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Contraception

Return to Catholic Life Section | The Gift of Life

Empty Cradle

Contraception

Warning: Language herein may (necessarily) be graphic

Sources: Various

Important Notice: The following is not comprehensive. We make no guarantee regarding any item herein. Items herein may be graphic in nature. We are not responsible for - or qualified / intending to give - medical advice. We are not liable for any occurrence which may result from using this site. By using this site you agree to all terms. For more terms information, click here.


Click link below or scroll down to view all:

Think Contraception is "No Big Deal"?

What Does Scripture Say About Procreation / Contraception?

What is the Primary End of Marriage?

Is Contraception Sinful? / Why Does the Church Forbid Contraception?

What Are Some Benefits Enjoyed by Those Who Do Not Use Contraception?

Will the Church Ever Change Her Position on Contraception?

What Should One Do Who Has Been Contracepting?

What Alternatives to Contraception Are Available?

Is NFP Approved by the Church? What are its Risks?

Other Considerations

Also Try...


Think Contraception is "No Big Deal"?

Think contraception is "no big deal"? Think again! Contraception...

  • Is gravely sinful

  • Is bad for one's health

  • Acts as an abortifacient (that is, it causes abortions - unknown to the woman)

  • Is linked to promiscuity, abortion, adultery, etc.

Consider the following:

  • "More children are killed by chemical abortifacient than by surgical abortions each year (an estimated 7-12 million vs. an estimated 1.5 million)." In other words, more children are killed by contraception than by surgical abortions! 

  • Birth control actually acts as an abortifacient (even unknowingly) - that means that the contraceptives cause the death of a baby, even though a woman never knew she was pregnant. "It has been estimated by various sources that ... [birth control's abortifacient] mechanism of action comes into play anywhere from 2 to 10% (and at times higher) of female cycles per year." Many who use birth control may have had abortions without ever knowing they were pregnant. "If you use contraception, you may have aborted an unknown number of children, even though you never knew you were pregnant". While many think that they cannot become pregnant while using birth control, the truth is that ovulation may still occur while using contraceptives - which means the woman can get pregnant. Usually, however, the contraceptives act as an abortifacient, and kill the unborn child without the mother knowing she has even conceived. That is, the "birth control" may prevent birth, but not conception. Conception still occurs, but the child is "spontaneously aborted" by the contraceptives. These "non surgical abortions" have killed millions of children. 

  • "The potent steroids in OCs [Oral Contraceptives] affect all vital organs of the OC user to one degree or another." Contraceptives affect a woman's reproductive system and may be dangerous to her health: 

  • "Birth control may cause increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of cervical cancer, increased risk of blood clots, increased risk of heart attack, and increased risk of stroke. Possible side effects of contraceptives may include: impaired kidney function, bladder infections, cataracts, loss of hair on scalp, excess body hair, pain, weight gain, high cholesterol, headaches, tumors, insulin problems, problems with breast milk, eye changes, water retention, liver tumors, rashes, cramps, vomiting, bleeding, infections, perforation of the uterus, eptopic pregnancy, septic shock, and even death." 

  • "[Other conditions which may be related to the use of (or worsened by) oral contraceptives include:] thromboembolism, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, hepatic adenomas, gall bladder disease, cholestatic jaundice, cancer (including breast and cervical), endometriosis, hypercalcemia, porphyria, uterine fibroids, migraines, headache, cycle irregularities, and mental depression". One major news agency has even reported that "blood clots are an accepted risk from hormonal birth control because estrogen promotes blood coagulation" (emphasis added).

  • "Of the multitude of side effects noted over almost 40 years of experience with OCs [oral contraceptives], five very serious risks are associated with OC use: increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases; pelvic inflammatory disease; infertility; cervical and breast cancer; and eptopic pregnancy. There are also well known dangers of endometrial atrophy (shrinking of the womb) and permanent sterility." Women have also died of blood clots due to the use of OCs.

  • "Birth control tricks the body into thinking it is pregnant all the time, month after month, year after year. How can this possibly be good for the body?"

  • "Contraceptive drugs have been associated with at least hundreds and hundreds of deaths". Deaths have occurred among women who have used oral contraceptives as well as those who have used the birth control patch.

  • "IUDs may be abortifacient almost 100% of the time and may put you at great risk for serious adverse effects"

  • "There are strong links between abortion and contraception. It has been said that every culture that has permitted contraception as subsequently seen a rise in abortion."

  • "Even large providers of abortions admit that the increased use of contraception is associated with increased promiscuity, venereal disease, unplanned pregnancies, and abortions." As indicated by U.S. Catholic Bishops: "It is noteworthy that as acceptance and use of contraception have increased in our society, so have acceptance and use of abortion. Couples who unintentionally conceive a child while using contraception are far more likely to resort to abortion than others. Tragically, our society has fallen into a mentality that views children as a burden and invites many to consider abortion as a 'backup' to contraceptive failure." 

  • Contraceptives are big business. However, it is argued that "Information on risks of OCs has not been fully reported to US citizens. Information given has been deceptive and misleading". It is argued that women would stop using contraceptives if they really knew what was happening inside (and to) their body due to their use of contraceptives (e.g. medical risks, spontaneous abortions).

  • Having intimate relations while using a condoms is touted as "safe sex". In reality, condoms are reported to have a failure rate as high as 30% and may not protect from venereal diseases or AIDS. This is not even to mention the fact that they are directly linked to fornication - and thus may result in the loss of one's eternal soul. So called "safe sex" - besides not being "safe for soul ["Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators...nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 6:9-10)] is clearly not safe for the body. As has been reported, an FDA study showed that condoms had a detectable leakage of HIV sized particles in about 1/3 of the cases. Over a period of years, an infection rate of 70% has been reported. 

  • When a baby survives - despite its mother's use of contraceptives - it may suffer from serious health problems. Further, breastfed babies whose mothers have used contraceptives may suffer from adverse affects, including serious ones.

  • The 'legalization' of birth control has led governments to either implement or consider implementation of coerced sterilization or birth control. And, research for so called "birth control vaccines" was done on human embryos.

  • Promiscuity and the "explosion of STDs" (sexually transmitted diseases) may be linked to the use of birth control. It has been reported that the most common STD may be found in 48% of women who have had one intimate partner - and this STD is said to cause more than 90% of all cases of cervical cancer. In fact, a single intimate encounter may damage you for the rest of your life. As many as 1 in 4 teenagers in 1996 were reported has having STDs. Many of the STDs are incurable. And again, this is not even to mention the fact that they are directly linked to fornication - and thus may result in the loss of one's eternal soul ["Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators...nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 6:9-10)].

  • Etc.

What Does Scripture Say About Procreation / Contraception?

 

Scripture is clear about praising creation / fertility and condemning contraception. For example: 

  • The very first command given by God to the human race was God's command to Adam and Eve to go forth & multiply: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen. 1:28)

  • After the flood, God twice commanded to multiply: "Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth." (Gen. 9:1) and "Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it." (Gen 9:7)

  • When Onan wasted his seed on the ground, he was killed (cf. Gen. 38:9-10). Note: Onan could have refused to unite with his brother's widow. Therefore, it is clear that his contraceptive act was condemned.

  • In Scripture, fertility is often shown as a blessing (e.g. Gen. 17:6, 17:20, 28:3, 35:11, 48:4, Ex. 23:25-26, Deut. 7:14)

Scripture also praises children and speaks negatively of barrenness:

  • "Like a fruitful vine your wife within your home, Like olive plants your children around your table." (Ps. 128:3)

  • "Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate." (Ps. 127:3-5)

  • Barren women in Scripture considered it a reproach or disgrace (e.g. Hannah, Rachel, Elizabeth) and fathers worry over their daughter's sterility (cf. Sirach 42:10).

