What does the Catholic Church teach about Contraception?
Contraception is any act done either before sex, during sex, or after sex that is intended to prevent the conception of a new life. The Church has always taught that contraception is wrong, but it has used different reasons over time.
I will give two reasons using the Theology of the Body.
First, sex is an act that may result in a new human being coming into existence. For this to happen, God needs to create the soul of the new human being. In other words, sex is the sacred place of God. Sex is where God likes to work to continue his gift of creation. Remember: for a new life to come into existence, God must create a soul from nothing. The parents supply the sperm and ovum during an act of intercourse – an act of love – and God creates the soul.
Therefore, each human person is totally unique, totally unrepeatable, not only genetically, but also spiritually. All this takes place when husband and wife engage in sex. Because God creates within the setting of human love, husband and wife should not deliberately exclude God. They should not contracept. Rather, they should be open to the possibility of new life.
But God doesn’t allow us to develop and use technology? Why can’t we use contraceptives to regulate the conception of children? We can, after all, take aspirin to soothe a headache. The argument is persuasive but flawed. A headache is a curse, while fertility is a blessing. Contraceptives are not at all like medications. Contraceptives prevent the blessing of a child, while medications heal a sickness.
In addition, the human body is symbolic. It is intimately related to the spiritual world. Because we are symbolic creatures, we cannot divorce the physical and spiritual world. If we do, we lose the meaning of human life. The source of both the physical and spiritual world is God. We can use technology to enhance the symbolic world, but never to frustrate or destroy it. That is what contraception does.
We could use contraceptives if we were mere animals. But we are not. We are sexual–symbolic beings. Notice that we say animals reproduce, while humans procreate. This is an important difference.
Animals reproduce themselves, while humans do not. By engaging in sexual acts, husband and wife are open not to reproduction, but to procreation. In other words, they are opening themselves up to another adult human being who is a body–person, and they are opening themselves to God. Their sexual love may result in the creation of an entirely unique person. This is a far cry from the world of animal reproduction.
The Second Reason
We have touched on the second reason in our reference to the world of symbol. The second reason, however, also refers to the nuptial meaning of the human body. Let us look at this more closely.
We have seen that the nuptial meaning of the human body is this: the human body is meant for love. John Paul II explains clearly that upon discovering the woman, the man decides to become “one flesh” with his wife. The man accepts his wife, and he gives himself to her (and vice versa). It is a mutual act. Both of them do it freely. In order to love his wife, the man has to accept his wife for who she is. He cannot have any significant reservation about her. He must love her unreservedly.
To ask her to take a contraceptive pill, place an IUD in her body, to have a tubal ligation would amount to a lack of acceptance. And as we have seen, it would crush the symbolism of the human body and of sexual intercourse.
To contracept in any way is like saying: “I love you, but not all of you.” This would happen, too, if a man decides to contracept with a condom. He would be saying to his wife: “I love you, but I don’t want to give you that crucial part of me that is my sperm – our possible future child.”
Contraception is contrary, therefore, to the nuptial meaning of the human body. Through contraception, a couple use, rather than love, each other. To return to sex as the language of the body mentioned in chapter two, sex is the open, honest communication between husband and wife.
To contracept is to tell a lie with one’s body.