Josef Seifert:
International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein and at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Forty years ago the Catholic Church reaffirmed in Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae one of its most controversial moral teachings, against which not only critics of the Church but many theologians raised objections. And ten years ago the Encyclical Fides et ratio insisted that the Catholic Church acknowledges two wings by the use of which the human mind can reach the truth: faith and reason, implying that we get to know truth not solely be faith but also by reason. Precisely in view of the Catholic insistence on the role of reason, one of the many reasons why the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae are so strongly attacked and so seldom followed, even by Roman Catholic Christians, is the fact that many individuals have no understanding why a moral difference should exist between natural regulation of conception, which the Church allows, and contraception, which it forbids, such that the one would be morally wrong while the other would not be essentially morally objectionable, or even morally right and conceivably, in some cases, obligatory.

The failure to understand is in this case especially serious since the Church proposes this teaching as part of the „natural law“ that is accessible to reason and not as a pure content of faith, thus appealing to rational grounds of its teaching that are not derived from Revelation.

I. Some Comments on the Meaning and Purpose of Marriage and Sexuality

In view of its own appeal to ratio, we will treat here the Catholic Church’s doctrine on contraception and human life as an object of rational knowledge and try to show by the light of reason why contraception is immoral and that the immorality of contraception is grounded in the objective meaning of human sexuality and of marriage. In order to 1 understand this, we have first to grasp the meaning of human sexuality and marriage and the goods and values linked to it.