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Two Sides of a Coin: Contraception & Abortion

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Artificial Birth Control and Induced Miscarriage

The attack upon Catholic theology escalates from auto-eroticism or self- stimulation to fornication, cohabitation, adultery. Once these practices involve another person, the issue of artificial birth control and abortion quickly arises.  Today the contraceptive mentality is so ingrained that many churchmen now ignore it as a lost battle.  The practice is found both among the most egregious public sinners and those who regularly attend Sunday Mass and say their prayers.  While the Catholic faith is directly targeted, often the history of the question is ignored.  Virtually all Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic, forbade the use of birth control from the time of Christ until the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930.  Technology had advanced, but birth control was even condemned in the early Church when bizarre treatments included the use of crocodile dung.  It was viewed as an attack against the natural order and the fundamental meaning of marriage as the divinely sanctioned institution directed toward the generation of new human life.  The basic definition of marriage was at stake.

Often the revisionists make no distinction between the types of birth control or the abortifacient nature of certain pills and of all IUDs.  There was a logical progression in our society from the use of birth control to the deeper tragedy of abortion.  Sex and the generation of human life were separated.  When contraceptives failed, abortion became the final option.  The Church’s voice suffered from divisiveness within her own ranks.  Not only was the definition of marriage at stake but also about the “incommensurate” value of human life and the precious dignity of all human persons.  Here too there is a peculiar irony in that the same angry voices against rogue priests and child abuse, failed to note the element of abuse toward women in contraception and the death sentence that was imposed upon innocent children in the womb.  Women were increasingly used and devalued.  Their worth was measured in terms of sexual desirability and promiscuity.  Worse yet, women bought the lie that this somehow balanced the playing field between men and women.  It did not.  Many women were robbed of their opportunities for motherhood and family life.  The worse abuse of all against children materialized with the advent of legalized abortion.  Until recently an abortionist in Germantown Maryland was aborting nine-month-old children in the womb— yes, children that were ready to be born.  Abortion at any stage is murder and we suffer this grievous abuse against children as a manufactured right of selfish women and men.

What does the universal catechism offer on the subject of contraception?

[CCC 2366] Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which “is on the side of life” (FC 30) teaches that “each and every marriage act must remain open ‘per se’ to the transmission of life” (HV 11). “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (HV 12; cf. Pius XI, encyclical, Casti connubii).

[CCC 2367] Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God (Ephesians 3:14; Matthew 23:9). “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility” (GS 50 # 2).

As for the more pressing issue of abortion, we read:

[CCC 2270] Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life (CDF, Donum vitae I,1).

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15).

[CCC 2271] Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish” (Didache 2,2:ÆCh 248,148).

“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (GS 51 § 3).

[CCC 2272] Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” (CIC, can. 1398) “by the very commission of the offense,” (CIC, can. 1314) “and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law” (CIC, cann. 1323-1324). The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

[CCC 2273] The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death” (CDF, Donum vitae III).

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights” (CDF, Donum vitae III).

[CCC 2274] Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence” (CDF, Donum vitae I,2).

[CCC 2275] “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival” (CDF, Donum vitae I,3).

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material” (CDF, Donum vitae I,5).

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity” (CDF, Donum vitae I,6) which are unique and unrepeatable.

[CCC 2368] A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart (GS 51 # 3).

[CCC 2369] “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood” (HV 12).

