Catholic thoughts on conception

I am in RCIA coming from a conservative Protestant background… but I became somewhat more liberal myself before I found the Church.

I’m having difficulty wrapping my mind around a few things and I hope you can help. This might not be as fluidly put together as I would like. It’s taking me quite a while to decide exactly what I’m asking.

We have practiced NFP for some time but for different reasons than those espoused by the Church. So there has been very little adjustment for me in that particular area. It’s not specifically birth control I am wondering about so much as conception itself.

One rationalization of birth control’s acceptability is that “if God wants you to have a baby, you’ll get pregnant anyway.” I know the questions that statement begs. Just bear in mind that’s the sort of thing I’ve been used to hearing until now.

Another common sentiment is that God has a plan for all of us. Again, I know the other issues that can raise, but just keep going with me here.

Ah, here’s another one: “God will never give us more than we can handle.”

Keeping those things in mind:

Do I exist because God wanted me to? Or do I exist because certain specific actions on the part of my parents caused an egg to be fertilized, and therefore God inserted a soul and ta-da, here I am?

No matter how “on purpose” anyone is about effecting conception, it doesn’t always happen. Where does God come in, here?

Where is the line between “He knows how many children you’ll have” and “His will is for you to have X children”?

What about couples who struggle with infertility? I have friends who, to all appearances, have loving, open arms, warm homes, and would be more than capable of providing for a house full of little ones. And yet the way is barred to them. Where is God in this? Is it merely biology? Is it His will?

Statistics would seem to be in favor of the assumption that two people not using birth control or any other method of avoiding pregnancy would most likely eventually conceive a child… whether they’re married or not. Where does His will stop and His biology begin?

We can disobey God. Yes? We CAN prevent pregnancies that might otherwise have occurred. So the sin is not merely one of intent.

If I assume that is correct (feel free to stop there and point out if it’s not, or if perhaps it’s close but could use better wording) and if I consider previously outlined points, I might conclude God does not necessarily cause conception, but He goes along with it, for lack of better words. He gives it His blessing. Or He doesn’t. I also might conclude that God does not necessarily always cause the issues that lead to infertility. But I don’t know what to make of that.

I have miscarried once. They say miscarriages of the early, blighted ovum sort, like I had, are usually due to chromosomal abnormalities. I often wonder where was God in that. Not as in, why did He let it happen… but what part did He play. Was it His doing? I can take it if it was, but was it? Or was it just a function of this thing he has created?

Edited to add this point: Regarding using NFP to effect child spacing, is the control an illusion? Consider “God will never give us more than we can handle” alongside “If God wants you to have a baby, you’ll get pregnant anyway.” As well as with, “The Lord will provide,” another common sentiment. When I think “The Lord will provide” in the context of my fertility, I absolutely cannot help but always, instantly think of photos I have seen of starving, emaciated children in Africa. And I don’t know what to think.

I hope someone else can get at the heart of these questions, because I’m not sure I know what it is. These are things I have been mulling over lately. I don’t know how much of this is due to my Protestant upbringing, so I made sure to frame these questions in that context just in case someone else more learned than I can see what’s causing my problems, my lack of understanding. Something isn’t clicking for me.

If you have something to say, please don’t feel at all compelled to address all the points. I’ll take any and all thoughts on this.

Bless you for reading all of this. Thank you. <3

Well, I think one thing to consider is the free will component. I’m not so sure that this is “God wants you to have kids, but you used a condom and there for his will was deflected”… You can’t “deflect” Gods will as you suggest. But here’s the thing, I have heard it suggested, and I do believe that in the “marriage embrace” we are doing the single most God like act a human is capable of. It’s when our love is closest to God’s, because God’s love is a procreative love. By contraception you make it purely selfish, rather than being open to procreation as the marriage embrace was designed for.

Another way to look at this which might help is to view this in Sacramental terms. Have you ever heard that the Church is Christ’s bride? Well that didn’t just get invented out of no where! It comes from a typological view of the bible. So you have the very first marriage in the bible, Adam and Eve. I think we all know about that one, God puts Adam in a deep sleep, removes a rib and from this forms woman. When God awakes Adam he says “this at last is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, and in short they become married.

Well how was the Church formed? Was it not formed from the pierced side of Christ sleeping the sleep of death on the Cross? And were we not given by Christ the Eucharist, which in a sense could be viewed as the “marriage embrace” of the Church and Christ? And did Christ not say “Unless you eat of this bread, and drink this wine you have no life in you?”. Well think of it this way, what if Christ decided to “contracept”? What if Christ decided not to offer 100% of himself, but rather 99%… I’ll give you everything but ever lasting life in the Eucharist. Would that be a good thing?

I think one thing that it is useful to remember is that although our decisions are made freely by ourselves (at least as much as they can be given the Fall), God knew what decisions we would make before we were a twinkle in our mother’s eye, because he is not bound by time.

What that means is there is a complex relationship between free-will and what God has chosen to do. This relationship is part of what is called Divine Providence, and is one of the most difficult subjects that theologians talk about. So it is no wonder in our daily lives we sometimes find it difficult to sort out - we can’t even see the big picture, spread out through space and time. We only see the little details we know about.

So about whether your existence is due to God’s will, or a decision by your parents - I would say, both.

Another important point is that we are Fallen, and when mankind fell, creation also fell. Our human free-will is not quite as free as it was meant to be. We are hampered by our various selfish desires, bodily habits, and by an inability to see the right thing to do. We are also hampered by others sin and difficulty - all of creation is interconnected, and so we cannot expect to escape from that. It may mean we were born in a starving nation, that we are never born alive, that we are eaten by a lion at age 20.

But, our existence is not just about our life here on Earth. All this confusion and suffering must always be understood in the context of not only Heaven, but the new Earth, where we will all be what we were really meant to be. We humans tend to think, at least in our culture, that a good life is one lived in some comfort, with loved ones, not too much suffering, and death in old age. But is that what God wants? When we get to Heaven, the majority of those present may have died before birth, or as babies. Many will have been killed by childhood diseases, or in war, or bu famine. Of those who lived, many will have suffered significantly. Those who dies in old age will be in a minority. What does this mean? I am not sure, but I think is suggests that what seems good and important to us is not always the most important to God. He is looking for something a little different.

As far as having children. I think that God gives is choice in our lives. On the other hand, our choices all have consequences. What is the consequence of being married and having sex? What if we abstain from sex? In the end, only the people involved really have enough information to try to discern where God would lead them, and where the decision is their own. But always they will have to accept the natural consequences of their decisions.

Contemplating the apparent contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is something that has taken up the entire lives of genius saints and started wars and rebellions among others in history. We can’t entirely understand it, but BOTH are true.

The way I like to think of it (not to say its my idea) is that God is outside of time and space the same way a movie director is outside the individual frames of the film. He is present at all moments (film frames) of time simultaneously and knows the outcome of history. He intervenes just enough to ensure that the outcome is the best possible without depriving man of the free will we need to choose Him over ourselves. A nudge here, a breath of wind there, all things that can be denied and ignored but SHOULDN’T be!

Catholic teaching as I understand it says that the soul is not pre-created and sitting around waiting in heaven it is created in-situ. From that, it DOES appear that our free will extends at least partially to the question of how many children we have and how many souls come into the world. That’s not a power we hold because we developed it, its a gift He appears to have given us.

Thank you. Up til now it hadn’t occurred to me to do any reading on Catholic teaching regarding souls. I’m thinking it’s not going to be the same as what I’ve been taught at my old church.

Thank you to everyone so far <3

I would like to clarify something – I realized as I was praying before going to sleep that my miscarriage was not due to a blighted ovum. They did see a fetal pole but that was it, no heartbeat. (Miscarriage was natural, not surgical.) Beyond the fact of having had a miscarriage, I try not to think about details too often, and a lot of it came back to me last night. It’s not really pertinent to the discussion at hand but I didn’t want to leave an untruth uncorrected.

The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

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One rationalization of birth control’s acceptability is that “if God wants you to have a baby, you’ll get pregnant anyway.” I know the questions that statement begs. Just bear in mind that’s the sort of thing I’ve been used to hearing until now.

This is just another way of saying, “God can overcome the evil I do if He wants to.” Getting pregnant doesn’t let the sinner off the hook. The person who says this doesn’t really have any faith in God or they wouldn’t use artificial contraception anyway.

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