St. John Chrysostom on Abortion and Birth Control

“[I]n 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]). – John Chrysostom

The so-called “birth control” pill – shown above – is indeed an abortifacient. It actually performs an embryonic abortion. This has been proven by medical doctors across the world. Randy Alcorn has a short article on it here.

There is what some in the west call Natural Family Planing, which is perfectly ethical and godly. It has to do with identifying the signs of a woman’s fertility. Here is information on that.

Regarding how Chrysostom ties receiving inheritances to abortion, I would say that the same thing is happening in our day but from a different angle. Many couples now would rather NOT have children so that they can enjoy the inheritance of their culture – hobbies and luxury. There are legitimate reasons for not having children but I think that the “we cannot afford them” clause is grossly abused today. What I think many people mean to say when they refer to not affording children is that they cannot afford the lifestyle of their choice if they have children.



  1. I hear St. Chrysostom speaking here against abortion and sterilization, but not against family planning through non-abortifacient contraception.

  2. Deathbredon, what do you consider non-abortifacient contraception? I have updated the post with information on Natural Planning. Thanks.

  3. Barrier methods.

  4. P.S.,

    “Natural” family planning uses human artifices, such as calendars, hence is just as artificial as any barrier method.

  5. Roman Catholic teaching would say that “barrier” methods are a sinful compromise. I am not Roman so no worries.

  6. There are other good quotations on this subject even from St. John Chrysostom, who mentions that the marital act need not always be for the purpose of procreation. In fact, he quotes St. Paul when he mentions that marriage is for the putting out of the fires of the body. This is an important departure, I think, from Thomistic scholastic “natural law” philosophy upon which Roman Catholicism based its absolute condemnation. Well that, and the Aristotelian notion that the seed of the man was already like life in the embryonic stage (literally a seed)

  7. “To be or not to be, that is the question.” What a luxury to have the choice of taking ones own life. Contraception is a greater evil than abortion since the murdered are not lost from God, but Rachel weeps over those who are not…they are not…they do not exist because of our selfishness and lack of charity. Contraception, one of the greatest evils of our times. God is able to redeem all that is, all who are, but those who are not, who have never been, cannot be redeemed, just like without water, baptism does not occur, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass cannot happen without the bread and wine…without the material to build…God cannot redeem that which is not.

  8. Deathbreden, ‘family planning’ that is practiced as a form of birth control for frivolous meanings rather than legitimate and reasonable ones, is just as evil as any other method, maybe even more so in Holy Matrimony, since it is denying God His rights within His own Sacrament. It is a spit in His Holy Face.

  9. I am a Roman Catholic who has recently been attending Divine Liturgy in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I am praying very fervently for God to enlighten my heart and show me His True Church. This is one particular topic that I have a struggle with.

    So, and please I don’t want to argue, I only seeking sound theological answers in good faith; I, as well as does the Roman Church, see barrier methods as committing the sin of Onanism. That is casting aside one’s seed so as to inhibit the natural and ordained end, and to not allow God’s will to be done in all of our actions.

    If you would, and I am just now seeing how old this thread is, please enlighten me on this point of struggle.

    -Pray for me

  10. Hello Daniel,

    Thanks for commenting. There is a current debate about this issue in the Church. Here is an authoritative statement from the Russian Holy Synod:

    Among the problems which need a religious and moral assessment is that of contraception. Some contraceptives have an abortive effect, interrupting artificially the life of the embryo on the very first stages of his life. Therefore, the same judgements are applicable to the use of them as to abortion. But other means, which do not involve interrupting an already conceived life, cannot be equated with abortion in the least. In defining their attitude to the non-abortive contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that human reproduction is one of the principal purposes of the divinely established marital union (see, X. 4). The deliberate refusal of childbirth on egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin. (The Basis of the Social Concept: Chap. XII The Problem of Bioethics)

    I hope this suffices because I cannot comment any further beyond this. You should read this entire document:

    Pray for us as well! May God illumine your search!

    in ICXC,

  11. It is clear from Chrysostom’s statement that he considers all birth control methods to be evil, including natural family planning, as all who practice it are intentionally avoiding the gifts of God, children. In other words, they are saying, “No, God. I know better than you; although you may have desired to bring a child into the world through my spouse and I at this point in time, I refuse to accept what you may have for me. I do not want a child at this time. If I am to have a child it will be according to my timing, not yours, God.”

  12. Dear Daniel,

    You are quite correct in equating condemns and other barrier methods with onanism. To be sure, sexual acts outside the purpose of procreation (masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, etc) are sinful and a fall away from the grace of God. Let not the mind of this world, which eschews the cross and asceticism, but confused with the mind of Christ, which sees all Christians – married or monastic – as cross-bearers, strugglers against the passions, victors of the passions. When a couple trusts God in all things, including when and how He will send them children, they are on the path to salvation, crucifying their rationalism on the wood of the cross. When they abstain according to the Church fasts, 3 days before and after Holy Communion, and in general live a chaste life in marriage, they are on the path of salvation. However, The Orthodox Church approaches the struggle of asceticism in a different way than the West, leaving it to the philotimo and love of Christ of each person. Saint Paisios the Athonite says it best in this regard: ”
    “To make myself clearer, I will relate to you living examples of struggling married priests and lay people who I know. Among them there are those who came together after marriage and were blessed with one, two or three children and afterwards have lived in chastity. Others come together once a year that they may be blessed with a child and then live again as brother and sister. Others abstained during the fasts and then came together again. Others are unable to even achieve this. Still others come together once in the middle of the week, so as to be three days before and three days after Holy Communion. Others stumble and fall even at this, for which reason when Christ appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection his first words were: As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. . . Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. The point is for each one to struggle with discernment and philotimo, according to his spiritual strength.”

  13. Fr. Peter,


    Thanks for commenting. Please do so frequently!

    in ICXC,

  14. Fr. Peter, you wrote:

    “Among them there are those who came together after marriage and were blessed with one, two or three children and afterwards have lived in chastity. Others come together once a year that they may be blessed with a child and then live again as brother and sister.”

    This is completely unbiblical. How do you reconcile this w/ Paul’s command to quickly return to sexual relations after a time of abstinence while fasting? Is not the marriage bed undefiled? Does he not teach that marriage is for the healthy God-given outlet for sexual desire? Married people are not monks and they are not to try and live like them. They are two paths. If one believes birth control is evil then ANY kind of control over this process of making babies is also wrong.

  15. David,

    Thanks for visiting us and I regret such a delayed response.

    The practice Fr. Peter speaks of is done by those to whom it is given, and freely. I’ve heard of some recent spiritual fathers persuading those inclined not to try it since our contemporary society is so wrought through and through with impure imagery and sounds. To keep sexual purity nowadays is like a martyrdom. As far as being ‘biblical’ is concerned, St. Paul does not “command” married couples to have sex. In the very next verses he explicitly states: “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am…”

    As far as the other issues you raised, you are correct. The marriage bed is not defiled and our Holy Canons forbid abstention due to repulsion. I assure you, Fr. Peter knows this and teaches it. As Christians we sacrifice only what’s good and holy.

    Synod of Gangra:

    Canon 1 If any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema.

    Canon 4 If any one shall maintain, concerning a married presbyter, that is not lawful to partake of the oblation when he offers it, let him be anathema.

    Canon 9 If any one shall remain virgin, or observe continence, abstaining from marriage because he abhors it, and not on account of the beauty and holiness of virginity itself, let him be anathema.

    Canon 10 If any one of those who are living a virgin life for the Lord’s sake shall treat arrogantly the married, let him be anathema.

    Epilogue – These things we write, not to cut off those who wish to lead in the Church of God an ascetic life, according to the Scriptures; but those who carry the pretence of asceticism to superciliousness; both exalting themselves above those who live more simply, and introducing novelties contrary to the Scriptures and the ecclesiastical Canons. We do, assuredly, admire virginity accompanied by humility; and we have regard for continence, accompanied by godliness and gravity; and we praise the leaving of worldly occupations, [when it is made] with lowliness of mind; [but at the same time] we honour the holy companionship of marriage…

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