Life and Learning
This paper will focus on the majority report (titled “Responsible Parenthood”) of the 1966 Papal Birth Control Commission and its recommendations on abortion, sterilization, and contraception.(1) The analysis is made with the hindsight and perspective of thirty-seven years of scientific data on fertility, family planning, and family life. The analysis presented here does not concern the whole document but rather focuses on what are called the “objective criteria” that were provided in the document to help married couples make decisions on the use of contraception. While acknowledging the intellectual abilities and expertise of those who wrote the majority report, the analysis will show that the commission was “near-sighted” in its recommendation for change in the Church’s teaching on contraception. This paper will argue that the commission responsible for writing the majority report was wrong on a number of basic issues. Oddly enough, had Catholic followed the criteria as laid out in the majority report, there would be fewer abortions and sterilizations today among Catholics. Furthermore, in addition to the flawed criteria provided by the Commission, the world-wide dissent with the Church and the shift to a personal or intuitive judgment in determining what is right or wrong had the effect of promoting contraception, abortion and sterilization rather than preventing these immoral practices.