Protestant wants to understand Catholic position on Birth Control

My understanding is that Catholics are opposed to birth control but I am unaware of the reason. Forgive me because I don’t know many Catholics. Is it because it is artificially preventing conception and the timing of conception is for God to decide? Can someone summarize the Catholic position on it for me in layman’s terms?

My story:
My wife and I married right out of college at age 22. We decided to wait about 5 years to have kids because we wanted to establish ourselves in our careers, save up money to buy a house, do some traveling, and otherwise enjoy each other’s company for a few years before we settled down because we realized that having a family requires a lot of effort and dedication to the children.

My wife took birth control from age 22 until she was 27, then we started trying to have kids. At first, we couldn’t conceive right away. We were both tested and I was found to have a low sperm count. After what one buddy of mine called my “Roto-Rooter job”, we had our first child when my wife was 29 and our second at 33.

Did we sin for having taken birth control? If so, was it a serious sin? We didn’t mean any disrespect to God by doing so and we were unaware it was wrong.

On the other hand, we both have been against abortion all along because we feel it is the taking of an innocent life,

I can link these documents for your reading. Forgive me for not interpreting them but I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth :o:)



Birth Control (Catholic Answers)

Natural Family Planning (USCCB)

Birth Control and NFP: What’s the Difference? (CNA)

Thanks, Isaiah45_9. I’ll take a look.

This is something that I posted on another thread a few months ago.

Life is a chance. Every one of us that is born is a miracle. I was the youngest of many kids. And we were poor. It would have been easy for my parents to have used contraception after the third or fourth and then I would have never come into existence. The same could be said for many of us here. And yet because of our selfishness we deny others that same chance at life. And I say we because I was guilty also. I know when I die the Father will say to me: I wanted to send you more children but you would rather have had cable, internet, the latest smart phone etc. etc. rather than give another soul the gift of life.

I wish I had read Humanae Vitae years ago.

P.S. I only mean selfishness for those Catholics who know what the Church teaches and choose to ignore it. Like me. I did not read the Church’s position because that would have made me have to take a serious look at my actions. I have met Catholics who genuinely do not know what the Church teaches on contraception.

Not to nitpick, BUT Humanae Vitae is Paul VI. :wink:

Amen! I studied Humanae Vitae just a few years ago,at age 59! All of the women in our group were in ages ranging from fifty to mid eighties!
What a beautiful and life affirming encyclical! While it is too late for me to practice the wisdom of our Catholic Faith re BC,I have at least been able to share with my daughters’,the beauty of living one’s faith within their marital relationship. :slight_smile:

There are lots of theologians that explain it far more eloquently than I do, but basically, Catholics place alot of importance on the marital act. We consider marriage both a vocation and a sacrament. The marital act is the physical aspect of the marital sacrament. Because the vocation of a married couple is to be open to children, every sexual act must be both procreative and unitive. Using contraception is intentionally using the marital act for your own pleasure, but not being open to God’s plan for marriage. It might be a poor analogy, but it’s sort of like using the baptismal font as a bucket to mop the floor. Or spreading Cheez-Wiz on a host. It’s disrespectful to the holiness of the Sacrament of marriage. Hope that makes sense.

PS- Most birth control pills are also an abortifacient.

Allegra, you did a beautiful job explaining Catholic teaching.! :thumbsup:

And here I thought I’d be safe from putting my foot in my mouth… :rotfl: Thanks

Not exactly. If one defines “birth control” as spacing or planning children, or avoiding when one has a serious reason to do so, no the Church is not opposed to birth control.

The Church teaches, specifically, that contraception is a sin against the sixth commandment (which you would number the seventh commandment) regarding proper use of our sexual faculties. (Note, Catholics, Lutherans, and some others number the commandments one way. Orthodox, other Protestants, and some Jews number them another).

Bottom line, the shorthand of the commandment is “thou shall not commit adultery”. The Catholic understanding of this commandment is that it encompasses all sin against chastity and misuse of sexuality in and outside of marriage.

Why is contraception wrong? Because God’s design for our sexuality is both life giving and love giving. Sexual intercourse is ordered to both procreation and unity of spouses. These ends of the marital embrace are not ours to sever, to disorder.

If one is going to engage in marital relations, then one must respect the proper ordering of the gift of sexuality. The choice is to engage in sex or not. If one engages in sex, one may not disorder it by contraception. One is always free to refrain from intercourse if one has need of avoiding a pregnancy for that time.

