Choosing to be childless in a marriage

In marriage, why is procreation the biggest factor? What about couples who choose to remain childless? I don’t mean infertile, I mean making a conscious choice not to have children for whatever reason. What are your thoughts on this?

my personal thoughts are irrelevant. Catholic teaching is that marriage is ordained by God as the union of one man and one woman for the joint purpose of unity and procreation, with the ultimate goal of building the kingdom and attaining union with God in heaven. Sexual intercourse in biology has only one purpose, which is procreation. God added the unitive purpose when he created man and woman as a higher order of being, in His image. Anything which deliberately frustrates either end of marriage is immoral. A Catholic who enters into marriage with the deliberate free will intention of remaining childless does not contract a valid marriage. The Catholic who uses artificial chemical, surgical or other means to prevent conception also sins gravely and willingly and intentionally separates himself from Christ’s grace in the sacraments and from communion with Him in the Church.

I’ve read some of the Catechism on this subject, I’m still uncertain as to whether the Church is directing us to have limitless children or not. Though I did read an encyclical which addressed responsible parenting, and further it is leaving it up to the couple to decide that responsibility, but it still seems like it’s a duty and obligation to have as many kids as possible. So I also would like to see how others respond to it. If I read it correctly, married couples are expected to have children at some time in their marriage, and as many as they can, and apparently they are sinning if they don’t even if they are practicing NFP? Is that correct? And is that a dogma?

I understood this teaching for Biblical times, but if I’m going to be honest, I don’t understand it now for the times in which we are living. We’ve already filled the Earth as God directed Adam and Eve. I don’t think He meant to congest the world with people, or maybe he did? But I don’t understand why so much pressure is put on couples to have many children.

One can exchange the ‘rights’ of marriage validly but not exercise them… as have countless marriages where they lived as brother and sister…for the sake of prayer etc…

but such is a rare vocation.

and of course the couple can be older etc

I saw something the other day, apparently from Church teachings (I won’t say I’m 100% sure of that as I can’t recall where it was written, I think it was in a hard copy catholic news paper or something - but may not have been official RCC teaching… ah… anyway)

It said while it was important that marriage is open to children, and that’s kind of the point to have children, it did say that parents arent doing their Christian duty if they have 20 kids and all are living in horrific poverty and starving. Long and short of it, parents have to determine the number of children they can afford, yet at the same time, they cannot refuse to be open to children because they want to buy another mercedes or something equally vain.

I understood this teaching for Biblical times, but if I’m going to be honest, I don’t understand it now for the times in which we are living. We’ve already filled the Earth as God directed Adam and Eve. I don’t think He meant to congest the world with people, or maybe he did? But I don’t understand why so much pressure is put on couples to have many children.

The world is not over populated, this is a myth. The issue is “population density”. People living and over farming the wrong parts of the planet.

But I think its important that Catholics start having larger families, my uncle and aunty have four kids and its considered huge and irresponsible by some people I know who are “catholic”, my parents had three kids and still some consider that too many.

To completely derail the topic, do we as Catholics, Christians, Western citizens whatever, want more Christians or more Muslims? Thats how the "terrorists’ are going to win, theyr’e outbreeding us.

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I truely believe that any married couple who chooses not to have children are missing out on so much.

Human life is extrodionary and it is such a precious gift from God.

I know children can be annoying at times, but once you look past that you see how many blessing God gives couples when he blesses them with children.

Hi everyone! I am Greek Orthodox and I will like to put an Orthodox perspective into this discussion. The Orthodox Church like the Catholic Church has the same teaching on marriage. Couples getting married in the Church agree to have children. Orthodox priests will not marry couples who decide against children. Children are the basis for a family unit and any couple who desires no children really go against the teaching of the Church and the plan of God for each individual. You are interferring with God and His plan. If you do not want children then why are you going to Church. You might as well forget about going to Church and live in the world because whatever you learn while attending Church had not given you the idea of selfless love and what sacrifices you need to make as mature adults. The Church is not going to change and bend for you. That is not the way God wants the Church to act. The Church must exemplified Her Lord and the teaching He gave Her. So people must be taught what sacrificial love is and why love can only be selfless. It takes time to help people to grow into that state of love that requires for marriage people to have when they get married and in turn have children. Couples who do not want children are missing the point of why they are in Church. Somehow along the way they did not get the message. They did not learn properly, love. You know love is not properly a feeling. It is more a decision. I mean Our Lord is not feeling too good when He is hanging on the cross. So love is a decision. Father John Corapi can explain much better than me and you can find him under his own website. Please take a look at him. If you still do not want children then I will advise you to stick around more in Church to learn about love. Children are a blessing. They make us childlike. You know I tell my Catholic friends that there is no shortage of priests today ( I live in P.E.I. Canada ) there is a shortage of Children. OK. That is why you hardly have any priests. I mean the kids today don’t have any brothers or sisters to fight with! The family unit is the basis for everything in our society. Now if you still do not want children then go get married in a civil marriage. The Church will not marry couples unless they want children. It doesn’t mean you are going to have children in your marriage. In some cases yes couples are childless for reasons they cannot fix. If a couple because of the man or woman is unable to have children, yes the Church will marry you. But if you have the means to have Children and there is no physical or other problems preventing you to have children then the Church may say no to you if you desire not to have children. There have been many marriages that have been childless however the reasons why and were good because the couples were in love and did not use any artificial methods to prevent children to be conceived. The Orthodox Church does not have the rigid teaching the Church of Rome has on contraceptives yet couples must have their children first, right away and through their priest decide later whether to have more. Choosing to be childless in a marriage will deter your priest in marrying you as long as the priest is obedient in regarding the teachings of the Church. There may be excemptions to this but generally the Church will follow its own giudelines. God Bless!

Well, if you don’t want 20 kids, perhaps its a good idea to practise some ‘restrain’ and adopt the rhythm method to minimised the chances of conception. However, one must still remain open to the possibility that if God so wills it, then you should not deny the child his/her life.

Using contraceptives is like the ‘easy way out’ ~ refusing to exercise self-restrain, and instead do ‘whatever one like’ because its ‘THEIR’ bodies, forgetting totally about God.

Rence: the Church is not directing us to have as many children as possible. You have already found the correct teaching in Humanae Vitae regarding responsible parenthood, i.e., what are our (the couple’s) responsibility to God, the other spouse, the existing family, and to society.

If, for just/serious reasons, the couple is not being called to have a (or another) child at a particular time, NFP is one morally licit way to achieve this end. Another way is total continence.

That being said, if one is using NFP without the just/serious reasons, that is a problem.

I think the key area to look at is, in your phrase, “they don’t want children.” Why? Is it a just reason or no? Have they prayed about it as couple? What is God calling them to this month? If there is a serious reason to avoid, is it something they can work on, to remove the impediment?

Have you read any theology of the body material? Check out West’s “Good News about Sex & Marriage” or “TOB for Beginners”.

We are created, male and female, in the image and likeness of the trinitarian God. The Father eternally gives Himself to the Son, who receives and reciprocates that love, which is so real, it is the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. When you see sex & marriage in that light, being a total, free, faithful, fruitful self-giving to the other spouse, it can really change your perspective - - I know it has made a big difference in my life and marriage.

Doughnut: uh, the rhythm method is not very effective at postponing pregnancy unless the woman has a very regular cycle. Modern methods of NFP are emphatically not the rhythm method. Being “open” to life does not mean that a couple use a method of child spacing that has a high failure rate, but that each marital act is properly ordered to its end - - that is, the couple doesn’t take any action to intentionally sterilize the act, contrary to God’s design of our bodies.

and OP did not ask about that, she ask about a couple contemplating marriage now with the intention to avoid having children. If you embark on any vocation with the deliberate intention of preventing the primary gift of that vocation, you are not entering into it validly.

I don’t know what the population is like in NZ, but in the city where I live overpopualtion is too obvious to deny. And I see people who have lots of kids crammed into tiny apartments. Overpopulation is no myth. Many children in the USA will go to sleep tonight hungry and homeless because they were born to mothers who could not afford to take care of them. Everyone cares about protecting children before they are born, but after they are born no one cares what happens to them.

My understanding is that just as intercourse has a dual purpose in the Catholic Church (unity and procreation), marriage has a four-fold purpose related to the purposes of sex. These purposes are called the four “goods” of marriage: (1) The good of the children (openness and education), (2) The good of the spouses (partnership), (3) The good of the permanence, and (4) the good of fidelity. Clearly, the procreative purpose of intercourse supports the first good of marriage, and the unitive purpose of intercourse supports the other three.

Looking at marriage as a contract or an exchange of rights, intent to fulfill the purposes of marriage is a precondition. Procreation is NOT the biggest factor. It’s only one of four factors and it is lumped into the good of the children (which also includes providing for and educating those children).

A couple that intends to remain childless when they get married never really gets married because they haven’t met the preconditions for the marriage contract. Even so, I could imagine a couple that foresees persistent serious reasons to avoid having children but remains open to the possibility that those serious reasons will subside – there is a subtle and important difference.

Also, all this talk about 20 kids is nonsense. Being open to children is not the same as being forced to have 20 children. Catholic couples are not taught to put openness to children above the other goods – including education, partnership, fidelity, and indissolubility. My husband and I were even taught in marriage preparation to put our partnership above our children because one precedes the other. God might call some Catholic Couples to be childless because of serious circumstances outside of their control. He might call others to have one, four, or even eleven children depending on their circumstances, but a couple cannot INTEND to remain childless regardless of the circumstances (feast or famine). This is similar to the teaching on contraception.

If a couple doesn’t really want children, then it is best that they don’t have any. And I have known some married couples who should not have had children. What is the purpose of marriage? If we stress procreation, then we appear to be emphasizing the biological process, which can just as easily occur without marriage. Does the attraction and love between a man and woman have to result in children? Or at least the attempt to have children?

One must believe that love is more than just biological, it is a gift from God. If a Christian couple love one another, love God, and demonstrate that love by extending it to others, I have no problem with whether they have their own children or not.

I didn’t do a specific review of the Gospels, but I cannot recall anything that Jesus said that indicated making babies was a command from God. Truthfully, the human race has never had a problem with that, and I don’t think it requires an order from God to get people to do so.

That is my opinion, which is what the OP requested.

if a couple chooses not to have children, then they have to use artificial birth control methods, which is a sin

unless they get married and abstain from sex their entire lives, or until their body naturally can’t concieve a child anymore

Just wanted to note on the bolded part above that the Catholic Church’s acceptance of Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not the “rhythm method” as there are several methods of observations that a couple can use:

-Creighton Method (physical observance of signs of fertility (eg mucus)
-Symptothermal Method (temperature)
-Marquette Method (using a fertility monitor)

Hello everyone, OP here! Thank you for your responses. This has been something I have always wondered. I’ve NEVER felt the desire for children. Of course, I’m 20 years old, so that could change, but probably not. However, I was thinking more and more about marriage, and the possibility of it with my boyfriend in the far (5-6 years) future (Should we make it that long, of course. We’re both still in school and have only known each other a little less than a year, and have been dating for 10 months.) Anyway, I’ve never wanted biological kids, but I would love to adopt an older child. I would feel selfish, bringing another child into this world, when there are a lot of kids who lack a good home and good parents. I know you could say “Do both!”, but I also don’t like babies, I’m afraid. And I have a phobia of pregnancy, and have a history of depression. So I’ve always wondered about that. Also

You are spot on the money. That was another thing.The bolded was what I was wondering as well.

When looking at marriage from the perspective of the four goods, I think that you’ll see that biology plays really only a small part in the purpose of marriage–partnership, fidelity, indissolubility and education are all spiritual fruits enhanced by the grace of God. They also all involve a self gift. Marriage, ultimately, is about mutual self giving. You truly change your life to love your spouse as you should and your goal is to get them to Good. For an excellent philosophical example of this, read Aristotle’s analysis of true friendship. The marriage model closely mirrors this.

In the midst of this, however, I think that it’s important to realize that the biological is a reflection of the spiritual. Just like God’s perfect love resulted in creation (after all, he did not need for us to exist), procreation is an extension or outpouring of the physical, mutual self-giving love of the spouses. That is why it is emphasized in the Church.

While I understand your concerns about childbirth, pregnancy, and biological children, all I can say is that pregnancy and birth are a part of the self-giving aspect of love. Your attitude may change with time (mine sure did). And you also may anticipate serious reasons for wanting to postpone pregnancy, which is fine because these decisions are context-dependent.

What is most important is this idea of giving yourself–physically and spiritually–to another. This will result in a whole that is bigger than its parts because true happiness in love is radiant (again, see Aristotle). Love gives. Love multiplies. And, indeed, it’s why we exist.

Being open to children – (even if it is through adoption) is what the Church requires.

You seem to meet that criteria.

So I believe that God and the Church will bless your marriage some day.

Well, right now I would be unable to get a Church marraige, because I am apostate, which might change or might not, considering I don’t plan on marraige until I am at least 26, but my boyfriend was raised Jewish, and has no interest in converting. I’ve just always been curious about it, and I do want to learn more about the Church, because it is how I was raised, and there were a lot of things I never understood, so I want to learn more about it.

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