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William LeMaire

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:41pm on July 30th 2018
Why is the Roman Catholic Church forbidding the use of artificial contraception? I can not find anything substantial in the Bible that states that only natural family planning is allowable.

Thanks. WJL

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Hi William, I'm sure you've often said the Nicene Creed at Mass. Most of the articles in the Creed, while of course they correspond to what has been revealed in the New Testament, aren't found with the same clarity in the New Testament. One of the key words there, 'consubstantial' isn't in the New Testament at all, and some of the Council Fathers at Nicea (325 ad) objected to it precisely because it wasn't in the New Testament. But the Council Fathers realized that they couldn't resolve Arius' questioning of the nature of Christ without going beyond but not against what was written in the New Testament.

You could make a similar point regarding the notion of 'transubstantiation,' which again was a term needed to indicate beyond doubt the real presence of Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of consecrated bread and wine.

As you know, the Vatican Council's Constitution on Revelation, Dei Verbum, points out that 'sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others' (10). So, for a Catholic, the Church's teaching in faith and morals has from earliest times been required to go beyond what is written in the Bible. Certainly, the famous incident of Onan (Gen 38:12-14) has been referred to by Christian leaders, including Luther and Calvin, as a clear condemnation of a form of contraception. Much earlier, the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

(c. 80ad), among a list of prohibitions for Christians, says: 'You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a new-born child. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods....' Commentators connect 'practice magic' and 'use potions' with artificial birth control.

Just because something isn't explicitly condemned in the Bible isn't an argument for it's being morally acceptable-no more than contraception does the Bible condemn abortion. But just as there are clear Biblical texts on the humanity of the unborn, they obviously imply that abortion would be morally wrong. Similarly, there's all the texts in Genesis, Tobit, Osee, the Song of Songs, on the beauty of the marriage relationship, culminating in the presence of Jesus at the wedding of Cana, and St Paul's comparing of the love between a married couple to the love of Christ for the Church (Eph 5:32). Of course, these profound reflections on marriage as participating in the love of the Trinity for humanity (fully explored in St John Paul II's Theology of the Body) don't explicitly condemn the use of contraception, but they explain why not a single Christian Church or Community did other than regard the use of contraception as gravely sinful until the Church of England's declaration at the 1930 Lambeth Conference.

I've already written a longish reply to a similar question of yours a month ago, so I can only humbly ask you to look a lot further than the Bible for the Church's reason for regarding contraception as morally unacceptable. Very best, Fr Brendan
Xt3's Ask a Priest answered at 4:38pm on August 6th 2018 reply

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