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 do know that there are women who have better luck with differing forms of NFP.
I originally started with the sympto-thermal, now I just use the creighton method. Sympto-thermal isn't as widely used, but I found it to be the most reliable.
I tried it all.
Keeping track of temp was fairly accurate showing day of ovulation - but didn't make up for the fact that (despite what they keep saying!) sperm really must not die out by the 5th day.
I have a medical condition that has hindered the ability to properly read the sympto-signs.
So basically I'm left with celibacy.
You are in my prayers.
God knows your efforts and your struggles. I pray that you find peace and comfort in Him.
I am really, really sorry. You have a great cross indeed.
thank you for the kind words.
There are many who have it much worse than me.
I have alot to be thankful for - obviously this issue drives me batty though :)
I deserved it with my rash post, etc.
Wow, 7 children.... what a blessing! We tried for 8 years before our first, and then we now have a 7,5,3 and 2 year old with one due in early June. We are so blessed. We hope for as many as the Lord will bless us with. I think that our time fellowshipping with conservative mennonites and their 12-14 plus children per family really challenged our views on acceptable/normal family sizes. It's all relative.
I will pray that Our Lord will give you peace and direction in the way that you should go. I also pray that He will bless you with strength of mind and of body.
------"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."-------
I've had the Lord's protection in the few years that I have practiced. Regarding the morning after pill(for anyone), and the dispensing of birth control to minors, I have had to go head to head with county directors, physicians, employers, and most recently with the whole European Regional Medical Command over Army Medicine. I have had the opportunity to discuss my convictions with 3 star general and army surgeon general kevin kiley as well as several full bird colonels over europe. I had to actually repeatedly say no to my boss, commanding officers and ultimately to the full bird over europe... my ultimate boss. I will not even allow it to enter my pharmacy and I've worried about my job more than once.... still, the Lord has been very protective of me.
Regarding other contraceptives, while they are abortifacient in action, it is not the intent of the patient to use it this way. It is also used for acne, to regulate menses temporarily, etc. These are some considerations that I use to ease my conscience in allowing it, though there are many pharmacists who don't dispense birth control at all. I see it as an opportunity to educate women who are prescribed these types of medicine. They aren't told how it works by anyone.
Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your prayers. It is something that is very heavy on my heart.
" I also pray that He will bless you with strength of mind and of body."
Thank you -it's "the mind" that gets to me the most.
I am by nature someone who likes a peaceful and orderly environment.
The noise and chaos that comes with having many children seems to be turning me into a nasty person.
congratulations on the new little one!
------"How do they know how many zygotes they are dealing with and how do they know they are being flushed away?"-------
Not sure about THIS study. I know that various methods of IVF(In Vitro Fertilization) boast different pregnancy rates in those who've experienced repeated implantation failures. The numbers here are from a population of people who have struggled with having children and are more likely to have more implantation failures. Certain methods boast implantation rates of somewhere in the range of 15 - 20 percent with this population of people.
Within normal populations, it is very invasive to try and capture all material exiting the vagina for a month's period of time, and examine it under microscopes to determine whether a zygote was flushed. Implantation rates are really hard to come by 'in the wild'. Still, they really vary between people.... as you were saying scotswife, you are one fertile woman. I would imagine your implantation rate is MUCH higher than 20 percent.
Here we have a scenario where it makes sense to think of the Lord opening and closing the womb. Some people are going to have varying levels of fertility.
Normal implantation rates should be somewhere in the 75 percent range or higher. There are many other factors that lead to ultimate pregnancy, so the implantation is not the only stopping point.
If you want to search the primary literature, try medline(pubmed). They have many articles for your perusal. Of course, all the research you are going to see is regarding implantation rates of fertilized eggs that are being artificially introduced to the mother. Not really what you're looking for, but its the best that you're going to get. Remember that these people are infertile in the first place, and will have a much higher probability of having lower implantation rates.
Do you have fellowship with other large families? I think that this is key..... since you are the 'freak' large family and everyone thinks a school field trip is occurring every time you walk your children somewhere......
I feel you.... not that we're any where near seven.... but we fellowship with families that have 9 children on up to 14 and going anywhere with them really turns eyes. Having fellowship with large families really helps add sanity to the whole situation. May I ask the ages of your children? Older ones in other families really seem to help with all of the chaos as well. A large home to host the invasion really helps as well!
"If you want to search the primary literature, try medline(pubmed). They have many articles for your perusal. Of course, all the research you are going to see is regarding implantation rates of fertilized eggs that are being artificially introduced to the mother. Not really what you're looking for, but its the best that you're going to get. Remember that these people are infertile in the first place, and will have a much higher probability of having lower implantation rates."
Thank you, yes - this 80% figure just seems too high, but it makes sense that studies would be done with the couples struggling with fertility.
So really in the end...we don't know what the rate really is - and this 80% number gets bandied about to justify using hormonal contraception/abortificants.
"Do you have fellowship with other large families?"
What's that? hee hee!
On the rare occasion we do get out there are some couples who already have large families or couples who are working on it.
Yes - there are many who look at us as freaks and take the time to kindly point out to us how we should go about taking care of the "problem".
The ages are 17, 14, a child who would have been 12 (died at the age of 4), 7,5,4, and 3 mos.
The older ones do help, and the house is large enough (although still incredibly messy).
I really handled it fine up until the second to last pregnancy...and then this last pregnancy has sent me over the edge.
Alot of people think this should just come naturally - but it doesn't to me.
It seems like everyone is getting only a little slice of the attention they need.
I wish I could be doing more for each of them - but just taking care of the daily essentials seems to take up the entire day.
It all is making me mean and cranky.
Can't answer; I'm not a scientist. But as for your earlier post, I said that I do err on the side of caution ("I'm not going to go out and get shot up with Depo-Provera" which is a birth control injection). I do, however, believe that birth control should be and should remain legal, and I think conflating it with abortion does the pro-life movement a huge disservice.
"I do, however, believe that birth control should be and should remain legal, and I think conflating it with abortion does the pro-life movement a huge disservice."
you don't have to be a scientist to know the difference between birth control and abortion.
"birth control" : NFP, condoms, vasectomy, tubal ligation, spermicide, sponge.....
abortificants: hormonal pills, shots, and patches, IUDS
the pro-life movement is exactly that - pro-life.
When there are practices that result in the death of human beings it is necessarily a "pro-life" issue.
----"and this 80% number gets bandied about to justify using hormonal contraception/abortificants."-----
People are very intelligent and they can use all sorts of logical game playing, including yours truly, to justify sinful behavior. This is our nature. While biblical truth(and scientific truth to a much lesser extent) can be used to demolish these arguments, the word tells us that the people wielding these arguments really aren't fooling themselves..... they KNOW that they are committing sin. As to degrees of sin.... I know that each and every sin is capable of sending a soul to everlasting punishment..... but human killing...... I imagine the consequences are grave.
That's why I like reading the website maintained by the atheist pro-lifers...(godlessprolifers.com - I think is what it is)
You don't need to bring in religion or discussion of sin to make a good argument.
Well, I guess I'm not pro-life enough for Free Republic. Conflating IUDs and hormonal pills with the movement to ban abortion will assure one thing: failure of the movement.
"Well, I guess I'm not pro-life enough for Free Republic. Conflating IUDs and hormonal pills with the movement to ban abortion will assure one thing: failure of the movement"
This is a discussion forum and pro-lifers have found your opinion less than persuasive.
The pro-life movement is dedicated to educating people about these issues. Many women do not understand the abortificant properties of the pill and the IUD.
Giving people more information - raising awareness is always a good thing.
When people have better access to the truth of the matter they can make better decisions.