Why is the Catholic Church opposed to birth control? Where in the Bible is birth control condemned as being contrary to the Will of God?
The Catholic Church is not opposed to birth control when it is accomplished by natural means, by SELF control. She is opposed only to birth control by artificial means, by the employment of pills, condoms, IUD’s, foams, jellies, sterilization, non-completion of the act of sexual union – or any other means used to prevent conception from resulting from this act – because such means profane the marital embrace and dishonor the marriage contract. God slew Onan for practicing contraception (Gen. 38:9-10); the word “onanism” derives from Onan’s deed. In fact, up until the Church of England’s Lambeth Conference of 1930, which accepted contraception and thus broke with the Christian tradition, contraception had been considered by all Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to be gravely sinful. The Catholic Church does not feel free to change the law of God, as do Protestants.
In the New Testament, there is only one instance where sin is punished by God with immediate death, this was the fate of Ananias and Saphira, a husband and wife who went through the motions of giving a gift to God but fraudulently kept back part of it. The Bible says they lied to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:1-11). In contraception, two people go through the motions of an act of self-giving, but obstruct the natural fruition of their act, i.e., the conception of children, which is the ultimate purpose for which God created sexuality. Sexual union is a gift from God to the married, but by practicing contraception, married couples are accepting the pleasure God built into the act and yet denying Him its purpose, new people. They are in effect mocking God. But “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” (Gal. 6:7). Christ cursed the fig tree which, despite a fine external appearance, bore no fruit. (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14). Marriage is God’s plan for populating Heaven, yet contracepting couples refuse Him the specific fruit of their marriage, which is children, when they engage in the act which should produce children yet frustrate the natural, God-intended result.
Further, the sin of “sorceries” or “witchcrafts” (“pharmakeia” in the Greek – Gal. 5:20; Apoc. 9:21; 21:8) – which the Bible condemns along with fornication, murder, idolatry, and other serious sins – very possibly includes secret potions mixed to prevent pregnancy or cause abortion. Such potions were known and used even in the first century.
Common sense and conscience both dictate that artificial birth control is not only a violation of the Natural Law but is a perfidious insult to the dignity of man himself. For it implies free reign to physical impulses; it implies total disregard for the fate of the human seed; it implies utter contempt for the honorable birth of fellow humans, those fellow humans who are born as the result of a contraceptive having failed and whose very existence is therefore considered to be an unfortunate “accident,” rather than a gift of God; it implies the most extreme selfishness, for no advocate or practitioner of artificial birth control would have wanted it for his or her own parents. Further, contraception undermines the respect of husband and wife for each other and thereby loosens the marriage bond. Worst of all, many “contraceptives,” such as the IUD and most if not all birth control pills, work by actually causing an abortion early in the pregnancy; thus, this so-called “contraception” is in reality abortion – the killing of a human being – rather than the preventing of conception.
In every age there is some favorite sin which is accepted by “respectable” worldly Christians; in our times the “acceptable” sin is contraception – a sin which fits in perfectly with the view that the purpose of human life is to attain earthly happiness. The true Christian couple, on the other hand, will realize that God desires them to have children so that these children can come to know Him and love Him and be happy with Him eternally in Heaven. Marriage is God’s plan for populating Heaven. How wise it is to let God plan one’s family, since He loves children much more than do their earthly parents, and His plans for them go far beyond any plans of these parents.
Innumerable stories are told of God’s Providence to Christian parents who trusted in Him and obeyed His law. For those who have a true and serious need to space or limit the number of their children, the new methods of natural family planning based on periodic abstinence have proven to be extremely reliable (unlike the earlier “rhythm” methods).
Finally, the Christian will realize that the self-denial involved in bearing and raising Christian children is a school of Christlikeness. Our Lord said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24). But He also said: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:30). God promises sufficient grace to those who seek to obey Him. And the resulting peace of soul which the obedient married couple enjoys is beyond all price.
Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961