Contraception: Morally Wrong in Every Circumstance

ChelseaContraception11 Comments

This post was inspired by a few conversations I’ve had with some people about contraception since my post on Tuesday:

Until just 80 years ago every major Christian religion condemned the practice of intentionally sterilizing the marital act as gravely immoral. Then, in 1930, the Anglican Council of Bishops approved of married couples using “other methods” of avoiding pregnancy, in very limited circumstances and provided it’s “decided on Christian principles.” I know several people who, on the one hand will agree that it is wrong to use contraception to support a perpetually promiscuous sexual lifestyle, but on the other hand don’t understand why it should be a problem if contraception is used, as those first Christians to approve of contraception agreed that it could be, “responsibly” by a married couple who does not want to have a lot of children. Thank God for Pope Paul VI:

“[I]t is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Romans, 3:8)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”–Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 14

Intentionally sterilizing the marital act is always morally wrong, no matter who is doing it and for what reasons. It is, as I said the other day, an affront to the nature of the marital act as God created it and a gross distortion of the eternal reality that sex and marriage is meant to symbolize (Eph 5:21-32). The use of contraception not only destroys (or attempts to destroy) the procreative aspect of the marital act, but by one or the other spouse withholding his or her fertility, it destroys unity as well.

The whole issue of “birth control” really comes down a question of, as it’s name suggests, control – Who is my God? Who is in charge of my life? Radical personal autonomy is the crusade of our modern contraception loving society; “By body, my choice” its battle cry. And yet, who among us can really boast of having any choice whatsoever in the circumstances that gave him a body and brought him to life in the first place?

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price.” (1 Corinth. 6:19-20)

Whether we live or die we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8)! It is in His will that we find true peace and happiness.

To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source (Humanae Vitae, 13).

Let’s be clear here, no one is suggesting, though we have been accused of it, that women become “breeding machines” or that couples should have as many children as humanly possible. There can be serious reasons for a couple to avoid pregnancy, but artificial contraception is not a necessity for doing so. A woman does not ovulate every day of the month and modern methods of natural family planning can determine with almost absolute certainty when a woman is ovulating so that, if a couple has a serious reason for avoiding pregnancy, they can avoid intercourse during that period and then take advantage of the natural cycles of infertility to engage in marital intercourse. Surely it is not impossible for a couple to abstain from sex for a few days out of the entire month. Unlike birth control this method regulating birth upholds the beauty and sanctity of the female body and the marital act and allows couples to cooperate with God – rather than taking their fertility and the matters of life into their own hands.

“When, therefore, through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide in the final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To say or think the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.” (JPII, September 17, 1983).

Of course NFP can be abused and used as a form of contraception. That is why it is important that it be used with a “procreative attitude.”

The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions (HV, 21)

Intellectually, this is not a hard teaching to understand. The reasons for the Church’s position on contraception are based on nature and stamped right into our very bodies. The problem lies with our constant battle with concupiscence and the disordering of our desires caused by original sin. But, sexual purity is possible – it’s difficult, but it is within our reach. Though our nature is wounded and subject to temptation, Christ came into the world to free us from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:1-14) and call us to perfection (Mt. 5:48). Provided we love God enough to do His will, He will give us the strength we need to follow Him.

11 Comments on “Contraception: Morally Wrong in Every Circumstance”

  1. There is an interesting series of posts on this new blog. It is a series written by a medical student and concerns the pill, NFP and abortion. Her particular take looks at this from the medical perspective. Thought you might be interested.


  2. I’m 29 years old and I’m pregnant w/ my 3rd child. This is a “head scratcher” to a lot of people that I know, especially since we have a boy and a girl. My husband and I only practice NFP and do so to child space, which is important when a deployment could be right around the corner for us.

    We practice the Creighton Model and find it to be very effective when used w/ discipline. Every single time we’ve been pregnant (we’ve also had 4 losses) we knew I could become pregnant at the time of conception…it wasn’t a mystery, it wasn’t hard to figure out. So why isn’t this simple method based on a woman’s own biology taught in schools? Because liberalism has seeped into our public schools in many forms, but most importantly in the form of “sex ed”.

    As a 14 yr old I could tell you all about every STD and every form of BC, but if asked one sign of ovulation, I’d be clueless. Our middle schoolers are little pharmaceutical reps in the making but have no idea how their own body works and in fact there is only about 4 days a month when the female body is fertile and there are a handful of signs to tell you that!

    Let’s be honest though, NFP is not a big money maker. Our sex ed. teachers are modern day drug pushers and just like a narcotic, the end result can be disastrous…abortions (even unintended ones through breakthrough ovulation), and infertility are all too common.

    Women in my family tend to be very fertile and I’m no exception. If we have sex even around ovulation…I’m pregnant. I wish I didn’t have to fight everyday to realize that this is a gift, I’m told “wow, that sucks”. In the Bible God blesses women by “opening the womb”…so why shouldn’t I see it that way. I’m slowly undoing the brainwashing.
    P.S. My children go to a conservative Catholic school!