Jesus also looks favorably on children:

  • Jesus said: "And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." (Mt. 18:5)

  • Jesus said: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father." (Mt. 18:10)

  • "And [Jesus] took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said to them, Whoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receives me: and whoever shall receive me, receives not me, but him that sent me." (Mk. 9:36-37)

  • Jesus said: "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mk. 10:14)

  • Jesus said: "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Lk. 18:16)

Note: Of course, Scripture praises fertility only in the bonds of holy matrimony. Intimate relations outside of marriage are gravely sinful and may result in the loss of one's eternal soul: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators...nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Pope John Paul II, 1995: 

"In the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing: 'Sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward' (Ps. 127:3; cf. Ps. 128:3-4). This belief is also based on Israel's awareness of being the people of the Covenant, called to increase in accordance with the promise made to Abraham: 'Look towards heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them ... so shall your descendants be' (Gen. 15:5). But more than anything else, at work here is the certainty that the life which parents transmit has its origins in God. We see this attested in the many biblical passages which respectfully and lovingly speak of conception, of the forming of life in the mother's womb, of giving birth and of the intimate connection between the initial moment of life and the action of God the Creator. 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you' (Jer. 1:5): the life of every individual, from its very beginning, is part of God's plan. Job, from the depth of his pain, stops to contemplate the work of God who miraculously formed his body in his mother's womb. Here he finds reason for trust, and he expresses his belief that there is a divine plan for his life: 'You have fashioned and made me; will you then turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me of clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has preserved my spirit' (Job 10:8-12). Expressions of awe and wonder at God's intervention in the life of a child in its mother's womb occur again and again in the Psalms."

What is the Primary End of Marriage?

As stated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 1013 § 1 The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary [end] is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence."

This traditional teaching of the Church was reiterated under Pope Pius XII in the following Decree of the Holy Office (4/1/1944): "Certain publications concerning the purposes of matrimony, and their interrelationship and order, have come forth within these last years which either assert that the primary purpose of matrimony is not the generation of offspring, or that the secondary purposes are not subordinate to the primary purpose, but are independent of it. In these works different primary purposes of marriage are designated by other writers, as for example: the complement and personal perfection of the spouses through a complete mutual participation in life and action; mutual love and union of spouses to be nurtured and perfected by the psychic and bodily surrender of one's own person; and many other such things. In the same writings a sense is sometimes attributed to words in the current documents of the Church (as for example, primary, secondary purpose), which does not agree with these words according to the common usage by theologians. This revolutionary way of thinking and speaking aims to foster errors and uncertainties, to avoid which the Most Eminent and Very Reverend Fathers of this supreme Sacred Congregation, charged with the guarding of matters of faith and morals, in a plenary session, on Wednesday, the 28th of March, 1944, when the question was proposed to them 'Whether the opinion of certain recent persons can be admitted, who either deny that the primary purpose of matrimony is the generation and raising of offspring, or teach that the secondary purposes are not essentially subordinate to the primary purpose, but are equally first and independent,' have decreed that the answer must be: In the negative.

Pope Paul VI also confirmed that marriage is, by nature, ordained toward the begetting and education of children: "And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. 'Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.'"

Click Here for 'Marriage' Reflections

Is Contraception Sinful? / Why Does the Church Forbid Contraception?

Contraception is a grave sin and is therefore forbidden by the Church:

  • "Even with a lawful wife, the marriage act is unlawful and shameful if the conception of offspring is prevented. That is what Onan, the son of Juda, did and on that account God put him to death." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

  • "For since the bringing of children into the world is the principal end of marriage, to do anything in order to prevent the accomplishment of this end is always a mortal sin." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

  • "[A]s often as he knows his wife without a desire for children...without a doubt he commits sin" (St. Caesar of Arles, c. 540 A.D.) 

