NFP/Responsible Parenthood in circumstances where marital rape occur frequently

In another Catholic forum recently, a blog post was shared that was written in direct response to the reaction to Pope Francis’ comments about a mother facing her eight C-section being irresponsible. The post described how in the Phillipines, as well as in many other parts of the world, women are often denied their right to say no to sexual relations with their husbands, even when another pregnancy might kill them. Apparently, even when women may want and need to be able to practice NFP (abstaining from sexual relations during her fertile time), she may not have that option. The author described it as a situation where marital rape is rather commonplace.

So, this caused me to question: what is the proper Catholic response to a woman in this situation? When another pregnancy might kill her, yet her husband commits acts of rape against her during her fertile time, what can/will the Church do to help her?

And secondarily, in our own Western culture, what is a wife to do if she must avoid future pregnancies because of serious reasons, but her husband will not agree to NFP, because he does not agree her reasons to avoid pregnancy are legitimate. I know there are women dealing with that issue. What is the Church’s answer for them?

I ask this because this is an opposite problem to situations where one spouse desires to contracept. In these circumstances I have described (because I have heard of women struggling with this very reality) the husband demands sexual intercourse and will not tolerate abstinence and has no care for the fallout if she should become pregnant. In some parts of the world, according to the blog author and to other first-person accounts I have read, men are congratulated for producing children but are not chastised for not supporting them. I do not have permission to share the blog post or personal accounts here, so I will not do so. But I just am really troubled by this. What is the Catholic answer here?

I think this is a very complicated issue and very sad :frowning: no easy way to answer. As to marital rape specifically the first thing that pops on my mind is that that woman is probably in an abusive marriage, particularly if we are speaking about a chauvinist culture. It is very probable that besides marital rape there may be physical - hitting etc- and emotional abuse. I think in those cases the woman should not stay in that marriage. Now the problem in those places is that leaving these kinds of abusive relationships is not easy. Add the fact that the woman is in fear, then is less likely that she leaves. I would hope that the church supports more these women and priests counsel them to leave and help them economically etc. But I don’t know if that happens there. I think the ideal would be for priests to treat this situation similarly to how they treat women who suffer from domestic violence in the US but I don’t know what happens locally I’m the real world.

About a husband not agreeing that the woman’s issues are legitimate to me that is also some kind of emotional abuse but I don’t know how the church deals with it. I would say to the person to talk to a priest because I am not sure what the church would say. I don’t think contraception is accepted under any circumstance so it would be out of the equation. Definitely that would something to ask a priest.

This is an interesting subject, but I have never seen it discussed here.

I’m sure that there are many women who are trying to practice some form of NFP, but they give up because their husbands are not on board with it.

Maybe the husband tickles his wife until she gets tired and gives in or some variation of this. He demands his marital “rights,” and sulks if he can’t have his way. If she gets pregnant, well, that’s her problem, not his.

To my knowledge, the Church has no solution to this problem whatsoever.

Re: the theoretical tickling situation -

Then I guess the woman should go stay at her mom’s house for a few days, if her husband and she can’t come to an agreement.

Generally, the Church does teach that both the man and the woman have a right to have sex with their spouse upon her or his request, but that all sex also has to be by mutual consent.

So if both spouses can’t come to an agreement of sex vs. no sex, there should be no sex.

So the man should have enough self respect not to go on trying. But if the woman knows he will, it’s her business to make the refusal more definite. (Although still polite, because he is her husband.) She doesn’t have to stay in the same bed. If she doesn’t trust him to stop teasing her if she goes out on the couch, she can always go sleep in the bathroom and lock the door.

Yes, women are allowed to change their minds. But sheesh, ladies, we are capable of giving unambiguous signals at times. There’s no reason to give ambiguous signals like staying in bed, if you’re not intending to have sex and your husband is.

In this theoretical situation, he’s probably taking that as a “maaaaaaybe, actually yes, please convince me.” And since that is one of the standard romance games that couples play, it’s not surprising that he should test his assumption.

If the wife allows that to work, she is telling him that his assumption was correct, and that he should try the same thing again on any occasion when she mentions NFP. And he will. And the woman has nobody to blame but herself, since she herself has now established the precedent.

