What is the Church’s Teaching on Contraception and IVF?

NOTE: This article features some sensitive topics that may not be suitable for younger readers. Please use discretion.

Years ago, a listener named Maddie called in to The Patrick Madrid Show to debate the topic of contraception with Patrick. In her eyes, it shouldn’t be prohibited by the Church because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so if somebody is supposed to conceive a child, He could make that happen if He wants.

Then, two years later, Brooke called in to the show to follow up on Maddie’s question. Though she trusts in the Church’s teaching on contraception, she wanted to clarify Patrick’s explanation of it for her own edification. She recalled one of Patrick’s responses to Maddie in which he said that God would not suspend the laws of nature in order to make a woman conceive. Brooke said that in her own exploration of the Bible, she saw several occasions of when God suspended the laws of nature including when Mary, a virgin, conceived and when Jesus walked on water.

Patrick replied by agreeing that God does occasionally act supernaturally, contrary to the laws of nature, but that is not the norm. In other words, what Patrick meant in his response to Maddie was that in the vast majority of cases, God is not going to act counter to the world that He created. He is not going to interfere in every case of contraception even if He believes a couple is called to have children.

And, in the case of miracles, God has done what is normally unlikely or impossible but He gave us free will. He is not going to take that away from us, even if we choose to sin. Patrick’s second point was that we cannot determine the permissibility or morality of a particular act based on the likelihood or possibility of God intervening and preventing us from doing it. As an extreme example, it is morally wrong for a person to shoot another person. The shooter cannot argue that the shooting was okay based on the idea that if God wanted to prevent the shooting, He would have. Of course God could have stopped the bullet, but the fact that He didn’t doesn’t mean He condones the shooting.

The marital act is intended to be a physical expression of the complete and total self-giving of one spouse to the other. They show it through their acts of service, their work to provide for the family, the gifts they give, the time they spend with one another. This act of love is simply another way to show this self-giving. By using contraception, spouses are essentially lying to one another. They are saying that they give everything to one another, but they are denying each other their fertility, their ability to procreate. They treat it as something that needs stifling or correction. It is a rejection of God’s gift.

Apart from the emotional and religious arguments, Patrick talked about the telos, or ends, of the human body and its different parts. For the eye, its end is to see. It provides an ability to the body that no other body part can provide. Likewise, the ear gives us the ability to hear, and so on. The ends of the reproductive system are to reproduce, deepen the relationship, and provide mutual enjoyment for the couple. The use of contraception in the marital act is a misuse of this gift and tool from God because it is no longer being used to express self-giving and procreate. It is being used solely for pleasure. If you were to use an iPhone as a paperweight, you would be restricting its capabilities and perverting its purpose.

Patrick qualified his arguments by saying that conception is not the goal, nor is it required for a valid marriage or enjoyment of the marital act. All that the Church teaches is that a couple should be open to life and willing to accept life should God bless them with a child.

Brooke also asked about the Church’s teaching on IVF, which is the other end of pregnancy reengineering where a woman is artificially impregnated by way of a medical procedure. This practice is also opposed by the Church for multiple reasons. Firstly, IVF separates the consummatory act of love from the end of producing a child. This process, which is also intended to deepen a couple’s relationship and produce mutual enjoyment is reduced to a laboratory experiment.

Secondly, the process of receiving IVF involves the artificial fertilization of several eggs. In other words, those several eggs have now become several human lives. Then, the parents are asked to choose which one(s) to keep and which one(s) to dispose of. IVF is wrong because it involves the taking of human lives and the removal of marital love from the act of procreation.

Brooke said that she anticipated that Patrick was going to say that the Church teaches against contraception but allows IVF and that was one of the places she was stuck. She said she was so relieved that all of the Church’s teachings are consistent, coherent, and aligned with each other.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.