  • "[A]ny use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin." (Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii)

  • "Nuptial commerce, which is so holy, just and commendable in itself, and so profitable to the commonwealth, is, nevertheless, in certain cases dangerous to those that exercise it, as when the order appointed for the procreation of children is violated and perverted; in which case, according as one departs more or less from it, the sins are more or less abominable, but always mortal." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

  • "But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, 'Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

Until the 20th century, all so called 'Christian' denominations held that contraception was immoral. Nowadays, the Catholic Church, the "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tm. 3:15) stands nearly alone in condemning contraception as a grave sin. This is because she is divinely guided and protected. Despite mockery and pressure from those outside the Church (and, sadly, even from within), she has not changed (and will not change) her position that contraception is gravely sinful. 

In support of her teachings, it is clear that:

  • God is displeased with contraception (see Scripture above).

  • "Contraception is rather like bulimia. One enjoys the pleasure the action affords, but takes measures to prohibit the natural consequences."

  • "Contraception is a rejection of a woman's fertility and motherhood. It reduces her to an object of personal pleasure". As St. Thomas Aquinas has stated: "A man seeks wanton pleasure in his wife when he sees no more in her that he would in a wanton."

  • Contraception places man's desires over the will of God.

  • Contraception frustrates the end of the marital act: the very act was designed for the purpose of procreation.

  • Contraception is contrary to natural law. "Artificial birth control is contrary to the natural law because it is a frustration of the proper end of the [marital act], which is procreation. Physical expression or consummation of love, the sealing and increase of affection by the mutual enjoyment of one of another, are also objects of the act, but only proximate objects. To pursue such is good; but at the same time deliberately to avoid the ultimate end of the act, for the due attainment of which the proximate objects were ordained as a means, is unnatural, contrary to right reason, conduct unbecoming rational beings, and so morally wrong." (Catholic Dictionary)

  • Contraception shows a contempt for the laws of God.

  • Contraception shows a distrust for God's Providence.

  • "Contraception deigns to prevent God from continuing His acts of Creation"

  • Contraception contradicts God's will. "Likewise, if they consider the matter, they must admit that an act of mutual love, which is detrimental to the faculty of propagating life, which God the Creator of all, has implanted in it according to special laws, is in contradiction to both the divine plan, according to whose norm matrimony has been instituted, and the will of the Author of human life. To use this divine gift destroying, even if only partially, its meaning and its purpose is to contradict the nature both of man and of woman and of their most intimate relationship, and therefore it is to contradict also the plan of God and His will." (Pope Paul VI)

  • Contraception is a rejection of Christ: "[R]ejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ. This is the fascinating but also demanding truth which Christ reveals to us and which his Church continues untiringly to proclaim: 'Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me' (Mt 18:5); 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me' (Mt 25:40)." (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

  • Contraception rejects self-giving and results in selfishness.

  • "Contraception devalues women as mothers and instead induces society to look upon them as 'units of production'... Contraception has directly led to the large percentage of women in the workforce who have abandoned their children for hours on end to perform 'work for hire'."

  • Contraception leads to the destruction of the family.

  • Contraception has led to a "under-population crisis" (click here)

  • Contraception is dangerous to a woman's health (see above).

  • Contraception leads to promiscuity, acts of fornication, adultery, etc.

  • Contraception is an abortifacient and also leads to more abortions (see above).

  • Contraception lowers morality.

  • Contraception hurts society.

In fact, Pope Paul VI's warnings concerning artificial birth control were quite prophetic: "Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men - especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point - have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion. Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy." (Pope Paul VI, 1968)

Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", Dec. 31, 1930 A.D.:

"First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances. But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, 'Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.' Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."


Pope Paul VI, 1968:

"[W]e must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth. Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible. To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that such acts would constitute a whole together with the fecund acts already performed or to follow later, and hence would share in one and the same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes licit to tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a greater good, it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom; that is, to make into the object of a positive act of the will something which is intrinsically disordered, and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social well-being. Consequently it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble of a fecund conjugal life." 

What Are Some Benefits Enjoyed by Those Who Do Not Use Contraception?

