Infallible Teaching on Artificial Contraceptives

Infallible Teaching on Artificial Contraceptives

by Dr. Bernardo Villegas

Even before the “limits to growth” hypothesis broke out in the 1970s, as an economist I had always rejected any attempt to resuscitate of the completely discredited theory that
Thomas Malthus first proferred more than two centuries ago. My training at Harvard under Nobel Prize winners like Simon Kuznets inoculated me once and for all against the Malthusian germ. Over the last half century, the Malthusian theory has been disproved time and time again. Population growth does no lead to mass starvation given the unlimited propensity of the human mind to increase the productivity of the earth’s resources. What limits human resources is the propensity of the human will to evil. But that’s another thing.
No matter how convinced I am about my economic theory about population and poverty, however, I try to have the intellectual humility to admit that I could be wrong since economics is a
very inexact science. Of course, the population controllers could also be wrong. That is why I want to turn in this instance to a science–theology–in which freedom from human error is possible.
I am absolutely sure that the RH Bill can do much damage to Philippine society because it promotes artificial contraceptives which are intrinsically evil. I have the infallible authority of the Popes who pronounced many times that “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil ( Humanae Vitae, 14). Under this declaration, contraceptive pills, condoms, IUDs, tubal ligation, vasectomy and other forms of artificial contraception are intrinsically evil from the moral point of view.
Before a few Catholic priests or lay people can object that this pronouncement of the Popes is not infallible because it was not made ex cathedra, let me remind them of the teachings of
the Second Vatical Council (the fiftieth anniversary of whose opening we will celebrate on October 11, 2012). As any one can read in the document “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”
(Lumen Gentium) promulgated on November 21, 1964, “Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful
for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated (Lumen Gentium, 25). In short, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Supreme Pontiff is infallible every time he teaches on matters of dogma or morals, even if he does not teach ex cathedra. His ordinary teaching authority is enough to oblige Catholics to adhere to his teachings.

I have news for Catholics–whether priests or lay people– who maintain that they can still be good Catholics while rejecting the teaching about the intrinsic moral evil of artificial contraceptives. You may not be excommunicated (considered today as too extreme a solution to doctrinal error). But you are violating the obligation to “submit to your bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals.” You are willfully refusing to adhere to a teaching on morals (not economics or politics) with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. In short, you can consider yourself a Catholic of good standing only by a wide stretch of your imagination. If you have influence on others because of your position or social standing, you are doing a great damage to the souls of others.
I am very glad that Catholic bishops in the Philippines have been very vocal about the infallible doctrine concerning the intrinsic evil of artificial contraceptives. As Lumen Gentium further states (Ibid.), “Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter’s successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely.”
With those who do not share my Catholic faith, I can only continue to dialogue in a friendly way about the harmful effects on the economy and on society as whole of a contraceptive culture
or mentality. I don’t expect them to accept lock, stock and barrel my arguments based on the human sciences. I expect, however, my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith to seriously consider
the points I have raised here about the infallibility of the Pope (and the bishops united to the Pope) in everything that has to do with dogma and morals. The proper use of sex is one hundred
per cent a moral issue. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia

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Posted in The Catholic Perspective, The Moral Argument
10 comments on “Infallible Teaching on Artificial Contraceptives
  1. larryzb says:

    Papal Infallibility was only announced at Vatican I in 1870. (The Church does not have license to abuse its authority.)

    The only observation we would put forth is that if human sexuality within marriage were only for procreation, or even primarily for procreation, we humans would have a mating season like the the lower orders of animals do. The Catholic Church has historically taken a rather dismal view of the married state. Consider the anathema from the Council of Trent.

    It is to be hoped, that one day, the Catholic Church will have a more mature, healthy and rational view of the love betweent husbands and their wives.

    • Truthsayer says:

      Larry, it seems you haven’t noticed that our bodies are, indeed, designed to have a “mating season”, so to speak. They’re called infertile and fertile periods, and they’re built into the human female body. We are beautifully and wonderfully made, it’s just we don’t want to pay attention. Notice that we also have a brain that’s very different than those of lower animals, which means we have the means to control our behavior.

      The mature, healthy and rational view of the love between husbands and wives is one that (1) respects the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs of each person; (2) doesn’t force either spouse to ingest chemicals and hormones to alter the body’s natural processes and endangers or to undergo surgery to withhold one’s fertility from the other; and (3) recognizes that sex is not just a physical need but a gift, a giving of the WHOLE self to the other, as promised in a husband and wife’s wedding vows.

      Oh, and your understanding of infallibility is flawed. Here’s a wikipedia entry that might simplify things for you. Note that the teaching on contraception falls under “Ordinary and universal teaching of the Church”.

