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For a Lady Pope

The biblical basis for the doctrine on contraception

There are no verses in the Old Testament, and even less in the New Testament, that explicitly condemn contraception. The only reference made then was to the term withdrawal or, in other words, coitus interruptus and God know that the Old Testament contains numerous verses on everything forbidden or obligatory.

However the Catholic Church has built all its doctrine around one passage only, a passage taken from Genesis in the Old Testament.

Lets carefully reread the text in order to verify the legitimacy of the Popes’ interpretation.

Amongst the obligations laid out in Jewish law is the one asking a man to ensure that his brother, who has died without leaving any descendants, has a child, and this is to be achieved through him having sexual relations with his sister-in-law. It is, in some ways, an obligation, albeit a very restrictive one, to commit adultery. An illustration of this duty can be found in Genesis (ch.38) in the story of Onan, whose brother died without having a child. Although he was ready to honour his sister-in-law, he was not prepared to respect the law of levirate (brother-in-law in Hebrew). In Verse 9 it is written; “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.” He was then slain by God who was angered by his attitude. God killed Onan because he hadn’t respected the levirate law.

It is because of these verses that the Church forbade coitus interruptus. This crime was seen as worse than the crime of homicide - God killed Onan, but he didn’t kill Cain when he murdered his brother Abel. This punishment has struck peoples’ imagination.

The Church has based its philosophy on this one individual case, declaring that all forms of contraception are forbidden. The Onan text is the only one in the bible that refers to any type of contraception and it has been ridiculously exploited.

The problem is in understanding why God condemned Onan. God reproached Onan for not wanting to give his sister-in-law any descendants. Onan refused to respect the levirate law (Dt 25, 5-6).

There were only two ways in which Onan could have behaved according to his beliefs. He could either have refused to sleep with his sister-in-law under different pretexts or he had to use contraception, the only one at his disposal being to withdraw before ejaculation.

God would have condemned Onan to death either way – either for practising coitus interruptus or for refusing to have sexual relations with his sister-in-law, otherwise known as continence. The conclusion that the Church has come to is that withdrawal before ejaculation and continence are both condemned by God.

The logic that says that Onan wasn’t condemned because he refused to give his sister-in-law any offspring, but because of the way he refused to do it is absurd. In other words, it is obvious that it is not the method used that God disapproved of, but the intention to disobey the levirate law.

For twenty centuries, through its fear of sex, the Church has not been able to distinguish the fact that Onan’s punishment was because of his refusal to respect the levirate law and not because of the fact that he used contraception. All Catholic conjugal sexuality is thus based upon a sophism, which is frightening to say the least.

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