Birth Control Pills for a Medical Purpose? The Catholic Answer

Is it moral for Catholic spouses to both (1) use abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose and (2) continue having marital relations?

The correct Catholic answer: The spouses must refrain from sex while taking abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose. Abortifacient contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. And an intrinsically evil act is never justified by a legitimate intention or good purpose, not even a medical purpose.

The Church teaches that the medical purpose of relieving severe suffering in a terminally ill person does not justify the type of murder called euthanasia. The Church teaches that the medical purpose of saving the life of the mother does not justify the type of murder called direct abortion. In the case of euthanasia of a terminally ill person, there may be no other way to relieve the severe suffering, and yet the act is still not justified by the medical purpose. In the case of direct abortion to save the life of the mother, there may be no other way to save her life, and yet the act is still not justified by the medical purpose.

So the idea that the regulation of a painful cycle or the treatment of acne or some other medical purpose would justify the use of abortifacient contraception, while sexually active, is absurd and exceedingly perverse. If the woman uses abortifacient contraception, while refraining from sex, she obtains its medical benefits without aborting her own prenatal children. Since these deaths are entirely avoidable, while still obtaining the medical benefits, simply by refraining from sex, the decision to use abortifacient contraception and remain sexually active is in no way justifiable. The deaths of these prenatal children are not an unavoidable side effect. Essentially, the spouses are deciding that sex is so important to them that they are willing to kill their own children in the womb, rather than refrain from sex while taking an abortifacient contraception pill for a medical purpose.

The typical theological rationalization, attempting to approve of the deaths of these modern-day holy innocents, claims that the use of abortifacient contraception is only immoral with a contraceptive purpose or intention. The claim is made that a medical purpose or other legitimate intention makes the act moral, even though the Church condemns abortion and contraception as intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, even though the medical benefits can be obtained without harm to any prenatals by refraining from sex.

But such claims are contrary to the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritatis Splendor, and Evangelium Vitae on morality:

“Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).” [CCC 2399]

“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.” [Evangelium Vitae 62]

“If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain ‘irremediably’ evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. ‘As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt),’ Saint Augustine writes, ‘like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?’. Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice.” [Veritatis Splendor 81]

No intrinsically evil act is ever justified by a good motive or legitimate intention or good purpose. Intrinsically evil acts are immoral by their very nature, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Out of the billion Catholics in the world, how many use abortifacient contraception? Perhaps tens or hundreds of millions use it. So how many prenatals are killed by Catholics using abortifacient contraception? A shockingly large number, certainly.

Catholic Who Promote Abortifacients

Over at Catholic Answers Forums, especially in the Moral Theology and Family Life sections of the site, there is a loose-knit group of Catholics, working under pseudonyms and anonymity, who promote and approve of the use of abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose. Very many times, a Catholic spouse sincerely and innocently asks the question, whether the wife may use the birth control pill, which is a type of abortifacient contraception, for a medical purpose, and whether they couple must refrain from sex, if they do use it. And then this group of anonymous Catholics, behaving like a flock of vultures, descends upon their prey and tears at its flesh. They adamantly assert that the couple should both use abortifacient contraception and remain sexually active. They openly admit that these decisions will result in the deaths of the couple’s own prenatal children. And they use various foolish claims and theological rationalizations to approve of this type of abortion, this type of murder.

And it is not as if they humbly render an incorrect opinion. No, they arrogantly insist on the deaths of these innocents. They will not stop posting, again and again, until they have succeeded in convincing the spouses to abort their own children. And they have the gall to claim that the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church justifies this type of murder of the unborn. They are deciding a matter of grave morality, which is also a matter of life and death, and they issue this decision anonymously. And if any faithful Catholic disagrees, or if the Catholic spouse who poses the question has any doubts, they continue their attack unceasingly until they have obtained the deaths they were seeking.

These ignorant and arrogant Catholics have repeated this behavior many times for many years. The question is not merely theoretical. These are real Catholic spouses who, after reading the poor theology and strong encouragement from this group of false teachers, actually decide to use abortifacient contraception, while sexually active. Many prenatals have been killed as a result of this repeated adamant public approval of abortifacient contraception by this group of Catholics at Catholic Answers forums. Then, in addition to the spouses who pose this question, other Catholic spouses may read these discussion threads and follow the same bad advice, causing even more deaths of innocents.

This public approval and promotion of the use of abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose (or any other purpose) is the grave sin of formal cooperation with abortion. This group of anonymous Catholics is morally responsible for the deaths caused by their own ignorant and arrogant words. They do not have a sound understanding of even the most basic principles of ethics as taught by the Church, yet they take it upon themselves to decide a life and death question, in a real situation. They have no fear of God and no humility. Their love of neighbor does not extend to the protection of innocent life in the womb. They value sex so highly that they encourage Catholic spouses to continue having marital relations while using abortifacient contraception, regardless of how many prenatals, over the course of many couples and many years, will be killed.

