Skip to comments.The Early Church Fathers on Contraception - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Posted on 02/15/2007 2:16:28 PM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers were undivided in their condemnation of artificial birth control. In fact, all Christian churches were in agreement on this until 1930.
Letter of Barnabas
Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, "Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness" (Letter of Barnabas 10:8 [A.D. 74]).
Clement of Alexandria
Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 [A.D. 191]).
To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature (ibid. 2:10:95:3).
[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, they use drugs of sterility [oral contraceptives] or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered [abortion] (Refutation of All Heresies 9:7 [A.D. 225]).
[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife (Divine Institutes 6:20 [A.D. 307]).
God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital ['generating'] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring (ibid. 6:23:18).
They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption (Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 [A.D. 375]).
[l]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father's old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet) and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live [sterilization] (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]).
Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth?. . . Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and Fight with his [natural] laws? (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).
But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]).
You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility [oral contraceptives] and murder a man not yet born, [and some commit abortion] (Letters 22:13 [A.D. 396]).
This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her, is joined to the man to gratify his passion (The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 [A.D. 388]).
You [Manicheans] make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They take wives according to the laws of matrimony by tablets announcing that the marriage is contracted to procreate children; and then, fearing because of your [religious] law [against childbearing] . . . they copulate in a shameful union only to satisfy lust for their wives. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [I Tim. 4:1-4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps (Against Faustus 15:7 [A.D. 400]).
For thus the eternal law, that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny (ibid. 22:30).
Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion [an oral contraceptive or an abortifacient] so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a women does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman (Sermons 1:12 [A.D. 522]).
I have to agree with you there. My rule for anytime someone claims that this and that are the same thing is to ask why there are two different terms for it. Abortion and contraception are two different things. They do share some qualities; i.e. sinful and frustrating the natural order.
I'm also reading opinions of men who believed any sex outside of procreation is sinful...well - that isn't true either.
I also agree with this. To say that sex is only for pro-creation is the flipside of saying it's purely for pleasure. Just as the early Church struggled with trying to understand the nature of God and the Trinity and wrestling with the various ideas about Him, the Church has also wrestled with the nature of Christian sexuality. At first, things are seen through a glass darkly, in time things become clearer. The Church has more precisely pointed to the breach created between the recreational and procreational aspects of sex as the problem. While the early Fathers ought to be considered for a complete understanding, the Chair of Peter holds the keys.
I would hope that those Christians who find birth control perfectly acceptable find pause when considering that ALL Christian denominations were against birth control until about the 1930's. Do they seriously believe that they are unaffected by secularist Age of Enlightenment thinking in this regard? That their opinion on this matter has Nothing To Do with the tempora and the mores in which they find themselves? I also believe that the path from acceptance of birth control (sex is for pleasure) has lead to the eventual acceptance of homosexuality. To be sure there are those who still maintain the acceptance of birth control while not accepting homosexuality, but there are always those with one foot on the old paradigm and one on the new. There were those who only accepted contraception for married couples only but never unmarried folks. How long do they think that society can be in for a penny but not for a pound? It never works that way, the acceptance of one part of a new paradigm logically and empirically leads society to accept the whole kit and caboodle.
Don't worry about scolding me. Believe me when I tell you I have been properly scolded by many good catholics, and that still hasn't settled my questions.
I am not good at scolding as I always regret falling into that mode. Seeing as that approach hasn't worked on you yet I shall try another recourse. Although considering the distinct possibility of terminal stubborness, I've no idea what that recourse may be...
"Although considering the distinct possibility of terminal stubborness, I've no idea what that recourse may be..."
Yes...I have been told many times how stubborn I am.
To be honest I would say I am someone who has become terminally FRUSTRATED.
A feeling like I have been backed into a corner with no way out.
Not that I haven't been informed of the choices I have mind you...I have been informed my choices are to continue to endanger my physical and mental health OR to live a life of celibacy with my husband.
Neither of which seems reasonable to me at the moment.
----"that just doesn't sit right with me"---
Beware of allowing yourself to try and rationalize abortive methods with emotions and empty reasoning. The love of self and of this world will continue to force you to this end until you give them up.
Supposing that you wanted to say that life happened much later after conception. Then what would you call the zygote? What would you call flushing this zygote as the Lord was in the process of knitting that new little child in the womb?
WHAT WOULD YOU CALL KILLING THE SUPPOSED 'PRE-CURSOR' TO GOD'S CREATED HUMAN BEING?
Something less than murder?
Are we playing semantics here? Let's look at the science involved. This is a viable organism that is growing and seeking nourishment from its mother. It is a GENETICALLY WHOLE ORGANISM.... it needs nothing more than nourishment from its mother to continue on to maturity..... and stopping this process..... is stopping this new life. AKA killing/murder.
