Is the Catholic View of Contraception Immoral?

Why Catholics must explain the good news of our position

In my February 7 Catholic Exchange piece I said that those in support of the HHS mandate think that the Catholic position prohibiting contraception is irrational; I failed to mention that they also think the prohibition is immoral. This is why, in addition to focusing primarily on religious freedom, we must also directly address contraception.

I understand well the argument that with an exclusive focus on religious liberty we build the largest consensus to win the fight against the HHS ruling. However, though I agree with focusing primarily on religious freedom, to exclude discussion of contraception signifies defeat in this particular fight. Left unaddressed and unchallenged, a false premise of this magnitude has the power to thoroughly undermine the argument from the get go. Consider: If prohibiting contraception were immoral, why shouldn’t the government step in? The argument would run thus: “If Catholics want to wound their own people, fine; but we will not allow Catholic employers to wound non Catholic employees!”

In order to expose and debunk the false premise that to oppose contraception is immoral, however, we need only show the reasonability of our view. In other words, Church spokespersons should be equipped with well-prepared sound bites which could cause an open-minded viewer to have a second thought. That’s all. The USCCB has produced an unmatched example of conciseness and clarity in its presentation of easily digestible bullet points on the legal problems with the HHS ruling here and here.  They should prepare a similar list outlining the good news of Church teaching on procreation. The list might include explanations of: the blessings of children; responsible parenthood; NFP; the Catholic view of the goodness of the body; and the risks contraception poses to relationships, health, the common good and respect for women. Articles like this one reveal that if authors on a website dedicated to business analysis can make pithy common sense statements causing readers to do a “double-take” on the Catholic understanding of this issue, then Church spokespersons can as well.

These points could then be contrasted with the administration’s catch-phrases, such as describing contraception as “preventive health care.” That phrase is a classic example of verbal engineering and contains an underlying view of human persons, procreation, human sexuality and babies which is opposed not only to Catholic anthropology but to natural law and common sense. Each time it is heard it has a subtle way of cementing false premises into the thought patterns of those who hear it. Or, consider this argument of the administration when presenting its recent “accommodation”:

“…if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.”

This carefully crafted statement contains the meaning that the religious objection represents the opposite of “reaching out” and “offering care” and is therefore immoral. It also clearly suggests a lack of charity by mentioning “hassles,” which are irrational, and the rejection free “contraceptive care.”

Our side needs to express the good news of the Catholic position as often as the other side expresses their catch phrases. In short, contraception is not care, nor is abortion; neither are they conducive to love, and these points are not difficult to explain.  The good news of Catholic teaching, if proposed with courage and joy, will cause many – indeed many who are broken by the contraceptive culture – to grasp at the very least that the Catholic view on this matter is not immoral because it is full of common sense reasonability. This religious freedom debate depends on this point, and the other side knows it. Do we?


Peter J. Colosi taught for nine years for Franciscan University of Steubenville at their program in Gaming, Austria as assistant professor of philosophy. In the fall of 2009, he joined the faculty at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania as assistant professor of moral theology. He earned his BS in mathematics from Franciscan University, an MA in Franciscan Studies from St. Bonaventure University, and his MPhil and PhD from the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein.

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  • markeyjoe

    As G. Weigle has written: By effectively sundering sexual expression from procreation, modern contraceptives have done something their less-effective predecessors were unable to do for millennia: They have created a contraceptive culture that identifies fertility with disease and willful infertility with “health.” Those who celebrate that culture are not interested in compromise: They are interested in having everyone pay for what they want, and in levying serious penalties on those who won’t truckle to their will.

  • A husband and wife who serve each other find satisfaction, but those who seek pleasure never are satisfied and turn to violence in order to obtain more pleasure. Become a peacemaker serve each other.

  • I could not agree more.  And in addition to the responsibility to defend against contraception, we have one of the best opportunities ever available to reintroduce all people of good will to the good news of true freedom in sexuality.  If their are Catholics and non-Catholics open to listening to what the Church has to say right now, maybe we need to be promoting the resources that best explain and lead people to this.  I have no formal connection to CCL, except that my wife and I took their class.  I am big fan, and I think all people should check them out.

  • lesliekuhlman

    “…In other words, Church spokespersons should be equipped with well-prepared sound bites which could cause an open-minded viewer to have a second thought.” It would be helpful for all of us to see such a list of sound bites…could you draft one for people to use? It could be your next article!

  • chaco

    BULLSEYE ! Donald.  All the Church’s warnings about contraceptive / abortion mentality have been shown to be true; the most visible of which is the sexual slavery that dwarfs the slavery causing America’s bloodiest war. [The bloodiest if we exclude the war on those in the womb.]   The enemy of Truth is subtle & patient; It knew that many would not see how separating the act of our sexuality from it’s FULL giving of self would slowly “Eat Away” at it’s intended beauty. We’ve been told by our Shepards to look forward to a “New Springtime”. We also know that “Making reparation to Our Lady’s Heart” (Fatima) is a main ingredient in that “Springtime Recipe”. “Holy Queen & Mother, Rejoice; Your son our God has ventured into the depths of darkness and illumined it with the Victory of Divine Mercy !  It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish vanity and softened our Hearts into praise & thanks for God [who longs to share His Glorious Love with us.] 

  • Michael Patrick Brewer

    “Catholic teaching,” is the term that is frequently used. What about Catholics in action. How do the players look when the game starts? They do not follow the teaching. What are you going to do with this flock of infidels? A new Inquistion?

  • Michelle Marie Allen

    Please be more specific. Not ALL Catholics stray from the teachings found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church ! Any Catholic who knowingly and willfully engages in activities that violate these teachings repeatedly without absolution have in effect ex-communicated themselves informally. God is not fooled !