Contraception & Logical Consistency

September 2009By Howard P. Kainz

Howard P. Kainz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Marquette University and a former executive council­member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. A widely published author, his most recent works include Natural Law: An Introduction and Re-examination (Open Court Press, 2004), The Philosophy of Human Nature (Open Court Press, 2008), and "Sexual Mores, Ethical Theories, and the Overpopulation Myth" in The Heythrop Journal (May 2008).

"It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of the divine institution of marriage with any modernistic plan for the mechanical regulation or suppression of human birth. The church must either reject the plain teachings of the Bible or reject schemes for the 'scientific' production of human souls.... The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be 'careful and restrained' is preposterous." — Washington Post (editorial, March 22, 1931)

"If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery, when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)?... If such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all.... But I am saying: you will have no solid reason against these things. You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that they are good too…. Because, if you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition.... For in contraceptive intercourse you intend to perform a sexual act which, if it has a chance of being fertile, you render infertile. Qua your intentional action, then, what you do is something intrinsically unapt for generation." — G.E.M. Anscombe, Contraception & Chastity (1979)

Recent statistics indicate that contraception is widely practiced, even by up to 80 percent of Catholics, in spite of its clear and constant condemnation by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Does this figure include practicing Catholics? Whether they are practicing or not would presumably be the subject of a different poll. Regardless, we are talking about self-identified Catholics who have most likely received the Sacrament of Baptism. Some implications, therefore, suggest themselves.

Many Christian couples, Catholics and non-Catholics, who practice contraception are also against "gay" sex and/or premarital or extramarital sex. Such positions, for such persons, are logically inconsistent. I would even argue that an anti-abortion position is likewise inconsistent.

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

Back to September 2009 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
I have a very good Protestant friend, maybe my closest friend. He's a good person and a good Christian and huge opponent of abortion. He's also planning to have a vasectomey done in December. When I try to explain to him why he shouldn't, it's as if he suddenly goes deaf. Then, one (or both) of these responses follow: "Show me where it says that in the Word," or "Well, I just don't believe that." And, for him, that settles the matter.

I think I'll show him this article.

M. L. Hearing
Posted by: mlhearing
September 14, 2009 10:58 AM EDT
Oops. That should read "vasectomy."

M. L. Hearing
Posted by: mlhearing
September 14, 2009 11:02 AM EDT
Excellent points made for logic. It is a shame that the Magisterial teaching is not sufficient for the world of Catholics who remain unschooled. Why can't we find priests (or bishops) who will speak the Truth? I can remember only one recent homily in which the "C" word was mentioned, much less defended logically as Church teaching. Thank you for putting the logic into the written word. Posted by: Jana Carpenter
September 17, 2012 11:02 AM EDT
If we're talking logic, we must admit that most contraception reduces the probability of procreation, no? A condom or even coitus interuptus does not eliminate the chance of life. How do we refute that fact? If we're being intellectually honest, we can not.

Also, this fact invalidates your thought process connecting contaception to abortion or homosexual relations. You can't reduce the probability of a successful abortion. Nor can you reduce the probability of homosexual intercourse resulting in procreation as the probability is 0% to start with.

How do we answer these facts?
Posted by: Lberry
September 17, 2012 02:08 PM EDT
Add a comment