Jimmy Akin versus the Magisterium on Contraception part 1

A Widespread Modern Problem

There are many persons within the Church, persons who claim to be teaching Catholic doctrine and sound theology, who are instead undermining, distorting, and tearing apart, piece by piece, the teaching of the Magisterium on important matters of faith and morals. Some of these wolves in sheep’s clothing have Ph.D.’s in theology and teach at Catholic colleges, universities, and seminaries. Unfortunately, many theology faculties at Catholic institutions have become severely infected with heresy and even apostasy. Pope John Paul II spoke out against this problem:

Pope John Paul II: “In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself. In particular, the question is asked: do the commandments of God, which are written on the human heart and are part of the Covenant, really have the capacity to clarify the daily decisions of individuals and entire societies? Is it possible to obey God and thus love God and neighbor, without respecting these commandments in all circumstances? Also, an opinion is frequently heard which questions the intrinsic and unbreakable bond between faith and morality, as if membership in the Church and her internal unity were to be decided on the basis of faith alone, while in the sphere of morality a pluralism of opinions and of kinds of behavior could be tolerated, these being left to the judgment of the individual subjective conscience or to the diversity of social and cultural contexts.” (Veritatis Splendor, n. 4)

His papal encyclical Veritatis Splendor sought to dispel numerous heresies and doctrinal errors in the area of morality by teaching the basic principles of ethics. But since the publication of that encyclical, matters have only become worse. In addition to those false teachers who openly contradict definitive magisterial teaching, there are many false teachers who severely misinterpret and misapply the teaching of the Magisterium. They teach false doctrine with the claim that it is really a correct understanding of magisterial teaching. This attack is very effective at leading astray many Catholic, because most of the faithful are very poorly catechized.

Aside from false teachers at Catholic colleges and universities, the internet phenomenon has brought about a new problem in the Church. Any individual who wishes to do so, can now teach, publicly and worldwide, on any topic — even under cover of anonymity. There are many Catholics who have a very poor understanding of the Faith, and yet they purport to teach the Catholic Faith on the internet. This includes anonymous posters at various online discussion groups, as well as bloggers and persons who add commentary to blogs and various other sites. Grave harm is being done to many souls, both by persons openly rejecting magisterial teaching and by insidious false teachers who claim that the grave errors they present are a correct understanding of magisterial teaching.

One False Teacher Among Many

One of the more prominent false teachers among Catholics on the internet is Jimmy Akin, author, “Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live“, and a blogger at National Catholic Register. He also has his own blog at JimmyAkin.com. He is teaching is entertaining, easy-to-understand, and full of heresy and doctrinal error.

On the topic of contraception, he teaches an amazingly diverse array of grave errors, the sum total of which has the effect of completely destroying the infallible teaching of the Magisterium against contraception.

1. Akin claims that married couples who use contraception have neither the unitive nor procreative meaning in the marital act.

As explained in my previous post, this claim contradicts the infallible teaching of the Magisterium that contraception separates the unitive and procreative meaning into different acts. The Magisterium teaches that contraception is deprived of the procreative meaning, but not the unitive meaning.

2. He claims that there is a translation error in Humanae Vitae that, if it had been correctly translated, would restrict the condemnation of contraception only to its use in marriage.

3. He claims that the Magisterium has no teaching on the immorality of contraception outside of marriage.

4. He claims that the Magisterium should not answer the question as to whether contraception is immoral outside of marriage.

5. He claims that the use of contraception within marriage might be justified, in some circumstances, by the principle of double effect.

6. He also presents a long series of errors on intrinsically evil acts and the three fonts of morality, including the idea that intention, circumstances, and proportionality determine whether an act is intrinsically evil. Since contraception is intrinsically evil, Akin’s exceedingly severe distortion of magisterial teaching on intrinsic evil completes his absolute destruction of magisterial teaching against contraception.

Jimmy Akin’s attack on the magisterial teaching against contraception is one of the most insidious and harmful on the internet. By the time that he is done teaching on contraception and on intrinsically evil acts, there is nothing substantial left of the magisterial teaching against contraception, other than the hollow shell of a claim that it is sometimes immoral. Akin’s understanding of why contraception is immoral, and of why intrinsically evil acts are immoral is entirely incompatible with the infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

This set of articles will explain and refute his many errors on contraception. I should point out to the interested reader that most of these errors are not unique to Jimmy Akin. Other authors and commentators, especially online, have asserted the same or similar errors. So this article is not only a correction of Akin’s set of heresies on contraception, but a correction of several widespread errors.

