Why Is Contraception Wrong In The Catholic Church?

Chris Newton
Why Is Contraception Wrong In The Catholic Church?

Many non-Catholics wonder, “why is contraception wrong in the Catholic Church?” The answer is straightforward. Contraception is wrong because it is unnatural and frustrates God’s purpose and design for sex.

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. 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, in fact, just one more sign that Catholicism is the only true Church of Jesus Christ).

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. No “ifs” or “buts”. 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.

The Early Church Fathers On Contraception

Here are just a few Church Fathers quotes to prove this:

  • “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”.

Is Martin Luther pro contraception? Nope!

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.”

What About 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 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.” (www.jewfaq.org)

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. it is actually immoral to use the contraceptive pill too.

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, 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 In The Catholic Church

Finally, one can also logically see from Natural Law why contraception is immoral. And this line of reasoning is important to the Catholic Church too 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.

Therefore, if you’ve ever wondered “why is contraception wrong in the Catholic Church?” I hope your answers have been adequately answered in this article!

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?

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Chris Newton
Chris was born into a charismatic evangelical family in Manchester, England. At the age of 18, he trained for ministry abroad by spending 2 years at a Bible college in California. Upon arrival back in England, he began to work in full-time evangelical ministry. However, at the age of 23, he converted to Catholicism and soon after started studying for a degree. In his spare time, he likes to hang out with friends and listen to Bob Marley.