The Moral Object of Abortifacient Contraception for a Medical Purpose

The Moral Object

Morality concerns the knowingly chosen acts of human persons. By exercising the gifts of reason and free will in any knowing choice, the human person acts, and such acts are subject to the eternal moral law. Every knowing choice (every deliberate act) is either morally good or morally evil. The morality of each and every act is determined by three fonts (sources), (1) the intended end or purpose of the act, (2) the moral object, and (3) the circumstances. All three fonts must be good for any knowing choice of any human person to be good (morally permissible).

The moral object is the end, in terms of morality, toward which the knowingly chosen act of the human person is intrinsically ordered. It is the proximate end of the chosen act, that is to say, its morally-immediate or morally-direct end.

But moral objects do not exist apart from knowingly chosen acts. So the font called “moral object” or simply “object” is threefold: (a) the concrete act knowingly chosen by the human person, (b) the moral nature of the act, (c) and its moral object. Every concrete act, that is to say, every knowing choice in any particular case, has an inherent moral meaning before conscience and the eyes of God. This inherent moral meaning is intrinsic to the knowingly chosen act, and is therefore called its moral nature. But the nature of any act is nothing other than its ordering (its intrinsic direction) toward the moral object.

By knowingly choosing any concrete act (the act in a particular case), the person necessarily always chooses, at least implicitly, the moral nature of that act and its moral object. When the moral object is entirely good, the knowing choice of that concrete act is morally good. When the moral object is evil in any respect, the knowing choice of that concrete act is morally evil, and the act itself is termed intrinsically evil. Intrinsically evil acts are always wrong to knowingly choose, because the choice of the concrete act always includes, at least implicitly, the choice of its nature and its object. An evil object makes the moral nature of the act evil, since that nature is nothing other than the ordering of the concrete act toward a morally evil end. And an act with an evil moral nature is inherently immoral, and always sinful to knowingly choose.

But it is not the attainment of the object that makes the act good or evil, but rather the knowing choice of the concrete act ordered toward that object. The choice of an intrinsically evil act is immoral, even if the object is not attained in a particular case. And the choice of an intrinsically good act (an act with only good in its object) is moral, even if that good end is not attained in a particular case.

Now the purpose for which the act is chosen does NOT determine the moral object. If a person chooses direct abortion, for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, the act remains intrinsically evil because the moral object is not changed by the intended end or purpose of the act. If a person chooses murder, for the purpose of relieving all suffering in a terminally ill person, the act remains a type of murder (called euthanasia) because the moral object is not changed by the intended end or purpose of the act. If a person chooses abortifacient contraception, for the purpose of treating a medical disorder, the act remains intrinsically evil as a type of abortion, because the moral object is not changed by the intended end or purpose of the act.

What is the moral object of abortifacient contraception?

A married Catholic couple use abortifacient contraception, while sexually active, for the purpose of preventing pregnancy. The intended end (first font) is to prevent conception. The concrete act is the taking of a particular medication, which is ordered toward depriving sexual acts of their procreative end (contraception) and also ordered toward depriving the innocent prenatal of their life (abortion). It does not matter if the intended end is solely contraceptive, the act is inherently ordered toward both evil moral objects: contraceptive and abortive ends. Over time, the use of abortifacient contraception while sexually active results in multiple deaths of conceived prenatals.

As this same couple continues to use abortifacient contraception, the wife develops a medical disorder, the treatment for which is (a different type of) abortifacient contraception. The couple remain sexually active. More conceived prenatals are killed by the use of abortifacient contraception while sexually active. Has the moral object changed?

The moral object is based solely on the inherent ordering of the knowingly chosen concrete act. Every knowingly chosen concrete act is ordered toward one or more ends; those ends are the moral object and that ordering is the moral nature. If three different persons commit the same concrete act, with three different intentions, in three very different circumstances, that concrete act, in each of those three cases, has the same moral object and the same moral nature. The knowing choice of a particular concrete act is a choice of its nature and object.

How can a concrete act have an inherent moral meaning? Because the act is knowing choice by a human person, with the gifts of reason and free will, who is responsible before conscience and God for those choices. Our choices have an effect on our neighbor, too. Therefore, our concrete acts have an inherent moral meaning (moral nature) which can be objectively moral or immoral. How do we judge whether a moral object and moral nature is good or evil? Based on the love of God and neighbor, which is the foundation of all morality.

To determine the moral object and moral nature of an act, we must consider the knowingly chosen act in the particular case, and understand what end or ends the act is ordered toward. An act can have more than one moral object. All the moral objects of an act, whether one or many, must be good for the moral nature of the act to be good.

For example, an act of natural marital relations open to life has three good moral objects: the marital, procreative, and unitive ends of the act. When a sexual act is procreative and unitive, but non-marital, the act has two good moral objects, and one evil moral object — making the act itself intrinsically evil (as adultery or fornication). If a non-marital sexual act is also contracepted (non-procreative), then the act has one good moral object (unitive), and two evil moral objects (non-procreative, non-marital). Unnatural sexual acts, even between a husband and wife, are not procreative, not truly unitive, and not even truly marital, making such acts very gravely disordered and always gravely immoral.

Since an act can have multiple good or evil moral objects, a determination that a particular act has one good moral object does not justify the act unless there are no other moral objects, or the other moral objects are also good. The idea that marital relations cannot be sinful, because it is marital is false. All the ends toward which the chosen act is inherently ordered must be good. Even one evil moral object makes the act intrinsically evil and therefore always immoral.

When a Catholic married couple use abortifacient contraception, regardless of their intended end or purpose, their sexual acts are marital and unitive, but non-procreative, and their use of abortifacient contraception while sexually active also has an abortive end. Therefore, they are committing the intrinsically evil acts of contraception and abortion.

