Christians always have condemned contraceptive sex. Both forms mentioned in the Bible, coitus interruptus and sterilization, are condemned without exception (Gen. 38:9–10; Deut. 23:1). The early Fathers recognized that the purpose of sexual intercourse in natural law is procreation; contraceptive sex, which deliberately blocks that purpose, is a violation of natural law.
Every church in Christendom condemned contraception until 1930, when, at its decennial Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church gave permission to use contraception in a few cases. Soon all Protestant denominations had adopted the secularist position on contraception. Today not one denomination stands with the Catholic Church to maintain the ancient Christian faith on this issue.
Compare the current state of non-Catholic churches—where most pastors counsel couples to decide before they are married what form of contraception they will use—with these quotations from the early Church Fathers, who condemned contraception in general as well as popular contraceptive sex practices that were then common (sterilization, oral contraceptives, coitus interruptus, and orally consummated sex).
Many Protestants, perhaps beginning to see the connection between contraception and divorce and between contraception and abortion, are now returning to the historical Christian position and rejecting contraceptive sexual practices.
Some Church Fathers use language that can suggest to modern ears that marital intercourse is only procreative and has no unitive aspect. It is not clear whether some of them thought this way or they simply are emphasizing that sexual activity becomes immoral if the procreative aspect is deliberately frustrated. Over time, the Church has called greater attention to the unitive aspect while maintaining that the procreative.aspect of each marital act must not be frustrated.
The Letter of Barnabas
Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, "Thou shall not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shall thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness" (Letter of Barnabas 10:8 [A.D. 74]).
Clement of Alexandria
Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 [A.D. 191]).
To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature (ibid., 2:10:95:3).
[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife (Divine Institutes 6:20 [A.D. 307]).
God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [generating] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring (ibid., 6:23:18).
Council of Nicaea I
If anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry] and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy (Canon 1 [A.D. 325]).
Epiphanius of Salamis
They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption (Medicine Chest against Heresies 26:5:2 [A.D. 375]).
This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife not for the procreation of children but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion (The Morals of the Manichees18:65 [A.D. 388]).
You [Manicheans] make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They take wives according to the laws of matrimony by tablets announcing that the marriage is contracted to procreate children, and then, fearing because of your law [against childbearing] . . . they copulate in a shameful union only to satisfy lust for their wives. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [1 Tim. 4:1–4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps (Against Faustus 15:7 [A.D. 400]).
For thus the eternal law—that is, the will of God, Creator of all creatures—taking counsel for the conservation of natural order not to serve lust but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny (ibid., 22:30).
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 joined not 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 (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 [A.D. 419]).
Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. . . . Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws? . . . The matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).
In truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn but even acting to prevent their beginning to live (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]).
The man who has mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul says, "I would that they who trouble you would cut the whole thing off" [Gal. 5:12]. And very reasonably, for such a person is venturing on the deeds of murderers and giving occasion to them that slander God’s creation and opens the mouths of the Manicheans and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves among the Greeks. For to cut off our members has been from the beginning a work of demonical agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the works of God, that they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security as being irresponsible, and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds (ibid., 62:3).
Where then are those who dare to mutilate themselves, seeing that they draw down the apostolic curse, and accuse the workmanship of God, and take part with the Manichees? (Commentary on Galatians 5:12 [A.D. 395]).