Is using contraception a sin?

The total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other.   

Life in Christ, Chapter II, The Sixth Commandment, Pt 1290,The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Are Catholics in India ignoring strict church teaching on contraception?

That, unfortunately, was the finding of the 2017 Indian bishop’s conference just concluded in Bhopal, where it became evident that many Catholics are using artificial methods to avoid pregnancy.


Cardinal Telesphore Toppo moderating a session on the "Fullness of Married Love: Insight from Amoris Laetitia” during the plenary assembly of the Latin rite Conference of Catholics Bishops of India in Bhopal Feb. 1. (Photo by Saji Thomas)

Bishop Lawrence Pius Dorairaj of Dharmapuri, Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Family, expressed his concern at the beginning of the session. He was presenting his report before 130 Latin rite bishops in India for their 29th plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, an eight-day meeting to focus on ways to revitalize Catholic families in India. A reference point was Pope Francis’ exhortation in Amoris Laetitia (How to promote the joy of love in our families).

“More than 90 percent of Catholics ignore church teachings on family planning and contraceptives. Most follow their convictions rather than the church,” said the prelate. For birth regulation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches Catholics to follow natural methods based “on self-observation and the use of infertile periods” which “is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.”


Contraceptive birth control pills - commonly used even among members of the catholic community

In contrast, “Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is seen as “intrinsically evil” in the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Tribal people are good Catholics…

The good news is that it is not an issue for the tribal Catholics, said Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo of Ranchi, who functions as the head of the tribal Catholic community in the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. “Tribal Catholics live their Catholic faith following church teachings and therefore there is no question of using contraceptives to limit or restrict life,” the first Cardinal from the area, said in an interview. The tribal communities, in general, do not adopt contraception as they “love having more and more children. It is very common in tribal families to have more than five children in India despite poverty, diseases, backwardness and other shortcomings,” he said. And they are blissfully happy. Government figures released past April show the number of Christian tribal people as 10.03 million in 2011 or about 10 percent of the total 104 million tribal people. An estimated 40 percent of India's 27 million Christians are of tribal origins.

Catechism on contraception…

Part III of ‘Life in Christ’ in Section 2 of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, in Articlee 6 titled The Sixth Commandment (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) it is clearly stated in point 2370:

Protection Security Contraception Condom Sex

Today contraceptive condoms are viewed as a precautionary measure to ensure safe sex and to avoid unwanted pregnancies

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. In contrast: “Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible “is intrinsically evil.” Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

What the Bible says …

Let us remember that modern birth control methods were unknown in biblical time, and the Bible is, therefore, silent on the matter. However, there are passages in the Bible that are often interpreted as being opposed to birth control

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:28. NLTCE)

While we can presume God would have frowned at the word contraception, it is fair to point out that this verse was part of a passage telling how God has given mankind stewardship over the world, and not making a statement about birth control.

In another passage dealing with the Old Testament law of levirate marriage, the Bible says:

 If two brothers are living together on the same property and one of them dies without a son, his widow may not be married to anyone from outside the family. Instead, her husband’s brother should marry her and have intercourse with her to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law.  The first son she bears to him will be considered the son of the dead brother, so that his name will not be forgotten in Israel.

 But if the man refuses to marry his brother’s widow, she must go to the town gate and say to the elders assembled there, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel—he refuses to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law by marrying me.’ The elders of the town will then summon him and talk with him. If he still refuses and says, ‘I don’t want to marry her,’ the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she must declare, ‘This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children.’  Ever afterward in Israel his family will be referred to as ‘the family of the man whose sandal was pulled off’! (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

Judah’s son, Onan, refused to fulfill that duty and used a birth control method to prevent pregnancy. It did not please the Lord, so the Lord took Onan’s life. (Genesis 38:8-10)

Here again, we need to remember that Onan was condemned for using his brother’s widow for sexual pleasure while refusing to provide offspring for her and his late brother, and that no general criticism of birth control was intended.

The Bible gives clear, specific and direct guidance on many topics of morality, but not on birth control or contraception. So we would like to honestly point out that any inferences from the Bible are opinions and not biblical evidence.

However, if you who are reading this, belong to the Catholic Church or any other mainline Church (and are not among those ‘Christians’ who have become a law unto themselves), our suggestion would be to discuss the matter in detail with your Parish Priest\ Bishop or denominational head, and allow the Holy Spirit to enable you clear direction in your actions. This will prevent the Accuser (Revelation 12:10) from getting the opportunity to plague you with secret guilt that could bring about a distance between you and the Lord you cherish and desire to follow with all your heart.

-The NLTCE News Network Team

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