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A Forgotten Argument about Contraception


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Why do so few Catholics follow the Church’s teaching on contraception? Or let me rephrase the question, since I believe that contraception is not merely “against Church teaching” but also as plainly wrong as any other moral wrong, such as theft or adultery: Why do so few Catholics refrain from doing this seriously wrong thing?

It’s not from lack of good arguments. But on this point let’s first establish the proper context. It’s not, after all, easy to find arguments to explain why some wrong thing is wrong. It’s not easy to do so for those who already “see” that it is wrong, and it is nearly impossible for those who don’t already “see” it.

Consider what you would say to explain why theft is wrong, to someone who was disposed to deny it. Or why is it wrong not to say “thank you”, or to abuse a corpse, or to show contempt for the poor? How many arguments can you devise to explain these and like things? I would guess: not many.

For the wrongness of contraception, in contrast, we have an embarrassment of riches. Philosophers and theologians, popes and bishops, in the last few decades have been busy looking for arguments, and they have found lots of them.

There is the argument from consequences: nothing which leads to evident evils such as abortion, promiscuity, the extinction of the West, the eroticization of marriage, and the treatment of incipient human life as a commodity, can itself be good.

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