Religion And Birth Control
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Religious adherents vary widely in their views on birth control . This can be true even between different branches of one faith, as in the case of Judaism and Christianity. Some religious believers find that their own opinions of the use of birth control differ from the beliefs espoused by the leaders of their faith, and many grapple with the ethical dilemma of what is conceived as “correct action” according to their faith, versus personal circumstance, reason, and choice. This article will discuss various views on birth control of the major world religions Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Baha’i.
The question of whether contraception is a viable option for participants has a range of different beliefs and arguments, which depend on the religion’s views on when life begins, and questions of a God or deity’s will for human reproduction.
From The Archive: Church Faces Crisis Over Popes Ruling On Birth Control
30 July 1968: Pope Paul VIs encyclical – a papal letter to all bishops – states that artificial contraception is inherently wrong
The Roman Catholic Church was faced with its gravest internal crisis of modern times yesterday when the Popes encyclical banning all birth control brought clergy and lay members to the brink of open rebellion. Catholic leaders said they expected that many members would leave the Church.
Members of both the Roman Catholic and Anglican hierarchies said that the Popes action would be a severe setback to the cause of ecumenicalism, because the Anglican Church could never accept such a doctrine as part of its faith.
The encyclical, Humanae Vitae, offers no escape routes and is unambiguous in its warning that artificial methods of birth control open the way to marital infidelity, immorality, loss of respect for women, and political dangers. But in the four years that the special commission on birth control has been sitting there has been a growing tendency for priests to leave the question of contraception to individual conscience.
Condoms And The Catholic Church: A Short History
No papal decree has been more flouted in the last half century than its repeated insistence that artificial birth control is morally wrong and sinful and none has alienated or been ignored by more Roman Catholics.
Many religious organisations have opposed birth control. Muslims and Jews don’t like it either, and the Church of England only revised its opinion in the 1930s to enable family planning within marriage. Originally the opposition was probably about preserving tribal and religious identity: no opportunity to increase numbers should be lost . This also makes sense of opposition to homosexuality.
The Catholic church, however, has been wriggling on a particularly dogmatic hook for 42 years, stuck with a doctrine that many of its adherents, certainly in western countries, ignore. A 2002 US survey found 96% of sexually active Catholic women had used birth control.
A 1966 papal commission on birth control recommended that opposition be relaxed. But the then Pope Paul VI took fright and reinforced Vatican opposition in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which has remained the position ever since.
The church argued that artificial birth control devalued sex’s purpose and diminished responsibility, particularly with men, opening the way to abuse and rape. Officially, as Pius XI ruled in 1930, frustrating the procreative act is “an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such acts are branded with the guilt of a grave sin”.
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Is There Ever A Time Contraceptives May Be Used For Medical Reasons
Catholic teaching does not oppose the use of hormonal medications such as those found in chemical contraceptives for legitimate medical purposes, provided there is no contraceptive intent.
But artificial hormones typically treat only the medical symptoms. They do not correct the underlying disease or condition. They also carry the same physical health risks as hormonal contraceptives.
Thankfully, with growing advancements in understanding fertility, knowledgeable gynecologists can often prescribe non-contraceptive drugs and recommend safer and healthier treatments to correct underlying problems or eliminate discomfort.
Scripture In Favour Of Contraception
The Bible never explicitly approves of contraception.
However, there are a number of passages where the Bible appears to accept that sex should be enjoyed for other reasons than the production of children, and some people argue that this implies that no wrong is done if a couple have sex with the intention of not having children.
The Church of England approves the use of contraception.
It wasn’t always so – as late as 1908 the Lambeth Conference stated:
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.
Lambeth Conference, 1908
the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.
Lambeth Conference, 1930
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History Of Christian Attitudes
For most of the last 2000 years all Christian churches have been against artificial birth control.
In the first centuries of Christianity, contraception were regarded as wrong because they were associated with paganism or with heretics such as the Gnostics, the Manichees and, in the middle ages, the Cathars.
Protestant attitudes to birth control began to change in the 19th century as theologians became more willing to accept that morality should come from the conscience of each individual rather than from outside teachings.
Another influence was the churches’ changing attitude to sex.
Instead of seeing sex as something rather dangerous, many Christians began to regard sex as one of God’s great gifts. Sex was a force that could preserve the institution of marriage if couples didn’t feel threatened by the possibility of having children they could not support.
