When a couple receives the sacrament of marriage, they “pledge” to intend to have children. I know there are couples with 10+ children and they are said to be “true Catholics”, because they don’t interfere with God’s blessing them with more children, but
What about the many couples who don’t want to have any more children? After 2-3 children they use either temporary or permanent birth control.
What about the couples who use natural family planning as a form of birth control? Even though it is natural, doesn’t this still mean that they are “interfering” with God’s plan to bless them with more children?
Does any of the scenarios described above, render the sacrament of marriage null, becuse the couple does NOT intent to CONTINUE to have children? Or is it ok to only have a few, and then take necesary precautions to not have any more?
I’m not a canon lawyer, but my understanding is that in the scenarios you describe, the marriage would NOT be null and void, and would remain valid.
Couples who use artificial birth control would (objectively) be committing a sin, but their marriage would remain valid and binding.
Couples who use NFP for whatever reason are, most likely, NOT committing a sin. They are not “interfering with God’s plan” because when they do have sex, it remains open to life. Couples are not obligated to have a set number of children or to get pregnant whenever they possibly can. They can practice temporary or periodic abstinence if it would be unwise or medically dangerous to get pregnant at any given time.
How many children a couple has is not necessarily a barometer of whether or not they are “true Catholics.” Some very devoted, “true Catholic” couples have very few children or none at all due to miscarriages and infertility.
The only time that not intending to have children renders a marriage null and void is if one or both parties at the time of the wedding is resolved that they absolutely do not ever want children.
That is not the same as a couple having one or two children and then deciding LATER not to have more. As long as their intention at the time of the marriage was to have children or at least be open to the idea, their marriage is valid.
They grant rights to a natural (and non-sinful form of) conjugal act apt for procreation, which act also seals the marriage:
“Can. 1061 §1. A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.”
Preservation of Mankind
They agree to accept and educate children that result in the Catholic faith. But there are some just reasons for which they are exempt. It is not wrong to abstain from conjugal relations when mutually agreed on because there is no denial to grant the conjugal rights when asked for (when charitable and just), but it is wrong to commit the marital act itself when corrupted. Also natural family planning may be used sometimes.
Sterilization is a grave matter, so is use of birth control devices and drugs (and it can also result in abortion), but natural family planning or total abstinance (including having no children) might be justifiable.
Pope Pius XII (my bold):
Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.
“The Medical indication [for NFP] is a serious danger to the health or the life of the mother, diagnosed by a doctor, qualified either from a scientific point of view or from a moral point of view. In such a case the obligation “of providing for the preservation of mankind” (621) ceases, because a woman is not obliged, by the matrimonial contract, to expose herself to dangers or injury which are not ordinarily part of maternity.”
(621) Courier de Rome, June 1991, p.2, cited in Papal Teaching: Matrimony. Selected and arranged by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, trans. Michael J. Byrnes. Boston: St. Paul Books, 1963.