Contraception and debt relief tackled by Catholic-Anglican dialogue


Catholics and Anglicans sat down in Cincinnati on May 25-26 to hold establish a dialogue on two issues that feature prominently in modern society: debt relief and contraception.

The event marked the second meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA).  The theme of this meeting was "Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences."

The dialogue was hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio and was co-chaired by Episcopal Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of Southern, Ohio and Catholic Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana. 

On the topic of international debt, the two churches found that they approach the subject differently but arrive at similar conclusions. They agreed that there is a great need for debt relief programs that acknowledge the dignity of the human person and serve the needs of the poor.

On the topic of contraception, however, the churches reached very different conclusions. 

The Anglican view, explained by Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver of the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas, believes that the use of contraception can be morally acceptable in certain situations, whereas the Catholic view, presented by Theresa Notare, Ph.D., assistant director of the Natural Family Planning Program at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), teaches that use of contraceptives is never morally justified.

The two churches had agreed that contraception was immoral until the Lambeth Conference in 1930, when the Anglican church decided that while “The primary and obvious method [for birth regulation] is complete abstinence,” there are some situations “where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence,” and in these cases, “other methods may be used,” provided that motivation is aligned with Christian principles.

Since that time, nearly every Protestant Church has adopted the belief that contraception is morally acceptable.

The Catholic Church, however, has remained consistent in teaching that artificial birth control is a grave evil that prevents husband and wife from giving themselves properly to each other in marital love. 

Pope Pius XI responded to the Lambeth Conference by issuing an encyclical, Casti Connubii, in which he confirmed the Catholic position that any time the marital act is “deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed this belief when he responded to the growing popularity of oral contraceptives by writing Humane Vitae.  In this encyclical, the Pope again proclaimed Church teaching that the only acceptable form of birth regulation is to “take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system.”   

The next meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue is scheduled for October, at which time members will continue to explore the similarities and differences of their views on these subjects, as well as examining the two churches’ views on immigration and responses to Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical.

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