Version A: Contraception is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral, regardless of marital state. It is any act which deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative finality (i.e. its openness to life), regardless of whether the persons engaging in sex are married to each other or not.
The intrinsically evil sin of contraception is “any act which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.” (Humanae Vitae 14). Here, the use of “specifically intended” does not refer to the font of the intended end (first font), but rather to the intentional choice of the intrinsically evil act itself (second font). Every intrinsically evil act is deliberately chosen, that is, intentionally chosen. When the intentionally chosen act is inherently ordered “to prevent procreation”, then the moral object is evil and the act is the intrinsically evil sin of contraception. All intrinsically evil acts are essentially defined (as to their moral nature) by their moral object.
Every sin is an act. Some sins are said to be sins of omission because the act is an interior decision to refrain from some interior or exterior act. In the case of amplexus reservatus, the man intentionally chooses to refrain from climax, so that procreation is prevented. Such a decision is contraception by omission.
However, the sin of contraception usually occurs by commission, by an act of withdrawal “at the moment of…sexual intercourse”, or by an act beforehand, such as taking a contraceptive pill or using a contraceptive barrier, or by an act afterward, such as a post-coital contraceptive pill or use of a spermicide. No matter when the act occurs, if the deliberate act is inherently ordered to prevent procreation, it is the sin of contraception.
The teaching also states that contraceptive acts are sinful regardless of whether the act is an end or a means. So if the intended end is to prevent procreation, the contraceptive act remains intrinsically evil, as it retains its evil moral object (the deprivation of the procreative finality of sexual acts). But if the intended end is not contraceptive, but some other end, even possibly a good end, such as avoiding the dangers a pregnancy will pose to health, the act remains intrinsically evil as the object remains the same.
In this version of the teaching, the term used is “sexual intercourse”. Contraception is inherently disordered because it deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative ordering. The result of the teaching is that any and all uses of contraception are objectively gravely immoral, for unmarried persons as well as for married persons.
But there is another version of the teaching on contraception, which also claims to be official Church teaching.
Version B: Contraception is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral only within a valid marriage. It is an act which deprives marital intercourse of its procreative finality (i.e. its openness to life), and this applies only in a valid marriage. Outside of marriage, the use of contraception is either not intrinsically evil, or not properly called “contraception”, or morally neutral, or adds nothing to the immorality of the extra-marital sexual act. This version of the teaching is heretical; it is contrary to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium on the sin of contraception.
The proponents of this view would have us believe that unmarried couples do not sin by using contraception; they only sin by extra-marital sex. And this would suggest that the divorced and remarried (and all others with an invalid marriage) could use contraception without any additional culpability compared to refraining from contraception.
What if a Catholic hospital wishes to allows its non-Catholic physicians to prescribe contraception to its non-Catholic unmarried patients? Under this version of the teaching, there would be no reason to forbid this policy. And yet the Church does forbid it. Catholic hospitals are not permitted to dispense contraception to anyone, regardless of marital state.
The explanation given by this version for the immorality of contraception is its conflict with the requirement that marital sexual acts be open to life. But the claim that this applies only to marital relations conflicts with the teaching of the Magisterium that contraception is wrong because it separates the unitive and procreative meanings of sexual intercourse, and because it is contrary to value inscribed in the very nature of man and woman — not inscribed in marriage, but in human nature.
Pope John Paul II: “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality — and with it themselves and their married partner — by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 32)
Although the Pope mentions marriage in the above quote, he finds the basis for the immorality of contraception “inscribed in the being of man and woman” and in God’s plan for sexual communion and human sexuality. He does not find the basis for the immorality of contraception to be a violation of the marital meaning of sexuality, but rather a violation of the unitive and procreative meanings, “which man on his own initiative may not break” (Humanae Vitae, n. 12). Since the immorality of contraception is not based on the marital state, contraception is immoral both in marriage and outside of marriage.
The claim is made that Humanae Vitae uses the Latin word “conjugal-” (with various Latin endings) to limit the condemnation of contraception to marriage. However, Casti Connubii uses the same Latin word three times to refer to sex outside of marriage. And a document of the CDF on Catholic hospitals condemning contraception and sterilization uses the term sexual act [actuum sexualium], not conjugal act. So this appeal to the Latin text is unconvincing.
In addition, Pope Pius XI teaches along with St. Augustine:
“Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.’ ” (St. Augustine, De Adulterinis Coniugiis, Book II, n. 12; Genesis 38:8-10)
The wording used by Saint Augustine and quoted by the Pontiff is this: “even with one’s legitimate wife”. By this wording, Augustine is condemning contraception both outside of marriage and within marriage. He is saying that contraception is still immoral, even within marriage, which implies that it is also immoral outside of marriage. And Pope Pius XI quotes him on this point without any disagreement, correction, or qualification. Then Pope Pius states that this teaching against contraception is an “uninterrupted Christian tradition,” implying that the teaching is also infallible.
So the correct teaching is “version A” above. But version B is increasing in popularity. I think that in many cases, persons are merely repeating what someone else wrote or said, without realizing that the wording contains a serious error.
“Using contraception is an “intrinsic evil” in all circumstances because it “cuts off one of the goals of marriage which is an openness to life,” Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann told LifeSiteNews.”
“Archbishop Naumann confirmed the Church’s teaching on contraception as a moral evil, as well as Church teaching that each and every conjugal act must be open to life.”
Notice the wording above: “one of the goals of marriage” and “each and every conjugal act”. The Archbishop speaks as if contraception were only immoral in marriage, for the very reason it is immoral is tied inextricably to the marital state.
” ‘I think as a pastor we have an obligation to dialogue with an individual in that situation,’ said Archbishop Naumann. ‘We have an obligation to talk to them, help to make sure that they understand what they’re doing and why it’s wrong and the reason is that it’s wrong.’ “
But the Archbishop himself doesn’t understand the reason why it is wrong. So how can he teach and correct others? This is a serious problem in our Church today, teachers who have adopted and are now spreading grave doctrinal error.
Contraception deprives sexual intercourse of its procreative meaning, and it also harms the unitive and marital meanings. Marriage certainly has the procreation and education of children as its primary end. But this does not imply that contraception is to be defined as solely an offense against marriage.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.