Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay Assignment Paper

Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay Assignment Paper

Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay Assignment Paper

Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Early church practice
The first Christians knew about contraception and likely practiced it. Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman texts, for example, discuss well-known contraceptive practices, ranging from the withdrawal method to the use of crocodile dung, dates and honey to block or kill semen.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Indeed, while Judeo-Christian scripture encourages humans to “be fruitful and multiply,” nothing in Scripture explicitly prohibits contraception.

When the first Christian theologians condemned contraception, they did so not on the basis of religion but in a give-and-take with cultural practices and social pressures. Early opposition to contraception was often a reaction to the threat of heretic groups, such as the Gnostics and Manichees. And before the 20th century, theologians assumed that those who practiced contraception were “fornicators” and “prostitutes.”

The purpose of marriage, they believed, was producing offspring. While sex within marriage was not itself considered a sin, pleasure in sex was. The fourth-century Christian theologian Augustine characterized the sexual act between spouses as immoral self-indulgence if the couple tried to prevent conception.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Not a church priority
The church, however, had little to say about contraception for many centuries. For example, after the decline of the Roman Empire, the church did little to explicitly prohibit contraception, teach against it, or stop it, though people undoubtedly practiced it.

Most penitence manuals from the Middle Ages, which directed priests what types of sins to ask parishioners about, did not even mention contraception.

It was only in 1588 that Pope Sixtus V took the strongest conservative stance against contraception in Catholic history. With his papal bull “Effraenatam,” he ordered all church and civil penalties for homicide to be brought against those who practiced contraception.

However, both church and civil authorities refused to enforce his orders, and laypeople virtually ignored them. In fact, three years after Sixtus’s death, the next pope repealed most of the sanctions and told Christians to treat “Effraenatam” “as if it had never been issued.”

Read more: Cómo vino la Iglesia Católica a oponerse al control de natalidad

By the mid-17th century, some church leaders even admitted couples might have legitimate reasons to limit family size to better provide for the children they already had.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Birth control becomes more visible
By the 19th century, scientific knowledge about the human reproductive system advanced, and contraceptive technologies improved. New discussions were needed.

Victorian-era sensibilities, however, deterred most Catholic clergy from preaching on issues of sex and contraception.

When an 1886 penitential manual instructed confessors to ask parishioners explicitly whether they practiced contraception and to refuse absolution for sins unless they stopped, “the order was virtually ignored.”

By the 20th century, Christians in some of the most heavily Catholic countries in the world, such as France and Brazil, were among the most prodigious users of artificial contraception, leading to dramatic decline in family size.

As a consequence of this increasing availability and use of contraceptives by Catholics, church teaching on birth control – which had always been there – began to become a visible priority. The papacy decided to bring the dialogue about contraception out of scholarly theological discussions between clergy into ordinary exchanges between Catholic couples and their priests.

Regarding his frank 1930 pronouncement on birth control, “Casti Connubii,” Pope Pius XI declared that contraception was inherently evil and any spouse practicing any act of contraception “violates the law of God and nature” and was “stained by a great and mortal flaw.”

Condoms, diaphragms, the rhythm method and even the withdrawal method were forbidden. Only abstinence was permissible to prevent conception. Priests were to teach this so clearly and so often that no Catholic could claim ignorance of the Church’s prohibition of contraception. Many theologians presumed this to be an “infallible statement” and taught it thus to Catholic laypersons for decades. Other theologians saw it as binding but “subject to future reconsideration.”Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

In 1951, the church modified its stance again. Without overturning “Casti Connubii’s” prohibition of artificial birth control, Pius XI’s successor, Pius XII, deviated from its intent. He approved the rhythm method for couples who had “morally valid reasons for avoiding procreation,” defining such situations quite broadly.

The pill and the church

The Museum of Sex, in New York, marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s first oral contraceptive in 2010. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
By the early 1950s, however, options for artificial contraception were growing, including the pill. Devout Catholics wanted explicit permission to use them.

Church leaders confronted the issue head-on, expressing a variety of viewpoints.

