercourse are by their nature designed for procreation and rearing children.

•2.    Our sexual instinct must be kept under control even in marriage.

•3.    Sexual acts are noble and worthy in marriage, even if couple infertile due to factors outside the will.

•4.    For legitimate reasons (physical/economic/social/psychological) a couple may limit the number of children through moral means.

•5.    The marital act (yuck!) has two essential meanings/purposes, both of which must be safeguarded/respected:

•a)     Unitive (love-giving)

•b)    Procreative (life-giving)

•c)     A spouse who pressures his partner to have intercourse without regard to her condition violates unitive/love-giving aspect.

•d)    A couple who engages in intercourse while contracepting attacks the procreative/life-giving aspect

•6.    Direct sterilization is prohibited.

•7.    No action taken before/during/after intercourse intended to render it infertile is permitted.

•8.    Both Direct sterilization AND contraception are intrinsically evil, always wrong, no matter the circumstances/intentions.

•9.    When a necessary medical treatment renders a person infertile, this is not immoral (double effect).

•10. If spouses have legitimate reasons to limit number of children, NFP is permissible. (Explain NFP)

•11. There is an essential difference between NFP and contraception:

•a)     With contraception, intercourse is perverted from natural purpose/meaning by blocking the procreative aspect.

•b)    With NFP, intercourse takes place in an entirely natural way. Women are periodically infertile; couple chooses to have sex only during those times.

•c)     Nature eventually renders a woman infertile; sexual relations remain moral after that time.

•d)    Limiting family size only becomes evil when our intentions or our methods are evil in themselves.

•V.Answering Objections to the Church’s Teaching

A.  Two Categories: Christian/Non-Christian

B.  Christian objections break down further into Catholic and non-Catholic

C.  Catholic objections

•1.    I accept the Church’s authority, but the teaching on contraception has never been proclaimed ex cathedra.”

•a)     Arises from a misconception that the only infallible doctrines are those proclaimed by the solemn Magesterium (general councils/ex cathedra definitions)

•b)    The Church also teaches infallibly through the ordinary Magesterium. (ref. CCC 891-892, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25); most infallible teachings come from here.

•c)     Church’s teachings against contraceotion have a 2000-year history; Bishops virtually unanimous in condemning contraception.

•d)    Vademecum for Confessors on Certain Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, section 4, describes teaching as “definitive and irreformable”.  This means infallible.

•e)     Clear papal teaching is still always binding even if one does not accept HV as infallible. 

•2.    “I have a right to follow my conscience.”

•a)     Yep.

•b)    But before the right comes the duty to properly form one’s conscience.

•3.    “I am choosing the lesser of two evils.”

•a)     This only works when the only choices are BOTH evil.

•b)    There is a NON-evil choice available: Natural Family Planning.

•4.    “It might be wrong, but I am doing it for a good intention.”

•a)     Some pastors will misguide couples and tell them that it’s OK to contracept if both spouses agree.  It may lessen their subjective guilt – they really just didn’t know – but it’s still objectively evil. (example of murder)

•b)    Some pastors will say that we shouldn’t disturb couples who contracept “in good faith”. Quoting theological concept that it’s better to leave people alone if there is no hope they will accept the Church’s teaching, otherwise we turn an objective sin into a subjective one. Must be properly understood.

(1)  MUST not presuppose that someone will not accept the Church’s teaching.
(2)  A confessor may NEVER tell a penitent that contraception is OK. At most, he can defer the question until the penitent is more open.
(3)  Even if he decides to leave someone “in good faith”, he must patiently catechize, exhort and admonish in hope of bringing the person to the truth.

•c)     Leaving someone “in good faith” (a valid concept) is frequently misapplied to let people who know better off the hook.  If a couple know the Church’s teaching, they cannot contracept “in good faith”.

D.  Non-Catholic Christians

•1.    Non-Catholic Christians will not want to hear about the Magesterium, or about natural law.  But they accept the authority of the Bible.

•2.    History: 

•a)     Before 1930, not ONE Christian denomination accepted contraception. No theologian, no denomination supported it before the 20th century.

•b)    All the Protestant reformers condemned contraception as unbiblical.

•c)     The Anglican Church was the first Protestant denomination to allow contraception in 1930.  Ask: Why would they follow the Anglican Church?

•3.    Sacred Scripture: There is only one Bible passage that explicitly describes a contraceptive act.  Gen 38: 6 – 10 (Onan is struck dead for contracepting with his dead brother’s wife)

•a)     Levirate law prescribes a mild punishment for not raising up children for a dead brother

•b)    Onan was KILLED.

•c)     Reasonable to conclude that he was killed for his contraceptive actions.

•4.    Fruits of Contraception:

•a)     Any reasonable person can look at the results of widespread contraception and see it isn’t in accord with God’s will.

•b)    Many are seeing the connection between contraception and rampant divorce/sexual immorality.

•c)     Many in the pro0life movement see that the contraceptive culture planted the seed for the abortion culture.

E.  Conclusion

•1.    Once Protestants recognize the evil of contraception, their next step should be to abandon the error of “Bible-alone”.

•2.    It was the Magesterium that has held the line against the evil of contraception, infallibly interpreting Sacred Scripture, the natural law, and Sacred Tradition.

•3.    The fruits of the 20th century :abortion, widespread homosexuality, pornography, genocide, world wars, and massive apostasy from Christianity, coincide with the prevalence of contraception. 

•4.    Contraception is no the product of enlightenment:  it’s simply the product of an evil age.

From → Apologetics

One Comment
  1. Shirley permalink

    Dear Deacon Chip,
    You are a shinning light in a dark world. You represent the hope that our nation and our world needs.
    I agree with you. Our oneness in Christ supercedes the historical lines the in the sands of time between Catholic & Protestants. In my hmble creative visionary view I see the Catholic (Universal)Church as the root & bark of the tree of Christianity. It has many branches which has filled with true Christian believers, who appose what you refer to as the “fruits of the 21st Century”. The historical seeds of sins hidden in the human hearts are being exposed through statistical
    data, and mass media. A true Cliche states “what’s done in the dark will come to light”. What’s great about it is that we can live our lives, so that we are examples to others. What we do/ or don’t do speaks louder than what we say. Be encouraged, stay strong for God has no other hands or feet than ours.


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