Arguments From Natural Reason: Plausible or Conclusive?

A Bleg

All right, all you faithful Catholics out there.

I’m about to make a “bleg”; that is, I’m going to beg something of the readers of this blog. I’m going to ask you to spell out, as best you can, in defense of the Catholic faith, the specific arguments from natural reason against a particular type/use of artificial birth control.

What Prompted The Bleg

Russell Shaw’s article “The Elephant in the Living Room” muses about the widespread disobedience of Catholic couples to the Church’s teaching on contraception. It’s a good article, and there are some thoughtful comments from the readers, too.

One sentence jumped out at me, however:

I support the teaching on two grounds: first, the firm and constant teaching of the Magisterium over many centuries; second, the powerful and sophisticated rational argument against contraception developed by Germain Grisez and his colleagues in the “New Natural Law Theory” school.

There are two reasons presented here in defense of the Church’s teaching: (1.) That it is the consistent teaching of the Magisterium over the centuries; and, (2.) That there is a powerful and sophisticated rational argument against contraception.

Magisterial Consistency

That the Magisterium has taught against contraception consistently and firmly over many centuries seems accurate to me.

I have seen argument to the contrary, from a man who frequently comments here and elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere.

If I remember the gist of his argument, it leans on (a.) the arguments made against contraception in earlier centuries relying on reasoning or on an understanding of biology which we no longer hold true; and (b.) an assertion that infallibility does not “spread like kudzu” through anything a churchman says, but is confined to particular vehicles (e.g. formal dogmatic definitions); and while the teaching can be found somewhere pretty consistently over time, it cannot be found in those particular vehicles with the consistency or forcefulness required to assert infallibility.

He thus holds that while it is true to claim that the teaching against artificial contraception is the opinion, on a matter of moral theology, of many recent popes and bishops, it lacks the unaltered history which would give it infallibility by the normal route, and the delivery and unambiguous phrasing which would give it infallibility by the extraordinary route.

I think I’m not yet qualified to respond to that argument comprehensively: My four years’ study prior to entering the Church notwithstanding, I am a neophyte. I still find the criteria for infallibility a bit doubt-inducing “at the edges.” (Also I may be misremembering his arguments or leaving bits out. If so, I suspect he’ll pop in to correct me, which I welcome.)

Still, arguments can be proven strong or weak by trying them out to see how they fare, so  I’ll attempt a neophyte’s response to (a.) and (b.) anyway:

(a.) I suppose that the arguments made against contraception in earlier centuries were an attempt to explain an existing tradition received from the apostles, rather than a development of doctrine. Thus the failure of a particular explanation does not defeat the doctrine, as if the doctrine had only originated as the conclusion of a particular argument, but merely leaves the doctrine in need of a better defense.

(b.) We have to avoid an either/or fallacy; e.g. “Either a teaching is found in a Papal Encyclical, preceded by the words ‘I dogmatically define and declare,’ or it isn’t authoritative and is merely some churchman’s private opinion which we may take or leave.” That is an exaggeration of the frequent commenter’s argument, mind you…but I think that his argument, while not so overtly fallacious, nevertheless neglects the ordinary Magisterial authority of the church which, while it may not contain the words “I dogmatically define and declare,” nevertheless carries an obligation of obedience under normal circumstances.

For this reason, when responding to him some months back, I said that even were I not persuaded that the Church’s teaching on contraception was infallible, I would still think (given the unambiguous phrasing of Humanae Vitae, et cetera) that the practice of NFP over and against contraception was obligatory at least as a discipline until the teaching was unambiguously changed. (Indeed, it would not seem too unreasonable were a teaching of that kind imposed solely on the post-Christian West as a penance and corrective for the “pornification” of our public square, even if it were not imposed elsewhere!)

“Powerful and Sophisticated Rational Argument”

So, until other argument worthy of consideration emerges, the question of infallibility and the history of Magisterial teaching is either settled, or a moot point, in my mind at least.

But what about the second assertion given in Shaw’s article, regarding arguments purely from natural reasoning?

Russell Shaw claims that there are sound natural-reasoning arguments confirming the Church’s teaching that it is not morally permissible to use non-abortifacient methods of artificial birth control, either to achieve a morally licit spacing of children, or for disease prevention, in an otherwise morally licit sexual act.

Fair enough. What are these natural-reasoning arguments, and are they only plausible, or are they conclusive?

Plausible Vs. Conclusive

For it’s one thing to hear an argument which, when evaluated, makes you say, “Well, okay, that sounds like it might be right. If I were already disposed to believe its conclusions anyway, then hearing that argument would slightly reinforce that belief.” That’s a plausible argument.

But it’s another thing entirely to hear an argument which, when evaluated, makes you say, “That settles it. I see no rational way out of the conclusions reached by that argument. All the doors are locked and all the windows barred; the holes are all stopped up and the fox faces the hounds; there is no escape save through willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty.” That’s a conclusive argument.

It is not true that real-word arguments are never conclusive in this way. They sometimes are. Most often, they become conclusive by reductio ad absurdum; that is, by showing that all alternatives to their conclusions are self-contradictory. Two excellent Catholic refutations of the protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura are of this kind.

Narrow Focus

The attentive reader will notice that I am asking only about the arguments which prohibit a particular kind of artificial contraception (the non-abortifacient kind), and that I am only interested in the prohibition of its use for otherwise morally licit purposes (prudent spacing of children, prevention of disease) in otherwise morally licit sexual acts (between married couples).

I take it as a given that the natural argument (that is, purely from human reasoning and requiring no recourse to special revelation) against abortion is sound. Peter Kreeft, at his website, has an audio download called Pro-Life Philosophy if anyone has any doubts on that topic. (Not to mention a lot of other great audio downloads!)

Since the argument against abortion is sound, so too is the argument against abortifacient methods of artificial birth control. These are not morally permissible.

Similarly the Scriptural mandates regarding marriage, the marriage debt, having a full “quiver,”  “go forth, be fruitful and multiply,” and so on prohibit us from holding the view that children are not a priceless blessing to be sought in marriage. I therefore exclude from the outset the moral permissibility of an intentionally sterile married life, the better to take many expensive vacations together.

My Motive: “Always Stand Ready To Defend…

I am not, in asking about this, looking for an excuse to weasel out of the Church’s teaching. (See my earlier comments regarding accepting the teaching even as a discipline.)

I would like to find that the argument against barrier (or other non-abortifacient) methods of artificial contraception was truly, firmly persuasive: Compulsory for the unbiased intellect.

(Yes, I’m aware there aren’t many people out there willing to have their minds changed by truthful argument. I suspect rather more people are willing to have their minds swayed by propaganda and fallacy, provided the swaying shoves them in a comfortable direction. All the same, we should be armed with the best (truthful!) arguments available. We should win not by deceit, but by knowing the subject so exhaustively that we know the counterarguments against our own view better than those who wield them. We should “stand ready to defend the hope” and to live and die for the truth…not least because we know Who the Truth Is.)

What I Have, And What I Lack

Anyway, I myself can think of several arguments in favor of the Church’s prohibition of the above-referenced contraceptive acts. Of these arguments,

  • Some are applicable to the particular type of contraceptive acts referenced above, but others aren’t;
  • Some argue purely from natural reasoning, but others require appeal to special revelation and even to specific views of sacramental theology; and,
  • Some are conclusive, but others are merely plausible-sounding.

So far so good. The problem is that I do not yet have, in my arsenal, an argument which is:

  • Applicable to the particular type of contraceptive act referenced above;
  • Purely argued from natural reasoning; and,
  • Entirely conclusive (to me, at least)

…and that’s disappointing. I have several arguments, but they all fail one of those three tests.

It is for that reason I am making this “bleg”:

What are the best natural-reason arguments against the type of contraceptive use specified above?

And are they, in your view (for mine may differ) merely plausible, or conclusive?

Present them as best you can, please (or provide a link to an excellent presentation, if you know of one).

Cord Hamrick


Cord Hamrick is a husband and father of three, raised an evangelical Christian in Southern Baptist churches. After years of lurking, questioning, and eventually opining in the Catholic blogosphere, he was received into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil, 2010. Cord is a sometime church musician, former praise-and-worship bandleader, frequent songwriter and arranger, occasional guitar teacher, and -- because one really must somehow pay the bills -- a developer of web-based software applications. He lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and three kids.

