We Catholics get a lot of flack for our Church’s teaching on contraception, even from other Christians who stand with us on most disputed moral questions (such as abortion and homosexual activity). Even conservative Orthodox and Protestants usually have no problem with contraception, so on this issue, we stand almost entirely alone against (quite literally) a world of criticism. As a result, it’s very important that we know how to defend and explain this teaching. Since it’s quite possibly the one people disagree with most often, it’s also one of the ones we need to explain most often as well.
When we do this, we can take several different approaches. For example, we can look at it from a purely philosophical point of view; we can look at the story of Onan in the book of Genesis, a text that has traditionally been used to defend the Church’s teaching on this matter; or we can explain how it contradicts the nature of marriage as a sacramental sign of Jesus’ union with the Church. However, in this article, I would like to suggest another approach to this issue, one that is aimed at helping non-Catholic Christians who stand with us on the issue of homosexual activity understand this one better. I would contend that if someone considers homosexual activity sinful, they have to consider contraception a sin as well.
The Procreative Link
While the link between these two questions may not be entirely obvious at first, let’s think this through a bit. If homosexual activity is sinful, what makes it so? At the end of the day, it has to be because it’s inherently non-procreative. The only significant difference between heterosexual and homosexual sex is that the former is procreative and the latter isn’t (granted, there are counterexamples like infertile couples but to see how we can respond to them, check out these articles).
Now, if homosexual activity is wrong because it’s inherently non-procreative, how can it be permissible to intentionally remove the procreative potential of heterosexual sex? If procreation is so important in the case of homosexuality, then you can’t turn around and ignore it when dealing with the issue of contraception. Simply put, if sex has to be inherently procreative, then it must be wrong to remove that element from sex.
On the flipside, if contraception is OK, then you can’t argue against homosexual activity. If we can remove the procreative potential from sex, it’s tough to see what would be wrong with having sex that’s inherently non-procreative. Simply put, if it’s not important in the case of contraception, it shouldn’t matter in the case of homosexuality either.
At the end of the day, the Church’s teachings on homosexual activity and contraception stand or fall together. If one is wrong, then both are. On the flipside, if one is right, then both are as well. You can’t accept one but not the other. Either procreation matters or it doesn’t, and you have to consistently apply that belief to both homosexual activity and contraception. Consequently, when we discuss the issue of contraception with our Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters, this link between these two issues can help them understand why the Catholic Church considers contraception a sin. The Church is simply being logically consistent when she condemns both acts as sinful, so other Christians who recognize that homosexual activity is a sin should also accept that contraception is a sin if they want to be consistent too.