Why is the Catholic Church against contraception?
Many well-meaning Christians, including likely the majority of Protestant ministers, promote contraception as a moral good. Why is the Catholic Church against contraception, they wonder.
Modern objections could go any number of ways. Don’t the old men in pointy hats realize the difficulty in raising children these days? Shouldn’t newlyweds be allowed a couple years of child-free marriage to get more acquainted with one another? Is there really any obligation to be open to children, anyway?
Well, to answer why is the Catholic Church against contraception, we could go in many different directions. Sure, a lot more could be said as to how contraception violates the divine law, and the natural law, as I have written about in the past.
I thought for today we would focus in on something Catholics and most Protestants can all recognize and respect: the First Commandment. Exodus 20:3 reads, “Thou shall have no gods before me” (cf. Deut. 5:7). To better understand why is the Catholic Church against contraception, although we certainly could, we need not go any further than the First Commandment.
OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) lists off numerous categorical offenses against the First Commandment in sections 2111 through 2128. These include superstition, idolatry, divination and magic, irreligion, atheism, and agnosticism. For our purposes here, I will narrow in on irreligion.
Irreligion remains a violation of the First Commandment. Religion is the practice of giving God the worship and service he deserves. Conversely, irreligion can be defined as the lack of religion or even an indifference or hostility to religion.
Irreligion can be broken down into three categories. I will attempt to show how using contraception violates each subcategory of irreligion. In effect, I will show how using contraception violates the First Commandment, as a result. Hopefully this will help answer the question why is the Catholic Church against contraception.
The Catechism gives us the three subcategories of the main sin of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds; sacrilege; and simony (#2218).
GUILTY OF TEMPTING GOD
“Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed… The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power” (CCC 2219).
Numerous times I have heard Catholics and Christian couples alike tell me that if God really wanted them to have a baby, He would have them get pregnant, despite their use of contraception.
Really? You want to dare God?
You can’t measure the morality of an act based on whether God permits you to perform it or not. As Lutheran author, Charles Provan points out in his book, The Bible and Birth Control, this logic fails. Otherwise, you could turn it around and justify shooting someone. “Well, hey, if God didn’t want me to shoot him dead, he could have jammed my gun or caused the bullet to be diverted,” to paraphrase his example. Ummm… no, that’s not how God works.
As well, many—if not most—contracepting Christians are demonstrating their lack of faith in God’s providence. They think, even subconsciously that bearing another child would be impossible, given their circumstances. This lack of faith in God’s providence could fall in this subcategory, as well.
They are claiming dominion over their bodies and not leaving room for God to… well, be God.
GUILTY OF SACRILEGE
“Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God” (CCC 2120).
In receiving baptism Christians are consecrated unto God Himself (see CCC 945, 1582). This means they are set apart from the rest of the world to serve God. To use contraception means to violate the integrity of the person by physically altering them—temporarily or permanently—from the way God made them.
In addition to that, using birth control commits sacrilege in yet another way: it violates the conjugal act. “The divine image is present in every man,” reads Catechism 1702. Yet, contraception users profane the conjugal act that makes possible for new human life to come into existence. Human life, which means human beings made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). Those using birth control wish to limit or eliminate the creative powers of God.
GUILTY OF SIMONY
“Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things… It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment” (CCC 2121).
Sure, those who buy and use contraceptives are not attempting to buy spiritual goods. So the connection may not seem as apparent. But, notice the second part of the explanation of simony: “It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God.” It would seem contraceptive sex is guilty of simony in this way.
For children in themselves as ‘spiritual goods,’ so to speak. For, they are considered blessings from God Himself (see Ps 127:5, Gen 28:3, 1 Chron 25:5, Prov 17:6, Mal 2:15, Mk 10:14, Jn 16:21, 1 Tim 5:14, etc.). We do not have mastery over our children, for they belong to God.
Yes, we have temporal authority over them as long as they live with us, but no one can claim to be the source of their being, except God Himself. And yet, contraception users seek to play God in this way by pretending to have the say-so in whether someone come into being.
What’s more, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 explains that the bodies of baptized Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit and so we need to honor God with our bodies. Yet, those who voluntarily sterilize themselves or temporarily do so using contraceptives are rejecting the gift of their bodies from God. They are claiming dominion over their bodies and not leaving room for God to… well, be God.
Feel free to leave a comment below on this explanation on why is Catholic Church against contraception.