There are probably very few Catholic adults who are unaware of the Church’s teaching on the immorality of artificial birth control (ABC). Yet in spite of this awareness, a large number claim exemption and choose to relegate their decision solely to private conscience. What this individual conscience attitude really amounts to is individual disobedience. That’s not what we’re about as Catholics.
Simply put, ABC is wrong because it uses unnatural means to achieve an end. God has provided for a natural means through a woman’s fertility cycle, but the influence of secular sources is strong in trying to convince couples to always be “ready for the right moment”. Thus the desire to use artificial means to prevent conception rather than cultivate sexual self-control, a virtue proven to be beneficial to the soundness of a marriage. As stated in par. 16 of the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, “In reality, there are essential differences between the two cases; in the former [Natural Family Planning], the married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the latter [ABC], they impede the development of natural processes.”
Paragraphs 2368 to 2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church discuss the morality of the married couple’s decision regarding the conjugal act. Note that it isn’t the desire to temporarily delay having children or to space them, but rather the incorrect means employed, that can draw the couple into immoral behavior. ABC thwarts unity and procreativity, the two underlying purposes of the marriage act. When it is used, the couple no longer give themselves freely and totally to each other, while venturing the potential to regard one another merely as instruments of selfish enjoyment.
It’s interesting that until 1930 or so, almost all Christian religions were united regarding the immorality of ABC. Unlike Catholic teaching that has held true to this belief as firmly stated in the 1968 encyclical, many of these religions have changed their doctrine, even though it was merely the development of new methods that were introduced in the 20th century, not ABC itself. Moral teachings, however, aren’t adaptable to the convenience of medical innovations or changing cultures. Their uncompromising message flows from a thorough understanding of God’s moral laws which are consistently and authoritatively taught and which can be found in the Catholic Church.