In light of these new contraceptive technologies and developing scientific knowledge about when and how conception occurs, some leaders believed the church could not know God’s will on this issue and should stop pretending that it did, as Dutch Bishop William Bekkers said outright on national television in 1963.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Even Paul VI admitted his confusion. In an interview with an Italian journalist in 1965, he stated,

“The world asks what we think and we find ourselves trying to give an answer. But what answer? We can’t keep silent. And yet to speak is a real problem. But what? The Church has never in her history confronted such a problem.”

There were others, however, such as Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the body that promotes and defends Catholic doctrine – who disagreed. Among those adamantly convinced of the truth of the prohibitions was the Jesuit John Ford, perhaps the most influential U.S. Catholic moralist of the last century. Although no Scripture mentioned contraception, Ford believed the church’s teachings were grounded in divine revelation and therefore not to be questioned.

The question was left for consideration by the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, held between 1963 to 1966. This commission by an overwhelming majority – a reported 80 percent – recommended the church expand its teaching to accept artificial contraception.

That was not at all unusual. The Catholic Church had changed its stance on many controversial issues over the centuries, such as slavery, usury and Galileo’s theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. Minority opinion, however, feared that to suggest the church had been wrong these last decades would be to admit the church had been lacking in direction by the Holy Spirit.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

‘Humanae Vitae’ ignored

A protest in Charleston, S.C., in 2012, against a federal mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes birth control for workers. AP Photo/Bruce Smith
Paul VI eventually sided with this minority view and issued “Humanae Vitae,” prohibiting all forms of artificial birth control. His decision, many argue, was not about contraception per se but the preservation of church authority. An outcry ensued from both priests and laypeople. One lay member of the commission commented,

“It was as if they had found some old unpublished encyclical from the 1920s in a drawer somewhere in the Vatican, dusted it off, and handed it out.”

Much has changed in the Catholic Church since 1968. Today, priests make it a pastoral priority to encourage sexual pleasure between spouses. While prohibitions on birth control continue, many pastors discuss the reasons a couple might want to use artificial contraception, from protecting one partner against a sexually transmitted disease to limiting family size for the good of the family or the planet.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Despite the changes in the church’s attitudes about sex, the prohibitions of “Humanae Vitae” remain. Millions of Catholics around the world, however, have simply chosen to ignore them.

The issue of birth control remains one of the most controversial issues within the Catholic Church dividing members at all levels including the clergy. The Roman Catholic Church for the past 2000 years has been a major opponent of artificial birth control (BBC). Pope Paul VI made a clear declaration on the use of birth control when he wrote ‘the Encyclical Letter ‘Human Vitae’ on July 25, 1968 which banned Catholics from using contraceptives (Pope VI). These important declarations demonstrate the power of the Papacy to shape public policy on matters relating to human health and reproduction on a global level. The belief within the Catholic Church is that God have the sole power over the creation of life and humans have no role in this…show more content…
Society would become regressive and people immoral. Men would chase sexual gratification, lose respect for women and view them as objects for sexual pleasure. Since the Catholic Church believed in the natural laws and the promotion of natural sex between married couples for procreation, the conflict would be that sexual intercourse in the marriage bed would lose its ideal. This would also lead to less responsible parenting for children born outside of marriage. History teaches us that contraceptives have been around for a long time and were used by Catholic women and other Christians in the form of “folk remedies and homemade cervical caps” (PBS, BBC). The Catholic Church uses scientific evidence to establish the moral stance taken on contraceptives. The birth control pill is seen as harmful to a woman’s body because it makes her infertile by interfering with her reproductive system. The Catholic Church considers this to be unhealthy. It is also believed that the pill causes serious side effects, some of which can be life threatening. This includes cancer and strokes due to blood-clots. Some forms of birth control pills are considered to be chemical contraceptives which prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the walls of the uterus. This causes a woman to self-abort sometimes without even knowing that she is pregnant. Examples of chemical contraceptives include ‘Norplant’ and ‘the Patch’Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

