Saturday, March 30, 2013

Which of the ten commandments does artificial birth control violate?

And more importantly, how in clear, understandable, convincing language does artificial birth control violate it?

The reason 90% of married Catholics use artificial birth control is because they have no idea how artificial birth control can be sinful. And the visible Church never helps those Catholics understand why artificial birth control, (ABC), is sinful because the visible Church does not explain how ABC is sinful because the only argument the visible Church ever uses is the expression "marriage must be open to having children".

A true expression to be sure, but not the least bit convincing if it's not accompanied with a very clear explanation of why not being open to life is sinful. Nor does such an expression in the least explain how 'artificial' birth control is sinful while 'natural' family planning, (NFP), is not sinful.

We live in a society where tools and chemicals are constantly used to manipulate our daily lives, and where ABC, not unlike NFP, is to all appearances just another benign mechanical or chemical device. And because ABC does appear benign, what is needed is a very clear explanation of why in this particular circumstance using an artificial means of family planning is sinful when using a natural means is not sinful. Unfortunately as it stands, the explanations and examples given by the visible Church are very much neither clear or helpful.

Worse yet, the visible Church then turns around demanding that engaged couples learn how to not be open to children by making those engaged couples learn an approved family planning technique that advertises itself as 95% effective at not being open to children.

In other words, the visible Church says, be open to children, but here, use this to be 95% not be open to children. What the visible Church appears to be doing is contradicting itself because its saying marriage requires being open to children, while it's at the same time saying from the first day you're married use this method which is very effective at making sure you do not have unplanned children.

Yes, I know Church's reasoning for allowing NFP isn't grounded on the percentages, and would not change if NFP was 100% effective. But to the average person in the pew those percentages are the argument because the reason they choose ABC is the same reason for choosing NFP. To them, the only difference they can see is the method for obtaining the desired result, i.e. not having children.

Obviously the rate of birth prevention among NFP users is less than 95% because NFP is commonly not used correctly, but conceptions from incorrect use are conceptions that that occur from not using NFP because incorrect use of NFP is as a practical matter the same as not using it.

When the entire manner of social life runs contrary to Church teaching, using arguments such as saying that ABC is 'selfish' while NFP is 'not selfish' will not sway anyone, and is convincing only to those who are already convinced.

The arguments need to be realistic and they need to make sense in the context of modern society.

Btw, which of the ten commandments does ABC violate?
Artificial birth control violates the fifth. Or is it the sixth?

To the Catholic in the pew it's far from clear which commandment is being violated. Not being open to life could just as easily be under either commandment. New Catechism puts ABC under the sixth.

When I sat down to write this article, I didn't look in any Church document to research the subject, but thought about the very little I have ever heard or read on the subject of artificial birth control and from them try to figure out which commandment is violated and the one that seemed to be closest was the fifth because being open to life looks a lot more like the fifth than than the sixth which is about sexual temptations.

Similarly, the Catholic 90% using ABC have no certain idea which commandment is being violated and reading the New Catechism would not help unless they did know how it is ordered according to commandment. Nor would what is written in the New Catechism be the least bit convincing or helpful to them because the brief paragraph on ABC is cryptic at best.

The argument is that one is not giving oneself fully by using artificial birth control. But to the average person in the pew interpreting the cryptic phrasing of giving oneself fully, NFP appears to be less giving than ABC because those using NFP withhold from giving sex.

It should be noted that it's also not the least bit obvious, or immediately understood, how ABC does violate the sixth commandment, or the fifth, because the violation is remote to how we come to know. As a result it's incumbent on the visible Church to present arguments that actually bridge that gap by making it immediately understood how ABC does violate the fifth commandment.

By example, it's immediately obvious that infanticide of a toddler is killing, but it's not obvious that a one hour old conception is likewise killing because the toddler is more knowable to us by our senses and experience. Our understanding of the one hour old fetus is remote to our senses and understanding and thus we are forced to make an intellectual leap to recognize the one hour old is a baby no different than the toddler insofar as both are living persons.

And because that one hour old fetus is remote to our knowing it is not immediately knowable to us that it is killing. A mother does grasp the life in her and does recognize that she is carrying a baby early on in the pregnancy, but the grasping is sufficiently remote that it also makes it possible for her to also kill her baby where it would not make it possible to kill her born toddler.

This same remoteness exists with artificial birth control, and so as a result what is needed are explanations that bridge the gap of remoteness.

Unfortunately, what is instead typically found are writers on a fools errand attempting to explain why the promotion of NFP is not "Catholic contraception" when that is exactly what NFP commonly is because of how it is being promoted and used, and their arguing otherwise only makes the problem worse because their obviously bad arguments convince no one, especially the 90% of Catholics already using ABC.

The problem the visible Church has set up for itself by its promotion of NFP is to not only explain how ABC is a violation of the fifth commandment which is difficult in itself because the connection between the fifth commandment and ABC is not the least bit obvious because of remoteness, but the visible Church also needs to explain how NFP as promoted is not likewise the same violation.

As it stands, the visible Church is not even attempting to explain how ABC is a violation of the commandments, and the current method of promotion of NFP by the visible Church smothers any hope of explaining how ABC is a violation because the visible Church's promotion of NFP is for all practical purposes likewise a violation of the same commandment because it's a promotion in a society that will use NFP exactly in the same manner as ABC.

The fifth commandment can be violated as a direct act such as by using ABC, or indirectly by not doing what should be done such as intentionally not having sexual intercourse when pregnancy is possible. The differences are akin to shooting someone versus not reaching out a hand to prevent someone from falling off a cliff. The first is a direct act, the second is a failure of duty to act.

Which commandment does usury violate?

The reason 90% of Catholics don't consider usury to be sinful is because they have no idea how it can be sinful.

Explaining to people who live in a modern society where money flows seamlessly and where credit at interest is as common as the air they breath how it's possible for that interest could be a violation of the seventh commandment would be useful.

more to come, this post is being written. . . .


  1. It is sad, but true; that the visible church does not explain why ABC is sinful. It seems to primarily violate the 5th commandment. The "open to life" argument is not very convincing; nor is the "total-self-giving" argument. Prohibiting the killing of the new-born or pre-born or the "in utero," however, is very convincing. But is does need some clarification, as you stated, because it is not readily apparent to everybody.

  2. what is the old Catechism since you mentioned the "new" Catechism?

  3. The old would be those that came before. Does the Catechism promulgated in 1992 have a name?

  4. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" is the "current universal catechism" with the goal that local areas will create their own local catechisms off of the universal. This is what happened with the Catechism of the Council of Trent ("Roman Catechism") which brought us in the United States the Baltimore Catechism as our local catechism. A variety of catechisms can be created at any time based on a particular audience with particular needs, or with a particular purpose in mind (prepping for specific sacraments, for example).

    All catechisms should be in line with one another, however, all tied to the universal Catholic church and her teachings. :)