Contraception and the Catholic Church


Why do Catholics insist that artificial contraception is wrong?


I am not sure you are aware of the history of artificial contraception, but the entirety of the Christian church held that it was wrong, until 1930, when first the Anglican Church first allowed it's use, and then the other Protestant churches followed suit.

Until that time it was considered wrong for ALL Christians... not Roman Catholics only. Life in it's entirety was respected. Many do not realize that most current methods of birth control are simply abortificants, such as the IUD, and others destroy the potential for life by other methods. All are deliberate attempts to control procreation, and thus circumvent the will of God. That, in essence, is why the Catholic Church is firmly against artificial contraception.

Honestly, think about it, to spill one's seed into a diaphragm, or condom, is no different, scripturally, than spilling one's seed onto the ground. The seed, or semen, was considered life-bearing essence. In fact, to offer it as sacrifice was common practice amongst pagans, and is specifically prohibited in Leviticus. The punishment for such acts was death.

Both barrier and chemical contraception "wastes the seed", and spills the "seed" onto "barren ground" in some form or another, either directly into a container, or by making the womb an inhospitable "ground" for the seed.

Think of it this way... If contraception was all fine and dandy, why didn't Moses talk about how to do it "right"? Moses gave a LOT of very specific rules for a lot of different things in Leviticus, even things as mundane as how to properly clean mold off walls, or cleanse oneself after having their menses... but no where at all does he mention proper ways to use contraception. Not with herbs, not with any of the other methods and techniques that were common with the Greeks, Romans, Persians Egyptians and Babylonians ...

Many point to the passage regarding the sin of Onan, who was put to death by God, for spilling his seed on the ground, and say that it merely had to do with his refusing to impregnate his brother's wife, according to law at that time. Well, for one thing, punishment at that time for that offense, that is, the breaking of the leverate law, was not death, it was a public shaming, but not death. But God put Onan to death, why?

It is also the ONLY time a sexual act is graphically depicted in the Bible. Euphemisms are used at every other instance. Yet, in this case, the inspired author of Genesis is graphically specific about what is occurring. Why?

The implications of this for Genesis 38:9, where Onan's sexual act is described in extraordinarily explicit terms, are pretty clear. At least to me, and apparently for one thousand nine hundred and thirty years of Christians... the passages regarding Onan were NOT about masturbation, or ancient quaint laws, as many like to believe. Onan's spilling of his seed upon the ground was his method of CONTRACEPTION, and for this, God put him to death. God did... not the Jews, God...

Many like to paint the "sin of Onan" as a sin of "omission", or a refusal to follow an ancient and quaint Hebrew law that is no longer even practiced... but that is not the case at all. Onan's sin was not only graphically and rather specifically described, but I would assume that most folks have noticed that the Bible doesn't really have a problem using words to describe concepts of "inner attitude" - Onan's sin was not "hardness of heart" towards his dead brother, or his widowed sister in law, or lack of piety towards the law ... can you see that? The inspired author rather specifically describes the sexual act, not Onan's "feelings" or "intent"... that is significant.

If, as Judeo-Christian tradition has always insisted, "wasting the seed" by intrinsically sterile types of genital action is against the law of God, then this will explain perfectly why Onan's sexual action in and of itself would be presented in Scripture as deserving the most severe divine judgment, that of death. In that view, we can only understand this scripture by seeing that it was a perverted act - one of life-suppressing lust. Deliberately selfish, pleasure-seeking.

There are many layers here. The heart of the matter is that he was having sex with a woman, and chosing deliberately to use coitus interuptus as contraception.  He didn't want to have a child by this particular woman.  He was vain, selfish, and seeking to please himself while decieving everyone else.  Bottom line, then is that Onan's sexual act, as such is condemned as sinful in Gen. 38:9-10 and this was the interpretation held not only by the Fathers and Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church, but also by the Protestant Reformers, and by nearly Christian denominations until the early years of this century.

Then why aren't there gazillions of teenaged boys getting zapped today, you ask?  See, I really can read your mind!  There are times God lets people make their own choices and their own mistakes, and there are times God makes an example of the sinner and punishes him for all to see and learn from. The lesson once given, and recorded, why give it again and again?  Like Jesus said in His parable about the rich man, and Lazarus, it's written in Scripture, all we have to do is follow it.  We don't need special miracles or messengers.

Another point, to think about, Augustine said is that during sexual orgasm as it is now, the temporary suspension of reason - which he considered an indignity, like a momentary delirium or drunkenness - it is a temporary loss of voluntary control over the body and its movements during intercourse. No one would argue that drunkenness was acceptable, would they? Why then do we argue that sexual intercourse using contraception, and thus purely intended to procure orgasmic sensation, is somehow acceptable?

Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure. I am not saying that it is not! Hardly! The Creator himself established that spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body AND spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them, when sexual union is shared in it's intended generative, that is, procreative, function.

Marriage is NOT about folks living together and having a good time. You would agree with that, correct? It was created by God, as a sacred union, for the purpose of creating a family. A child does not somehow come from outside as something added onto the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. Procreation is not a kind of peripheral add-on, like a Voodoo video card! My church teaches that this doctrine is based on an inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act. It's not an "opinion" that sex is both for unity and procreation, it is basic Christianity.

The custom of the last sixty some odd years does not, in any way eliminate the wrongness of sexual behavior purely intended to procure orgasmic sensation, scripturally... that is NOT my opinion, it is simple fact, based on an honest reading of scripture.

Personally, the level of trust required, scripturally, on this issue, scares me to death!  We each have to walk our own walk, and pray for strength and guidance.  And the Lord will grant us strength and grace to be able to deal with what he sends us.

In His Love,
Lisa M. Alekna
Monday, June 07, 1999

Check back now and then for new articles, or sign up for the Serendipity Mailing List and discuss these and many more issues of the Church and Christian life.

More Essays