  • Tom Usher

    Good luck. Without Church teaching I don’t think one can make an argument within the guidelines you’ve established that contraception is evil. Use of contraception may avoid the primary reason for sex, procreation, but so what? The primary reason I own a car is for utilitarian transportation but is there anything wrong with taking a drive for enjoyment?

    For some, sex without the threat of pregnancy may allow for objectification of their spouse but for most this isn’t the case. Sex inside marriage generally serves the purpose of bringing the two closer together.

    For some it may create a harmful level of lust but for most this isn’t the case. And lust for your spouse, at least at an acceptable level, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Beats the hell out of lust for somebody you’re not married to. And it helps to hold the marriage together over the long haul.

    I think that the use of contraception, inside the framework you’ve established, and outside the teachings of the Church, cannot be proved wrong. It’s only with the aid of revelation that we can see the truth. That’s why this single issue is the one that has driven the most from the church and is the hardest to accept. It goes against the natural law, at least as far as we can understand it through reason alone.

    At least to the modern mind.

    But, in terms of the historical position of man it makes complete sense. If a husband and wife are barren, who will help with all the work required just to stay alive? Subsistence farming, even at a small scale, is brutal. And if one of the two is injured or falls ill, both could easily die. If a family lived in a village or town there was value to children, whether as workers or as, and this sounds terrible, trade goods. Think of hiring them out or dowries.

    With the high death rate for people in times past, especially the young, it makes sense that a high rate of reproduction would serve the common good. If it weren’t for a high birth rate not only family lines would die off but whole tribes and states.

    And even today, if we look at birth rates in areas such as Europe we can see the same thing. The Muslims are winning in Europe because they are out breeding the Christians. Christendom may fall because of contraceptive sex, even inside the framework you’ve established.

    So, not that I’ve thought it through the reason, from reason, I think contraception is wrong is basic; survival. Contraception, over time and as we see today all around the Western world, will cause the fall of any civilization that allows its use. To survive we must make kids and we aren’t smart enough to set the rule regarding numbers or kind. Just look at China. They are facing, because of their cultural preference for boys and their one child policy, the real and present danger that they may not be able to have a high enough rate of reproduction to continue on as a country or even as a people. There just aren’t enough women left to satisfy the need for wombs.

    So thanks for asking the question. I’ve gone from thinking that there wasn’t an argument for banning contraception to thinking that there’s a fairly clear one. Now, I want to hear the reasons why I’m wrong.

    I love playing these games.

  • Tom Usher

    And another: if we don’t have kids, and plenty of them, who’ll take care of us in our old age? This is primarily the responsibility of the family, not society as a whole, our current welfare mentality not withstanding. So, unless we want to rely on charity in our old age we must have children. It is immoral to expect others to give us their wealth to support us because we were selfish and didn’t produce enough children to support ourselves.

  • Bill McKenna

    I think a microeconomic approach, if you will, to contraception would show that it has been a disaster. All other things being equal, people (in the aggregate) are less likely to engage in behaviors as the perception of risks associated with those behaviors goes up. Contraception alters the perceived risk of pregnancy. As the the perceived risk of pregnancy goes down the frequency of encounters goes up. As the number of encounters goes up, so does adultery, fornication. As the number of adulterous relationships goes up, so does the number of divorces. As the number of divorces go up, so do the number of fatherless children. As the number of fatherless girls goes up, the likelihood that they will engage in sex outside of marriage goes up (yes fatherless girls are more likely to engage in sex outside of marriage). As the the number of girls engaging in sex outside of marriage goes up, so does the incidents of veneral disease and fatherless kids. Ad the number of fatherless kids goes up, so to do all the social maladies associated with fatherlessnes. We could go on. The point is that contraception has not been a public health measure. It has been a disaster to the sexual mores and all that affects in our society. So I think the microeconomics approach would be one among other rational appproaches to showing the harm that contraception does.

  • Kamilla

    I’m not Catholic — but it seems deeply intuitive to me that puttng a physical barrier between husband and wife, when they are at their most intimate and vulnerable, creates an emotional barrier as well that prevents a true union. That’s not exactly what you’re looking for and it seems so self-evidently true that I’ve had difficulty thinking through what a defense of if might look like, but perhaps that helps point out a direction to take?

  • digdigby

    The greatest revolution of the 20th century was the shift of power and control of reproduction and the family to women via The Pill. The woman taking or not taking her little pill or inserting or not inserting her IUD has made the male almost ‘incidental’ in the act of child-bearing. She could ‘choose’ to have a baby or not, when to have it and could even choose (without a father’s permission) to murder that baby. Now that the U.S. Military is preparing to send women into direct combat, gay marriage seems inexorable and a plethora of Science Fiction technologies make men ever more irrelevant, only the Church can show what Sacramental Marriage is like.

  • Marsh Fightlin

    First off, It’s a mistake to think that Catholic teaching is only binding when the pope has made an infallible pronouncement on it. We don’t have such a pronouncement for the Resurrection of our Lord. Somewhere in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium this is spelled out. The ordinary teaching of the Papal Magisterium is binding.

    As far as purely rational arguments against contraception go, there is the fact that sexual intercourse is a language of total giving, total accepting, total communion. (This comes close to being a first principle. You either see it, or you don’t. It is so basic that there is no more basic premiss from which one can argue to it.) Contraception is also a language. It is one of partial withholding and partial rejection. When you impose the language of contraception onto the language of marital intercourse, you spoil it. You can’t reach out to embrace and to push away at the same time.

    Another “first principle” argument is this. Marital sex is like a work of art. (You either see that or you don’t.) One stands in awe before the Mona Lisa, admiring it just the way it is. One wouldn’t think of adding or taking away anything. You approach it and deal with it just the way it is. This is somewhat related to the concept of reverence.

    And finally, for environmentalist types, who encourage us to respect nature, and not to manipulate it arbirarily to our convenience, who like their food “all natural”, without additives, and with nothing bleached out, you can make the application to sex, to NFP and contraception.

    And then there is the “ick” factor. Sex is something beautiful. Contraceptive practices, if we’re really honest, are ugly. I’ve never had anyone contradict me on that one. Even the language they use to talk about it is off-putting: “protection”, “barrier”. Conjures up images of bullet-proof vests and and shields.

  • Kathryn

    What is the

  • Kathryn

    Other thoughts: Scott Hahn asked his audience (in the Life Giving Love series) if he thought it was acceptable for a man to say to his wife

  • Kathryn


  • Kathryn

    I found this on the web. Most interesting. Humanae Vitae made some general predictions about what happens when contraception gains a foothold. This document goes into deeper detail. Alas, this is basically a synopis from a book written on the subject. I assume you’d have to do some serious inter-library-loaning to find the actual book.

  • Mrs. F

    Excellent, excellent last point Kathryn (all your points were good, but I especially liked the last one). Though this is a bit off topic, the plenty of our country and culture means that people are not used to making any sort of daily sacrifice–unless they have children. Even then, our sacrifices are sleep, time and attention, but not generally food, water, warmth, or other neccessities. It becomes too easy to to imagine that desires are needs, especially sexual desires.

    I have little skill in crafting a logical argument, but it seems to me that to use only natural law to argue contraceptive is wrong, one must also be able to use it to argue that both marriage and children are good. Those would be essential to the foundation of the final argument. If people are starting at any other place, believing that either marriage or children are bad, unneccessary, or inconsequential, then they would not follow or accept arguments that contraception is wrong.

  • bill bannon

    From recent readings about the Mennonites (not Amish), it appears that they now use ABC, have less than 3 children average and have a low divorce rate. They probably have wifely obedience as the Amish do……which is absent in Vatican II and absent in the catechism and in our vows. So while Catholics may attribute divorce rates to abc; Mennonites may attribute them to wifely equality of decision making. A priori reasoning is thus not the best route. If in your reading, you find anything to contradict those Mennonite data…there is little… me thru my site with link(s).

    Cord….I actually am glad you are working at this. You are way less cliche than normal. There wiil be no appreciable change in dissent figures though until a Pope comes along who is so confident that he ends the papal inaccessibility to debate which the Popes share with the remaining royal families on earth. Mankind simply does not listen anymore to one directional voices if the topic is intimate. Imagine a Pope so confident that he wants to debate the best minds from say Harvard Divinity School, Yale etc on this topic and wants to do it on TV so that millions might think about it. Then and only then will you see change in figures one way or the other in peoples’ behaviour. Inaccessibility to tough questioning is a roadblock to obedience even. Obedience presumes you respect someone. If people do not respect Popes, you can write Lumen Gentium over and over and it won’t mean a thing.
    LOL….remember in May of 2010, Benedict dissented from section 80 of Splendor of the Truth and allowed himself to be protected by an intrinsically evil act listed there….deportation. Benedict knew the exception to encyclical obedience that is in any even conservative moral theology tome….and it is in Grisez whom you mention above…..sincere,prayerful,studious dissent. Benedict does not think all deportation is intrinsically evil….but that is the non restricted wording of John Paul II.

  • Kathryn

    Mrs. F: I think you are correct in that we also need to acknowledge that marriage, family, and children are a good thing.

  • Kathryn

    Bill: My own sibs have used contraception/sterilization and I am pretty sure fornicated. They have not divorced. Nor are they Catholic. But weren’t the McFarlanes a very good Catholic couple–NFP, homeschoolers, Marian devotions, and all that, and yet they did divorce (or divorced was forced on one of them)? Seems I might conclude that being a “good” Catholic is a one way ticket to marital ruin.

    But anyway, I have a little story that attempts to illustrate that the lack of Magisteriual pronouncements don’t always mean much.

    I used to be much better than I am now: “The Compleat Mother” hard core LLL type, into things “organic,” veganism and yes, cloth diapers.

    My kids NEVER EVER got a diaper rash from cloth diapers. And they didn’t stain, so good was I at washing them. Heck, I even let urine soaked diapers rest in the diaper pale a for two to three days before washing! (And no stench–you can get away with that if you don’t formula feed.)

    But laundry must be done. And one day, determined to destroy every last diaper rash causing microbe that had likely fermented in the diaper pale, I dumped the diapers into the washing machine, poured on the bleach (I did not skimp), closed the lid and turned on the soak cycle.

    Fast forward a couple hours. Should be enough to kill the germies, right? I opened the lid.

    I am not sure of the chemical name for the toxic gas cloud that is formed when anominia mixes with chlorine but I will never forget the feeling of not being able to breathe after I got that chemical vapor in my lungs.

    Funny thing, I can’t find the words ammonia or chlorine in my CCC. I don’t think any Pope has written an encyclical about it. Nevertheless, I would be a fool to believe that ammonia plus chlorine is harmless. I didn’t do anything sinful, but I was fairly fortunate I didn’t manage to kill myself mixing those two chemicals.

    So, perhaps contraception isn’t sinful. Or maybe it’s just a little sin. But I think when looked at objectively, we can say, “This is not good stuff. On balance, it is more harmful than helpful.” Contraceptive acceptance may not harm this individual or that one, but taken as a whole, it does not seem to help society much. Just the opposite. It’s wide distribution seems to be a facilitator of many other action–that when taken all together–are quite ruinous to society.

    No matter how much I may want ammonia and bleach to not be a bad combo, I can’t make it not a bad combo.

    Tt seems to me that contraception is the same way. Contraception is not a bad thing because the Church says it is. Contraception is a bad thing because contraception is a bad thing. The Church is simply recognizing reality.

    Chemists can explain to us why ammonia and bleach are toxic. But we may never totally understand why contraception is also toxic, and why some people suffer and others don’t. Our sould separates us from the rest of Creation, and that may have something to do with it.

  • Mark

    Mr. Bannon, as one who has adeptly used the Bible to make several points, how do you reconcile “be fertile and multiply” being interpreted as “enjoy sex withouth consequences”?

    Or maybe we are all Protestants now.

  • bill bannon

    The stakes are higher than that outside the US. China just coercively aborted a woman 8 months pregnant with her second child.
    I drop you both from an airplane into her grieving town and you explain to her that she should use NFP even if in her case, it is unreliable and she will have more children for the government to abort. Or you will tell her to have a josephite marriage even though Joseph seems to have been elderly and Mary had no such marriage because Aquinas said she had no concupiscence so it was not a temptation for her. And you will tell her to have the josephite marriage even though Paul in I Corinthians 7:5 tells a segment of married people not to abstain for sex for long lest the devil enter into their marriage. I’ll warm up the plane if you’re sure you have the real answer. Mark check Augustine “Good of Marriage” and Jerome “Against Jovinianus” on multiplying….both men restricted it to the Jews who had to grow big enough to produce and protect the anccestors of Christ. Another never mentioned datum on the Catholic net.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Thanks for the contributions to the discussion, everyone. I appreciate you folk taking the time to rise to the challenge.

    I’m going to do a bit of a review of the status of the discussion thus far. Bear with me….

  • Cord Hamrick

    Here’s an overview of what I see thus far:

    Tom Usher kicked us off with the observation that civilizations need procreation in order to perpetuate their cultures and ideologies and merely to survive and thrive. He concludes that stuff which drops the overall birth rate, even when it is for the objective benefit of the individual couple, is detrimental to the community to a greater degree and this makes it immoral.

    In response to Tom’s argument, I have the following observations:

    1. I don’t think this basis for argument against artificial contraception excludes NFP for spacing births. If the same argument can be made against what the Church explicitly permits, it can’t be used to defend Church teaching.

    2. Unless, that is, the argument hinges on NFP being more difficult, less likely to be used, and thus not as much of a danger to the civilizational birth rate. But in that case clearly we are making a consequentialist argument: Moral Policy X is right purely because it “works” in terms of outcome. This raises problems with other parts of the Church’s moral theology.

    3. At any rate, what Tom’s argument doesn’t contain is any notion that the use of condoms (or whatever) for morally licit birth-spacing is intrinsically evil, but only that its long-term effects are bad enough that it would require a high level of justification, like war. Current Catholic teaching seems to say that there’s such thing as a Just War, however rare it may be in reality, but that there’s no such thing as Just Artificial Contraception, no matter how high the justification.

    Tom also notes the problems that no-child couples present for social welfare programs which are funded by the next generation’s incomes. But that again is appeal to consequences, and anyway, I imagine a society could always opt to distribute elder benefits in a fashion proportional to progeny!

    Anyway, I agree with everything Tom says about the bad societal consequences.

    What I don’t see is the necessary connection between the outcome if everybody does it and I may not do it even when my circumstances seem to provide an exceptional amount of justification, which is the Catholic teaching.

    The bad outcome if everyone does it would seem rather to point to a different moral lesson; something like, “It’s wrong to do it unless you’ve met an exceptionally high threshold of justification.” For of course “an exceptional amount of justification” is something that by definition occurs relatively rarely. If only those who meet that exceptional threshold do it, why then, it won’t be “everyone” doing it, and the relevant bad consequences don’t happen.

    Of course I know perfectly well that if, as the Anglican Church did, you say “This may only be done in rare circumstances providing exceptionally high justification” then everyone will stretch the standard downward and inflate their own hardships upward until everyone ends up qualifying. But we’re here investigating what is true, not what will happen if we say it out loud.


  • Cord Hamrick


    Bill McKenna, like Tom, describes the deleterious consequences, focusing more on sexual morality and family disintegration. As with Tom, I agree that all these bad consequences occur as a result of widespread condom (or whatever) use.

    I still have trouble using it as an argument for artificial contraception as intrinsically evil, or evil in every circumstance. Were its use somehow confinable to married couples with children to block transmission of a disease, the rarity of use would eliminate the social consequences.

    So I think the social consequences argument can be an addendum to a moral argument, but not a replacement. The Church can quite truthfully say, “Not only do we have this solid moral argument that this practice is wrong to begin with, but look what happens when a lot of people do it.” But the solid moral argument must come first, and that’s what I’m looking for.

    One might also argue something like: “Non-abortifacient contraception is not intrinsically wrong but its excessive use is disastrous, and God knew that any use spreads quickly to excessive use. Therefore God sent a representative to tell us not to use it at all, because as a fallen race we haven’t the capacity to cope with such power.” The problem with this argument is that it falls outside “natural reason” and in the category of revelation. It is thus out-of-bounds for the purposes of this discussion.


