With modern, secular society, it is a common belief that the Church should "update" her moral teachings. Why, some may ask, does she hold on to outdated teachings such as abortion, contraception, same-sex unions, and divorce, among many others? As John Paul II explains in Veritatis Splendor, which is his encyclical on the moral teachings of the Church, the Church dervies her moral teachings from Christ himself. She is not at liberty to change them when society itself changes because Christ gave these teachings to the Church. Below are helpful and reliable resources concerning important aspects of the Church's moral teachings that will hopefully answer any questions about why the Church teaches what she does.
As John Paul II explains in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), "Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an 'unspeakable crime'" (art. 58). While society says that the infant within the womb is merely a "clump of cells," the Church has always believed that life begins at conception. Each and every life has dignity because it is a gift from God, and the innocent child within the womb deserves to be respected and protected against any danger. The Church firmly teaches that abortion is the killing of an innocent child and cannot be tolerated. The Church, in her mercy, recognizes the deep pain and trauma that abortion causes to women, men, and families, and offers hope and healing to those struggling after having an abortion.Resources:
The issue of contraception is intimately linked with abortion. It may come as a surprise that contraception was actually legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut;in 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade (1973) legalized abortion. Why is this the case? The legalization of contraception necessarily guarantees the legalization of abortion. Contraception, among other things, deceives a woman's body to think that she is pregnant, even though she is not. Because of that, it can prevent implantation, turning into an abortifacient. Sometimes, however, contraception does not work as it should, allowing for implantation, resulting in pregnancy. Those who are seriously attempting to prevent pregnancy often have recourse to abortion: abortion is the answer when the contraception fails. Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae, was the first papal encyclical to condemn the use of contraception (1968). In this document, Paul VI argues for the unitive and procreative ends of marriage: each marital act must be open to life if it is to truly bring the couple together (art. 12). Contraception frustrates this act because the couple is withholding fertility from each other. Natural Family Planning (NFP) promotes the openness to life and respect for the couple's fertility that is in accord with the dignity given by God.
Because of our advances in technology, there have recently been many new developments in fertility treatments. Treatments such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination are now available to couples who are struggling with infertility. The Catholic Church, however, teaches that these fertility treatments, among others, are gravely immoral (see CCC, nos. 2376-2377). The Church teaches that children are the "supreme gift of marriage, "(CCC, nos. 2378), which means that no couple is "owed" children. Children are given as a gift, and therefore, any fertility treatment that frustrates the natural marital union is considered immoral. As Pope John Paul II cites in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, fetuses are often killed in the in-vitro fertilization process, and "the killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act" (art. 63). The Church has the tenderest compassion for those couples who experience infertility, and asks them to unite their sufferings with those of Christ on the cross. Nevertheless, she does not approve of fertility treatments that dissociate the unitive and procreative ends of marriage; instead, she encourages couples to use Natural Family Planning (see resources above concerning NFP).Resources:
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions as "marriages" for the whole nation (see Obergefell v. Hodges). The Catholic Church, however, teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman, as established by God in the very beginning: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Because God established marriage as a union between one man and one woman, unions between two women or two men cannot be considered marriages. Same-sex unions are directly contrary to the natural order, as God created man and woman for each other (see Genesis 2:23 and CCC, no. 2357). While the Church seeks to help those who struggle with homosexual attractions, these individuals are called by God to live chaste lives, in conformity with the natural law established by God (see CCC, no. 2358).Resources:
The Catholic Church receives her teaching that marriage is indissoluble from Christ himself: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.' So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6). When a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they become one flesh--their marriage is a covenant, which can only be dissolved by the death of one of the partners. As such, the Church has never supported civil divorce, as it cannot dissolve marriages in the eyes of the Church. Even if a couple is "legally" divorced, they are still one flesh according to the law of the Church. Therefore, the Church does not encourage divorce; only in extreme cases does she permit separation. As the Catechism explains, "Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is a sign" (no. 2384; see also nos. 2383 and 2386). If a couple believes that they are living in an invalid marriage, they should approach the Tribunal to discuss the possibility of a declaration of nullity, which says that no marriage existed between the two in the first place.Resources:
Our secular society almost takes cohabitation before marriage as a given. If a couple wants to ensure that they will "work" together to avoid the tragedy of divorce, why wouldn't they live together? Nevertheless, statistics show that couples who live together are more likely to divorce. Why is that the case? If marriage was created by God to be indissoluble and to be for the whole of the couple's life, then "pretending" to be married will only damage that. Sharing experiences together that are meant only for a married couple is like telling a lie--the couple is giving the gift of themselves to each other before the proper time. Even if this couple ends up getting married, they have stolen from each other the gift of sexuality designed only for marriage. The pain of separation is even worse if the cohabiting couple decides to break up. The security of the marriage covenant helps couples to be more open and more willing to share themselves. That this man or this woman has said that he or she will give him or herself to you for the entirety of his or her life is necessary if the marriage is to be truly happy. Therefore, the Church promotes chastity for dating couples; it is better to save yourself for the right person, rather than give yourself away before you are married. Chastity is not always easy, but it is the higher path of following the cross of Christ.Resources: