We have a fornication culture and contraception has played a huge role in that. The Catholic Church is against contraception. When the reasons are carefully studied, one gets a better understanding of marriage and sex.
Let us consider the birth control pills that are used as contraceptives. Many of these pills are not truly contraceptives; they do not prevent the sperm and egg from conceiving. Rather, they work as abortifacient. They cause the uterus to eject potentially fertilized eggs. Life begins at conception, thus, any fertilized egg which is usually called an embryo is a human person. What many of the birth control pills do is to cause the abortion of this human person.
We really have to understand why artificial contraception is morally wrong. Sex which is for husband and wife has two purposes: union and procreation. These two purposes are also the ends of marriage. Every sex act should be directed towards these two ends. When union and procreation are separated, then sex rather than being a means to an end becomes an end in itself. Sex act should unite the man and the woman physically, spiritually, emotionally, and should also be open to life. One who interrupts any of the two purposes is deliberately taking the will of God out of the act. A deliberate act of contraception is gravely sinful. Now when that is done with full knowledge and deliberate consent, it is mortally sinful. The Church teaches this infallibly. It can therefore not be changed by the Church.
Sexual pleasure within marriage is unnatural and even harmful to the spouses when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the procreative purpose of sex. Sex along with its pleasure is God’s gift. This gift should not be abused by deliberately obstructing its natural end of procreation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “[E]very action which, whether 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 is intrinsically evil” (CCC 2370).
The Church condemns artificial contraception. But some want it to be left as a matter to be decided by individual conscience. As this matter has already been decided infallibly by the Church, the individual conscience argument amounts to individual disobedience.
Every act of sexual intercourse should be open to the transmission of life. This is the reason why arbotifacient drugs, condoms, withdrawal before the completion of the act, forms of hormonal contraception, spermicides, are forbidden. None of these satisfy the two purposes of sex. Now consider in vitro fertilization, egg donation, surrogacy, and sperm banks. These practices are also forbidden by the Church. This does not mean that the Church is insensitive to the painful cross of infertility which some couples carry. But the truth has to be stated: conception outside of normal sexual intercourse is immoral. Children are not really an absolute right that man can demand. Children are God’s gift. Despite the pain of infertility, the Church holds that modern science presents immoral alternatives not moral solutions. The only morally accepted means to conceive and have children is natural sex between husband and wife.
There are several natural birth regulation methods approved by the Catholic Church which includes Billings Method and Ovulation Method. These methods help couples achieve pregnancy.
The Church allows married Catholics, with good reason, to abstain from having sex during the fertile period of the woman’s cycle. Those who use contraceptives can say that natural birth spacing and artificial contraception are the same. But they are not.
With artificial birth control, the couple’s unitive act is frustrated by a contraceptive. In Natural Family Planning, a couple practices abstinence and self-restraint during a possible period for procreation. “But they have sex during the infertile period with the intention of not getting pregnant. How is this different from a couple who have sex using artificial contraception and do not intend pregnancy?” one may want to ask. Contraception actually changes the sexual act. Couples who have sex during the infertile period with the intention of not having a child do not change the sexual act in any way. It is still the same act able to transmit life but it does not due to timing. When couples have sex using the birth control pill for instance, they have the same intention of not wanting to achieve pregnancy but in their case, they have taken action to covert a potentially fertile act to an infertile act. This act they carry out is a different kind of act altogether. This act is a non-marital act as it undermines the whole idea of Christian marriage. It is a wrong act.
When contraception is used, the unitive purpose of marriage is not satisfied. The chemical or physical barrier of contraception creates a spiritual barrier between partners. In sexual intercourse, partners give themselves completely to each other. When a contraceptive is used, they give themselves to each other taking away their fertility. Now take a closer look: one accepts the other only if fertility has been prevented. They cannot be said to be one flesh; they do not give themselves completely to each other. In giving themselves to each other, they are not being sincere.
Today, the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae have been fulfilled: “Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection” (HV 17).
What we need now is a renewal – a renewal of the world. For the world to be renewed, we need the Church to be renewed. For the Church to be renewed, we need our families to be renewed. For our families to be renewed, we need to boldly proclaim sacred truths including those concerning the transmission of human life.
Godwin Nwaokike is the author of the book Growing Through Life: The Pursuit of Fulfilment. Click the image below to find out more about the book.