Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
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She is not opposed to the controlling of the number of children by lawful means, such as by self-control and by mutual consent to abstain from the use of marital privileges. But she is opposed to birth-control as commonly understood to mean the prevention of conception, after indulgence in actions calculated to result in the generation of children. The use of such privileges and the deliberate frustration of their normal effects is a very grave sin against the law of God. And for this reason the Catholic Church cannot but forbid it.
It is opposed to the natural dictates of morality. It is obvious, for example, that the accompanying pleasure in eating and drinking is secondary and in view of the primary end, that the individual life may be preserved by due nourishment. We have supreme contempt for the glutton who does not eat to live, but rather lives to eat. No decent man eats merely for the sake of eating, even prepared to vomit in order to be able to eat again! And as appetite for food is an instinct ordained to the preservation of the individual life, so sex appetite is ordained to the preservation of the life of the race. The pleasure attached to the indulgence of sensual passion is but secondary, and in view of the primary purpose, the production of children. The birth controller satisfies passion for the sake of passion, and violates the moral order established by God. The use of marital privileges together with the deliberate frustration of the justifying purpose is but reciprocal vice. It leads, too, to many sins of injustice, being often practiced without the consent of one party. It is destructive of marriage, for it often leads to the divorce court when those who have based their marriage on sensuality have tired of each other. And violated nature exacts a penalty sooner or later. When birth-control is practiced in early married life, it leads to sterility and the impossibility of having children when they are wanted later on. The health of women is often gravely affected, neurosis, fibroid tumors, and other evils resulting. The health of women is undoubtedly better where there is a higher birth rate than where there is an artifically low one. Finally it logically leads to the destruction of the human race by implying that one may indulge in the act of procreation for pleasure and yet frustrate the purpose of God in permitting that act.
No. But the recent publicity and advocacy given to this wretched vice have led to new statements of the permanent Catholic doctrine. This vice ruined pagan Rome, and Origen wrote against the pagan Celsus in the third century, "At least the more our people obey Christian doctrine, the more they love purity, abstaining from even lawful sex-pleasure that they may the more purely worship God. Christians marry as do others, and they have children; but they do not stifle their offspring. They are in bodies of flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh." In the fourth century St. Augustine wrote, "Relations with one's wife when conception is deliberately prevented are as unlawful and impure as the conduct of Onan who was slain." St. Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, taught clearly the constant doctrine of the Christian religion that birth-control is a grave sin. He writes, "Next to murder, by which an actually existent human being is destroyed, we rank this sin by which the generation of a human being is prevented." Contra Gent., Bk. III., c. 122. It is not a new law by any means.
God is the author of the natural moral law, and I have already shown that birth-control is opposed to that law. However, in Gen. XXXVIII., 10, we read that Onan was slain by God for this sin. "And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing." The gravity of the punishment shows the gravity of the crime, and Cornelius a Lapide remarks, "If God so punished Onan, what must He think of Christians?" In the Book of Tobias we find the Angel Raphael instructing the youthful Tobias. "Hear me, and I will show thee who they are over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony as to shut God out from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust as the horse and mule which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power." VI., 16-17. And the prayer of Tobias is full of significance, "0 Lord, Thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take Sara to wife, but only for the love of posterity in which Thy name may be blest." VIII., 9. In the New Testament St. Paul repeatedly says that the lustful and sensuous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven and that even marital relations must be honorable. Such relations are justified only provided the conception of children be not deliberately and artifically prevented. The honorable nature of marriage is destroyed if it be turned into a merely sensual satisfaction. Christian marriage is a great symbol of the union between Christ and His Church. Can you imagine the Church deliberately preventing the spiritual life of grace in the souls of those whom her union with Christ should bring to God? Not only the natural law, but the positive revelation of God excludes birth-control.
He has never dispensed from such laws as involve the principles of natural morality. The violation of some laws is wrong because God has forbidden a thing, or commanded some disciplinary measures. But contraception is not wrong because God forbids it. Rather God has forbidden it because it is wrong in itself; and God could not dispense from it, even as He could never sanction an essentially wrong thing.
People who practice contraception certainly prevent souls from coming into existence. Did God ordain them to be born? Certainly not by His absolute will, or He would not permit people to succeed in their crime. But He does ordain them to be born conditionally, that is, provided the parents do the right thing He intended them to do. If they fulfill the conditions required for the generation of children, He intends children to result. At the same time, whilst commanding parents to observe the law of nature, He leaves them physically free to serve Him or to rebel, as in the case of any other commandments. Those who practice contraception violate God's law, and deprive Christ of children to redeem. And if they die in such sin they will most certainly be lost If they say that conscience does not reproach them, then they have warped their conscience, and will have to answer for it.
