During this recent political contraception flap with the Catholic Church, no one speaks of the individual Catholic's moral consequence of disobeying a church teaching. I grew up a serious practicing Catholic, and disobeying a church teaching, like missing Mass on Sunday or eating meat on Friday, was a mortal sin and your soul became as black as coal and you'd better get yourself off to confession before you got hit by a truck and died. Dying with your soul black sent you straight to hell for all eternity.
Growing up, there were more ways to commit mortal sins. There were circumstances that allowed divorce, but if you remarried, eternal hell was your destiny. In marriage, avoiding pregnancy was allowed if you used the rhythm method which meant figuring out when you were going to ovulate and abstain from sex at that time. Fine, for those who had regular cycles. If you didn't, you were doomed to play "Vatican Roulette," as some priests laughingly called it.
If the rhythm method didn't work for you and you didn't want to play "Vatican Roulette" you could "abstain" (from sex until menopause) "and live like brother and sister," whispers the priest in the confessional. It was definite. Using any kind of pregnancy avoidance except the rhythm method and abstinence will have you roast in hell.
Are the penalties still the same?
It seems the rules of missing Mass and eating meat on Friday have been relaxed a bit. Have the rules on contraception been relaxed? They say that now Catholic women use contraceptives at the same rate as non-Catholic women. Are all these women going to spend their eternity in the flames of hell?
I have read letters in this column from some dedicated Catholics. Please write and tell us if there is a change. Is it still a mortal sin, with the consequence of eternal hellfire, to disobey the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception? Also, please note that we are talking about contraception only here, not abortion.
Lavonne Halloran Reller