Yes.... it does seem a shocking statement that your pastor's wife and daughter(for you protestants out there).... your mother and your sister..... your best friend and perhaps YOU are guilty of killing little children. After all, it doesn't feel like murder. The consequences sure don't seem to add up to such a grave sin. Surely it can't be killing God's little creations. It was all just so that we could plan our lives the way we wanted to without children getting in the way..... after all, God surely didn't intend for HIS children to have THAT MANY children. He must have blessed us with birth control to help us keep free of having excess children.....
We are in the last days. I am sorry, but this is a very big deception, and Satan is laughing all the way. It has always been one of his chief goals to rob God of HIS Godly offspring..... to rob Our Lord of the praise that HE would receive from his creation.
Take care what you do. You are not your own but were bought with Christ's blood. YOUR BODY IS NOT YOUR OWN.
Beware my brothers and sisters.
----"Pursuing the path of the lesser of two evils rather than the path of the good is a very old trick."
------"What I'm reading is the opinion of men who considered abortion/contraception to be one and the same. Well...they aren't.
I'm also reading opinions of men who believed any sex outside of procreation is sinful...well - that isn't true either.
So I'm left wondering why the Church is claiming to stand on this "proof" - when I just don't see it as very convincing proof.
Does that make sense?
Don't worry about scolding me. Believe me when I tell you I have been properly scolded by many good catholics, and that still hasn't settled my questions."------
Sorry, but it appears that you may be well beyond MY help.(not to say that I'm any HELP). Still, it appears that you are trying to justify these things with your emotions. That's all I see in your posts. Do some reading on the subjects before you try to speak to these subjects...... if they don't FEEL right to you, that may be an indication that you are in need of a change of heart.
Please don't think I'm judging you or getting 'personal'..... I am just telling you what I am seeing from your posts.
To qualify my own 'opinions' that you so confidently dismiss as in error let me tell you about MYSELF. I hold bachelors degrees in cellular/molecular biology and chemistry and am a former embryologist with genetic engineering experience as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow. I hold a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and am intimately familiar with the products we are discussing.
I don't say these things to try and prove I am right. There are plenty of others with credentials greater than mine who would contend that birth control is not killing children....
To be sure, you can ALWAYS find someone who can satisfy your itching ears and lead you exactly where you want to go(or where you THINK you want to go).
So, wife of Scot, what's your background and why are YOU so sure of your position?
So I think I addressed my rant above to you in error. .Please forgive any condescension! I'm doing all of this on my small palm pilot screen from bed in the wee hours(have a portable little keyboard that I'm using now), and it makes it tough sometimes to look at who's who!
I hear you, sister.
---"God gave us free will, rationality and fertility. We are to serve Him with our whole being, not just our genitalia or our minds. It IS up to God when a child is conceived."------
Let me preface my response with the fact that I am not Catholic, but I am in search of a spiritual home for my growing family. I no longer find it in the baptist roots that I grew up in, and I see much wisdom in the orthodox stances of the RCC.
NFP is not a really big issue with me. .Do I believe that it attempts to take control of the procreative nature of the sex act? YES. Do I believe it is a sin? NOT SURE.
But the above quote about the fact that we are rational creatures and taking control of fertility does not negate God's power to cause conception..... .that is so full of holes......
It could be said of any manner of control..... Hormonal birth control, as one example, is not 100% effective, but it has the exact same goals of NFP. It really is no different in it's goal. People take 'the pill' because they want to avoid having children. People use NFP(in this context) to avoid having children as well.
I think that this line of reasoning actually fits using barrier methods even better. Condoms(male and female) really fit this scenario the best because they don't involve the actual killing of the zygote.
So the use of the condom is to avoid having children(in this context). The use of NFP is to avoid having children.
To look at these two acts and judge them as sinful or not, we must look at the intent of the heart. Is it the intent of the person to avoid the procreative 'consequences' of the sex act with both of these methods? In this context, YES.
Is said avoidance sin?
Can't answer that one. I'd say that both methods are the attempt at
'sneaking by' the 'consequences' of the sex act and that they are highly suspect. They are perversions of what the Lord has instituted from the beginning.
----"my choices are to continue to endanger my physical and mental health OR to live a life of celibacy with my husband.
Neither of which seems reasonable to me at the moment."-----
Am I missing something??
Why don't you relinquish complete control of the womb over to the Lord who is more than capable even though you may not be...??
Do you have some serious medical reasoning? WORST case scenario your husband can undergo the simple vasectomy(I say at WORST....)
Children are a beautiful thing!!!!!!!
----"I think alot of responsibility also lies with those who write out the prescriptions to their patients without discussing this feature of the pill with them."------
YES. You are VERY RIGHT. I think that doctors who are aware of these mechanisms of action and their implications(which really should be all, but you're be surprised how little pharmacology the average medical school graduate knows) are very culpable for these sins and are agents of Satan. Regardless, they are acting as agents of Satan whether they know it or not.
-------"I think many women would not take it if they were told they could still be conceiving."
Where information comes from: Reprod Nutr Dev Volume 28 Issue 6B (translated). Journal describes how methodologies were applied.
If life doesn't begin at fertilization, then when exactly does it begin?
