Two Versions of Church Teaching on Contraception

Version A: Contraception is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral, regardless of marital state. It is any act which deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative finality (i.e. its openness to life), regardless of whether the persons engaging in sex are married to each other or not.

The intrinsically evil sin of contraception is “any act which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.” (Humanae Vitae 14). Here, the use of “specifically intended” does not refer to the font of the intended end (first font), but rather to the intentional choice of the intrinsically evil act itself (second font). Every intrinsically evil act is deliberately chosen, that is, intentionally chosen. When the intentionally chosen act is inherently ordered “to prevent procreation”, then the moral object is evil and the act is the intrinsically evil sin of contraception. All intrinsically evil acts are essentially defined (as to their moral nature) by their moral object.

Every sin is an act. Some sins are said to be sins of omission because the act is an interior decision to refrain from some interior or exterior act. In the case of amplexus reservatus, the man intentionally chooses to refrain from climax, so that procreation is prevented. Such a decision is contraception by omission.

However, the sin of contraception usually occurs by commission, by an act of withdrawal “at the moment of…sexual intercourse”, or by an act beforehand, such as taking a contraceptive pill or using a contraceptive barrier, or by an act afterward, such as a post-coital contraceptive pill or use of a spermicide. No matter when the act occurs, if the deliberate act is inherently ordered to prevent procreation, it is the sin of contraception.

The teaching also states that contraceptive acts are sinful regardless of whether the act is an end or a means. So if the intended end is to prevent procreation, the contraceptive act remains intrinsically evil, as it retains its evil moral object (the deprivation of the procreative finality of sexual acts). But if the intended end is not contraceptive, but some other end, even possibly a good end, such as avoiding the dangers a pregnancy will pose to health, the act remains intrinsically evil as the object remains the same.

In this version of the teaching, the term used is “sexual intercourse”. Contraception is inherently disordered because it deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative ordering. The result of the teaching is that any and all uses of contraception are objectively gravely immoral, for unmarried persons as well as for married persons.

But there is another version of the teaching on contraception, which also claims to be official Church teaching.

Version B: Contraception is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral only within a valid marriage. It is an act which deprives marital intercourse of its procreative finality (i.e. its openness to life), and this applies only in a valid marriage. Outside of marriage, the use of contraception is either not intrinsically evil, or not properly called “contraception”, or morally neutral, or adds nothing to the immorality of the extra-marital sexual act. This version of the teaching is heretical; it is contrary to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium on the sin of contraception.

The proponents of this view would have us believe that unmarried couples do not sin by using contraception; they only sin by extra-marital sex. And this would suggest that the divorced and remarried (and all others with an invalid marriage) could use contraception without any additional culpability compared to refraining from contraception.

What if a Catholic hospital wishes to allows its non-Catholic physicians to prescribe contraception to its non-Catholic unmarried patients? Under this version of the teaching, there would be no reason to forbid this policy. And yet the Church does forbid it. Catholic hospitals are not permitted to dispense contraception to anyone, regardless of marital state.

The explanation given by this version for the immorality of contraception is its conflict with the requirement that marital sexual acts be open to life. But the claim that this applies only to marital relations conflicts with the teaching of the Magisterium that contraception is wrong because it separates the unitive and procreative meanings of sexual intercourse, and because it is contrary to value inscribed in the very nature of man and woman — not inscribed in marriage, but in human nature.

Pope John Paul II: “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality — and with it themselves and their married partner — by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 32)

Although the Pope mentions marriage in the above quote, he finds the basis for the immorality of contraception “inscribed in the being of man and woman” and in God’s plan for sexual communion and human sexuality. He does not find the basis for the immorality of contraception to be a violation of the marital meaning of sexuality, but rather a violation of the unitive and procreative meanings, “which man on his own initiative may not break” (Humanae Vitae, n. 12). Since the immorality of contraception is not based on the marital state, contraception is immoral both in marriage and outside of marriage.

The claim is made that Humanae Vitae uses the Latin word “conjugal-” (with various Latin endings) to limit the condemnation of contraception to marriage. However, Casti Connubii uses the same Latin word three times to refer to sex outside of marriage. And a document of the CDF on Catholic hospitals condemning contraception and sterilization uses the term sexual act [actuum sexualium], not conjugal act. So this appeal to the Latin text is unconvincing.

In addition, Pope Pius XI teaches along with St. Augustine:

“Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘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)

The wording used by Saint Augustine and quoted by the Pontiff is this: “even with one’s legitimate wife”. By this wording, 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.

So the correct teaching is “version A” above. But version B is increasing in popularity. I think that in many cases, persons are merely repeating what someone else wrote or said, without realizing that the wording contains a serious error.

“Using contraception is an “intrinsic evil” in all circumstances because it “cuts off one of the goals of marriage which is an openness to life,” Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann told LifeSiteNews.”

“Archbishop Naumann confirmed the Church’s teaching on contraception as a moral evil, as well as Church teaching that each and every conjugal act must be open to life.”

Notice the wording above: “one of the goals of marriage” and “each and every conjugal act”. The Archbishop speaks as if contraception were only immoral in marriage, for the very reason it is immoral is tied inextricably to the marital state.