Married couples who do not use contraception enjoy many benefits, including:

  • Better & stronger marriages

  • Better family life

  • Better health

  • Living in a manner pleasing to God

  • More respect from each other

  • Ability to receive the sacraments 

  • Increased trust in God

  • Better values

  • More children

  • Eternal rewards

Faithful Catholics following the Church's teachings on contraception behave in a manner pleasing to God. They recognize children as a gift and as their most important task in life. "As a gift and a commitment, children are [a parent's] most important task...Children are more important than work, entertainment and social position." (Pontifical Council for the Family) As Scripture reminds us, "All man's works will perish in decay" (Sirach 14:19). What will not perish, however, are works of God - the eternal souls of their children. Parents are primarily called to beget and educate their children to worship and love God and to spend eternity with Him. Those who have large families tend to appreciate their awesome responsibility, whereas those with few children tend to subordinate parenting to work and other activities. Mothers with many children generally stay home and raise their children, and even homeschool them - so necessary in this confused age. They are surrounded by "innocent little ones" and dedicate themselves to their husband and children and generally enjoy a warm and loving home. In contrast, those who contracept may tend to be distracted by dual careers, excessively busy, and neglectful (they simply may not have time for their children or spouses). They may be surrounded by all sorts of occasions of sin (immodesty, pressure to lie or engage in unethical behavior, etc.). Their few children may be raised by strangers and educated in schools divorced from the faith (or teaching a corrupted form of the faith). Such parents often seek divorces and family life may be unstable. Faithful Catholics who diligently follow the Church's teaching on contraception, by comparison, are said to have a "virtual 0% divorce rate".

Faithful Catholics who follow the Church's teaching against artificial birth-control are also spared various other sufferings. For example, they avoid the many negative health effects associated with contraceptives (see above). They are also not barred from receiving the Holy Eucharist (whereas those who use contraception may not licitly receive the Holy Eucharist since they remain in a state of grave sin). They are not constantly risking their eternal salvation by engaging in gravely sinful behavior (as those who use contraception do). When children come, they put their trust in God and deepen their faith in the Almighty. They also see new life not as a burden, but as a joy and a blessing from God. Siblings also learn the value of life and enjoy God's blessings on their family. And, rather than face their old age alone, they may be surrounded by many loving children and grandchildren. In short, they live a better life on earth and nourish, rather than jeopardize, their eternal salvation.

Also See: Marriage (Reflections), Parenting (Reflections), Homeschooling (Reflections)

Will the Church Ever Change Her Position on Contraception?

The Church's position against contraception was not invented by men, but is based on the laws of God. And certainly, the Church has no power to change divine law. As Pope Leo XIII said: "To take away from man the natural and primeval right of marriage, to circumscribe in any way the principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the words 'Increase and multiply' (Gen. 1:28), is beyond the power of any human law." (As quoted by Pope Pius XI in "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

As Pope Pius XI said: "But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, 'Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

And: "Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin." (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

The church's Canon Law has stated that procreation is the primary purpose of marriage and Pope Paul VI, in the 1960's, confirmed that the constant doctrine of the Church teaches "that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life". Although the teaching may be unpopular with some, the Church has no power to change divine law: "It can be foreseen that this teaching [against artificial contraception] will perhaps not be easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices - amplified by the modern means of propaganda - which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a 'sign of contradiction', yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man." (Pope Paul VI)

One must always remember that being a disciple of Christ is not a matter of convenience, but may require great sacrifice, and even martyrdom. Christians may not choose whatever "lifestyle" they desire, offending God in the process, and still expect salvation. And certainly, the Church - "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tm. 3:15) - may not change her perennial teachings based on the divine law simply to please "modern man". Rather, her job is to lead the faithful to heaven in accordance with God's laws.

What Should One Do Who Has Been Contracepting?

