Of all the Church’s moral teachings this is the one teaching that causes the most dissension, ridicule, and flagrant rebellion among modern Catholics. Such rampant heresy, dissension, and confusion have not been seen since the great Arian heresy of the fourth century.
Modern technology has improved the reliability and effectiveness of condoms, spermicides, diaphragms, sterilizations, and other devices and methods to such a level that birth can now be cheaply, easily, and artificially regulated. Many couples use birth control to avoid the hassles and obligations of child birth which they view as an obstacle to career motivations, rampant selfish sex, financial freedom and global population control.
The Church teaches nothing new on the regulation of birth and the prohibition against artificial contraception (Council of Nicea, Canon 1). It is her age old teaching that the procreative element cannot be removed from the act of sex without incurring grave sin and violating the sanctity of marriage. Condoms and other artificial birth control are illicit under all circumstances; even married couples are forbidden to use artificial birth control to limit or control pregnancy. Pope Paul VI attempted to clarify the Catholic Church’s ancient teaching on artificial contraception following the Protestant church’s reversal on the ancient prohibition of birth control (the Anglican church broke the floodgate by reversing their decision on birth control during the Lambeth conference of 1930). Pope Paul VI wrote in the encyclical letter Humane Vitae:
In conformity with these fundament elements of the human and Christian vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of birth regulation. Also to be excluded, as the Magisterium of the Church has on a number of occasions declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly, excluded is every action that, either in anticipation of the conjugal act or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, would have as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible. (Humane Vitae, 14)
However, because the Church recognizes that if there are serious motive for spacing births derived from psychological or external circumstance it is, “permissible to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions and to make use of marriage during the infertile times only, and in this way to regulate births without offending the moral principles that we have just recalled” (Humane Vitae, 20). The method of copulation during infertile periods of the woman is referred to as Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP is condoned by the Church as long as the couple is open to the possibility of child birth and the couple has due reason to space or delay procreation. The couple may never use Natural Family Planning with the intention of avoiding child birth entirely or indefinitely because it violates the marriage covenant (CCC 2366).