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Fr. Peter vs. Plan B the Battle Continues

By October 24, 2007December 14th, 2007Fr. Peter Fehlner, News, Politics, Pro-Life

Ave Maria!

In a third installment on Plan B in Connecticut Fr. Peter answers comments from his two previous posts:

Father Peter Damian Fehlner, S.T.D. Weighs in on Plan B in Connecticut?and the Continuation?and he also adds some more thoughts.

LifeSiteNews?has linked to these articles with some interesting insight as has Mark Shea.

Fr. Peter writes:

I am quite in agreement with Timothy O??Rourke concerning the gross misuse of probabilism to justify administration of Plan B, or the “morning after” pill in cases of rape. In matters involving justice, life and death issues and salvation, one must always?act on the side of caution, viz., adopt the position which is not merely probable, but which is the safer of all possibilities. The reason is that in not placing clear and strict limits on the use of probabilism to resolve a doubtful conscience, one quite quickly becomes a moral relativist, able to find exceptions to the most absolute of divine commands, in particular those concerning the giving and taking of life.

By way of preface to a discussion of the questions of GenXsurvivor three magisterial texts more recent than Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae are most helpful in pinpointing what is meant by contraception as an intrinsically evil moral action, and why it is such. All are from the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

“Contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful, as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.” [from L??Osservatore Romano, 10 Oct., 1983].

“With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: “Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8) ” in other words to intend something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.” [Veritatis Splendor, n. 80, 6 Aug., 1993]

“The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable.” [Pontifical Council for the Family, Vade mecum for Confessors concerning some aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, 1 March, 1997]

Three points need to be underscored: contraception or contraceptive practices are those whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile (where conjugal act means the nature of the act as procreative prior to any consideration of personal circumstances of the couple, e.g., married or unmarried, willing or unwilling, viz., a sin against chastity which is unnatural); it is intrinsically evil and so profoundly such that no circumstances however worthy or urgent can excuse its use; and it is never lawful to practice contraception, that is, to do evil that good may come of it, for this would mean that in matters concerning human life it would be licit to defy God as God, whose laws concerning the giving and taking of life are the only sure bulwark of genuine charity, justice and personal dignity. We may add that behind this observation of John Paul II stands a profound insight into the essential and radical difference between human procreation and animal breeding. Contraception is not at all an evil for animals; it is a radical disaster for Adam made in the image and likeness of God.

With these points in mind, it is only fair to comment that the phrase “emergency contraception”, as applied in statements dealing with a woman’s means to resist a rapist, is a contradiction in terms.

Now let us see how these principles affect the replies to GenXsurvivor’s questions.

Flushing and the contraceptive pill have a similar end: preventing an unwanted conception. But as a means to this end they differ considerably. The contraceptive pill directly and immediately achieves this end by intentionally rendering the marital act, as naturally procreative (prior to any consideration of personal goals and circumstances), infertile. Flushing does so merely by preventing the sperm from reaching and fecundating the ovum, not by sterilizing either sperm or rendering the process ovulation infertile, etc., as do the contraceptive pill, IUD, etc. Flushing, indeed, may be contraceptive in the case of those who willingly engage in intercourse, just as abstinence from intercourse may be contraceptive where there is an obligation to engage in it. But neither flushing nor abstinence are contraceptive per se or positively, and so may be used in case of rape. St. Alphonsus objected to the use of flushing, since he considered it contraceptive by nature. The majority of theologians since have assessed it diversely.

As regards the condom used by a rapist, this is sinful for the rapist, not for the woman raped, since its use by the male clearly perverts the natural character of the act. The diaphram used by a woman being raped, provided she maintains an absolute resistance to any sexual pleasure, would be no more sinful than keeping an impenetrable blanket or other piece of clothing over her. Evidently the contraceptive character of the diaphram is not univocal like that of the pill, in particular the morning after pill.

As regards the theoretical case:

And if flushing is OK, how about a theoretical drug that does not prevent ovulation but does incapacitate sperm by thickening cervical mucus??”freezing” rather than “flushing,” if you will?

This is but another form of the contraceptive pill, which seems to me to point to abortion as well.

Finally, as regards the statement:

if a woman can tell the rapist “I will not give you my body, or my reproductive organs,” why cannot she tell his sperm “I will not give you my ovum”?

needs to be qualified: provided the resistance (not giving) is not intrinsically evil. The pill is intrinsically evil.Nearly a half-century ago Bl. Pope John XXIII set up a commission to study the contraceptive character of the so-called pill. Unfortunately, the drawn out proceedings of this commission and the unauthorized change of agenda, viz., from an examination of one contraceptive instrument to a questioning of Catholic tradition on the intrinsic evil of contraception (with widespread dissemination of the opinion that contraception might be licit in “hard cases”), has been the source of confusion and loss of faith to the present day. The so-called contraceptive pill, apart from undesirable side effects both medical (cancer) and moral (abortion) clearly had only one primary effect: rendering the marital act as such infertile or closed to procreation as its primary end. Hence, the only way to legitimate its use was to legitimate contraception in “emergency cases”. Humanae Vitae rejected precisely this position. Not to have done so, in the words of John Paul II in 1983 cited above is to defy God as God and attack the very grounds of survival of the human family.

Ave Maria!


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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Roy and Robin says:

    Ave Maria!

    The American Papist (Tom Peters)
    has commented on the Life Site News Report, and I was wondering if Fr. Peter could address Mr. Peters comments which are as follows:

    Let me explain: while Fr. Fehlner is correct in saying that contraception is “intrinsically evil” and hence never to be done, what is in fact “intrinsically evil” about contraception is primarily that it destroys the connection between the unitive and procreative dimensions of marital intercourse, as is taught in Humanae Vitae #12.

    However, in cases of rape, there is no unitive dimension for contraception to separate from the procreative. Indeed, rape is a wilful and violent perversion of what should be a unitive act. Part of its horror is that it is so clearly a violation and a “taking” of something which should be freely given and sacramentally confirmed.

    Therefore, individual Church conferences and directives have taught that a victim of rape may take non-abortifacient contraceptives to prevent the further violence of the attacker’s sperm upon her body (in this case, ovum). A primary example of this teaching is present in #36 of the USCCB’s ERDs.

    Thank you!

    Ave Maria!

  • Timothy O'Rourke says:

    Ava Maria Father! I thank you for responding to me. I have recently started a blog to help those of us who need help processing our Fathers decision in our Archdiocese. I have tried to the best of my ability to be humble, or true, to what I have learned growing up as a Catholic and my recent studies. The name of the bog is: For the Faith of the Archdiocese of Hartford. It can be found here: I beg of all would post a response to be in the Presence of Mary while doing so. Thank you again, Father Peter!


  • GenXsurvivor says:

    Fr. Fehlner–thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions!!! Of course, I have follow-up questions. 🙂 But I do not want to seem ungrateful. Your responses were very helpful in clarifying my understanding of your position. So I will ponder your answers some more and refrain from asking my follow up questions for now. I’ll also visit Mr. O’Rourke’s great new website!