I have been following the ongoing debate over the HHS contraceptives mandate that many view as an attack on religious freedom. Once again on Fox News this morning a person being interviewed (sorry can’t recall the name) repudiated the idea that the mandate is an attack on religious freedom stating it is just a positive for women’s health. He then interjected as part of his argument that even Catholics don’t believe that there is anything wrong with using contraceptives since “75 percent of American Roman Catholics use them” in spite of what the Catholic Church teaches. That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that argument and actually I have even heard that the percentage is must higher than 75 percent.
Last evening while reading the forums here at CAF I happened across one on the topic of excommunication and whether or not that is really relevant in modern times. I’m new to the Catholic faith, presently in the process of converting from Protestantism and will enter the Church during the Easter Vigil. As I am taking this all very seriously, I do my best to study daily so that I can acquaint myself with what Catholics believe. Excommunication is one of the things I know little about and so that is perhaps why I was interested in the topic.
In the post I refer to, one of those who responded to the original question noted that excommunication occurs as in two ways; Ferendae Sententiae (imposed after formal proceedings) and Latae Sententiae (imposed automatically) and provided the reasons under each. Under the list of reasons for automatic excommunication was apostasy, heresy, schism.
I researched those terms further this morning and found the following;
2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.
"**Heresy **is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;
Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;
Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." [Code of Canon Law c.751]"
Source: ETWN website
Sorry for the length of the background information but I am finally getting to my question. Assume that the statement, “75 percent of American Roman Catholics use contraceptives.” My understanding is that means things like birth control pills, not something like NFP. Even though I’m new to the Catholic faith as mentioned, I was exposed to what the Church teaches about use of contraceptives very early on and have seen the information many times in books that I have used in my own personal study. I feel in other words that I know what the Church teaches and that Catholics are prohibited from using contraceptives. Thus, those who use them are obviously disregarding what the Church teaches by doing so.
So, looking at the issue of excommunication and the above list, it seems that Catholics who ignore what the Church teaches and use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy are automatically excommunicated either on the grounds of heresy or schism. As such they would be excluded from receiving the sacraments. Receiving communion would mean they were committing mortal sin.
It isn’t my purpose to be uncharitable to those who feel they have no choice but to use contraceptives because they can’t afford any more children or are at a time in life which they feel isn’t a good time for having a child. I am certainly not without sin and so am not here to cast any stones. But still I find myself curious why someone would continue to identify as a Catholic and perhaps continue going to Mass and receiving communion (I’m assuming of course that some do) when they are continually and actively living in violation of what the Church clearly teaches.
The biggest issue here, at least in my opinion is that their disobedience is then used by people like the man on Fox News I spoke of to ridicule the Catholic faith in general and to charge that the Catholic Church teachings are silly old rules that have no application to life in the modern world. It just seems that we all have a moral duty to practice what we preach and to believe what the Church teaches us and not just assume we can discard anything we find personally inconvenient to believe or to do. Any thoughts?