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The Penalty for Pro-RH Catholics: Exclusion, Excommunication, and Eternal Damnation

Will pro-RH Catholics go to Hell when they die? If my research on the official teachings of the Catholic Church is correct, then it’s likely. This is not reserved for those who actually use contraceptives. Even Catholics who merely believe it’s OK to use them share the same fate.

I am not making this up. Nor is this based on some fringe fundamentalist position within the Catholic Church. This is based on the official teachings of the Vatican, and almost every statement I’ll cite to prove it came from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Threats and Taunts from the CBCP

Since an RH (reproductive health) bill was proposed over a decade ago, the CBCP and their cohorts have reacted to pro-RH Catholics in several ways, from threats of excommunication to insults such as “oxymoron,” both implying that an anti-RH position is required to remain in good standing in the Roman Catholic Church.

But are any of these threats and taunts valid? Are pro-RH Catholics still Catholic? Can the CBCP excommunicate someone for their pro-RH position? What happens to pro-RH Catholics when they die?

I’ll do my best to answer these questions — and explain how pro-RH Catholics could go to Hell — from the perspective of the Pope, the Vatican, and their version of God. I make this distinction because there are many progressive theologians and even more baptized Catholics who disagree with the Vatican.

As a freethinker, I do not believe in the Vatican’s authority — threats of excommunication and damnation are meaningless to me. And if there were a god — that is, an all-wise, all-loving god — I believe She’d have nothing against using artificial contraception and individual conscience. This is the God pro-RH Catholics believe in, and it goes without saying that She has no punishments reserved for the pro-RH.

Of course, this is all anathema to the Vatican, and whether this dissent is valid is a topic I’ll leave for another day. For now, here’s what the Vatican actually says about pro-RH Catholics.

I want to emphasize that I don’t agree with what the Vatican says. I don’t even think their views are worth anyone’s attention. But Catholics, regardless of their position on RH, should at least be aware of what their leaders think — especially those who claim to be infallible.


Are pro-RH Catholics still Catholic?

Yes. When a person is baptized Catholic, he remains Catholic until death.

Once someone is validly baptized, Catholic or otherwise, he is baptized forever (CIC 845). One can never lose baptism or become “unbaptized,” although one might lose the benefits of baptism by personal sin.

Once a Catholic, always a Catholic — even if they get excommunicated, disagree with dogma (heretics), join a different denomination (schismatics), or leave Christianity altogether (apostates). They just become excommunicated Catholics, heretic Catholics, schismatic Catholics, and so on. In other words, although they are not in full communion with the Church — not fully Catholic — they are Catholic nonetheless.

Can the CBCP excommunicate someone for their pro-RH position?

It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Even pro-abortion Catholics are spared from excommunication:

Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.”

Next to excommunication — which excludes someone from all sacraments — exclusion from Holy Communion is the worst punishment a Catholic can get. We’ll return to this exclusion shortly.

What is the worst punishment possible for being pro-RH?

Eternal Damnation. Although there is no single statement that explicitly says this, we can follow the implications of several teachings and come to the same conclusion. I’ve elaborated this in 5 steps, each supported by official Vatican documents:

1. The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is inherently evil, and that this teaching is a definitive doctrine 1:

Every action which , whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370

The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. [In other words, infallible.]

Official Guide for Confessors issued by the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family

2. Catholics who deny definitive doctrines are not in full communion with the Catholic Church:

Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters.15 Whoever denies these truths [definitive doctrines] would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.


3. Catholics who are not in full communion with the Church must abstain from receiving Holy Communion:

Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected.

– Joseph Ratzinger, Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles

This is the same punishment proposed by the Vatican for pro-abortion Catholics mentioned above.

4. Catholics who do not fulfill their obligation to receive Holy Communion commit a grave sin.

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181

When you freely commit a sin knowing that it is of a grave matter, you commit a mortal sin. Note that receiving Holy Communion when you are unworthy is itself a grave matter (sacrilege), so freely committing it with full knowledge of its graveness is yet another mortal sin.

5. Catholics who die in mortal sin go to Hell:

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1035

Remember that any contraception, if done freely with the knowledge of its graveness, is by itself a mortal sin. But what I’ve elaborated above shows that even the belief 2 that contraception is not inherently evil already disqualifies Catholics from partaking in Holy Communion. This is the same reason excommunication is a big deal: It excludes Catholics from the sacraments, of which Communion is the most important. And as I’ve shown, the Vatican teaches that without Communion, there’s no salvation.

Pro-RH Catholics and the Pope

So there you have it. According to the Vatican, Pro-RH Catholics, by their denial of a definitive doctrine, are not in full communion with the Church, preventing them from fulfilling their obligation to receive Holy Communion — a mortal sin, which if left unconfessed, means their souls will go to Hell when they die.

This should be more alarming than it is, but I realize this early that this information will be trivial to many. Because if you’re a pro-RH Catholic — someone who uses or promotes contraceptives in good conscience — you probably don’t care what the Pope says anyway.

The easiest way to get excommunicated

Not caring what the Pope says means you probably don’t believe in his infallibility. This, by the way, is a divinely revealed doctrine:

To the truths of the first paragraph [which refers to divinely revealed truths] belong … the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff …

Denying a divinely revealed doctrine, such as papal infallibility, is another mortal sin, one of the few that can get you an automatic excommunication:

These doctrines [divinely revealed truths] require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law.

So according to the Pope, thinking that he could be wrong in a matter of faith and morals — such as his views on the evil of contraception — will get you automatically excommunicated. But then again, if you’re pro-RH, you probably disagree.


[1] On questioning the infallibility of the contraception teaching

Some progressive Catholics argue that the teaching on the inherent evil of contraception (let’s call it contraception teaching from here on) is not an infallible one. They make this mistake because they think that the only way for a teaching to be infallible is for it to be pronounced infallible by the Pope.

And officially, no Pope has pronounced the contraception teaching infallible by himself. But when a teaching is taught for a long time by most (if not all) Catholic bishops together with the Pope, the teaching is considered infallible — infallible by the Church’s teaching authority. This teaching authority is also known as the ordinary universal Magisterium. Some examples of teachings considered infallible in this way are the inherent evil of murder, prostitution, fornication, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, ordination of women priests, and finally, contraception.

So although the teaching on contraception was not pronounced ex cathedra (with a solemn declaration of infallibility) by any pope, it is infallible by virtue of the unbroken tradition of bishops and popes collectively teaching its inherent evil.

The infallibility of the contraception teaching was the same conclusion reached by most Catholic theologians, both progressive — such as Hans Kung — and conservative — such as John C. Ford.

Because the teaching on contraception is an infallibly taught truth, it is a definitive doctrine and should therefore be held definitively by all Catholics.

But why must infallible truths be held definitively? When the Pope or the ordinary universal Magisterium teaches something infallibly, it is as if the teaching is made by God himself. This is reflected clearly by the following statements made by Pope John Paul II on the contraception teaching.

In the late 80s, he said that Humanae Vitae was “written by the creative hand of God in the nature of the human person,” and that Catholic theologians could not doubt the ban on contraception because doing so would be like doubting “the very idea of God’s holiness.” If that doesn’t convince you he thinks the contraception teaching is infallible, I don’t know what will.

[2] The difference between a sin of action and a sin of belief.

You may commit a sin, while believing that it is wrong. In this case all you have to do is confess and try your best not to do it again. But if your sin has to do with failing to believe something you’re supposed to believe, you can’t just confess. You have to change your belief as well. If you can’t ever change your belief — or don’t even want to try — then you’ll be in a state of perpetual sin.

Consider contraception. An anti-RH Catholic might out of “weakness” be forced to use a condom while thinking that it is immoral. He will be guilty until his next confession, or probably a few weeks after that. But once he confesses, the mortal sin is forgiven, and he’s back in full communion, worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist.

This success story does not apply to the pro-RH Catholic. If a pro-RH Catholic uses a condom and thinks it’s OK, he can’t just confess the action. Forget that it would be weird for him to confess something he doesn’t think is wrong. But even if he does confess the action, if he doesn’t change the belief, he’ll still be unworthy of the Holy Eucharist. And if he continues believing “immorally,” he never will be.

Of course, some will say you can believe something and at the same time think that the said belief is wrong. I won’t even try to get into that.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.