Saint Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Contraception and the Catholic Church: A Contradiction?


Contraception and the Catholic Church.
By Matthew James Bellisario 2009

It seems that there is a certain “Reformed” apologist Turretin Fan who thinks that there is a disagreement on what the Catholic church actually teaches on contraception. I wrote an article a week or so ago about Pope Benedict's statement on the AIDS crisis in Africa. This “apologist” thought it would be amusing to find a bishop in the Catholic Church that disagreed with what I wrote and which also coincidentally disagreed with the Pope on the use of condoms. Once again we see that Protestants do not understand how the Church defines doctrine and dogma, so they go look for some bishop that contrasts Church doctrine and then they claim that the Catholic Church has no official position on the subject. As we will see in this article, the Catholic Church has a teaching on contraception that cannot be changed because it is doctrine. It doesn't matter how many people calling themselves Catholic do not believe it. As many will recall back during the early years of the Church, the Arian heresy had led most of the bishops of the Church into heresy. Doctrine is not decided by a majority vote. It is decided by the Papacy in conjunction with, but not subjected to the rest of the bishops. Once doctrine or dogma is decided and has been consistently taught by the Pope or in official church documents then it cannot be changed no matter how many bishops oppose it.

Let us look at the link that this Protestant pitted against me as if I am the one opposing the bishop. As we will see it is my not my opinion, but the Church's official stance on contraception that the bishop is opposing. In my original post I was addressing the absurd remarks the former Prime Minister of France made against the Holy Father. The Protestant apologist that hails himself as the all-knowing sage of Catholicism has once again made an incorrect assumption that he cannot justify. See my responses in bold type.

Turretin writes...

“Although some people (mostly conservative Romanists) would like you to think that the Roman Catholic Church has only one view on contraceptives (Yes because the Church teaches us that), the issue is actually one on which there is a degree of disagreement (As we will see the disagreement is in Turretin Fan's head, not in the official documents of the Catholic Church), as illustrated in the following two articles:

On the "pro" side, Manuel Clemente, Bishop of Porto (link to article).

"Speaking to journalists, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Porto Manuel Clemente said condoms in such cases are 'not only recommendable, they can be ethically obligatory.'"

vs.

On the "con" side, Matthew Bellisario, editor of the "Catholic Champion" web site (link to article)

"Well how does this genius think that AIDS is spread? Does MR Juppe know that it spreads by having sex, and that condoms promote sexual intercourse among people in Africa that have AIDS? Condoms are not 100% effective and the disease is primarily spread by sexual intercourse. Wow, I just wonder how someone like this clown becomes a Prime Minister in any country outside of Wonderland."

***

Obviously, Mr. Bellisario is not making his comment directly to Bishop Clemente, and perhaps he'd be embarrassed to call one of the bishops of his church a "clown" - though he does not hesitate to law on the compliments when it comes to the former prime minister. (Because the Prime Minister doesn't know what he is talking about similar to Turretin Fan. Two peas in a pod! Dull minds think alike)But leaving aside the bombastic nature of Bellisario's remarks, what we see from this comparison of views is that the typical Romanist apologetic argument that we need Rome to give us unity on issues like contraception (which are not explicitly addressed in Scripture) is wrong as a matter of fact: although Rome provides organizational unity, that organizational unity masks great doctrinal and moral disunity.”

-TurretinFan

So what did the bishop say that contradicts the Pope himself? Below is from an article from USA today that Turretin linked to.

Speaking to journalists, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Porto Manuel Clemente said condoms in such cases are "not only recommendable, they can be ethically obligatory.”

"The great solution to the AIDS problem, like any other problem, has to be behavioral," Clemente said.

However, AIDS sufferers "have a moral obligation to prevent and not provoke the illness," he said at a monument unveiling in the port city Sunday.

Clemente is the second Portuguese cleric to contradict Pope Benedict XVI. Armed Forces bishop Januario Torgal Ferreira said a week ago that to ban condom use was equivalent to consenting to the death of many people.

He added that the people giving the pope advice "should be more learned."