      • larryzb says:

        “Truthsayer”, we do not have a mating season as we humans are capable of sex throughout each month even while infertile. You incorrectly assume that I support harmful chemicals and hormones being used for birth control.

        The Church does not, in its positions, give evidence of respecting the dignity of married persons. Married Catholics who comply with the Church’s requirement to use the natural birth regulation method are told that they cannot use it for “selfish” reasons.

        This sexual pessimism and hatred of pleasure started with Augustine 16 centuries ago and it is not Christian. Believe as you will, but most Catholics now bypass the Church on the issue of married sex. Most realize that it is nonsensical to assert that we must honor an unfertilized ovum, and all sex within marriage must be ordered to procreation. The unfertilized ovum is not even present to be honored on most days of the month, and is not a quasi human being.

    • dboncan says:

      De fide doctrine are not only believed and practiced when they are announced. You seem to misunderstand that infallibility is a doctrine that had been practiced by the universal church long before Vatican I where it was deemed necessary to declare it as “de fide.” No doctrine is ever hastily thought-of and put together. With regard to your comment on the married state, on the contrary, the Church has always held the married state in very high esteem. she is still the only one who is against divorce and contraception and if this isn’t evidence of her high esteem for marriage, I don’t know what is. She has also always held that sexual intercourse serves two purposes, a unitive and procreative and are inseparable. You separate these two and you end up with one of four effects that Pope Paul VI mentioned in Humane Vitae.

  2. WillyJ says:

    //The only observation we would put forth is that if human sexuality within marriage were only for procreation, or even primarily for procreation//

    The Church does not teach that. It teaches that sex has two aspects: unitive AND procreative. It has to be both

  3. dboncan says:

    @Larryzb, “Most realize that it is nonsensical to assert that we must honor an unfertilized ovum, and all sex within marriage must be ordered to procreation. The unfertilized ovum is not even present to be honored on most days of the month, and is not a quasi human being.”

    What then are the ends of marriage and the sexual act within it if not to unite and be open to procreation, what s it nonsensical about that? The Church does not honor the ovum, I think this is a distortion of what the Catholic church teaches. The reason why the Church does not separate these ends is because the sexual act is so powerful that it’s use may have either beautiful consequences, life-long union and children or ugly ones, infidelity and abortions. It is when passions or appetites are not placed in the proper order on which they were created, they become destructive.

  4. Anita F. Alisaca says:

    Larry, here’s an excerpt of “An Open Letter to Fr. Joaquin Bernas last June 13, 2011:

    “Contraception is, rather, a moral issue, not according to Christian/Catholic Morality but according to the measure of its relation to that which makes good or evil, to the norm of morality. And the relation of contraception to the norm of morality measures in terms of the disagreement of the former with the latter so that contraception is, indeed, wrong. For the sake of your fans, the norm, proximately refers to the dictates of right reason to which an act should be conformed in order to be right. And what makes reason right is its being anchored on the ultimate norm manifesting itself in the “order of existence of things”.

    This “order of existence” stands a priori to any human positive establishment of “order and harmony of things”. It means that such order existed before man ever conceptualized and set any man-made order as in the promulgation of human positive laws. The existence of the entire universe and everything it contains is being maintained by such order without which disorder and unimaginable chaos occur. This order expresses itself in the way everything exists, in what it is and in its last end toward which its existence is directed. If a thing exists this or that way because of what it is and takes a given course according to its nature, it must be what its order of existence mandates. It is a given order. It is not designed by man. It has been there ever since. Hence, reason dictates that it be preserved and not be disturbed or destroyed. Otherwise, disorder and disharmony occur.

    That is why, the growth of human existence starts at being a fertilized ovum, a zygote (this happens at the completion of fertilization), then it develops into a morula, then a blastocyst, then an embryo, then a fetus, and not the other way around. Upon birth, he/she starts being an infant, then a toddler, a child, a teen-ager, an adult, then an old man/woman. No human being starts existing by being an old man/woman, then an adult, a teen-ager, a child, then an infant, and so on. Plants and trees grow the way they tend to and not upside down, water seeks its own level, and so on and so forth. These are manifestations of the natural order of existence of things.

    It indicates the truth which is necessarily immutable, the universal truth at which man is capable of arriving so that “what is true for you is also true for me while what is false for you is also false for me”. (Moral scientists and philosophers call the ultimate norm which sustains the “order of existence of things” as Eternal Law).

