Is birth control unrighteous? I read in Genesis 38:9-10 where Onan "spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring; what he did was wicked in the Lord's sight." --Nneka Lundy (New York)

The sin of Onan was his refusal to fulfill his duty to his brother and provide an heir. (See Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) The passage really has nothing at all to do with birth control, even though the Catholic Church has traditionally used it as a prooftext against birth control.

The subject of birth control is, I believe, a matter of opinion. As long as no conception has taken place, the ethical issues are simple. The tricky thing is when an egg has been fertilized (the opposite of the Onan situation). The embryo is normally considered to be an incipient human being. (But then your question did not concern abortion, RU 486, etc.)

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