Contraception vs. NFP


I was questioned by a coworker the other about they Church being against contraceptives like condoms, etc. But if Catholics are using NFP for "birth control" to purposefully avoid pregnancy then what's the difference in using the other forms of birth control available? I did my best to explain the self giving aspect and the spiritual aspect but wasn't sure how else to respond. Anyone have any ideas?


Here's the section in the Catechism that discusses this:

And some quotes:

The spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

    When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156

"By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood."157

Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:159

    Thus the innate LANGUAGE that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory LANGUAGE, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160

So that's the "official teaching" of the church... does that help or confuse you more?


I was told by my favorite priest wasting sperm is a sin. I was asking questions about ABC. Personally, I dont agree with NFP because that is still purposely only having sex on days know you cant get pregnant which to me would be wasting sperm. Gee since I don’t agree with NFP then that makes me a cafeteria catholic.


[quote="BrushedByAngels, post:3, topic:237959"]
I was told by my favorite priest wasting sperm is a sin. I was asking questions about ABC. Personally, I dont agree with NFP because that is still purposely only having sex on days know you cant get pregnant which to me would be wasting sperm. Gee since I don't agree with NFP then that makes me a cafeteria catholic.


that is the extent of your disagreement and education about the topic? you are willing to deny papal infallibility and claim the Holy SPirit cannot prevent the church from teaching error (which Christ promised in Matthew 16) over this? Disagreeing with a church teaching is indeed picking and choosing what you want to believe.

Do you think that people should only have relations when they are fertile? what about those that have trouble conceiving? Is all that sperm wasted so its sinful? Your logic doesn't go anywhere.


In the bible wasting sperm is a sin… God punished by death.


The purpose of semen is reproduction, it is important. Therefore, to release semen in such a way that reproduction cannot result is bad and if it is done by choice, it is a sin. This addresses masturbation as well as unnatural sexual practices, withdrawl and condoms (since the semen does not actually at any point enter the woman, reproduction cannot result). Contraception, depending on which method is uses, also violates other principles of Natural Law.

For instance, there is a principle of Natural Law that states that beings like remaining how they are. I don't want to chop off my arm because I'm better with my arm and unless someone is mentally ill, they don't want to chop off their own arm either. For me to lose my arm is an objective evil, it could happen in an industrial accident (in which case it would just be an accident, no sin) or I could cut off my arm or someone could attack me and cut off my arm (in these cases, it is deliberate and there is no good reason, therefore it is sinful). But if I mangled my arm in a piece of machinery and a surgeon had to amputate it, lest I die from infection, then it is okay (the whole is greater than its parts).

Losing a function of the soul (the soul is the life-principle that makes the difference between a corpse and a living person) is an objective evil. So to deliberately block a morally-significant function of the soul without sufficient reason is sinful. This goes from getting drunk (restricting/blocking the use of reason) to sterilization or hormonal contraception (blocking the use of the reproductive ability). There are justifying reasons why someone could get drunk (say, someone has to amputate my arm in an emergency and there is no anesthesia but there is a handy bottle of rum) and there are justifying reasons why someone could be sterilized (e.g. removing uterine or ovarian cancer). The whole is greater than the parts, it is better for me to get drunk than to be in agony and die of shock amputating my arm without anesthesia, it is better for me to have a hysterectomy than die of uterine cancer.

So we cannot do anything which is either an act which does not lead to reproduction or do anything to actively attack our reproductive abilities (which is like cutting off our own arm -- it is self-mutilation if there is not sufficient reason, like cancer). So this eliminates all forms of contraception.

It is however, not illicit to have marital relations if a woman is naturally not fertile. Perhaps she is entirely unable to have children, perhaps she is too old (although Hannah and Elizabeth are good counter-examples!) or perhaps she is just at that point in her monthly cycle where she is not very likely to conceive.

The very basic way a woman can check to see how likely she is to conceive is by counting the days since her period started. This is called the rhythm method. A more sophisticated approach involves charts, ovarian tests (which look like pregnancy tests) and temperature readings to draw a complicated picture of fertility. This system can be used when a woman is trying to get pregnant (so she and her husband can focus on those days) or when she is trying not to get pregnant (so she and her husband can avoid those days). This is called "Natural Family Planning" (NFP).

However, that doesn't mean a couple can just avoid having marital relations to avoid having children for any reason, the purpose of marriage is to have and raise children. Indeed if one or both spouses have no intention of having children at all when they are married, the wedding is invalid and they are not really married (although alleged [putative] marriages are considered valid until shown otherwise, so no worries). The couple even has a debt to pay to society to have children, if possible, so purposefully avoiding having children requires a sufficiently grave reason to do so (just like I can't cut off my arm unless I have a good reason -- "I just felt like it one day" doesn't count). So if a woman is at a high risk of complications if she gets pregnant, including that she may die, it is okay to abstain from marital relations even for the remainder of the marriage. Or the husband might be out of work or underemployed and another mouth to feed could put them all out on the street. Or they are living in China and the Chinese government will murder their child if they have more than one. Thus there are legitimate reasons people have to avoid having (more) children. But even if they have a legitimate reason, they can only avoid having children by abstaining from marital relations during the more fertile times and not through unnatural sex or contraception.

I hope this clears things up.


The Church does not oppose birth control-- which is the spacing and planning of children. This is called the end. There are moral and immoral **means **of achieving the end. Abstaining from intercourse is a moral means, contraception is an immoral means.

The **end **of feeding one’s family is moral. The **means **of working for pay is a moral means of feeding one’s family. The **means **of robbing a bank or selling drugs is an immoral means of feeding one’s family.

One may never do evil so that good may come from it. The means must be moral, not just the ends.


“Wasting sperm” is not the sin…

The church teaches that marital union must be both “procreative and unitive”… ABC disassociates the unitive and procreative aspects… NFP does not.
Understanding this more fully may involve learning more about how the church defines the terms “unitive” and “procreative”… those details come from several documents and encyclicals that are referenced in the catechism…


This is not accurate.

The sin of Onan is contraception, not “wasting sperm.”


Okay, I gotcha… so God does not agree with the withdrawl method.

My premarital counseling we were told every time we were to have marital sex we should be open to have children… (however this was over 20 yrs ago.)

Maybe our priest was trying to get the point across? I don’t know. I’m just glad I am no longer married to have to deal with this as I know at my age I am definitely not open to having more children. I’ll die single and celibate.


[quote="BrushedByAngels, post:10, topic:237959"]
My premarital counseling we were told every time we were to have marital sex we should be open to have children... (however this was over 20 yrs ago.)


Yes, this is accurate. Each act of marital intimacy must be both unitive and procreative. You cannot separate the elements. If you have intercourse without altering it in any way, it is objectively procreative.

This does not mean you have to be overtly trying to have a child in order to have intercourse. I believe sometimes people misunderstand this distinction.


:thumbsup: Exactly.
This is why I mentioned in my post above about truly learning what the church teaches regarding the terms “unitive” and “procreative”…

The fact that a woman’s fertility is cyclical has no bearing on *how *the act of marital intercourse is preformed. The act should always be preformed in a “unitive” and “procreative” manner… the wife may, or may not, be fertile at that moment… that is irrelevant.


[quote="1ke, post:9, topic:237959"]
This is not accurate.

The sin of Onan is contraception, not "wasting sperm."


It's my understanding that the sin of Onanism is also about eschewing one's duty and disobeying God. Onan had a Judaic duty to his brother and his brother's wife to sire children on behalf of his dead brother.


Thats why I should never marry again (or rather get back together with my ex) because I know I never want to have anymore children. Therefore I will never have sex again. I am totally not open to the idea of having children.


Oy vey, even priests are getting their catholic sexual morality instruction from Monty Python now? (Actually, that might explain a lot…)

“Wasting the sperm” isn’t the sin. Otherwise we’d have to prohibit sex for couples past menopause or after hysterectomies, no? :wink: The sin is when a couple desires the pleasure and unity of the sexual bond, but purposely takes steps to render it sterile so as to divorce sex from procreation, making it ALL about the pleasure. This doesn’t happen in NFP as the couple must consent to GIVE UP their desire in deference to the serious reason they’ve identified not to have another kid at the moment.

In short, NFP is acceptable while ABC is not for PRECISELY the same reason people are so desperate to rationalize the use of ABC instead of NFP. People KNOW they aren’t the same, or there wouldn’t be such controversy.


Excuse my ignorance but what's ABC?


[quote="Timonator348, post:16, topic:237959"]
Excuse my ignorance but what's ABC?


Artificial Birth Control


I think it would be more proper to say that people don’t see the difference between the two, myself being one of vast number of them. Having marital relations to coincide with infertile times and using (non-abortificant) ABC have the same exact intent. Different means, same intent, same end.


The intent and the end are not intrinsically immoral.


One is moral, the other is not.


[quote="1ke, post:19, topic:237959"]
The intent and the end are not intrinsically immoral.


One is moral, the other is not.


Actually, it is not moral in and of itself, due to the Church placing conditions on it.

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