Is this sufficient reason for using NFP?


Pope Pius XII said we need “grave” reasons, as did Pope Paul VI. Pope John Paul II’s catechism said we need “just” reasons, while his Pontifical Council for the Family used both “serious” and “proportionately serious.” So I think I can confidently say that a motive for resorting to NFP must be grave, seeing as serious and grave are, in morality, basically the same thing. The problem is, beyond financial solvency and health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), we are given little guidance as to what constitutes serious reasons.

I have a particular issue in mind, and while I know you will probably hesitate to pronounce on specifics, I figured I would ask your opinion. My sister plans on being a doctor and is under the impression that she can stop having children whenever she feels like it because her job will always be a reason not to have children. But if her job is not necessary to support the family, can she opt to use NFP solely in order to be able to continue working? That seems like preventing more children in order to keep up with a really demanding hobby or buy another boat. Since I know her chosen profession is actually a very valuable one that might factor in to the decision, I think the most useful question for all cases would be, “In general, may one use NFP to space births solely for the purpose of being able to pursue a chosen profession?”


Dear Andreas,

Basically, what you are asking is: what constitutes selfish motivation? In itself, pursuing a chosen profession is certainly morally neutral. But the morality of our actions always take place within a context. In the case of one who has chosen to marry, any choices one makes after such a sacred and life-directing decision must be in harmony with the generosity of that first choice. Once a couple has pronounced their marriage vows at the altar, such self-donation remains the context in which they will live the rest of their lives together. Generosity is the key. Christian marriage is a sign of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church, for which He denied Himself all things to the point of dieing for Her.

Does putting one’s marriage vows on hold simply for the satisfaction of doing ANYTHING sound in harmony with such vows? It doesn’t matter how useful such a latter choice might be.
One has already made a covenant that he or she owes to God Himself. One is no longer the free agent that he or she was before the marriage. That commitment actually means something that cannot be denied as the result of a later personal fancy—without offending the One before whom the vows were made!

Fr. Vincent Serpa. O.P.

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