” ‘I think as a pastor we have an obligation to dialogue with an individual in that situation,’ said Archbishop Naumann. ‘We have an obligation to talk to them, help to make sure that they understand what they’re doing and why it’s wrong and the reason is that it’s wrong.’ “

But the Archbishop himself doesn’t understand the reason why it is wrong. So how can he teach and correct others? This is a serious problem in our Church today, teachers who have adopted and are now spreading grave doctrinal error.

Contraception deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative meaning, and it also harms the unitive and marital meanings. Marriage certainly has the procreation and education of children as its primary end. But this does not imply that contraception is to be defined as solely an offense against marriage.

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

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53 Responses to Two Versions of Church Teaching on Contraception

  1. Dora says:

    So Archbishop Naumann intends to have this “dialogue with the individual person.” How many will share this private information, and with whom? You say he must get his reasoning right. After that, it should be delivered from the PULPIT — even with kids around. It seems to me if you start with the teaching on contraception and it will become obvious why cohabitation and gay “marriage” can’t work.

  2. vitu zui says:

    If I remember correctly, Pope Benedict XVI said that if a person had HIV, then it was worse for this person to have extramarital sex without a condom than with a condom (because in the first case there would be a sin of putting the partner’s health in a grave danger, while in the second case, this danger is much less present). So, how do we have to interpret this? Should we deduce that both choices in such a case (with and without condom) are grave sins, but that choosing the condom is less grave than choosing to not put the condom (because of the HIV danger)?

    • Ron Conte says:

      He was speaking of male prostitutes having sex with males, so it was not contraception, and he only said it was an indication that the person maybe was beginning to respond to conscience by protecting other’s health and lives. We can’t draw the conclusion, then, that contraception is permissible when a person has HIV.

      The end does not justify the means. So using barrier contraception, in the case of marital sex, is not justified to stop the spread of a disease.

    • John Platts says:

      Humanae Vitae says the following regarding the use of contraception: “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, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these” (n. 14). The teaching that I just quoted implies that the use of a condom during natural sexual intercourse cannot be justified on the grounds that it is the lesser evil, even in the case where a condom is used during natural marital relations to prevent the transmission of HIV.

    • vitu zui says:

      I fully agree that the end doesn’t justify the means. And I also fully agree that using contraception is never justifiable, even if it is in order to prevent HIV. That being said, the Church also teaches that among grave sins, some are graver than others. So what I was wondering is what is the graver sin in the case of a relation with HIV : putting condom or not putting condom. Of course, both options are grave sins, so I am not asking which one is acceptable. The only moral option would be to NOT have this relation. So I am simply asking which one of the two options would be the gravest. Intuitively it seems to me that the without-condom option would be the gravest, because inflicting serious physical damage to person is a graver sin than contraception.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Condoms do not provide sufficient protection from disease transmission, so both sins are very grave.

    • Marco says:

      “The end does not justify the means. So using barrier contraception, in the case of marital sex, is not justified to stop the spread of a disease.”

      So if someone has pre marital sex (and this involves 99% of Catholics) should be willing to take and spread diseases?

      I know that you will say that he shouldn’t have premarital sex, but the thing is that people, as a matter of fact, will have premarital sex, so are you saying that adding a catastrophic spread of diseases on top of that would actually be “less” sinful than using condoms?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Premarital sex with contraception is more sinful, as the act is more gravely disordered. Morality is not based solely or mainly on consequences (that is one of three fonts).

    • Marco says:

      I’ve asked you this, Ron, because it seems totally insane to me. If i have to accept it under pain of heresy and excommunication i will (even though i hope this isn’t the case), but if that is the case, to be able to do that i will need to switch off my brain and rely only on Faith.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t know which assertion you are referring to.

    • Marco says:

      “I don’t know which assertion you are referring to”

      I’m referring to the assertion that having pre marital sex with occasional partners or prosititues is LESS sinful if it is done without condoms.

      It just seems preposterous to me.

    • Ron Conte says:

      seems preposterous is not a valid argument; many dogmas seem preposterous to fallen human reason. Use of contraception is intrinsically evil (second font), though there may be weighty reasons in the circumstances (third font). I don’t see how it could be less sinful to add an intrinsically evil act to another grave sin. I would not say that this judgment is dogma (less or greater sin). But it is rather clear from Church teaching. You have one grave sin, and you add another intrinsically evil grave sin. The latter sin has circumstances that recommend it, but it remains immoral due to the object. The good in the circumstances does not outweigh the bad in the object (that would be proportionalism).

    • Marco says:

      “Premarital sex with contraception is more sinful, as the act is more gravely disordered. Morality is not based solely or mainly on consequences (that is one of three fonts).”

      I can understand that, but i also think that this is a very hard concept to grasp. I mean, if someone kills another man to defend his loved ones from immediate letal threats the act is not sinful, actually it is virtuous.

      On the other hand, if a woman accepts to have sex with strangers in order to save his loved ones (case in point, during the war a woman accepted to have sex with various Nazi officials in order to save her husband, otherwise he would have died in an extermination camp. I’ve read this story.) the act is still gravely sinful and it’s not justified.

      I have to admit, that accepting these teachings requires a huge leap of faith on my parts.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Intrinsic evil is one of the more difficult teachings to accept in Catholic ethics.

    • Paul M. says:

      Marco: By arguing that the transferring of disease is a valid reason to contracept, in essence, places the unitive aspect, which is secondary, above the procreative aspect, which is the primary reason for the act. Contraception can never be excused, then, because it is a direct affront to God Himself– a sin directly intended to thwart His designs in the natural order.

    • Marco says:

      “Marco: By arguing that the transferring of disease is a valid reason to contracept, in essence, places the unitive aspect, which is secondary, above the procreative aspect, which is the primary reason for the act.”

      Is it rational to think that God wants an AIDS infected child to be conceived through a casual sexual encounter which will leave the father also infected?

      “Contraception can never be excused, then, because it is a direct affront to God Himself– a sin directly intended to thwart His designs in the natural order.

      Again, do you think that God’s design is having a world literally packed with infected people because they didn’t used condoms? People shouldn’t have premarital sex, but given the fact that many today marry well beyond 30 it’s kind of inevitable, and it seems absurd to think that God would view a world packed with infected people as more good and desirable than a world in which people use condoms.

    • Marco says:

      “seems preposterous is not a valid argument; many dogmas seem preposterous to fallen human reason. “

      Not to me. Many dogmas seem suprarational to me, but this kind of teaching seems irrational. It’s a very big difference.

      “Intrinsic evil is one of the more difficult teachings to accept in Catholic ethics.”

      Yeah, because it makes little to no sense. Why on earth ending a human life because it represents a threat to me or to my loved ones is not a sin while, on the contrary, committing a sexual sin in order to save the life of a loved one (as seen in the example of the woman who saved her husband from extermination camps with her adultery) is always evil?

      It seems to me that this kind of teaching can only be accepted through Faith alone, because otherwise it makes no sense.

      The Immaculate Conception of Mary isn’t irrational, it’s “only” suprarational. The aforementioned teaching, though, seems irrational.

    • Paul M. says:

      Marco: “…it seems absurd to think that God would view a world packed with infected people as more good and desirable than a world in which people use condoms.”

      I did not say that God desires this. You have a disordered view of freewill, it seems. God allows people to break His commandments and pervert what is otherwise designed to be good. However, He also allows for natural consequences. which give us a glimpse of the destructive effects of sin and hopefully wake us up. This is intended to be a help to us (from an eternal perspective).

    • Marco says:

      “I did not say that God desires this. You have a disordered view of freewill, it seems. God allows people to break His commandments and pervert what is otherwise designed to be good.”

      Ok, this is doubtless.

      The meaning of my question regarded precisely the harmful effect of sin, and it is obvious that having sex without condoms is much more dangerous and harmful for people who aren’t married.

    • Paul M. says:

      “The meaning of my question regarded precisely the harmful effect of sin, and it is obvious that having sex without condoms is much more dangerous and harmful for people who aren’t married.”

      Eternal damnation is most dangerous. If the risk of spreading disease is insufficient to convince someone to be chaste, particularly when only abstinence is 100% effective, then sex without consequences will never be a help.

    • Marco says:

      Paul, if sin is the problem, let me tell you that elven remaining virgin will not solve the issue.

      The Church condemns every single sexual manifestation before a valid marriage, this means that if someone can’t marry when he is very very young (and this is what happens to 95% of people out there) he/she can’t have any sexual manifestation whatsoever, otherwise he commits an objective mortal sin.

      People are required to live like full blown monks/priests if they are not married, so abstaining from proper sexual relations which could transmit sexual diseases, would still make them sin mortally unless they are living like total monks.

      For example, even a catholic couple that is willing to wait until marriage to have sex commits a mortal sin if they have any other kind of sexual manifestations before the marriage, even if said sexual manifestations (petting, for example) don’t involve risks of getting pregnant or spreading incurable diseases.

      I just wanted to tell you this because you mentioned eternal damnation, and well, a Catholic is always at risk of eternal damnation unless he is willing to will until he is 30/35/40 like a monk or a priest.

  3. Matt Z. says:

    Perhaps that intrinsic evil of a condom or contraceptive will give a person more reason to commit sexual sins thus even greataning the chance of disease.

    • Marco says:

      It seems a bit farfetched if you ask me. When people discussed the African situation they said that condoms wouldn’t have worked,the solution was chastity and monogamy.

      And, guess what? They were totally right. The problem is that a vast percentage of the African population is not willing to live chastely, and this means that opposing condoms to be given to them is actually harmful.

      I’ve never heard anyone saying that the spread of AIDS and sexual diseases in Africa is worsened by condoms.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think, as faithful Catholics, we can say that contraception is always immoral, and still recognize that some non-Catholics will use contraception in good conscience. We can see the good in their mistaken decision. But, yes, chastity and monogamy turned out to be the right formula for some African nations. The objection that many would not be willing turned out to be not as big a problem as anticipated.

    • Marco says:

      Ron, the problem is that in Africa there are something like 25 million people infected by AIDS https://www.avert.org/global-hiv-and-aids-statistics

      If the western population decided to drop the use of contraceptives, how many more people would be infected with aids in USA and Europe?

      Because they are not going to become monks all of a sudden, willing to live suppressing every sexual urge for more than 20 years of their adult lives (a person who is able to marry, or finds the right person to marry, when he/she is 35/36 would have to live with the suppression of every sexual instinct from the age of 13/14 until the day of marriage), so what do you think would happen?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t think people will give up contraceptives out of good morals while continuing to commit sexual sins. That is not a likely hypothetical. Instead, if they give up contraceptives, they would also give up other grave sins. And we already discussed that chastity and faithfulness are what works in Africa, in real cases. People can avoid grave sins.

