Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Contraception Insults God!

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and from it flow all the other mysteries of the faith.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that this mystery is the mystery of “God in himself.” All that is revealed about the meaning of God’s creation, particularly the image of God, male and female, is built upon this most fundamental and essential teaching.

The life to which men and women are called from the moment of their creation is found precisely in friendship with God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.  This pattern inherited from the Most Holy Trinity, a unity of life and love, is essential to all human relationships, and, in a particular way, to that special form of friendship between husband and wife.  Spousal love that is authentically human, after the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, is open to new life.  Why?  Because God, Love, is the source of all life and generates new life.  To prevent life is to kill love.  To step in and block the gift of the human faculty of generating new life is an insult to God who created that power.

From the beginning of the Church, in fidelity to the teaching of the Jesus regarding the human person and human love, she has expressed the truth about the Most Holy Trinity in the moral principle that being faithful in marriage means that every act of marital must be open to life.  Throughout the Church’s 2000 year history this truth about the human person and human sexuality has been taught consistently by the Church’s pastors. Practically, this means that doing anything to prevent the procreative end of the marital act is an offense against the pattern of human married love who is God Himself.  The time since the formulation of the first oral contraceptive pill, which prevents life, has been devastating for family life because the family is patterned on God.  Now, sexually transmitted diseases are epidemic, as many people divorce as remain married, and almost half of all children born in the US are born out of wedlock.

A report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 98 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method.” A significant portion of this percentage is attributable to the “pill,” now in use for slightly over 50 years.

The moral teaching in the Catechism is clear: contraception in all its forms is a grave sin and intrinsically evil. When the Catechism says intrinsically evil, it means there is no motive that would allow one to contracept directly. More serious still are the forms that can result in the death of the embryo, such as the pill. 

Given the very clear teaching on the matter and the widespread use of contraceptives, particularly the pill, over the last 50 years, the Church in the US is faced with a chronic and pervasive pastoral problem.  It would be a mistake, however, to think that this problem is one that is only practical--only a failure of priests to teach or in the failure of the faithful to adhere to this teaching.  What is missing is the authentic concept of the human person that the Church has a duty to uphold in society.  It is the Church’s responsibility to stand as a beacon in society, illuminating the truth about the dignity of the human person.  What is lacking, however, in the preaching and teaching of many of the Church's pastors is that pastoral connection between the sin of contraception and the loss of the sense of human dignity.

The loss of human dignity associated with the rise to dominance of the pill and other forms of contraceptives in the place of human love provokes a profound sense of sadness.  Men and women united in the state of Holy Matrimony have received the gift and responsibility of showing the world a reflection of the mystery of  “God in himself.”  From that perspective, the sadness of the matter comes not so much from the sin committed, which God forgives and heals, as from the good that is lost.

Within the Church many of us, priests and lay faithful, are living with a woefully impoverished concept of the human person.  We have all but replaced the concept of the human person modeled upon the Most Holy Trinity with a false concept that leaves little room for vigorous faith and authentic human love, something we need to work to rediscover.  The only way we could be content with the status quo is to give in to the materialistic notion that life requires choices of economic prudence over the value of the divine image.  When we rediscover the truth of the Most Holy Trinity as the divine pattern for love and believe again in who we are, Catholics, all Christians, and many others will, again, see the pill for the awful curse upon the human family that it is.

(For about 12 years I wrote editiorials for the St. Louis Review.  I wrote this in 2010 and reworked it here for the blog.)


bill bannon said...

Do you personally think this area falls under infallibility of the universal ordinary magisterium since both Fr. Karl Rahner and Fr. Bernard Haring dissented from that view on this matter and neither suffered discipline on this issue from any Pope? Germain Grisez held that this area is infallible under the uom but since Rahner edited the Enchiridion Symbolorum for years and had a retrospective of his theology at the Lateran posthumous at which the CDF's Bishop Amato called him orthodox to John Allen, it would seem that Rahner has more importance for theology than Grisez. Ask your associates about the 14 days til twinning of the early pre embryo. It led Rahner and Haring to have problems with the immediate ensoulment school...and that area impacts the word "abortifacient" used of the pill. John Paul and the CDF stated the pre embryo should be treated like a person and was "human life" but neither said the pre embryo was a person in fact but in treatment because they had to be aware of the twinning problem. The chimeric person is a second problem for early ensoulment.

Fr. Edward J. Richard said...

Thanks for your question and I apologize for taking so long to answer. With the Easter festivities and a few other demands, I had to put you on hold for a time.

I want to respond this way: First, I believe and firmly hold with religious faith the teachings that marriage is instituted by God, that He created the human person, male and female, and that the ends of marriage are infallibly clear from Divine Revelation itself. From this, it is also clear that the Church definitively holds that the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act may not be intentionally separated without offending against the good of the human person, against Divine Law and Natural Law. These teachings are part of the universal, ordinary magisterium. The teaching about marriage is clearly a matter of divine revelation and must be believed with religious faith. The teaching about the unity of the marital act is definitive and irreformable.

In October of 1951, Pius XII delivered a message to Midwives on the role in health care. He said this referring to the conjugal act:

"Our Predecessor, Pius XI, of happy memory, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, of December 31, 1930, once again solemnly proclaimed the fundamental law of the conjugal act and conjugal relations: that every attempt of either husband or wife in the performance of the conjugal act or in the development of its natural consequences which aims at depriving it of its inherent force and hinders the procreation of new life is immoral; and that no "indication" or need can convert an act which is intrinsically immoral into a moral and lawful one.

This precept is in full force today, as it was in the past, and so it will be in the future also, and always, because it is not a simple human whim, but the expression of a natural and divine law."

On this basis, I would hold that the mind of the universal magisterium is that the teaching of Casti connubii on the conjugal act is definitive and irreformable, that is to say, infallible. I accept that judgment.

Fr. Edward J. Richard said...
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Fr. Edward J. Richard said...

The question regarding the identity and status of the human embryo can easily be resolved from a moral point of view.

First of all, the term pre-embryo is based upon arbitrary criteria. The concept of the pre-embryo was developed by one or more Catholic theologians working in conjunction a promoter of In vitro fertilization. Today, the concept is usually used, along with terms like blastocyst or fertilized egg to identify the developing life at some stage before implantation. In the embryonic stem cell debates, those who favored destructive embryonic research used implantation in the womb as the marker for the beginning of human life. On what objective basis can this argument be made? A one cell zygote is either a human being or not, and a step in it's development will have no import in the discussion unless it resolves the question definitively and with moral certainty that no human life exists.

Therein lies the problem for the arguments against the humanity of the human embryo at any stage: One cannot establish with moral certainty that any given embryo is not a human individual possessing a human soul. In fact, because it continues to grow on the basis of its own individual program of development, the possession of the human soul seems undeniable.

The fact that twinning remains possible certainly does not establish the absence of a human soul. Indeed, nothing scientific can satisfy the demand for moral certainty that there is no human soul. Therefore, the duty we have in regard to human life must mean that human embryos cannot be destroyed without risking killing of an innocent human being. To directly attack the embryo for any reason would mean that one is willing to risk the sin of killing of the innocent. Thus, one would be guilty of the sin.