Influenced by this, the Protestant churches concluded that as the use of birth control often led to stronger families and better marriages, churches should let believers use birth control as their own consciences dictated.
This change came slowly – as late as 1908 the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church stated that birth control “cannot be spoken of without repugnance,” and denounced it as “demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare.”
Nowadays most Protestant denominations permit artificial birth control to some extent.
Can Some Methods Of Birth Control Cause Abortion
Some methods of birth control are aimed at preventing the union of sperm and egg and therefore act only as contraceptives including barriers such as condoms and diaphragms.
Concern about the risk of causing an early abortion is stronger in the case of pills taken after intercourse to prevent pregnancy . In some cases these pills are taken when sperm and egg have already joined to create a new life, in which case the drug could not have any effect except to cause an early abortion.
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Legal Considerations For Prescribing Contraception In A Catholic Health Care Institution
The United States Supreme Court clearly established a womans right to contraception as early as 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut. This right was explicitly extended to unmarried women in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 and to minors of at least 16 years of age in Carey v. Population Services International.3 These decisions hinged on the Courts interpretation of a right to privacy, which, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, extended primarily from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.4
If Dr. N were to provide Ms. K her desired oral contraceptive under the false diagnosis of acne, the legal ramifications could result not from the provision of contraception itself but from the reason she gave for prescribing it. The US Code defines health care fraud as knowingly and willfully execut a scheme or artifice to defraud any health care benefit program in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items, or services.7 By submitting a falsified diagnosis, acne, for coverage by an insurance plan, even when the treatment, COCP, would be covered under a different diagnosis, Dr. N would be committing fraud. Health care fraud is considered a federal criminal offense that can carry a federal prison term in addition to hefty fines.8
From Pulpit To Politics: The Catholic Churchs Influence On Reproductive Rights
Last week, Pope Francis again weighed in on demographic change, this time accusing people who have pets but one or no children of selfishness. Refusing parenthood, according to the leader of the Catholic Church, makes people lesser and causes entire countries to suffer as they become older. As Population Matters Alistair Currie explained in a CNN op-ed, nothing could be further from the truth. PM researcher and policy adviser Monica Scigliano provides some context for the Popes remarks by examining the Catholic Churchs damaging positions and actions on sexual and reproductive rights.
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The Historic Christian Teaching
Few realize that up until 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Churchs teaching condemning contraception as sinful. At its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church, swayed by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. Soon the Anglican church completely caved in, allowing contraception across the board. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit. Today, the Catholic Church alone proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception.
Evidence that contraception is in conflict with Gods laws comes from a variety of sources that will be examined in this tract.
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Using Natural Biological Signs To Predict Fertility
Natural Family Planning is the name for a collection of methods which use the natural, biological signs of a womans menstrual cycle to predict fertility. With that knowledge, husbands and wives can adjust their intimacy to increase their chances of conceiving a child or for grave reasons to postpone or avoid pregnancy.
Unlike artificial contraceptives, Natural Family Planning does not actively change the sexual act to render it unfruitful instead, it identifies times when intimacy should be avoided if there is a serious reason to avoid pregnancy. Thus NFP respects the two inseparable aspects of sexuality the closer union of husband and wife, and openness to children, the fruit of sexuality. Moreover, NFP does this without introducing artificial hormones or devices into a womans body, while also promoting communication, intimacy, and trust within a marriage.
You may have already heard about NFP through a marriage preparation program or through resources at your parish. If you have any questions or concerns, or would simply like some more help finding support for your situation, please contact our office.
Natural Family Planning Methods
There are three methods of NFP taught within the Diocese of Harrisburg sympto-thermal, Creighton, and Family of the Americas. In addition, the Marquette method is taught online from an instructor located just outside of our diocesan boundaries in Coudersport, PA.
Birth Control Becomes More Visible
Victorian-era sensibilities, however, deterred most Catholic clergy from preaching on issues of sex and contraception.
When an 1886 penitential manual instructed confessors to ask parishioners explicitly whether they practiced contraception and to refuse absolution for sins unless they stopped, the order was virtually ignored.
By the 20th century, Christians in some of the most heavily Catholic countries in the world, such as France and Brazil, were among the most prodigious users of artificial contraception, leading to dramatic decline in family size.
