contraception & natural law

After listening to Dr. Janet Smith’s CD titled “Contraception - Why not?”, I have a question. Dr. Smith argued against contraception using natural law. So a question I have is this… Can anyone claim invincible ignorance concerning contraception use? Basically, my understanding is that 1) contraception is “grave matter”. 2) Everyone has the knowledge to know that contraception is a violation of natural law, which is written on everyones heart throughout all time. And 3) To engage in contraception would in almost 100% of the cases, be done freely. It’s kinda hard to argue that taking the pill, or putting on the “raincoat” is somehow addictive. Therefore, conception would be a mortal sin for a vast, vast majority of those using it. And if my understanding of a mortal sin is correct, one basically goes to hell, straight to hell, doesn’t pass GO, and doesn’t collect $200.

So is my understanding correct. If not, why? And if it is, why don’t we hear much more preaching about it, since it would be responsible for sending large numbers of people to Hell? I would guess 90% of the families in my parish use contraception, and for no other reason than to prevent having more kids.

Now-a-days, with public schooling and not so many people being brought up Catholic or with Catholic ideals, I think it’s easy to accept that there are people out there who can use contraception without thinking about the consequences of Hell or Judgement of God simply for the fact that they aren’t taught it.

If I’ve gotten your question wrong, sorry, it was a little hard for me to digest.

Certainly there are many who are invincibly ignorant concerning contraception. Just as there are many invincibly ignorant regarding the existence of God and any number of other things which can also be reasoned from natural law.

This is not a true statement. Everyone does not have the knowledge. Everyone has the ability to reason this out innately within our intellect.

Not all people do so. Many fail to do so because they are explicitly taught the opposite by their religious leaders or in secular society. Others fail to do so because they do not think about God at all, nor desire to reason out the morality of things from natural law. In fact, many people have an impaired ability to reason because their intellect is so marred by sin and untrained in logic.

Addiction are not the only things that impact our freedom and diminishes our capacity to choose. Coersion, fear, and ignorance also impair our ability to choose freely.

I think you overestimate the number of persons for whom contraception is mortally sinful.

This is incorrect. Only unrepentent mortal sin at the time of death can separate us from God. We can always be reconciled with God as long as we draw breath.

It certainly is grave matter. For individuals, it may or may not be mortal sin. That is not our place to judge.

And, I don’t know why you don’t hear more about it in your particular parish.

Your question makes me wonder if you are familiar with these scriptures:

Isaiah 55:
6: Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10: For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
12: For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13: Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Matthew 12:
30: He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
31: Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32: And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
33: Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
34: O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35: A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
36: But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37: For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

1 John 5:
1: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5: Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
6: This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8: And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
9: If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
10: He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
11: And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12: He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13: These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
14: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
16: If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17: All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

18: We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
19: And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
20: And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

**Also, I wonder what you know about the different methods of contraception…
Steroidal contraceptives can contain powerful hormones that effect people in differing ways and are, or can be, addictive.
Different hormones affect the reproductive cycle differently and each person is unique.
Some methods of contraception prevent fertilization and some prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.
Some do both to varying degrees.
A “barrier” method such as a condom or a diaphram generally ensures that no new life is formed and, that if it is, it is not exposed to synthetic steroids.
Sterilization also [generally] assures that no new life is formed upon intercourse.
Most steroidal contraceptives do/can not guarantee that no fertilization will occur and some are more effective at preventing fertilization than others; whereas others are more effective, or targeted, at preventing implantation.
The rhythm method of contraception either ends in fertilization or not.
I have read that this form of contraception can lead to an increased risk of birth defects as the sperm and egg cells are generally older when, and if, they unite.

Also consider the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35);

and I wrote about a similar topic here:**

iusbvision.wordpress.com/2006/11/21/is-there-a-moral-justification-for-abortion/

Disclaimer:
No claim and/or guarantee is expressed, intended, or implied for the accuracy of any scientific principle, statement, or argument.

Thanks for the answers.

To Michael Angelo - I guess I’m an idiot. You pretty much lost me on your reply. I think I got taken to the “woodshed out back”, but I’m not sure.

Anyway… since it appears many may be invincibly ignorant of natural law, that makes me wonder… is it what we know, OR what we should know? If someone has the innate ability to know natural law, and doesn’t, then what? Ignorance may be bliss, after all.

Invincible ignorance only applies to culpability. Natural Law refers to the 1) “rightness” or “wrongness” of something. Whether it is natural law or some other requirement, we are culpable if we 2) know of should have known that something is wrong, and 3) act with free will. In other words, when looking at the three conditions for grave sin, something that is part of natural law automatically covers the first condition (it must be gravely wrong) while invincible ignorance comes into play for #2.

Parts of natural law can be hidden from a person through no fault of his/her own. Contraception would be one of those things. Infanticide in certain cultures would be another example. A person brought up in that culture would not be as culpable but the act would still be wrong.

When you are talking about contraception, 40 years ago there were probably more Catholics who were invincibly ingorant than there are today. Back in the day, the pulpit was the main place to learn about moral application of law (natural law or Church law). Nowadays, the pulpit is not the only place. With the internet, TV, etc. it is harder and harder to get past that “should have known” part. But again, this isn’t because of natural law, it goes to full knowledge.

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