Why Contraception Is Wrong In The Catholic Church

Why Contraception Is Wrong In The Catholic Church

Every now and then, non-Catholics may wonder, “is contraception wrong?” But in reality, most people never even begin to wonder in the first place.

Contraception, in all its forms, has become so accepted in Western society that its use is taken for granted. Why wouldn’t you use it? This is the attitude of the vast majority in the West.

This attitude holds true for most secular and religious persons.

The majority of Protestant denominations believe the use of contraception is to be discerned individually by the conscience of each believer, a view expressed by American evangelical leader, John F. MacArthur (1). Put cynically, this is just another way of saying the majority of Protestants use condoms or are on the pill.

But what makes this a sticky situation is that contraception is intrinsically wrong. And the bluntest reason why contraception is wrong is that it’s unnatural and frustrates God’s purpose and design for sex.

The use of contraception presents a crippling philosophical problem for those who use it while still believing in a Designer. This is because the assumption that sex and procreation are two separate things is contradicted by nature itself—the Designer’s design.

You cannot break down or divide the sexual act into two smaller pieces; one part pleasure and one part procreation. Nature sees no divide, and nor does God who designed it that way.

And as a former Protestant, I know what I’m talking about when I assert that the majority of Protestants use contraception.

It was only when I reached adulthood that it ever crossed my mind that contraception could be a sin. Before then, it was just assumed I’d use it once I got married.

And in fact, a lot of Protestant men I’ve known have had vasectomies—a surgery that results in total sterilization. This mutilation of their own bodies inevitably turns sex into a cold, mechanical act to induce pleasure; it’s an insult to God’s heart and design for sex.

Sure, contraceptive sex may inflame feelings of love between spouses (who doesn’t feel attached to something pleasurable?), but what giving and sacrificial Christian love is fostered when the underlining message is, “I’m withholding part of my love from you” or “I’m rejecting part of your gift”?

If we’re to be completely honest, such a stripped-back, laboratory view of sex inescapably turns it into a farce of satisfying lust at the expense of each other’s bodies.

And if that is the case, whatever happened to that chastity Protestant teens are encouraged to protect pre-wedding if they can just “let rip” post-wedding?

This may strike the reader as cynical or overly dramatic, but in essence, doesn’t this rhetoric perhaps just subtly expose how contraception cheapens sex? And perhaps how it can even…dare I say it…dehumanize us?

But as a former Protestant, I can also assure you that the majority of Protestants don’t know what they’re doing—they’ve probably never really thought about it. And so we must implore God’s forgiveness for them, as Luke 23:34 teaches us.

Unfortunately, one should also hope that God’s mercy will extend far enough to the thousands of Catholics who use contraception—some who know better and whose predicament makes this hope a shaky one at best, and the rest who are tied up in the gloom of ignorance and are less culpable.

But enough rhetoric, let’s dig deeper and get to the facts…

Traditional Christian Views On Contraception

Sex, up until 1930, was seen by all Christian denominations as being first and foremost about rearing children, a view that came from God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to be “fruitful and multiply”, and which was spelled out more clearly by God’s slaying of Onan for wasting his semen during sex in Genesis 38:8-10.

It was only in 1930 that the Anglicans, in the Lambeth Conference, decided to allow contraception in extreme cases. (2) Up to and before that point, every Christian was against contraception, from the earliest Christians of Jesus’ time up to 1930.

The Catholic Church is the only Christian group that still take the natural purpose of sex completely seriously and obey God’s design for sex.

This is just one more sign that Catholicism is the only true Church of Jesus Christ since Christian doctrine cannot just change and contradict itself over time…but that’s a story for another time.

Is Contraception A Sin?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, it is a grave sin, meaning that one who uses contraception while knowing it is immoral, will go to hell forever if they do not repent and confess it to a priest.

Birth control is wrong. All the time.

And from a traditional Christian perspective, there are no “ifs” or “buts”, nor any strange hypothetical scenarios that may ever make it ok.

This might sound too black and white or too extreme, but there is simply no wriggle room for a contrary position if one wants to be a logically consistent Christian.

This is the pure, unchanging, unadulterated, and hard-hitting traditional Christian truth which is attested to in Scripture, the unanimous voice of the Church Fathers, as well as the natural light of reason.

There’s really a lot at stake here!

The Early Church Fathers On Contraception

Here are a few quotes from the Church Fathers that showcase their negative view towards contraception.

