For most of my life I was pro-contraception. During my time on AOL (pre-internet, c. 1998?), I had online discussions about it, with those who held that contraception was wrong. These people were fellow homeschoolers who were Quiverfull Evangelicals. Their argument was that as Christians, we needed to trust God for the number of children we should have.
My argument was that God gave us a brain and we had an obligation to use it. Thus, if our circumstance warranted it, we were free to use contraception, perhaps we were even required to use it. Not using it in a circumstance that warranted it seemed naive to me, almost like resorting ONLY to prayer instead of going to a doctor when really sick.
Plus, I looked around at the Quiverfull women I actually knew. There were several of them in the homeschooling group we were part of. I loved these women but to be honest they all seemed dejected, overworked and burdened. I took this as evidence that their “trust God” argument was not valid. And of course, my husband and I were contracepting.
Years later I learned about the Catholic teaching on contraception and it really spoke to my heart. It spun me around in a major way.
The Catholic view is different than the Quiverfull view, at least as it was presented to me back at that time on AOL.
The Catholic view is not founded on an admonition to trust God. Certainly trusting God comes into play. But the Catholic view is, first and foremost, an appeal to the beauty and fidelity of what God said in the Bible about the two becoming one flesh in verses like these:
As Christians, I’m sure we can all agree that God wants men and women to become one flesh inside marriage.
Unfortunately, our culture has embraced an untrue idea, and it has crept into many or even most marriages: we withhold a part of ourselves from our spouse, but we believe this does not impact our “one flesh” union. And what do we withhold? Our fertility.
When we hold back even a small part of ourselves, are the two one? If so, how?
In math, union means all. It doesn’t mean some. It doesn’t mean most. The union of two sets means all of the elements of both sets. If one element of one set is missing, it is not a union.
In biology, when a sperm unites with an egg, the two individual cells become one cell. They are not somehow still two cells in a mysterious way.
And then there’s God: we know God doesn’t hold back part of Himself from us. And certainly Christ doesn’t hold back part of Himself from the Church.
It looks to me now that contraception mars the beauty of the “one-flesh” teaching. It is like a small wedge between the husband and wife.
I still remember the moment all of these pieces dropped into place. I saw how the Catholics were the only Christians maintaining complete fidelity to the “one-flesh” Scriptures. They were correct regarding the very cornerstone of human life. It is so foundational to marriage, the family, sex and children. And I thought to myself, “Wow, I want that.” The moment I saw that that the Catholics were correct on this point, I began to wonder what else they might be correct about.
And that is the story of how I went from being pro-contraception to embracing the Catholic teaching on it. I was first persuaded by its beauty and fidelity to Scripture, then went on to learn more.
I feel a little insecure about posting this, since there may be some gaps that I need to fill in. Plus I realize it is not the most robust description of the Church’s teaching you can find. It’s just how things worked for me at the beginning of my journey into the Church.
If anybody is interested in learning more about the difference between the Catholic view and the Quiverfull view, here are two links that discuss it in more detail:
About four or five years after seeing all this, I discovered this quote from St. Augustine:
“I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility…Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife.” Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 (A.D. 419).
The Union of Two Sets. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.
Rivas, Anthony. Sperm and Egg. Digital image. Medical Daily. N.p., 04 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 May 2016.