Before we can understand what is wrong with birth control we must first understand what is marriage.
Marriage is more than a legal contract, more than a romantic social event, and more than two people "making it official" after years of living together. Marriage was created not by man but by God. It is a holy and sacred covenant between a man and woman who give of themselves completely to one another. It is meant for the good of the couple and for bringing forth new life into the world. The wisdom of the Catholic Church tells us this about marriage:
"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601)
"’The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws.... God himself is the author of marriage.' (Gaudium et Spes 48, 1) The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator'" (CC, 1603)
All of us, as human beings were created by God to love. Those called to marriage were chosen to love in a special and intimate way. The Catechism further explains:
"God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: 'And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.' " (CC, 1604)
As such, the marital love between a husband and wife should encompass their entire life (inside and outside the bedroom) although God has provided a unique way for their bodies and souls to unite as one - through sexual intercourse. Living in our sex saturated society it is easy to forget the dignity, the beauty, and the sacredness of the sexual act.
Sexual intercourse is more than just a physical act. There is an unspoken language that transcends the physical and unites mind and soul, as well as the body. The act itself is a renewal of the marriage covenant saying, "I am completely yours, my beloved. I hold nothing back from you. I accept and love you as fully as you accept and love me." God created sex to bond and deepen the couple’s love and to bless them with new life. A husband and wife were chosen to be co-creators with God - our love creates the body and God’s love creates the soul. The physical and supernatural meet at the moment of conception and the universe is forever changed, a new life has now entered the world with a soul that is meant to live with God for eternity. It is an amazing gift.
Looking at the marital act in this light has helped me to understand why the Church teaches that birth control is intrinsically evil and immoral.
When we examine the nature of marriage and the marital act we can reason (through natural law) that the marital act has two main purposes: a procreative (life-giving) purpose and a unitive (love-giving) purpose. Therefore, nothing should be done to deter these purposes and everything should be done to protect them. Contraception directly violates the intended purposes of sex.
First and foremost contraception takes God and his life-giving power out of the picture. A contraceptive couple desires to enjoy the pleasure of the sexual act but refuses to accept any life God wishes to bestow on them. This is a deliberate violation of the very nature of the act, which is procreation.
Secondly, when a couple uses contraception they are placing a barrier between themselves and their love. They are no longer accepting each other completely and fully. ("I accept your body but not your fertility.") They are no longer making a renewal of their marital covenant, loving each other for better and for worst. ("I take you for better but not for the worst...getting pregnant.") They may not be intentionally saying these things but the very essence of contraception speaks these words to the heart. Like an unknowing victim who drinks from a poisoned cup, the poison will still take its effect regardless of his knowledge.
Consider that even as early as four years after contraceptives were first tested, researchers found that marriages in which contraceptives were used were twice as likely to end in divorce than marriages in which there was no contraceptive use. ("Sexual Chemistry: Understanding Our Hormones, The Pill, and HRT" by Grant MD, Ellen Mandarin Paperbacks, London, 1994.) Why is that?
By abusing the gift of sex and refusing God’s sovereignty over all aspects of their marriage, a couple is inviting discord into their life. Often couples will become dissatisfied. Sex loses its sacredness and a wife will begin to feel that her husband desires her body and not her person. She feels used. A husband begins to feel like his wife doesn't really want to have sex with him. She is cold and not "into it". This resentment creeps into other aspects of their marriage and soon the poison has taken its effect. The marriage has crumbled.
Some may think this is an overstatement or much ado about nothing. But is it? If marriages and families are the cornerstones of our society, what happens when those cornerstones break down? What effect has contraception had on our society?
The widespread acceptance of contraceptives in the 60’s cleared the path for the sexual revolution. Since it became possible to have sex without the risk of pregnancy (or at least with a greatly reduced risk) more and more people began to see sex as a mere physical pleasure. Traditional structures of marriage were disregarded for sex without consequence. Little did people realize the consequence that would befall them and future generations. Now we, as members of Generation X and the younger Generation Y, are facing the consequences.
Contraceptives did not live up to the high expectations of its proponents. Rather, it has failed miserably. Contraceptives were supposed to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, therefore reducing the number of abortions, out of wedlock and teenage pregnancies, and the number of single parent families. That seems like logical thinking on the surface but rather than a decrease there has an unprecedented increase over the past thirty years. Consider alone the statistics on abortion. There have been over 43,700,000 abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973 with an average of 1,600,000 babies are killed annually. I was taken back when I heard the report today that by the age 45 nearly half (43%) of the women in America will have had an abortion! (Note: that does not take into account the abortions caused by contraceptives like the Pill and other chemical contraceptives.)
Consider also that with the increase in premarital and extramarital sex, the average number of different partners one person might have has also increased. Thereby the rate of infection from sexually transmitted diseases has skyrocketed. Thirty years ago there were about twelve known diseases and today there are over fifty. Even the diseases themselves have changed becoming more deadly, such as the AIDS virus. There is also evidence that some contraceptives, especially hormonal contraceptives, might make the user more susceptible to STDs.
Contraception allows men to satisfy their sexual desires and in doing so they become more like animals rather than human beings. Our society has a hard time understanding that people, including men, can control themselves and that sex is not a mere physical urge that should be gratified as easily as someone who may have a midnight snack when they’re hungry. True strength and dignity is shown in a man that has control of his passions through Christ’s grace and who respects sex as a God-given gift to be shared with his wife.
