Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
Again, I do find myself often agreeing with what you have to say (even though it might not seem like it from my following comments!).
But ultimately, I find my logic and thoughts coming to a different place.
For example, you claim that the difference between the Billings method and barrier contraception is similar to the difference between not using extraordinary means to prevent death and administering a drug to hasten death.
However, my feeling is that the difference between not using extraordinary means to prevent death, and administering a fatal drug, is the difference between being passive and being active. On the other hand, Billings and barrier contraception are both active.
Also, you try to make a distinction between "natural" and "artificial", by making "artificial" and technological seem synonymous. But the example of Onan shows that the distinction between "natural" and "artificial" has nothing to do with technology or materials. Onan did not use any device or material to prevent conception.
In actuality, the difference between "natural" and "artificial" has more to do with the difference between passive and active, as alluded to above. Another aspect of the difference between "natural" and "artificial" is ignorance versus knowledge. As you point out, Genesis makes the point that knowledge and sinfulness are tied together. Interestingly, the word "artifice" implies a strategy....
Consequently, it seems to me that contraception is like abortion, in that a fetus is either a human being or a blob of protoplasm, it doesn't magically change from one to the other after exactly 3 or 6 months of pregnancy. In the same way, either all conscious attempts to avoid conception are sinful, or else any non-abortive contraception is reasonable in sacramental marriage (ie no IUDs, no morning-after pills, and no birth control pills that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting).
One thing that I find missing in discussions on some of these topics is the realization that while we are correct in strongly opposing the current climate of moral relativism, nevertheless details of moral law can change over time. In other words, while moral principles don't change, some specifics of the law do change. Christians do eat pork, and women no longer cover their heads in church. In Genesis, God commands "Be fruitful and multiply". That commandment has been fulfilled. The number of human beings has changed from just 2 to 5 billion. I'm not a population control alarmist, rather my point is that there is such a thing as history, ie different conditions over time.
Another point that I would like to make is that when something is important, God makes it clear. A saint was once asked how we know when God is trying to say something to us, and his reply was that if it was important, God would say it at least three times. Note that we have four gospels which cover the life of Jesus, and many important aspects are repeated, often three times.
Thus, if contraception (and masturbation, for that matter) were really mortal sins, it would be unconscionable for God to only talk about it once, and only in the Old Testament (where can be found many equally specific laws that no longer apply), and only in a very sketchy biographical anecdote amid many biographical anecdotes that establish no laws by themselves, and only in a very indirect way open to a wide variety of interpretations.
PS One last comment I'd like to make is that while I see value in tradition and the authority of the pope and the church, I don't see much value in quoting "Early Church Fathers". To me, someone speaking in 190 AD is no more likely to be correct than someone speaking in 1960 AD. In the years between, say 70 AD and roughly 500 AD, many more heresies were prevalent than in any subsequent period. Many bishops and other ecclesiastical authorities held wrong views on subjects far far more crucial than contraception (eg the Trinity, divine nature of Jesus, etc.). Many also held strong views in favor of geocentricism as well as literal 6-day creation, neither of which is currently the view of the Church.
Ken <*> firstname.lastname@example.org
Your comments or questions are welcome.
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