SYDNEY, Australia, MARCH 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Father Julian Porteous, rector of the Sydney Archdiocese’s Seminary of the Good Shepherd, gave an address on contraception and abortion, during a theological videoconference Feb. 28 organized by the Congregation for Clergy. Here is the adapted text.
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Contraception and Abortion
By Father Julian Porteous
Marriage is not an institution that can be subjected to arbitrary manipulation by individuals or society. The moral laws regarding it are the same for all people in all places at all times. These moral principles arise directly from the Wisdom of God the Creator and they simultaneously express and protect the dignity of the human person. “Humanae Vitae” warned that the rejection of its norms would open up a great wound at the heart of society. Subsequent history is proving what a true prophet Pope Paul VI really was.
In reaffirming in “Humanae Vitae” the constant teaching of the Church regarding the moral laws pertaining to the transmission of life, Pope Paul VI was thereby intending to clarify a point in the first article of the Creed concerning God the Creator of life.
In doing so, Pope Paul VI recalled the teaching of Pope John XXIII who said: “All must regard the life of man as sacred, since from its inception, it requires the action of God the Creator.”
The human person is a union of body and soul. Only God can bring into existence the immortal and spiritual soul of the human person. Referring to this truth of faith, the Catholic Catechism says: “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God — it is not produced by the parents.”
Shedding further light on this same truth, Pope John Paul II said: “God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood. … Indeed, God alone is the source of that ‘image and likeness’ which is proper to the human being, as it was received at Creation. Begetting is the continuation of Creation.”
In the performance of the conjugal act, the structure of which belongs to the natural order which has God as its Creator, it is God himself and not the married couple who is the final arbiter as to whether or not a new human being will come into existence through conception. Consequently, contraceptive acts are a negation of the honor due to the Creator since by engaging in them a married couple seek to impede any possible creative intervention by God.
Speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said: “When, therefore, through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide in the final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To say or think the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.”
By contracepting, a married couple seek to usurp God’s role as Creator. In proclaiming the doctrine of “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI was concerned to warn married couples against the temptation of adopting this contemptuous attitude to the Creator which is inherent in the contraceptive way of life.
He said: “Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, with particular reason, he has no such domination over his generative faculties as such, because of their intrinsic ordination toward raising up life, of which God is the principle.”
Speaking of contraception as an objective refusal to recognize God as Creator, Dr. Siegfried Ernst, M.D., said: “The essence of contraception is the exclusion of the creative quality of human sexuality in favor of the mere production of pleasure and ecstasy. No psychological theories and excuses, however ingenious, can conceal the fact that the exclusion of creation from the closest and most intimate human relationship — total physical and spiritual union in the creation of new human life — means the exclusion of the Creator himself.”
The Link Between Contraception and Abortion
Speaking of the consequences of not giving the Creator the honor that is his due, Father Joseph M. de Torre says: “When human life is considered without reference to a transcendent God as source and end of it, it loses all its intrinsic value, whether this is done in the name of liberalism or of socialism.”
The accuracy of Father de Torre’s observation was demonstrated in an editorial which appeared in the London Economist on June 21, 1997. Supporting the legalization of “assisted suicide,” this Economist editorial stated: “Western religions have an answer, and it is uncompromising: it is wrong for individuals to end the lives that God has given them. The classic liberal position, which is that of the Economist, starts from a different premise. Individuals have a right to self-determination, and this includes — perhaps, naturally culminates in — the right to cut short one’s life.”
Being expressive of an objective refusal to acknowledge God as the final arbiter of the coming into existence of a new human being, the disregard for the Author of Life which is characteristic of the contraceptive attitude, fosters disregard for the sanctity of life in general.
In this regard, it is noteworthy how Pope John Paul II has frequently drawn attention to the link between contraception and abortion. On one occasion, while speaking to a group of Austrian bishops about the doctrine of “Humanae Vitae,” the Holy Father said: “No doubt may be permitted regarding the validity of the moral prescriptions expressed therein [Humanae Vitae]. … The invitation to contraception as a supposedly ‘harmless’ manner of the relation between the sexes is not only an insidious denial of man’s moral freedom. It fosters a depersonalized understanding of sexuality which is restricted mainly to the moment and promotes in the last analysis that mentality out of which abortion arises and from which it is continuously nourished.”