    • Marco says:

      They can, but they won’t. The overwhelming majority of people are not willing to live a completely non sexually active life for most of their youth.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “I don’t think people will give up contraceptives out of good morals while continuing to commit sexual sins. That is not a likely hypothetical. ”

      In Italy, for example, the average age of a new father is 35. AVERAGE. Which means that there are a lot of 40 years old new fathers as well. The American situation is slightly different but the age has still increased https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/30/health/older-dads-us-study/index.html

      Now tell me: is the thought of people living like monks from age 14-15 to 35/40 a likely hypothetical?

      If it isn’t, what would happen if people gave up contraceptives altogether? Even if you say that they would engage in non risky sexual activities they would still sin, because according to the doctrine of the Church every sexual manifestation before the celebration of a valid marriage is nothing less than an objective mortal sin (i covered that point here https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/two-versions-of-church-teaching-on-contraception/#comment-6505 ).

      And again, if you think that people not blessed with priestly vocations are likely to accept to live like priests for 15/20/25 years of their lives well… i have to say that you are being a bit unrealistic. In some African countries things may be different because they marry much earlier, marrying when you are 18 or 20 isn’t that uncommon in a third world country.

    • stefano says:

      Marco, your argument is purely sophistical. If – as you say – people are not willing to give up contraception, what sense does it make for the Church to change her teaching on sexual morality? Contraception is gravely immoral and people – especially the faithfull – have the right to know it, regardless of whether or not they will accept this moral teaching.

      As a matter of fact, people growing older and older before getting married is the consequence, not the cause, of contraception becoming an ever more common and accepted behaviour.

      So, opposing contraception for the good cause of sexual morality is the only way to lower the average age of marriage and, in the end, to increase the degree of happiness and fulness of life of every man and woman in all continents.

    • Marco says:

      “what sense does it make for the Church to change her teaching on sexual morality?”

      I’ve never said that the Church should change her teaching, i’ve just exposed some facts.

      “As a matter of fact, people growing older and older before getting married is the consequence, not the cause, of contraception becoming an ever more common and accepted behaviour.”

      I don’t think so. I think that the real causes are the extension of life expectancy and the fact that economic independence (which allows people to create their own families) is reached much later nowadays.

  4. Paul M. says:

    The natural law calls all men to chastity, both inside and outside the Church, regardless of their circumstance or how long they must endure in the particular state they find themselves in (single, married, religious or even separated while remaining married). To argue that a 35-year-old should be excused from their responsibility to remain chaste because it is too difficult is to embrace situation ethics and also to discount the power of the Holy Spirit to provide sufficient grace to resist temptation.

    Those outside of the Church are called to join the Church and begin a deeper life of faith through the Sacraments. Why would they be inclined to do so if the Church embraces situation ethics, as well, and gives them a nod to continue living in sin due to the difficulty of chastity? Would that person not make the assumption that they do not really need God’s grace?

    • Marco says:

      “To argue that a 35-year-old should be excused from their responsibility to remain chaste because it is too difficult is to embrace situation ethics”

      I never talked about personale responsibility, it is not my role to judge that. One thing is certain: either there are a lot of mitigating factors which less personal culpability for those sins, or the overwhelming majority of Catholics is lost.

      “Those outside of the Church are called to join the Church and begin a deeper life of faith through the Sacraments.”

      Are you claiming that all those who live a life in contradiction with Church’s teaching on some level are outside of the Church? If that is true, as i said, the amount of Catholics who are indeed outside of the Church would be absolutely staggering.

      “Why would they be inclined to do so if the Church embraces situation ethics, as well, and gives them a nod to continue living in sin due to the difficulty of chastity?”

      I never talked about situation ethics, nor have i said that the Church should chance her teaching. If that teaching is infallible she cannot change it.

      I just said that, expecially given the current conditions of society and life, respecting those rules has become more and more difficult. This is a fact, not an opinion.

      Maybe God takes into account this, i hope, otherwise today nobody would be saved apart from some stylite monk.

      It really isn’t rocket science.

    • Marco says:

      I have to say that, while i disagree with Jimmy Akin on a number of issues, i really agree with the content of this article http://jimmyakin.com/2006/12/assessing_morta.html

      In particular the following words are the core issue here

      “A while back I was reading an interview with Pre-16 in which he was taking note of this greater optimism and saying that we may hope (note the word “hope”) that a large majority of people today are saved and that only a few go to hell. If that’s the case then it has implications for how we read the criteria for mortal sin. You have to say that those who are properly catechized have a greater chance of getting to heaven than those who don’t (otherwise catechesis and evangelization would harm the good of souls, and we can’t say that), so you can’t chalk the optimism up to the fact that more people don’t know their faith. Neither do we have evidence that more people suffer from psychological impediments than in the past (it’s almost certainly the opposite). So if you want to be more optimistic than previously about salvation then you’d have to say that it’s harder than previously thought to commit mortal sin or easier than previously thought to be reconciled with God–or (more likely) both.”

      Otherwise, as he correctly says in the article, there really are no valid reasons to think that many people (let alone most people) will escape damnation, given how high the moral standards apparently are. If a youngster who has premarital sex with his girlfriend because he just graduated and he is not going to have the economical strenght needed to form his own family for the next 7/8 years at least (which is very common today) is likely to be in the same spiritual situation of Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson, then believing that more than an handful of people are saved would be plainly delusional. It would be, in that case, tantamount to believing that many or most newborns will be able to fit the requirements for Mensa’s membership once they reach the age of reason.

    • stefano says:

      Marco, you say that “today nobody would be saved apart from some stylite monk”; however, the Lord Jesus himself said that your statement bears no relation with true faith and, hence, must have no place in a sound theology: “Then one said to Him, Lord, are there few who are saved? And He said to them, Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able”.

    • Marco says:

      “the Lord Jesus himself said that your statement bears no relation with true faith and, hence, must have no place in a sound theology”

      Why do you say that it bears no relation with true Faith?

      If there are as many mortal sins as our doctrine teaches and what Jimmy Akin said in his hypothetical isn’t true, then it would be completely irrational to believe that most, or even many, people die in the state of Grace.

      By the way, i personally believe that most people are saved (even Ron holds this opinion), i’m just saying that this belief is hard to square up with the traditional understanding of mortal sin, that’s all.

      Let me quote Pope Benedict XVI from Spe Salvi 45 and 46

      “There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are[38].
      46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil”

      As you can see, he believes that the great majority of people are saved, in the end, even though they have to be cleansed in Purgatory (which is what he says in the Encyclical).

      If you read what he wrote, though, it is clear that his understanding of mortal sin seems way more complex than the traditional understanding.

      And for this very reason there are some people who thought that Pope Benedict XVI was upholding the theory of the fundamental option, which has been condemned by the Church in the past. http://www.pathsoflove.com/blog/2010/05/fundamental-option-and-salvation/

      I don’t agree with the thought that Pope Benedict XVI was upholding the fundamental option theory, but i definitely think that what he taught in Spe Salvi is built on a much more complex understanding of what going to hell and sinning mortally truly means.

    • Marco says:

      Also, Pope Benedict’s words in the encyclical remind me of Saint Faustina’s words

      ”God’s mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way. Outwardly it seems as if everything were lost. [This is what it looked like for my grandmother.] But it is not so. The soul illuminated by a ray of God’s powerful final grace turns to God in the last moment with such a power of love that, in an instant, it receives from God forgiveness of sin and punishment, while outwardly it shows no sign either of repentance or of contrition, because souls [at that stage] no longer react to external things. Oh, how beyond comprehension is God’s mercy! … Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God. But – horror!- there are also souls who VOLUNTARILY AND CONSCIOUSLY reject and scorn this Grace! Altough a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that INTERIOR VIVID MOMENT, so that IF THE SOUL IS WILLING, It has the possibility of returning to God. But sometimes the OBDURACY in souls is so great that CONSCIOUSLY THEY CHOOSE HELL; they [thus] make useless all the prayers that other souls offer to them and even the efforts of God Himself”. (Diary, 1698)

      Can you notice the similarities? Pope Benedict talked about people who “have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves”. Saint Faustina talked about people who are so entrenched with evil that they consciously choose Hell, refusing the last chance of Salvation that God is giving to them.

      In the traditional understanding of mortal sin is not so much the stubbornness with which you refuse God’s love that damns you; in the traditional understanding what damns you is the very fact that you committed a mortal sin, even though you are basically a good person. For example, in the traditional understanding of mortal sin it’s entirely possibile for a good family man to go to Hell because he committed a mortal sin and he died suddenly afterwards.

      Saint Faustina seems to teach that the soul doesn’t depart immediately from the body, so, even when “all seems lost”, there is still hope for salvation but in the traditional understanding there is no room whatsoever for such comforting thought. Saint Alponshus, for example, taught that there is a number of sin beyond which God pardons no more.

      Let me quote his actual words from here http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20Alphonsu%20the%20number%20of%20sins.html

      “He has also determined the number of sins which he will pardon; and when this number is completed, he will pardon no more. And these fathers have not spoken at random, but resting on the sacred Scriptures (…..) The number of sins which God pardons is not the same for all; some he pardons a hundred; others a thousand sins; others he sends to hell after the second sin. How many has the Lord condemned to eternal misery after the first sin! St. Gregory relates that a child of five years, for uttering a blasphemy, was condemned to hell. The most holy Virgin revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a girl twelve years old was damned after her first sin. A boy of eight years died after his first sin, and was lost. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we find that the Lord instantly cursed the fig-tree the first time he saw it without fruit. “May no fruit grow on thee forever. And immediately the fig-tree withered away.”–Matt, xxi. 19. Another time God said, “For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not convert it.”–Amos i. 3. Perhaps some daring sinner may have the temerity to demand an account of God why He pardons some three sins, but not four. In this we must adore the judgments of God, and say with the apostle, “O depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and unsearchable His ways!”–Rom. xi. 33. “

      And under this gloomy view thinking that many or even most people are saved would be absolutely ridiculous. And in fact Saint Alponshus believed that the overwhelming majority of people went to Hell.

      What i’m trying to say is that the traditional understanding of mortal sin doesn’t really leave much hope for a merciful God.

      Pope Benedict’s teaching and Saint Faustina’s teaching (which were based on mystical experiences recognized worthy of belief by the Church) are very different and they leave much more for God’s Mercy to act.

      The traditional understanding of mortal sin, on the other hand, makes entirely possible for us to believe that cupcakes like this https://aleteia.org/2016/03/04/how-the-commandant-of-auschwitz-found-gods-mercy/ receive God’s Mercy and in the end they reach salvation, while at the same time a common fornicator or sexual sinner, or even a child who committed the first sin, is sent to the fiery furnace of Hell. Afterall Saint Alponshus said that “The number of sins which God pardons is not the same for all; some he pardons a hundred; others a thousand sins; others he sends to hell after the second sin.” And if this abominable view were true, it would be entirely possibile for a nazi to be saved while at the same time a kid is condemned to eternal suffering. And it’s not like this is only Saint Alponshus view, this hypothetical is inherent to the traditional understanding of mortal sin, because according to that teaching if you commit a “common” mortal sin and then you have an unpleasant encounter with this big boy https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ac/Arriva_T6_nearside.JPG/1200px-Arriva_T6_nearside.JPG you are literally s%%t outta luck.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The view proposed by Alphonsus has not been accepted by the Magisterium. So this is a rare example of an error by a Saint and Doctor of the Church. St. Thomas also erred on some points.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      Ok, but what i meant is that Saint Alponshus did nothing more than fleshing out the ultimate consequences of the traditional understanding of mortal sin.

      Why am i saying this? Because the traditional understanding of mortal sin seems to be, on a certain level, very different from the one laid out by Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi.

      According to the traditional understanding, if a 12 years old kid should commit a sin with full knowledge and deliberate consent (and for the 99,99% of kids of that age you can imagine what kind of sin we are talking about) and he dies right afterwards, he goes to Hell, while at the same time a nazi murderer or a drug cartel hitman, if he is blessed with a long life, will be able to repent and be saved.

      This paradox isn’t presupposed only by the teaching of Saint Alponshus: without embracing Pope Benedict and Saint Faustina’s view the possibility of that paradox would be a natural consequence of the traditional understanding of mortal sin itself.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think we discussed this before.
      https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/things-that-seem-unfair-in-salvation-theology/
      The person who has lead a wicked life would not be disposed to repent, and the young person will be treated fairly by God in that he will have the grace to repent. I would also say that actual mortal sin is not as easy to commit as many people think. I don’t think the 12 y.o. loses the state of grace. He lacks the maturity to really understand the gravity of the sin, to a full extent. So Akin is wrong to change the perennial teaching of the Church from “full” to something less than that.

    • Marco says:

      “I don’t think the 12 y.o. loses the state of grace. He lacks the maturity to really understand the gravity of the sin, to a full extent. “

      The Church has always taught that once a child reach the age of reason he is able to sin mortally, but whatever, let’s leave that aside: what about the good family man who commits an actual mortal sin (no mitigating factors) and then he has a fatal encounter with a bus?

      Unless what Pope Benedict XVI and Saint Faustina said is true, he would be doomed to hell, while at the same time many men who are much more evil than him are blessed with repentance. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, unless we assume, in this hypothetical, that this man is one of those who are so stubborn in their sin that “they consciously choose Hell” (Saint Faustina) and “ totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves”.

      If this isn’t true and people actually go to Hell because they committed a mortal sin while more evil people are saved in the end only because they didn’t die suddenly, then the teaching of Saint Alponshus would be entirely true, because we would have Rudolf Höss blessed with an astounding number of blessing, including the final repentance, while at the same time the basically good family man who committed a mortal sin and died suddenly afterwards would be condemned to the eternal supplice.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Again, providence and grace do not permit anyone to be treated unfairly. The man hit by the bus will have the grace to repent before death, or providence will not allow him to be killed instantly, or he will be given the grace and providence to avoid the occasion of mortal sin, or some other remedy. Just because you can conceive of a scenario, doesn’t mean God will permit it to happen.

      And, no, it is not compatible with Church teaching to say that a person needs only a small spark of goodness to be saved. That is a metaphor with limits. A person is in the state of grace or not. If you die in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin, you are deserving of Hell. But many persons commit an objectively grave sin without full culpability.

    • Marco says:

      P.s

      “Akin is wrong to change the perennial teaching of the Church from “full” to something less than that.”

      Actually, i believe that Jimmy Akin’s view is similar to yours: he explicitly said that for the hope the most people are saved to be reasonable some conditions are required.

      He said

      “So if you want to be more optimistic than previously about salvation then you’d have to say that it’s harder than previously thought to commit mortal sin or easier than previously thought to be reconciled with God–or (more likely) both.”

      And this is not so much different from what you said about actual mortal sin not being that easy to commit.

      I think that both of his hypothesis are true, in the sense that i believe that committing an actual mortal sin is not as easy as previously thought AND i also believe that if someone commits an actual mortal sin he will not go to hell unless he consciously and willingly decides to refuse God’s Grace till his last breath.

      This view makes salvation for most people actually reasonable, and it’s in accordance with what has been taught by Pope Benedict XVI and Saint Faustina (the last interior vivid moment to repent).

      But if we are not willing to embrace what has been taught by Pope Benedict XVI there is no reasonable ground to hope for the salvation of most people.

      And in fact Jimmy Akin says

      “Like I said, I’d love this to be true, but I’m not comfortable with saying that it is. Consequently, I fall back on the principle of erring on the side of caution and assuming in my own life that the traditional understanding of these matters is correct.”

      But there is no doubts that the traditional understanding of what mortal sin and going to Hell means is directly at odds with the hope that most people other than the truly wicked are saved in the end.

