Would the use of NFP for selfish reasons be considered a mortal or venial sin?
It depends on how selfish. Best to ask your confessor.
There are three fonts of morality.
- moral object
If any one font is bad, the act is a sin
NFP has a good moral object because it does not deprive the marital act of the unitive or procreative meanings. NFP is a particular fulfillment of the positive precept to love God and neighbor. So the second font is good.
But if NFP is used with a selfish intention, then its use is a sin (under the first font). A selfish motive may be venial or mortal, depending on what is intended.
What “selfish” reasons? Despite the above poster, it is not clear that what you might consider to be selfish is a sinful intention. If, for example, your intent is to put off children because having them would put you in financial difficulty, that is not a selfish reason. If it is because you won’t be able to afford your Porsche payment… well, that may be a different story.
I question your question, however. Whether a sin is mortal or venial is principally relevant to whether one must confess it. It should certainly not be used to mean that you should be more willing to commit a venial sin than a mortal one–in other words, if a course of action is only a venial sin, you might consider it, whereas if it is a mortal sin, you would not.
Further, also despite the above poster, there is some disagreement among Catholic theologians and ethicists as to what reasons are permissible for using NFP. Some say only a dire medical or financial condition–not merely inconvenience. The clear majority, however, support the idea that NFP is fine to use when children would not be convenient, as long as the couple plans to have children eventually.
The Church teaches that NFP may be used to avoid pregnancy only for serious reasons…
While those serious reasons can be varied – the married couple needs to discern before God if they have a serious reason. of course it is good that they seek advice from a good sourse…good priest etc. But the judgment falls on them.
of course it is also good to use NFP to conceive…
From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – approved by Pope Benedict XVI
- When is it moral to regulate births?
The regulation of births, which is an aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood, is objectively morally acceptable when it is pursued by the spouses without external pressure; when it is practiced not out of selfishness but for serious reasons; and with methods that conform to the objective criteria of morality, that is, periodic continence and use of the infertile periods.
Pope Paul VI: “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.”
“But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.”
Humanae Vitae, n. 16.
Good find! Although, I still assert that the real question is what reasons the couple has for using NFP–they may well assume serious reasons are selfish. Of course, if the reasons truly are selfish, as you have shown, that would be sinful.
Is it not selfishness on some level that even makes NFP necessary? I realize its difficult to bring children into the world financially but does it not presume that God wont be able to help the family to provide for the children? If for career purposes, then it means that either one or both spouses refuses to give up their own lifestyle to raise children or it means that they cannot afford to have children financially. Wouldnt it be better to simply wait to get married until you can support a family and have the will to sacrifice personal gain for that of the family? It seems NFP goes against the churches notion of being open to life because you choose to have only sex at a time when life is not biologically possible but still claim to be open to life because a miracle can happen and because in the future you might change your mind in regards to children. But in the moment when you are doing the act you are not open to life since you are trying to not get pregnant. It just seems like a crux to try to make the church sound more modern to those that want to have an answer for those that are dead set on finding a way to practice contraception. It seems that chastity, temperance and prudence are not good enough for people to strive for so they need to find a loophole like NFP to try to justify birth control. I do not know how NFP can even claim to fulfill the procreative aspect of sex since the sex is meant to not produce a child. NFP advocates specifically play up the fact that pregnancies are so rare using NFP. NFP can fulfill the unitive function of sex but it is a stretch that it can fulfill the procreative aspect. If one goes into a marriage planning to hold off bringing new life using NFP, then doesnt it reason that the couple would be more likely to try artificial methods if NFP does not work? The church says correctly that abortion is made worse by birth control because it is used when artificial methods fail. The same is true for NFP and artificial birth control. Most of the reasons people do NFP would create an issue if there was a pregnancy because for whatever reason they wanted to remain without kids, the reality is that position will likely be untenable. With a child, money will be spent and careers take a back seat to the needs of the child. The couple is then in the position to wonder what if it fails again? This is where NFP can lead to artificial birth control. If people are not ready for kids for whatever reason, why even consider marriage? Are we that much of a carnal society that sex takes a front seat to making the best life choices long term? As I have heard, true love waits. If the person wont wait until you are truly ready or both ready then the marriage is off to a bad start anyways.
Let me use my own life as an example. I am 22. I will be around 25 when all my schooling is completed and I am in my career field. If I stay on my current path the starting pay will be a rolling rate starting at 37K a year advancing as training advances. It will take 3 years to get to 100K salary. This puts me at 28. Now I have plenty of time to create kids but women dont. It puts me in a spot to find someone younger or older. In either case, if I were to marry someone my own age and have 4 children. Assuming marriage at age 29 and nine months pregnancy for each one and 6 months for breastfeeding, that would be 5 years at a minimum if everything goes completely well. That puts her close to 35 and in a time where women start to naturally become less fertile. It seems simply waiting until you are ready will produce the best possible results and will allow you to have a marriage where you arent trying to live as if you were bed buddies.