Birth control has been around the United States since the early 1840’s. Since then, there have been many developments towards birth control such as, birth control pills, patches, shots, and sterilizations, but with these results there are risks. Some of these risks may include marital, physical, and emotional endangerment. Natural Family Planning (NFP) should be the only type of birth control used in the United States due to the low divorce rate of its advocates and the health risks and violations of the Catholic Church which contraception imposes.
Couples who use Natural Family Planning have a much lower divorce rate compared to couples who use contraception. Statistics have shown that the divorce rate of couples who use Natural Family Planning is fewer than three percent compared to a 50% more likely divorce rate for couples who use contraception (SC3).
Since NFP includes planning times of when to have intercourse, it helps couples to find other ways ofexpressing affection. As a result their intimacy grows. If there is no self-control, couples will take each other for granted, but in NFP, there is not sexual activity constantly happening so couples can space when they do or do not have intercourse. Because NFP requires couples to share in the responsibility of marriage, couples have opportunities to discuss their plans which result in an increase of communication and understanding with each other; therefore, the husband gives more respect towards his wife’s body. Couples won’t feel guilty or have anxiety if they practice chastity within marriage and obey the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Their wills and God’s wills allow them to deepen their spiritual lives and love of each other. The Church states Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

…e true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.
This paragraph means that God’s main goal is to have couples to create offspring, not destroy it.

Until the 1930s, the Catholic Church was not alone in its opposition to contraceptives. In the Christian tradition, birth control had long been associated with promiscuity and adultery, and resolutely condemned. However, after the Anglican Church passed a resolution in favor of birth control at its 1930 Lambeth Conference, other Protestant denominations began to relax their prohibitions as well. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church held fast to its opposition.

The Vatican’s stand against contraception was centuries old. For much of that time, however, birth control had remained a dormant issue. Since most birth control consisted of folk remedies and homemade cervical caps, there was little cause for the Church to respond. It was the mass production and availability of rubber condoms and diaphragms in the 1920s and 1930s, made possible by the 1839 invention of vulcanized rubber, which eventually forced the Church to take a public position on specific contraceptives.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

A Mortal Sin
On New Year’s Eve 1930, the Roman Catholic Church officially banned any “artificial” means of birth control. Condoms, diaphragms and cervical caps were defined as artificial, since they blocked the natural journey of sperm during intercourse. Douches, suppositories and spermicides all killed or impeded sperm, and were banned as well. According to Church doctrine, tampering with the “male seed” was tantamount to murder. A common admonition on the subject at the time was “so many conceptions prevented, so many homicides.” To interfere with God’s will was a mortal sin and grounds for excommunication.

The Purpose of Intercourse
For the Vatican, the primary purpose of intercourse was for the sacred act of procreation. If couples were interested in having intercourse, then they had to be willing to accept the potential for the creation of another life. For devout Catholics, that left only abstinence or the church-approved rhythm method (the practice of abstaining from sex during the woman’s period of ovulation). However, the rhythm method was unreliable, and many believed it placed a heavy strain on marital relations.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

A Reformist Climate
With the arrival of the birth control pill in 1960, many believed the Church was about to change the position it had held for centuries. The Church was in the midst of reform, and in this climate of modernization it seemed possible that the Vatican might bend on birth control. Since 1957, Church law had allowed women with “irregular” cycles to take the Pill to regularize their cycle and enable them to better practice the rhythm method. Approval of the contraceptive pill, many believed, was soon to follow.

“Natural” Contraception
Pro-Pill Catholics had a powerful ally on their side. John Rock, the eminent Catholic physician who had carried out Pill trials with Dr. Gregory Pincus, publicly argued that the Pill was merely an extension of the body’s normal functioning. Since the Pill used the same hormones already present in the female reproductive system and did not tamper with sperm, Rock believed the Church should view the Pill as a “natural” form of contraception.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

The Vatican convened a commission to study the question of the Pill, but the Church would take eight years to determine its policy towards the Pill. In the interim, the Pill quickly became the most popular method of birth control among American women —regardless of religion.