    • Marco says:

      Ron, to make my point more clear, i want to let you know about this article (sorry about the third consecutive post) https://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/against-c-s-lewiss-idea-of-hell/

      In the article, the author explains the view of C.S Lewis about hell and damnation, which is the following

      “If there is a real woman—even the least trace of one—still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.” (C.S Lewis)

      As you can see, this teaching is basically equal to the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi,

      “ There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi 45 http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi.html )

      And yet, if you read the article, you will see very clearly that the author proceeds to dismantle completely that teaching

      “. In Lewis’s picture almost any little bit of good is enough to get someone saved, whereas they have to be quasi perfectly depraved to go to hell. Here a single mortal sin is enough to damn someone despite all the good they have in them. And this follows simply from the what-it-was-to-be of good and evil. Good is determination to one. Evil being some defect in that determination is quasi-infinite. This is the principle on which combination locks are made; there is only one way of getting the combination right, but practically unlimited ways of getting it wrong. And the sad thing is that one only needs a single number off for the whole combination to be useless. ”

      As you can clearly see, this is the traditional understanding of mortal sin, which logically makes next to impossibile to believe that most, or even many, people will be saved.

      I think that what has been taught by Benedict XVI should be used to further develop the teaching about Hell and Salvation.

      If you think that the idea that most people are lost is no longer tenable (which is what you wrote here https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/how-many-will-be-saved-refuting-the-ultra-conservatives/ ) then i think that a doctrinal development regarding Hell and mortal sin is most definitely needed. And i also think that Pope Benedict XVI has planted the seed.

    • Paul M. says:

      Wow, I am way behind in this thread, but I wanted to answer Marco by saying that I do not agree with him or Ron that many are saved. Of course, my opinion means nothing.

      I agree with Stefano that our Lord’s words about the narrow gate are meant to be taken quite literally. As St. Paul says, “with fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Phil 2:12b).

      Whether or not many or few are saved, one thing is certain, don’t take salvation for granted: “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “A person is in the state of grace or not. If you die in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin, you are deserving of Hell. ”

      What i meant is that the spark of goodness can allow you to repent before the separation of the body from the soul.

      This would justify what has been said in Spe Salvi (which otherwise wouldn’t make sense) and by Saint Faustina.

      “The man hit by the bus will have the grace to repent before death, or providence will not allow him to be killed instantly, or he will be given the grace and providence to avoid the occasion of mortal sin, or some other remedy. ”

      You said that the man hit by the bus will have the Grace to repent before death. But that is exactly my point (even the other points you have mentioned are valid, though, this point is important for those who find themselves in danger of death while they are in the state of actual mortal sin). Whether he will accept or refuse that Grace is up to him, but my point was exactly this one.

      Also, the way the Church administers the last rites confirms what i am saying https://catholicnewslive.com/story/565130

      “In Sabetti-Barrett I found [……..] In a nutshell, this says that if in most cases a person dies suddenly of natural causes then there is probably still some life remaining after the last breath. In the case of a slow death from illness it may remain for a few minutes maybe six or, according to some experts 30 minutes. (See how the authors are divided… auctores scinduntur.) In the case of a sudden death some life might remain longer, even perhaps to the point of putrefaction. If a priest finds the person and he is morally certain that he is there in the time that life could still be present to some extent he can and indeed ought to anoint, but conditionally. In the case of illness the author thinks that a half hour is the length of time that the priest has to get there after apparent death from illness and one hour in the case of sudden death. If, after that time but before corruption sets in, he can anoint. Whether or not he ought to the author leaves to those wiser than he.“

      The priest wouldn’t be allowed to administer the Last Rites at those points, if the teaching of the Church implied a sudden separation of the soul from the body (separation after which repentance is no longer possible).

      My point is that, while theoretically it may be possible to be condemned to Hell for a single mortal sin, i don’t think that God allows that. And the person who will most likely reject the final Grace and choose to die in the state of mortal sin is certainly a person with a wickedness that is far beyond the wickedness of common sinners.

      That’s why Pope Benedict talked about people who “ have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves” when he was talking about Hell in Spe Salvi. Because there are the kind of sinners who refuse to be saved till the last moment.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “the spark of goodness can allow you to repent” Absolutely not necessary. Prevenient grace is what allows that first movement toward repentance, and prevenient grace does not admit cooperation. It is a free gift from God, even to the most wicked (without any “spark” of goodness).

    • Marco says:

      ““the spark of goodness can allow you to repent” Absolutely not necessary. Prevenient grace is what allows that first movement toward repentance, and prevenient grace does not admit cooperation. It is a free gift from God, even to the most wicked (without any “spark” of goodness).”

      Sure, in fact i said that the spark of goodness CAN allow you to repent. With this i meant that this kind of Grace gives you the actual and real opportunity to repent and be saved, and this is most important when you are at the very end of your life and you wouldn’t have any chance to repent afterwards but if you don’t have any goodness left in you, you will refuse to repent even if God gave you that first movement.

      What i meant is that a person who is stubbornly attached to evil, for example someone like this Mexican cartel leader who dismembered a six-year-old girl… – Daily Mailwww.dailymail.co.uk › article-4652938 , is more likely to refuse that Grace, he is more likely to withhold his cooperation with subsequent Grace,

      In fact Saint Faustina talked about the interior vivid moment which allows you to come back to God, but she also said that there are souls who are so obdurate in their sin that they consciously choose not to repent despite having the chance to do so and avoid Hell.

    • Marco says:

      @Paul

      “Wow, I am way behind in this thread, but I wanted to answer Marco by saying that I do not agree with him or Ron that many are saved. Of course, my opinion means nothing.”

