NFP vs. ABC


#1

Sorry this is a bit long…

A little background: I was baptized a Catholic at age 13 after attending mass for several months with a (nominally) Catholic aunt and uncle. I received very little catechesis and stopped attending mass several months later when my aunt and uncle stopped attending. My parents (and my entire family, really) are completely areligious.

I am now 31 and married civilly with three children and a fourth on the way. I have attended many churches off and on, and always fundamentally considered myself a Christian, but never really learned much about the Catholic faith until the past few years. In spite of certain reservations, I feel drawn to the Faith, particularly because of the sacramental worldview that the Church has and because of the Real Presence. I think there is ample evidence from the Bible and Tradition that the earliest Christians were more Catholic than Protestant in practice.

My (civil) husband is a Mexican “cultural” Catholic. He rarely attends mass, though he still considers himself a Catholic and continues the practice his mother taught him of blessing our children daily with the sign of the cross. He would never consider converting to protestantism, but he is not concerned with observing certain moral teachings of the church.

My dilemma is that while I have come a long way in terms of embracing Catholic belief (I used to be pro-choice, thought pre-marital sex was OK if “you love each other,” etc…have done a complete 180 on these and other issues), I don’t believe that non-abortificent birth control is always a mortal sin, and I believe that God is merciful and hope that my non-Catholic and non-Christian friends and family will be saved, and that Catholics who fail in their quest for holiness will be saved too. I just can’t fathom a God who is waiting to damn people for every infraction.

I love my babies and am so excited about our little girl due in December (this will be girl #4!). This pregnancy came about 6 months after stopping ABC (condoms), mainly for aesthetic reasons, and I was just ready and open to the idea of another baby (no matter how impractical!). I recently left a well-paying full-time job, and my husband earns about 1/2 of what I was making, so money is very tight. I really want to be a SAHM, and am in the process of starting an e-bay resale business to make $ from home. It’s going well so far.

The bottom line is that after this baby is born, I don’t want to have another baby again very soon, and maybe not ever, depending on the circumstances. I even considered getting my tubes tied, but again, for aesthetic reasons I decided not to - it just doesn’t seem right to me, and I am not a dog who needs to be “fixed” to make my fertility go away, KWIM?

I am open to using NFP, even though I see nothing sinful about condoms. Yes, I know the Church teaches otherwise.

So my dilemma is, even though I am drawn to the Church and feel a great big hole in my heart when I am away from her, I don’t fully embrace all of her teachings. My husband and I have discussed convalidating our marriage (there are no impediments - neither of us were previously married). Though I don’t agree with all of her teachings, it is no great burden for me to abide by them, but I don’t know how I can raise my children as Catholics if I can’t fully embrace her teachings. I feel like a hypocrite and feel like I should abandon the Church altogether, even though the thought makes me very sad. I am not content to just sweep aside the birth control issue as so many practicing Catholics do.

I just don’t know what to do at this point…thoughts?


#2

The Church asks for assent, and you are willing to give it and follow her teachings. You are not a hypocrite. Do not stay away from the Church.

Continue to study and pray. I suggest Christopher West’s books and the website www.omsoul.com.


#3

Dear OP,

Try reading as much as you can on the reasoning behind what the Church teaches what it does. Sometimes, I personally do not understand the reasons behind a particular Church teaching, but I have come to accept and acknowledge, that the Church is right even if I do not personally understand. I try to ask for God`s grace to accept that teaching, and acknowledge the authority of the Church.

Sincerely,

Maria1212


#4

A couple of things:
There are women out there that aren’t Catholic and don’t agree with the Church’s teachings but use NFP because it is a safe, effective, healthy way to avoid children, they aren’t being hypocrites for using NFP.

