The Case Against Contraception

Contraception is in Church news again, so it is pivotal that we know why the Church has always prohibited artificial contraception.

In 2017, the CDC reported that roughly 65 percent of women in America between the ages of 15-49 were taking some form of birth control. 

The Guttmacher Institute notes that the average number of children that most American adults would like to have is 2.7. “To achieve this family size,” the institute continues, “a sexually active woman must use contraceptives for roughly three decades.” 

Guttmacher states that 88 percent of women who were not seeking a pregnancy but who were sexually active were using a contraceptive method; in addition, 99 percent of women who claimed to be religious had used contraception in the past (including mainline Catholics and Protestants). 

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In a 2019 data booklet, the United Nations showed that only 10 percent of women (worldwide) who are of reproductive age (15-49 years old) and are avoiding pregnancy do not use any form of contraception. 

All of this data is important. It highlights that the use of contraception is commonplace. When percentages are so high and far spread, that could imply that the morality of such an act is settled. Contraception must be viewed as a good thing, a healthy habit, since so many women choose to use it. There is reason to investigate contraception again because of recent headlines from the Vatican. 

Catholics have heard the news regarding The Pontifical Academy for Life’s latest book discussing contraception and artificial insemination. This is a work issued by the Vatican Publishing House, which brings fear to some that Pope Francis is possibly wavering on issues that were settled decades ago. 

Recently, Pope Francis commented directly on the work, noting that “You cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front of it…the magisterium will be the one to say no.” Contraception is very much in Church news, so it is pivotal that we know the situation and why the Church has always prohibited artificial contraception.

The pontifical academy’s president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, wrote an introduction to the work that is available in English. He noted that the project’s intention was to “introduce a paradigm shift.” A paradigm shift would imply a change of thinking on something that was already settled. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2370) calls contraception “intrinsically evil.” It notes that such acts have a “contradictory language” for the sexual act, which is meant to be personified by “personal totality.” Let’s state the obvious: the Church is against a practice that 90 percent of women partake in. 

So, let’s take a look at arguments for not using contraception because it will undoubtedly come up in conversation and we should always be ready to testify to the truth. There are many biblical passages to quote, but here we will rely on simple human understanding. We will divide the arguments as they pertain to married and unmarried couples because there is further distinction needed for its use for unmarried couples. 

When individuals who are not married engage in the sexual embrace, they lie to themselves concerning the love they are attempting to show. Even when not using contraception, they give themselves physically to another person while refusing to vow their future to the other. 

Love requires totality. Since the sexual act is the most profound physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological way to be united with another, it is reserved for permanent relationships of loving commitment. Not to mention the fact that sex produces new life and that every child deserves to have a father and mother to raise them. Marriage ensures this structure of love and sacrifice. 

The same principle applies to the use of contraception in marriage. We are dealing with the misunderstanding of the sexual act. It is not true love. Contraception in marriage is arguably worse because the couple has permanently vowed, in front of God and the world, to love each other completely. 

When they use contraception, they merely desire to use the other person as a means to an end. The other is a tool for self-gratification and a way to gain pleasure. By its nature, sex creates new life. When a couple decides to strip the nature of sex, it has a ripple effect on their relationship. Other areas of life fall prey to what the individual spouse wants rather than what is good for them as a unit.

When sacrifice is given in the bedroom, it makes sacrificial love easier and more purifying outside of the bedroom. The opposite is also the case. When the love of your life, whom you vowed to care for exclusively and completely until death, becomes an object of use, then the way one treats strangers and acquaintances will follow suit. 

Abstaining is good for marriage. Using Natural Family Planning, which tracks a woman’s cycle to zone in on the few days that she is fertile, allows the husband and wife to plan with God. Every instance of sexual embrace becomes an opportunity to create with God and be open to His plan. That makes sex more beautiful than it is using contraception. Contraceptives speak a language into the sexual act that place a lid on the beautiful impact of sex. Without contraceptives, the act does what it is meant to do and remains open to creating life.

The power of the act is so great that it can unify individuals even when the act is over. Its power is also seen in the fact that it can result in a new person—a walking and living person that highlights the amazing nature of the act and shows that love cannot be contained. It always overflows into more and more love. 

Abstaining also breeds respect, tenderness, and dialogue. Couples will talk more and be more invested in the life of their spouse. The rising rate in divorce coincides with the normalized use of contraception. Isn’t it possible that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two? 

Contraception makes objects out of everyone involved. Furthermore, it breeds the mentality that children are an annoyance when they’re conceived. The avoidance of sacrifice in the sexual life leads to an avoidance of sacrifice in the parental life of adults. 

But there is another way.

What if we could lead lives that were ruled by the law of self-gift? Where love is embraced for its true nature and purpose. Where life is welcomed with open arms and sacrificial love. The case against contraception shows that if we desire such a future, we must relinquish the notion that we have to control when new life occurs. Doing so will bring a springtide of renewal into the lives of marriages and result in a world more willing to sacrifice completely and love fully. 

[Image Credit: Unsplash]


  • Thomas Griffin

    Thomas Griffin is the chair of the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and two sons. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Empty Tomb Project: The Magazine.

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