Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member


(82,333 posts)
1. The difference is natural versus artificial means as well as intent.
Thu Sep 20, 2012, 02:34 PM
Sep 2012

Contraception uses artificial measures to deliberately prevent conception.

The rhythm method, by tracking ovulation cycles, identifies days of greatest fertility. The method, then, is to abstain from sex on those days but it leaves open the possibility of conception.

The first method intends to prevent conception (contra ception); the second intends to avoid conception.



Fortinbras Armstrong

(4,473 posts)
2. That's one of the real problems with Humanae Vitae
Fri Sep 21, 2012, 08:11 AM
Sep 2012

Notice that HV does not actually define "contraception". I suspect that this is because any actual definition would shoot holes in Pope Paul's argument. Here's a definition: Contraception is a means of having intercourse without procreation.

The second objection I have is that HV concentrates on the method, and completely ignores intent. I suspect this is because the so-called "NFP" ("Natural Family Planning", the term that the Vatican prefers instead of "rhythm method&quot that the Vatican touts is merely another way of having sexual intercourse and avoiding pregnancy. In other words, the end is exactly the same, the only difference is the method employed. Ignoring intent is bad moral theology.

What is wrong with the Church teaching is that it starts with the view of the Roman stoics and pagan Gnostics that the body is evil, and pleasure is to be mistrusted.

Paul VI implies, although he nowhere says explicitly, that among the "lower animals", sex is only used for procreation. The closest he comes in HV 10: "In relation to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means the knowledge and respect of their functions; human intellect discovers in the power of giving life biological laws which are part of the human person". (The Roman stoic Ulpian said that if you wanted to know what natural behaviour was, look in the barnyard.) I suspect that this is what Paul VI was thinking of. However, this is not necessarily the best place to look. Primates, our closest relatives in nature, use sexual activity in pair bonding, not just procreation. See Alison Jolly's The Evolution of Primate Behavior, Chapter 13. If Pope Paul is going to use a biological argument, he should use good biology.

The view that sexual intercourse is only morally licit if it is being used for procreation was promulgated by people such as Augustine of Hippo, whose own experience of sex was through having illicit love affairs. Augustine thought that he knew what sex was about, but his views were undoubtedly colored by his own experience -- and he actually had not a clue as to the proper function of sex in a marriage. This view led him to say in his De Bono Conjugali that all sexual relations, except for the express purpose of procreation, were at least venially sinful.

Pope Gregory I supported this stand, saying in a letter to Augustine of Canterbury that "even lawful intercourse cannot take place without desire of the flesh ... which can by no means be without sin."

My next objection to HV is that Pope Paul does not have any scriptural basis to his argument, but uses something called "natural law". As Ireneaus of Lyon wrote, "From the beginning, God had implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law", Against Heresies 4, 15. Thomas Aquinas has a long discussion in his Summa Theologica I-II questions 90-106. Now, there are some things which can be said to be "implanted in the heart of man" -- aversion to rape, murder, incest, child molestation and so on. But birth control pills and condoms are certainly not among those things.

Pope Paul also says some remarkably silly things in HV. For example, he says

Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer his respected and beloved companion.

In case the Pope had not noticed, there was a great deal of adultery and fornication going on before HV came out. His second point in this paragraph is that men may lose respect for their wives, seeing them as mere sexual objects. I do not believe that this has happened. For example, it is generally accepted that the great increase in reported incidences of domestic violence is due first, to better reporting techniques, and second, to a social awareness that this is not acceptable behavior.


(12,481 posts)
3. So, basiclly, what I get out of your and rug's post is that sex between a husband and wife should
Fri Sep 21, 2012, 08:03 PM
Sep 2012

be for procreation only. Am I right? If so, here is my problem understanding this outdated and outmoded teaching of our most esteemed Church Hierarchy. My wife has been past her child bearing years for quite a while, now. So, to us, it's just a matter of "lust," which is also sinful. What then...are we in sin?

Just playing devil's advocate. I think it's plain dumb...what do they know about married life.



(82,333 posts)
4. No, it's not for procreation only
Fri Sep 21, 2012, 08:53 PM
Sep 2012

but the Church's position is that it should always be open to the possibility of life.

The terminology used is that sex should be both uniitive, i.e., expressing the unity of two people, and procreative, i.e. open to the possibility of procreation out of that act of sexual love.

From this view of sexuality stems the whole ball of wax and it shapes the Church's position on extramarital sex, same sex relations, contraception and the rest.

Here's an old statement on it from the US Bishops conference:


It's an interesting point you bring up about those beyond child bearing years. Barring a miracle, procreation is impossible, yet the Church routinely acknowledges and celebrates people married 50 years or more.

