I am a new member to this board, and I have a question I’d like to ask. I apologize in advance if this question has been answered previously. I’ve searched the web but have not been successful. My question is: If contraception is sinful because it goes against natural law, then why isn’t it sinful to receive medical interventions for diseases or life support? If it is sinful to keep a life from being conceived, why isn’t it sinful to prolong or save a life?

Thanks in advance!

Life support, surgery, organ transplants, etc., are not contrary to natural law; they are in alignment with it, because they are helping a body - in its weakness / sickness - to do what it is suppose to do. This is why methods to increase fertility (baring ones that are outside the unitive bond) are not against Catholic sexual ethics, because you are using medicine to help the body fulfill its function in conjugal unity.

Compare this to contraception, which is the complete opposite of, say, a pacemaker. A contraceptive is a device or pill which is intentionally designed to make a bodily function not perform its function. A pacemaker is intentionally designed to make a bodily function perform its function.

That is a thoughtful and insightful question!!! Welcome to CAF:)

It is not merely that it is sinful to keep a life from being conceived. There is, in fact, a very simple way to do that that is not sinful at all: abstinence. Likewise, it is not that it is never sinful to prolong or save a life. If I developed a machine that could keep one person alive, but only by killing random other people, that would be sinful to use.

Or in short, it’s not only about the goal, but about what you are doing for what reasons.

Contraception is taking an act whose natural goal is to produce children and contradicting the purpose of that act while trying to do it anyway. Compare to dieting vs bulimia: there is no reason to avoid trying to lose weight to become healthier, but there are good ways and bad ways to do this. A good way is to exercise, and eat what the body needs and not much more. A bad way is to consume food, but then contradict the very purpose of that act by vomiting it back up. Again, it’s not the goal that is bad in itself, but how we try to accomplish it.

Medical treatment is in general completely different. There is no action with a definite purpose that we are trying to do while thwarting its purpose.

Keep in mind that “natural” does not mean “what happens in the jungle,” or what would happen without human intervention. It means something much closer to “according to reason,” or “according to the purpose.” Natural law, then, refers to those moral laws which can be deduced from reason alone.

God is the creator. God’s nature is to create. Contraception excludes God from one of his greatest acts, creation of a human being in his image and likeness.

Contraception changes the union of man who brings sperm, woman who brings egg, and God who brings the life giving spirit, into an act where a man and woman use each other for pleasure.

St. Pope John Paul II said that using another human being is the opposite of loving them. Contraception turns one of the greatest loving acts in creation, and act of love, into an act of using another human person, the opposite of love.

Medical healing affirms life and relieves suffering. Contraception prevents it life and uses other humans for personal pleasure.


Contraception is not a treatment or prevention of a disease. Contraception prevents pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a disease.

Thank you! :slight_smile:

Thank you, everyone, for your answers. I appreciate it very much. However, I still have a question. What would happen if no one used contraception? How would we all “fit” on this planet? With advances in medicine and improvements in health care, people are able to live longer and be cured from diseases of which there were previously no cures. Many women do not have regular menstrual cycles, so NFP is not a reliable alternative for them. Since the only other alternative is abstinence, this would mean that a married couple should not have sex if they choose not to have multiple children; abstinence in a marriage would be a sin as well… :confused:

I’ll let others address most of your questions, but I just want to mention that regular cycles are absolutely not required for NFP to be effective. The sights of fertility are still present. Using NFP can be more challenging during times of changing fertility, such as breast feeding and premenpause, requiring greater abstinence, but it is still effective if the method is followed.

At the present time, we are no where close to running out of space. Cities are crowded, but the world is not. Should there become a time when population did present a grave reason for refraining from having children (and we aren’t there or even close), then that would mean that abstinence would be the only choice. Well, that and funding NASA more.

This hypothetical is so far removed from the present reality of the world that it’s hard to speculate in exact terms. Some things to consider are this:

Contraception is sort of the last milestone in a holy marriage. There are very, very few people alive who would morally object to a contraceptive but wouldn’t morally object to, say, fornication, among other areas of sexual ethics. So in your scenario, if we suppose that we lived in an orthodox paradise, and the entire world refrained from contraception, then we would also have to presuppose that the entire world refrained from adultery, fornication, divorce, prostitution, in vitro fertilization, etc. So all the channels of bearing children through illegitimate means would be gone. All of the channels that create near occasions of sin and needless temptations would be gone. It would presumably mean that vocations as generous singles, religious orders and the priesthood would be dramatically higher (celibates). It would also mean, as per our modern world, that people wouldn’t generally be getting married as teenagers, as was often the case in past centuries, but much later in life. When you put that together, I really don’t think the birthrate would be as high as you might think.

Of course, we don’t live in that kind of world. Not even close. When you consider the negative birthrate in several regions of the world, Catholics having large families is simply going to counteract it. Current predictions is that the population is going to top off at around 10 billion people and then start declining somewhat.

