Is Using Contraception a Mortal Sin?

Is using contraception a mortal sin in a valid Catholic marriage? I understand the Catholic teaching on the subject, I have read Humane Vitae and I have posed questions on this forum about it as well and I can’t bring myself to believe it. If it is a mortal sin, then doesn’t that mean I cannot receive communion?

To be a mortal sin, you must have full knowledge, deliberate consent, and grave matter. I believe contraception is a grave matter according to church teaching.

If you disagree with church teaching, you may not have ‘full knowledge’ (someone correct me if I’m mistaken here). But you do have an obligation to conform your conscious to the truth. It sounds like you are trying to do this by reading Humanae Vita.

I suggest to keep prayerful examination of this issue. As long as you are open and working towards it, it’s not a mortal sin. I used to disagree with the Church on this. After closer examination, I changed my opinion to orthodoxy.

Remember, sex can be addictive - regardless if your single or married. And contraception closes off the ‘openness to childbearing’ which is contrary to how God designed sex. Lastly, contraception can reduce a woman to an object of pleasure.

God bless,

Yes – It is grave matter for mortal sin (or in the colloquial -“it is a mortal sin”)

Along with, murder, adultery, other kinds of lust, etc

"Conjugal Chastity in the Doctrine of the Church

Christian tradition has always upheld the goodness and honesty of the marital union and of the family against numerous heresies which arose from the very beginnings of the Church. Willed by God with creation itself, brought back to its primal origin and elevated to the dignity of a sacrament by Christ, marriage consists of an intimate communion of the spouses of love and life, intrinsically ordered to the good of the children that God wishes to entrust to them. Both for the good of the spouses and of the children, as well as for the good of society itself, the natural bond no longer depends on human decision.7

The virtue of conjugal chastity “involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift”,8 and through it sexuality “becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman”.9 This virtue, in so far as it refers to the intimate relations of the spouses, requires that "the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love"10 be maintained. Therefore, among the fundamental moral principles of conjugal life, it is necessary to keep in mind “the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning”.11

The persons called to live in the married state realize their vocation to love19 in the full gift of self, which adequately expresses the language of the body.20 From the mutual gift of the spouses comes, as its fruit, the gift of life to the children, who are a sign and crowning of their spousal love.21

Contraception, directly opposed to the transmission of life, betrays and falsifies the self-sacrificing love proper to marriage, "altering its value of total self-giving"22 and contradicting God’s design of love, in which it has been granted to married couples to participate.

The Teaching of the Church on Responsible Procreation

  1. The spouses are to be strengthened in their view of the inestimable value and preciousness of human life, and aided so that they may commit themselves to making their own family a sanctuary of life:28 “God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood quite differently than he is present in all other instances of begetting ‘on earth’”.29

  2. Parents are to consider their mission as an honor and a responsibility, since they become cooperators with the Lord in calling into existence a new human person, made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed and destined, in Christ, to a Life of eternal happiness.30 “It is precisely in their role as co-workers with God who transmits his image to the new creature that we see the greatness of couples who are ready ‘to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Saviour, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day’”.31

  3. From this the Christian’s joy and esteem for paternity and maternity are derived. This parenthood is called “responsible” in recent documents of the Church, to emphasize the awareness and generosity of the spouses with regard to their mission of transmitting life, which has in itself a value of eternity, and to call attention to their role as educators. Certainly it is a duty of married couples—who, for that matter, should seek appropriate counsel—to deliberate deeply and in a spirit of faith about the size of their family, and to decide the concrete mode of realizing it, with respect for the moral criteria of conjugal life.32

  4. The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.33

  5. A specific and more seroius moral evil is present in the use of means which have an abortive effect, impeding the implantation of the embryo which has just been fertilized or even causing its expulsion in an early stage of pregnancy.34

  6. However, profoundly different from any contraceptive practice is the behaviour of married couples, who, always remaining fundamentally open to the gift of life, live their intimacy only in the unfruitful periods, when they are led to this course by serious motives of responsible parenthood. This is true both from the anthropological and moral points of view, because it is rooted in a different conception of the person and of sexuality.35" (from the Pontifical CF)

Such has always been condemned…and it is very important to get renounce this practice…even for the very love of ones marriage…

As Bl. Pope John Paul II noted:

" In the conjugal act it is not licit to separate the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect, because both the one and the other pertain to the intimate truth of the conjugal act. The one is activated together with the other and in a certain sense the one by means of the other. Therefore, in such a case the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love."

~ Bl. Pope John Paul II General Audience, August 22, 1984

You may find this radio program from CA helpful --I am sure if you search on the main CA site you will come up with lots of things to listen to and read…

Something good for us all to read (especially during Lent)…(what I mean begins after the first paragraph)

Yep, it’s grave matter for mortal sin.

And yes, receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is also mortal sin.

Have you read “Sex Au Naturel” by Patrick Coffin? I found it to be really helpful and insightful on the topic…and it’s an easy read. If you enjoy Encyclicals, I recommend Casti Connubii and Familiaris Consortio for help in this particular topic. Pius XII’s Allocution to Midwives is also excellent on the topic, as well as “Theology of the Body” by Pope JP II.