  • Cord Hamrick


    Kamilla gets us closer to our goal by attending to the nature of the act and how it contradicts the intended intimate and loving nature of “lovemaking.” This observation is useful because it applies to every instance of barrier contraception use.

    If the observation implies a moral prohibition then the prohibition applies to every instance of barrier contraception use. That would give us an argument in favor of the Church’s teaching.

    Getting from the observation to the moral prohibition is a bit tricky however. I’m not sure quite why “this is” necessitates “this is so wrong, or wrong in such a way, that it cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

    Digdigby notes the way reproductive technologies disconnect human beings from viscerally understanding the meaning of marriage. Given that marriage is a Sacrament and its meaning mysteriously reflects Christ and the Church; and given that one of our purposes in life is living out that reflection and “being Christ” to each other and to the world; it follows we may not live our lives in a way which denies that image and serves as a counterspell or contrary incantation to the Sacrament.

    But that relies on a lot of revelation; it is not from natural reason. So it is true; it is useful; it ought to be required catechesis for every post-pubescent person. But it’s out-of-bounds when we’re after argument from natural reasoning.

    Marsh Fightlin gives us the “language” or the “artwork” of total acceptance, which contraception undermines, as a first principle, saying “you either see this or you don’t.” Well, I see it; I’m not sure everyone does, however.

    And if they do? A counter-argument would, I think, be that “contracepted sex is not as thoroughly good as the normal kind but there are circumstances which can justify it.” The “language” argument is thus construed as a distinction between “good” and “less good” but not between “good” and “evil.”

    The “ick” factor is better, I think. (I skip the environmental argument because, if true, it is an appeal to consequences like some previously-discussed arguments; if false, it is so much propaganda.) Barrier contraceptives are ugly and unromantic, to be sure. If that fact leads logically to a moral prohibition, then we have the argument we’re looking for.

    But I can already hear the counter-argument: In those rare cases when sexual relations sans barrier will result in health problems and crushing medical bills, one could argue that the alternative is worse, and thus the use of the barrier is the lesser of two evils…and also better, from a unitive standpoint, than abstention, for a married couple.

    I’m not persuaded by that counter-argument, especially the last bit. But it’s plausible-sounding enough; I don’t think we can call it conclusively defeated.


  • Cord Hamrick


    Kathryn brings us a great detailed post which gives several arguments.

    Kathryn asks, “What is the maritabl embrace?” and answers that it is an act of sexual reproduction. If this is normal healthy bodily functioning for our species (and it clearly is) then…then what?

    Well, then interference with its proper functioning is wrong…but only some kinds of interference.

    Question: What puts barrier contraception into the always wrong category of interference, as opposed to the not wrong or only wrong when there isn’t really strong justification categories?
    Kathryn brings up weight reduction surgery, for example. Well, let us suppose that we have found an overweight person whose weight problems are entirely due to medical problems and not habits. Surgery of the type indicated alters an organ (stomach band/staple) and removes parts of another (the body fat is an energy storage mechanism). Life can be prolonged and enhanced by the surgery. Is the surgery not merely wrong, but intrinsically wrong?

    Perhaps the better analogy is Scott Hahn’s analogy to bulimia. But there again I wonder…how do we know which analogy is the right one? If I pick one analogy, I get one moral conclusion (the thing is always wrong). If I pick another I get a different conclusion (the thing is wrong if adequate justification is not present).

    And would we consider the practices of the bulimic wrong if no physical harm came to the person through them? Is it only because they cause bodily damage that we categorize such practices a sign of mental illness? Activity which harms oneself, but which one is helpless to stop doing, is a sign of mental illness, but what about activity which does not harm oneself but may be prompted by a desire to avoid harm?

    “Well,” one might reply, “if the activity involved using human capability X for a purpose for which God never intended that capability, it would still be wrong.” But is that true? Using something in an unexpected way to solve a problem it wasn’t originally designed to solve can be a sign of ingenuity in other spheres. This is “hacking” in the non-pejorative sense — or “jury-rigging” when the solution is only temporary or partial — and isn’t immoral.

    Now one doesn’t jury-rig a lean-to using the Mona Lisa, to bring back an analogy to art discussed earlier. But isn’t that only because doing so risks damage to the Mona Lisa? Hacking an solution unanticipated in original design is bad when it does damage, but if it doesn’t?

    The most convincing part of Kathryn’s note for me is the “Here, put a bag over your face” part. For a lover to say such a thing would be just evil. Is it evil, though, to say, “Here, put a bag over your fertility?” Sounds just as bad to me, at first. But then, with “face,” the man who says that wounds the woman deeply: He’s calling her ugly. With “fertility,” it’s just as likely to be the woman who wants to temporarily disable the fertility…and not because she thinks it’s bad or “ugly,” but because having already used it several times to beautiful effect (that is, having already had children) she judges the time incorrect to use that powerful capability again. So is that attitude really analagous to “put a bag over your face?” Once again: It’s an analogy. Is it an analogy which allows us to draw true conclusions, or is it a misleading analogy?

    We need to find that coup de gr

  • Kathryn

    Okay, Mr. Bannon, so you are perfectly okay with putting your non-yet conceived child at the risk of murder so you can enjoy the marital embrace because St. Paul said that married couples should not abstain too long lest they be tempted by the Devil. Do I got that right? If not, I apologize, but that’s how it sounds to me.

    Given the contraceptive failure rates (Dr. Wetzel, MD explains these in his book Sexual Wisdom) I’ll take abstinance thank you, and would have no qualms about recommending it to anyone who should not get pregnant.

  • Kathryn

    Cord: I highly doubt you will find what you seek. Why? Because people are people. They aren’t machines; they are complex living creatures who have been invited by God to participate in the creation of something that will last for all eternity: another human soul.

    But of course, that one can’t be proven scientifically either.

  • Anna

    Why do you say, in the last reply, that “only some kinds of interference” are wrong? Church-teaching-wise, all interference with a normally functioning system would be wrong. That’s why the term “artificial birth control” isn’t really a good one; it implies that as long as birth control is “natural” it is permissible, which is not the case. The difference is in aiding or fixing a system that is malfunctioning rather than replacing, thwarting, or destroying a body system or function. For example, eyeglasses are fine, though artificial, because one is aiding a system that is designed to work a certain way, but doesn’t. Glasses don’t replace a normally-functioning system, just aid it in working correctly. But contraception (all forms) takes a normally-functioning system and thwarts it or destroys it. That view of the person reduces the body to something extrinsic to the person and therefore malleable in any way I choose. NFP is not interference, which is why it is permissible.
    I don’t know if the argument that sexual relations are meant to be wholly uniting is a “natural law argument” exactly, but it is the sort of argument to the human heart that JPII was fond of. It does seem to be a good one though; that the body language of barrier methods treats one’s spouse (and the potential child) as an attack to be protected from, rather than a gift to be accepted and that is damaging to both persons. The damage is seen most clearly, though not only, in the social consequences, though the consequences aren’t the basis of the argument. The consequences only demonstrate that the actions of the body really do affect the person as a whole.

  • bill bannon

    a bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work. You’ve got good wrist technique. Were I dropped in China, I’d know exactly what to tell them…between me and them. But that would be private….imagine that….privacy.

  • Anna

    Kamilla gets us closer to our goal by attending to the nature of the act and how it contradicts the intended intimate and loving nature of “lovemaking.” This observation is useful because it applies to every instance of barrier contraception use. If the observation implies a moral prohibition then the prohibition applies to every instance of barrier contraception use. That would give us an argument in favor of the Church’s teaching. Getting from the observation to the moral prohibition is a bit tricky however. I’m not sure quite why “this is” necessitates “this is so wrong, or wrong in such a way, that it cannot be justified under any circumstances.
    I don’t think my philosophy is quite up to answering this, but I thought I’d throw it out there that I do remember from at least one philosophy class that one can in fact get from an “is” to an “ought.” It is a relatively recent philosophical idea that one cannot get from an “is” to an “ought” (an idea that C.S. Lewis believed; he talks about this in “The Abolition of Man”). As I recall, perhaps erroneously, the shift came about due to the originally-Cartesian idea that one couldn’t know what “is” and so one can’t deduce any “oughts” as one’s “is” might not really be. But I remember Janet Smith saying in one class that one could take that path and she gave as an example the statement that “Jane is cruel” implies “Jane ought not to be that way.” How to apply that here, I am not entirely sure, unless it has to do with Kamilla’s description clearly being of something that is by nature good and so “being good” implies that it ought to remain so – and wouldn’t be with contraception because contraception changes the nature of the act.