  3. I beg to disagree, and this is why.

    The long term European experience is that decent sexual education and access to safe contraception actually does indeed decrease the amount of abortions. According to Wikipedia, the lowest abortion rates are in Netherlands (1 abortion per 10.12 live births) and Belgium (1 abortion per 10.1 live births). The highest ratio is in Russia – 63 abortions per 100 live births and Vietnam, 43 abortions per 100 live births. In US, the ratio is 1 abortion per 4.5 live births. It is high – twice that in Benelux countries – but not as alarming as in Russia. In my own country, Finland, the ratio is roughly 1 abortion per 7 live children, and the rate is currently falling.

    Teenage pregnancy rates appear to be the lowest in countries with best sexual education and access to contraception – see Wikipedia, . They are the ugliest in Islamic countries. Here is another Wikipedia page – teenage pregnancies and abortion in Western countries . As you can see, the lowest incidence of both teenage pregnancies and abortions are in those countries where the sexual education is best and contraception available.

    The Russian situation is a peculiar one. Abortion was liberated during the Communist regime, and the Communists also demolished the Russian sexual moral. Promiscuity became the norm, but the Soviet Union was notorious for its deficiency on contraceptives – bootleggers made good roubles with condoms! Abortion was used simply as method of birth control. In the sixties, the abortion rate in Russia was 5-6 abortions per each live birth! The situation was pretty much same in all Eastern Bloc countries, which concentrated more on producing weapons than welfare of their citizens. Now what do you think this will do to sanity of Russian children when they know mommy has killed their big sister or big brothern and babushka their aunts and uncles?

    Contraception did not boost up the abortion rates. Lack of contraception combined with demolition of the traditional sexual ethics did. Fortunately the resurgence of the Orthodox church – the Communists managed to squash the Russian spirituality but not destroy it – has also marked a dramatic change here.

    Not that promiscuity was a suggestable lifestyle, but promiscuity combined with deficient contraception is a recipe for disaster.

  4. Let’s say that purity is a similar thing as teetotalling.

    An excellent idea, will succeed by some, but it is de facto impossible for tha grand majority. I could do it – I gave my virginity to my future husband – but I cannot say that Jane Average would be strong enough with her character. It is just that sexual revolution has backfired and it did backfire really badly. Sexual liberation became to mean promiscuity, and contraceptives, which were meant for aid of family planning and avoiding unexpected and unwanted pregnancies, became the licence of promiscuity. Not nice.

    My advice in such situation is: if you can’t prevent it, at least try to minimize the possibility of the damage. It is not enough to warn about VDs, exactly as Gina said. Getting to know of the menstrual cycle, what happens in which stage, how to recognize ovulation (most women experience a slight raise in temperature) and getting to know the fertilization window is a must.

  5. “79. One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species–its “object”–the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.

    The primary and decisive element for moral judgment is the object of the human act, which establishes whether it is capable of being ordered to the good and to the ultimate end, which is God. This capability is grasped by reason in the very being of man, considered in his integral truth, and therefore in his natural inclinations, his motivations and his finalities, which always have a spiritual dimension as well. It is precisely these which are the contents of the natural law and hence that ordered complex of “personal goods” which serve the “good of the person”: the good which is the person himself and his perfection. …

    Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. …

    As is evident, in the question of the morality of human acts, and in particular the question of whether there exist intrinsically evil acts, we find ourselves faced with the question of man himself, of his truth and of the moral consequences flowing from that truth. By acknowledging and teaching the existence of intrinsic evil in given human acts, the Church remains faithful to the integral truth about man; she thus respects and promotes man in his dignity and vocation.”–Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

  6. Iron Mistress, I think you are missing the point. The point is not which produces more or less of the other – contraception or abortion – the teaching of the Church is that abortion is always wrong and contraception is always wrong. So all your statistics are completely irrelevant to the moral issues.

  7. I still can’t understand how Natural Family Planning (NRP) is acceptable in Catholic theology, while hormonal contraceptives and condoms are not. Afterall, both attempt to prevent conception. I’ve heard that NFP leaves you “more open” to the idea of pregnancy because it sometimes fails, but then again, so does the Pill and condoms. They fail, and if you’re someone who doesn’t believe on abortion, you just continue on with the pregnancy. I just don’t buy it.

    I’ve heard other conservative arguments that NFP requires that men and women consult with one before engaging in sex, whereas, at least with hormonal contraceptives, a woman can decide to prevent pregnancy on her own. In effect, the Catholic Church opposes the autonomy of the woman vis-a-vis her reproductive organs. I think this makes the most sense. Afterall, most conservative churches support traditional hierarchical marriages. Unfettered access to hormonal birth control weakens the authority of the husband. If the church were only targeting the lack of communication between married couples regarding their sexuality, the church would also be against Viagra. Afterall, a husband can take Viagra without his wife knowing about it, and it can seriously affect the sex act. But the Church does not condemn Viagra.

  8. This post is unchristian. Put aside what YOUR pope says, there is nowhere in the Bible that states that people shouldn’t be allowed to use birth control methods available to them. It’s an egg, not a human being. Funny how Cynthia said the Church does not condemn viagra, but condemns condomns. So, they don’t mind something that has been used to aid military rape, but they do mind something that has been instrumental in preventing the spread of AIDS (Yes, Baptist missionaries I have spoken to have said they encourage the use of them). I don’t buy the argument that it’s not about using women as breeding machines – the NFP isn’t all that reliable, and woman should be able to have control over their own bodies without some religious authority telling them what to do in their own bed.

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