So let us look at what has been said here. For one I find it interesting how my Protestant opponent pitted me against the bishop rather than the Pope. Not really a surprise since Turretin loves to attack me in any possible fashion available to him. He tries to make it look as if I am on my own in my position without the support of the entire Church. Let us take a look at the clear teaching of the Church. We will see that the bishop is not following Catholic moral teaching by recommending condoms to people. A very clear teaching that is taught in Catholicism is that an evil cannot be done in order to achieve a good. This is what the bishop is doing. Let me explain.

The Catechism gives a basic outline on the teaching condemning any artificial method that prohibits the fulfillment of the sexual act. The wording that the Catechism uses must be looked at carefully. It regards this type of act as an intrinsic evil. That means that the act itself is never justified in any circumstance whatsoever. The Catechism tells us that a a natural form of birth regulation is allowed under certain circumstances, which is also known as NFP. Then the Church follows with a condemnation of every other method that would prevent the conjugal act from being fulfilled. The text would include the use of condoms since it would fall into the category of using it in anticipation of the conjugal act as well as a means to render procreation impossible during the act. This puts the bishop clearly at odds with the Catechism of the Church.

“In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil: 159”

Next let us look at Humanae Vitae. The document is clearly written in a manner that defines the text as doctrine. It opens with a text that is clearly defining in the name of the Church Magisterium. Therefore any bishop of layperson for that matter opposing it is in opposition to clear and concise doctrine. It opens with the following text.

4. This kind of question requires from the teaching authority of the Church a new and deeper reflection on the principles of the moral teaching on marriage—a teaching which is based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation.

No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, (l) that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, (2) constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation. (3)

In carrying out this mandate, the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of marriage, the correct use of conjugal rights, and the duties of spouses. These documents have been more copious in recent times. (4)


Now that we have defined the weight of this document let us look at the text regarding forms of contraception. This includes the use of condoms even in an effort to try and derive a good from it. The document is crystal clear. “Similarly excluded is any action 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. (16)”

Humanae Vitae Section 14

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. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—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.

Now we have two official sources from the Church contradicting the bishop. This is obviously not my own opinion here. What is also of primary note in all of this is the clear emphasis that procreative and the unitive qualities of the sexual act not be separated intentionally. The document tells us that this is also an official teaching of the Church.

Union and Procreation

12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

Since most protestants like Turretin Fan reject sound reasoning and the Natural Law, this would of course fly right over his head. Turretin has failed to prove any inconsistency in official Catholic teaching on this subject. Like usual his observations are empty rhetoric. Let me continue on with more official documents of the Church on this subject.

In 1995 Pope John Paul II released a document called Evangelium Vitae. In it the Pope covers a wide range of sexual ethics. In it he teaches the same doctrine that both Pope Paul VI and now Pope Benedict XVI teach. In in referring to the immoral use of artificial reproduction he writes, “Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act....” So far we have three Popes over the course of just 40 years or so defining this a an “official” teaching of the Church.

My question to the Turretin Fan is this. Where is an official document written by the Church that tells us that this teaching is not consistent? Where is the statement that the bishop made, which Turretin quoted, consistent with any document “officially” released by the church? I do not want a bishop's private opinion on the matter, I want an official document that substantiates this bishop's teaching which contradicts three Popes and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. I will give you a hint, they do not exist. There are more documents I could quote that reiterate this basic principal on Catholic morality regarding the conjugal act. It can be seen in the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document Persona Humana (1975), as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document Donum Vitae. The Church consistently gives us this unchangeable teaching that the procreative element and the unitive element cannot be intentionally separated regarding the conjugal act for any reason. This includes condoms. There is no contradiction despite Turretin Fan's written accusation on his blog.

4 comments:

Kelly said...

Your thoughts have been engaged with here:
http://kakistokrat.wordpress.com/

I look forward to your response.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi Kelly. I read your response. I will respond further when I get a little time. I will argue in favor that the teaching is infallible. There are many reputable theologians who subscribe that this is the case. But more importantly we must look beyond individual opinions and look at the wording in the documents that I presented. They use key words that indicate that the teaching cannot be changed. I will explain a bit later. Thanks for the post.

Kelly said...

I will look forward to such an argument. I am a little concerned with your claim about "looking beyond individual opinions..." The people I were quoting (like the papal representative to present the encyclical to the media) are not mere individuals...
I understand that language within a document suggests something, but I will await your post with interest.
I hope beside preseting positive arguements you will engage with the thoughts I have provided.

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