      Well, even the current Popes believe that many more are saved than damned.

      Also, let me quote Padre Pio.

      “ I. believe that not a great number of souls go to hell. God loves us so much. He formed us at his image. God loves us beyond understanding. And it is my belief that when we have passed from the consciousness of the world, when we appear to be dead, God, before He judges us, will give us a chance to see and understand what sin really is. And if we understand it properly, how could we fail to repent?”

      Padre had continuos vision of God and the souls of the deceased. http://infallible-catholic.blogspot.com/2012/05/padre-pio-on-purgatory.html

      Also, let me tell you that if the odds of salvation were so narrow, there would be no reason whatsoever to bring children into this world. You bring a creature into this world, a human being that you love more than yourself, only to see him condemned to everlasting suffering in Hell? No thank you.

      Bringing children into this world, if that was true, would be an act of cruelty.

    • Marco says:

      @Paul

      Also, let me tell you that i don’t think that Stefano meant what you said.

      But anyway, the interpretation of the words of Jesus about salvation is quite controversial

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05374a.htm

      “If it be asked why the name elect was given to the members of the Church Militant, we may assign a double reason: first, they were freely chosen by God’s goodness (Romans 11:5-7, 28); secondly, they must show in their conduct that they are choice men (Ephesians 4:17). In the sentence “many are called, but few are chosen”, the latter expression renders a word in the Greek and Latin text which is elsewhere translated by elect (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). It is agreed on all sides that the term refers to members of the Church Triumphant, but there is some doubt as to whether it refers to mere membership, or to a more exalted degree. This distinction is important; if the word implies mere membership in the Church Triumphant, then the chosen ones, or those who will be saved, are few, and the non-members in the Church Triumphant are many; if the word denotes a special degree of glory, then few will attain this rank, and many will fail to do so, though many are called to it. The sentence “many are called, but few chosen” does not, therefore, settle the question as to the relative number of the elect and the lost; theologians are divided on this point, and while Christ in the Gospels urges the importance of saving one’s soul (Luke 13:23, 24), he alternately so strengthens our hope and excites our fear as not to leave us any solid ground for either presumption or despair.”

      I don’t think that God’s Grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is so weak that most people are damned. It is sad to see how many Catholics don’t believe in God’s Mercy, or they believe in such a weak Mercy that, at the end of the day, it is unable to save most people. If that was true, i wonder what is the point of Jesus Sacrifice, then.

      Let me quote Ron https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/how-many-will-be-saved-refuting-the-ultra-conservatives/

      “ if this universal salvific will of God fails in the vast majority of cases, then God’s plan for salvation was ineffective. This idea conflicts with the teaching that God is all-powerful and infinitely perfect. But if the universal salvific will of God succeeds in the vast majority of cases, then the perfection of God is seen by the many who are saved, and His respect for free will is seen by the minority who are lost”.

      And he is very right. If most people were lost, God’s sacrifice on the Cross and his plan for salvation would be ineffective. We aren’t calvinists,we don’t believe that God only wants to save some people, we believe that God wants to save everyone, and while this isn’t a reason to take our salvation for granted it is surely a reason to believe that his Will cannot be thwarted so often.

  5. Matt Z. says:

    I disagree that bringing a child into the world would be an act of cruelty even if only few are saved. Parents would still want to take that chance, since heaven is the goal for the child, and by the grace of God,the help of the parents, and through the Catholic Church children could be forever in heaven. Its a risk worth taking, 100%.

    • Marco says:

      “I disagree that bringing a child into the world would be an act of cruelty even if only few are saved. ”

      Oh, really?

      “The saved are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are: yet amongst those few I wish to be!’
      St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

      ‘The number of the elect is so small – so small – that were we to know how small it is, we should faint away with grief. The number of the elect is so small that were God to assemble them together, He would cry to them, as He did of old, by the mouth of His prophet, “Gather yourselves together, one by one” – one from this province, one from that kingdom.’
      St. Louis Marie de Montfort

      “Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.’
      St. Leonard of Port Maurice

      What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!’
      St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church

      Yeah, sure, i guess that bringing children into this world while all the odds are stacked against them and they basically have one chance out of 1000 to be saved would not be an act of cruelty, no.

      If i had believed such thing, i can tell you for a damn fact that i would have never taken the chance.

      “ since heaven is the goal for the child, and by the grace of God,the help of the parents, and through the Catholic Church children could be forever in heaven. ”

      Yeah, just like he “could” win the lottery and become a billionaire.

      “Its a risk worth taking, 100%.”

      It is not (under that view, of course). We aren’t talking about the possibility of the child being confined in a “lesser” Heaven with perfect natural happiness, we are talking about children who have all the odds stacked against them, children who will most likely endure an E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y of untold misery and suffering, with the pain of loss + the pain of sense.

      To each his own, i guess, but i would have never accepted to bring new creatures into such a cruel and dangerous universe. To Hell with that, literally.

      Also, as terrible as it may sounds… [deleted by admin]

    • Ron Conte says:

      https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/how-many-will-be-saved-refuting-the-ultra-conservatives/
      The Saints who lived centuries ago lack the teachings of the Magisterium since then. They can err, then, on certain questions, where the development of doctrine brings us a new and deeper understanding.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      Yeah, i agree that they were wrong about that.

      I also understand why you deleted the last part of my comment, what i said in that last part was not really appropriate for this blog, you did the right thing.

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