Morality of total abstinence?

A NFP question:

From the perspective of Church teaching, is it allowed to abstain from marital intercourse for longer periods (like 1 to 3 years) in order to avoid further pregnancies at the moment? Compared to normal periodic abstinence, this method would give 100% certainity not to get pregnant. However, is it distrust towards God’s guidance? In the normal periodic abstinence, there is always at least a chance of pregnancy, if God allows that.

i don’t know for sure. I think it has to do with the reason. it is probably understandable if a pregnancy would be life-threatening. But again, i don’t know for sure. I don’t want to discourage you by not being able to answer.

Wow, I would hope that that wouldn’t be the case. Sex in marriage is for BOTH conjugal love and procreation. The intimacy that would be lost within that period of time might be damaging to one or both spouses. I don’t know that much about NFP, but just using reason would allow me to rethink that option…teachccd

For some elderly couples it may involuntarily last a lot more than three years. Count your blessings if every three years this is the day!

Total abstinence is most certainly allowed in marriage. Many married couples have foregone marital relations for the sake of the kingdom. I don’t have the reference handy but I think the first married couple to be canonized chose marital continence after their children were grown.

If you are asking that if a couple has extremely serious reason to delay pregnancy can they abstain completely during those 3 years they are waiting. Then the answer is YES. If they, as St. Paul says, “by mutual consent” decided that their reason for delaying pregnancy is so serious that they must not, under any circumstances, conceive then yes they can and should abstain indefinitely. Trusting in God does not mean to be blissfully ignorant. It means to use His resources with faith and according to His design.

A couple must enter marriage open to children. Something that happens after marriage can change that. An example: if I were to find out that I had an aggressive form of cancer that required aggressive treatment I would abstain completely. If I were to discover cancer after I had conceived I can only hope that I could be saintly and forgo treatment until after the baby’s birth. Abstaining during cancer treatment is certainly not sinful (nor is receiving treatment while pregnant sinful. It is just saintly to wait.)

NFP is periodic continence. Three years between marital relations is also periodic continence. It is just a much longer period of continence. The bottom line is that there is one, and only one, way to prevent pregnancy: abstinence. The abstinence rule applies to everyone: married, single, and consecrated celibates.

Again, the Church has never taught that we must have as many babies as humanly possible. The Church HAS always taught that the marital act is primarily for making babies. And She says, (the Church) that anytime we engage in the marital act we must be open to its natural end, which is a new life.

I hope that helps.

This is something I have always wondered about. Is it OK to abstain if a family already has 10 children they can’t support?

Yes, this is acceptable if both spousees mutually consent.

Remember, spouses have a right to conjugal relations, so the abstinence can only be by mutual agreement.

Yep, and a good idea as well.

With 10 kids, I’d think:

A) The parents would be too tired.

B) The parents coundn’t find time or privacy.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit