Since her beginning, the Catholic Church has condemned artificial contraception. The deliberate frustration of the conjugal embrace cripples a major body system, prevents the self-donation of spouses and severs the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act.
The Catholic Church and every Protestant denomination agreed on the immorality of artificially induced sterility until August 15, 1930, when the Anglican bishops’ Lambeth Conference decreed that the use of birth control could be left to an individual's conscience (Resolution 15).
In order that she [the Catholic Church] may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, she raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.The Lambeth Conference's resolution allowing contraception was the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. Before long, other Protestant denominations followed suit. The editor of the Washington Post, a Methodist layman, well-grounded in theological sensibility, published a powerful editorial critical of the Lambeth decision, in words echoing Casti Connubii:
Carried to its logical conclusion, the [Lambeth] committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be ‘careful and restrained’ is preposterous.
It is the misfortune of the churches that they are too often misused by visionaries for the promotion of ‘reforms’ in fields foreign to religion. The departures from Christian teachings are astounding in many cases, leaving the beholder aghast at the willingness of some churches to teach ‘Christ and Him crucified.’ If the churches are to become organizations for political and scientific propaganda, they should be honest and reject the Bible, scoff at Christ as an obsolete and unscientific teacher, and strike out boldly as champions of politics and science as modern substitutes for the old-time religion.(One cannot image a paper of record responding so truthfully and objectively to such developments if they were to occur today.)
Artificial methods [of contraception] are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless... Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws. Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. All other restraints defeat the very purpose for which they are intended. If artificial [birth control] methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result... As it is, man has sufficiently degraded women for his lust, and artificial [birth control] methods, no matter how well meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.In the wake of the "Sexual Revolution," the Church’s teaching has only grown in relevance. Popes Paul VI and St. John Paul II reiterated Pius XI's warnings about contraception, amid their own spirited defenses of the sanctity of marriage.
Eighty-four years have passed since Pope Pius XI, the Washington Post and Gandhi delivered their prescient condemnations. Their words have proven prophetic.