The moderators and administrators of Catholic Answers are also morally responsible, under the principles of material cooperation, for the deaths of these prenatals. They could easily correct this false teaching, which is being spread around the world by means of their forums, by making rules or by banning members. They commit a grave sin of omission by declining to do so.

Worse still, in some of the question and answer sections of Catholic Answers (apart from the forums for open discussion), Catholic Answers staffers have repeatedly given the same immoral answer, approving of abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose, while remaining sexually active. And that is the grave sin of formal cooperation with abortion.

Whenever someone asks this type of sincere question on the use of abortifacient contraception, these unfaithful Catholics relentlessly pursue him or her, like a pack of hyenas pursuing a gazelle. And they do not rest, day and night, until they overtake their prey, bring it to the ground, tear open its neck, and eviscerate its organs. Then they rejoice that they have succeeded in yet another kill. Yes, literally a kill. They have no compassion for the unborn, who are killed by their words, and no concern for the teachings of Christ through his Church. For they have a dozen different ways to distort Church teaching, to make this type of abortion seem moral to the weak in faith and the foolish.

It makes me literally sick to my stomach to read these types of theological rationalizations, promoting and justifying abortifacients. And the Catholics who promote this gravely immoral type of abortion are uncorrectable. No theological argument, no quotes from the teachings of the Magisterium, no appeal to compassion and love of neighbor, have any effect on them. They are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time: uncorrectable teachers of grave error, who pretend to be teaching truth from God.

I don’t know if any of these persons will ever make it to Heaven, but if they do, it will be after an exceedingly long and painful correction in Purgatory.

{5:20} Woe to you who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness; who exchange bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
{5:21} Woe to you who are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own sight!

{23:15} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and by land, in order to make one convert. And when he has been converted, you make him twice the son of Hell that you are yourselves.

{23:25} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you clean what is outside the cup and the dish, but on the inside you are full of avarice and impurity.
{23:26} You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, and then what is outside becomes clean.
{23:27} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed sepulchers, which outwardly appear brilliant to men, yet truly, inside, they are filled with the bones of the dead and with all filth.
{23:28} So also, you certainly appear to men outwardly to be just. But inwardly you are filled with hypocrisy and iniquity.

More on this topic:
* The Principle of Double Effect and Intrinsically Evil Acts
* Can unintended bad consequences make an act immoral? Yes.
* Unintended Bad Consequences
* The Moral Object of Abortifacient Contraception for a Medical Purpose
* Can Abortifacient Contraception be used for Medical Reasons?
* Abortifacient Contraception for a Medical Purpose

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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6 Responses to Birth Control Pills for a Medical Purpose? The Catholic Answer

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    They are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time: uncorrectable teachers of grave error, who pretend to be teaching truth from God.

    They are the opposite of Pharisees, they are not making minor rules into idols, but are casting aside fundamental laws.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    Its like playing Russian Roulette with a human life, a human life thats soul is created by God. Even if some of these contraceptions pose a 5% chance of abortion after conception, why would anyone take that risk? Married couples are going to have to step up to the plate and deny relations for a while if the woman is taking chemical contraception. Not to mention studies have been done and the birth control pill does more harm than good so even taking it for medical purposes. There are other options instead of the pill to help women with medical conditions.

    • Ron Conte says:

      breakthrough ovulation rates are estimated in some medical sources at 20% per cycle. So in 2 or 3 cycles per year, there is that repeated chance that the abortifacient contraception works by abortion, rather than preventing conception. With millions of women on the BCP, that adds up to many abortions.

      The Church teaches that there are many reasons why a married couple might morally refrain from marital relations. But our sex-obsessed society has influenced Catholics to treat marital sex as if it were an absolute necessity.

  3. Matt says:

    Should a couple refrain from marital relations until after menopause, when birth is not possible, if reversal of contraception is not possible?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not sure what you are asking. A couple can use the BCP and refrain from relations, or seek a different treatment.

  4. DonnaLiane says:

    I can’t even think of a reason that a chemical contraceptive would be indicated, without other alternatives. I wonder whether many Catholic women still do not know firstly the Church’s true teaching (read Humanae Vitae) and secondly the abortive effect of chemical contraceptives. Even if they sell themselves that the first is not true post VII, they cannot deny the sad truth about chemical contraceptives once it is out there. If we only ever speak of it to other women on this blog, most will never hear it. We need to talk truthfully but kindly in person to all, so that they understand AND change their decisions & outlook as a result. Any married couple & family, even if needing to use NFP for a serious reason for a time, is always and in every way, WAY better off than contracepting families!

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