So then, she would have to tell the husband that no, she didn’t mean to establish a precedent, and yes, she does want to try NFP, and yes, the carpeted bathroom floor is comfy and she’ll be sleeping there.

Such scenarios could be avoided if proper instruction is given to couples who are preparing for marriage.

Yes, but really, it depends on whether the husband is indeed Catholic. Catholic in practice, and Catholic in his thinking. A real Catholic husband understands that it’s a 2-way street. That you just don’t always get your way. The problem is when people view each other as something to be used. The Church’s response is: know your faith! Respect you wife! Do right by your wife! Love her ENOUGH to wait.

of course, in practice…:whistle:

Just another reason why couple should stay close to their faith close to God, and respect each other’s feelings and beliefs. But of course, we all know, that just doesn’t always happen.
Good post.

Yes, women are allowed to change their minds. But sheesh, ladies, we are capable of giving unambiguous signals at times. There’s no reason to give ambiguous signals like staying in bed, if you’re not intending to have sex and your husband is.

…Um, what? So you’re saying that if a woman risks death by becoming pregnant, and tells her husband that they need to practice NFP, she shouldn’t be able to sleep in her own bed if he tries to have sex with her? There’s no ‘ambiguous signal,’ and the husband ought to be able to control himself.

Honestly, I find your perspective horrifying. ‘No’ means ‘no,’ regardless of whether a woman is your wife or not.

This is a difficult scenaria. I have a few thoughts…not fully formed, but worth discussing…

If it is truly rape (noting that some theologians might call “marital rape” something different), then I think a strong case could be made that she should be able to protect herself against this rape in the same way that any woman might, via recourse to contraception*. The suggestion that a woman who is raped may use contraception is not without opponents, and is not official Church teaching, but I tend to agree with it in principle. If we accept it for the sake of argument, why would it not also apply here?

This, however, would seem to create another problem. If she is using ongoing contraception, then could she and her husband licitly have proper (consentual) marital relations? Does her use of contraception preclude this, or does double effect allow for it?

Truly a difficult situation. And of course, shame on any man who would do such a thing!

(* noting that in this case the term “contraception” does not hold the same meaning as it does when used in moral theology, where it is defined with regard to consentual marital sex).

Ditto.:eek: I can’t believe what I read.

I agree that a husband shouldn’t force himself on his wife.
On the other hand, it would be better not to speak of it as rape, assuming it is used as if it is a criminal offense. It would be better to use other terms.

Like what? Calling him a jerk?
Forcible sex is rape. What’s so hard? If we were to call it what it is, it likely wouldn’t happen so much.
And it is a criminal offense. The fact that the victim is the wife? Unconscionable.
Whatever happened to vows of marriage?
I think people promise to love. Not to abuse.

Well, the situation as I understand it is more of using pestering and guilt tripping to get consent to sex. But at the same time a wife shouldn’t have to carry a rolling pin to bed to protect herself from her husbands advances.

Huh? Do you prefer term “struggle snuggle”?

If you force someone to have sex with you, it’s rape. Period.

If you force yourself onto someone that you are supposed to love and protect, then you are not only a rapist, but your understanding of love is cruel, selfish, and distorted.

If you do the above knowing that it may well KILL your victim…then you are a murderer who will throw away their spouse for one night of sex.

It isn’t politically correct, but nothing about rape is.

I missed responding to this second part of the question.

The right to sex - ie the marriage debt - is not absolute. It is only owed when it is reasonable to ask for it. Presumably if there exists a serious reason to use NFP, then that serious reason would also excuse the marriage debt. Which is to say, the wife may reasonably deny sex during her fertile times.

Such a couple has serious issues though. The wife will feel uncared for, while the husband will become frustrated with the ongoing refusal of the marriage debt. Unless they communicate and care for each other, they will find their marriage progressively weakened.

(PS most of the time I have heard of a husband believing there to be no serious reason to use NFP, I believe he has been in the wrong, and has failed to understand the great impact bearing and raising children has on his wife.)