One should follow a right conscience. But conscience can be warped just as xny other judgment. Therefore a man needs some test by which he can know his conscience is true. What is that test? He must see whether his conscience squares with the known law of God. The Church tells us clearly that law in this matter, and once we know the law from the mouth of the Church, conscience bids us follow it.
Not in the sense in which birth-control is forbidden. Birth-control affect, those who enter married life, or those who live as married people without warrant. If people use privileges proper to the married state, they sin if they deliberately frustrate children. But there is no obligation to enter the married state.
It would be arrogance did I pretend to be the legislator. But it is not when 1 simply declare what God demands. He, as Creator, has full rights over His creatureSj and the right to make conditions upon which they may use the faculties He gave them, forbidding their use in a way which offends and insults Him.
You seem to think that it is a law made by unmarried men. Get that idea out of your head. God made the law. The celibacy of Priests has nothing to do with the question. God's law has the same force whether a bachelor Priest declares the law, or a married layman. Would you say that the teachings of Christ are to be accepted in every case except when He refers to marriage, your exception being based on the fact that He was never married?
The man who knows what God says about the matter is likely to be right rather than the one who knows little or nothing of God's law. Meantime the birth controller does not love truth for its own sake. Rather he loves sensuality for its own sake. Violation of Catholic teaching in this matter is also a violation of reason, and those who violate Catholic ideals have to warp their reason to do so, or just ignore it.
No. This is not an ecclesiastical law, but a divine law. No one on earth can ever dispense man from it. The Catholic Church is not here to allow God's laws to be broken, but to see that they are kept, so far as possible. Of course she cannot force all her subjects to observe the law, even as God does not force all people to keep other commandments of moral obligation.
That is not evidence. Only on a man's own admission could we know that he is not limiting his children by practicing continence, he and his wife agreeing to abstain from marriage rights by mutual consent. But even if it be true that many Catholics sin in this manner, the fact that they sin could not justify the same sin in others. All cannot break a law because some do. Nor do such Catholics think themselves justified. They know they are sinning just as men sin by breaking any other law of God. Protestants have admitted to me over and over again that their consciences have protested against such conduct, and that the Catholic law is undoubtedly right.
Her motive is to obey God. Temporal advantages certainly do follow from the observance of God's law, but those advantages are not the primary motive of the prohibition of birth-control. The Church cannot wrater down God's law to suit the passions of men; she must lift men to the observance of God's law. Whatever timeserving concessions other Churches may make, the Catholic Church stands for the law of God because it is the law of God.
No one dreams that it is an easy matter in marriage. It is difficult indeed. Prudent measures must be taken, and the definite help of Almighty God must be sought in prayer. But you cannot speak of lack of experience in the law-giver. God made the law, and we cannot accuse Kim of not having foreseen all the future difficulties in each individual case. But the general good prevails over individual trials, even as the general good of a country may demand the very lives of some individual members in its defence. Continence is certainly possible, for it is absolutely necessary at times, as when the wife is ill, or during the weeks associated with actual child-birth. Is a man compelled to be unfaithful to her at such times?
The Church is not inhuman. She has never pretended that fallen human nature will find the service of God easy. She calls this world a valley of tears, and she has tears for the sufferings of her children. But she has to be true to God, and to tell us the law. What would be the good of the Church if she did not do so? The Church must tell us the right thing. Whether we do it or not is quite another matter which concerns our personal salvation. But to lose faith in the Catholic Church because she tells us the right thing is rather foolish. There would be some sense in rejecting her if we discovered that she was telling us the wrong thing. As for being deprived of joy, remember that there is no state of life which is one of unmitigated pleasure and self-indulgence. Every state has its irksome duties, even marriage. And no earthly pleasure or benefit is sufficient compensation for the loss of God's grace. Indeed, one who really and sincerely loves in a Christian way would rather endure a personal deprivation of pleasure than inflict the evil of serious sin upon the soul of the one loved.
The standard is not set up by the Catholic Church. She did not make the law and she cannot unmake it. And God does not ask the impossible. If a man takes the means he can live up to it, either practicing self-control, or accepting the children God sends. God offers sufficient help with every difficulty to the man of goodwill who meditates upon Christian truth and is earnest in prayer for the necessary grace.
