Contraception

Hi everyone,

I’m a baptised Catholic and an active member of the Church. I have been reading more about Catholicism and the information has strengthened my faith a lot. In fact I’m so grateful that I can be part of the oldest Christian church on earth.

One thing that still doesn’t sit with me well however is the church’s teaching on contraception.

After some extensive reading about the teaching I came to a conclusion that it’s a question of the heart than a question of the method. I have also asked a priest that if I use NFP to deliberately avoid children then it’s a sin as well.

So - in my opinion - if using NFP and yet you can still sin, then the vice versa (ie. using condom but not sin) can also be true. The church teaches that by using condom I may treat my wife as an object which is not the case at all with me. It all comes back to the heart, doesn’t it? I guess everybody knows that it’s morally wrong to use condom to sleep around but also at the same token, if I’m totally genuine and using it purely to plan my family, I don’t see how it becomes wrong.

It’s like vasting. It sounds good that you vast, but when the time comes for you to eat, you can still sin by practicing gluttony.

The Bible verse on Onan and how he sinned before God was the fact that he was disobeying God’s command to have children and not so much about the fact that he put his sperm outside.

Therefore, can someone help me with this topic, please?

Thanks so much and God bless,
Steve

Hey, welcome to the forum :wink:

I’m a baptised Catholic and an active member of the Church. I have been reading more about Catholicism and the information has strengthened my faith a lot. In fact I’m so grateful that I can be part of the oldest Christian church on earth.

That’s great! I’m a convert myself, but the important thing is that we learn about our faith :thumbsup:

One thing that still doesn’t sit with me well however is the church’s teaching on contraception.

I pushed this Teaching under the carpet for some time, until more recently when I needed to reform alot of my behavior especially in the sexual department.

After some extensive reading about the teaching I came to a conclusion that it’s a question of the heart than a question of the method. I have also asked a priest that if I use NFP to deliberately avoid children then it’s a sin as well.

Well, was that a question for the priest or a statement? What did he reply?

So - in my opinion - if using NFP and yet you can still sin, then the vice versa (ie. using condom but not sin) can also be true. The church teaches that by using condom I may treat my wife as an object which is not the case at all with me. It all comes back to the heart, doesn’t it? I guess everybody knows that it’s morally wrong to use condom to sleep around but also at the same token, if I’m totally genuine and using it purely to plan my family, I don’t see how it becomes wrong.

You really should question your heart a little more. The reason it is wrong is because it shuts out the Will of God within the act of sex. Sex was fashioned to be procreative, yet not always. NFP is like a petition to the “not always” without artificially rendering the procreative possibility lame. When we use contraception to achieve rendering the natural function of sex lame, we are also spiritually rendering the possible Will of God lame. This is making the act of sex with our wife carnal.

Does that mean you don’t love your wife? Of course not. Does it mean you only consider her a sex object? No, but you are not keeping the act of sex open to faith in God, and St Paul tells us what does not come from faith is sin.

It’s like vasting. It sounds good that you vast, but when the time comes for you to eat, you can still sin by practicing gluttony.

Not sure your point here. Fasting is refraining from carnal food for the benefit of Spiritual food. Fasting is conditioning ourselves to resist the urges of carnal pleasures and benefits. It is a holy prayer to acknowledge our dependancy on God’s Spirit and recognize our fragile existence.

The Bible verse on Onan and how he sinned before God was the fact that he was disobeying God’s command to have children and not so much about the fact that he put his sperm outside.

Why did Onan have sex with her if he did not plan to honor his brother? He apparently wanted the sex, but not the consequenses. I don’t see this story as a smoking gun example against contraception, but it does have some elements which support it.

Thanks so much and God bless,
Steve

This is a very hard teaching for our generation to understand, for sure. You’ve learned a lot so far, but are you ready to consider that you may be a product of your era? Have you ever wondered on reading the OT how anybody could be so stupid as to walk across the seabed on dry land, see the waters drown a hostile army behind you and then a few months later decide to worship a golden calf made out of your old jewelry (Exodus)? Or more recently, have you wondered how decent ordinary Americans could consider the ownership of human beings as slaves to be a “state’s right” worth going to war over?

These are examples of the raw power of cultural conditioning. You and I and nearly everybody reading this have grown up in a culture that fundamentally misunderstands what sexual intimacy is. We are as blind to the issue as a southern plantation owner was to his issue.

What we refuse to see is that human sexuality is a complex spiritual and emotional ecosystem in which the physical and spiritual are tied up together in ways we can’t fully understand. When one uses contraception to change what otherwise would be a fertile sexual act into a sterile one, that sterility is more than skin deep. It fundamentally changes what that sexual encounter is and cheapens it into something less. This is utterly different than NFP that requires you to wait if your reason for not getting pregnant is serious.

Put it this way: the reason NFP is fundamentally different than contraception is precisely the reason you strongly desire to rationalize them as being the same! NFP makes you respect human sexuality as it is. Contraception is a statement that human sexuality is what we decide to make of it.

Welcome Steve,

Some years ago, in the midst of the Sexual (without love) Revolution, Hippies, anarchists and similar turned their backs on the Church. No one in authority mattered. Only their tribe. They dressed alike, smoked dope and used other illegal drugs and didn’t “need no piece uh paper tah live with my old lady.” Fornication was relabeled “performing natural acts.” This slavery to the flesh and fake utopian thinking was not missed by the Church in 1968. Pope Paul VI issued the following encyclical:

vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

Read it carefully. It was treated with great public hostility by a group of theologians 24 hours after publication who distorted what the Pope wrote, adding their own declarations. However, producers of The Pill had to sell product, followed by diaphragms, spermicidal foam, sponge, etc. The Pope warned what would happen if his words were not heeded. We’re living through it now.

In your particular case, I recommend the following from the National Catholic Bioethics Center: ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1124

Your intentions are understandable, but we live in a media culture that has buried the meaning of sex within marriage.

God bless,
Ed

This is an incorrect conclusion. It is not a sin to use natural family planning to avoid children.

not correct. Contraception is intrinsically evil. NFP is not.

That may be a result of contraception, but it is not the reason it is wrong.

No.

This is not correct.

every act of intercourse must be unaltered. You can choose to have intercourse or not, but if you do it must be unaltered. you can use the information gathered through observing fertility (NFP) to make that decision. There is no sin in deciding not to have intercourse. there is sin in deciding to have intercourse and altering it through contraception.

Yes, this is a difficult teaching. Like many faithful Catholics, you just try to understand it as well as you can, while obeying it as you are bound to do.

I’m not sure what you have read, but this is exactly the wrong way around!

The objection to contraception is everything to do with method (considered intrinsically evil), and not to do with intentions (or as you say, the heart).

This is a non sequitur. Which is to say, your conclusion does not logically follow from the premise.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should read Humanae Vitae:

vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

Thanks everyone for the clarification. Will read the Humanae Vitae link.

This explanation warrants more discussion, as it could be misleading, if misunderstood.

The issue that comes into play is the use of NFP in the avoidance of having children.

To be in accord with Church teaching, a couple must be open to having children, so to the OP’s point, it can very much be a matter of the heart.

The key is the “P” in NFP, which is “Planning”. It is not NFA with the “A” meaning avoidance.

If NFP is used to give a couple control in when to conceive it is fine. If NFP is used as a means of never having children, it indicates a break from the Church teaching of the openness to having children.

This is a very important distinction.

NFP is a means to responsibly avoid pregnancy, while not taking measures to block out the possibility of God’s Will to procreate through the act of sex which contraceptives do.

Contraceptives render the act unable to procreate. NFP remains open to the natural process of the life giving process of sex.

This is true broadly, but perhaps needs some clarification…

If a couple finds they have a serious reason for avoiding pregnancy (eg any pregnancy carries serious health concerns for the mother), and that reason persists indefinitely, then NFP may be licitly used as a means of never having children.

(noting that a couple cannot validly marry with a permanent intention against having children, so the above might presume the condition arose later, or perhaps was a known condition but they hoped to overcome it).

Bad intentions can morally corrupt any naturally good act. For instance, if I give to charity because I want to be seen as a charitable person and thought highly of by others, then I would be doing a good thing for bad reasons, hence doing a bad thing, like the Pharisees who made a show of donating bags of coins to the temple. This is why using NFP with a “contraceptive mentality” (i.e., “We’ll just use NFP for a few years so we can backpack through Europe”) is bad.

But good intentions cannot legitimate an act that is naturally bad. For instance, desiring to bring about justice in a nation is a good thing, but doing so by vigilantism is not, it is lawlessnes, hence evil.

So to say that good intentions can make contraception OK relies on the unstated presupposition that contraception is at worst morally neutral in itself. In other words, to make this argument cogently, you’d have to be prepared to argue that it is a matter of indifference to God that you artificially separate the procreative act from the logical end toward which its ordered.

In brief, fertility charting does not prevent pregnancy.

Catholic birth control is periodic abstinence. Everything else is Onanism and thus sinful.

Timing the practice of your birth control to a better developed knowledge of the woman’s menstrual cycle is not immoral. It is like looking at your check book register and seeing how much money you have left before you make a purchase or don’t make a purchase. “Oh I want this impulse buy, but you know what. I don’t have the funds right now. I better wait for that next paycheck.”

That’s all it is.

More thoughts on this here:
embersofincense.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/avoiding-pregnancy/

stevepeter83 #1
I’m so grateful that I can be part of the oldest Christian church on earth.

It is nor merely the oldest, it is the only Church established by Jesus the Christ the Son of God – the only one with His chosen Magisterium with the fullness of His teaching.

One thing that still doesn’t sit with me well however is the church’s teaching on contraception.

Therefore, which mere mortal can even think of challenging His teaching through His Catholic Church?

if using NFP and yet you can still sin, then the vice versa (ie. using condom but not sin) can also be true

Using the true method for the wrong reasons doesn’t make it right – true faith requires also right reasoning.

The Bible verse on Onan and how he sinned before God was the fact that he was disobeying God’s command to have children and not so much about the fact that he put his sperm outside.

Such a false feeling shows ignorance of the facts:
Therefore, can someone help me with this topic, please?
Certainly – listen, learn and love.

**ONAN
Answer by Fr. John Echert on May, 3, 2008 (EWTN): **
“The penalty imposed by Mosaic Law was not a death sentence upon the guilty brother but public humiliation–a far cry from execution. This leads us to conclude that the death punishment upon Onan was not for his failure to raise up posterity for his deceased brother, but for the crime of wasting the seed upon the ground–a primitive and vulgar form of contraception. Incidentally, with regards to contraception, many people today are ignorant of the fact that many forms of contraception actually act as an abortifacient–they kill the newly conceived child in some manner.”

Thanks everyone for all the reply. I have also read the Humanae Vitae, what a powerful letter.

I guess I understand now where the Church stands with contraception. So two things I have learnt:

  • Contraception is the very method that is immoral; and even if the heart is still correct but using this method on its own is already immoral.

  • NFP is made available for couple to plan their family and for not abusing to permanently avoiding children (ie. hence the question of the heart)

My next question is then, once you have 1 child then can you use NFP to deliberately avoiding future pregnancy?

Steve

It is not a function of the number of children you have. It is a function of the principles laid out in HV regarding just reasons for spacing/avoiding children. It is possible for a couple to have no children, 1 child, 2 children, 10 children and avoid future pregnancies licitly or illicitly. It depends entirely upon that couple’s situation.

If you want some really heavy reading on this topic, I would buy “Why Humanae Vitae was Right” which has a compilation of essays based around Humanae Vitae and even a few published prior to the encyclical.

Contraception is the most contentious issue in Catholic sexual ethics. It is so contentious that it’s actually easier to deal with than issues such as gay marriage or abortion, because it’s so unpopular that people generally don’t consider you a threat and instead view the idea of being opposed to contraception as sweet and eccentric.

I am personally absolutely convinced that all other matters of sexual ethics: continence before marriage, fidelity within marriage, permanency of marriage, man and woman marriage and even topics such as polygamy and bestiality, no longer make sense in a moral context if we are not also willing to acknowledge the need for a husband and wife to be open to life. Theologically, the question is this: did Christ marry the Church without the intention of bearing fruit?

I agree that couples have a duty to procreate. What I do not agree with is that couples must try to procreate every time they have sex. So they chose not to procreate when they had sex this Tuesday. How does that make their marriage any less open to life if they already have 4 children, and are preparing to become pregnant with their fifth in three months?

How is abstaining for long periods of time being open to life?

Can you argue that the Duggar family did not bear fruit if you learned that they used a condom two or three times?

The teaching about being “open to life” would be far more sensible, in my opinion, if it emphasized a couple’s positive duty to procreate, and not their negative duty to refrain from having sex in a certain way.

Procreating makes a marriage procreative. Having sex in more than one way does not make a marriage non-procreative.

But bearing fruit doesn’t always mean having children though? Being light to the world around us, ministering at Church, helping the poor, etc are also forms of bearing fruit, aren’t they?

I’m asking because in the world today, the reality is having children to some people is a huge burden. And in fact, I’ve seen many couples who are comitting grave sins eg. adultery, affair, etc because of the effect of the responsibilities of having children eg. financial difficulty, etc.

So isn’t it then coming back to the question of the heart ie. you’re still open to life but your circumstance is currently not supporting you?

I guess nobody can judge; the Church can’t judge; it all comes back to between you and God.

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