Artificial Contraception Fact Check


Hey everyone,

My wife and I were recently at a young adult’s group meeting and we were discussing Humanae Vite, and what the document means. Now, I was in the process of giving a synopsis of the encyclical when the priest stated that I was missing 1 important point of the document.

He said that in Humanae Vite Pope Paul IV stated that the document was not a full moral teaching and that the use of artificial contraception was up to the conscience of the couple.

Shocked at this, my wife and I went home and re-looked through both the Cathechism and Humanae Vite to find any trace of such a statement. The closest thing she and I could find to that statement was in section 6 of the first part of the document. However, it seems to us that it was referencing the previous section 5 in regards to the commission that was formed to discuss contraception. Later in section 6 it clearly states that this document (Humanae Vite) was seeking to answer the questions that came up in the commission.

Are we right in our understanding of the teaching that the Church is fully against artificial contraception, except in cases of medical necessity? (there is provision for that)

God Bless,


As far as I know, the Pope did not himself infallibly the dogma against contraception in Humanae Vitae - but only because he did not need to. The Bishops of the Church universally agree that contraception is wrong (and have for a long time), which is also the foundation of infallibly defined dogma according to Vatican 2. This is called the “ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

Consequently, the teachings defined in Humanae Vitae are infallible, and nothing is left up to the conscience of the individual believer in terms of their deciding whether or not what it speaks about is true. The Bishops have already made that decision, and have universally agreed that contraception is gravely wrong. Your priest is either misinformed or is willfully dissenting from the Church.


Yes, you are correct. You misunderstand nothing. The priest is wrong.


That is the interpretation of Humanae Vitae given by the Canadian bishops in the Winnipeg statement (see here).


From which they promptly back-peddled in their document Statement on the Formation of Conscience:

  1. For a Catholic “to follow one’s conscience” is not, then, simply to act as his unguided reason dictates. “To follow one’s conscience” and remain a Catholic, one must take into account first and foremost the teaching of the magisterium. When doubt arises due to a conflict of “my” views and those of the magisterium, the presumption of truth lies on the part of the magisterium. "In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent of soul. This religious submission of will and of mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra (Lumen Gentium, #25). And this must be carefully distinguished from the teaching of individual theologians or individual priests, however intelligent or persuasive.



I didn’t know such a provision exists. Where can that be found? If someone can quote it, that’d be great.

There have been many posts on CAF by people who’ve said that contraception cannot be used under any circumstances, even if another pregnancy would be seriously medically dangerous for the mother. Does this provision then refer to, for example, using the pill for reasons other than birth control, like regulating cycles, hormone issues, etc?


Humanae Vite section 15. Licitness of Therapeutic Means

At least, that seems to indicate it to me… However, there are therapeutic means other than birth control to help regulate cycles and things of that nature out there.

The problem with using birth control as a therapeutic means is that, if you start to see it as anything but that, say for instance, your doctor says, go on it for a couple months to regulate your cycle and then you decide that it makes life easier than practicing NFP to just stay on birth control after those 2-3 months prescribed by a doctor, that is no longer therapeutic means.

Also, all being taken into consideration, artificial contraception can still take the life of an unborn child regardless of the reasons for use. So, it is usually suggested that you should try to find some other means, if you can. However, when reading the document, I think it would still technically be covered under that provision if you chose to use artificial birth control as a therapeutic device to help regulate cycles, etc, as long as it is strictly seen as that, and not as an easy way out of the Church’s teachings on this.

Essentially, if it is truly being used to cure an ailment or disease, as medicine is designed to be used, and not being used as a birth control in of itself, which is taking something away from your natural health, it is technically OK. However, I would still suggest trying to find a better means of treatment if possible, and there are some great treatments for women’s health issues that do not require birth control.

However, I will say that in the case of “danger to the mother” to have another child, I am not sure if that would be covered or not. I know that the regulation of a cycle might be but, God and modern medicine can work miracles in certain cases. Women are having children later and later in life now, and successfully as well.

Remember, we must be open to life, no matter what our age, as it fulfills our marital vocation in the way that God intends. SO I would say in that case you could successfully use NFP to postpone, even indefinitely, having a child, which is covered by the Church’s teachings as well. So birth control would not be a necessity in that case.


There is no provision to use **contraception **for **any **reason.

Unfortunately, people refer to it that way.

What HV refers to is a **medical treatment **that renders a woman or man infertile. Such a treatment or procedure is licit because sterility is the indirect effect of the treatment not the purpose of the treatement.

This would not be the case for a person where “pregnancy is dangerous to the mother”-- NFP would be the proper course there. HV is referring to things such as a medical hysterctomy for hemmoraging, chemo/radiation for cancer, and even hormonal therapy. The encyclical also has a warning regarding any treatment that could be abortifacient.


Didn’t know that, thanks for the correction… Although I did state that NFP would be used in that particular situation as well…


1ke stated this correctly Contraception is never permitted, however if temporary or permanent sterility result from a medical treatment, one not intended to cause sterility but to treat an actual condition, then that treatment is permitted. The intent is what matters.

Additionally, NFP is **NOT **contraception. NFP is about determining when to abstain if a couple needs to space births or when engage if they are trying to conceive. NFP works both ways.


My understanding is that the RCC is against using bc to avoid pregnancy, but states that it is allowable for women who are using it for medicinal purposes. Using it for medicinal purposes, wouldn’t be classified as contraception, therefore.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit