Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers

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Despite what some commentators and politicians think, Church teaching on abortion and contraception has remained unchanged.

The recent indignity by which the Obama administration wants to mandate everyone, including all Catholic institutions or their insurers, to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, has raised the issue of Catholic teaching on these issues.

Some commentators have mistakenly asserted that the Catholic ban on these practices only goes back to Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth), by Pope Paul VI in 1968, or as far back as Casti Connubii (Of Chaste Wedlock), by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

The latter encyclical was written in response to the change of moral doctrine by the Anglican Church, which undermined centuries of Protestant condemnation of contraception by permitting it at the Aug. 15, 1930 Lambeth Conference.

Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in response to the then newly invented birth control pill, rejecting it as a legitimate means of contraception for Catholics. However, these encyclicals, along with the 20th century’s nearly 100 other Vatican statements condemning artificial birth control, were simply restating the continuous history of moral theology on this topic.

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