The Catholic Church and Contraception
6 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of the Catholic Church’s Stance on Controversial Issues
The Catholic Church believes that artificial contraception is sinful and immoral and may frustrate a divine plan to bring a new life into the world. Instead of using birth control methods such as the pill, IUDs, diaphragms, and condoms, Catholics can use Natural Family Planning (NFP) techniques.
Beliefs about artificial contraception
For the Church, the worst aspect of birth control pills is that many of them aren’t true contraceptives; they don’t prevent the sperm and egg from conceiving. Instead, they work as an abortifacient, causing the uterus to eject potentially fertilized eggs. Because Catholicism holds that life begins at conception, any fertilized egg is an embryo and a human person.
The Church also says that artificial contraception is morally wrong, because each and every sex act can occur only between husband and wife and must be directed toward two ends: love and life, that is, the intimate unity between the man and woman (love) and possibly procreating another human being (life). Conception and pregnancy don’t have to occur each time, but no man-made barriers should prevent what God may intend to happen.
When love and life — unity and procreation — are separated, then sex becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end. Birth control makes sex recreational, and removing what may be perceived as the danger of pregnancy means that couples no longer need to communicate about when and when not to have sex and whether they want or can afford another child. Discussions on this topic can actually strengthen the marriage.
The natural alternative to contraception
The Catholic Church permits and encourages married couples to space births and plan how big or small their families will be by using Natural Family Planning (NFP). By using natural science — taking body temperature, checking body fluids, and using some computations — a woman can determine with 95 percent accuracy when to have sex and not get pregnant. A woman is fertile during approximately seven to ten days per cycle and is infertile the rest of the time.
When practiced properly, NFP is as effective as any artificial birth control method. And it’s not difficult to learn. Mother Theresa taught poor, illiterate Indian women how to effectively use NFP. In addition, no prescription and no expensive devices are involved, so it’s easy on the budget.
Options for infertility
Infertility is one of the most painful and agonizing crosses some married couples have to carry. Conception outside of normal sexual intercourse is considered immoral by the Church. Children are a gift from God, and not an absolute right that people can demand. Moral means must be employed when married couples have sex and when they want to have children.
Despite the sadness of infertility, the Catholic Church maintains that modern science doesn’t offer moral solutions — only immoral alternatives. Natural sex between husband and wife is the only morally accepted means to conceive and have children.
When conception occurs artificially, the Church claims that it isn’t in God’s plan, which is found naturally (in nature as opposed to man-made). As such, the following methods of artificially creating new life are considered immoral:
In vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET)
Donor sperm and donor eggs