contraception and the principle of double effect

Is contraception ever justified by the principle of double effect?

Some commentators claim that the use of contraception in marriage might be justified by the principle of double effect. This claim is contrary to the definitive teaching of the Magisterium on contraception and on the basic principles of morality.

The Magisterium teaches that the use of contraception is intrinsically evil. But the principle of double effect never justifies intrinsically evil acts. In order to be moral under the principle of double effect, the chosen act must have a good moral object, not an evil moral object.

An act is justified under the principle of double effect, despite having both a good effect and a bad effect, only if the intention is good, and the moral object is good, and the good effects (all the reasonably anticipated good consequences) morally outweigh the bad effects (all the reasonably anticipated bad consequences). The consequences include considerations such as avoding scandal, the likelihood of the good and bad effects, the gravity of those effects (harm/benefit), and how closely related the effects are to the chosen act.

Intrinsically evil acts always have an evil moral object. Therefore, the use of contraception is never justified by the principle of double effect.

by Ron Conte

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