I would also like to give my view on the big families that NFP tries to normally avoid.
I realize a lot of people fear and do not like big families. However, it is my experience not only coming from a small family but also going to school with many people who comes from families with 7-12 kids or more that in general the kids that came from bigger families were forced to live and sacrifice on a daily basis and did not always get everything and all the time that the parents could give. This makes them a lot less self-centered and more group centered. When you come from a small family even most middle class families have the ability to shower the kids with things and unneeded comforts like premium satellite packages, laptops and cell phones for every child, the newest video games and systems. The greatest thing is the time the parents have to dedicate to individual kids. This makes it difficult when the child grows up and realizes that in the real world there is no mom and dad to nag you, cook for you and help you solve many of your problems for you. The bigger the family, the less the children can come back and get money in times of hardship whereas in small families, kids can ask and almost always get money and continue to make poor decisions instead of conservative ones. Why should they if they will get bailed out? The deeper problem is the fact that when you have been spoiled and have had everything for the early part of your life, imagining having to reduce this lifestyle and sacrificing for a family is very difficult to fathom. NFP is attractive because you can have the sex life that a wife gives you while being able to live largely the way you have for the majority of your life. When your mother was able to cook whatever you want to your likes and dislikes, have time and will to clean and iron your clothes at any time, make your bed, nag you into taking care of yourself and being there to give you advice on every life decision, this is the thing you imagine a wife should be since this is what you know about what a wife does. My dad was a hard worker and sacrificed often for us but he had to contend with my mother who didnt want her babies to be punished harshly. When combined with his natural laidback and humourous personality, he become soft on us as we aged and despite learning enough good manner and morality from him, there are still areas where we are weak and lack discipline. I thought my situation was just the result of my parents who were unique but as I get older I started to see that other kids that were from smaller families were very similar to me and I was not very unique. A major benefit of big families is that kids need to be more self sufficient and able to do things without a lot of help from the parents who are busy with the new babies or children that have medical issues. It forces them to share space and things with others. I had a house that had 2 master bedrooms, 4 floors and a basement, 2 other bedrooms, satellite TV in every room with WiFi internet, 2 living rooms, 2 dinning rooms, a large kitchen. For a family of 4 total, it gives everyone their own personal space with a heavy distance between other family members. The only time we ever were together as 4 was when dinner was ready and we came to get our food and bring it wherever we were so we could eat and do our own thing. I can say that this situation is mirrored in various ways in other families that I know. This is my own subjective experience, so do not take it as gospel fact.
Without reading the whole post…
It is serious reason. Ordered self-need is not selfishness.
From the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
It lays out that SERIOUS REASONS are needed …and they can fit into different kinds…
(another official doc)
- The family contributes to the social good in an eminent fashion through responsible motherhood and fatherhood, the spouses’ special participation in God’s work of creation. The weight of this responsibility must not be used as a justification for being selfishly closed but must guide the decisions of the spouses in a generous acceptance of life. “In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised both in the duly pondered and generous decision to have a large family, and in the decision, made for serious reasons and in respect of the moral law, to avoid for a time or even indeterminately a new birth”. The motivations that should guide the couple in exercising responsible motherhood and fatherhood originate in the full recognition of their duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society in a proper hierarchy of values.
The witness of couples who for years have lived in harmony with the plan of the Creator, and who, for proportionately serious reasons, licitly use the methods rightly called “natural,” confirms that it is possible for spouses to live the demands of chastity and of married life with common accord and full self-giving.
which is from a vatican guide for confessors
From the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae
This happens when the family is generously open to new lives, and when couples maintain an attitude of openness and service to life, even if, for serious reasons and in respect for the moral law, they choose to avoid a new birth for the time being or indefinitely.
the larger quote:
The work of educating in the service of life involves the training of married couples in responsible procreation. In its true meaning, responsible procreation requires couples to be obedient to the Lord’s call and to act as faithful interpreters of his plan. This happens when the family is generously open to new lives, and when couples maintain an attitude of openness and service to life, even if, for serious reasons and in respect for the moral law, they choose to avoid a new birth for the time being or indefinitely. The moral law obliges them in every case to control the impulse of instinct and passion, and to respect the biological laws inscribed in their person. It is precisely this respect which makes legitimate, at the service of responsible procreation, the use of natural methods of regulating fertility. From the scientific point of view, these methods are becoming more and more accurate and make it possible in practice to make choices in harmony with moral values. An honest appraisal of their effectiveness should dispel certain prejudices which are still widely held, and should convince married couples, as well as health-care and social workers, of the importance of proper training in this area. The Church is grateful to those who, with personal sacrifice and often unacknowledged dedication, devote themselves to the study and spread of these methods, as well to the promotion of education in the moral values which they presuppose. 97
PS: serious reason also are not limited to “life or death” reasons!
