Most of the penitential textbooks of the Middle Ages that taught priests what kinds of sins to ask parishioners did not even mention contraception. Less liberal churches only approve the use of contraceptives for people who are married to each other. Few people know that until 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the teaching of the Catholic Church, which condemned contraception as a sin. At its Lambeth conference in 1930, the Anglican Church, influenced by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in certain circumstances. Soon, the Anglican Church gave in completely, allowing contraception at all levels. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit. Today, only the Catholic Church proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception. Christian ideas about contraception come from the teachings of the Church rather than from Scripture, since the Bible has little to say on the subject. As a result, their teachings on birth control are often based on various Christian interpretations of the meaning of marriage, sex, and family. When early Christian theologians condemned contraception, they did so not on the basis of religion, but in a give-and-take with cultural practices and social pressures.
Early rejection of contraception was often a response to the threat posed by heretical groups such as the Gnostics and Manicheans. And before the 20th century, theologians assumed that those who practiced contraception were « fornications » and « prostitutes. » John Wesley warned, « Look what he [Onan] has done to the Lord no matter – and this is to be feared; Thousands, especially individuals, still do not love the Lord through this very thing and destroy their own souls. (These passages are quoted in Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, which contains many quotes from historical Protestant figures who recognize the evils of contraception.) Christian acceptance of contraception is relatively new; All churches disapproved of artificial contraception until the beginning of the 20th century. Pope Paul VI pointed to four disastrous consequences for humanity that would result if artificial contraception were allowed. Paul VI finally sided with this minority view and published « Humanae Vitae, » which bans all forms of artificial birth control. His decision, according to many, was not about contraception per se, but about the preservation of ecclesiastical authority. This was followed by an outcry from priests and laity. A lay member of the commission commented: « The Bible never explicitly approves of contraception. Because the Church believes that a person « can only find himself by sincerely abandoning himself » (by Gaudium et Spes), and that a couple who uses artificial contraception does not give themselves the sincere gift of themselves. Few aspects of Christian morality in modern times have led to greater difficulties of conscience than Catholic teaching on contraception.
This was reflected in Paul`s confession shortly after Humanae Vitae: « How many times have we trembled before the alternatives of a slight condescension to current opinions. » Early Christians knew about contraception and probably practiced it. Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman texts, for example, cover well-known contraceptive practices ranging from the method of extraction to the use of crocodiles, dates and honey to block or kill seeds. Natural family planning is a common name for family planning methods based on a woman`s menstrual cycle. A man is fertile throughout her life, while a woman is fertile during the years of procreation only for a few days in each cycle. Some believe that NFP involves the use of a calendar to predict fertile weather. That`s not what NFP is today. A woman experiences clear and observable signs that indicate when she is fertile and when she is sterile. Learning to observe and understand these signs is at the heart of natural family planning education. Conjugal love is powerfully embodied in the sexual relationship of the spouses, when they most fully express what it means, « one body » (Gen 2:24) or « one flesh » (Mk 10:8; Mt 19:6). The Church teaches that the sexual union of man and woman is meant to express the full meaning of love, its power to connect a couple and its openness to a new life. When Scripture depicts God creating mankind « in His image » (Gen 1:27), it treats the union of man and woman as a union of two equal persons in human dignity (« This is finally the bones of my bones / and the flesh of my flesh, » Gen 2:23), and open to the blessings of children (« Be fruitful and multiply, Gen 1:28). (See Married Love and the Gift of Life.) Referring to his 1930 open statement on birth control, « Casti Connubii, » Pope Pius XI said that contraception is inherently wrong and that any spouse who performs an act of contraception « violates the law of God and nature » and is « tainted with a great and fatal error. » When he became pope, he confirmed the Church`s position: « The natural regulation of fertility is morally correct; Contraception is not morally correct.
The matter was left to the Pontifical Commission for Birth Control, which took place between 1963 and 1966, for consideration. This commission overwhelmingly recommended that the Church – 80 percent – expand its doctrine to accept artificial contraception. The Catholic Church has banned contraception since the earliest times, and the number of papal statements dealing with the subject indicates the constant tradition of the Church. In modern times, the most important document was Humanae Vitae 1968 by Paul VI. Referring to the long history of church teaching, he explained that « the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, » although for therapeutic reasons, « should be absolutely excluded as a legal means of regulating childbirth. » Direct sterilization for contraceptive reasons should also be excluded. « Any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act or in its execution or in the development of its natural consequences, serves to make reproduction impossible » is also excluded (Humanae Vitae, II, 14). As a specialist in the history of the Catholic Church and gender studies, I can confirm that the Catholic Church`s position on contraception for nearly 2,000 years has been marked by constant change and development. Im 20. In the nineteenth century, Christians were among the most amazing users of artificial contraception in some of the most Catholic countries in the world, such as France and Brazil, which led to a dramatic decline in family size.