[Continuation of last week’s blog]
We feel there are two primary reasons for this incorrect attitude towards birth control. The first is the incorrect “freedom of conscience” philosophy so prevalent in today’s society. The error in this philosophy is that Catholics have come to believe that they can make a subjective decision strictly on their own.
According to the “Statement on the Formation of Conscience” issued by the Canadian Catholic Conference, “an act of conscience is an individual thing, but it must be based upon certain principles and positions. Therefore, it is up to the individual to acquire the necessary information and attitude in order to make the right decision.” (1) Catholics should be taught to look to the Magisterium for the necessary information they need. It consists of the apostles and their successors, the College of Bishops, united with their head, the Pope.
“If doubt should ever arise, due to a conflict of one person’s views and those of the Magisterium, then the presumption of truth lies with the Magisterium.” (2)
We acknowledge that there is a rightful place for certain degrees of freedom with respect to family decisions concerning “how many” children and “when”. However, the Church’s teaching on the “manner” in which couples are to space their children is clearly defined. Let me quote the National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States: “The Church proclaims the value of the life giving meaning of marital intercourse. It rejects the ideology of artificial contraception. The Church forbids methods of family limitation directed against the life giving meaning of sexual intercourse. It condemns the view that sterilization and artificial contraception are a morally legitimate means of family limitation.” (3)
The second primary reason for the incorrect attitude towards birth control is a false belief by Catholics that the church’s stand on the issue will eventually be changed. A reversal of this fundamental issue would be contrary to the constant tradition of the Church and there is no hint of such a change. In fact, on every suitable occasion, it seems the Church re-affirms the traditional teaching.
(By John and Cathy Bloodworth in consultation with Rev. Joseph F. Hayden of the Archdiocese of Louisville)
1) “Statement on the Formation of Conscience,” L Observatore Roma, January 17, 1974, page 7.
3) “Sharing the Faith,” National Catechetical Directory of the United States, 1979. Chapter 5, “Principle Elements of the Christian Message for Catechesis” part H: “The Moral Life,” section 5: Specifics in the Teaching Conference of Catholic Bishops at their November 14-17, 1977 General Meeting. Also approved by the Sacred Congregation of the Clergy, October 20, 1978.