If your perception were correct, that would be the teaching. But it isn’t. Give the last three popes just a LITTLE more credit than “trying to appear more modern…” :rolleyes:
I’d like to warn you that you have a slightly distorted view of catholic sexuality that will haunt you some day if you don’t fix it. Sex is NOT just for procreation. Catholic teaching is clear that there are TWO functions: the procreative and the unitive. You may choose to think that they attached the second as a sop to the ‘moderns’ but if so, your thinking is no longer catholic on the subject!
The two ARE intertwined to a significant degree, which is why us puny humans cannot actively sterilize sex and expect the unitive function to remain undamaged in the process. But God didn’t create woman like a dog! She isn’t only willing and able to have sex when fertile. This is because of the unitive function of sex. You’ll figure it out better when you’re married. But for now, best be careful of the distorted, uncatholic idea that sex is only for makin’ babies. Its a lot more than that. Read up on JPII’s Theology of the Body.
For the time being, we are avoiding pregnancy. Our reasons have to do with my psychological health and the fact that I’m regularly stressed/burnt out. We presently have 3 kids, who are very spirited, one who has mild autism. Problem is, I don’t know if my concerns are enough to justify waiting… My priest has told me that he doesn’t see any issues with it, but that I should follow my conscience. And my conscience isn’t speaking up!!
The reason why I asked if NFP used for the wrong reasons would be considered a mortal or venial sin is because I looked up an examen of conscience online which classified it as venial. That didn’t seem right to me. Like your Porsche example, to me, that’s obviously mortal…
It’s really frustrating with all the differences of opinion - some people say you almost need life or death reasons and others say the total opposite. I just don’t know what to do… But most of all, I don’t want to offend God with my decision.
Your reason for using NFP is certainly moral. You already have 3 children. You only intend to avoid pregnancy for the time being. You have one child who needs extra time and attention, and some issues of psychological health. These factors combine to give your reason more than sufficient moral weight to use NFP to avoid conception.
In Canon Law, when one needs a reason in order to lawfully do something, or refrain from doing something, there are two standards: a just reason, or a grave reason. A just reason is a reason that is of moderate moral weight, i.e. a good reason, such as the need to care for young children, or the need to go to work, or an ordinary, but not life-threatening illness. A grave reason is very serious, such as a threat to life, or the danger of mortal sin. Despite this division of justifying cause into two main parts, just or grave, the reason needed is proportionate. A more serious law, needs a more serious reason, a law about a lesser matter needs a lesser reason. It is a matter of degrees.
Similarly, with NFP, a couple needs a just reason to space births, or to seek to avoid conceiving a child for a limited (even if indefinite) time. But if a couple wanted to use NFP to attempt to avoid all conception for the rest of the marriage (or until the wife can no longer conceive), then they would need a grave reason. If they have no children, they would need a more grave reason, such as threat to the life of the mother if she becomes pregnant. If they have some children, then they would needs a less grave reason.
The misuse of NFP can be mortal or venial. Contraception is intrinsically evil and is always an objective mortal sin, because it deprives the marital act of the procreative meaning. But NFP has a good moral object; it does not deprive the marital act of the procreative meaning.
When NFP is a sin, it is because of intention or circumstances. Is a person has a somewhat selfish intention, this would be a venial sin. Only an intention that is entirely incompatible with the love of God and neighbor would be a mortal sin. Similarly, using NFP in circumstances where there are more bad consequences than good consequences would be a venial sin if the bad consequences only outweigh the good consequences to a substantially limited extent. But using NFP in circumstances where there are more bad consequences than good consequences would be a mortal sin if the bad consequences outweigh the good consequences to a grave extent (i.e. so as to do grave harm).
This statement is absolutely false. If NFP does not deprive the marital act of the procreative meaning, then why is it used? Because NFP is advertised as being “99% effective in the avoidance of pregnancy - more effective than the pill or condoms”. Indeed, NFP denies the procreative meaning even more than gravely immoral “artificial” methods…just slightly less than homosexual acts, which are always intrinsically disordered.
There’s a good reason why protestants mockingly refer to NFP as “hypocritical Catholic birth control”.
- And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28)
Listen to your priest. He has given wise advice, and even if he hadn’t, God is pleased with obedience.