Not exactly. The Catholic Church is not providentialist-- which for example the Duggars subscribe to.

Hopefully the above is a good start for you.

Sin requires knowledge. One can commit an objectively wrong act without committing sin if one lacks knowledge or freedom in acting.

So, the Church teaches contraception is gravely wrong. But, did you personally sin? Likely not. You didn’t know.

That is wonderful to hear.

I can suggest the book The Bible and Birth Control by Charles Provan if you are interested. Provan is not Catholic, I am not sure of his affiliation, but he is Protestant.

Birth Control Pill is deemed as an Abortificient to Catholics. We deem life to begin when the sperm penetrates the egg. It takes about a week for the egg to travel down the fillopean tube and implant to the utterious. While the impregnated egg travels down to the uterious, it sends a message to the mothers brain to cease menustration.

Politics has redefined life to begin when the impregnated egg attaches to the utterious. This allows the chemicals in the birth control pills to block communications from the impregnated egg to the woman; allowing menustration to flush the impregnated egg out with menistrating. So, you may have flushed a baby or two down the toilet.

Secularly, BCP’s should be questioned because they pollute the water supply, cause women to pick wrong mates, and physically do damage to woman’s bodies (stroke, zits, weight gain, moody, and change olfactory senses).

It would be more accurate to say the Catholic Church is formally opposed to birth control. A lot of Catholics simply ignore the ruling.

A bit of background to the commission set up by John XXIII to discuss the issue of birth control. Personally I think if John XXIII hadn’t died so soon, he’d have given permission for married couples to use the pill, as recommended by what the following article calls the “majority view” (15 out of 19 bishops, and 9 out of 12 theologians if I remember rightly, and 30 out of 35 lay people).

A lot of Catholics, including practising Catholics, use the pill. I’ve argued the toss for birth control (in the form of contraception) a number of times here.

During Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII set up a commission to study the issue of birth control which was the source of much inner conflict for many Catholics. After John XXIII’s death, the new Pope Paul VI broadened the membership of the commission to include married couples and physicians. The very fact that a special commission was set up by the Pope to study the birth control issue caused many Catholics to expect a change in the Church’s teaching which, until then, had condemned all forms of artificial birth control as morally wrong, except for medical reasons (Humanae Vitae, Article 15).

By June, 1966, the commission completed its work and presented the Pope with a majority report and a minority report. The majority report recommended that the Church changes its position on birth control and permit couples to use artificial forms of contraception under certain circumstances. The minority report recommended that the Pope hold fast to the traditional teaching. As the news leaked out that the majority report recommended a change in teaching, Catholics and, in some cases, their pastoral leaders started to expect and prepare for a change. Within this climate of anticipated change, many Catholics started to use some forms of contraception (mainly, the “pill”).

In July, 1968 (two years after receiving the two reports of the commission), Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae. While the Pope carefully examined the majority view, he decided that the truth resided in the minority view. Almost immediately, there was an uproar amongst Catholics, including well-recognized theologians and priests, who expected the Pope to adopt the majority view. Many theologians and priests publicly dissented from the teaching of the Pope. Needless to say, the public dissent of theologians and priests from Humanae Vitae didn’t encourage Catholics who were already using birth control to reconsider their position in the light of Humanae Vitae.

I reject using contraception as “adultery”. That’s rubbish. Contraception is trying to avoid a woman becoming pregnant. Adultery is illicit sexual relations with another’s spouse, or sexual relations outside one’'s own marriage.

I’ve also argued that the contraceptive pill is God’s gift, given at the very time human population pressures were becoming a real problem in some parts of the world.

The world population graph is shown here.

You’ll note the pill comes in right where the graph starts it’s almost vertical climb.

Or I’ll put it this way. On the one hand, we have the church saying we should be more caring about the earth’s resources. On the other hand, we have the church saying we should make not attempt to control the human population explosion, except by NFP, which frankly most people are just not going to use, and God knows they won’t use it.

He’s the ultimate realist.

I’m like the OP. My wife and I used the pill when we married (we married as Protestants) but for different reasons. We married in our late 30’s and mid 40’s, which meant there would have been a huge age difference if we’d had kids, and also a considerable health risk to both mother and child due to late first birth.

And i don’t feel one bit guilty about it.

Abortion is a different matter. That’s murder, pure and simple, no matter how the pro-choice lobby try to justify it.

Thanks to all for your replies and explanations of the Catholic position. I respect it.