As catholic we have to explain that according the the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church:

The conjugal rape is a notion and a concept that is existing. Unfortunately some catholics think that the conjugal rape cannot exist because of the donation and reception of bodies, the day of marriage. The instruction and the education have to be done during the preparation of marriage by the catholic priests. In my humble opinion,* the doctrinal exclusion of the existence of conjugal rape, before the marriage, should be a cause of nullity of marriage.* If one of future spouses or both refuse, with the will, the existence of this natural offense that is very evil, immoral and gravely sinful (a mortal sin), the nullity of marriage should be stated;

The morality of unilateral refusal of the practice of the marital act is existing. Each spouse can invoke this possibility, in respecting the catholic rules: *the moral regime of the unilateral refusal of the practice of the marital act *should be taught before and after the marriage by catholic specialists;

The catholic clinics, the catholic hospitals, the catholic parishes, the catholic non profit associations and the catholic dioceses should protect and take care the victims of conjugal rape by many means: the medical help (the psychological, mental and psychical help, and the physical help), the spiritual help, the religious help, the material help (financial, alimentary…etc. , the help via the Canon Law, the help via the civil law, and the help via the civil penal.

In catholicism that respects the natural law of the dual humanity:

What is the conjugal rape? What are the constitutive elements: the material elements and the immaterial elements? The natural presumptions? The moral regime of those natural presumptions?

In theory, a wife can be raped by her husband and* a husband can be raped by his wife*. The conjugal rape, in the natural law, can be done by the wife alone or the husband alone, or with accomplices, thus each sex can be a victim.

Apologies for not reading the full thread before answering, but a partial (very partial) answer is to start including that material in marriage prep. And to lay it on thick, because it’s literally a matter of life and death.

I don’t know what the situation is with marriage prep globally, of course–it may be that in poorer countries, there isn’t really much marriage prep at all. But that would be an area to work on, too.

I read a rural Indian doctor blogger ( who has posted a lot on bad obstetrical cases. That’s a primarily non-Christian population, and in the bad cases a lot of times, the families put very little value on the life of the pregnant woman (she’s not really a family member, after all, and the husband can always get a new wife, perhaps with a new dowry, so why spend unnecessary money or trouble on her medical care), they occasionally attempt dangerous very late home abortions if a baby girl is expected, and the only out for a woman is to successfully produce a son or two. A string of daughters will get her divorced, likewise infertility.

Thinking of Jeevan’s posts, I think that there is actually a lot of room for improving maternal safety just by improving prenatal care and making hospital birth more widely accessible. A lot of his bad cases are women who never had any prenatal care and then come to the mission hospital after laboring at home unsuccessfully (as home birth is the norm in their region), often for much too long.

Obviously, the 7 c-section lady had had access to hospital birth, but that isn’t generally true, globally.

Maternal mortality is improving globally, but it’s still very high.

“From 1990 to 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 45 per cent – from 380 deaths to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to UN inter-agency estimates.”

"The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries in 2013 is 230 per 100 000 live births versus 16 per 100 000 live births in developed countries. There are large disparities between countries, with few countries having extremely high maternal mortality ratios around 1000 per 100 000 live births. There are also large disparities within countries, between women with high and low income and between women living in rural and urban areas.

"The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under 15 years old and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.

"Women in developing countries have on average many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death due to pregnancy is higher. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3700 in developed countries, versus 1 in 160 in developing countries.

So the good news is, I think there’s probably a lot of low-hanging fruit in improving maternal mortality. In Jeevan’s population, it can be as simple as getting women’s iron levels up–a lot of his dangerous obstetrical situations are caused by the rampant anemia among rural Indian women.

We might think of this of something that happens in only third world countries.

I grew up in the 1950’s, and I remember how it was back then. Although women did have hysterectomies, there were no birth control pills.

As far as I know, there was no such thing as “marital rape” back then. Women were told to do their duty, and they were told that it was a mortal sin to “deny their husband his marital rights.”

I don’t remember anyone being told that this was not an absolute command. Catholic women had a lot of children because they felt they had no other choice, even if it would eventually kill them.

I also remember the gossip when the birth control commission was advising the pope, right after the pill came out. Catholic women were anxiously waiting and hoping that the pope would approve the pill.

We all know that he did not approve it, except for medical purposes.

So I believe that when women have children “like rabbits,” their husbands are the ones who are being irresponsible.

There are some good points there.

I’m not sure about the last item though–sometimes women get fatally bad ideas all by themselves and are passionately enthusiastic about them.

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