Is Contraception Only Immoral in Marriage? Where’s your proof?

The conservative Catholic subculture is teaching a radical and heretical revision of Humanae Vitae, while at the same time crying out, with indignation and anger, at liberal Catholics who do the same. In truth, contraception is immoral regardless of marital state. For the Magisterium has clearly condemned contraception both in marriage and outside of marriage, (as I explain at length here: the use of contraception outside of marriage).

But the conservative Catholic subculture continues to make this baseless assertion, that the magisterial condemnation of contraception is limited to its thwarting of the procreative meaning of marital relations only. Some claim that contraception outside of a valid marriage is “morally neutral”. Others say that the Church simply has not decided the question of contraception outside of marriage. Some even say that the Church is unable to teach on the morality of contraception outside of marriage, as this would constitute an instruction in how to commit extra-marital sexual sins. Still others say that the use of contraception outside of a valid marriage does not meet the definition of contraception, and should not even be called “contraception”.

I have written extensive theological arguments proving from many different magisterial documents that contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral regardless of marital state, since the evil moral object is the deprivation of the procreative meaning from sexual acts, not solely from marital acts. (See the set of articles here:

By comparison, the proponents of this radical revision of Humanae Vitae have failed to present a comprehensive theological argument, or even a brief summary of their argument, supporting this nearly ubiquitous claim. They just make the assertion over and over again, until nearly every conservative source speaks in the same way, as if the Church has only condemned contraception within a valid marriage. Well, I suppose that is the usual way that heresies spread — not by force of an argument based on faith and reason, but by telling people what they want to hear.

* Can the divorced and remarried, whose current relationship is not a valid marriage, morally use contraception?

My answer is no, because contraception is intrinsically evil regardless of marital state.

Their answer is silence, because they realize that answering this question shows the weakness of their position. If contraception is only immoral within a valid marriage, then the divorced and remarried could use contraception without committing that particular sin. It is as if committing the grave sin of extra-marital sex someone makes them exempt from the eternal moral law.

* Does the Church teach young persons that, if they decide to commit the sin of premarital sex, they can or should use contraception — because its use is only immoral in marriage? Not at all.

* Do Catholic hospitals dispense contraception to unmarried couples? Why not, if contraception is only a sin within a valid marriage? The Church forbids them from doing so because contraception does in fact “impede the natural result of the sexual act [actuum sexualium].” [Quaecumque Sterilizatio, March 13, 1975, AAS 68 (1976) 738-740.]

* Can a nation, such as China or India, encourage or require the use of contraception outside of marriage? Would the Church support such efforts, so as to limit the population, since contraception outside of marriage is supposedly not intrinsically evil? The Church has repeatedly condemned the distribution of contraception and its promotion by governments, without limiting that condemnation to the use of contraception in marriage.

* Is it moral to use contraception to prevent transmission of a disease, when the sexual acts are outside of a valid marriage? Why doesn’t the Church approve of such a use, if the immorality of contraception is limited to the marital state? The Church has rejected attempts to justify the use of contraception, to prevent transmission of disease, even in unmarried persons, because both contraception and sterilization contradict “eliminate or impede fertility, which is an integral part of the person.” [Pontifical Council for the Family, The Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends, n. 76].

* And if contraception is only immoral in marriage, then why isn’t sterilization — especially a type which is reversible — only immoral in marriage? Contraception and sterilization are condemned for the same reasons, they deprive sexual acts of their procreative finality.

* If a man has natural marital relations with his wife, and the next day, has relations with his mistress, committing the sin of adultery, is it really true that he sins if he uses contraception with his wife, but not with his mistress? The restriction of the immorality of contraception to a valid marriage results in absurd implications, which disappear if contraception is immoral regardless of marital state.

* How often is contraception used outside of marriage? Is it really compatible with Church teaching to say that all these uses, which might be in the majority, are not gravely immoral? How does the holy bond of matrimony turn a (supposedly) moral act into a grave sin?

* And then these same authors claim that a married couple may use abortifacient contraception, morally, as long as they have a medical purpose. Did you know that abortifacient contraception (the birth control pill) substantially reduces the risk of ovarian cancer? So every married woman could use abortifacient contraception, on the excuse that she is applying the medical purpose of reducing the risk of cancer, if these authors are to be believed.

Thus, according to these pretended defenders of Humanae Vitae, contraception is moral outside of marriage, and within marriage with a medical purpose, leaving virtually no uses of contraception to be called intrinsically evil or gravely immoral.

What is the alternative view? Only that the ordinary and universal Magisterium infallibly teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral, regardless of marital state, even with a medical purpose as the intended end.

Most conservative defenders of Humanae Vitae are really liberals in disguise. They want to destroy the teaching of Humanae Vitae just as much as radical liberal theologians. The only difference is that they kill their frenemy, Humanae Vitae, while pretending to nurse him back to health. Liberals want to murder Humanae Vitae outright, whereas conservatives just want to euthanize him. But it is murder of the teaching of Christ, all the same.

Therefore, it is the utmost hypocrisy for conservative publications to speak out so strongly against the proposal of Father Chiodi to justify some uses of contraception, which is an heretical opinion, and at the same time, to repeatedly claim that contraception is only immoral in marriage, which is simply a different heresy.

Why don’t these alleged defenders of Humanae Vitae present a theological argument, in support of their incessant and unsupported claim that contraception has only been condemned by the Church when used within marriage, and that contraception itself is to be defined as a thwarting of the procreative meaning only of marital acts, not of sexual acts more generally. Prove that the Church limits Her condemnation of contraception to its use within a valid marriage, or stop spreading this ridiculous and gravely immoral heresy!

Here are my theological arguments that contraception is condemned by the Magisterium regardless of marital state:
* Contraception and Heresy — Part 2, the use of contraception outside of marriage
* Contraception and Heresy — Part 3, On the Latin text of Humanae Vitae
* Contraception and Heresy — Part 4, The Moral Object of Contraception
* Modern Heresies on Contraception
* Is the Magisterium able to teach on the morality of contraception outside of marriage?

I have written a number of other posts and articles on the subject, but the above suffices. There is my proof that the Magisterium has condemned contraception used outside of marriage. Where is the evidence supporting the contrary claim?

When Fr. Chiodi gave his now infamous speech applying Amoris Laetitia to contraception, so as to justify its use, in some cases, many conservatives spoke out. They said, in effect: “Don’t believe Fr. Chiodi’s grave error on contraception; believe our grave error instead. We have the better error!” Not really. I think Fr. Chiodi justifies the use of contraception in fewer cases than many conservatives.

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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