Contraception and Euthanasia are Both Intrinsically Evil

There is a simple way to shine the light of truth on insidious false teachings about contraception: compare contraception to euthanasia. Both acts are intrinsically evil, and all intrinsically evil acts are always wrong for the same reason: evil in the moral object of the knowingly chosen act. If contraception is justified for any reason, then euthanasia and truly every other intrinsically evil act would be justified for the same reason.

For example, when contraception is indirect (as in cases of rape), then it is not intrinsically evil. All intrinsically evil acts have a direct relationship between the knowingly chosen concrete act and its object. That relationship is found in the inherent ordering of the chosen concrete act toward the object, and that ordering is the very nature of the act. When the evil in question is not an end toward which the knowingly chosen act is inherently ordered, then it is not in the object of the act. That is why indirect abortion, indirect contraception, and indirect sterilization each can be moral (with three good fonts of morality).

But when the evil in question — the deprivation of some good required by the love of God, neighbor, self — is in the object of the act, then the act is necessarily always intrinsically evil. This holds true for the popular intrinsically evil acts, such as contraception and lying, as well as for the unpopular intrinsically evil acts, such as racism, slavery, genocide, and euthanasia.

Some false teachers claim that contraception is not intrinsically evil and is not even properly called “contraception” when there is no contraceptive intent. They claim that if the person using a contraceptive method, such as the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), has some good intention and lacks the intent to prevent conception, then the act is not intrinsically evil and is not really contraception at all. They also ignore or readily dismiss the abortive object of the act. Essentially, they have moved the moral object from the second font (the inherent ordering of the knowingly chosen act) to the first font (the intended end). This allows them to justify any act with a good intention, or at least with some intention other than to prevent conception.

But if that were true for contraception, then it would also be true for euthanasia. Euthanasia is, by definition, the direct killing of an innocent human person, with the good intention of relieving all suffering, in the circumstance that the person is suffering greatly (and is perhaps also terminally ill). The Magisterium condemns euthanasia as intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, even though this intrinsically evil act has the good intention of relieving suffering. So what people claim to be a justification for contraception, a good intention, does not hold true for euthanasia. Euthanasia is still euthanasia and is still intrinsically evil, even though the intended end is not to kill the innocent person, but to relieve suffering.

The reason that euthanasia is gravely immoral, even with the very noble medical purpose (intention) to relieve severe suffering, and even in the dire circumstance that the person has no other way to relieve suffering and is terminally ill, is that euthanasia is intrinsically evil. ALL intrinsically evil acts are immoral due to the object of the act, regardless of the intention and circumstances.

Euthanasia is not justified by a medical purpose, even if the intention is not to kill but to relieve suffering. Euthanasia is not justified by very dire circumstances. Therefore, contraception is also not justified by a medical purpose, not justified by the lack of a contraceptive intent, and not justified by a dire circumstance.

Would euthanasia be justified by the possibility of future severe suffering, as has been suggested in the case of Huntington’s disease? Even those wicked false teachers who never tire of promoting abortifacient contraception would not (yet) make such a claim. A future possible dire circumstance cannot change the moral object of the current knowingly chosen act. Therefore, neither sterilization, nor abortifacient contraception, would be justified by the possibility of a future rape.

You can’t set up a dual standard for intrinsically evil acts: the one standard for the popular sins and the other standard for the unpopular sins. All intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, due to evil in the object of the knowingly chosen act. Nothing can transform an intrinsically evil act into a good act.

Contraception is intrinsically evil. And it does not magically become “not-contraception” by the absence of contraceptive intent, or due to the medical purpose of relieving suffering, or due to a dire circumstance, or because popular opinion among poorly-catechized Catholics wishes it were moral.

Janet Smith and many other Catholic authors claim to condemn contraception as intrinsically evil. But they have redefined contraception so that, whenever it seems to them that contraception should be permitted, this grave sin would fall outside of their disingenuously narrow definition of intrinsic evil. But if that were true, then why don’t they apply the same rules to euthanasia, racism, murder, adultery, slavery, and genocide? All intrinsically evil acts are wrong for the same reason: evil in the object. If a good intention or a dire circumstance changes contraception into some other kind of act, one that is not intrinsically evil and supposedly should not even be termed “contraception”, then that would hold true for every other type of intrinsically evil act.

But clearly it does not hold true. Therefore, these claims about contraception and other popular intrinsically evil sins are simply not true. They are mere rationalizations to justify popular sins.

[2 Timothy]
{4:1} I testify before God, and before Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead through his return and his kingdom:
{4:2} that you should preach the word urgently, in season and out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke, with all patience and doctrine.
{4:3} For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but instead, according to their own desires, they will gather to themselves teachers, with itching ears,
{4:4} and certainly, they will turn their hearing away from the truth, and they will be turned toward fables.

Teachers will have the stricter judgment (cf. James 3:1).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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