Fr. Peter writes:
The reflection of Fr. Euteneuer is far and away the best commentary on the recent statement of the Connecticut bishops permitting the use of Plan B in Catholic hospitals. Effectively, the bishops have allowed the State of Connecticut to determine moral questions for the Church in a manner contrary to the teaching of Christ.
Fr. Euteneuer’s introductory considerations are particularly pertinent for anyone generally concerned with authentic confession and life of faith. We must respect our bishops and support them in their trials. Nonetheless, we must not fail in our duty to call their attention to grievously mistaken policy decisions. The Connecticut bishops acquiescence in permitting Plan B to be implemented in health care facilities under the direction of the Church, rather than close these facilities, is merely in instance of such a policy decision, one with dangerous consequences for the faith and for the Church, not only in Connecticut, but throughout North America.
As Fr. Euteneuer notes, the decision rests on errors of principle and fact. So called “emergency contraception,?? billed as morally permissible in circumstances such as rape, is without the slightest doubt an abortifacient, and its use in any circumstances where an abortion may result, including rape, is therefore grievously sinful, according to the teachings of the Church.
This being the case, the circumvention of the episcopal statement to rationalize what to most people must seem an about face in the traditional teaching of the Church on contraception and abortion is simply an exercise in obfuscation. The fact is, if we have any doubt about whether a given action would directly risk someone’s life, entail a violation of justice or threaten the salvation of a soul, we may not act on the basis of a scientific probability. That means even if the pill in Plan B is only “dubiously?? abortive, we simply may not use it at all.
There remain two other issues raised in this statement not yet mentioned in any reactions to date, yet also highly important.
The first is the phrase “emergency contraception?? which appears more than once in bishops’ brief statement. Is there any difference between this and any other contraception, namely, the use of the act of intercourse in such wise as to render it closed to procreation of a third person. It is one thing to decide not to have children and so abstain from intercourse, this is not itself contraception and should not be described as such. It is quite another to engage in intercourse, even unwillingly, and use contraceptive instruments, for example, IUD or a chemical agent such as the pill to “redefine?? the act as non-procreative. Apart from intention and circumstances such a use is objectively evil and grievously so, because it is an act which strikes not at the life of an individual, but at the very continued existence of the human family. There is no such thing as an “emergency contraception?? which is morally licit in certain circumstances. To use it in the case of rape to deal with an “emergency?? implies that in any other emergency it might also be licit.
One might object that the Church has permitted a woman who has been raped to seek a remedy to her violation through what theologians term the lotio or flushing, by which the rapist’s seed is washed from her body. It is one thing to resist forced intercourse it is another thing to change the nature of the intercourse. In the Church’s view, since neither party has a right to the marriage act and since the woman did not consent, the man has effectively spilled his seed. The sin is his. The woman who has been so violated may continue to resist that violation by rejecting the insemination through the lotio. However, it does not follow that she would be justified to deliberately render herself infertile in order to avoid conception. That would simply be contraception, which is intrinsically evil. The end of both the lotio and “emergency contraception?? may be the same, but the means are quite different.
This raises a second question. In what sense should the conception of a child as a consequence of rape be described as an “emergency?? permitting the use of a means to prevent conception otherwise immoral? The “emergency?? consists in the need, not to prevent conception, but to prevent forced intercourse. Should this not be possible the resulting conception of a child, like every conception, in itself is a blessing, not an evil to be prevented even by the use of chemical contraceptives which have so far all been shown also to “contracept?? via abortion.