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The Catholic Church and contraception

14 Aug 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

The Catholic Church is often criticized for its firm position on some issues; this is true and not an exaggeration to say that the world is always etching to know the Catholic Church’s stand. But this has not stopped the Church from proclaiming what she believes to be true.

In 1968, Pope Paul, in his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, “Human Life”), reemphasized the Church’s stand on the use of contraception. This did not go down well with some people, even a few Catholics. They see nothing wrong with the use of contraception as a way of birth control; they argue that no human life is tempered with when contraception is used. Contraception is any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible. This includes sterilization, condoms and other barriers, methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.

The Church understands how difficult it may be for married couples without the use of contraception as a means of birth control, this difficulty is not unconnected to the economic implications of having a large family. Yet, married couples cannot be stopped from having sex because sex is an essential aspect of marriage. But it must be understood that the Catholic Church is not against birth control, but the how? The condemnation of contraception by the Catholic Church should not be taken in isolation, it must be given a holistic view.

Contraception cannot discourse without marriage; talking about it outside marriage is a step deeper into the ocean of sin. So, for this article, let’s stay with contraception in marriage.

The Catholic doctrine against contraception is considered a harsh one by so many, even by a few Catholics. Some have even questioned its biblical background. The bible may be silent because modern contraception was not known to the people of the time, but not hidden from God.

The Catholic doctrine on contraception may not be explicitly stated in the bible, but God knows His plans for man. The closest to contraception in the bible is what happened in Genesis 38:8-10 when Onan spilled his semen on the ground in other to avoid pregnancy. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also (Vs. 10). The Church teaches that it is morally wrong for anyone to stand in the way of God. Sex in marriage is for both pleasure and procreation, and these two purposes of sex in marriage can be achieved without standing in the way of God by using contraception. This is not a call to produce children uncontrollably in marriage, no. Birth control is significant; the Catholic Church is not against it but advocates the natural means of birth control.

In his wisdom and power, God has created the reproductive system of a woman to function in a particular way. At some point, her system is ready for fertilization and procreation while at some other it is not. This is a natural gift from God to handle birth control, even though I am not ignorant that the reproductive system of a woman may change as a result of certain conditions. Therefore, one cannot rule out completely the possibility of having unwanted pregnancy while using the natural birth control method. But the Church teaches that this possibility is not an excuse to practice contraception because some of this contraception can also fail. So, of what use it is trying to stand in the way of God. The Catholic Church is firm in its stand against any form of contraception. However, God remains the final judge.