I. A hard no.
Two weeks ago was the fiftieth anniversary of a papal document epic for its unrivaled unpopularity. On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae, an encyclical outlining the Church’s position on contraception. Many a hankering ear had been hoping the good pope would dissent from nineteen hundred years of consensus on the subject, but he stood fast, upholding the Church’s teaching that contraception is morally wrong.
According to many people, including many Protestants, the Church’s hard “no” on contraception is little more than pharisaical nitpicking. Even in the darkness and privacy of your own bedroom, there looms Mother Church wagging her stern and unyielding finger!
And indeed, it is a hard “no.” According to Catholic teaching, the use of contraception is a sin – always. The Catechism refers to it as “intrinsically evil,” which means that it is evil in and of itself and can never be justified, no matter the circumstances. There are no grey areas and no exceptions for anyone at any time, period. The fact that the Church calls it an intrinsic evil doesn’t mean it’s as equally wicked as something like abortion, rape, or torture – other examples of intrinsic evils. Rather, it means that it’s equally forbidden to everyone in all places at all times.
What many people don’t know, however, is why. Why, when there is so much worldly pressure to change, does the Church hold fast to this teaching? Why, long after even the rest of Christianity has left the room, does she stay where she is?
II. The Bible’s apparent silence on contraception.
You’ll often hear Protestants claiming that because the Bible doesn’t forbid contraception, neither should we. It’s true that the Bible says little to nothing about contraception, and nowhere does it directly forbid it the way it forbids drunkenness, murder, and adultery, for example.
But the Bible doesn’t directly forbid abortion, either – or slavery, for that matter. In fact, regarding the latter, the Old Testament gives instructions on its right use, and the New Testament shows us what a godly master/slave relationship ought to look like. If that were contraception, Protestants would consider the Bible blatantly in favour of using it; and yet they denounce slavery in no uncertain terms.