  • “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” — St. Clement of Alexandria, 191AD.
  • “To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature” — St. Clement of Alexandria, 191AD.
  • “God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring” — Lactantius, 307AD.
  • “They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption” — St. Epiphanius of Salamis, 375AD.
  • “For thus the eternal law, that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny.” — St. Augustine, 400AD.

The Original Protestant Attitudes To Contraception

As already stated, every Christian group up until 1930 was unanimously against contraception and saw it as a grave sin.

The modern Protestant attitude to contraception has done a 180 degrees shift since the Protestant reformers. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, etc. were all against contraception.

Martin Luther On Contraception

Here is Martin Luther’s commentary on Onan’s wasted semen mentioned in Genesis 38, which clearly shows how he views contraception as disrupting the “order of nature”.

  • “Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed…He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred…Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him…That worthless fellow…preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother.” — Luther’s Works, Vol. 7, 20-21, 1544AD (emphasis added).

Furthermore, Martin Luther also says in his Lectures on Genesis that, “the purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children”.

Was Martin Luther pro contraception? No way!

John Calvin On Contraception

Moreover, John Calvin was vehemently against it. In his Commentary on Genesis he writes as follows:

  • “The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from sexual intercourse in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous.”

John Wesley On Contraception

And John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists, writes in his Commentary on Genesis the following,

  • “Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married, and the memory of the brother that was gone, refused to raise of seed to his brother. Those sins that dishonor the body and defile it are very displeasing to God and evidences of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord—and it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord and destroy their own souls.”

Church Of England Views On Contraception

As mentioned above, The Church of England was the first group that contradicted themselves on contraception.

For an Anglican in 1929, it was sinful to use contraception, but for an Anglican in 1930 it was ok in certain cases.

During the 1920 Lambeth Conference, they wrote the following about contraception:

“The Conference records with alarm the growing practice of the artificial restriction of the family and earnestly calls upon all Christian people to discountenance the use of all artificial means of restriction as demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare.”

At their next conference in 1930 (they typically meet every 10 years), they’d changed their minds about contraception’s “demoralising“ effect:

“If there was morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.”

Now, all of a sudden, a “demoralising” act could be done “in the light of Christian principles”. Go figure…

By 1958’s Lambeth Conference, contraception was a way of life for Anglicans. (3)

The Eastern Orthodox View On Contraception

The Orthodox are a bit of mixed bag when it comes to the issue of contraception. Like many Protestants who have crumbled on this point in the last 70 years, some Orthodox have no issue with using contraceptives.

Other Orthodox, however, follow the correct Christian teaching and reject contraception outright.

In fact, many Orthodox hierarchs and theologians from around the world lauded Humanae Vitae  when it was issued by Pope St. Paul VI in 1968.

Only until about 1970 did the general consensus seem to change in Orthodoxy regarding contraception—now it appears to be seen as acceptable under certain conditions under the guidance of a spiritual director.

Before then, the Orthodox were generally outright against it.

The Jewish View On Contraception

Since Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, it may be of interest to some to know what the Jewish view on contraception is.

Jews have a wide opinion on contraception. They note that the first commandment in the Torah is “Go forth and multiply”, thus most Rabbis are against contraception at least until a reasonably sized family is attained. And even then it is only allowed for strict reasons such as if the woman’s life is at risk.

Generally, condoms are considered to be wrong due to their similarity to Onan’s sin, but the pill is considered acceptable.

  • “It is well-established that methods that destroy the seed or block the passage of the seed are not permitted, thus condoms are not permitted for birth control. However, the pill is well-recognized as an acceptable form of birth control under Jewish law.” (4)

Moreover, the Jewish Talmudic commentary on Onan’s sin is revealing:

  • “[Onan] misused the organs God gave him for propagating the race to unnaturally satisfy his own lust, and he was therefore deserving of death.” — Bereshis: Genesis – A New Translation with a Commentary Authorized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1980, Vol.5, p.1677)

Therefore, it is clear that, at least for Jews, condoms and other practices which “misuse” God-given sexual organs are gravely immoral.

But it must also be said that more liberal or secular Jews do not adhere to this way of thinking—in fact, they also ignore many other orthodox Jewish teachings.

What About The Contraceptive Pill?

Despite the Jewish Law containing half the truth, they fall short when it comes to their understanding of Natural Law. This lack of understanding is costly and makes them ignorant of the truth regarding the pill.

In reality, the contraceptive pill violates God’s design for sex in the same way other forms of birth control do.

