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]).
In keeping with guidelines posted by the Religion Moderator, we are posting this thread (and future ones) a series on the Early Church Fathers, as a Catholic/Orthodox Caucus. Protestants are welcome to post comments but restraint from attacks, would be appreciated. This thread is posted to inform, support and defend the historic orgins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Gen 1:28, 9:1,7; 35:11 - from the beginning, the Lord commands us to be fruitful ("fertile") and multiply. A husband and wife fulfill God's plan for marriage in the bringing forth of new life, for God is life itself.
Gen. 28:3 - Isaac's prayer over Jacob shows that fertility and procreation are considered blessings from God.
Gen. 38:8-10 - Onan is killed by God for practicing contraception (in this case, withdrawal) and spilling his semen on the ground.
Gen. 38:11-26 - Judah, like Onan, also rejected God's command to keep up the family lineage, but he was not killed.
Deut. 25:7-10 - the penalty for refusing to keep up a family lineage is not death, like Onan received. Onan was killed for wasting seed.
Gen. 38:9 - also, the author's usage of the graphic word "seed," which is very uncharacteristic for Hebrew writing, further highlights the reason for Onan's death.
Exodus 23:25-26; Deut. 7:13-14 - God promises blessings which include no miscarriages or barrenness. Children are blessings from God, and married couples must always be open to God's plan for new life with every act of marital intimacy.
Lev.18:22-23;20:13 - wasting seed with non-generative sexual acts warrants death. Many Protestant churches, which have all strayed from the Catholic Church, reject this fundamental truth (few Protestants and Catholics realize that contraception was condemned by all of Christianity - and other religions - until the Anglican church permitted it in certain cases at the Lambeth conference in 1930. This opened the floodgates of error).
Lev. 21:17,20 - crushed testicles are called a defect and a blemish before God. God reveals that deliberate sterilization and any other methods which prevent conception are intrinsically evil.
Deut. 23:1 - whoever has crushed testicles or is castrated cannot enter the assembly. Contraception is objectively sinful and contrary, not only to God's Revelation, but the moral and natural law.
Deut. 25:11-12 - there is punishment for potential damage to the testicles, for such damage puts new life at risk. It, of course, follows that vasectomies, which are done with willful consent, are gravely contrary to the natural law.
1 Chron. 25:5 - God exalts His people by blessing them with many children. When married couples contracept, they are declaring "not your will God, but my will be done."
Psalm 127:3-5 - children are a gift of favor from God and blessed is a full quiver. Married couples must always be open to God's precious gift of life. Contraception, which shows a disregard for human life, has lead to the great evils of abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide.
Hosea 9:11; Jer. 18:21 - God punishes Israel by preventing pregnancy. Contraception is a curse, and married couples who use contraception are putting themselves under the same curse.
Mal. 2:14 - marriage is not a contract (which is a mere exchange of property or services). It is a covenant, which means a supernatural exchange of persons. Just as God is three in one, so are a husband and wife, who become one flesh and bring forth new life, three in one. Marital love is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity.
Mal. 2:15 - What does God desire? Godly offspring. What is contraception? A deliberate act against God's will. With contraception, a couple declares, "God may want an eternal being created with our union, but we say no." Contraception is a grave act of selfishness.
Matt. 19:5-6 - Jesus said a husband and wife shall become one. They are no longer two, but one, just as God is three persons, yet one. The expression of authentic marital love reintegrates our bodies and souls to God, and restores us to our original virginal state (perfect integration of body and soul) before God.
Matt. 19:6; Eph. 5:31 - contraception prevents God's ability to "join" together. Just as Christ's love for the Church is selfless and sacrificial, and a husband and wife reflect this union, so a husband and wife's love for each other must also be selfless and sacrificial. This means being open to new life.
Acts 5:1-11 - Ananias and Sapphira were slain because they withheld part of a gift. Fertility is a gift from God and cannot be withheld.
Rom.1:26-27 - sexual acts without the possibility of procreation is sinful. Self-giving love is life-giving love, or the love is a lie. The unitive and procreative elements of marital love can never be divided, or the marital love is also divided, and God is left out of the marriage.
1 Cor. 6:19-20 - the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; thus, we must glorify God in our bodies by being open to His will.
1 Cor. 7:5 - this verse supports the practice of natural family planning ("NFP"). Married couples should not refuse each other except perhaps by agreement for a season, naturally.
