Catholic Church once supported birth control in hippie sixties

25 Mar

Well this is kind of fun.

The ladies over in the Philippines would like to guarantee access to free contraception and improve maternal health with a Reproductive Health Bill that has been in Congress for 16 years, and it actually sort of looks like they’re going to win it finally.

Predictably, the Catholic Church is upset about the idea of women having better health and being less poor. Since the country is majority Catholic and they need to win over parishioners, advocates of the Reproductive Health Bill did some research on Catholic teaching about birth control. And lo and behold, a group of bishops appointed by the Pope did in fact once support the idea that using birth control is not a sin.

A 1965 papal commission called together by John Paul decided by a vote of 9 to 3 that birth control wasn’t actually so bad, nor were the pope’s teachings on it infallible.

The official report of the commission said:

  • the teaching on birth control was not infallible;
  • that the traditional basis for the ban on contraception–the biblical story of Onan, who spilled the seed–had been interpreted incorrectly in the past;
  • that the regulation of fertility was necessary for responsible parenthood and could properly be accomplished by intervening between natural processes;
  • and, finally that the morality of marriage was not based on “the direct fecundity of each and every particular act,” but on mutual love within the totality of marriage.

Holy shit, this sounds kind of sane. It’s complete news to me that the Church was at any point actually, genuinely interested in helping its followers reduce the poverty cycle through responsible family planning. I had mistakenly always assumed Church hierarchy had historically kept to its policy of “we should at all times enjoy fucking all of Christ’s children, physically, spiritually and economically.”

So who rained on this commission’s parade?

Oh right. John Paul only got as far down the report as that whole “my teaching is not infallible” part and flipped out and wrote Humanae Vitae, the subtext of which just says “I am never wrong, ever, ever, so fuck you guys.”

Meanwhile over at the commission:

The dissenting members prepared a “minority report” which stated that the teaching on contraception could not change, not due to a theological principle, but because the Church could not admit it was wrong: “The Church cannot change her answer, because this answer is true…it is true because the Catholic Church instituted by Christ…could not have so wrongly erred during all those centuries of its history.” It went on to say that if the hierarchy was to admit it was wrong on the issue, its authority would be questions on all “moral matters.”

So not one person on the commission actually disliked birth control. They just disliked being wrong.


One Response to “Catholic Church once supported birth control in hippie sixties”


  1. Catholic Church accidentally authorizes contraception « pukingponies - April 13, 2011

    […] right. The Humaneae Vitae thing, the rant JP wrote out of spite when someone told him he might be wrong about birth […]

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