Natural Family Planning for "Serious" Reasons

The Church teaches that spouses may space births with Natural Family Planning for “serious” reasons.
"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.”*— Pope Pius XII in his “Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives” in 1951

Maybe it’s just me, but medical, eugenic, economic, and social reasons seems to pretty much cover all the reasons a couple might choose to use NFP. :shrug: So what are some of the non-serious reasons a couple might choose to use NFP for that are forbidden by the Church?

I wouldn’t worry about it until you have to discern it yourself.

NFP isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. You still have to abstain. It becomes a question of what you and your spouse need to prioritize. Generally, from what I’ve experienced and heard, the more serious the reason, the easier abstinence is.

Simcha Fisher’s The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning is a great resource.

I’ve confessed using nfp sinfully. I know of others as well.

I thought NFP was the thing to do? How can it be sinful?

Obviously speaking or marriage here.

It creates endless debate. “Contraceptive mentality” serious/ just/ grave. Etc. like anything it can be abused or used incorrectly.

Also. Nfp is not the " thing to do" it’s the exception. It does not have to be employed at all. But it can be employed in a merciful just way.

Rather than “lecture” let me try to actually answer your question (then maybe a little lecture :slight_smile: )

Non serious reasons:

  1. We have enough money to either go on that beach vacation or have a baby next year. “Go buy some condoms honey, or betty yet, let’s use NFP”

  2. " Gee it sure would be nice to have that third car. I’m thinking Lamborghini." But I can’t afford the copay on our insurance for a pregnancy and the car insurance too. “Better hire the contractor to expand the garage honey, because we can just use NFP”.

  3. I really like babies but the occasional morning sickness for those first couple of months is a bummer. “I think I’ll use NFP to not get pregnant.”

That said, NFP is an appropriate way to avoid pregnancy for the proper reasons and exactly what those reasons are is left ENTIRELY to the prudential decision of the couple.

According to various sources, more than 90% of American’s have used some sort of Artificial Birth Control during some point in their fertile years. Catholics, obviously, are part of this group. Generation X couples are much more likely to want their children to have the same opportunities that they have had. Put it this way, a couple who are both college educated will want their children to be college educated as well. They want their kids to go to the best elementary schools, high schools and participate in activities that help make their lives healthy and meaningful. What this means is that usually two or three kids would be the maximum in order to provide the kids with the opportunities that the majority of parents want for their offspring. Is wanting your children to go to the best schools or have vacations that help form their view of the world good enough reasons for using any kind of birth control whether it is natural or artificial? In my singular opinion, of course it is. Do I also think that a couple who makes 50K a year and has 8 kids is selfish, yes I do. I’m just as judgemental as those who think that couples with only a child or two must be sinning by using contraception except I think I’m being rational while I’m sure those who don’t worry about any kind of family planning think I’m advocating for continuing sinful behavior. If you are like the Duggar family on TV and education and living a well rounded life is not important, then obviously my argument fails. Thank goodness that most people do not follow the pedophile leader of the Quiverfull group as they do. :eek:

50K in some areas of this country goes a LOT farther than other areas, so this seems a curious line to determine someone’s selfishness.

IIRC, though, as family size increases household income increases. This is likely because by the time someone gets to a family that large, they are in their peak earning years.

The Church doesn’t put a hard line on it. It’s up to couples to discern and figure out together as they go along.

For the record, my husband and I are TTA (trying to avoid) for the first time ever in our marriage - up until now we’ve been TTW (trying to “whatever” :p). I’ve found that this is a great opportunity for both of us, but especially me, to learn to practice self-control. Before now I’ve always been pregnant or breastfeeding has suppressed my cycles, so my level of interest was subdued by those hormones. Now that’s not happening, so believe me, we’re revisiting frequently whether this is the best path for us. But it is (as I just mentioned in another thread, God gave us free will for a reason, and we don’t have to just fall in with our whims - even when they are a good like the union of husband and wife) because we have some things that do need to be taken care of. (No, it’s not a fancy vacation. :p)

That was a dissapointing post. I’m saddened by it.
Your definition of selfishness and your defamation was surprising to me.

Too bad.



I am one of those with 9 kids and under 50K/yr income. You are calling me selfish. Could you please explain why you think that? I have heard this from many people and I truly do want to understand. I have strived my entire life to be generous in all I do, both at home with family and outside of the home, yet I’ve had many call me selfish for having many kids. What is it about being generous in childbearing (according to many popes) that is viewed as selfish or greedy to so many others (including Catholics)?


I agree! :slight_smile:

I think making sure you can provide good opportunities for your children and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck is a valid reason to limit family size. Not everyone makes that choice, though. Everyone has different priorities. And purchasing power varies by region, so I don’t think drawing a hard line at 50k makes sense. We’d qualify for housing assistance here if we made that little, and we only have one child.


What if that beach vacation is to celebrate overcoming cancer and extended unemployment and most of the cost is being supplied by relatives?

The second thing doesn’t even make sense. And the third is simply mean. If anything, women with the blessing of easy, nearly sickness-free, comfortable pregnancies are more likely to have more rather than fewer kids.


I think that #1 is VERY unlikely. The couple is happy to use condoms, but just happens to decide that NFP (with abstinence at least 1/2 the time) is “easier”?

For #2, there’s no way that the copay costs would cover a Lamborghini. It would cover a modest used domestic sedan.

#3–“occasional morning sickness.” HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Edited to add: For #1, it’s important to note that one can’t just decide to “use NFP.” You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you’re going to “use NFP”–there’s almost certainly going to be substantial abstinence while the couple figures stuff out. When you are already a married couple enjoying a normal marital life, starting to do NFP is like getting on a freight train while it’s in motion. Hence the usual recommendation to get as many months charted as possible before marriage. And that goes double or triple for postpartum women or perimenopausal women.

It’s hard because this subject in particular is do loaded, situational, and private. But judgement goes both ways here.
I think it’s better to not cite paycheck to paycheck as a reason. For the vast majority of the world and history we bring forth children into sheer opulence compared to others. God asks us to be generous with life. It’s up to a couple to judge what that means. Ultimately, God is the only one that reason matters to. I’d have a hard time telling him my first two didn’t have college paid for because we had four more and that is something I regret…

We have number six on the way. Paying for college went out the door a long time ago. So did private ski lessons.

I will never forget my mother somberly taking me aside when we announced our third and telling me I should think about the cost of three kids skiing. As if that should factor into my wife and I’s bedroom habits.

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