    By the light of his intellect, man knows the natural order in the existence of things which he recognizes as that which has to be preserved. We call it natural law. Natural Law refers to the Eternal Law expressed in the natural order of existence and is knowable to man by the use of his intelligence. Acknowledged by man’s reason, the one which is in accordance with the said order is good while the other which runs counter to it is evil. The former is moral whereas, the latter is immoral. Thus, he has the natural capacity to distinguish what is right from what is wrong, to do good and avoid evil (Bonum est faciendum et malum est vitandum).

    Now, human reproductive system has its own functions and operations proper to its nature. It operates according to what its nature designs and never according to what it is not (unless, it is arbitrarily interfered with). It is specially designed in the biological order to be the natural vehicle through which the generative power of the human person is exercised. This power is inherent in the very sexual structure of the human person and is able to generate new life when it is employed during sexual intercourse within fertility period.

    Conception/fertilization of an egg, can only occur after ovulation. The egg stays alive for about 24 hours once released from the ovary. Sperm can stay alive inside a woman’s body for 3-4 days, but possibly as long as 6-7 days. If a couple has intercourse before or after ovulation occurs, the wife can get pregnant, since the live sperm is already inside the woman’s body when ovulation occurs. Thus a woman can become pregnant from intercourse for about 7-10 days in the middle of her cycle. All these functions of the sexual system proceed from its order of existence. No one can ever deny this reality as it is a ‘given’ configuration.

    Now, what do contraceptive methods do? The use of any method of artificial contraception runs counter to and even destroys the “order of existence of things” particularly of human reproductive system. Some of them suppress ovulation when it is supposed to naturally occur as designed by its order of existence, others cause thickening of the cervical mucus making it difficult for the sperm to go through, and still others prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum by altering the normal functioning of the endometrium. All these are arbitrary and positive actions to distort the ‘order of existence of things’ – – of human reproductive system.

    Contraception destroys such ‘order’ manifested in the course of its natural functions and operations according to what it is. It makes the reproductive system operate according to what it is not. That is why, contraception is evil as it is in itself. If the Church prohibits it, it is because contraception is intrinsically evil . Its evil proceeds from within itself, from what it is regardless of whether it is prohibited.

    From this perspective, this sense of evil which ought to be avoided or this issue on contraception applies not only to Catholics but to all human persons of good will and of right reason regardless of religious denominations and affiliations…”

    -PROF. MARVIN JULIAN L. SAMBAJON, JR.

    Prof. Sambajon is an author, a lecturer and a research consultant. He is a graduate of philosophy and has academic background in theology. He is about to finish his masteral studies in theology, major in moral theology. He is also a master of arts in education (M.A. Ed.) holder and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) in Educational Foundations at the Bicol University, Legazpi City. He has started writing his doctoral dissertation delving into the transformative pedagogical approach to ethics in institutions of higher learning. Prof. Sambajon can be contacted via: marvinsambajon@yahoo.com

  5. Andrew Teng says:

    Sacred Scripture has existed long before Augustine, and clearly, the procreative aspect of the marital act being the most important and primary aspect of the marital is found in Sacred Scripture, it is Scriptural and therefore Christian.

    • Prof. Marvin Julian L. Sambajon, Jr., Ph. D. Cand. says:

      EXCUSE ME! LONG BEFORE THE SACRED SCRIPTURES WERE PUT INTO WRITINGS, THE PROCREATIVE ASPECT OF THE MARITAL ACT BEING ITS IMPORTANT MEANING HAD ALREADY BEEN THERE. IT HAD BEEN DESIGNED BY THE LAW OF NATURE AND ULTIMATELY, BY THE ONE WHO AUTHORED NATURE. IF THE SACRED SCRIPTURES ALONG WITH ST. AUGUSTINE STIPULATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PROCREATIVE ASPECT OF THE MARITAL ACT AS YOU HAVE UNDERSCORED, IT IS BECAUSE, IT IS ALIGNED TO THE ORDER OF EXISTENCE OF THINGS.

  6. borrico1965 says:

    larryzb said,

    Married Catholics who comply with the Church’s requirement to use the natural birth regulation method are told that they cannot use it for “selfish” reasons.

    It seems you are ranting against the Church because you are told to feel guilty for engaging in sexual pleasure for sheer “selfish’ reasons. You seem to be demanding that you be allowed to be selfish as much as you want, is that so, larryzb? Don’t you realize true happiness cannot be found in hedonism and epicurianism? It is in virtue, self-control, moderation, etc. that we acquire true happiness. The ancient philosopher Aristotle said so.

    Stop complaining. Get a hold of yourself and behave. Have a change of heart: fight and avoid that tendency to selfishness. Give yourself unselfishly to others: there you will find true happiness.

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