If you have been contracepting, you must stop! Regardless of the method, it is a grave sin before God. You offend God, risk your soul, and possibly damage your health. Additionally, by using contraception, you risk killing a child in the womb each cycle! You must stop right away! And, in addition to stopping, you (and your spouse) must repent and get to confession as soon as possible. Do not attempt to justify your actions. Regardless of what anyone may try to tell you (even, sadly, some priests), contraception is a grave sin. [Reminder: We are not qualified to give - or intending to give - medical advice. For medical advice, consult a good physician. Regarding cases where contraceptives are used in the treatment a legitimate medical condition, consult a good, holy priest for spiritual advice.]

Don't try to excuse yourself due to particular difficulties in your life. As Pope Pius XI has said: "We are deeply touched by the sufferings of those parents who, in extreme want, experience great difficulty in rearing their children. However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their external affairs should be the occasion for a much more calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. 'Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

Pope Paul VI also advises: "We do not at all intend to hide the sometimes serious difficulties inherent in the life of Christian married persons; for them as for everyone else, 'the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.' But the hope of that life must illuminate their way, as with courage they strive to live with wisdom, justice and piety in this present time, knowing that the figure of this world passes away. Let married couples, then, face up to the efforts needed, supported by the faith and hope which 'do not disappoint...because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to Us'; let them implore divine assistance by persevering prayer; above all, let them draw from the source of grace and charity in the Eucharist." 

Furthermore, remember that your past actions may have caused scandal to others or helped induce others to also contracept. To help mitigate the damage of your actions, consider discussing the matter with/educating others on the sinfulness of contraception, fasting, praying, joining appropriate pro-life groups, etc. If you have participated in the advising or prescribing of contraceptives, or have otherwise facilitated the use of contraceptives, consider additional ways of making reparation and mitigating the damage (in addition to your repentance and sacramental Confession).

Note: Of course, those who are contracepting because they are committing fornication or adultery must immediately stop committing these grievous sins! Intimate acts are only proper in the bonds of holy matrimony. Intimate relations outside of marriage are gravely sinful and may result in the loss of one's eternal soul: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators...nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Reminder: We are not qualified to give - or intending to give - medical advice. For medical advice, consult a good physician. Regarding cases where contraceptives are used in the treatment a legitimate medical condition, consult a good, holy priest for spiritual advice. As indicated, we are not liable for any occurrence which may result from using this site. By using this site you agree to all terms. For more terms information, click here.

What Alternatives to Contraception Are Available?

The Church's only approved method for "birth control" is abstinence. As stated by St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church: "But if it sometimes happens that married people should be oppressed with the number of their children, whom, through poverty, they cannot easily support, there is a remedy pleasing to God. And this is for the couple, by mutual consent, to separate from the marriage-bed and spend their days in prayer and fasting." 

Not only is this method "full proof" and free of side effects, it has the advantage of enriching family life: "To dominate instinct by means of one's reason and free will undoubtedly requires ascetical practices, so that the affective manifestations of conjugal life may observe the correct order, in particular with regard to the observance of periodic continence. Yet this discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one's partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love; and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring; little children and youths grow up with a just appraisal of human values, and in the serene and harmonious development of their spiritual and sensitive faculties." (Pope Paul VI)

Remember that "no one ever got pregnant, AIDS, or a venereal disease by fully following the teachings of the Church - that is, abstinence."

Is NFP Approved by the Church? What are its Risks?

'Natural Family Planning' (NFP) essentially consists in periodic abstinence during a woman's periods of fertility and may be used conceive or to avoid conception. It helps the couple determine when a woman is fertile (which is generally only a few days each month) so the couple can decide whether to engage in or refrain from intimate relations during this time. It is inexpensive (almost no cost), requires no medications, and has been shown to have "a high rate of success". Licit use of NFP (that is, use for a certain time, under certain conditions, and with the appropriate end in view) has been allowed by the Church (unfortunately, however, many Catholics may use NFP illicitly as a form of 'birth control'). As Pope Pius XI has said: "Nor are those [spouses] considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved." (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930 A.D.)

