Why Catholic’s Believe Birth Control is Wrong
Q: Why do Catholics believe that birth control is wrong?
A: The first in our series of questions about Catholicism deals with why Catholics believe birth control is wrong. I’m going to try and make this as simple and straightforward as possible so that it makes sense to everyone who wants to know.
First and foremost, the Catholic Church holds in the highest regard the life of a human being “from the moment of conception to the moment of death.” That means from the very moment the sperm cell joins the egg cell a new life has been created and must be protected and respected until God in His own time decides that it is that individual’s time to die.
Sex and children in the Catholic Church is only licit within a valid marriage and only within marriage should these things be a concern. In other words, if you’re not married you shouldn’t be having sex or children, therefore, any preventative or interruptive measures should not be necessary. The two main reasons for marriage in the Church is to fulfill the bond of love between a couple and to be open to new life within the relationship. Therefore, no artificial methods or means should be undertaken to prevent this event from being possible because it closes off the possibility for new life.
How does this matter relate to birth control? Birth control is a means of limiting or controlling, by prevention or through interruption, whether or not another human being lives or not. Birth control ranges from preventative measures like pills, prophylactics like condoms or diaphragms, all the way to interruptive measures like abortion, the “morning after pill”, and sterilization measures like tubal ligation or vasectomy.
Okay but what about people that aren’t married and need them for strictly medical reasons? What about married couples where it could be deadly for the woman to bear another child? What about couples who are married and are open to children but cannot financially care for more than one or two children, who want children at a later time, or their children farther apart? Really good points. For unmarried people who, for whatever reason, it is medically advisable for them to be on a form of birth control, can take or use preventative measures (usually in the form of birth control pills because of the hormonal needs of the body.) As long as the pills are not being used so that the person can engage in immoral sexual acts (meaning outside a legitimate marriage) and the pills are only being used to regulate a condition of the body, then it is okay to take them. However, it must be noted that most birth control pills contain a high cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs which are unnatural and unhealthy to bodies. There have been studies to suggest links to different health problems in women including breast cancer and an increased difficulty in conceiving after coming off birth control pills.
For women who cannot have children safely or couples do not – for whatever valid reason – want children during a certain time, the Church advocates Natural Family Planning. This is not the previous method called “The Rhythm Method”. Natural Family Planning is, in the broadest sense, a method of avoiding (or achieving) pregnancy that works with the timing of a woman’s fertility rather than suppressing it through the use of drugs or contraceptive devices. Using this method a woman determines when her fertile period is and abstains from intercourse during that time to avoid pregnancy, or having intercourse then to achieve pregnancy. Because they take advantage of the individual’s natural rhythms of fertility and infertility and place no positive obstacles to the transmission of life, they do not fall under the Catholic Church’s official ban against artificial contraception. Of course, even when couples are using natural methods, they are not to use them simply to avoid conception for selfish motives but for sound reasons like physical or emotional health or economic circumstances. Utilizing when an individual wife is fertile or infertile has shown to have success rates of upward to 98% – 99%. (As successful as any preventative or interruptive method.) The Church would advocate that couples not wishing or able to have children utilize NFP as a way to regulate when they would have children.
So isn’t that the same as artificial contraception? Not when we’re discussing the effect it has on marriages and the mentality of the couple in the marriage or the physical effect it can have on women who use methods like pills. Pope Paul VI wrote a document called Humane Vitae and it states that the ends don’t justify the means and you can’t do something bad (like closing off the possibility to new life with birth control) to produce a “good effect” like spacing out or avoiding pregnancy. For Christians it also makes the statement that one puts higher trust in a product rather than God who knows more than you what you can control and handle and ensuring the natural means of prevention that were given by Him to have children.
This was not always a “Catholic only” stance. In fact, before 1930, not one single Protestant Christian accepted contraception, sterilization or abortion. However, in 1930 Anglicans accepted contraception. Many Protestant Churches after that began to accept contraception as permissible, however there are still some Protestant denominations which reject all forms of unnatural birth control and some who reject even natural birth regulation. Likewise, the Eastern Orthodox churches also reject contraception.¹
The bottom line is that the Catholic Church and it’s followers who are called to be married are also called to be open to new life and any unnatural prevention of that is considered a serious sin to be avoided.
1. excerpted from EWTN tract on birth control