Well, it’s the “Nuns in the Congo” controversy, all over again.
See the news report at the guardian: The priest helping women get birth control at US border: ‘Lesser of two evils’.
“Though contraception is a venial sin in Catholic orthodoxy, Prisci began giving women his blessing to take birth control and contraceptive injections. He also developed a relationship with the Santa María pharmacy, an unmissable bright orange building down the road from his church, where he has since directed hundreds of women.
‘It is the lesser of two evils,’ Prisci said, as we walked across the square. ‘Since she cannot prevent violation, she protects herself so that she won’t get pregnant.’ The priest adjusted his cowboy hat. ‘Life is above everything. Life comes first.’ “
See also this article at TelesurTV: Mexico Priest Helps At Risk Women Access Birth Control
“The priest works with the Santa Maria pharmacy to provide migrant women with contraceptive injections that can stop pregnancy over the course of a month.”
Is this story not a grave scandal? This priest should be corrected by his Bishop, and if he refuses to accept the correction, he should be laicized. The type of contraception he distributes is abortifacient contraception. It is NOT a venial sin, as the guardian article claims, but a mortal sin. The Church has always condemned abortion and contraception as grave sins. And the type of contraception is abortifacient, making his sin formal cooperation with abortion as well as contraception. The canonical penalty for formal cooperation with abortion is automatic excommunication (see below).
His claim that “Life is above everything. Life comes first.” contradicts his actions, which promote and cooperate with a type of abortion (taking life) and a type of contraception (preventing life). And his “lesser of two evils” argument fails because intrinsically evil acts, including abortion and contraception, are never justified as the lesser of two evils. Humanae Vitae clearly rejects such an argument:
“Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one…. it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (Rom 3:8) — in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.” [Humanae Vitae 14]
And in Evangelium Vitae, Pope Saint John Paul II explains that abortion is a grave sin, and that those who commit abortion, along with their accomplices, are automatically excommunicated:
“The Church’s canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history. The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication. The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication”. The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed. By this reiterated sanction, the Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek without delay the path of conversion. In the Church the purpose of the penalty of excommunication is to make an individual fully aware of the gravity of a certain sin and then to foster genuine conversion and repentance.” [Evangelium Vitae 62]
Does this penalty of automatic excommunication apply only to surgical abortions, or to all types of abortion? It applies to all types of abortion, including abortifacient contraception. See my previous post on that topic.
Is this priest’s formal cooperation with abortifacient contraception justified because these women are at high risk of rape when they cross the border from Mexico to the United States? Not at all. Abortion and contraception are each intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Intrinsically evil acts are never justified by intention or circumstances.
See my post Contraception in Cases of Rape. After a rape, a woman can go to a hospital emergency room, even at a Catholic hospital, and mere contraception can be used to prevent conception. Such an act is indirect contraception, and therefore not intrinsically evil. But abortion, the direct killing of a prenatal, is never justified, even in cases of rape, and so abortifacient contraception is not justified, even in cases of rape.
Does the “Nuns in the Congo” argument work to support the morality of this priest’s actions? No, it does not. Using abortifacient contraception in no way prevents the rape, and, as a type of abortion, it is never justifiable. See my post: Janet Smith’s grave errors on Contraception and Sterilization, especially the section “The 1975 Document”. Abortifacient contraception is not justified by the possibility of a future rape.
The Radical Reinterpretation of Humanae Vitae
A certain set of heresies is spreading among conservative Catholic teachers, which radically reinterprets Humanae Vitae to support several grave errors:
* the claim that the Church’s condemnation of contraception in Humanae Vitae is limited to its use in marriage
* the claim that abortifacient contraception can be justified by a medical purpose, despite the deaths of prenatals
* the claim that contraception ceases to be intrinsically evil, because it ceases to be contraception, due to a good intention or a dire circumstance
* the claim that the use of contraception outside of marriage is morally neutral or otherwise justifiable
* the claim that direct sterilization and abortifacient contraception are justified by the possibility of a future rape
* the claim that abortifacient contraception is morally the same as mere contraception
The conservative Catholic teachers who are spreading some or all of these errors claim to be presenting a correct understanding of magisterial teaching, but in fact their ideas are heretical. They claim that a proper interpretation of Humanae Vitae supports their understanding, but when we compare the traditional interpretation of Humanae Vitae to other magisterial documents on contraception, we see that the traditional interpretation is correct: abortion and contraception are each intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, regardless of circumstances, regardless of intention, regardless of marital state.
These conservative Catholic teachers object to the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried, on the grounds that adultery is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. But then they promote and approve of the use of abortifacient contraception, which is also intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.
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