The main drawback of NPF is that its use may lead to a "contraceptive mentality" - especially since the requirement of a grave reason is often ignored by those who wish to use this method to avoid having children. As Pope Pius XII stated: "[T]o embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life." Those who use NFP may have a smaller family size, may tend to be closed to new life, may forget/ignore the fact that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children, may become selfish (enjoying intimate pleasures but avoiding any life-giving consequences), may prevent God from sending the couple all the children He wishes to bless them with ["(R)ejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ. This is the fascinating but also demanding truth which Christ reveals to us and which his Church continues untiringly to proclaim: 'Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me' (Mt 18:5)" (Pope John Paul II, 1995)], may show a lack of trust in Divine Providence, may reject full self-giving, may tend to see the marital act as exclusively for pleasure [Error CONDEMNED by Pope Innocent XI 'The act of marriage exercised for pleasure only is entirely free of all fault and venial defect.'" (Pope Innocent XI, This proposition was condemned in 1679 A.D.)], etc. In short, the trouble with NFP is that it may be all too easy to end up using NFP illicitly (which is not approved by the Church - and is, in fact, sinful). Since Catholics are most definitely not required to practice NFP [in fact, using NFP to avoid pregnancy may be illicit for many (most?) Catholics considering that a grave reason would be required to do so], traditional Catholics usually reject it outright, placing their complete trust in God, and avoiding the risk of developing a contraceptive mentality and of using NFP as a form of illicit "birth control".

The faithful couple must remember that "children are a gift, not a burden" and that "God will not give them 'too many' gifts." God can always be trusted to do what is best for them, whether that entails few or many children. As St. Augustine reminds, "God is not a deceiver, that He should offer to support us, and then, when we lean upon Him, should slip away from us." We must get back to honoring large families. "Sacramentally married spouses with large families should be held in high honor."

Also See: The Myth of Overpopulation

Other Considerations

Also consider the following:

  • "No one can deny that the first example and the greatest help that parents can give their children is their generosity in accepting life, without forgetting that this is how parents help their children to have a simpler lifestyle. Moreover, '...it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety' (Pope John Paul II)." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "It must never be forgotten that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person's capacity to love by making pleasure, instead of sincere self-giving, the end of sexuality and by reducing other persons to objects of one's own gratification. In this way the meaning of true love between a man and a woman (love always open to life) is weakened as well as the family itself. Moreover, this subsequently leads to disdain for the human life which could be conceived, which, in some situations, is then regarded as an evil that threatens personal pleasure." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "Our Encyclical 'Humanae vitae' has caused many reactions. But as far as We recall, the Pope has never received so many spontaneous messages of gratitude and approval for the publication of a document as on this occasion. And these messages have poured in from every part of the world and from every class of people. We mention this to express Our cordial thanks to all those who have welcomed Our Encyclical Letter and assured Us of their support. May the Lord bless them. We know, of course, that there are many who have not appreciated Our teaching, and not a few have opposed it. We can, in a sense, understand their lack of comprehension and even their opposition. Our decision is not an easy one. It is not in line with a practice unfortunately widespread today which is regarded as convenient and, on the surface, helpful to family harmony and love. Once again We would remind you that the ruling We have reaffirmed is not Our own. It originates from the very structure of life and love and human dignity, and is thus derived from the law of God." (Pope Paul VI)

  • "The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person's inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive program of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy." (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

  • "Such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment" (Pope John Paul II)

