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May 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A few months ago I read an article by a Protestant professor who was expressing his appreciation of many aspects of Catholic sexual morality, but who said he could not see the difference between natural family planning (NFP) and contraception. Since one encounters this difficulty so often—including among Catholic traditionalists, some of whom maintain that any use of NFP is impermissible because it is contrary to the primary end of marriage—I will attempt here to explain the difference as clearly and simply as I know how to do.

The couple using NFP chooses not to engage in marital relations at fertile times; the couple using contraception engages in them but tries to prevent a natural result from happening. In one case there is a non-action, in the other, an action. It is a difference as absolute as that between being and non-being.

From this ontological difference, there stems a moral difference. The NFP user intends to avoid a pregnancy, while the contraceptive user intends to prevent a pregnancy. The one, presumably for good reasons, respects a rhythm inherent in nature itself; the other, let us even presume for equally good reasons, uses technology to interfere with the order of nature. NFP is founded on an attitude of humility in the face of the mystery of fertility, whereby human beings cooperate with God in the creation of an immortal being destined for heaven. This is why NFP-users are fundamentally pro-life: respecting the order inscribed in their very bodies and acknowledging God as the sole Lord of life, they are ready to welcome any children He will send, even at a time when they may have wished to avoid conception.

Contraception, in sharp contrast, is the result of a Baconian-Cartesian “mastery of nature” mentality that puts man in God’s place. It makes man the one who determines the meaning, function, and goal of the sexual act: if he wants it to be for him and his partner only, excluding the child, he will find a way to carry out his intention. But in so doing, man is no longer fundamentally pro-life, pro-human, and pro-divine, for God Himself, the human nature He created, and the life He fashions in the womb all stand contrary to that contraceptive intention.

Finally, NFP can be abused if the mentality behind it happens to be anti-life, but it need not be so abused. Contraception, on the other hand, is an abuse in and of itself, since it treats fertility as a problem to be overcome or thwarted. And this is objectively offensive to the Creator of human nature. In short: the use of NFP can be rendered evil by a bad intention, but the use of contraception is evil in and of itself.

In spite of its derivation from the law of human nature and its confirmation in the divine law consistently handed down by the Catholic Church for 2,000 years, the message of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae has struggled for a hearing from the day it appeared in print to the present. A combination of outright dissent and cowardly silence has shrouded its truth in an impenetrable darkness. As Fr. Hardon points out, contraception is “fatal to the Faith” and “fatal to salvation”:

The practice of contraception is a grave sin. Those who indulge in the practice are in danger of losing their immortal souls… Christianity has always held, holds now, and always will hold, that contraception is a serious offense against God. Unless repented, it is punishable by eternal deprivation of the vision of God, which we call eternal death.

Commenting on this passage, John Galvin writes: “It is intolerable that the Church should stand by passively as the vast majority of its members—amounting to hundreds of millions of souls—conduct lives that must lead to eternal perdition.”

Can anyone deny that this, all by itself, demonstrate the massive apostasy of all too many shepherds of the Church since 1968, their refusal to shoulder the responsibility of their office to “preach the truth in season, out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), their abandonment of the sheep to the savage wolves of modern egoism and hedonism? This situation has always been intolerable, it is still intolerable, and it always will be intolerable. It is the root cause of much of the crisis in marriage and family.

Today we face a worsening situation: in addition to the usual widespread refusal to teach the truth, there is a new siege on Humanae Vitae by moral theologians emboldened by the “new paradigm” attributed to Amoris Laetitia and other acts of the Bergoglian pontificate, whereby the perennial moral teaching to which Veritatis Splendor bears witness is being dismantled, plank by plank.

At one point in Humanae Vitae, Paul VI makes the prescient remark: “If men’s peace of soul and the unity of the Christian people are to be preserved, then it is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice” (n. 28).

If the unanimous, uninterrupted, unequivocal, exceptionless magisterium of the Church on the intrinsic evil of contraception is not obeyed, peace of soul cannot be preserved, any more than the unity of the Church. Those who are leading souls away from this magisterium, which is founded in the “objective moral order” (HV 10)—whoever they may be, whatever uniform they may wear on the outside—are producing the bad fruits of warfare, unrest, confusion, anxiety, that tremendous lack of interior and exterior peace that characterizes all who flee from the divine law or dare to assault it. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” said Our Lord (Mt 7:16).

The Holy Spirit inspires joyful obedience to each and every moral truth traditionally taught by the Catholic Church. By following the way of sacrificial love, Christians produce good fruits in abundance for the glory of God. The Holy Spirit also inspires implacable hatred for sin, the devil, and heresy. To these, a Christian’s heart can offer no hospitality.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,