Catholic Doctrine on Contraception

Contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.

Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of intention or purpose, and regardless of circumstances or consequences.

Contraception is any act ordered, by its very nature, to deprive a sexual act of its procreative meaning. The intended end or purpose of the act does not determine the moral object. The intentional knowing choice of an act ordered, by its nature, toward the deprivation of the procreative meaning is the sin of contraception.

Knowingly chosen acts of human persons are never morally neutral. They are either good or evil, moral or immoral.

To be moral, a sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative. The deprivation of any one of these three meanings makes the act intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The deprivation of more than one meaning makes the act even more gravely immoral. The greater the moral disorder of any act, the greater the sin.

The use of mere contraception in cases of rape is indirect and therefore morally permissible and not intrinsically evil.

The use of contraception in marriage deprives sexual acts of the procreative meaning, and harms, but does not entirely take away, the unitive and marital meanings.

The use of contraception outside of marriage deprives sexual acts of the procreative meaning, and harms, but does not entirely take away, the unitive meaning. The sin of sex outside of marriage becomes more gravely immoral by the use of contraception.

The absence of the marital meaning in a sexual act harms, but does not entirely take away, the unitive and procreative meanings (1 Cor 6:16).

Abortifacient contraception is ordered, by the very nature of the act, toward both contraceptive and abortive ends. Abortifacient contraception is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral, and is more gravely immoral than mere contraception, due to the abortive nature of the act.

The use of abortifacient contraception, by a woman who is sexually active, is not justified by a medical purpose. Intrinsically evil acts are never justified by intention or purpose, nor by circumstances or consequences. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to direct sterilization or contraception.

There are no translation errors in the official Vatican English translation of Humanae Vitae. The false claim of a translation error is being used to promote ideas which are explicitly contradicted by the official translation of Humanae Vitae.

Contraception is gravely immoral regardless of marital state.

The Magisterium condemns the distribution and promotion of contraception, regardless of whether it is used in marriage or outside of marriage, as a grave offense.

The Magisterium teaches that contraception is immoral because it separates the two meanings, unitive and procreative, found in human sexuality and in the being of man and woman. This basis for the immorality of contraception does not rely on the marital state, but on the nature of man and woman, on the nature of the human person.

The Church opposes teaching young unmarried persons how to use contraception in sexual education programs. This opposition is not based solely on the possibility that those young persons might eventually marry and use contraception in marriage. Neither is it based solely on the Church’s opposition to the sin of pre-marital sex. The Church opposes teaching the young how to use contraception because contraception is intrinsically evil and therefore always immoral, regardless of marital state.

The Magisterium teaches that direct sterilization is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral because it deprives sexual acts of the procreative meaning. Direct sterilization is condemned by the Magisterium, regardless of whether the individual is married or single. Contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral for the same reason as direct sterilization, the deprivation of the procreative meaning from the moral object of sexual acts.

The Magisterium condemns artificial procreation for the same reason as contraception, the unitive and procreative meanings are not united in one and the same act. The deprivation of either or both the procreative and unitive meanings makes the act intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. But artificial procreation is condemned regardless of whether a couple is married or not. The same is true for contraception; the act is condemned because the unitive and procreative meanings are not united in one and the same act, regardless of marital state.

Catholic hospitals are not permitted to dispense contraception, neither to married couples nor to unmarried persons. If the Magisterium taught that contraception were only immoral within marriage, there would be no reason to restrict Catholic physicians in Catholic hospitals from dispensing contraception to unmarried patients in accord with the consciences of the physician and the patients, especially for non-Catholic patients.

Pope Pius XI condemns contraception by quoting Saint Augustine: “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented.” (St. Augustine, De Adulterinis Coniugiis, Book II, n. 12). By this wording ( “even with one’s legitimate wife”), Augustine is condemning contraception both outside of marriage and within marriage. He is saying that contraception is still immoral, even within marriage, which implies that it is also immoral outside of marriage. And Pope Pius XI quotes him on this point without any disagreement, correction, or qualification. Then Pope Pius states that this teaching against contraception is an “uninterrupted Christian tradition,” implying that the teaching is also infallible.

The use of the English word “conjugal” and its Latin equivalent in magisterial documents does not imply that the Church’s condemnation of contraception is restricted to the marital state. Contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.

by
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.

Gallery | This entry was posted in contraception. Bookmark the permalink.