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]).
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Church does allow for trying to avoid pregnacy by abstinence for certain reasons. I couldn't tell you exactly what those are because it's late and I'm tired and should be in bed already.
After each of my 3 miscarriages my husband and I abstained during my fertile time basically for my mental health. My body probably could have handled a quick turn around but I am an emotional person. This was not years of abstinence but a short period of a few months to recover. I have no guilt over this.
We are open to as many children that God wants to bless us with and realize than the successes and failures are part of His plan.
Someone mentioned above that big families are rare today(forgive me for not looking back to see who it was to ping them?). However, I believe they are making a come back. My kids are in a Catholic children's choir and we are one of the smallest families in that group. We're working on our 4th. These families are mostly 6-8-10 kids strong. It's truly inspirational to be around them!
Excuse me while I go puke over this bit of hubris.
We are no longer and egrarian society. Children are not needed to help feed, support the family hence there is not the need to continually add hands to support the family unit...that and economics for many...
I'm not saying that I think it's a good thing, but it's pretty much the way it is here...other countries where they still support themselves by their families production of food is an entirely different story...
Actually, I mentioned it no uncertain terms that such methods were not acceptable to the Orthodox.
Either you accept that or you choose to bear false witness. Which is it, then?
You have repeatedly made a rather serious error in stating that the Latin faithful have rejected Humane Vitae. Those who have rejected it are not faithful. They are dissenters. Furthermore, K., rule by majority action and opinion of the laity is a category never employed in Orthodoxy as you have outlined it. The faithful respond in the affirmative to the wisdom of their spiritual fathers. The faithless go their own way. It is the same for Rome as it is for the Orthodox world.
"Truth is not subject to a majority vote." - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, ... in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, ... proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin. - Pope Pius XI, Casti conubii
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**"When is it 'okay' to abort an unborn child, in the Orthodox Church, using artificial birth control?" **
Never in the Roman Church either.
Is there any evidence to indicate that Orthodox, as a whole, respect their Church's teachings on sex and marriage any more than Catholics do?
But if something is true, then it is wise to promulgate it. At least as far as God's laws are concerned. To act against the true, even unknowingly, is to act against your own nature.
"Is there any evidence to indicate that Orthodox, as a whole, respect their Church's teachings on sex and marriage any more than Catholics do?"
In some areas, yes. Divorce rates are low, in some places very low, by comparison for example. Certain ethnic groups have low abortion rates, Arab and American Orthodox people among them. In Eastern Europe and Greece, though, abortion rates are scandalous.
"But if something is true, then it is wise to promulgate it."
To teach it, yes. To make it a necessary pre-condition for theosis/salvation, no. Something like ABC simply doesn't rise to that level.
Re: the comment of Pope Pius XI, it sounds to me as if he is condemning NFP, Maeve.
It certainly sounds that way, doesn't it.
What is the intent of Natural Family Planning and what does it achieve?
As I said, it is a distinction without a difference.