Contraception and the Roman Catholic Church
The modern Catholic individual faces problems daily about how to live a contemporary Catholic lifestyle. In attempt to answer the questions about how to live Catholics often turn to the Bible, the Pope, and the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. While much guidance can be taken from these sources, there arise many modern issues for which the Bible offers no advice, and the doctrine offers confusing or even conflicting advice. The Bible was written in ancient times, and many modern problems simply did not exist. For example, there is no basis in the Bible for the moral implications of euthanasia, because there were no artificial means of preserving life during that time. This is especially true about modern sexual ethics. Specifically, on the issue of contraception there is no direct teaching in the Bible, because modern forms of contraception did not exist. A Catholic individual must look to the teachings of the Pope and the official church doctrine for guidance on the use of contraception. The Roman Catholic Church currently prohibits any form of unnatural or artificial contraception. This prohibition has been reaffirmed many times over, during Ecumenical Councils and papal encyclicals. However, these decrees fail to fully address the problems associated with unregulated procreation and unprotected sex. The ban that the Roman Catholic Church has placed on contraceptives is flawed and there are many instances in which Catholic couples are morally justified in the use of contraceptives.
To outline the arguments of the Catholic Church against contraception, one must start with an understanding of the past events and knowledge that shaped the current doctrine. Much of the current theology stems from the opinions of St. Augustine, who wrote extensively on sex, chastity, and the goods of marriage. Augustine wrote that continence, that is, having no sexual intercourse at all, is the highest calling and the most preferable state. However, Augustine admits that continence is a calling that not all receive, so the second best option is conjugal chastity, “Observe, he tells us that this gift is from God; and although he classes it below continence in which he would have all men to be like himself, he still describes it as a gift from God” (Augustine 1887). Augustine uses the term conjugal chastity to describe sex only with one’s husband or wife, and only for the purpose of procreation, “The union, then, of male and female for the purpose of procreation is the natural good or marriage” (Augustine 1887). He further argues that sex is always sinful and only made less sinful by the desire for procreation, A man turns to use the evil of concupiscence, and is not overcome by it, when he bridles and restrains its rage, as it works in inordinate and indecorous motions; and never relaxes his hold upon it except when intent on offspring, and then controls and applies it to the carnal generation of children to be spiritually regenerated, not to the subjection of the spirit to the flesh in sordid servitude. (Augustine 1887). The Catholic Church maintained this ideal of sex only for reproduction until recently. Recently the knowledge that women are not merely an incubator, and the fetus is not created from semen alone, but from both the man and the women has shaped changes in the church. Patricia Beattie Jung and Aana Marie Vigen state in their introductory article to God, Science, Sex, Gender, “This understanding of the biological design of human sexual reproduction, that we now recognize as mistaken, was foundational to what all Christian churches taught to be natural in a normative sense” (Jung et al. 2010). With the discovery of the ovum in the 19th century it became apparent that the woman’s body was also active in the creation of children. This discovery lead to a turning point in the Church’s attitude towards conjugal chastity. Pope Pius XII said that, “Couples…...
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• Jung, Patricia Beattie, and Aana Maria Vigen.Introduction. God, Science, Sex, Gender. Edited by Patricia Beattie Jung and Aana Marie Vigen. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2010.
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• Planned Parenthood, "Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)." Last modified 2013. Accessed March 10, 2013. "Fertitlity Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)." Planned Parenthood (2013): n.pag. Web. 10 Mar 2013.
• Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, Vatican Web site, July 25, 1968, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
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