ISHALL be grateful if I may be allowed to comment on Fr. John Simon's reply (March 14) to the question on Scripture and contraception.
It is easy to brush aside St. Augustine and other Fathers, together with Pope Pius XI on the subject of the sin of Onan, but is the Scripture text itself so accommodating?
"But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted the seed, lest he should give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord and He slew him also."
Now, prima facie, the text makes it clear that Onan was condemned for what he DID. not for what he did NOT do. The opposite view, maintained by Fr. Simon, is not new. I heard it from Marie Slopes at the Caxton Hall in the 1930s and did not, at that time, think I should live to hear it from Catholic priests in the 1960s.
Fr. Sutcliffe, S.J. in the Catholic Commentary says: It is explicitly stated that Onan was punished fir his wicked act. There was a strong social custom in favour of the Levirate marriage but it was not of moral obligation."
Deuteronomy gives directions for a ceremony in connection with a refusal to comply with this custom, somewhat humiliating. but far removed from the death penalty. I understand that in a note in the Bible de Jerusalem, Pere
de Vatix gives prominence to both interpretations taken together.
While I agree that textslinging can never be conclusive as our separated brethren have found to their cost—it seems hardly fair to state categorically that nowhere in Scripture is birth con trol (contraception) condemned Ronald Flaxman Banstead, Surrey.