The Catholic Church and contraception

The Catholic Church is often criticized for her firm position on some issues; this is true, and not an exaggeration to say that the world is always etching to know the stand of the Catholic Church. 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 some few Catholics. They see nothing wrong with the use of contraception as a way of birth control, they argue that in the use of contraception, no human life is tempered with. Contraception is any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], 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. 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 means of birth control, this difficulties 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 be discoursed without marriage, talking about it outside marriage is a step deeper into the ocean of sin. So, for the purpose of this article, let’s stay with contraception in marriage.

The Catholic doctrine against contraception is considered a harsh one by so many, even by some few Catholics. Some have even questioned its biblical background. The bible may be silent about it because, modern contraception was not known to the people of the time, but not hiden 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 very important, the Catholic Church is not against it but advocate the natural means of birth control.

God in his wisdom and power has created the reproductive system of a woman to function in 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 of the fact 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 method of birth control. But the Church teaches that this possibility is not an excuse to practice contraception because, some of these contraception can also fail. So, of what use it is trying to stand in the way of God. The Catholic Church is firm in her stand against any form of contraception. However, God remains the final judge.




Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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