All I can do is shrug; I don't know. But if life begins at fertilization, then every month, 80% of new human lives get flushed down the toilet because they failed to implant. I guess I just don't see God being a very big fan of that kind of pointless waste of souls He's created - souls that were never known to exist by anyone other than God. Of course, now Capt. Gates can rant at me some more.
What do you know about NFP? It is highly effective, I am very pleased with experience.
It doesn't have to be one or the other.
------"every month, 80% of new human lives get flushed down the toilet because they failed to implant."------
This is not a corect inidence rate for humans.
------"Of course, now Capt. Gates can rant at me some more."-----
" Do some reading on the subjects before you try to speak to these subjects...... "
I have read...I have read and read read.
But thank you just the same.
(I have also sought counsel of priests - sometimes helpful and sometimes not.)
"Still, it appears that you are trying to justify these things with your emotions."
I wouldn't say I'm trying to justify or say "I am right."
I would say I have hit a wall...which can make a person emotional.
"To qualify my own 'opinions' that you so confidently dismiss as in error let me tell you about MYSELF."
Please refresh my memory - where did I "confidently dismiss" your opinion as being in error?
" I hold bachelors degrees in cellular/molecular biology and chemistry and am a former embryologist with genetic engineering experience as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow. I hold a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and am intimately familiar with the products we are discussing"
OK...bully for you.
I'm still not sure which statement you are referring to that has made you so defensive.
By "products" - are you referring to birth control?
If you read my posts you will see that I understand the abortive qualities of hormonal contraceptives.
"I don't say these things to try and prove I am right. There are plenty of others with credentials greater than mine who would contend that birth control is not killing children.... "
I didn't say birth control isn't killing children...just the opposite.
Although I did say in one post that condoms don't kill children.
"So, wife of Scot, what's your background and why are YOU so sure of your position?"
College educated...in areas that don't pertain to this topic.
I'm not a dummy if that is what you are wondering.
Again...if I knew what you had you so worked up I might be able to discuss this better with you.
"So I think I addressed my rant above to you in error. .Please forgive any condescension! I'm doing all of this on my small palm pilot screen from bed in the wee hours(have a portable little keyboard that I'm using now), and it makes it tough sometimes to look at who's who! "
And I already responded without catching this post first...oops!
oh well...no harm done :)
"Children are a beautiful thing!!!!!!!"
I just gave birth to my seventh.
"Do you have some serious medical reasoning?"
medical issues? yes, although I would not describe them as life threatening.
Issues I am running up against now are more in the emotional/mental health area.
The short story is that I am overwhelmed and to continue on the path I've been on would be unwise (that path being NFP)
" WORST case scenario your husband can undergo the simple vasectomy(I say at WORST....) "
he won't do it.
"Why don't you relinquish complete control of the womb over to the Lord who is more than capable even though you may not be...??"
hmmmm....I've been told this before and really - that is what I've been doing for at least 8 yrs. now (since my husband converted).
I'm not sure what the statement means exactly.
If it means to just put it all out of my mind and leave it all up to nature -well then I'm going to have one baby a year until I reach menopause (trust me on this one)
There's that little common sense voice in the back of my mind telling me this wouldn't be smart.
"THIS IS SO HEAVY ON MY HEART. I daily struggle with this and try to counsel patients as to the effects of these drugs as much as I can.
I provide my own auxiliary stickers that say 'Warning: May cause spontaneous abortion," and Caution: Causes flushing of fertilized egg"
Please pray that God may increase my boldness.... but increase the love with which I speak even more. Help me to speak this truth in love to the many patients that I come into contact with every day."
It must be very hard to deal with this every day on the job.
It seems like the field of pharmacy is very hostile to those who hold christian beliefs and for those who consider human life as sacred.
"All I can do is shrug; I don't know."
if you don't know then why not err on the side of caution?
Every living human being carries their own unique DNA code.
The very first moment this DNA code comes into existence and the new living organism begins to grow is at fertilization.
Common sense tells us this is the beginning of human life.
"But if life begins at fertilization, then every month, 80% of new human lives get flushed down the toilet because they failed to implant."
first of all...where are you getting this number from?
second of all...even if true (which I find hard to believe), there is a difference between intentional destruction of life vs. unintentional.
Some may fail to implant for various reasons which we are not aware of.
Some implant but are only growing a placenta with no baby inside.
We don't know all the causes, but should be careful we are not playing God with human life by intentionally destroying human beings in the very first stages of their existence.
" I guess I just don't see God being a very big fan of that kind of pointless waste of souls He's created "
We cannot know the mind of God, nor can we assume these souls are "wasted".
What seems pointless to us may only be our ignorance at work.
now I see you provided a source and I missed that before posting.
Not sure how to access it though.
I think my main question is how are they coming up with this number?
How do they know how many zygotes they are dealing with and how do they know they are being flushed away?
"What do you know about NFP?"
enough to know that I'm finished with it.
" It is highly effective"
Not for me it isn't.
"I am very pleased with experience."
I'm happy for you...it certainly makes life easier to find a method that works for you and won't send you into the fiery pits of hell.