Anyways, that aside, we don’t always have to completely understand the teachings of the Church in order to follow them. I like to look at it like this. We have rules for our children to follow, whether they understand the reasoning behind it or not. Some day my one year old may understand why I don’t let him stand on his chair or play with extension cords plugged in the wall, or my two year old may understand why its not ok to put a huge piece of food in her mouth or run around a parking lot. In the meantime, they have to obey their parents, whether they understand or not. Our rules are based on the fact that we love them and want what is best for them, even if they don’t see it that way. Now, changing this back to the Church/God. There is a bonus in the fact that the Church is far more holy than I will ever be and its teachings have been standing for years, carefully studied and divinely inspired, while we as parents are making up our rules as we see. Why would I not trust the Church and its judgement, even if I don’t always understand everything? God loves us and wants what is best for us. Another bonus is that since the Church is Truth, the more we learn and study about it, the closer we are to the Truth. The more we study and understand, the more we will understand the reasoning behind the teachings and eventually may see why the Church teaches what it does. Our intelligence is far inferior to God’s, obviously, so we may never understand some things completely (like the Holy Trinity), and that is when our Faith and trust come into play.

I liked your sentence:

I am not content to just sweep aside the birth control issue as so many practicing Catholics do.

I am glad you feel this way, that is wonderful, a clear sign that you are not a hypocrite. I am so happy you are feeling called to the Church, the Truth. Now, you can still be part of the Church and follow the teaching (not sweep it aside) even if you don’t understand completely at this point why the Church is so against ABC. Please study it, look into it, read about it from reliable sources. Things will become clearer and you will see why the Church in its wisdom feels that ABC is harmful to the marital embrace. Its not hypocritical to teach your children what is right, even if you don’t understand it completely.


#5

Hi :o)
Wanted to tell you that your walk sounds somewhat like mine. I was married to a nominal Catholic (I would say he was agnostic at the time we were married 15 years ago.) I didn’t take my faith to heart until I was 28 (7 yrs into our marriage) and then tried to live all its teachings. No artificial birth control was a HUGE struggle for me…after our third son was born, we were building a house, I was caring for my mom who was dying of cancer and we became pregnant with our third son (an oopsy…boy those oopsies have been the biggest blessing.) I talked my husband into getting a vasectomy because I was getting a lot of flack from friends and family members about overpopulation, ‘when are you going to get done’ and that NFP stuff is ‘like playing Russian roulette.’ I caved in because my faith was dinky little and I cared more for what people thought than what God thought.

My mom died a little while later, I sank into a deep depression. There were problems in my marriage too (scars of my husband and I both coming from broken homes and our own struggles too.) Something went dead in our relationship after trying to control our fertility (my husband noticed it too.)

Anyway, long story short…a couple years after trying to limp along we got marriage counseling and I started to feel a strong desire that we should reverse the vasectomy (my poor husband…he probably never would have done it in the first place if it weren’t for me.) He decided that he would and somehow the money became available. He went through the reversal surgery and it was successful (boy did I love him for that! ouch) We decided to try again for another baby…our fourth son came about 10 months after we began trying.)

My husband began going through a midlife crisis (he was deployed with the military for 8 months when our 4th son was 2 months.) When he finally returned he was very messed up in the head. We got pregnant with our 5th son probably the day he got home. I have to admit, that little blessing helped refocus him to what was important in his life and our little miracle from God saved our marriage. (At the time, I didn’t understand God’s workings…I was petrified being pregnant again with a husand who seemed so different and lost.)

Though I am sure your marriage is different as far as circumstances and issues, I am convinced (after seeing how our marriage has survived when neither of our parents’ marriages did…my mom was a Catholic who married an agnostic in the Episcopal Church and my husband’s parents were Catholics that never lived the Church’s teachings on NFP and eventually fell away) that there is GRACE available in the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Church. (Obviously you and your husband are called to being Catholic…people who have never been Catholic and don’t know the church are not bound if they are ignorant of Jesus’ teachings on married love…‘when much has been given, much will be expected.’) I hope beyond hope that you and your husband will convalidate your marriage…God can work through the two of you and bind you together in a supernatural way (He desires to give you even more).

