Tuesday, August 28, 2012

History of Artificial Contraception

I haven't done the research myself, I read it on Vic's blog, Thinking Catholic Strategic Center this morning and wanted to share it here.  It brought to light some questions I had about other Christian denominations and artificial contraception.  The Catholic Church has always opposed artificial contraception and in fact, The Catechism states:

"every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, 
or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, 
to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil: [HV 14.]"

I had often wondered if the early Protestant church leaders felt the same way or were supporters of methods used to prevent life. And when did the masses change their moral views?  Margaret Sanger was one woman, and couldn't have opened the first birth control clinic and established Planned Parenthood unless society was on board.  Here's a brief look at history thanks to Vic, who has done the work and found the following quotes:

Martin Luther on contraception (1483 to 1546):"Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest or adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes into her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed."

John Calvin (Protestant Church Reformer/Calvinism) on contraception (1509 to 1564):
"Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race."

John Wesley (co-founder of the Methodist Church) on contraception (1703 to 1791):"Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married and the memory of his brother that was gone, refused to raise up seed unto the brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord - And it is to be feared, thousands, especially single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls."

The Jewish Faith states:
"The Encyclopedia Judaica (Vol.4,p.1054, article "Birth Control") states: "Jewish tradition ascribed the practice of birth control to the depraved humanity before Noah."

President Theodore Roosevelt on contraception:"Birth control is the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement."

Sigmund Freud on contraception:“. . . it is a characteristic common to all the perversions that in them reproduction as an aim is put aside. This is actually the criterion by which we judge whether a sexual activity is perverse - if it departs from reproduction in its aims and pursues the attainment of gratification independently . . . Everything that . . . serves the pursuit of gratification alone is called by the unhonored title of ‘perversion’ and as such is despised.” (Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis, translation By Joan Riviere (New York, NY: Liverwright, 1935), p. 277.)

Mahatma Gandhi on contraception:"Despite having been vigorously lobbied and pressed by Margaret Sanger to support contraception, Gandhi outlined the deleterious consequences of artificial contraception thus:
“Artificial methods [of contraception] are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless . . . Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws. Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. All other restraints defeat the very purpose for which they are intended. If artificial methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result. A society that has already become enervated through a variety of causes will still become further enervated by the adoption of artificial [birth control] methods . . . As it is, man has sufficiently degraded women for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.”

Therefore, before the 1900's it would seem that many religions and prominent secular figures were against artificial contraception or any means that would inhibit procreation.  

So what happened?  

At the Anglican Conference in 1908, the Bishops of the Anglican Communion declared "The Conference records with alarm the growing practice of the artificial restriction of the family and earnestly calls upon all Christian people to discountenance the use of all artificial means of restriction as demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare."

1930 is when it all changed.  The Anglican Church held the Lambeth Conference and took a vote on artificial contraception and produced a new resolution, "Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, complete abstinence is the primary and obvious method" but if there was morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence, "the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles."

From there it was a slippery slope and within 30 years, all Protestant churches changed their views on artificial contraception.  And now it is common practice among women and teenagers; and seemed "as irresponsible conduct" if a woman or teenager are not on birth control.

My next thought was "Who besides the Catholic Church is still opposed to artificial contraception?  Or are we alone in this view?"  
According to Vic's research, "only Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism in the West, and 
Orthodox Churches in the East, maintain the ancient doctrines against contraception.  
Western Culture is now just as severely split on the doctrine of artificial contraception as it is 
on the teaching authority of the Pope."

I've only touched on Vic's article, so for a more in depth look at his article go Here.  

May God bless those who listen and obey His Word.



  1. What a wealth of information. Thank you for posting it!

  2. Thanks Nancy for visiting. What I blogged about is only a drop in the bucket of what Vic has put together on the history of artificial contraception. You should check it out.