Catholic Hypocrisy on the Contraception Mandate

Certain prominent Catholic teachers have, for many years now, been promoting a radical revision of Catholic teaching on contraception. They have proposed a new understanding of that teaching, such that contraception would be moral in many cases.

Some claim that the condemnation of contraception by the Church is limited to marriage. They say that the Church has no teaching against contraception outside of marriage, or that contraception outside of marriage is morally neutral.

Some prominent Catholics claim that contraception is only immoral with a contraceptive intention. If you have a good intention, then they say it is not really contraception, or at least it is morally justifiable. They consider the immorality of contraception to be based, not on the objective act, but on the subjective intention.

Others claim that contraception, even abortifacient contraception, can be morally used for a medical purpose. So if a physician prescribes abortifacient contraception to treat a medical disorder, they claim it is moral to use, while still remaining sexually active. And then they add that, if the abortifacient ends up killing conceived prenatals, those deaths are morally justifiable.

Another common claim is that contraception is moral to use in a difficult circumstance, as when pregnancy would result in harm to the mother, or to the prenatal. They claim that intrinsically evil acts, including contraception and abortifacient contraception, can be justified by the principle of double effect.

Proof that all the above claims are wrong:

Pope Saint John Paul II: “Contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly illicit that it can never, for any reason, be justified. To think or to say anything to the contrary is tantamount to saying that in human life there can be situations where it is legitimate not to recognize God as God.” (Address on Responsible Procreation, September 1983)

I should also point out that many Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics use contraception — many within marriage, some outside of marriage. They rarely, if ever, go to Confession [1], and when they go to Confession, they rarely, if ever, confess the sin of contraception [2]. They continue to be welcome at Mass. And the Bishops do not tell them that they cannot receive Communion.

So how is it, then, that these same Catholics, who propose that the use of contraception is often moral, can turn around and argue against the Contraception Mandate? If contraception is moral in so many cases, why can’t Catholic employers pay for it?

The Bishops in the U.S. are being hypocritical, in that they both argue against the Contraception Mandate, yet ignore the fact that a large percentage of Catholics in the U.S. use contraception, do not repent, and continue to receive Communion. The Bishops are also ignoring the many Catholic authors, bloggers, theologians, and priests who propose one theory after another, all to the effect of justifying contraception, even abortifacient contraception, in more and more cases.

Cake for Everyone!

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If the Church only condemns contraception within marriage, on what basis would Catholic employers — from religious orders to dioceses to schools to non-profits — refuse to pay for contraception for unmarried employees? They can’t claim that it is against their sincerely held religious beliefs, if they think that Church teaching on contraception is limited to marriage.

If the Church only condemns the use of birth control pills or contraceptive devices with a contraceptive intention, then on what basis can a Catholic employer refuse to pay for contraception for any employees? Does the employer claim the right to judge the intentions of the employees, in advance, en masse? And why would the employer then decide that all employees have the wrong intention?

If the Church permits contraception, including abortifacient contraception, when it is used for a medical purpose, then on what basis would Catholic employers refuse to pay for any and all contraception for their employees? Should they not at least pay when they themselves think that contraception is moral? If a physician prescribes abortifacient contraception for one of their employees, does the employer have the role to step in and judge whether the purpose of the prescription is to treat a medical disorder, or to prevent conception?

If, as some Catholic claim, contraception is moral or justifiable (or morally neutral) in many cases — outside of marriage, with a good intention, for a medical purpose, in a difficult circumstance — then the refusal to comply with the Contraception Mandate loses its foundation. You cannot claim that paying for contraception is against your sincerely held religious beliefs when you are also claiming that a large percentage of persons using contraception are not sinning at all.

And how many of these Catholic employers, who refuse to pay for contraception, have frequently used contraception themselves, and have never confessed that sin in the confessional? How many Bishops, who oppose the Contraception Mandate, have married employees, in the diocesan office and in parishes, who are currently using contraception?

The hypocrisy is stunning.

My Position

My understanding is that contraception and abortifacient contraception are each intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Nothing can justify the deliberate choice of an intrinsically evil act. Neither a good intention, nor a dire circumstance, nor even an important medical purpose can ever justify contraception or abortifacients. And intrinsically evil acts are NEVER justified by the principle of double effect.

My understanding is that contraception is condemned by the Church regardless of marital state. It is immoral within marriage and immoral outside of marriage. And the knowingly chosen acts of human person are never morally-neutral.

As for the Contraception Mandate, if a Catholic employer pays for a health care plan, for his employees, which includes contraception, his actions are morally justifiable as remote material cooperation. It is not formal cooperation, since the employer is only paying for the health insurance plan, not for each prescription for contraception. The employer’s actions are not directed at any contraceptive or abortive ends, but only at paying for health care more generally.

The same analysis applies to paying one’s taxes. Some of the tax money does go to pay for abortions. (They say there is a federal law preventing tax money from being used for abortion, but the law allows many exceptions.) Some of the tax money may go to pay for an unjust war. Some of the tax money may be used to support unjust laws. And yet it is still moral to pay our taxes, because of the doctrine of cooperation with evil.

My fellow Catholics, why do you tolerate and even support false teachers, who constantly chip away at Church doctrine, who constantly seek to justify grave sins? Is it because you yourself commit those sins, and you would like to pretend that your vices are really virtues? Repent from your own sins, and then speak out against those unfaithful (but very popular) Catholic teachers, who are destroying the teachings of the Church, which are part of Her very foundation.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

[1] Conte, “What If Every Catholic Went To Confession?”, Posted on 23 January 2012. Conclusion: “The vast majority of Catholics, 95% or more, do not go to confession even once a month.”

[2] In a sermon at Mass, years ago, a priest said: “As a priest who hears confessions, I can tell you that few persons ever confess the sin of contraception. But I know that many of you are using contraception.” Then he went on to speak against the grave sin of contraception.

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