Seeds of Life, Not Recreation

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Despite the naysayers, authoritative Catholic teaching is not capricious.  The first assault is usually volleyed against the Church’s negative view of masturbation or onanism.  Often citing modern psychology, the critics will contend that it is a natural juvenile stage of human sexual development which is pretty much universally first experienced by all teens.  The critics condemn the Church’s prohibition as wrongfully inflicting guilt upon young people and a negative self-interpretation precisely at a time that teens are grappling with maturation and their sexual identity.  There may be some truth to this charge if such a teaching makes no room for human weakness, ignorance and compassion.  The concern of the faith is that this behavior is misdirected and highly addictive.  We should not encourage or deem as neutral a form of behavior which easily tends toward self-absorption.  It may be likely that this is a sin with which most will struggle; but this fact in itself does not legitimize such activity.  While sexual sins, even masturbation, may be a matter of mortal sin; it may be that there are so many intervening subjective elements that it most often tends to be venial, especially among young people.  What may drive it fully into serious sin is that which is envisioned in the imagination and/or assisted by the evil of pornography.  Virtually adultery or adultery in the heart can poison the soul.  Masturbation may be, as men and women get older, a preoccupation with that which they cannot or do not have.  A crucial element of satisfaction is missing from their lives.  Catholicism is not a fascination with fantasy but with that which is most real.  The sexual powers of men and women are directed to the marital act and to the family.  Human bodies were not fashioned as playthings or as toys for recreation.

One critic of Catholic teaching lamented that masturbation is not even allowed so as to obtain a semen specimen for medical examination.  However, even the smallest deviation is an infidelity to one’s spouse.  Regarding such cases, the married man usually has intercourse with his wife while wearing a perforated condom.  The act is still open to the generation of human life but semen will be collected for medical examination.  (The single man will have to embrace something of the Cross, either that or a sin that would be readily forgiven in the confessional.  Single Catholic men sometimes have semen extracted either by prostatic manipulation or by a syringe with needle.)

The linkage of masturbation to the story of Onan is deeper than merely the physical wasting of the seed.  It signifies a denial of God’s will and the overall purpose of human generative faculties.  This is where Scriptural teaching intersects our views on the natural law.  While almost everyone today can admit to an overriding disgust at the scandalous stories of youth being abused by clergy and others; far fewer are willing to acknowledge that people can “pollute” their own persons or “abuse” themselves.

After a few words on Christian chastity, the universal catechism addresses the issue of masturbation.

[CCC 2352] By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” (CDF, Persona humana 9).  “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved” (CDF, Persona humana 9).

Lest anyone should think that Catholic teaching is cold and heartless, the same article in the universal catechism goes on to state:

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

A Milieu Rife with the Seeds for Scandal

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It amazes me that some of the loudest and most outraged voices against the scandalous allegations against priests are, themselves, dissenters from Catholic morality.  Indeed, they may ridicule as ridiculous or erroneous what has been long-standing moral teaching from both Scripture and Tradition.  They presume that as modern men and women, they have a special enlightenment that those in the past, and certainly churchmen, did not possess on human sexuality. Of course, what they are actually attacking is the protective role of the Holy Spirit in the life and teachings of the Catholic faith.

They cite as proof the fact that most contemporary men and women have walked away from the regular practice of the faith.  They look upon Church practices and doctrine as antiquated, especially in areas of sexual morality.  Unfortunately, what is left unexamined is the heightened preoccupation of modernity with matters of gender and sexual expression.  Ours is an eroticized environment, immediately hostile to orthodox Catholic values, especially about the human person, the body and sexual expression.

Pope Francis on Homosexuality & Consecrated Life or Priesthood

0002044The Pope’s Own Words:

The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church. This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention.

We have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn’t exhibit that tendency, but later on it comes out. The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case.

I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were several homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the formation process, to form a different group of clergy. It’s a reality we can’t deny. There is no lack of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already professed religious who were gay. The religious wondered if it were an issue and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of an affection.” That’s a mistake. It’s not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.

We have to urge homosexual priests, and men and women religious, to live celibacy with integrity, and above all, that they be impeccably responsible, trying to never scandalize either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel not even with therapeutic help, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life. They should be helped to take another direction, but they should not be abandoned. They should be guided, but they should not be admitted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not forget that perspective. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and affectively healthy.

Statements are taken from an interview with Pope Francis conducted by Fr. Fernando Prado, director of Claretian Publishing House.