  • Michael PS

    Whether in terms of Christian Tradition, or of Natural Law reasoning, I think we need to step back from the particular issue of contraception and consider sexual morality and the virtue of chastity, in general.

    A brief extract from Miss Anscombe’s “Contraception & Chastity” (which gives an excellent summary of the history of the doctrine) illustrates this approach

    “If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here – not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can’t be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example.”

    Now, in this she was priscient; the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has actually argued that it is illogical to approve of contraception and disapprove of same-sex marriage.

    I recommend that short pamphlet to everyone (and not just because Miss Anscombe was my old tutor!)

    She is particularly good on the question of intention, in contraceptive intercourse and NFP respectively, which I cannot summarise here. It turns on the distinction, so often overlooked, between “intentional action,” – doing something “on purpose” and a further or accompanying intention with which you do the thing; a vital distinction, not only here, but in ethics generally.

  • Kathryn

    Mr. Bannon: not entirely sure I get what you are trying to say.

  • bill bannon

    In NFP the couple is allowed to hunt for the majority days when the woman’s interior is as barren as all those implied landing surfaces in the acts you mention strictly from a barreness aspect.
    On a strictly physical level, the active gay can say his act and the barreness of an NFP woman on the majority days is identical from the point of view of barreness.
    Maybe Amish oppose NFP for such a reason. Scripture tells us the gay act is outlawed regardless in Romans 1 for both gendes with perfect clarity. The one Scripture that seems to be about contraception of a sort….Onan….is problematic now since the language now in the NAB (and in the best Hebrew version) indicates that Onan did this coitus interruptus multiple times rather than the once that Jerome’s translation seemed to indicate. Jerome’s translation led one to parallel the incident to God’s killing of Uzzah who was killed by God for touching the ark just once. In the Hebrew, Jerome’s “detestable thing” is absent and says rather “did not please God”. So unlike Uzzah where the one act met death, Onan seems to have been like those moderns whose plan was to always avoid children with Tamar forever…..which now renders a Catholic marriage void.

  • bill bannon

    In other words, had Onan instead used modern NFP to avoid all children with Tamar, God still would have struck him dead. And if a couple now intended to avoid all children through NFP, the Church would consider their marriage null.

  • bill bannon

    God willed that Christ come from the house of Judah (Rev.5:5)…..which was only 4 men at that time…Er,Onan,Shelah, and the father Judah.
    If no son would impregnate Tamar, Christ would have to come from Tamar and the father, Judah….which is what happened. Each son prior to Shelah had to be killed in order that Tamar had the right to relations with the next son.

  • sibyl

    Thinking through the excellent ideas and conversation in this post, I would like to weigh in by saying that Kathryn’s argument (the purpose of the act) as well as the destruction of unity (“put a bag over your face”) argument are the best. You asked, though, about conclusive vs. persuasive. To me, these arguments on a purely natural law level are persuasive, but not conclusive.

    It seems clear to me that the prohibition on contraceptive married sex is rooted, profoundly, in our understanding of God’s revelation. Some of what we now could describe as concordant with natural law is actually based on the same thing — monogamous, indissoluble marriage, for example.

  • sibyl

    Dear Mr. Bannon:

    Just be careful of the hard-case arguments. They’re attractive to use because of course any of us would be tempted to offer the poor Chinese mom any help we could put our hands on. If we could give her birth control pills, it would be heartbreaking to refuse, wouldn’t it?

    But at heart this particular argument is much like other hard cases, because it really says that the end justifies the means. Such a good end, and such obvious means. If only God hadn’t forbidden it. As a Christian, I know that what God forbids is harmful in some way, even when a person doesn’t know it. Kathryn’s analogy of bleach and ammonia applies here. So although it might be with great pain, I would not hand that mother any birth control, but rather do whatever I could to assist her otherwise. Or, I might in fact give her birth control, but in doing it I would KNOW I was doing wrong.

    Now, if you do not believe in the God who revealed Himself in Christ, then as I said in the previous comment, I’m not sure we have any CONCLUSIVE natural law argument to offer as to why contraception is evil. But then, if you don’t believe in God, then you may not have any problem justifying means according to their ends.

    Christians cannot base their morality on “what works.” We can’t complain about the difficulty of NFP when Jesus promised us the cross. Rather, such difficulties can be stepping stones toward greater trust in His mercy and care for us. The Church doesn’t lack compassion for the hard cases, but she does have a sacred trust, which is to transmit to us ALL of God’s revelation, without omission or amendation, in season and out of season, popular or unpopular.

    Finally, it would be pointless to have Benedict go out and debate the bright lights of academia on this topic. He cannot say otherwise than the Church has said, although he could restate it, and would be able to, brilliantly. He can’t because he’s been given a sacred trust.

  • Michael PS

    In reply to Bill Bannon

    To quote Miss Anscombe in

  • bill bannon
  • Michael PS

    We have the testimony of the Ante-Nicean Fathers, who, by reason of the age in which they wrote, are faithful witnesses to the apostolic tradition preserved in their repsective local churches
    Letter of Barnabas
    “Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11 :29]. For he means, ‘Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness”‘ ( 10:8 [A.D. 74]).
    Clement of Alexandria
    “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 [A.D. 191]).
    “To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature” (ibid. 2:10:95:3).
    “[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, they use drugs of sterility [oral contraceptives] or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered [abortion]” (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 [A.D. 225]).
    “[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife” (Divine Institutes 6:20 [A.D. 307]).
    “God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [‘generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring” (ibid. 6:23:1smilies/cool.gif.

    I will add one Post-Nicean writer of the 4th century

    “They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption” (Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 [A.D. 375]).

    No writer of the first ages dissents from this unanimoue teaching of the Fathers.

    Besides these explicit references, there are wagon-loads of quotations on the nature of marriage, on Christian chastity and the like, which show the harmony of thier teaching.

  • bill bannon

    which Stoic terms are even found in Paul’s “against nature” terminology in Romans chapter one and later in his ” does not nature itself teach you”. The Stoics were wonderful compared to the licentious gnostics but the Stoics did not like emotional love or sex; they sought love by judgement and sex only for procreation as its only moral moment. That is not the Church’s position though it apparently is yours. Listing quotes rather than giving their background causes leaves us with that impression.

    Epiphanius, friend of Jerome who loved Seneca, e.g. hated a gnostic group in his area for non procreation acts because they used masturbation and coitus interruptus etc to obtain the semen for gnostic religious practices…eating that semen and feminine discharge during the rites. It was so gross that he and the early fathers up to and including the later fathers like Jerome….fled straight to the Stoics who only permitted sex for procreation…period. This became the patristic outlook but is rejected when the modern Popes allow the use of the non fertile periods. Michael…..copying and pasting quotes is not the whole job….explain the situation in which the quotes arise.
    Many of John Paul II’s followers believe in oral sex as foreplay. That is why you added your own commentary…..”consummated”. You wanted to protect Barnabus and John Paul II simultaneously but Show us now a passage where Barnabus allows oral sex as foreplay. You can’t. Then take us to the Rennaisance saints who described it as the use of the unfit vessel.
    I have no opinion on it either way.
    Your second writer…Clement….contradicts the entire NFP school who actually are allowed to have sex other than procreating.
    Your third writer by calling for total abstinence for those who cannot support children contradicts Paul in I Corinthians 7:5 who says that those very sexual marrieds are not to abstain too long lest the devil enter in to their marriage. Fr. Bernard Haring pointed out how this passage of Paul is constantly ignored and is really from the Holy Spirit….who is the one being ignored.

