Sex, Violence, and Justice

Contraception and the Catholic Church

Aline H. Kalbian

"Kalbian has done a great service in providing a methodological framework to systematically analyze and move such conversations [about contraception within the Catholic Church] forward."
+ Add to Cart Preorder


Request Print Exam Copy

Request Digital Exam Copy

In 1968, Pope Paul VI published Humanae vitae, the encyclical that reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s continued opposition to the use of any form of artificial contraception. In Sex, Violence, and Justice: Contraception and the Catholic Church, Aline Kalbian outlines the Church’s position against artificial contraception as principally rooted in three biblical commandments. In addition, Kalbian shows how discourses about sexuality, both in the Church and in culture, are often tied to discourses of violence, harm and social injustice. These ties reveal that sexual ethics is never just about sex; it is about the vulnerability of the human body and the challenges humans face in trying to maintain just and loving relationships.

As Kalbian explores and contrasts the Catholic Church’s stance toward condoms and HIV/AIDS, emergency contraception in cases of rape, and contraception and population control, she underscores how contraception is not just a private decision, but a deeply social, cultural, and political one, with profound global implications. Kalbian concludes that even the most tradition-bound communities rely on justificatory schemes that are fluid and diverse. Taking this diversity seriously helps us to understand how religious traditions change and develop.

Sex, Violence, and Justice will be of interest to students and scholars of Catholic moral theology, sexual ethics, religion and society, gender and religion, as well as to specialists and practitioners in public health.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
2. The History and Grounding of Justifications
3. Sex: HIV/AIDS, Condoms, and Sexual Morality
4. Violence: Emergency Contraception and Rape
5. Justice: Population, Development, and the Common Good
6. Conclusion




"An important glimpse into the theoretical, historical, and political factors that influence Catholic teaching on sexuality. Kalbian’s historical research is extensive, ranging from classical theologians such as Thomas Aquinas to the modern popes. The historical material is brilliant, but where Kalbian really shines is in her engagement with the contemporary issues surrounding contraception."—Choice

"A sound resource for graduate students or any scholars who are curious to uncover the layers of complexity behind the issue of contraception in the Church. . . . [Kalbian] masterfully demonstrates throughout her book [that] beliefs about the morality of artificial contraception are always revolving around beliefs about proper sexual activity, violence and harm, and social justice."—Marginalia - LA Review of Books

"This book is not only a useful update of the development of Catholic teaching, it connects that teaching to emergent contemporary conundra. A valuable resource for serious study by scholars and a must read in pertinent graduate courses, it might be an apt Christmas gift for bishops and members of Congress. For those who wish to pursue the subject in greater depth, the author provides abundant footnotes and bibliography."—Catholic Books Review

"Kalbian’s combination of clear writing style and sophisticated level of analysis make this book valuable in a variety of settings. Students will appreciate its readability and relevance for their lives, while serious researchers (both theologians and scholars of religious studies alike) will appreciate its precise historical and analytical approach. Any who are interested in discourses about gender and sexuality, power and authority, or violence and harm will be intrigued by Kalbian’s arguments."—Theology & Sexuality

"Kalbian has done a great service in providing a methodological framework to systematically analyze and move such conversations [about contraception within the Catholic Church] forward."—America Magazine

"Aline Kalbian provides a fresh and provocative approach to a subject that will not go away: the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. Eschewing the tired battles between left and right over personal morality, Kalbian goes at the topic from a different direction. She makes a compelling case for the huge influence of social and political forces on what are supposedly objective and logical arguments. In reality, the contraception debates are about how to frame sex, gender, and violence. This book is a 'must' read for anyone striving to understand how religious traditions adapt (or not) to changing cultural dynamics."—Lisa Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

"Catholic teaching on human sexuality is sometimes dismissed as a quaint relic of a premodern understanding of reproductive biology. Through a careful scholarly—but nontheological—examination of Catholic teaching on HIV/AIDS, emergency contraception in the case of rape, and population control, Kalbian demonstrates that, far from being a mere historical curiosity, Catholic teaching is an important resource for clarifying the nexus among sex, violence, and justice that continues to shape contemporary views of sexuality in popular culture."—Paul Lauritzen, professor of theology and religious studies, John Carroll University

"An exquisitely clear and subtle analysis of the way in which the Catholic tradition's discourse on artificial contraception has been shaped by the distressing realities of rape, HIV/AIDS, and poverty."—Diana Fritz Cates, professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa

"Contraception is at the epicenter of the battles between religious authority and women's rights. Aline Kalbian gives us fresh insight on a controversy that isn't going away."—Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Aline H. Kalbian is associate professor of religion at Florida State University. She is the author of Sexing the Church: Gender, Power, and Ethics in Contemporary Catholicism.

224 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-62616-104-7
Apr 2014

224 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-62616-048-4
Apr 2014

224 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-62616-049-1
Apr 2014

Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ

Related Titles