Michael Dummett on the Morality of Contraception

Heythrop Journal 53 (5):763-767 (2012)

John Schwenkler
Florida State University
In his recent writings, Sir Michael Dummett has reflected twice on the Catholic position on the morality of contraception, focusing his attention especially on Humanae Vitae’s prohibition of the contraceptive use of the birth control pill. On examination, Dummett finds this prohibition ‘incoherent’, arguing that its promulgation ‘greatly damaged the respect of the faithful for the Catholic Church’s moral teaching in general’, as well as ‘the integrity of Catholic moral theology’. Given Dummett’s earlier defense of Paul VI’s reaffirmation of the Church’s traditional position on contraception in Humanae Vitae, as well as his forceful criticisms of certain liberalizing tendencies among Catholic theologians and biblical scholars, these arguments deserve to be taken seriously, and regarded as coming from a spirit of serious philosophical reflection rather than casual dissent. Nevertheless, this paper argues that they are based on a misapprehension of what is really behind the position Dummett means to be criticizing, and that when the essentials of that position are clarified the rationale behind it is safe from his objections.
Keywords Dummett, Michael  contraception  sexual ethics
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Reprint years 2012
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2010.00634.x
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