    Your third writer also says the genitals are only for procreating. No Pope would agree with him as to his sexual ethics which he lifted whole cloth out of Stoicism.
    Your 4th writer…Epiphanius… at least closer to Miss Anscombe who is a hell of a lot better than your first three….”Fathers”.
    Heck….now I’m liking her.
    Jerome called Seneca….”our Seneca”….in ” Against Jovinianus”. Jerome, typically patristic, said sex was for procreation only which is not the Church’s position. Jerome said he took much from Seneca concerning marriage. Seneca like many stoics was the culture of death in that he explicitly affirmed infanticide. Many stoics went further and supported the right of a father to kill his children til age 14 which for them was the age of reason…not 7 as we had.
    You are hiding Michael behind quotes in almost every post you do. We don’t see Michael thinking but only copying. Arnold Toynbee, the great mega historian, criticized Catholicism on exactly that tendency to the mimetic. But if you follow the Fathers and Stoicism on sex only for procreation, then you have to find through nfp only the fertile days and use them only….until one gets to Augustine who was a tad more liberal than that and was the start of the “open to life” concept found in HV.

  • bill bannon

    the early patristic position then was not from the apostles since the Church now implicitly rejects their position which really was Stoicism’s… is for pocreation only. Augustine introduces the substructure for the papal position of modern times though he slowed its arrival in other ways which you can find in his “Good of Marriage” if you read it closely.

  • bill bannon

    Here is John Noonan writing in “Contraception” (Harvard, 1965) (a book that did not affirm abc despite its title and Noonan’s later change on the issue): ” The Stoic marital ethic was accepted….East or West, there appear to have been only two very prominent dissenters from the Stoic view…( Lactantius and Chrysostom….the former for permitting intercourse during pregnancy to protect against infidelity of the husband….and the latter who saw the prevention of fornication as the prime reason for married sex)….lol….the only two Fathers who honored I Cor. 7:5 against the pressure of Stocism.

  • Michael PS

    Bill Bannon

    If the ancient Church was in error, the Church is fallen. If she should be in error to-day, it is not the same thing; for she has always the superior maxims of tradition from the hands of the ancient Church; and so submission and conformity to the ancient Church prevail and correct all.

    You are right to argue that the Fathers are to be read in the context of their whole teaching, especially when dealing with their polemical writings. Also, the body of evidence before the Peace of the Church is often scanty. I am appealing to them, not as theologians, but as witnesses to apostolic tradition, preserved in the various local churches, for, if they did not hand it on, the tradition has been lost beyond recall.

    A further difficulty is that particular utterances are often ambiguous, from their tendency to equate medicinal contraception with homicide (and many of the drugs used may well have been abortifacients) and mechanical contraception with unnatural vice. In the later period, (500 – 1200), the Penitentials often equate charms and potions to produce sterility with maleficia and, once again, they may have been right about this, in particular cases.

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent classifies as sodomy all “wilful emission of seed, outside the due use of marriage.”

    Now, the form of an intentional act is composed of an intrinsic end and the means or “drive” to realize that end. That the intrinsic end of the act of copulation is procreation does not mean that procreation must also be the object or intention of the actor: the end of eating is nutrition, but there is nothing wrong with eating because we want to, or for delectation (so long as we avoid delicacy or excess) provided we do not frustrate the end of nutrition, by self-induced vomiting, or by medicinal means. Nothing the Fathers say contradicts this. We must not suppose they subscribed to the Cartesian psychology, according to which an intention is an interior act of the mind which could be produced at will. In fact, no one did, before the 17th century.

  • bill bannon

    Thanks for answering. I’m done. If Popes were working this hard as we are in this area, there would be a sane answer for young Chinese Catholics. Benedict is writing books about what he likes to write on instead. There is simply an insane answer for Chinese and as in usury we will not admit we were wrong when we do change……and the “good news” of the alleged gospel is actually bad news for young Chinese. From 1585 when Sixtus V introduced the castrati into the papal choirs to replace women…thru 28 more Popes….the papacy proximately cooperated with the forced sterization of boys for singing (the topic is blocked at new advent but in any major encyclopedia)….then in 1930 Pius XI calls sterilization mutilation without mentioning that more Popes proximately cooperated with it than wrote about birth control. Voluntary sterilization would prevent Chinese women from having new babies murdered by the government periodically and would allow them to honor when appropo I Corinthians 7:5: ” Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”. The papal position right now….deeply rooted in Stoicism at its roots….has unwitting contempt for I Corinthians 7:5 just as John Paul II had unwitting contempt for Romans 13:4 on the death penalty…..just as the catechism has unwitting contempt for the 6 wifely obedience passages and never mentions that topic which the Holy Spirit wanted 6 times in the New Testament (it’s not in Vat.II either). Protestantism is simply not incorrect to note that Catholicism is often non biblical. Their error is that neither are they biblical when it comes to divorce, Peter and the sacraments.
    I’m done. Do not cover up mistakes of the magisterium….that was the spirit of the sex abuse cover up. Here is Ott from the intro to the fundamentals:

  • bill bannon

    You are covering up for the Fathers. They replicated the Stoic position. You will try to undo that fact as you tried to cover for two Popes calling the death penalty “cruel” by going into its non common sense usage of a previous time. Drop the cover up career. Not even most conservatives will think you’re on a proper tract.

  • bill bannon

    Go to the Summa Supplement/ question 49/ art.5/ “I answer that section”….here is Aquinas with an Augustine idea that made sexual desire venially sinful in itself as being concupiscence per se rather than healthy impulse toward sex in marriage. Both men saw paying the marriage debt as good but asking for the marriage debt as venial sin:

    ” Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt. otherwise it is always at least a venial sin.”

    Augustine says the same thing here in this title section within “Marriage and Concupiscence”:

    Chapter 16 [XIV.]

  • bill bannon


  • Mark

    Catholics in China comprise about the same percentage as pregnancies being the result of rape / incest — fewer than 1%.

    It’s easy to tell when folks know that they are not on the moral high ground –they grasp tightly to exceptions while trying to convince others that those exceptions should be thought of as the rule.

    I’ve noticed that folks who argue for artificial birth control tend to explain what it is not…

    – it’s not immoral
    – it’s not forbidden
    – it’s not anyone else’s business
    – it’s not juxtaposed with Church teaching
    – it’s not anything new

    … but I’ve never once heard anyone make the claim that artificial birth control is God’s will.

    No sincere Christian would ever entertain the thought that come judgement day, all other things being equal, the folks who were conduits for our Lord bringing 8+ children into the world will be in a more difficult position than those who instead chose to lean on their intellects, comfort, pride, disobedience insecurities (lack of faith) and self-deceptions.

    As there are no algorithms which can quantify intangibles (i.e. love and forgiveness) Christianity disciplines us to walk by faith and not by sight. Our Faith does not abuse reason but that does not mean that every single tenant comes with a money back guarantee if its foundation doesn’t rise to our logical demands.

    … and now, my soap box is weakening, so I must leave. Sorry for the preachiness.

  • Mark

    “it’s foundation” should read “its foundation”

    No apostrophe needed, >it’s< an apostrophe free zone.

  • bill bannon

    weaker than your soap box. China could well have 4.3 billion Catholic mothers. The papal position makes their life an ongoing disaster if they are obeying it….a papal position that no Pope will step forward on and declare ex cathedra. Why not Mark? Ex Cathedra is there to settle the disputed inter alia. Why not Mark?

  • bill bannon

    not billion. please return Mark and tell us why no Pope even worked on moving moving this to the clearly infallible….ex cathedra.

  • Kathryn

    I doubt those who are convinced of contraception’s morality would be impressed with an ex cathedra statement, so why bother.

    Pro-choicers are huge proponents of contracpetion and have reminded us that contraceptive use does in fact increase abortion demand. (For more info on that, see Sexual Wisdom by Dr. R. Wetzel That is one of the reaons Planned Parenthood is all too willing to go into schools and do a nice little comprehensive sex ed program.

    Also, it was noted in Humanae Vitae that once contraception became socially acceptable, abusive governments would figure out a way to force it on people.

    Chinese woman will not find freedom in the Pill or any other form of birth control.