Moreover, the early Christian theologian, St. Hippolytus (170-235AD), is clearly negative regarding “the pill”/drugs of sterility when he writes critically about them in his Refutation of All Heresies in 225 AD:

  • “[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered”. — Refutation of All Heresies 9:12

Another condemnation of oral forms of contraception comes from St. Jerome (347-420AD) who wrote in 396AD:

  • “Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception.” — Letters 22:13

But Weren’t These Perspectives Coming From A Pre-Scientific Understanding?

We have known scientifically that human life begins when the sperm fuses with the egg since the 17th Century.

So, even if it were true that the Church Fathers understanding of biology was faulty and they’re referring to abortion and not contraception when they condemn Onan’s sin in Genesis 38 (which is dubious given some of the quotes listed above), even then, all Christians branches with the “modern science” were still unanimously against contraception for 300 years up until 1930.

Moreover, St. Jerome’s quote above which mentions how oral contraceptives “murder human beings almost before their conception” seems like he understands these “human beings” are not alive yet since they’ve not been conceived, and so are thus not abortive hence the usage of the term “almost before”. This implies St. Jerome is speaking hyperbolically here.

So Why Do Protestants And Some Orthodox Accept Contraception?

Although there will be other reasons, it can be fairly stated that one of the main reasons Protestants and some Orthodox began accepting contraception was because, to put it simply, there was a social pressure to do.

There is a modern parallel within the Anglican community today in that they are being pressured to accept gay marriage by a secular culture.

As culture became more secular in the 20th Century onwards, there was increasing pressure to view women as complete equals in the workplace. The introduction of birth control was key in the supporting and longevity of this idea.

This, in turn, led to abortion becoming more widely practiced as more and more women left their main vocation of rearing children to focus on a career. In fact, in 2014, about one-half of all abortion patients in the United States claimed to have used contraceptives in the same month they became pregnant (5), which shows the inherent link between contraception and abortion.

This link was also made in Pope St. Paul Vi’s work, Humanae Vitae.

These attitudes, even subtly and slowly at first, affected the mindsets of Christians who were not in communion with the chair of Peter; the chair which the Pope today sits on, and is the source of Christian unity and correct doctrine.

So, in a sense, Protestants and even Orthodox were almost bound to be led astray by false teachings and heresies because they had no contact with the very touchstone of the Faith that Jesus Christ has given us: Rome.

The Logical Reason Why Contraception Is Wrong

As has always been hinted at throughout this entire article, contraception can be proven immoral using the logic of Natural Law.

This way of reasoning is very important to the Catholic Church because Catholicism is inherently logical and consistent.

Take for example a chair. Its design is to be sat on. If, however, one was to stand on the chair and jump on it, it probably wouldn’t take long for it to break. To put simply, you would be using the chair in an unnatural way that violates its design.

If one then considers the design of the penis and the vagina, it is quite clear that the penis is designed to fit the vaginal canal. The vaginal canal is shaped perfectly for this and also secretes a type of mucus to make the insertion of the penis more comfortable and the vagina less prone to tearing and infections.

Moreover, at this insertion, the penis is likely to naturally ejaculate which means that, since the penis is lodged in this prime position, the semen has only one place to go. And, once it descends into the vaginal canal, this is how babies are made.

This step-by-step process makes it logically clear from nature’s design that sex’s biological purpose is for the procreation of children. And so, in conclusion, using a condom, or taking a pill, or using any sort of contraception is to prevent nature from occurring.

Consequently, judging by how God has designed sex, it is therefore apparent that contraception is unnatural and immoral just from a logical standpoint alone.

The Societal Effects Of Contraception

It should also be noted the adverse effects the contraceptive mentality has had on society.

In the West, most birth rates are now below the average needed to maintain a population. As a result, the West is literally dying, which explains why immigration has been pushed so strongly.

An economy needs people. No people = no economy.

And, as more and more people retire who are not being replaced in the workforce, pensions become increasingly harder to pay.

In short, contraception is not only stunting us morally and numerically, but it’s stunting us from an economic perspective too.

And if you want to see why abortion is kept running because of contraception, check out this illuminating talk delivered by anti-abortion activist, Abby Johnson.

If you were one of those people I mentioned at the start of this article who was asking themselves, “why is contraception wrong in the Catholic Church?” I hope your questions have been adequately answered in this article!

Please share this article to spread the message so that, little by little, we can educate others about this grave sin that is plaguing our world.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below.

Suggested next reading: What Is The Difference Between Catholics And Christians?

Chris is a Catholic convert from England. After studying 2 years in California at Bible college, he worked in full-time ministry with Gerald Coates, the founder of a Christian network called Pioneer. In 2017 he converted to Catholicism and in 2019 married his French Catholic wife, Bérénice.


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