Why focus on Akin’s version of these errors? Two reasons. First, he uniquely brings together many different errors on this topic, combined as one. His writings are a convenient single-source for almost every error on the topic of contraception. Second, he is widely and incorrectly considered by many Catholics to be a reliable source for magisterial teaching, when in fact he is one of the most severe teachers of heresy, on many different topics, on the internet.

More in subsequent posts: Part 2

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

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3 Responses to Jimmy Akin versus the Magisterium on Contraception part 1

  1. John Platts says:

    Here are two verses from Sacred Scripture that show that some types of sexual acts are intrinsically evil:
    – “Do you not know that your bodies are a part of Christ? So then, should I take a part of Christ and make it a part of a harlot? Let it not be so!” (1 Corinthians 6:15)
    – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from fornication, that each one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passions of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God, and that no one should overwhelm or circumvent his brother in business. For the Lord is the vindicator of all these things, just as we have preached and testified to you. For God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification. And so, whoever despises these teachings, does not despise man, but God, who has even provided his Holy Spirit within us.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

    In Genesis 38:9, Onan engaged in contraceptive behavior by withdrawing or “spilling seed” whenever he had sexual relations with Tamar. Onan was punished by God by death for his contraceptive behavior, which was a “detestable thing” in the eyes of God (Genesis 38:10). 1 Thessalonians 4:4 tells us that a person must “know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor”. Onan actually treated his “vessel,” or sexual faculty, in an dishonorable way whenever he “spilled seed.” Since we are morally obliged to abstain from uses of the sexual faculty that are not honorable, and since contraception involves the use of the sexual faculty in an dishonorable and gravely offensive way, contracepted sexual acts must be intrinsically evil and gravely immoral and are never justifiable in any circumstance. Jimmy Akin’s claim that contraception can be justified by the principle of double effect in some circumstances contradicts the teaching of Sacred Scripture as well as that of the Magisterium.

  2. John Platts says:

    Contrary to the claim of Jimmy Akin, the Magisterium should definitely answer the question as to whether contraception is immoral outside of marriage because of the following reasons:
    – The acceptance of contraception has led to an increase of contracepted sexual acts between persons who are not married to each other.
    – More married persons are willing to engage in contracepted acts of adultery with a person other than their spouse because of the availability of more reliable forms of contraception.
    – The Magisterium has the authority to teach on matters of morals and to answer questions of matters of morals. Since the question as to whether contraception is immoral outside of marriage is a matter on morals, the Church does have the authority and capacity to answer this question.
    – This question should be answered to ensure that Catholics are not led astray by false answers to this question.

    All sexual acts outside of marriage are condemned by the Magisterium, including in Casti Connubii, Persona Humana, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Since contracepted sexual acts between a man and a woman who are not married to each other are not within marriage, these sexual acts must still be morally wrong because they take place outside of marriage. A contracepted sexual act is still deprived of its marital meaning, and is also deprived of its procreative meaning. A contracepted sexual act between a married individual and a person other than his or her spouse continues to be morally wrong because the act violates a marital vow as well as being deprived of its marital and procreative meanings. The refutation of the heresy that contraception is only morally wrong within marriage can be found at http://www.catechism.cc/articles/contraception-heresy-2.htm.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Essentially, the Magisterium has taught that contraception is wrong outside of marriage, as well as within marriage. Certain commentators, including Akin, ignore many different magisterial documents and misinterpret others, in order to arrive at a conclusion that they like.

      The longer explanation is in my article that you cited. Briefly, the Magisterium teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil, and that intrinsically evil acts are always immoral. In order for contraception outside of marriage to be not immoral, it would have to be not contraceptive, which is obviously not the case. Except when a woman is not married and not sexually active, the use of a contraceptive does deprive sexual acts of the procreative meaning, regardless of marital state. Akin’s position is simply a rejection of Church teaching on intrinsic evil.

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