It would be more accurate to say the Catholic Church is formally opposed to birth control. A lot of Catholics simply ignore the ruling.
A bit of background to the commission set up by John XXIII to discuss the issue of birth control. Personally I think if John XXIII hadn’t died so soon, he’d have given permission for married couples to use the pill, as recommended by what the following article calls the “majority view” (15 out of 19 bishops, and 9 out of 12 theologians if I remember rightly, and 30 out of 35 lay people).
A lot of Catholics, including practising Catholics, use the pill. I’ve argued the toss for birth control (in the form of contraception) a number of times here.
During Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII set up a commission to study the issue of birth control which was the source of much inner conflict for many Catholics. After John XXIII’s death, the new Pope Paul VI broadened the membership of the commission to include married couples and physicians. The very fact that a special commission was set up by the Pope to study the birth control issue caused many Catholics to expect a change in the Church’s teaching which, until then, had condemned all forms of artificial birth control as morally wrong, except for medical reasons (Humanae Vitae, Article 15).
By June, 1966, the commission completed its work and presented the Pope with a majority report and a minority report. The majority report recommended that the Church changes its position on birth control and permit couples to use artificial forms of contraception under certain circumstances. The minority report recommended that the Pope hold fast to the traditional teaching. As the news leaked out that the majority report recommended a change in teaching, Catholics and, in some cases, their pastoral leaders started to expect and prepare for a change. Within this climate of anticipated change, many Catholics started to use some forms of contraception (mainly, the “pill”).
In July, 1968 (two years after receiving the two reports of the commission), Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae. While the Pope carefully examined the majority view, he decided that the truth resided in the minority view. Almost immediately, there was an uproar amongst Catholics, including well-recognized theologians and priests, who expected the Pope to adopt the majority view. Many theologians and priests publicly dissented from the teaching of the Pope. Needless to say, the public dissent of theologians and priests from Humanae Vitae didn’t encourage Catholics who were already using birth control to reconsider their position in the light of Humanae Vitae.
I reject using contraception as “adultery”. That’s rubbish. Contraception is trying to avoid a woman becoming pregnant. Adultery is illicit sexual relations with another’s spouse, or sexual relations outside one’'s own marriage.
I’ve also argued that the contraceptive pill is God’s gift, given at the very time human population pressures were becoming a real problem in some parts of the world.
The world population graph is shown here.
You’ll note the pill comes in right where the graph starts it’s almost vertical climb.
Or I’ll put it this way. On the one hand, we have the church saying we should be more caring about the earth’s resources. On the other hand, we have the church saying we should make not attempt to control the human population explosion, except by NFP, which frankly most people are just not going to use, and God knows they won’t use it.
He’s the ultimate realist.
I’m like the OP. My wife and I used the pill when we married (we married as Protestants) but for different reasons. We married in our late 30’s and mid 40’s, which meant there would have been a huge age difference if we’d had kids, and also a considerable health risk to both mother and child due to late first birth.
And i don’t feel one bit guilty about it.
Abortion is a different matter. That’s murder, pure and simple, no matter how the pro-choice lobby try to justify it.