  • "Christian revelation presents the two vocations to love: marriage and virginity. In some societies today, not only marriage and the family, but also vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, are often in a state of crisis. The two situations are inseparable: 'When marriage is not esteemed, neither can consecrated virginity or celibacy exist; when human sexuality is not regarded as a great value given by the Creator, the renunciation of it for the sake of the kingdom of heaven loses its meaning.' A lack of vocations follows from the breakdown of the family, yet where parents are generous in welcoming life, children will be more likely to be generous when it comes to the question of offering themselves to God: 'Families must once again express a generous love for life and place themselves at its service above all by accepting the children which the Lord wants to give them with a sense of responsibility not detached from peaceful trust', and they may bring this acceptance to fulfillment not only 'through a continuing educational effort but also through an obligatory commitment, at times perhaps neglected, to help teenagers especially and young people to accept the vocational dimension of every living being, within God's plan" (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mother's womb without recourse to medical assistance. On this point, scientific research itself seems to be almost exclusively preoccupied with developing products which are ever more simple and effective in suppressing life and which at the same time are capable of removing abortion from any kind of control or social responsibility. It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the 'contraceptive mentality' - which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act - are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils... But despite their differences...contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree...The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which...really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being." (Pope John Paul II)

  • "Parents are well aware that living conjugal chastity themselves is the most valid premise for educating their children in chaste love and in holiness of life. This means that parents should be aware that God's love is present in their love, and hence that their sexual giving should also be lived out in respect for God and for his plan of love, with fidelity, honor and generosity towards one's spouse and towards the life which can arise from their act of love. Only in this way can their love be an expression of charity." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "Through this remote formation for chastity in the family, adolescents and young people learn to live sexuality in its personal dimension, rejecting any kind of separation of sexuality from love - understood as self-giving - and any separation of the love between husband and wife from the family. Parental respect for life and the mystery of procreation will spare the child or young person from the false idea that the two dimensions of the conjugal act, unitive and procreative, can be separated at will. Thus the family comes to be recognized as an inseparable part of the vocation to marriage. A Christian education for chastity within the family cannot remain silent about the moral gravity involved in separating the unitive dimension from the procreative dimension within married life. This happens above all in contraception and artificial procreation. In the first case, one intends to seek [carnal] pleasure, intervening in the conjugal act to avoid conception; in the second case conception is sought by substituting the conjugal act with a technique. These are actions contrary to the truth of married love and contrary to full communion between husband and wife." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "In the presence of the people, my Redeemer and Savior embraced children and blessed them, in order to show how pleasing to him are the purity and innocence of that age. Truly is he worthy of all praise, who loves to be surrounded by innocent little ones." (St. Ephrem)

  • "As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, 'as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them'." (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

  • "The responsible exercise of parenthood implies, therefore, that husband and wife recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct hierarchy of values. In the task of transmitting life, therefore, they are not free to proceed completely at will, as if they could determine in a wholly autonomous way the honest path to follow; but they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church." (Pope Paul VI)

  • "To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is, satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer self-giving." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "When a couple refuses to collaborate with God to transmit the gift of life, they have great difficulty in finding in themselves the resources to sustain mutual understanding." (Pope John Paul II)

  • "The revealing sign of authentic married love is openness to life: 'In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal 'knowledge'...does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.'" (Pontifical Council for the Family)

  • "In defending conjugal morals in their integral wholeness, the Church knows that she contributes towards the establishment of a truly human civilization; she engages man not to abdicate from his own responsibility in order to rely on technical means; by that very fact she defends the dignity of man and wife. Faithful to both the teaching and the example of the Savior, she shows herself to be the sincere and disinterested friend of men, whom she wishes to help, even during their earthly sojourn, 'to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all men.'" (Pope Paul VI)


Also Try...

Contraception / 'NFP' (Topic Page)

Life is a Gift From God

The Myth of Overpopulation

Life Issues (Reflections)

Marriage (Reflections)

Marriage, Family & Home (Reflections)

Our Father's Love (Reflections)

Catholic Life (Reflections)

More Reflections: Alphabetical | Categorized

Topical Scripture: Alphabetical | Categorized

Tough Love in the New Testament  

Other New Testament Teachings 

Old Testament Wisdom

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Catholic Basics

Our Father's Love Section

Can Catholic Dogma Ever Change?

Is the 1917 Code of Canon Law Still Applicable?

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