Casti Connubi on Contraception

17. Since,
however, We have spoken fully elsewhere on the Christian education of
youth,[18] let Us sum it all up by quoting once more the words of St.
Augustine: “As regards the offspring it is provided that they should be begotten
lovingly and educated religiously,”[19] – and this is also expressed
succinctly in the Code of Canon Law – “The primary end of marriage is the

53. And now, Venerable
Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits
of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the
boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to
be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which
Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by
frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground
that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their
consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent
nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on
the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.

54. But no reason, however
grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may
become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal
act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in
exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against
nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

55. Small wonder,
therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with
greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death.
As St. Augustine
notes, “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked
where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did
this and the Lord killed him for it.”[45]

56. Since, therefore,
openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have
judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this
question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the
integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin
which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial
union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her
divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever
of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in
its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of
nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave

57. We admonish, therefore,
priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue
of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not
to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of
God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in
no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God
forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least
confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact
that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the
betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ:
“They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind,
both fall into the pit.[46]

58. As regards the evil use
of matrimony, to pass over the arguments which are shameful, not infrequently
others that are false and exaggerated are put forward. Holy Mother Church
very well understands and clearly appreciates all that is said regarding the
health of the mother and the danger to her life. And who would not grieve to
think of these things? Who is not filled with the greatest admiration when he
sees a mother risking her life with heroic fortitude, that she may preserve the
life of the offspring which she has conceived? God alone, all bountiful and all
merciful as He is, can reward her for the fulfillment of the office allotted to
her by nature, and will assuredly repay her in a measure full to

59. Holy Church
knows well that not infrequently one of the parties is sinned against rather
than sinning, when for a grave cause he or she reluctantly allows the
perversion of the right order. In such a case, there is no sin, provided that,
mindful of the law of charity, he or she does not neglect to seek to dissuade
and to deter the partner from sin. Nor are those considered as acting against
nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although
on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life
cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the
matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the
cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and
wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the
primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.

60. We are deeply touched
by the sufferings of those parents who, in extreme want, experience great
difficulty in rearing their children.

61. However, they should
take care lest the calamitous state of their external affairs should be the
occasion for a much more calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that
justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts
intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife
cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and
preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is
expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash
as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema,
namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God
does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you
are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.”[48]

62. This same doctrine was
again solemnly repeated and confirmed by the Church in the condemnation of the
Jansenist heresy which dared to utter this blasphemy against the goodness of
God: “Some precepts of God are, when one considers the powers which man
possesses, impossible of fulfillment even to the just who wish to keep the law
and strive to do so; grace is lacking whereby these laws could be

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