Christian Denominations: Rejection of Contraceptives

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All Christian denominations share the belief that sexual intercourse is not a casual act between strangers but an intimate act between a man and a woman in a committed relationship. Before the 1930s all Christian denominations were united in their firm rejection of contraceptives. O’Grady traces the history of the church and artificial birth control, in her article, starting in 1930 when a division between Christian denominations developed over the use of artificial birth control. The Lambeth Conference of the Church of England decided to deviate from the prohibition of artificial contraception, by advocating their use when abstinence was deemed impracticable. In 1931, The Federal Council of Churches adopted the policy of conservative promotion for artificial birth control methods. By 1961, the National Council of Churches declared a liberal policy on contraceptive use, subject to mutual consent between couples.[1] Protestant denominations including Anglicans, Presbyterians, Reformed, and Episcopalians allow artificial birth control. Most Protestants view birth control within marriage as an acceptable way of regulating the size of one's family. Historically, Orthodox Christians opposed birth control and although some still follow this belief, many hold the position that sexual intercourse also constitutes an expression of love within a marriage and is not limited to procreation. Orthodox and Protestant Churches allow married couples to make their own decisions on contraceptive use. On the other hand, the Catholic Church remains firm in their opposition to artificial means to birth control because it believes that procreation is an integral part of sexual intercourse.[2] However, many Catholics believe that couples should be responsible for making decisions about birth control. The Catholic belief is based on the Bible which promotes productive childbirth and encourages followers to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28). The Bible also discourages birth control, for example in the story of Onan, when he had intercourse, “he spilled his semen on the ground so he wouldn't produce a child. God was much offended by what he did and took his life” (Gen 38:9-10).[3] This indicates God’s position on sexual intercourse and birth control: the purpose of intercourse is to procreate. The first official objection to artificial birth control methods by the Roman Catholic Church was declared by Pope Pius XI in his 1930 encyclical, Casi Connubii. This view was supported by the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae vitae, and remains the present day policy of the church. The Catholic position on contraception is highly influenced by the natural law theory of Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, which deems that sexuality has an end purpose, procreation; to interfere in this end would be a violation of the natural law, and a sin. The Catholic Church sanctions only the rhythm method and abstinence as suitable techniques for birth control.[4] The rhythm method is the oldest and most widely practiced method of fertility awareness. In a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2008, 0.5% or 309,000 Catholic women reported that they use the rhythm method.[5] Early in the twentieth century, the rhythm method was promoted by the Catholic Church as the only morally acceptable form of family planning. In the 1920s, it was discovered that for a woman with regular cycles, ovulation usually occurs the 14th day from the first day of her menstrual period. Based on this knowledge, a couple can calculate the best times to have intercourse in order to achieve or avoid pregnancy. The rhythm method is based on three assumptions: that ovulation occurs 14 days before the beginning of menstruation, plus or minus 2 days, that sperm survives up to 3 days outside the body, and that the ovum survives for 24 hours.[6] However, one problem with the rhythm method is that most women do not ovulate at the same time every...
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