Gal. 6:7-8 - God is not mocked for what a man sows. If to the flesh, corruption. If to the Spirit, eternal life.
Eph. 5:25 - Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, by giving his entire body to her and holding nothing back. With contraception, husbands tell their wives, I love you except your fertility, and you can have me except for my fertility. This love is a lie because it is self-centered, and not self-giving and life-giving.
Eph. 5:29-31; Phil. 3:2 - mutilating the flesh (e.g., surgery to prevent conception) is gravely sinful. Many Protestant churches reject this most basic moral truth.
1 Tim. 2:15 - childbearing is considered a "work" through which women may be saved by God's grace.
Deut. 22:13-21 these verses also show that God condemns pre-marital intercourse. The living expression of Gods creative love is reserved for a sacramental marriage between one man and one woman.
Rev. 9:21; 21:8; 22:15; Gal. 5:20 - these verses mention the word "sorcery." The Greek word is "pharmakeia" which includes abortifacient potions such as birth control pills. These pharmakeia are mortally sinful. Moreover, chemical contraception does not necessarily prevent conception, but may actually kill the child in the womb after conception has occurred (by preventing the baby from attaching to the uterine wall). Contraception is a lie that has deceived millions, but the Church is holding her arms open wide to welcome back her children who have strayed from the truth.
The odd part comes when certain folks attempt to suggest that "natural family planning" is any different from contraception that prevents fertilization.
The intent, results, and success rates are the same.
It is a distinction without a difference.
Every sperm is sacred.
Go ahead, flame me.
I just don't think every couple who wishes to have sex must have to have 25 children if they do.
This is a caucus thread that addresses the Catholic faith and teachings regarding contraception.
Funniest darn movie I've ever seen, I think.
OK - well, I'll observe and not comment. It's actually quite interesting. I was just in the mood to incite a riot.
Please feel free to comment and question. We would appreciate that you respect our beliefs, that's all.
What's your opinion of NFP? The other poster did raise an interesting point.
But the method isn't. Morally licit actions require a moral goal and a moral means to get there.
It is a distinction without a difference.
There is an immense difference between adulterating the marital act with a barrier, or adulterating my wife's body with chemicals or devices [most of which are abortifacient, btw], on the one hand, and simply abstaining when she's fertile, on the other.
All four of our children came into the world by C-section. In all good Christian conscience, I could not ask more of my wife.
Then again, I'm not Catholic.
Still, I concur with the general tenor of this post, that the norm is to have as many children as possible, AND home school them for the glory of God.
Having had one C and one natural birth, I would chose the C-section ANY time!
"There is an immense difference between adulterating the marital act with a barrier...and simply abstaining when she's fertile, on the other."
I guess like FL, I don't see the distinction. I doubt the Fathers, especially guys like +Jerome, would either, had they known somewhat more about the actual biology involved.
Rejecting abortifacients is a no brainer.
In any event, in my Orthodox opinion, dogmatic proclamations like Humanae Vitae, without the possibility of economia, just breed contempt for the teaching authority of The Church. This "dogma" has very clearly been rejected by the Catholic laity which uses ABC at rates slightly higher than the general population. Vatican II gets quite a rap when it comes to the rise of "cafeteria Catholicism", but to my mind, Humanae Vitae as presented played a major role in the collapse of the Latin Church's authority among the laity.
By the way, nothing in Humanae Vitae's ultimate holdings are dogma in Orthodoxy and never were. They are theologoumenna.
The second difference is in the act itself. We are called to love as God loves, that is, with a life giving love. Whenever a husband and wife come together, they are called to accept all of each other, including their fertility. And they are called to love one another with a life giving love.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) allows for the couple to accept all of each other, including fertility. And to always love with that life giving love. Artificial Contraception (AC) does not allow the couple to accept each other fully, by "breaking" their bodies, causing them to cease to function as nature created them. It fails to allow for the life giving love.
NFP can be used to recognize signs of fertility. In order to avoid pregnancy, nothing is done. There is no contraceptive act, there is nothing to prevent conception, there is simply nothing. But whenever the couple does coming together, it is still the same act that would bring forth life, if ovulation was occuring. The couple still accepts all of each other.
The results and success rates are the same. Pregnancy is avoided or achieved.
The intent is very different. The couple using AC does not accept each other fully, they reject their fertility and therefore do not love each other with a life giving love. The couple using NFP does accept each other fully, including their fertility and do love each other with a life giving love, even if pregnancy does not occur.
Thought you might be interested.