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April 20, 2011

The Pulpit's Views On Contraception

I was reading the news from home regarding this Catholic priest who, during his sermon, told his parishioners to leave the Mass if they are supporting the current RH bill. The RH bill legalizes the use of artificial contraceptives in the Philippines and requires government to spend taxpayer's money to ensure availability of these contraceptives (e.g. pill, condom, etc). While many reacted to the seemingly harsh words of this priest, a few may actually acknowledge the reason behind why a Catholic priest would say such words. After all, the use of artificial contraception, according to Catholic Teaching, is a sin. Thus, it is not just a political statement, it is actually within the bounds of religious discussion especially if you are a Catholic. It can be likened to Iglesia Ni Cristo (an endemic Philippine church) and their Kapatiran's call to vote en bloc the politicians they chose. Nobody can openly go against such "teaching" of the INC because it is incorporated in their religion's doctrines. So in a sense, if you want to be a good INC member and follower, you should follow the teachings of the Elders. If you can't, then maybe you should leave the fold of the Church and either start your own Church or become an agnostic or atheist. Same thing perhaps with the Catholic Church. If you claim yourself to be a good Catholic, but would violate the rules and teachings of the Catholic Church, then maybe you should leave the Church, find a church that is more suited to your own lifestyle and set of beliefs, or start your own Church or religion. After all, that is what happened when the Protestant movement during the years of Reformation schismed from the Catholic Church. They could not agree with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

When it comes to Contraception however, what exactly is the stand of the Catholic Church? Is the stand against Contraception by the Catholic Church a modern-day stance?

According to the history of the Catholic Church, the Early Church Fathers, such as Agustine, Jerome and Clement, were all against the use of artificial contraception. In his letters to Eustochium, St. Jerome, the man who translated the Bible to Latin (Vulgate), wrote, "Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception."

Pope Pius XI in 1930 wrote in his encyclical Casti Connubii, "Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin." The pope wrote this encyclical in response to the Anglican Church's statement saying that artificial contraception is not a sin. In fact, Protestant Churches agreed before 1930 that artificial contraception is a sin. Martin Luther and John Calvin, founders of mainstream Protestantism, agreed that artificial contraception is a sin.

In the same encyclical, the Pope said that, "For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved." This introduced the thought that sex was not only for making babies as previously understood.

Then in 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae which reaffirmed the already previous teachings of the Catholic Church. "Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

The encyclical actually accepted the Minority Report of the commission that undertook the study on birth control. The Minority Report said that, "One can find no period of history, no document of the church, no theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied that contraception was always seriously evil."

During the reign of John Paul II, the teachings were once again reaffirmed. "Therefore, when there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may even be necessary. However, there remains the duty of carrying it out with criteria and methods that respect the total truth of the marital act in its unitive and procreative dimension, as wisely regulated by nature itself in its biological rhythms. One can comply with them and use them to advantage, but they cannot be "violated" by artificial interference," John Paul said in 1994.

Of course, there are dissents within the Catholic Church and not everyone accepted this teaching. But it is a fact that it is the teaching of the Catholic Church and since it is a teaching, all Catholics are supposed to be following it.

What do other Churches believe regarding Contraception?

According to the Lutherans, birth control, in all forms, is sin, although they "allow for exegetical differences and exceptional cases", for example, when the woman's life is at risk.

The Methodists believe that "each couple has the right and the duty prayerfully and responsibly to control conception according to their circumstances."

According to the Mormons, "it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by."

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, contraception was not only regarded as a sin but also a Mortal Sin.

Whatever you believe in, you are free to choose. After all, regardless of your religion or affiliation or political loyalty, at the end of the day, we will remain equal in the sight of the Divine Maker.




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