E. Christian Brugger on Contraception Outside of Marriage

E. Christian Brugger is a professor of ethics at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. In a brief artcie at Zenit.org, he answers the question as to whether the Church’s teaching on the immorality of contraception is limited to the marital state. In other words, is contraception only a grave sin for married couples?

Read the full article at Zenit.org here. A brief excerpt follows:

“Q: Does the Catholic Church’s condemnation of contraception bind only on married couples or is it a universal moral norm?

“E. Christian Brugger replies:

“whenever a man or woman, married or unmarried, engaging in sexual intercourse, believe they will or might bring into existence a new human life, and consequently adopt any action—before, during, or after intercourse—specifically intended as an end or means to prevent procreation, they violate the procreative significance of sexual intercourse. They contracept. And contraceptive acts in Catholic tradition have always been judged to be intrinsically evil….”

“If contraceptive acts were wrong for married persons, but legitimate for unmarried persons, they would not be wrong per se, would not be intrinsically evil, but circumstantially evil. Although some Catholics hold this, the view seems clearly to be inconsistent with both the Church’s theological and doctrinal traditions.”

“Since texts of canon law going back 700 years, papal encyclicals in the 20th century and the most influential theological arguments in Catholic history formulate the norm against contraceptive-type acts as universal, applied to every act by every person intended to render sexual acts sterile, the view that the Church’s condemnation only applies within marriage—and therefore does not apply to (i.e., the acts can be legitimate and even obligatory for) fornicators, adulterers and prostitutes—ought to be set aside as inconstant with Catholic traditional teaching.”

My Comments

Grave harm is being done to body and soul by certain prominent Catholic authors who claim that the Church’s condemnation of contraception only applies within marriage.

As E. Christian Brugger explains, the Church has always condemned contraception regardless of marital status. The idea that this condemnation is limited to the marital state is a modern innovation, which is incompatible with Catholic traditional teaching.

St. Augustine teaches: “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.” (St. Augustine, De Adulterinis Coniugiis, Book II, n. 12; Genesis 38:8-10). Notice that he condemns contraception “even with” one’s wife. Contraception was well understood to be immoral outside of marriage, and Augustine extends it to marriage as well.

Humanae Vitae essentially takes the same position. It was already, at the time, well-accepted that the Church condemned contraception outside of marriage. Humanae Vitae answered the question as to whether contraception might be permissible in marriage. The answer was No. But certainly Humanae Vitae did not state or imply that contraception is only condemned in marriage.

Children, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, who pretend to be teachers of the faith, but who instead teach souls to commit grave sins.

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

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2 Responses to E. Christian Brugger on Contraception Outside of Marriage

  1. Rico says:

    Ron, please clarify… is the last sentence “Children, beware of wolves in sheeps’ clothing…” referring to Prof. Brugger? It seems to me you agreed with what he wrote. If you do, then instead of a warning, you may have to commend him for being one of the few out there who still teaches correct Catholic doctrine. Otherwise, the last sentence seems baffling. Who is it referring to in this article?

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