Sunday, February 7, 2016

On contraception, mortal sins, and Hell: a reply to Ryan Ralph Nicolas

Hell - detail from a fresco in the medieval church St. Nicolas in Raduil, Bulgaria
Picture credit: "Hell - detail from a fresco in the medieval church St. Nicolas in Raduil, Bulgaria" by Edal Anton Lefterov - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Last Feb 3, 2016, a certain James Gregorio posted a comment in Youth for Life - Y4L Facebook page. His comment was actually a quote of Ryan Ralph Nicolas that  posted in the latter's Facebook timeline as a comment on the Rappler's article, "Teen pregnancy down in Asia-Pacific, except PH – report." James wishes to know what Y4L thinks of the quote. James and Nicolas are both Filipino Freethinkers. Below is the quote of Nicolas' post, followed by my response.

QUESTION:

At least we won't go to hell because using contraceptives is a mortal sin. Take that, the rest of the world!!! Yer all going to hell!!! But wait, aren't premarital sex and pretty much all sex outside wedlock mortal sins, too? And isn't it correct that you only need one un-confessed (as in the Catholic sacrament) mortal sin to go to hell? I guess the morally correct choice for us is both to be poor and to go to hell."--Ryan Ralph Nicolas

RESPONSE:

1. At least we won't go to hell because using contraceptives is a mortal sin. Take that, the rest of the world!!! Yer all going to hell!!!

Here, the author seems to adopt a persona of a faithful Catholic who says: "At least we won't go to hell because using contraceptives is a mortal sin. Take that, the rest of the world!!! Yer all going to hell!!!"

For a sin to be mortal, it requires three things: (1) grave matter, (2) willful consent, and (3) full knowledge. If one of these is missing, the sin is not mortal, but the sin must nevertheless be confessed. As the Catechism says:
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

Using contraceptives is a grave matter, because Pope Paul VI explicitly condemned such practice for married couples in Humanae Vitae, and this condemnation is echoed by the Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio. These condemnations are quoted in the Catechism:
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:159

"Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality."160
If the couple agreed to use contraceptives, that would be willful consent. But if the couple do not know the official teaching of the Church regarding such use, especially after hearing dissident theology teachers and priests who would preach in favor of such practice, and that the couple haven't read the official documents, e.g. the Catechism and Papal Encyclicals, proscribing such practice, the mortality of the sin may be lessened, because there is no full knowledge. Nevertheless, Christian charity demands that the truth must be proclaimed, so that couples would no longer have an excuse for not hearing the truth which is necessary for their salvation.

2. But wait, aren't premarital sex and pretty much all sex outside wedlock mortal sins, too?

As I said before, mortal sins require three things: (1) grave matter, (2) willful consent, and (3) full knowledge. Premarital sex and all sex outside wedlock are grave matters and these would be mortal if they were done in full knowledge and willful consent. Here is a list of sexual sins as listed in the Catechism:
  • 2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure.... 
  • 2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure.... 
  • 2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman....
  • 2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.... 
  • 2355 Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure.... 
  • 2356 Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person....
  • 2357 ..."homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
To these we may also add the offenses against the dignity of marriage:
  • 2380 Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations - even transient ones - they commit adultery....
  • 2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.... 
  • 2387 ...polygamy is not in accord with the moral law....because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive....
  • 2388 Incest designates intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them....
  • 2389 Connected to incest is any sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on children or adolescents entrusted to their care.... 
  • 2390 ....The expression "free union" is fallacious: what can "union" mean when the partners make no commitment to one another, each exhibiting a lack of trust in the other, in himself, or in the future?...
A woman who was raped would not have given her willful consent. A person who has been drugged or has consumed too much alcohol would have difficulty making a willful consent and his full knowledge of the act is weakened. But a person who already contemplated to have premarital sex after the dinner date and willfully drank alcohol to lessen his inhibitions as he makes his sexual advances may be guilty of mortal sin. To be sure, one really has to go to confession after committing such grave acts, so that priest can judge whether there was willful consent and full knowledge, and prescribe the penance accordingly for the sin can be forgiven.

3. And isn't it correct that you only need one un-confessed (as in the Catholic sacrament) mortal sin to go to hell?


This is correct. Mortal means deadly, in the same way as Mortal Kombat is a fight to death or a mortal wound can lead to death. As the Catechism says:
1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. 
Mortal sin kills the soul by preventing sanctifying grace to enter to it, in the same way as a limb dies when no blood flows through it. When a limb dies, it falls off from the body. As Christ said:
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 6* c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. (Jn 15:5-6)
 As long as we are part of the Christ who is the vine, we would have divine life and we grow in holiness. But once we are cut off from Christ because of mortal sin, we become like branches who wither and die and falls to the ground. And when we die in the state of mortal sin, our souls go to hell.

