Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Catholic Church and Contraception

Pope Benedict XVI is making news for comments suggesting that the Catholic Church finds condoms acceptable in certain circumstances.

Whether using contraceptives is biblically acceptable is a fascinating topic without an easy answer. The argument for contraception being unbiblical is relatively straightforward. By stopping a child from being born, one contravenes God will if indeed he desired for a child to be born. But that logic becomes tough to follow in all cases. If two people decide not to have sex in the first place they cannot have a child. So if God wanted the couple to have a child, but the couple abstains from sex, aren’t they also contravening God’s will?

For a weirder thought experiment, let’s consider a time machine. Let’s assume that a couple has a 10 year old kid driving them up the walls that resulted from a specific sexual encounter. So we know that if the couple has sex on that exact occasion, a child would result, and we might assume that it was God’s will for the child to come into being. After a while, they regret having the child in the first place. If they found access to a time machine and went back to the hours before they had sex specifically so they could avoid it, would that be a sin? They are knowingly preventing a child from being born. If you asked most people whether couples who used condoms to prevent pregnancies were guilty of sin, they would most likely answer “no.” But if we embrace the logic that preventing a child from coming into being from the time machine thought experiment, then using condoms may well be sinful too.

There is an interesting question of what effect the Pope’s comments will have on the larger church. Perhaps more liberal Catholics who want to change the Church’s views on contraception will feel emboldened and press for change. For sure, the condom issue won’t go away anytime soon.

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