Fortinbras Armstrong

(4,473 posts)
5. Augustine, in his De Bono Conjugali (On the Good of Marriage)
Sat Sep 22, 2012, 09:29 AM
Sep 2012

praises couples who no longer have intercourse when the wife hits menopause. He says that those couples who continue to have sex do commit sin, but not serious sin.

Sex was Augustine’s hobbyhorse. Before his conversion, he had several illicit sexual relationships. At the same time, he was a Manichean, who like the Gnostics saw the flesh as evil; and he never quite got over this mindset. After his conversion, he renounced sex and would not be alone in a room with a woman, not even his sister. He said that sexual relations, except for the express purpose of begetting children, were sinful; that begetting children should offer the minimum of pleasure (“a man in his wife’s arms should concentrate only on the child and look forward to heaven where he can embrace her like a statue”) (Sermon 162); that the ideal marriage would be between two virgins intending to remain so; and that elderly people should be praised because they no longer indulge in sexual relations. “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of man downwards as the caresses of a woman and that physical intercourse which is part of marriage.” (Soliloquies 18.1)

Augustine knew from his own experience that pleasure was a distraction from what should be the central task of life: the search for God. He forsook worldly pleasures to concentrate on God. However, as is not uncommon in those who undergo a true conversion, he went somewhat overboard. He agonizes over his enjoyment of eating (“a dangerous pleasantness joins itself to the process”), while realizing that he has to eat to live (“I should take food in the way I take medicine”) (Confessions 10.31). I am reminded of H. L. Mencken’s comment that “a puritan is one who is afraid that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself.”

In discussing “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis (9.7), he says that a lonely man would be better off with a male friend with whom he could talk rather than saddling himself with a wife. As far as he was concerned, women were fit only for bearing children. He comes close to saying that God should have come up with a better way of continuing humanity and not bothered creating women at all.

I admire Augustine as a writer, as a theologian, and as a Christian. His Confessions should be required reading for all who want to know what it means to come to true faith in Christ. However, I cannot accept his pernicious views on women and sex, especially as it has influenced Christianity for the worse.


(24,688 posts)
6. St. Augustine had lust issues of his own
Sat Sep 22, 2012, 06:15 PM
Sep 2012

His own personal struggles with lust, the Manichean and Gnostic dualism he was involved with prior to his conversion to Christianity, and pervasive sexism of his era, strongly influenced his views against human sexuality which would involve anything but procreation and education of children.

What he did wrong was apply his own rigid reaction to his previous life of sexual indulgence to everybody else. He never fully renounced the Manichean idea that every earthly pleasure, even legitimate ones, was evil. His influence persists to this day, especially in the realm of sex and marriage.


(8,200 posts)
7. The fact is that he became a better Manichean after his so-called conversion.
Tue Sep 25, 2012, 10:27 AM
Sep 2012

Manicheans regarded sexual relations as a defilement. The pure didn't have any sexual relations. Their beliefs were so bizarre they can only be considered as being absolute lunacy. Augustine, even though he was a Manichean, took a mistress who he latter dumped at the insistence of his saintly mother who arranged a marriage with someone more suitable. Since she was under age, he took up with another mistress. God only knows what happened to woman who had bore him a son when she was abandoned. How Christian of him. Evidently he didn't take much stock in Jesus' teaching that what God has joined no man can put asunder.

Augustine, along with Jerome, delivered the coup de grace to a reasonable sexual mentality. Their pernicious influence poisoned Christian theology for centuries until the Enlightenment began to challenge their nonsense. That the Catholic Church continues to be mired in ignorance only guarantees that it will increasingly be considered to be a ridiculous relic of ignorance and superstition.


(3,879 posts)
9. And the church approves of the use of viagra
Tue Sep 25, 2012, 05:10 PM
Sep 2012

even if the wife is well beyond her childbearing years.

To me, not using birth control is like not taking penicillin for pneumonia.


(3,879 posts)
8. I always believed that the only reason
Tue Sep 25, 2012, 05:06 PM
Sep 2012

the Church allowed the rhythm method is because they couldn't reasonably tell people, "You must have sex tonight because you are in your fertile period." No way to enforce that because husbands may not be "up" to it, or one or the other spouse may be traveling for work, etc. And I'm an old lady, but I remember being told in the early 60s that if a couple intended to practice rhythm, they must obtain permission from their parish priest.


(12,481 posts)
10. Our priest, years ago in the sixties told us, as a couple, that if you believe its God's law
Fri Sep 28, 2012, 11:20 PM
Sep 2012

or a man made law... that answered our question

Latest Discussions»Alliance Forums»Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity»Just one question. Contra...