When a Catholic married couple use abortifacient contraception, with the intended end (purpose) of treating a medical disorder, the act remains intrinsically evil. A change in intention or circumstances does not change the moral object. However, an act can have more than one moral object.

Now suppose that a single Catholic woman, who is not sexually active (it should go without saying), has a serious medical disorder, and her physician prescribes abortifacient contraception as the treatment. The use of this medication, when a person is not sexually active, has no contraceptive or abortive ends, since no sexual acts are deprived of the procreative meaning, and no prenatals are conceived (to be possibly aborted). The moral object in this case is the treatment of a serious disorder.

So is it true that, when a married Catholic woman uses abortifacient contraception (while sexually active), in order to treat a medical disorder, the moral object is the treatment of that disorder?

Yes, but an act can have more than one moral object. In this case, the moral objects of the use of abortifacient contraception while sexually active includes treatment of the disorder (good), the marital meaning (good), the unitive meaning (good), and the abortive end of the act (evil). The deaths of innocent prenatal children are not justified by the treatment of a medical disorder because the good end of treating the disorder can be obtained without any risk to their lives by refraining from marital relations while taking the medication. If the couple abstain from sexual relations during treatment, there would be no contraceptive or abortive ends to make the act intrinsically evil.

Unintended Bad Effect

The claim is made that the deaths of these innocent prenatals is justified as an unintended side effect of treatment. But that is not true, since the good effect of the treatment can be obtained without any risk to innocent lives, by abstaining from sex. The choice to engage in marital relations while taking a medication that acts as an abortifacient is directly ordered toward the abortive end.

Moreover, the fact that an effect is an unintended bad consequence does not justify the act. There are three fonts of morality. The assertion that one bad consequence is unintended does not tell us if there are any other intended ends, one of which might be bad. An act can have more than one intended end, more than one moral object, and more than one consequence. The assertion also does not give any consideration to the moral object; it speaks only of an intention that is absent and one bad consequence. And when an act has reasonably anticipated bad consequences, the moral weight of those consequences weighs in the third font (along with any good consequences) even though it is unintended. If an unintended bad consequence morally outweighs the good consequences, then the act is immoral due to that unintended bad consequence.

When abortifacient contraception is used for a medical purpose, the likely deaths of multiple innocent prenatals over time weighs heavily in the font of circumstances, and certainly outweighs the treatment of any medical disorder. First, innocent human life has grave moral weight. Second, the good medical effects of treatment can be obtained without loss of innocent life by abstaining from sex. Third, the deprivation of the procreative meaning from sexual acts is always of grave moral weight in the circumstances of the act, and must also be considered. But a certain contraceptive morality is so widely accepted among Catholics that this receives no consideration at all; they quickly abandon the procreative meaning of sexual relations on any excuse whatsoever.

So the assertion that abortifacient contraception is justified because the deaths of innocent unborn children is an “unintended side effect” is false and absurd. Abortifacient contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, and, in addition, the moral weight of the circumstances also makes the act gravely immoral.

Grave Sin

What a grievous sin it is, to be willing to kill your own prenatal children so that you and your spouse do not have to refrain from sexual relations! Has sex become so high a value to Catholics that they would willingly kill their own children, rather than abstain from sex?

Worse still is the sin of those Catholics, who, without any qualifications in moral theology, often under cover of anonymity, repeatedly publicly proclaim that Catholic spouses are justified in killing their own prenatal children with abortifacient contraception as long as they have a medical purpose in mind. These false teachers are guilty of formal cooperation with abortion. The number of abortions they are responsible for increases continually as one person after another is influenced by their words to commit this grave sin.

These false teachers are a type of Catholic abortionist, and they will have the same punishment as abortionists. They are like Jack Kevorkian, who convinced hundreds of persons to commit the type of murder called euthanasia. If you murder someone with your own hands, it is a grave sin; if you murder by convincing another person to commit the act, it is still the grave sin of murder (or formal cooperation with murder, which is also a grave sin).

A certain Catholic discussion group has become a favorite playground for these wicked false teachers, who unceasingly trumpet their joyous approval for abortifacient contraception and their scant regard for the lives of the unborn. And if anyone disagrees, they make one personal attack after another; they respond with arrogance and malice. They offer one foolish rationalization after another, to try to justify abortifacient contraception. Why? Perhaps it is because they themselves are guilty of abortion by means of abortifacient contraception. Or perhaps it is because they idolize sex and are therefore enraged whenever anyone states that the eternal moral law sometimes requires married couples to refrain from sex. Whatever the reason, they are guilty of grave sin for teaching heresy and for encouraging grave immorality, and they are responsible for every death they cause they their words.

The Magisterium is absolutely clear that abortion, abortifacient contraception, and contraception are each intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. And just as clear is the teaching of the Church that intrinsically evil acts are not justified by intention or circumstances.

[James 3]
{3:1} My brothers, not many of you should choose to become teachers, knowing that you shall receive a stricter judgment.

{3:5} So also the tongue certainly is a small part, but it moves great things. Consider that a small fire can set ablaze a great forest.
{3:6} And so the tongue is like a fire, comprising all iniquity. The tongue, stationed in the midst of our body, can defile the entire body and inflame the wheel of our nativity, setting a fire from Hell.

{8:36} For how does it benefit a man, if he gains the whole world, and yet causes harm to his soul?
{8:37} Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
{8:38} For whoever has been ashamed of me and of my words, among this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he will arrive in the glory of his Father, with the holy Angels.”

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

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1 Response to The Moral Object of Abortifacient Contraception for a Medical Purpose

  1. Jeff says:

    This is an easy one, yet some have such a hard time with it. There is no reason, ever, to end or prevent the life of a newborn baby. Medical or otherwise. Period.

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