We also have no idea what kind of technologies and methods will be used in future generations to sustain ourselves. It’s a regressive kind of thinking to believe we won’t be better at it than we are today (when all evidence is to the contrary).

Well, I suppose we would just have to learn more self control with regard to sex, which is admittedly difficult, especially in today’s world. The world would be a better place with more self-control. I guess we would also have to in general be more aware of women’s cycles, which is definitely doable, and which people would be much more open to if they only had more self-control and therefore saw the need to obtain this knowledge.

Your assumption that the birth-rate would sky-rocket in a world without contraception may not be sound. The following article (see the included Table) gives a comparison of the effectiveness of a range of birth control methods (artificial and natural), both assuming perfect use of the method and assuming typical use.

The table entry called “Symptoms-based fertility awareness” refers to NFP, which the Church considers moral when the couple have good reasons to avoid. Interestingly, it is way more effective than most methods. In typical use, it is more effective than the Pill and the condom. In perfect use, it is (3 times) more effective than the condom, and half as effective as the Pill. [The table in the article quotes numerical failure rates, but I’ve expressed here the inverse, which is effectiveness/success rate]

So you can see that contraception is not required to avoid an out of control population.

As to total “abstinence” in a marriage, this rarely arises as necessary, but even if it does, it is not sinful if the couple have agreed they need to take this path.

Natural here is not referring to crunchy granola, but in the philosophical definition: according to the nature of the thing. The secular Western civilization has largely moved away from philosophies of teleology (fancy way of saying that things have purposes and meanings, from which they derive their nature). Thus, most people perceive human fertility not innately much differently than the sort of complex systems in a car or a computer. One can customize, experiment and make changes at will!

But Catholicism says that human sexuality is a completely intertwined whole. Marriage, intimacy and babies are not really different subjects. Rather they are ONE subject viewed from different angles. In the same way that a precious gem has facets, those facets are not divisible from the entirety of the jewel without BREAKING the jewel.

Contraception is a physical manifestation of a lie that says “sexual intimacy has nothing to do with babies unless we WILL it to.” That mindset profoundly damages the human person and the marital relationship. When a couple has a serious need to avoid pregnancy and they use NFP for that, their intimate life never stops respecting the link between sex and babies because of that excruciating period of denial that is required during fertile times. That hardship literally keeps things fully human.

As to population, it’s a big myth that humans will breed explosively, indefinitely without contraception. The science of demography has pretty conclusively found that population growth rates only become large during the transition time between pre-industrial rural societies and industrialized urban society. As far back as the late 1800’s third generation middle class urbanites already had an average of just over 2 kids per couple: bare replacement rate. By contrast, mature industrial societies today in which contraception is widespread, cheap and respectable have only 1.7 kids or so per woman: BELOW replacement rate! Google CIA World Factbook Total Fertility Rate and have a look for yourself. Contraception so totally alters human views on sexuality that there is not ONE first world nation on earth in which contraception is cheap, widely available and socially respectable that has enough babies to sustain it’s own population anymore. Not one! Remaining global population growth is ONLY in the third world and even those rates are coming down pretty fast.

And finally, you still seem to think NFP is Rhythm. It’s not. Rhythm was based only on calendar days. NFP methods are symptoms based. Humans are mammals and mammals all display detectable symptoms of fertility. It’s neither magical, nor rocket science either.

It seems to me that NFP does exactly the same thing (makes sex an act of using another human) - only that NFP is less effective than contraception.

So, how is that “wrong” to be avoided?

I did not say it was ‘wrong’.

Just wanted to point out that if using contraceptives makes having sex an act of using another human without the purpose of procreation, so does the practice of NFP.

So I don’t understand why NFP is considered to be OK by the Church.

But to be clear, the premise stated is flawed *your *statement.]. It assumes that having sex without the purpose of procreation amounts to “using” another.

Given the faulty premise, one can’t reason from it to a valid conclusion.

God designed the fertility cycles of women, and He gave us brains to notice these cycles. He also does not require that we have sex at all times. We are free to abstain from sex for a time with our spouse.

One important note, the Church says that NFP may be used for SERIOUS reasons (such as spacing children, or health/medical reasons), that must be regularly considered to see if they still apply. If we use it simply as a replacement for contraception, then we are sinning.

You are incorrectly characterizing church teaching. It is not that sexual intimacy is not permissible if babies won’t result, it is that the action of intentionally sterilizing sexual intimacy damages what it IS and makes it less than it’s supposed to be. The damage is not limited to preventing conception. The damage reaches the souls of the couple who make the decision to make sex something other than what it is. The NFP couple don’t do that. They live by the design God built into human sexuality rather than altering it to fit their own desires and conveniences.

At root, I’m coming to recognize this as a philosophical issue. The secular world has come to see humanity as self-defined and open ended. We will be what we decide to make of ourselves. Christians are called to see ourselves as the pinnacle of God’s creation in the universe and recognize that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Such a view of ourselves is not consistent with manipulating our fertility to make us something other than we were designed to be.

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