1. She claims that contraception is only condemned by the Church within a valid marriage.
“Women who voluntarily engage in marital intercourse and who do something to make that act infertile are contracepting. They are violating God’s plan for marital sexuality” [Source]
“Contraception as an act permitting of moral analysis is the act of doing something before, during, or after an act of spousal intercourse to prevent the act from achieving the end of procreation.” [Source]
“The Church teaches that acts of contraception are always against the plan of God for human sexuality, since God intended that each and every act of spousal intercourse express both the intention to make a complete, unitive gift of one’s self to one’s spouse and the willingness to be a parent with one’s spouse. These meanings of the spousal act are, as Humanae Vitae stated, inseparable.” [Source]
Janet E. Smith has perverted the teaching of the Magisterium to exclude from the condemnation of contraception its use outside of marital intercourse. She restricts the teaching against contraception to “spousal intercourse”. To the contrary, Humanae Vitae uses the term “sexual intercourse” and the document Quaecumque sterilizatio uses the term sexual act [“actuum sexualium”]. The Magisterium condemns as gravely immoral the cooperation of Catholic hospitals with contraception, even when the physician and patients are non-Catholic or non-Christian, even when the patient is unmarried. Smith’s restriction of the condemnation of contraception is heretical.
Smith goes so far as to claim that sex outside of marriage (fornication) is less evil when a condom is used than fornication without any contraception (simple fornication). “both mutual masturbation and condomized fornication are less evil than simple fornication since both have less risk of resulting in pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.” [Self-Gift, Kindle n. 7635]
This position is a grave error as it implies that persons choosing to have sex outside of marriage ought to use contraception (in the form of a barrier method) as it would lessen the sinfulness of the act. And this directly contradicts the infallible teaching of the Church that contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The correct position is that contracepted fornication is more gravely immoral as it adds the moral disorder of contraception to that of fornication. Smith’s evaluation of the morality of both acts ignores the intrinsic evil of contraception precisely because she thinks contraception is not intrinsically evil outside of marriage.
As for her comment on “mutual masturbation”, that act should be held to be more gravely immoral than fornication or contracepted fornication, as it is deprived of the marital, unitive, and procreative meanings, whereas fornication retains something of the unitive meaning. Her reduction in the moral evil of that act shows how badly she misunderstands sexual ethics.
2. She retranslated and effectively rewrote Humanae Vitae so as to introduce errors. [See my article]
Her new translation adds words and phrases, not based on anything in the Latin original text, to make it seem as if the document were teaching her errors. She successfully convinced a group of 500 scholars to sign a document on contraception which substitutes her wording for that of the official translation [Source].
3. She claims that abortifacient contraception may be moral, even within marriage, for a medical purpose.
“Women who use those hormones with the intent of reducing pain and not with the intent of rendering their sexual acts infertile are not engaging in acts of contraception.” [Source]
Every intrinsically evil act, including contraception, abortifacient contraception, and abortion, is inherently immoral because of its moral object, independent of intention and circumstances. Smith claims that the use of abortifacient contraception is justified by the intention to reduce pain, and would only be immoral, even within marriage, with the intent of contracepting. This claim is contrary to the basic principles of ethics taught by Veritatis Splendor, in which intrinsically evil acts are immoral regardless of intention, and contrary to the teaching of the Church on contraception [Veritatis Splendor 79; CCC 2399]
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).” [CCC 2399]
Smith contradicts the Magisterium by claiming that a legitimate intention, such as to reduce pain, permits the use of abortifacients while sexually active. She thinks it is moral to make choices which will result in the deaths of one’s own prenatal children, simply to treat a medical disorder, even though the medical benefits can be obtained without loss of life merely by refraining from sex while taking that pill.
Did you know that the use of chemical contraceptives can decrease a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer? If a woman is justified in using abortifacient contraception for any substantial medical purpose — while remaining sexually active — then all women would be justified in taking abortifacient contraception, despite the deaths of innocent prenatals. For the reduction in risk of ovarian cancer is a substantial medical purpose.
** The result of 1, 2, and 3 above is that MOST uses of contraception are exempted from the condemnation of the Church.
4. She approves of sterilization in cases where the woman anticipates a possible future rape. [Source]
This type of sterilization is direct. The Magisterium has condemned the idea that sterilizations would be justified by anticipated future events. The CDF says that, “notwithstanding any subjectively right intention of those whose actions are prompted by the care or prevention of physical or mental illness which is foreseen or feared….” sterilization would still be immoral. Therefore, the intention to avoid pregnancy due to a foreseen or feared rape does not justify the act. It is still direct sterilization, and it is approved by Smith.
5. She justifies lying, an intrinsically evil act, by renaming it “false signification”.
Smith goes so far as to accuse Jesus of false signification. Then she uses this false accusation against our Lord to justify many lies. It is a not very clever means to approve of intrinsically evil acts. Rename the examples of that intrinsically evil act that you wish to approve. She does this with contraception. The use of contraception outside of marriage is not really “contraception” in her view; it is not properly termed contraception. Lying in certain cases where it would be difficult to uphold the teaching of the Church is renamed “false signification”, and thereby becomes approved.
This is not merely a justification of some venial lies. It is an attack on the basic principles of ethics taught by Pope Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. And it is ironic that Smith, who is on the faculty of the Theology of the Body Institute — which teaches from Pope Saint John Paul II’s private theological reflections — is one of the principle opponents of his moral teachings in magisterial documents. Her teachings on ethics are incompatible with his teachings on the basic principles of ethics in Veritatis Splendor and on contraception in Evangelium Vitae and Familiaris Consortio.
And she opposes these teachings by pretending to support them. Then, by a process of radical reinterpretation, she inserts heresy into doctrine, and succeeds in leading astray many souls. All this occurs while she is being praised as an orthodox teacher on Humanae Vitae, the very document that is the main focus of her malice.
6. Janet E. Smith has repeatedly spoken in favor of the alleged morality of marital sodomy.
Here’s my lengthy explanation: Contra Janet Smith on Marital Foreplay.
Smith falsely claims that the Church has no teaching on the use of unnatural sexual acts in marriage, when in fact the Magisterium has repeatedly condemns these types of sexual acts. See my article here: Church Teaching on Marital Sexual Ethics.
Janet Smith knows that Saint Alphonsus Liguori has condemned marital sodomy, with or without climax, as a mortal sin. Then she blithely approves of the act anyway. In addition, Saints Jerome, Augustine, and Aquinas all condemned this type of act, as do more than a few present-day priests and theologians. And she not only approves of this act, she endorses and promotes the work of Christopher West and Gregory Popcak, which approve of many different types of unnatural sexual acts condemned by the Magisterium.
Janet E. Smith has a B.A. in Classics, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in classical languages. She has no degrees in theology of philosophy. Her teachings on ethics are nothing but a constant attempt to undermine and rewrite the doctrines of the Church. She harms souls by the promotion and approval of many different types of sins, as well as by distorting the basic principles of ethics. And she approves of the use of abortifacient contraception in marriage, for a medical purpose, thereby encouraging Catholic spouses to act contrary to the lives of their own unborn children.
And no one seems to notice that her teachings are full of grave errors. The faithful today are so poorly catechized, that persons like Smith can step forward, severely distort magisterial teaching, and convince people that the distortion is the correct interpretation. Not many persons are speaking against her errors. I wonder how long it will be before people wake up and see her as the teacher of heresy that she is.
The whole situation reminds me of Cardinal McCarrick. Everyone knew of his perversities. It was described in the book “Good-bye Good Men” — a very popular work from 2002. But not until 2018 did Catholic authors and publications publicly call him out for his bad behavior. I wonder how long it will be before people wake up and see her as the teacher of heresy that she is.
P.S. I’ve started reading Smith’s new book Self-Gift: Humanae Vitae and the Thought of John Paul II. It is a terrible summary of her many errors on contraception and sexual ethics. It is a testament to her uniquely perverse distortions of Church teaching, and in no way does it represent the thought of a holy Pope-Saint.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.