We must all keep on praying as indefinitely as this life lasts. Always to pray and not to faint is Our Lord's command. As for denying oneself indefinitely, many people do in this matter, and have to do so, when circumstances forbid anything else. Self-denial is burdensome. Children are burdensome. The choice allowed by God depends upon our idea as to which is the less burdensome. If self-denial is too difficult, God will give the grace to face the temporal trials associated with children, and the children themselves will prove a blessing and a consolation. If conditions render the prospect of children too burdensome, then husband and wife must ask of God the grace of mutual self-control.
Prayer may have been tried, but not fervently enough; self-denial, but halfheartedly. The goodwill to correspond with God's grace was wanting, and probably, too, ordinary prudence. Some measures must be taken to render the difficulty less, as by self-denying separation.
That is foolish, and will not better things. Will you neglect other obligations because you have failed in this, and give up religion on the principle that he who commits one sin might just as well commit a dozen sins? The only thing to do after failure is to repent as men do of other sins, and try again to be faithful.
The cases are not parallel. If a man enters that state which God ordains as the essential unit of society for the multiplication of the race, and if within that state he puts into operation those forces God intends to result in children, he is bound to accept the children in a spirit of service primarily to God, and secondarily to humanity.
Such considerations cannot affect the question. They are based upon the evil principle that the end can justify the means. You think you have a good purpose-let there be less of us to enjoy more. With this good end in view, you think to justify birth-control even though by immoral means! It cannot be done. The Church can never teach that it is lawful. Even did she teach that it was lawful, that would not make it lawful. God made the law. Meantime, if the world lived moderately and justly, it could easily provide for those already in the world and for millions more. The fault is not with the children to be born, but with the selfish men and women already in this world. The earth is producing more than sufficient for the people in it. Men are even complaining of over-production. And God is not to blame for men's failure to secure even distribution. Let men rectify their own fault. Finally, the Catholic Church is not opposed to the limitation of individual families where necessity and poverty justify it. If some families cannot afford to have further children, they are free not to have them. But the only way is by abstaining from the use of marital privileges, a continence possible by prudent separation, prayer, and the grace of God.
Doctors are not infallible, and irreligious doctors are often only too ready to please women by telling them that they are unable to fulfill the duties of motherhood. And as a matter of fact contraception normally has a worse effect upon a woman's health than childbirth. She becomes a neurasthenic wreck in the end. But in any case, since contraception is evil of its very nature, no earthly consideration can justify it.
All childbirth involves some risk, and the merely possible danger would not oblige abstinence. Childbearing, too, is normally accompanied by pain. It is an inescapable penalty. "In sorrow she shall bring forth children." Christ Himself has said that a woman, when she is in labor, is in distress; but that her sorrow is turned to joy in her child. Every state in life has its difficulties, and marriage is no exception. But the danger of death is remote as a rule. Nature provides in a remarkable way for various contingencies. Even diseases such as cancer and consumption have been noticed to suspend their activities in the presence of this great physiological function of nature.
She is greatly to be admired. "Die rather than offend God" is heroism. Far better die serving God than live offending Him. No one has greater love than to give one's life for God, and of such a woman St. Paul's words are surely true, "a woman shall be saved through childbearing, if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctifica-tion." 1 Tim. II., 15. The little children, deprived of their mother, may have difficulty and hardship for a time, but they will be grateful all their lives to the mother who gave them being, above all if they are brought up as fervent Catholics who realize the value of eternity rather than of time.
In such a case the moral theology of the Catholic Church says that a wife is justified in refusing marital privileges to her husband, and that he has an obligation to practice self-restraint and continence, thinking more of his wife than of himself. He must content himself with the other benefits of married life, mutual love, companionship, etc. But never can the Church permit contraceptive methods. The choice lies between offending God seriously with consequent risk to salvation, and continence. It may seem hard, but there is no other possible choice. And such continence is possible if a man is prepared to live a truly spiritual life and to avoid proximate occasions of temptation in the matter. If such difficulties drive a man to God, to more fervent prayer and a consequent deepening oi faith and merit, he will bless God for the necessity of such Christian mortification.
If there were no God; if there were no hope of any future life; and if I were not a Christian, I might be tempted to say yes. But there is a God who forbids contraception, and it is far better to accept what God's providence permits than to break any of His commandments. There is also a future life. A child does not consist of a body only. It has also a soul. If the child is baptized and attains salvation, far better be born no matter how physically deformed the body may be in this life. This life of so few years scarcely matters compared with eternity, where there will be no suffering and no deformity in heaven. Physical deformity often means pain, but pain is not an evil that really matters in the end. There was no real evil in Christ, yet He had much pain. Mental deficiency does not prevent the reception of Baptism, and diminishes responsibility. God knows how to make all allowances for factors diminishing such responsibility for one's conduct. Financial deficiency means poverty, but Christ too had much of that. The opportunity of attaining eternal salvation and happiness is worth any privation in this life. Many a cripple has been full of gratitude to God and to his parents for existence and the chance to love God and to suffer with Christ. God's ways are not our ways. With twisted and deformed bodies, it is better to be born if we do no wrong culpably. With a strong and healthy body, it is better not to be born if we sin like Judas and die without having repented.
