The Catholic Church, Obamacare, and the Contraception Mandate

Moral teachings that guide the consciences of the faithful do not change with — nor can they be changed by — popular vote, majoritarian preferences, societal expectations, the predilections of the Executive Branch, or the predilections of the Supreme Court — and that is certainly the case with the Catholic Church’s universal and consistent moral teaching on contraception — a teaching that has been in place for over 2,000 years.  And despite the best efforts of man and the federal government, this teaching will not — because it cannot — change.  As Pope Paul VI made clear in Humanae Vitae, which confirmed the Church’s universal teaching regarding the immorality of contraceptive practices:

It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching.  There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication.  But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.”  She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter — only their guardian and interpreter It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization.  She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients.  In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife.  This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men.”

Humanae Vitae ¶18 (1968).  Similarly, it could never be right for civil authorities — whether the federal government or the Supreme Court — to declare moral what is in fact immoral for a person of faith, “since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.”

The Church “teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”  Humanae Vitae ¶11.  “This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”  Humanae Vitae ¶12.  Thus, “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life.  Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”  Humanae Vitae ¶13.

Therefore, based “on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage,” the Church is “obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.  Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.  Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.”  Humanae Vitae ¶ 14.

As Pope Paul VI prophetically observed in Humanae Vitae: 

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control.  Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.  Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.  Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Humanae Vitae ¶ 17 (emphasis added).

Thus, it has come to pass that the widespread use of contraceptives has indeed harmed women physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually — and has, in many respects, reduced her to the mere instrument for the satisfaction of man’s own desires.  Consequently, the promotion of contraceptive services — the very goal of the Obamacare contraception mandate — harms not only women, but it harms society in general by “open[ing] wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.”  Responsible men and women cannot deny this truth.

In sum, for adherents to Church teaching, contraceptive services are not properly understood to constitute medicine, healthcare, or a means of providing for the well-being of persons.  Rather, these procedures involve gravely immoral practices, and compelling people of faith to promote or facilitate their use imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, properly understood.