An excerpt from Fr. Josiah Trenham’s new book on St. John Chrysostom:
St. John [Chrysostom] enjoyed the privilege of a thoroughgoing Greek education, which included a far greater emphasis on medical knowledge than does general education today. He was well aware of the differences between contraceptive drugs and abortifacients.
To his mind both abortion and contraception were repugnant because they committed five violations in unison. These five criticisms, found in Homily 24 in his Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, form the core of St. Chrysostom’s opposition to both abortion and contraception.
- Both abortion and contraception create a barren sowing . . . Their use creates a context in which the sexual act is designed to be barren, and the conjugal act is denuded of its purpose. . . . It is common stock in the Patristic arsenal, and is one of the main emphases in the ecclesiastical opposition to contraception.
- Both abortion and contraception treat despitefully the gift of God (“What then? Do you despise the gift of God …?”). The reference here is no doubt to the Scriptural teaching that children are a gift from God, and the use of abortion and contraception is thus a despising of children.
- Both abortion and contraception are expressions of fighting against God’s laws . . . In this he follows many Fathers, as well as Clement of Alexandria, who, more than any other early Church writer, emphasized the natural law requirements of marital intercourse. The use of abortion and/or contraception fights against the natural use of sexual intercourse, turning it into something unnatural.
- Both abortion and contraception turn the curse of barrenness into a blessing, and treat the blessing of fruitfulness as a curse (“What is a curse, do you seek as though it were a blessing …?”).
- Both abortion and contraception misuse women . . . St. John directly refers to pharmacological contraceptives . . .
This is certainly a crucial moment in the life of the Church, and one in which an authentic application of Tradition to contemporary Christian moral norms ought to be fervently sought. In that quest the contribution of St. John Chrysostom will certainly be of great value.
(Trenham, Marriage and Virginity According to St. John Chrysostom, pp. 220-223)
Saint John Chrysostom still speaks, today even louder than in the fourth century. . . . those who have humility will find in him an able instructor, and will find a place of confidence in these confusing times. He radiates amidst the Holy Fathers of the Church as the great defender and sanctifier of the Christian home and city. Adherence to his teaching has produced innumerable saints in the Church, spiritually born both in the monastery and in the Christian home, and is capable of producing the same today.
—from the Afterword by Fr. Josiah Trenham