Contraception allows women to pursue sexual immorality, as well as being pursued as "sex conquests" by men. Contraception has degraded a woman’s body, treating it as a machine that can be manipulated through chemicals in order to prevent pregnancy. Contraception puts a woman’s physical and mental health in danger. (See article "Is Birth Control Safe for My Body?") If she does become pregnant it is considered her fault and her responsibility to "take care of it". True beauty and dignity is shown in a woman who realizes her self-value as a woman of God. Her demeanor and actions inspire a man to respect her person as well as her body.
Contraception degrades children to be treated as accidents to be avoided, economic liabilities, damaging to mother earth, social misfits, and a burden to marriages. The contraceptive mentality has spurred numerous idiots to question mothers in public with moronic questions like "You’re pregnant again?" or "Are all these kids yours?" or "Is this finally your last one?" or, my personal favorite, "Don’t you know what causes babies?" We live in a society that couldn’t possibly afford another child but can afford to take its dog to the pet health spa. A society that rebukes a woman for having another child but praises someone for adopting one more dog from the SPCA. I have nothing against pets, mind you, but our contraceptive mentality has turned pets from playmates for our children to being our children. Children are to be treasured blessings from God raised to know, love, and serve Him. They help build a civilization of love that begins with our families then radiates out to the world.
This is why the Catholic Church teaches that birth control is intrinsically evil and immoral. Artificial contraception takes God out of the picture, desecrates marital intercourse, damages marriages, degrades human beings, is damaging to a woman’s body and paves the way for immorality and social ills.
The Church is not trying to dictate and control a couple’s sex life. It is not looking down on sex and seeing it as something dirty or degrading. On the contrary, the Church recognizes the beauty and sacredness of the act. It rejoices in its God-given power and upholds its dignity. It is society that has dirtied and desecrated sex. The evil one rejoices that God’s most intimate and life-giving gift to a married couple has been degraded to a cheap thrill, a means to sell merchandise, a big business, a tool to destroy marriages, family and society. I for one am sick of all the lies I have been fed. I am sick of seeing my brothers and sisters so deceived and damaged. Even now I shed tears at the thought that God’s gift has been so abused and disgraced.
But stronger than my sorrow is my desire to share this truth with others: God has created sex as a glorious treasure! When sex is shared between a husband and wife as God intended, it is like a fire burning brightly at the hearth of a home giving warmth and comfort to all within. When sex is misused it is like a fire gone out of control, burning people and homes on its path of destruction.
Artificial contraception includes: abortion; abortion drugs (i.e. RU-486); every form of chemical birth control including implants (i.e. Norplant), injections (i.e. Depo Provera) and the Pill; IUD’s (intra-uterine devices); barrier methods and unnatural forms of birth control including: condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, foams, jellies, mutual or solitary masturbation, sodomy and oral sex. (Note: that does not include marital oral-genital contact that is foreplay to the normal marriage act.)
No. Because contraception is intrinsically evil (in its very nature) it can never be permitted. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit to teach the fullness of truth no matter how unpopular that truth may be. The Church will never teach that it is morally acceptable for married couples to use unnatural forms of birth control.
"The Church’s teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error." (Pope John Paul II, address on June 5, 1987.)
"In a word, contraception contradicts the truth of conjugal love. Contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified." (Pope John Paul II, October 10, 1983.)
A person’s conscience must be properly formed according to Church teaching. Otherwise, we can use our conscience as an excuse for anything. For example, a man can be having trouble in his marriage and be tempted to have an affair with his coworker. However, no matter what reasons he comes up with to go through with the affair, none will suffice because infidelity in marriage is NEVER permitted. Again, it is our duty to form our conscience properly. If the Church teaches something is evil by its nature, our conscience should be telling us the same.
I think the way that question is asked says a lot! We have to really examine our hearts and see what kind of attitude we have towards children, material possession, and our own worldly desires. Marriage was meant for having children and building families.
"Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents." (Gaudium et Spes, 50)
It is easy to plan for the material and financial things first, then when we’ve achieved our "goals" we can start a family. Those goals aren’t necessarily wrong we just have to be extremely careful of our attitude. Worldly thinking can creep into the all of us and we have to keep it in check. Prayer, sacramental grace, generosity and constant surrender to God’s will is paramount to knowing when God is calling a couple to have another child.
No. In decisions about the size of your family, the married couple is called to:
"...regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfill their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those, which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself." (GS, 50)
Yes. The Church teaches us that:
"Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom." (CC, 2370)
A couple may morally use Natural Family Planning. To learn about Natural Family Planning (NFP) see the article "What Is NFP?"
There is an excellent audio tape called "Contraception: Why Not?" by Janet E. Smith, Ph.D. available though One More Soul Ministry. You can reach them at 1-800-307-7685 or log on at http://www.omsoul.com. It costs $5 for one and $3 to $1 if you buy in bulk. Or you can email us and we will get one to you.
The Art of Natural Family Planning
by John & Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies
by Sheila K. Kippley
Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition
by Marilyn M. Shannon
Good News About Sex and Marriage
By Christopher West
Life-Giving Love : Embracing God's Beautiful Design for Marriage
by Kimberly Hahn
Love, Sex, and Babies
By Jason Evert
Theology Of The Body For Beginners
By Christopher West
Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader
By Janet Smith
What's Wrong with Birth Control? by Bobbi
A Husband's Relection on NFP by Brian