4. I guess the morally correct choice for us is both to be poor and to go to hell.

Based on the Nicolas' previous statements, the  reasoning behind statement 4  should go something like this
  • Not using contraceptives results to overpopulation, which in turn leads to poverty
  • But using contraceptives is a mortal sin, and dying with an unconfessed mortal sin leads one to hell
  • So we have a choice: use contraceptives and not become poor yet go to hell or not use contraceptives and become poor yet go not to hell.
Thus, the statement 4 should have been written with the "and" replaced by "or" and the word "both" removed: "I guess the morally correct choice for us is to be poor or to go to hell."

Regarding overpopulation, it looks like this is not anymore a problem; rather, the use of contraceptives has led to population collapse which may already be irreversible, as the experience of Singapore,  China, and Japan teaches us: 
  • Singapore. "Population control in Singapore spans two distinct phases: first to slow and reverse the boom in births that started after World War II; and then, from the 1980s onwards, to encourage parents to have more children because birth numbers had fallen below replacement levels. Government eugenics policies flavoured both phases." 
  • China. "The most significant population control system is China's one-child policy, in which, with various exceptions, having more than one child is discouraged. Unauthorized births are punished by fines, although there have also been allegations of illegal forced abortions and forced sterilization.[35]... The Chinese government introduced the policy in 1978 to alleviate the social and environmental problems of China.[37]... In November 2014, the Chinese government allowed its people to conceive a second child under the supervision of government regulation.[39] On October 29, 2015, the ruling Communist Party announced that all one-child policies would be abolished, allowing all couples to have two children. The change was needed to allow a better balance of male and female children, and to grow the young population to ease the problem of paying for the aging population."
  • Japan. "In 1949, the Government gave permission to manufacture several kinds of contraceptives, and contraception gradually became popular but cases of induced abortion tended to grow at leaps and bounds. In order to prevent dangerous black market induced abortions, therefore, the Eugenic Protection Law was amended in May, 1949, to widely legalize induced abortion. Then, in 1951, the Government decided on a policy to disseminate contraception among the people for the purpose of preventing unnecessary induced abortions with a view to protecting maternal health. In 1952, the Eugenic Protection Law was revised again to simplify procedures for legal induced abortion, while new regulations providing for guidance in contraception were added." (see Bronfenbrenner and Buttrick, p. 553) "Japan's population began falling in 2004 and is now ageing faster than any other on the planet. More than 22% of Japanese are already 65 or older. A report compiled with the government’s co-operation two years ago warned that by 2060 the number of Japanese will have fallen from 127m to about 87m, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older....The looming crisis has so alarmed Japan’s government that in 2005 it created a ministerial post to raise fertility. Last year a 20-member panel under the ministry produced a desperate wish list to reduce what it calls “deterrents” to marriage and child rearing. It included a proposal to assign gynaecologists to patients on a lifelong basis and even to provide financial support for unmarried Japanese who undertake "spouse-hunting" projects." (see The Economist)
Far greater than the devastation of atomic bombs is the annihilation of entire nations due to government-enforced contraception policies. And when the citizens learn to value contraception as a good, it would be terribly difficult to undo this downward spiral to extinction.


Related Posts:
Illogical Atheism: A Comprehensive Response to the Contemporary Freethinker from a Lapsed Agnostic
Illogical Atheism: A Comprehensive Response to the Contemporary Freethinker from a Lapsed Agnostic
Contraception and Persecution
Contraception and Persecution
To Hell with You! - The Catholic Church's Catechism on mortal Sin, and why You might deserve eternal Damnation
To Hell with You! - The Catholic Church's Catechism on mortal Sin, and why You might deserve eternal Damnation
Sin and Its Consequences
Sin and Its Consequences
The NaPro Technology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman's Cycle
The NaPro Technology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman's Cycle
Undefiled: Redemption From Sexual Sin, Restoration For Broken Relationships
Undefiled: Redemption From Sexual Sin, Restoration For Broken Relationships
Every Heart Restored: A Wife's Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband's Sexual Sin (The Every Man Series)
Every Heart Restored: A Wife's Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband's Sexual Sin (The Every Man Series)
How to Get to 'I Do': A Dating Guide for Catholic Women
How to Get to 'I Do': A Dating Guide for Catholic Women
The Glories of Divine Grace: A Fervent Exhortation To All To Preserve And To Grow In Sanctifying Grace
The Glories of Divine Grace: A Fervent Exhortation To All To Preserve And To Grow In Sanctifying Grace
Singapore's Ageing Population: Managing Healthcare and End-of-Life Decisions (Routledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series)
Singapore's Ageing Population: Managing Healthcare and End-of-Life Decisions (Routledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series)
China's Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy
China's Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy
Abortion before Birth Control: The Politics of Reproduction in Postwar Japan.
Abortion before Birth Control: The Politics of Reproduction in Postwar Japan.