To bring children into the world and not to be able to provide for them is easily the lesser of the two evils. Better any temporal trials than sin by breaking God's law. But you have no certainty that you will be unable to provide for the children God sends, or that they will be undernourished. There is such a thing as Divine Providence, above all for those who are faithful to Him. In fact God has a special Providence for large families. At best you are but making a conjecture which may never be realized; yet you talk of violating a certain obligation by contraceptive practices because of merely possible contingencies; contingencies which, even did they eventuate, could not excuse such conduct. But there is another alternative, involving discomfort to self, I know, but less than either of the two you mention. It is self-denial. You speak as if one had to choose either of your two alternatives. He need not. Mutual self-restraint is lawful. Anyway, if people do use their privileges, God absolutely forbids contraception. Nor will He send a mouth He cannot fill. Even it it meant poverty; even if an orphanage had to take care of me, I would prefer to be born and have my chance of eternal happiness with God. And I certainly thank God that, when it was my turn to come, my own mother did not say, "No more.''
If they were not, that would not justify birth-control. The end does not justify the means. However I do not deny that individual cases of extreme poverty occur where there happens to be large families. But they occur also where there are not large families. I deny however that parents cannot normally support the children which will result from their marriage if God's laws are observed. Because some large families suffer poverty, it does not follow that every man who has a large family can expect similar poverty. A lot of men's trials are those which never happen! I admit that many children mean difficulty, self-sacrifice, and real service of God. But as a rule the difficulties are confined to the early stages of married life, when youth is able to bear them. As the children grow up, begin to earn and bring in revenue, conditions are bettered, and the later years of husband and wife are doubly blest.
That could not justify birth-control by contraceptive methods. The choice to-day is between Christ and the modern pagan philosophy. If modern godless civilization is right, and this life is all, then let us measure everything by utility and pleasure. If Christ is right, and the beatitudes, directed against worldly wisdom, are the road to eternal happiness, then a small family cannot be had if it means sin and the re-crucifixion of Christ in the name of sensuality. And is not the higher standard of living based on discontent with the necessities of life, and upon the desire to possess as many superfluous and pleasurable goods as possible? A man who is not content with Christian simplicity of life will lack what he considers fitting means to support children. His preference is for temporal comfort. The idea of providing Christ with little children to redeem, who may share a happiness he himself hopes to enjoy for all eternity has little appeal for him. "The animal man," says St. Paul, "does not perceive the things which are of the spirit of God." And remember that many of the greatest geniuses in the world have come from large but poor families, whilst men whose parents spent vast sums on their education, have been failures. A child brought up without luxury is more energetic, more resourceful, and, if encouraged, can quite well make good in the world. Normally, it is good to give children a higher and a secondary, or even a university education, although they are not always the better for it. Character is the true education, and that is much better attained in a large family than in any other circumstances. The father and mother of a large family have more lovable qualities than those who restrict their families, and communicate their characteristics to a larger number of children who will glorify God and edify their fellow men.
I am not. But you are blind to the innate immorality of contraceptive practices, and your reasons are based upon expediency only. And if what is expedient is going to be lawful, then goodbye to morality. Slanderers of the Catholic Church have accused her of teaching the frightful doctrine that the end justifies the means. The Church has always indignantly denied such a doctrine. She has ever taught that men are not free to do what is morally wrong because they think they have some good end in view. But where the world used to say, "Those evil Catholics teach that one may do any harm that good may come," it now cries, "Look at that tyrannical Church! She dares to tell us that the end does not justify the means, and that we are not free to do anything we like if we have a good end in view." Once again I must say that you cannot have it both ways!
She gives him right ideas of man's true dignity, of the law of God, of the rewards and punishments attached to the keeping or breaking of that law. A good Catholic has also the special graces dispensed through the Mass and the Sacraments, absolution for past sins in confession, and Holy Communion, or the reception of Christ's most holy Body and Blood, which directly attacks evil habits of the soul, and indirectly breaks the grip of passion upon the body. Let a man make good and fervent use of the means of grace, and take prudential measures even to the extent of a partial separation if necessary, and he will have the courage and receive the help from God to take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Christ even in the duties of the married state.