As a consequence of this increasing availability and use of contraceptives by Catholics, church teaching on birth control which had always been there began to become a visible priority. The papacy decided to bring the dialogue about contraception out of scholarly theological discussions between clergy into ordinary exchanges between Catholic couples and their priests.
Regarding his frank 1930 pronouncement on birth control, Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI declared that contraception was inherently evil and any spouse practicing any act of contraception violates the law of God and nature and was stained by a great and mortal flaw.
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What Is The Churchs Teaching On Contraception
This question concerns probably one of, if not the most controversial moral teachings of Catholicism. This topic is definitely the one that prompts headlines and excites some people to say, I disagree with the Church or The Church is wrong. I have even had Catholics report to me that when they have visited a Protestant Church, they have heard sermons denounce the Catholic Churchs teaching on this subject. In marriage preparation programs, the topic sometimes ignites heated debate between couples and the presenters upholding the Churchs teaching. Sadly, many Catholics simply do not understand the Churchs teaching on this issue. Moreover, many priests have failed to address this subject from the pulpit whether in a positive, rational way or at all. So we need to put aside our prejudices and our misconceptions, open our minds and hearts, and approach this issue.
Before addressing the issue of contraception per se, one must first understand the Churchs moral teaching concerning marriage. The Church does not simply deliver a moral teaching in isolation rather, the moral teaching is undergirded by a moral framework of how life ought to be lived in the eyes of God. In this case, the moral framework is what God has revealed concerning marriage.
Not A Church Priority
The church, however, had little to say about contraception for many centuries. For example, after the decline of the Roman Empire, the church did little to explicitlyprohibit contraception, teach against it, or stop it, though people undoubtedly practiced it.
Most penitence manuals from the Middle Ages, which directed priests what types of sins to ask parishioners about, did not even mention contraception.
It was only in 1588 that Pope Sixtus V took the strongest conservative stance against contraception in Catholic history. With his papal bull Effraenatam, he ordered all church and civil penalties for homicide to be brought against those who practiced contraception.
However, both church and civil authorities refused to enforce his orders, and laypeople virtually ignored them. In fact, three years after Sixtuss death, the next pope repealed most of the sanctions and told Christians to treat Effraenatam as if it had never been issued.
By the mid-17th century, some church leaders even admitted couples might have legitimate reasons to limit family size to better provide for the children they already had.
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Eastern Orthodoxy And Oriental Orthodoxy
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America “permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health.”
Catholicism And Contraception: A Transnational History
Over the past two decades, historical disciplines, including the history of medicine and health, have witnessed a boom of interest in perspectives going beyond and across local and national contexts. As Sanjoy Bhattacharya has noted, these perspectives have been, often interchangeably, termed as global, international and transnational, and each of these terms can convey a number of conceptual paradigms.1 In a recent analysis of health policies in interwar Europe, historian Josep L. Barona has emphasised the interest in entanglements, clashes, rejections, obstacles, rivalries and differences2 as what characterises the transnational approach. Barona evokes Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Sauniers definition of transnational history as an approach which deals with the circulation of bodies, commodities, ideas and patterns over, across, though, beyond, above, under or in-between policies and societies.3
This special issue builds upon, dialogues with and contributes to a number of areas in the history of contraception where transnational perspectives have been particularly strong: the history of contraceptive technologies, ordinary peoples practices and activism/expertise.
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Pope Paul Vi And Humanae Vitae
On July, 25, 1968, the Vatican released an encyclical by Pope Paul VI entitled Humanae Vitae , which included an outline of the Catholic view on birth control. The Catholic Church officially believes that birth control is a violation of natural law, and that sexual intercourse is for the purpose of procreation. Any pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is a by-product of procreation and is intended to strengthen the loving bond between husband and wife it is further believed that these bonds create the ideal environment for raising children.
Although Pope Paul VI in the Humanae Vitae encyclical condemns birth control, there is no objection to natural family planning. For married couples, natural family planning calls for engaging in intercourse with the womans reproductive cycle in mind. Put more simply dont have sex on days when the woman is ovulating.
However, it is interesting to note that surveys on birth control use in the U.S. have found that 77% of married women use a form of contraceptive, versus 42% of non-married women. In addition, 89% of Catholic women use a contraceptive, while 90% of Protestant women use one. Even though the Protestant denominations are more lenient on birth control use, rates of contraceptive use are relatively the same between Catholic women and Protestant women.