In my case, my wife and I wanted to refrain from having children for about 5 years after we were first married for the reasons I listed in post #1 but we didn’t want to totally abstain from marital relations.

If we had been devout Catholics and still wanted to not have children for the first five years of our marriage, what would have been the options?

It almost sounds like the options would have been to live as friends without any sexual intimacy or accept a pregnancy if it occurred.

Our plan worked as designed, for the most part. The only part that we didn’t anticipate was my inability to father children without an operation, but we had no idea that was the case prior to trying to conceive.

Sometimes I wonder if God was punishing us for having used contraception.

That’s an excellent question. It really isn’t ideally healthy for a couple to abstain from all sex for the first five years of their marriage. Fortunately, that’s not required. Catholics space their children with periodic abstinance, which means that they use a NFP method to determine when the woman is fertile. A woman is fertile around two calander days a month and a man’s sperm can live up to five days in good cervical mucus. There idea is to avoid sexual relations on the days immediately prior and post ovulation. There has been a great deal of development in techniques and technology for determining when a woman is ovulating. It’s actually become quite easy to tell. There are distrinct physical signs which can be observed, as well as propes and strip tests that can be purchased for the more scientifically/technologically minded. What isn’t always easy is saying “no” on the baby days, which is why some people like to claim that “no one will use it”. However, lots of people DO use it and not just religious people. The pill has lots of negative physical effects on the woman, some of which are severe for some women. I have a couple of liberally-minded, modern women who have just recently discovered these natural methods for avoiding pregnancy and they go on line this has been a huge secret, kept only by especially hip mountain trolls, that only THEY know about. :doh2:

Thanks for the info, Allegra. I wasn’t aware of that.

One thing to remember is that the Catholic Church is no opposed to spacing births, or delaying births for a just reason (see the Humane Vitae link earlier in the thread)

The Catholic Church views the marital act as a participation in the creative aspect of God. God creates, but we, as married couples, participate in that creative action.

As such, our participation should model God’s. God creative plan is uniatie and loving, it never includes rejection. Thus the marital act itself must never involve rejection.

Imagine a husband who states to his wife, I would like to make love, but I reject your face, before I will make love, you must cover it and not expose me to your face.

Not exactly a loving act, would you not say, such a husband, I imagine would find themselves sleeping on the couch ASAP :wink:

But it is not the same thing to say that of your spouses fertility? Why reject that which God has given to your spouse, in the way that God has given it to your spouse?

We cannot say that fertility is bad, like sin, which God rejects, as God is 100% creative, 100% ‘fertile’. He does not choose to create all the time, and thus female fertility too is creative, but not 100% of the time.

That is why NFP is considered to be acceptable. It involves the complete acceptance of the spouse, the whole spouse, exactly as God has created them. No rejection of face or hair or, yes, fertility, only full, complete acceptance and union.

Which is (or should be) the hallmark of spousal Love, as spousal love itself is a reflection of Christ’s love for us ( Eph 5:25)

Does that help?

Yes it helps, Brendan. Thanks.

No. You probably had a low sperm count even before you were married,and would have required the operation whether you used contraceptives or not.

The most common identifiable cause of low sperm count is variococles, which are dilated, or expanded, veins in the scrotum. Varicocles are seen in about 15 percent of all men and 40 percent of men with infertility.

It’s theorized that variococles hurt sperm production by heating up the testicles, but this effect is not completely understood. Dr. Pryor says that surgically blocking the dilated blood vessels so the blood is re-routed improves sperm counts about two-thirds of the time.

Another 15 percent of men have no sperm in their semen, a condition called azoospermia. In some cases, this may be the result of a genetic problem. In others, a blockage has occurred somewhere along the sperm’s pathway. This includes the testicles, the epididymis, a structure behind the testicle, the vas deferens, a tube that takes the sperm behind the bladder to the prostate, and a gland called the seminal vesicle. Such blockages can result from an injury or infection. In these men, surgery to undo or bypass the blockages solves the problem.

Between low sperm count males (15%) and no sperm count males (15%), a large part of the male population have a problem with having children, including possibly Henry VIII.

Is infertility just a woman’s problem?

No, infertility is not always a woman’s problem. Both women and men can have problems that cause infertility. About one-third of infertility cases are caused by women’s problems. Another one third of fertility problems are due to the man. The other cases are caused by a mixture of male and female problems or by unknown problems.

Yep, you nailed it, Bob. That is exactly what I had – a variococle.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit