Abstaining and Open to Life?

Is a married couple who abstains from sex for months at a time for the purpose of avoiding conception being open to life? Why or why not are they open to life if they are abstaining?

Because they aren’t sterilizing intercourse. Sterilizing intercourse is voiding it of all life giving meaning.

They are not using contraception. It is acceptable to abstain.

It should be remembered, however, that NFP and abstinence are acceptable **only **when the couple has a “serious reason” for avoiding pregnancy.

This is where a more lengthy discussion could arise, I think.

I don’t think so, since Natural Family Planning requires periods of abstinence. As long as the couple does not use contraception, they should be fine.

There’s room for dialogue here I think…

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae (especially in nn. 10 and 16) speaks of “serious reasons”, “just causes”, “worthy and weighty justifications”, “defensible reasons”, and “just reasons” for spacing children or avoiding pregnancy through the use of natural family planning. What exactly qualifies as a serious, just, worthy, and defensible reason for spacing children is certainly the point of debate – and there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer!


I do this very thing no its not sinful if both spouses agree to it one cannot withhold relations from another in a marriage but if its mutual I don’t see an issue being open to life but say abstaining during fertile times is also not sinful since no ABC is used just gods natural plan of baby spacing

Can I play the role of devil’s advocate? :slight_smile:

What if both parties only reason for not wanting another child is for the sake of having a second vacation home somewhere that they can only afford if they don’t have another child?

Or what if they have no children at all and have been married 5 years already but both couples still want to focus on their careers and not have any children yet? Would that be a sin?

I’m sure there are other more interesting hypothetical situations, but it seems that in the end, there may be times with some NFP couples where there is a certain lack of generosity, at the very least, in the marriage towards having children, but perhaps that is between the couple and God and no one else. Just thinking. I do think that what is stated in Humanae Vitae is binding but it is somewhat open to interpretation at the same time on certain points.

It needs to be noted that the term “open to life” is quite vague and is only a paraphrase, and a vague one at that, of any actual Church teaching.

But anyway, to address the question:

I guess any time a couple is not having sex, they are not being open to life. That seems logical enough. So if they abstain for extended periods, then I’d say no, they are not open to life. From a Catholic perspective, the key issue is why…

When abstinence is chosen, whether total or periodic, there must be a good reason for it. The natural default for Catholic marriage is for the couple to have children. There needs to be a good (serious, just) reason to change from this default, either permanently (total abstinence) or temporarily (NFP).

What does NFP have to do with a moral requirement for married couples to abstain? Should every married couple practice NFP to avoid?


NFP is being discussed here as a method of avoiding conceiving a child.

I think “open to life” is a vague statement anyway. It would be hard to make that argument while not doing the action that creates life.

Over the course of a cycle or even a marriage I think NFP can be practiced licitly and the couple can indeed say that the ACT when they engage in it is open to life, but a couple for serious reasons may not be open to life. And that should be respected.

I asked the same question here:


The general consensus on that thread was that yes, it is still a sin to abstain from sex if you are doing so for the sake of avoiding children for selfish reasons.

I try very hard not to judge the motives of others. That being said, since you tossed out this scenario, perhaps the sin would be selfishness not NFP. Or lack of generosity if selfishness is too strong.

Again, if it were a real couple, we likely would not know their motives. Even if they said it’s because they want a vacation home, there could be other reasons they don’t want to share. Benefit of the doubt…

An interesting thought I had. NFP is the knowledge of one’s cycles. Your question is about the couple is abstaining for “months” at a time. That is not taking advantage of one’s cycles or infertile time.

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