In “Evangelium Vitae,” Pope John Paul II stated that the pro-abortion culture is especially strong wherever the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected. While acknowledging the difference in nature and moral gravity between contraception and abortion, the Holy Father nevertheless stated that “contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree.”
Speaking of a “hedonistic mentality” which is “unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality” and “which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment,” Pope John Paul II added: “The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”
It has been known for many years now that certain “contraceptives,” so-called, actually act as abortifacients. Unfortunately, theologians and others who dissent from the doctrine of “Humanae Vitae” and who encourage married couples to do the same, frequently fail to draw attention to this abortifacient nature of various forms of “contraceptives.”
The connection between contraception and abortion is evident in the fact that both IUDs and contraceptive pills are known to have abortifacient capacities. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1987, Dr. Alan Trounson and professor Karl Wood called for greater freedom to carry out destructive experiments on human embryos on the grounds that the community already accepted the use of “intrauterine devices which kill early embryos.”
The fact that the pill can act as an abortifacient was well documented by John Wilks in his 1996 book “A Consumers Guide to the Pill and Other Drugs.” The pill acts as a contraceptive when it suppresses ovulation or when it prevents the sperm reaching the egg by altering female secretions. However, if these modes of operation fail, the pill can still act to prevent implantation of the fertilized egg in which case it induces an abortion.
Apart from the direct links between abortion and contraception as outlined above, attitudes also need to be taken into account when analyzing contraceptive behavior. Describing the contra-life nature of contraception, one group of distinguished moralists said:
Usually when people contracept, they are interested in sexual intercourse which they think might lead to conception. If they did not think that, they would have no reason to contracept. They look ahead and think about the baby whose life they might initiate. Perhaps for some further good reason, perhaps not, they find the prospect repugnant: “We do not want that possible baby to begin to live.” As the very definition of contraception makes clear, that will is contra-life; it is a practical (though not necessarily an emotional) hatred of the possible baby they project and reject, just as the will to accept the coming to be of a baby is a practical love of that possible person.
Speaking of the link between contraception and abortion, Dr. Siegfried Ernst, M.D., said: “The anti-baby pill has made it possible to separate, fundamentally and radically, the production of pleasure from the act of procreation. It thus automatically started the ‘sexual revolution.’ … Having become ‘safe,’ sexual acts have multiplied as a result of contemporary propaganda touting ‘the right to a happy sexual life.’ ‘Accidents’ have increased proportionately despite — or has been in consequence of? — the anti-baby pill. And those ‘unwanted children’ must logically, be removed by abortion.”
Professor Janet Smith also drew attention to the link between contraception and abortion when she said: “Contraception takes the baby-making element out of sexual intercourse. It makes pregnancy seem like an accident of sexual intercourse rather than the natural consequence that responsible individuals ought to be prepared for. Abortion, then, becomes thinkable as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Contraception enables those who are not prepared to care for babies to engage in sexual intercourse; when they become pregnant, they resent the unborn child for intruding itself upon their lives and they turn to the solution of abortion. It should be no surprise that countries that are permeated by contraceptive sex, fight harder for access to abortion than they do to ensure that all babies can survive both in the womb and out. It is foolish for pro-lifers to think that they can avoid the issues of contraception and sexual irresponsibility and be successful in the fight against abortion.”
This link between the contraceptive mentality and abortion was well illustrated in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which confirmed Roe v. Wade.
This decision stated that “In some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception. … For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
Commenting on this Supreme Court decision, Professor Janet Smith said: “The Supreme Court decision has made completely unnecessary any efforts to ‘expose’ what is really behind the attachment of the modern age to abortion. As the Supreme Court candidly states, we need abortion so that we can continue our contraceptive lifestyles. It is not because contraceptives are ineffective that a million and a half women a year seek abortions as backups to failed contraceptives. The ‘intimate relationships’ facilitated by contraceptives are what make abortions ‘necessary.’ … Here the word ‘intimate’ means ‘sexual’; it does not mean ‘loving and close.’ Abortion is most often the result of sexual relationships in which there is little true intimacy and love, in which there is no room for a baby, the natural consequence of sexual intercourse.”