  • bill bannon

    Catholics therefore as 1% could be 350 forced abortions a day. Christ said in John 10:35… ” the scriptures cannot be broken”.
    That means that the josephite marriage cannot be forced on normal people due to I Corinthians 7:5. NFP does not work for some couples. Therefore some young Catholic Chinese women will live a life of high anxiety and forced abortion based on a papal position for which no Pope will step forward and state that he is so sure of this issue to such an extent that he is putting it in infallible form rather than leaving it in the form in which the usury position sat for 1400 years and then vanished when at one time saints and bishops ….sounding much like Mark…..denounced entire towns for usury. Now you can’t get a Pope or Bishop to notice Visa charging 22% to poor young people who pay their car repair bills on Visa for a decade.

    Ex cathedra is very important. I would believe in euthanasia except for the infallible statement against it in Evangelium Vitae….having watched my mom at 89 go through weeks of a torturous death. John Paul was able to do an abbreviated non researched infallible statement on euthanasia, abortion and killing the innocent by by passing ex cathedra by polling all the world’s Bishops by mail and email. But he can only use that unresearched shortcut if he gets Bishop virtual unanimity. Anyone who has read about him knows he polled them also on birth control in the same polling because he put birth control in Evangelium Vitae also… he did not get Bishop unanimity on birth control whereas he did get it on abortion. The only alternative is ex cathedra but that requires research per Vat. II. John Paul had over 20 years to ex cathedra this. Is anyone actually reading documents out there….holla at ya boy. Not you Michael….your reading goes way back.

  • Carl

    The Didache (AD 100-150), which explicitly condemned abortion, also implicitly condemned contraception. These documents are believed to be a compendium of notes made by the preaching Apostles—also accounted by some of the Fathers as next to Holy Scripture.

    Stoicism and the China examples of Mr. Bannon are bogus.

    JPII’s Theology of the Body doesn’t teach Stoicism.

    China? Church Teaching only applies when the State says so? Come on bill!
    Liberals would love that claptrap!

  • Michael PS

    Carl is right

    Clement of Alexandria, whom I cited earlier was not a Stoic, but a Platonist, of the Middle Platonic school, associated with Antiochus of Ascalon

    Lactantius, whom I also cited, was an Eclectic.

    Methodius of Olympus, a 3rd century Father (and a thorough-going Platonist, not a Stoic – He even bases his treatise on virginity on the Symposium) comments on St Paul
    “… The apostle did not grant these things unconditionally to all, but first laid down the reason on account of which he has led to this. For, having set forth that ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ (I Cor. VII, 1) he added immediately ‘nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife’ (I Cor. VII, 2)

  • bill bannon

    Almost the entire thing is derivative of the most obvious sayings of Scripture. I dare anyone to read it twice. I don’t think 99% of readers do. The other non derivative parts are simply weird. You never read it through Carl.

    chapter 3
    ” Be neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things, for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads to theft. Be neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered.”

    So being an enchanter is OK but better watch out because it leads to idolatry. This is why you’ll find no priest or nun who actually reads this. The Didache actually warns against sins for the wrong reason…because they’ll lead to other sins. Can you imagine Christ warning against lying because it will lead to theft? No, you can’t. And can anyone tell us how lying leads to theft?
    That’s a circuitous trail I’ll bet. Chinese women should stake their life on this pamphlet. Would you like to read it to them Carl?

    To be an enchanter or astrologer is already a sin since Isaiah says “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Isa 47:14 Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame.”

    chapter 8….Didache…
    “But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday.”

    Words to live by….next to holy scripture. Are you fasting, Carl, on Wednesday and Friday so as to avoid the hypocrisy of fasting on Monday and Thursday.

    Carl, you have never read it. You’re never going to read it….and it’s short….but it’s a snoozer and is only brought up on abortion.
    It’s relation to birth control is a stretch so you used the word “implicit”.

  • bill bannon

    A man yells to his wife who is in the shower, ” Lets go to the beach today, I’ll bring the Didache.”

    She yells from the noisy shower, ” You’re going to wear your Dockers?”

    “No”, he yells, ” I’m going to bring the Didache.”

    Again she yells, ” You’re going first to the doctor’s?”

    “No…I’m going to bring the Didache”…he says… lower voiced now as she leaves the shower. “You know dear…it’s next to scripture.”

    ” No it’s not”, she quips…..”it’s downstairs next to the nautical lamp. Isn’t that the one that says lying leads to theft?”

    ” Yes”, he notes….then adds….” look at Lindsey Lohan.”

    ” What about your cousin”… she says…”he lies like a 100 knot Bokhara rug but he never steals?”

    “. It’s next to scripture one of the Fathers said”, he reminds her.

    ” Was that Lactantius….the guy who said genitals are only for procreation and poor people should abstain til death?” she asks.

    ” I’m not sure…..but it could be”, he says.

  • Michael PS

    chapter 8….Didache…
    “But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday.”
    “the hypocrites” is the term usually used in the Didache to refer to (non-Christian) Jews, who were accustomed to fast on those days.

    Similarly, the Council of Nicea so arranged the date of Easter, that it could never coincide with the Jewish Passover.

  • bill bannon

    …..but what you’re thinking: Bill’s right….it’s derivative and odd….cousin Fred lies and never steals….and being an enchanter is already mortal sin.
    And you also Michael will never read it twice….if in fact, you read it once. Peace….this thread is like the hotel California.
    You can check out any time….but you can never leave. I should write to the CDF instead of the internet….just a monthly short piece.
    Those here wanting to help Chinese babies who have been deserted or who are too sick for their parents, China Little Flower dot org is online….run by a Catholic lay girl, Shannon, helped by Sister Gertrude Kim….my monthly contact person if I slip on a monthly paypal donation. She chases me softly. Check it out if you’re looking for babies to help….some of whom are wondering where their mom is. They have a cross right at the get go of life.

  • bill bannon

    the forbidden city….where my wife was born.

  • Carl

    What I haven’t

  • Carl

    Bill, Let me summaries what I carry away from your many words.

  • Carl

    Corporal works of mercy:

  • bill bannon

    online read the Introduction to Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith” which says at the end of section 8 (theological grades of certainty) the ordinary papal magisterium can err in morals which includes encyclicals like when “Splendor of the Truth” was totally wrong when it called deportation and slavery intrinsic evils. In Leviticus 25:44 God gives chattel slavery to the Jews….therefore it cannot be intrinsically evil. It is evil when in context, it is no longer necessary. In nomadic times with no prisons for captured soldiers or criminals, it was necessary. But it is not intrinsic evil. Popes should know the Bible. Aquinas did…inside out.
    Birth control is contained in similar non infallible encyclicals and Councils. Short cut for you on dogmatics: phone a Catholic college theology department and ask if one of them if they would give you an hour to explain such things and “religious submission of mind and will” Lumen Gentium 25…. and its corrective exceptions in moral theology tomes….exceptions not present in catechisms or Vat. II but in moral theology tomes for decades and in every seminary.
    Peace. China for me not for you is clear proof that the papal position will one day vanish on barrier methods….just as the crazy fighting over usury vanished in 1830 when a Pope sent out word that one could take moderate interest. 1400 years of Catholic bickering over and saint posturing over in one year….then apologetics people went to work to make it look like a wise slow prudential change with a change in modern economies and financial leverage. They didn’t notice that Calvin had our 1830 answer in 1545. Apologetics is often Catholic coverup. Real apologetics is Jerome’s “Against Helvidius”….the best you’ll read ever and a fav of those of us who read the Bible cover to cover. Peace….Catholic colleges…a good priest pofessor will answer a lot unless he is extreme in any way….right or left. Rough world.

  • Kathryn

    The Church has NO POWER to prevent anyone, including Catholics, from using contaception. Most espcially Chinese Catholics.

    Frankly, I would be very surprised that Chinese Catholics are any more observant on the issue of birth control (and abortion) than any other group of Catholics. They are probably just as ignorant on the issue as most younger American Catholics are.

    And you are of course ignoring contraceptive failure rates; ignoring what the abortion industry supporters have said about contraception contributing to abortions; ignoring, frankly, anything that might indicate that contraception isn’t a good thing for anyone; and ultimately ends in disaster.

    Time to stop reading dusty old Church documents in order to justify your belief the Church is uncertain, and therfore contraception is morally acceptable. Maybe She is uncertain. So what? There is certainly enough evidence to indicate contraception is poisonous, just like mixing ammonia and chlorox.