As to Holy Communion one should certainly not receive the Eucharist in mortal sin:


1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."218 Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.

I imagine it is -he is the great host of CA (and went to my Alma Mater) – hopefully anyone with such questions will pick up a copy

I think it is also important to point out that…

My wife would never support using Natural Family Planning, and that I wouldn’t either, mainly because it would be irresponsible at this point in our lives together to have a child, and NFP presents a greater risk than other birth control methods. Also, my wife is in medical school and I am in law school, so our lives are extremely busy and having sex on a schedule would be virtually impossible. It also is not fair to say to my wife, “Sorry, you are going to have to risk having a child right now and potentially put medical school on hold.” And if I did do that, and she did get pregnant, we don’t have the money to pay for childcare or to properly cloth/feed a child. So not only would my wife have to give up on medical school while she is pregnant, she would likely have to wait several years before starting up again.

I know the Catholic response demands we either not have sex or use natural family planning, but the logic behind these two methods seem nearly identical to that of birth control and Humanae Vitae does not, in my opinion, show a valid difference between the two. Additionally, for how long should my wife and I not have sex? For seven years of medical school and residency? It seems to me that my wife’s potential for saving lives a doctor who wants to serve impoverished communities should outweigh having a child at this point in our relationship. Our ability to help the world would be GREATLY diminished by having a child now, and asking a married couple to abstain from sex for seven years doesn’t seem right either.

I guess I just don’t understand the entire teaching, even if it is a mortal sin, and it remains a huge roadblock for me and my faith. I know this second post is not quite on topic with the original, but it is all interconnected.

I know the Catholic Church has the authority to make any determinations it sees fit on issues of faith and morals, but does it really have the authority to say absolutely, without a single doubt, that issues like contraception and natural family planning, which are not essential Christian doctrines, are infallible? I think the Church has overstepped its bounds in making that distinction. It’s one of the few areas I feel that way about, maybe the only one.

Get the book :wink:

I posted the previous post without knowing others have posted on my question. I appreciate the responses, I really do. This forum is wonderful and has been a great aid for me in my journey, not so much back to the Church, but to it for the first REAL time (even though I was always “catholic,” I was never truly Catholic).

With that said, I just don’t know what I am supposed to do about this. Obviously receiving communion is becoming an essential part of my life but I just CANNOT avoid using contraception. My wife would NEVER allow it, and the strain it would put on my marriage over the course of years would be incredible…not to mention I just cannot comprehend the difference between NFP and contraception, even though I have read Church teachings on it…It just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

I will check it out.

First off, you’re wrong that the Catholic answer is to either not have sex or to use NFP. In fact, if the reason that you’re not wanting to conceive right now is for the reasons stated, then both of these things are potentially equally as sinful as using contraception.

The long and short of it is this - God gave us sex for unification and procreation. If you are engaging (or failing to engage) in intercourse in a way that denies either of these functions, you are committing a mortal sin. So if you’re not having sex because you don’t want to procreate, you are perverting the act by not engaging in it.

If I were you, I would engage in a lot of prayer about why you’re trying to avoid conceiving. Without trying to sound judgmental, I read a lot of selfishness from both you and your wife in your post. Children are a blessing, and many, many parents have had to put career goals on hold, and found themselves satisfied beyond their wildest dreams as a result.

Also this is overall very helpfful in general:

PS: a great line from one of the Vatican II Documents:

“children are the supreme gift of marriage” (Gaudium et spes, 50; emphasis added)

I wouldn’t risk committing a sin of grave matter for the sake of anything. Your eternal destiny is at stake. Please try NFP. You will grow as a couple.

Disagreeing with Church teaching does not excuse anything. You have full knowledge of the Church’s teaching, and the Church’s teaching is law. Therefore you have full knowledge.

Not having full knowledge would be someone who did not know that this was the Church Teaching.

cf. disagreeing that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, disagreeing that a non-Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist (except the Orthodox in very rare circumstances).

Using Contraception is a mortal sin. It is grave matter, you know the teachings of the Church (you need not agree with them to have full knowledge), and it takes full will to use contraception.

Glad that you did find your way to orthodoxy on this subject.

I don’t think anyone has addressed this yet, but full knowledge is knowing what the Church teaches, not knowing why the Church teaches it. Disagreeing with Church teaching seems to imply full knowledge since you cannot disagree with something you don’t know. Like you say, it is our responsibility to conform our conscious to the truth, so even if I don’t understand the why’s, I am required to do what the Church teaches even while researching/praying for understanding.

I would not agree here.

Contraception is very different than NFP and even if NFP is used for reasons that are not right --I would not say it is “potentially equally as sinful as using contraception”…sort of like saying murdering ones boss is potentially* as sinful* as dropping a Nuke on a city.

Now can it be sinful to use NFP for the wrong reasons? Yes …sure (and I imagine it may be to various degrees…).

But it is not up to us to judge from the outside if a couple has the needed reasons…such is up to the couple to judge honestly and prayerfully with informed consciences before God and perhaps with the advice of a good Priest etc.

This is why I included the word “potentially” - because it is not up for me to judge, but there is a possibility. I think we’re arguing nuance but saying the same thing here.

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