gb fr
For a Lady Pope

The Catholic Church’s doctrine on contraception

In order not to go back to St Augustin or St Thomas of Aquin, both of whom condemned contraception, it is probably more prudent to look at the two encyclicals of the 20th century that have treated the subject of contraception within married couples.

L’encyclical Casti connubii

The first encyclical, Casti connubii, (chaste wedlock) was a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Pius XI on December 31, 1930. The chapter dedicated to contraception was entitled, “The crime of Onan.” It might be useful to reread the article, “The biblical basis for the doctrine on contraception,” also on our website, which explains the interpretation given to the verses in Genesis on the Onan affair, involving an infraction of the Levirate Law (Onan refused to sleep with his sister-in-law, his brother’s widow, in order to avoid giving her any offspring).

The word “crime” is used by Pope XI to stigmatise all forms of contraception. Contraception is described as something “intrinsically wrong”. Even with a legitimate woman, all sexual coupling is seen as illicit and blameworthy if, during the act, means of avoiding conception are used.

By using the term “intrinsically wrong” the Pope is saying that all contraception is malignant and he makes absolutely no exceptions. Very few other acts are defined as being “intrinsically wrong”.

For example, to kill a man is bad and forbidden by the fifth commandment, however it is allowed in cases of legitimate defence. In the same way, stealing something from another person is reprehensible, but can be justified if the thief is dying of hunger.  The use of contraception though is condemned without exception.

This doctrine has been taught in the Church for many centuries. When St Thomas Aquinas named the different sins he already placed the sin of preventing the creation of the next generation just below the sin of murder.

In 1930, several months before the publication of the encyclical, Anglican bishops had, for the very first time, decided to allow the use of contraception in marriage. The Pope wanted to distance himself as much as possible from this direction, which he considered to be both libertine and scandalous. The Vatican, advised by a Jesuit who was almost seventy years old, wasn’t prepared to listen to the world and instead secreted its own moral ideology in opposition to that of other Christian churches.

The encyclical Humanae vitae

In 1968, the famous encyclical, Humanae vitae, by Paul VI was published. The contraceptive pill had been on the market for the last ten years.

The battle within the Vatican had been a hard one. Those for and against the ban on contraceptives confronted each other vehemently. In 1966, the commission set up by Paul VI to examine the problems of contraception recommended the use of artificial contraception, despite being aware that this would be an aberration of the doctrine. This recommendation was noted in a secret report. These prelates were probably not inspired by the same Holy Spirit who had, for centuries, suggested the opposite. Paul VI, influenced by Cardinal Wojtala, the future Jean Paul II, preferred to maintain the secular doctrine and went against the commission, publishing the encyclical.

It wasn’t as easy for Jean Paul II to refer to the punishment of Onan because, based on this postulate, he would logically also have to have prohibited all methods of avoiding pregnancy, including methods such as taking a woman’s temperature to detect when she is infertile. The theologians realised that Onan would also have been punished if, in order to avoid making her pregnant, he had only had full sexual intercourse with his sister-in-law during her infertile periods.

The Pope declared contraception to be against natural law and forbid it vehemently.

Whilst the reflexions on human love expressed in this encyclical have been widely appreciated, the same cannot be said for the outright condemnation of all means of contraception, which separate the sexual act from procreation. This condemnation was written in the same chapter and paragraph as that referring to abortion and even worse, is cited in identical terms: “... we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth”. “Similarly excluded is every action which, either 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.

This unhappy but deliberate amalgam has bought discredit on the Church’s teachings, especially as the majority of moral Christians do not follow the Vatican on this point and consider that the use of contraception is a sensible one, allowing couples to have children at an appropriate moment in their lives.

On 24th July 2008, when Pope Benedicte XVI celebrated the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae vitae’s publication, he gave some clear sightedness to the subject. God will not in fact immediately condemn you, if you don’t share all the opinions laid out in the encyclical, as is the case for 95% of Catholics. What a relief. We can finally sleep peacefully in our beds at night.

Other articles

Is Christianity a religion of peace?

In a world where physical or moral violence is common and where religions are pointing the finger, we are entitled to ask whether Christianity is a source of peace or of savagery.

2014 Synod on the Family

Many of the faithful wonder if the Church is ready to change its pastoral activities and therefore its doctrine on the family. The expected points of debate were essentially the Church’s position on the banning of contraception, the fate of the divorced who later remarry, the practice of in-vitro fertilization, couples living together outside marriage, homosexuality ...

Is the church able to adapt to the ideas of its time

When looking at the history of the Church over the past two centuries, everyone is entitled to ask him or herself whether or not the Church can cope with the changes in attitudes and whether or not it can at least go some way to changing or developing its doctrine.

Pope Francis speaks of women

The Church, rather than being a beacon in the field of women's rights, has extinguished the light. Let’s hope that Pope Francis can reverse the trend and embrace many female collaborators

The true reasons for prohibiting the ordination of women

Is it really acceptable that what caused the separation of women from worship at the time of Jesus Christ - periodic impurity - can still have an influence in today’s 21st century? The fact that the Catholic Church continues to uphold such a thesis is quite simply unbelievable.

The nuns rebellion

The nuns are rebelling and it will hurt. Nothing is more rebellious than a woman. They are determined to have the right to speak. How far will it go?

A hundred days of Pope Francis

After one hundred days, we should have an idea of his main principles, even more so because, at his age, we can imagine that his philosophy, if not to say his religion, is deeply founded and therefore he knows exactly in what direction he wants to go

. What the majority of Catholics expect from Pope Francis

What they want to see is developments throughout the whole Church.

Aids and immanent justice (poetic justice)

Archibischop of Belgium (machelen-Brussels) compares the disaese to the environmental disasters caused by humans. "When you mistreat the environment, it finally ends up by mistreating you. And when you mistreat human love, it might just look for revenge,” he said.

Paedophilia within the Belgian Catholic Church

Summarising the evolution of the cases of paedophilia in the Belgian Catholic Church is not easy, as so many events have taken place over the past few years. We will therefore simply underline the main events. The most complete history of events can be found in the parliamentary committee’s report, http://www.lachambre.be/FLWB/PDF/53/0520/53K0520002.pdf, which treated the subject. We have drawn heavily on this resource. Various commissions are often referred to when talking about paedophilia within the Belgian Catholic Church. There were two internal commissions that were set up by the Church, one following the other. The first was the Halberghe Commission (2000 - February 2009) and the second, the Adriaenssens Commission (March – June 2010). Furthermore, the Parliamentary Commission, referred to above, worked from October 28th 2010 to March 31st 2011.

Comments

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »