Family size as "evidence" of ABC use

I just want to get this off my chest.

I have seen in more than one thread, posters pointing out that Catholics MUST be using ABC, due to the fact that they only have 1 or 2 children. Or, that they are using NFP as birth control for reasons that aren’t truly “legitimate.”

This really annoys me. How in the world can you know by looking at someone what their fertility situation is, or what their sex life is like???

I am just one person, but I know MANY women who are not using ABC, but have only 1 or 2 children. I know MANY people who have struggled with infertility. The one or two children that do have are a blessing and a miracle. For example:

  1. I know a couple who were married for 13 years and NEVER used ABC, and never got pregnant. They thought they were infertile, and accepted that. Miraculously, the wife became pregnant for the first time at the age of 41.

  2. A friend of mine got married at 33, and then had a lot of difficulty conceiving, but finally did at age 35. When trying to conceive a second child with no luck for several years, they sought out a specialist who told her she was in the late stages of menopause! At 37 years old!!! They said that’s why they had trouble conceiving the first child – she was already going through the change even then! They told her her chances of conceiving another child are pretty much nil, she has almost no eggs anymore.

  3. Another friend has 2 kids - she had to take medication to force ovulation in order to conceive them. She and her husband use no BC, but probably will never conceive another child.

  4. My best friend has 2 children and wanted more, but doctors advised against it, because she has a heart defect that they discovered after her 2nd was born. She looks totally fine, healthy and fit. She & her husband have used NFP and have not conceived again, for 10+ years. You would NEVER know by looking at her that she is ill in any way.

  5. My cousin is totally infertile due to a childhood illness. You would never know by looking at her.

  6. Another friend has two kids, but has had FIVE miscarriages.

Family size is a totally ridiculous way to gauge what individual Catholics are doing. I wish people would stop looking at other people in the pews, and making judgments based on the number of kids. Not everyone is being selfish or defying the church just because they don’t have 6 or 7 kids!!!

Oh, and one last thing – in prior generations, people got married a lot younger, and therefore had-- let’s see-- probably 10 more years of high fertility in their marriages! A lot easier to have 6 or 7 kids if you start at 21 than if you start at 31!!!


AMEN! I lost count of the number of times other people have presumed my husband and I must be practicing ABC because we have only one child. One of his coworkers asked hubby for advice on getting a vascetomy assuming hubby had one.

To flip it, it equally annoys me that people think they’re being “cute” when they say to a parents of multiples that they have this new invention called birth control. Just maybe the couple actually wanted a large family.

I never judge! Most people probably assume me and my husband contracept… still in our 20’s married almost 4 years and no kids yet. I just have a very regular cycle so NFP has been pretty easy to regulate. Even when we try to not pay attention to where I am at in my cycle, it is impossible for me to not know I ovulated ( I even get middle pains).

Two married couples were are close to are Catholic, and I know for a fact that both use ABC. They know this is against the Church’s teachings, and neither care. One couple even attended required NFP classes prior to their marriage and still chose to discard it. Both couples also lived together before marriage. How is it they pick and choose what to follow? I assume this is common amongst many Catholics.

Your assumption is exactly what this thread is about. Many of us Catholics are just plain tired of hearing about assumptions and polls and statistics concerning Catholics practicing ABC. Its one thing for you to have first hand knowledge about two couples practicing ABC. But please practice some courtesy and don’t assume you know what other Catholics are doing and not doing when it comes to ABC based on their family size.

If you’re a gambling man then you can bet on a couple using ABC. There are always outliers but the majority of Catholic couples are using ABC. It isn’t being rude it is simply making a reasonable assumption based on what you know. I think that it is a fair assumption, after all, with contraceptive use among Catholics upwards of 90%.

You have anything to back this up?

Two questions:

Do you agree with Church teaching on contraception?

Can you back up your assertion that 90% of Catholics use ABC?

True, but consider the older couple who may have only come to the realization that artificial contraception was sinful or may have come to accept the Church’s teaching and repented only after it was too late to have more children.

In my case, I sit at the dining room table, especially at holidays with only four of the eight chairs full, thinking about what the kids who would have filled those now empty chairs would have been like. Having lost a four year old daughter to Leukemia makes it even worse I often crave the love those unknown children would have given me, children whom God had planned but whom I prevented from being born out of convenience and lust. It makes me incredibly sad and I wish I could go back in time.

Family size may be an indicator of past or present use of artificial contraception but it is not an indication of the state of someone’s heart nor of God’s disposition toward them. Please don’t judge.


I think it is wrong to assume a particular couple is contracepting, but it not a bad guess to assume that many are, as many of us have a story similar to what freethinker is saying.

Thank you, I should have worded it better. Although I would say that when I look at any couple married or otherwise I generally assume that they are using ABC. This does not apply to Catholics, but everyone. It is my “default” assumption so to speak. I think this is probably true amonst my generation as ABC seems to be the default. I was born in 1983 and I didn’t even hear of NFP until a year or two ago.

And many of us have stories similar to what the OP said in the very first post in this thread. This isn’t a thread to argue about how many Catholic use ABC. This thread is more of a rant against people assuming that because a family may have only two, one or even no children, then they must be part of the statistics that so many people want to quote about the number of Catholics practicing ABC. Its insulting to couples that have a small family, through no fault of their own, that they must be practicing ABC. That’s the whole point of this thread. We’re tired of people assuming we are Catholics and practicing ABC just by looking at us and our family size.

You are right - I agree completely with you - that no one should look at your family size and assume anything. I will add for arguments sake that of the couples I know who use ABC or are sterilized have many kids. They feel they have been as open to life as they should be and are done. They’ve been duped. NFP failed. Whatever.

I suppose you could argue that the number of Catholics using ABC should be kept out of this discussion because that’s not really the reason the thread was started, however, people who are Catholic and are using ABC are the reason why people assume that you are using it. It’s their fault. That is why it creeps into the discussion.

It may be a fair statistical assumption, but that makes it no less charitable.

There are many good Catholic couples struggling with infertility. I’ve heard stories from faithful Catholic married couples, childless after 5-7-10 years of infertility (often involving crosses like miscarriage, stillbirth, and failed adoption) who feel left out of the Church and their parish life. Think about it, so much of parish life centers on family life, and childless married couples have a very different family life.

It certainly doesn’t help a person to feel more welcome in her parish community when she thinks (ahem, KNOWS) that at least a few people look at her family of two (or three, or four) and assume that they are SINNING by using ABC.

I thank God every day for the gift of my daughter, and feel so blessed to have finally escaped the prying eyes of fellow Catholics–even friends and acquaintances who know us well–who more than likely presumed we were contracepting or using NFP with “insufficient justification”.

The quality of someone’s parenting or the state of their soul should not be presumed based on their number of children. Good post, OP.

Yes and yes…

The overall findings from the 2002 NSFG indicate that US RC women between the ages of 15-44 have patterns of use of contraceptive methods similar to those of US women in general.

If I must assume that somebody is using a method of family planning I will assume they are using ABC.

What I found interesting but not surprising is that RC women who frequently attend church are more likely to use sterilization… One sin, confess, and then done.

What is startling in these findings, however, is that RC women who have frequent church attendance and who view their religion as very important had more frequent (38-69%) “ever use” of female sterilization.

One reason that “faithful” RC women - those who frequent church and believe that their religion is very important - had more frequent use of sterilization (than less-faithful Catholics) is that sterilization is a one-time event. Couples can have the sterilization surgery, confess to a priest, and then be back in the grace of God and the Church. The constant use of the pill and/or condoms, on the other hand, requires either frequent confession or a guilty conscience. This sterilization and one-time forgiveness process was first speculated by Professor Leslie Woodcock Tentler (from Catholic University of America) in her book Catholics and Contraception; An American History.7

But why MUST you assume anything?

I know a Catholic couple who wants 12 children, but they only have four, and it took them years just to conceive the first one. They got married right out of college, so there weren’t the fertility issues that older women have. The other children followed at a normal pacing, and now I guess God doesn’t have more children for them.

Sometimes God doesn’t give us children, even if couples want or are open to having more children. Some people are meant to have large families (6, 7+ kids), others small families (0-2 children). I think the propaganda for birth control makes people believe that if you don’t stay on birth control you will have [at least] one kid every year until menopause, but that’s not true. I think it’s the birth control media that is teaching us this, to scare people into buying their products and staying on them. I bet before ABC many people knew that you don’t always have kids even if you’re open to having kids/more kids.

OT- I think people who can’t have kids or want more kids but can’t conceive should consider adoption. Especially babies from Russia. They sit in cribs and are left alone for 4 hours at a time, then someone comes in to give them a bottle and a diaper change. They are not held, and because of this many orphans grow up with emotional attachment problems; people need to either adopt babies or volunteer to visit and hold the children.

Fair enough, Tim. Great post.

Au contraire, it is being rude, because you are making an assumption based on gross generalizations, not anything you know. Besides, the topic itself is something which is absolutely none of your business. Why would it be your concern? Because you’re not using ABC and want to feel better about yourself? Because you are using ABC and want to feel better about yourself? What possible excuse could you have?

The average single person in this country has sex 49 times a year. Do you look at the single people in your parish and think, “And I bet I know what *you’ve *been up to!” Because you think it but don’t say it, you think that’s not rude? Look around at the other people in your parish some time, and imagine all the unflattering things they could be “gambling” on concerning your moral life. I don’t think the though would make you feel loved, whether they were right or wrong, would it? So what excuse could we have for making these kinds of bets?

I do know this feeling that people assume you are using ABC or abusing NFP. There is not really anything to do about it , I just move on. What are you going to say? “We’re infertile” or “we don’t have sex”. Non of their business. If they outright ask, I would be happy to tell them, but when you say “we have 2 kids”…and they respond “Oh”:rolleyes: it is kind of annoying. If your thinking something ask, if you are unwilling to ask to confirm -then don’t think it.

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