  • Kathryn

    has been added to favorite. I’ll check it out soon.

    Please read Sexual Widsom by Richard Wetzel, MD

    Good bye Hotel California! I won’t be back.

  • Michael PS

    On the question of usury, Bill Bannon appears to overlook Canon 1543 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, in force until 1983.

  • Anna

    First, to Michael, thanks for bringing up Miss Anscombe. I’ve recently discovered her and am oohing and aahing that you got to be tutored by her. She’s impressive. And your excerpts from her said far better than I said it in my question above to Cord which was “why do you describe NFP as ‘interference’?” Contraception of any type changes the nature of the act, but NFP can’t be described as interference since it’s simply not doing something due to whatever judgment you’ve made about why you shouldn’t engage in that action right now (like “I’m at the grocery store and this would not be a good time…”)
    Anyway, that’s where the natural law argument will lie: in the active changing of the nature of the sexual act vs. merely not engaging in the act.

  • bill bannon

    extrinsic titles had zero to do personal loans for 1400 years….they were only applied within Catholicism to business ventures. You Michael need a long talk with a professor of dogmatics in Rome. Take a Rome vacation. You are wound up tighter than a ten day clock. You are psychologically compelled to prove total hermeneutic of continuity in all trad issues….while two Popes call the death penalty cruel in modern not antiquarian language despite scripture and tradition being against them. You make me glad I had Dominicans in school for 8 years and Jesuits in school for 8 years…the latter being both conservative and liberal. Then I spent ten years reading all scripture, most of Augustine and all the Summa by Aquinas….but then I actually entered the bustling unsheltered business world of the big apple with God telling me I could do it with no lying and deception….with Him beside me and within me.
    You are sheltered some how and that makes the trad fetish possible. Get an unsheltered job but don’t sin within it. You’ll then drop the rad trad piecemeal scholarship.

  • Admin

    To Everyone:

    Let’s stick to the issues and leave the zingers and insults back at the playground.

    Thanks in advance.

  • bill bannon

    Perhaps someone can defeat a criticism I have of Humanae Vitae in section 21. It praises the discipline of couples obeying inter alia HV here:
    ” Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character..”

    My criticism is that he is implying unwittingly that wealthy Catholics who have no need of NFP and its sacrifices….nor of artificial birth control are therefore left with an untransformed love of a less truly human character since the Church has never required self denial of Catholics who can financially afford to use neither NFP nor ABC. No Church document requires wealthy Catholics to observe sexual self denial if they can afford an unlimited number of children. The Pope then is praising a self denial as enhancing….when in the case of the wealthy, it would result in less children than they could afford were they to practice it.
    Self denial as to NFP increases with a decrease in income…and decreases with an increase of income… that the poor couple who have a seriously autistic child whose bills they cannot afford and for which they will owe forever, that poor couple then is asked the greatest sacrifice of self denial by Humanae Vitae and the couple with two great incomes and healthy children is asked for a lesser sacrifice by Humanae Vitae.
    The sacrifice of self denial is an inverse function of the income. The poorer the Catholic…the greater the anxiety about one more child….the greater the straining to avoid a fertile moment of the cycle. The greater the income the less the straining…the less psychological pressure against one more child.

  • bill bannon

    realize in the above example that the Catholic infertile couple is no where told to self deny in sexual occurence. So that they and the wealthy Catholic and the elderly… are no where told to deny self in sex ….as one denies self in food and drink in Lent and Advent inter alia. Yet it is argued to be a marriage enhancer for all other Catholic couples but not urged on the wealthy, the sterile or the elderly. How does it cease to be an enhancer for those groups for whom it has no physical logic?

  • Michael PS

    Bill Bannon

    May I suggest you take a look at the thirteen extrinsic titles listed by the eminent canonist, Cardinal Hostiensis (Henry of Segusio (c. 1200

  • bill bannon

    why you use tree detail constantly to obscure the forest. All of these posts are on the fly….you never read about usury prior….you just look up detail per incident and impress the jury though not the opposition bench.. And it explains why you seem to have no forest but simply detailed trees like the detail of Lactantius requiring the poor to abstain from sex for life after they have their quota of children. Strange that no Pope ever declared that very thing about the poor. Not one Pope said it even though coitus interruptus was known to be used among Catholic populations….maybe because centuries after Onan, God did not mention coitus interruptus when He gave over 700 laws to the Jews ( don’t bring up necrophilia….it’s rare unlike the common problem of birth regulation).
    while He did forbid Tamar’s incest and Judah’s fornication from the same story explicitly. What would Miss Anscombe say….a woman who not only kept her maiden name through 7 children but kept her maiden, celibate title….Miss. That must have heartened her husband in his inner most soul. That must have enhanced the marriage along with the cigars by which she sidestepped her promise to God about cigarettes after her second child. Wait a minute. You sidestepped my above Humanae Vitae question thru the use of quickly looked up usury detail and Miss Anscombe sidestepped her cigarette promise to God and sidestepped taking her husband’s name. Wait a minute. I’m going to be sidestepped by you constantly because that is your job…to side step opposition evidence.
    Upset your opposing lawyer’s forest (overall theory)…by the evidence of trees. On usury, please read another lawyer, US Federal judge, John T. Noonan Jr. who wrote a book just on usury…just on usury…. and deals with it in other books of his. My recounting of it is based on three books of his and he is the only Catholic I am aware of to ever have been published on moral questions by Harvard Press.
    I like him and he is a lawyer but why should I spend another week with a lawyer like yourself who essentially reminds me of a lawyer whose tricks got me thrown out of court temporarily in a citizen arrest case when I was young and had done my civic duty.
    Not all lawyers proceed by tricks. My experience of your patterns though is that you do….and that on every topic, you will simply look up tree detail…to upset a forest person….the way Miss Anscombe upset her husband by keeping her father’s name. Oh….I know….he told the press it was charming. Yeah….right.

  • Michael PS
  • bill bannon

    “None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the LORD.

  • bill bannon

    If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; since they have committed an abhorrent deed, they have forfeited their lives.

    Tamar was Judah’s daughter in law.

  • bill bannon


  • Michael PS

    How many published female academics do you know, who use their married names professionally?

    The only word I intended to high-light in my previous post was “explicitly”

  • Shawn

    Here is some more historical information on this subject that may be of interest to people perusing and participating in this thread:

    Did you know that during the population explosion in Europe in the nineteenth century that not only did the Vatican not speak out about contraception but that it actually instructed its confessors not to ask married couples about their sexual practices -and St. John Vianney even emphasized this in his spiritual instructions to confessors???

    In the nineteenth century, the Vatican resolutely refused to speak out explicitly on contraception, even though France was solving its population explosion by coitus interruptus. “Do not disturb the Faithful,” the Holy Office warned, a position which was repeated in his conferences for confessors by St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars. Leo XIII wrote an encyclical at the time in which there was no mention of birth control…I do not intend that we should return to older policies, I merely cite them as evidence that the posture of a Church which never changes is untenable.

    I mentioned the Leo XIII encyclical to Jean Jadot when he was apostolic delegate to the United States. The archbishop’s eyes twinkled. “Ah, you know about that, do you?” …

    Make use of this information however you will.

  • Michael PS


    I take it you are referring to two response of the Sacred Penitentiary (not the Holy Office) of 23rd April 1822 and 8th June 1842 respectively.

    The first dealt with the case of a pious wife

  • Michael PS

    I meant to write “23 April 1822” and “8 June 1842,” the two responses being 20 years apart.

  • Mark

    “My criticism is that he is implying unwittingly that wealthy Catholics who have no need of NFP and its sacrifices….nor of artificial birth control are therefore left with an untransformed love of a less truly human character since the Church has never required self denial of Catholics who can financially afford to use neither NFP nor ABC. No Church document requires wealthy Catholics to observe sexual self denial if they can afford an unlimited number of children.” – Bill Bannon

    At least you are consistent — independently wealthy young Catholic couples, who have absolutely no financial concerns regardless of how many children they bring into the world, would again be less than 1%.

  • bill bannon

    you’re like Seal Team 6 or the “Activity” or Delta forces….hit and vanish….total deniability. That’s great in combat and not great in debate.