Prolife Forum: Birth control
Birth control QUESTION from Zina on April 19, 2002 What are the sources, the moral principles and the moral reasoning the Catholic Church uses in its teaching on birth control?
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on May 13, 2002 Dear Zina:
Thank you for your question. The Catholic Church has always taught that intentionally preventing the marital union from reaching its natural goal is inherently wrong and therefore sinful (and so did every other denomination until 1930). The gist of your question is: Why?
There are three primary sources for knowledge of this truth. First is what is called Natural Law, that is not the law of nature nor a prohibition against the artificial, rather it is God's Law as written in our very nature as human beings made in the image and likeness of Him (St. Paul refers to God's Law written in our hearts). From study of this Law we see that God has called us to be co-creators with Him in bringing new life into the world through His gift of the joys of marital union. Rejecting His gift of new life (intentionally, regardless the reason) while taking the joys is to reject God. The Magisterium of the Church has the authority to interpret the Natural Law and bind us to it (see Matthew 16:13-19). Since Natural Law is part of our creation by God the Church cannot change any part of this Law. She can only provide us with authoritative and infallible interpretation of the Law.
Second is Sacred Scripture. God's first commandment to Adam and Eve was to Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28). Throughout Scripture we have a clear picture that God wants us to view our fertility as a blessing to be cherished, not a disease to be treated (why else do you take a pill?).
Finally, we can use reason to take natural inferrences from the previous two. For example, marriage is meant to be a total giving of husband and wife to each other. Holding back anything that we have (including our fertility) would be essentially saying I don't when we should be saying I do. Also, the relationship between Christ and the Church is demonstrated in Christian marriage. If a husband can use his wife for his own pleasure and refuse to give her his gift of life, then can Christ refuse to give His gift of Life to the Church? Can the Church (as Bride of Christ) refuse His gift and still be considered faithful?
These are just a sampling of some of the insights we can gain from sincerely exploring this issue under the guidance of the Church's teaching authority. For further study, start with Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love. I recommend the translation by Dr. Janet Smith available from New Hope Productions at (270) 325-3061.
Also, see The Good News about Sex & Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching by Christopher West available from Servant Publications. Christopher also has an excellent tapeset from the Gift Foundation (www.giftfoundation.org) called Naked without Shame that explores these issues and teachings in depth.
Fidelity (to God, each other, and our nature) has rewards beyond imagining.
Peace, Troy Martz
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