That is the argument being levied by a group of Catholic theologians against a report by other theologians who argue that the Catholic Church’s prohibition on artificial contraception is not rooted in Scripture or theology. That perspective was presented at a symposium on Sept. 20 about international aid held in conjunction with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

In August, the U.K.-based Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research published a report in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical banning the use of contraception. The statement, signed by more than 150 Catholic scholars, argues, “The choice to use contraceptives for either family planning or prophylactic purposes can be a responsible and ethical decision and even, at times, an ethical imperative.”Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

According to the group’s website, the full report was “made available to all U.N. departments and development agencies who are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Catholic Church teaches that any sexual acts that are closed to pregnancy are morally illicit and bans the use of condoms, hormonal birth control pills and sterilization. On Tuesday, another group of Catholic theologians released their own statement in support of that teaching.

Their statement, signed by more than 500 scholars and presented at a press event at the Catholic University of America, says the Wijngaards statement “repeats the arguments that the Church has rejected and that numerous scholars have engaged and refuted since 1968.”

It says those pushing for the church to lift its ban on artificial contraception have failed to take into account findings from the past five decades that, they say, show contraception harms women and destabilizes relationships.

“Abundant studies show that contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, can cause serious health problems for women,” the statement says.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

“The widespread use of contraception,” it continues, “appears to have contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women, to declining marriage rates as well as to declining population growth in many parts of the world.”

Miriam Duignan, communications director for the Wijngaards Institute, rejected those claims and called access to contraception a social justice issue, especially for women in the developing world.

“We are not advocating population control; we are not advocating abortion; we are not condoning anything that leads to promiscuity,” she told America. “We want to open up a discussion about the use of contraception for family planning and to show that the use of contraception falls squarely within papal teaching for responsible parenthood.”

John S. Grabowski, an ethics professor at the Catholic University of America and a co-author of the statement supporting the church’s ban on contraception, told America that it is important for U.S. Catholics to know that there are many in the scholarly world who stand by the church’s teaching.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

“People might stop and reconsider what we know now compared to 1968,” he said.

A 2012 Gallup Poll found that more than eight in 10 U.S. Catholics think using artificial birth control is moral. Another poll two years later by the Spanish-language television network Univision found large majorities of Catholics in countries in Latin America, Europe and the Philippines also approved the use of contraception. By contrast, fewer than half of those Catholics polled in Congo and Uganda said it was morally permissible.

The church, of course, is not a democracy, and the 1968 ban promulgated in Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” and supported by subsequent popes still stands. Married couples who wish to delay pregnancy are encouraged by some Catholic groups to use Natural Family Planning, which tracks a woman’s fertility cycle to determine when she is least like to conceive.

Critics of the church’s ban on condoms and birth control pills contend that the intent of both artificial contraception and N.F.P. is the same, thus the ban does not make sense. But the Catholic University statement rebuffs this criticism.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

“Couples using these methods make no attempt to thwart the power of acts that could result in the procreation of new human persons,” the statement says. “They respect God’s design for sexuality; they help individuals grow in self-mastery; they have the potential to strengthen marriages and respect the physical and psychological health of women.”

Duignan said the Wijngaards Institute made its report available during the U.N. symposium because some international aid agencies have expressed frustration to her group that faith-based organizations stymie efforts to make contraception available in the developing world. She said her organization wanted to show that not all Catholics are against contraception and indeed some see it as a social good.

“We’re really trying to help tackle the injustice for people who live in countries where the Catholic Church has the authority and power to impact healthcare,” she said.

She pointed to instances of women with many children living in extreme poverty who do not wish to get pregnant but either cannot afford contraception or do not have access to it, as well as couples where one partner is infected with H.I.V.Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay

“It’s not just a theory or philosophical debate,” she said. “This is a life or death matter for people.”

Grabowski, on the other hand, said that he and his colleagues have heard a different story, one more in line with pronouncements from Pope Francis who has repeatedly condemned “ideological colonization,” which some interpret as criticism against international aid packages that include money earmarked for contraception. (The pope has also suggested, however, that there may be special cases in which couples have understandable reasons for wanting to limit family size.)

“What we’re hearing from people in the developing world is that they’re grateful that Catholic scholars are speaking out on issues like this because they’re dealing with contraception imperialism from the U.S. and other countries that link aid to contraception,” Grabowski said. Oral Birth Control And The Catholic Church Essay


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