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Contraception: The Bible and Early Fathers

By John Salza

Scripture

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 God’s 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.

Tradition / Church Fathers

"Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, ‘Thou shall not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shall 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).

"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" Clement of Alexandria, 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." Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 2:10:95:3 (A.D. 191).

“[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, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered." Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 (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." Lactantius, 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.” Lactantius, Divine 6:23:18 (A.D. 307).

"[I]f anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy." Council of Nicaea I, Canon 1 (A.D. 325).

"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." Epiphanius of Salamis, Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 (A.D. 375).

"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." Augustine, The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 (A.D. 388).

"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? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well…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?…Yet such turpitude…the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 24 (A.D. 391).

"[I]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." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 28:5 (A.D. 391).

"[T]he man who has mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul says, ‘I would that they who trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]. And very reasonably, for such a person is venturing on the deeds of murderers, and giving occasion to them that slander God’s creation, and opens the mouths of the Manicheans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves among the Greeks. For to cut off our members has been from the beginning a work of demonical agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the works of God, that they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security as being irresponsible, and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 62:3 (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?" Jerome, Against Jovinian 1:19 (A.D. 393).

"Observe how bitterly he [Paul] speaks against their deceivers…‘I would that they which trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]…On this account he curses them, and his meaning is as follows: ‘For them I have no concern, "A man that is heretical after the first and second admonition refuse" [Titus 3:10]. If they will, let them not only be circumcised but mutilated.’ Where then are those who dare to mutilate themselves, seeing that they draw down the apostolic curse, and accuse the workmanship of God, and take part with the Manichees?" John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians 5:12 (A.D. 395).

"You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility and murder a man not yet born, [and some commit abortion]." Jerome, Letters 22:13 (A.D. 396).

"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 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 [1 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.” Augustine, 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." Augustine, Against Faustus 22:30 (A.D. 400).

"For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage…to yield it to the partner lest by fornication the other sin damnably [through adultery]…[T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God…by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting [children], is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of a harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of a harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that . . . when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose [orally or anally consummated sex], the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman." Augustine, The Good of Marriage 11–12 (A.D. 401).

"I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility…Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife." Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 (A.D. 419).

"Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion 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 woman 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." Caesarius of Arles, Sermons 1:12 (A.D. 522).

Source: John Salza. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.scripturecatholic.com/contraception.html

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Lk 9:57-62

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