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Our readers asked:

Why is the Church so Focused on Banning Contraception?

Charles C. Camosy, PhD Answers:

Q: Why is the church so focused on banning contraception when over-crowding and overpopulation is greatly dwindling the earth’s resources?

A: The Church is not trying to “ban contraception” — though given some of the recently media coverage I can understand why someone might think that it is. What you are probably referring to is the mandate of our new health care system that employers provide contraception for their employees. The Church is concerned that though obviously religious institutions (like churches and parishes) are exempt from the mandate, some others (like Catholic hospitals and universities) are not. Especially given that what many believe are abortion-causing drugs (like Ella, which works five days or more after sex) are included in the mandate, the Church believes that religious employers should not be forced to provide something if it is fundamentally contrary to what they believe about morality. It is also important to mention that the Church actually supports the use of contraceptives when addressing a medical issue. Catholic parishes and hospitals could still support, for instance, prescriptions for the contraceptive pill for women who are taking it to avoid ovarian cancer.

There is a separate question to consider about “overpopulation” here as well. The United Nations projects that world population will begin to decline at the end of this century, and many countries actually do not have enough people. Somewhat ironically, these countries with population decline are also the ones who are using the overwhelming majority of the world’s resources and contributing to climate change. Instead of engaging in population control — something that has had disastrous results throughout human history — we should focus more on living more simple and less energy-wasteful lives.

For the church’s teaching on contraception, click here to see The Catechism of the Catholic Church and specifically paragraph #2399: “The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).”

The Author : Charles C. Camosy, PhD
Charlie Camosy is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University where he has been since finishing his Ph.D. in theology at Notre Dame in 2008. His book Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU (Eerdmans, 2010) was honored at the 2011 Catholic Media Association awards. Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization was released with Cambridge University Press in May of 2012. Charlie is also the founder and co-director of the Catholic Conversation Project and a member of the ethics committee at the Children's Hospital of New York.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Mike Hayes, GG Editor

    I believe Dr. Camosy is pointing out that contraception may be used if one aims at other medical conditions and not for the means of regulating ovulation. That is, in fact, permissible by the church’s standards.

    Humanae Vitae states: “the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from–provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.” (15)

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidbauman16 David Amador Bauman

    I’m sorry, you can’t argue that some countries don’t have enough people unless you define what constitutes not having enough. Not having enough to care for the burgeoning elderly population? Not enough people to transmit their culture? Not to sound careless, but there are ways to provide enough healthcare to the elderly even in countries where birth rate has fallen, and promoting preventative medicine and new technologies, unhampered by pharmaceutical industries which make a killing off preventing new technology from usurping the status quo of current treatments they provide. We could get to 10 billion people, and I’m sure the moment birth rates begin to fall, you’d argue the glass is half empty. The quality of life goes down necessarily the more people their are, even if you decide to be more energy savvy and I while I love my Church, this is the one issue that is infuriating to me that they refuse to relent on and continue to skew all discussion about population controls. Also, there are plenty of articles that have argued that the one-child policy in China has been largely successful. The immorality that has taken place there as a result has more to do with an authoritarian government implementing population control rather than a government truly looking out for the short and long term interests of its people.

    Otherwise, I liked everything else you said here.

  • Michael

    Chris Nunez – there is no reason why an employer should offer a health care plan to their employee that is morally objectionable to the employer. After all, they are the ones offering it to the employee at reduced premiums because the employer to contributing to the payment. The employee is more than welcome to purchase a supplement without any contributions from the employer. As an employer, you need to explain how not offering a particular plan to an employee is infringing upon the ‘religious freedom’ and conscience of the employee.

    • Cliff

      I understand that a compromise was offered by the Obama administration in which the insurance company would be required to offer at no cost family planning/contraception to those employees who wanted it. That way the employees, some of whom may not be Catholic, can choose if they want this coverage, but at no cost to the employer. I also understand that this compromise was not acceptable to the Church. Why? I think the employees can decide for themselves, especially since the employers would not be paying for the coverage.

      • Michael

        Isn’t that simply sleight of hand? Nothing is free; someone is paying for
        it. One priest’s response to the supposed HHS compromise was perfect: “Do insurance companies have magic money they don’t get from clients?” So Catholic institutions and Catholic business owners will still be paying for abortion, contraception, and sterilization, just perhaps slightly less directly. So we went from paying for abortion to paying someone else to pay for abortion.

  • Michael

    “[T]he Church actually supports the use of contraceptives when addressing a medical issue. Catholic parishes and hospitals could still support, for instance, prescriptions for the contraceptive pill for women who are taking it to avoid ovarian cancer.” I don’t believe this is accurate. Would be helpful if a source was cited.

  • Kevin Hurley

    Come-on, people. Everyone knows the church has nothing to do with sex.

  • http://twitter.com/jetsrich jane richardson

    Really? “Catholic parishes and hospitals could still support, for instance, prescriptions for the contraceptive pill for women who are taking it to avoid ovarian cancer.” I don’t think this is actually true. Proportionalism/ Double Effect reasoning here? Condoms are not allowed to prevent the spread of HIV because they ALSO prevent conception. Catholic Conscience vs. Moral absolutes….the discussion must continue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Nunez/100000281459047 Chris Nunez

    This is a complex issue, and the issue of employers ‘contributing’ and thus choosing the medical/health care policies and services that their employees further complicates the issue. No employer should be allowed to tell what medical/health care policy and services the employee can choose from. That choice really belongs to the consumer of the health care policy, and services. This is where it gets complex and the employer infringes upon the ‘religious freedom’ and conscience of the employee. Not an easy issue to wrestle with, but we must.

  • Birgit Jones

    “It is also important to mention that the Church actually supports the use of contraceptives when addressing a medical issue.” I take exception to the wording of this sentence since it could be easily construed to mean that there are times that the Church approves the use of ‘contraception’ – she does not! What she does allow is for the medication usually prescribed for birth control to be taken for a reason other than birth control, but on a very limited basis and with care taken that the abortifacient aspect of the Pill does not cause a chemical abortion (preventing implantation). Furthermore, medical science proves that the Pill is a band aid at best and actually masks symptoms which ordinarily indicate a health issue better resolved by identifying and treating a condition. It is also a carcinogenic and has ties to breast cancer.

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