Please consider too to keep on keeping on with the Natural Family Planning (I need to tell you that I haven’t seriously ‘used’ NFP the way it is meant for avoiding pregnancy…I think the idea of allowing God to choose the size of your family is more of the change in thinking that I have had and I have dappled with NFP but never seriously.) We haven’t had any financial concerns to actually use the method for avoidance of pregnancy so I am sure if we get to that point that it is effective as I have many friends who use it in that way and they are able to not conceive). Living the teachings has its challenges (I like ‘being in control’ as much as the next guy)but it has helped my faith (and my husband’s) to grow and it DID keep my marriage from failing. We now have 6 boys and our marriage is the one I always dreamed of having though it has been a rough road. (God can transform anything! :o))

I will pray for you and your husband, my friend. I think when I realized that Jesus himself was speaking to me (instead of how I used to see the ‘rules’ of the Church) then I could embrace it. There are times I still struggle but I realize I don’t know all the answers but just follow Christ and his church in everything (‘Those who see you (the Church) see me.’ That is the definition of faith :walking in the dark. The best part is that living all the teachings (no matter what) is the same as having a firm grip on the savior’s hand leading us through this ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ It builds our faith until it is unshakable and we are ready to stand before the Lord…without it our faith is shaky, small and unable to stand the tests that life brings our way.

God be with you and your family,


#6

Thanks to all for your encouraging comments. I know this is an issue that I will continue to struggle with, but I hope with God’s grace that it can be overcome. Even without regard to the Church’s teaching, the idea of permanently destroying my feritility just seemed so extreme and so wrong, and my husband is really against it too. I really do think it would change the way we relate to each other and take all of the meaning and excitement out of our sex life. Even when we have used condoms in the past, it just wasn’t the same - it’s like we lose respect for each other and the experience of sex becomes mechanical and devoid of meaning. There’s something exciting about the mystery of it all and the possibility that a new life could result. I also face a lot of pressure from my family to stop having children, even though my kids are widely spaced in age - 12, 6, 3.5 and soon-to-be newborn in December.

I have to say that I am a little afraid of become pregnant again very soon after this one is born. I don’t know if my energy level and (especially) our finances could handle it. I tend to nurse my kids for a long time (2+ years), but I am one of those women whose cycles tend to return quickly, even when exclusively bf. So I’m worried about how things will work in the early months.

Anyway, thanks again. Your prayers and well wishes are much appreciated.


#7

I don’t believe in a God who waits to damn people for every infraction either. I believe in a God who is patient and merciful with us, who tugs at our hearts to gently draw us near Him. I think He tugs at your heart right now.

Even without completely accepting the Catholic Church, your posts indicate that Catholic teachings regarding contraception strike at a truth you know in your heart. But even when someone knows something is true, they may still have to struggle to live by that truth. It often gets easier over time as one grows in grace.

Some relatives think “family planning” means they get to dictate their plans to extended family members. They may become agitated and use heavy pressure tactics to get others to stop having more children when encountering those who make different “choices.” I suspect there may be some weird psychological issues behind loudest objections to potential new grandchildren, neices or nephews. :shrug:
.

There are NFP classes that specifically relate to return of fertility following pregnancy while breastfeeding. A woman’s bodies usually give very clear signs when might possibly be fertile or getting ready. Having your cycle return earlier might make it easier for you and your husband to use NFP for postponing pregnancy rather than seeing fertility signs come and go for months and months.


Beyond the NFP classes, I strongly suggest you look into classes about the Catholic Church and speak to a priest about having your marriage recognized by the Church. Since your husband is already Catholic and since you are already commited to each other, it seems reasonable to ask for the Church recognition and blessing for your marriage. And taking classes about joining is not a commitment to *join *the Church–it’s a commitment to learn the Catholic perspective on Christ and His Church.

God bless you on your journey.


#8

I second what gardenswithkids said: you and DH take an NFP class (geared for postpartem) and work on learning MORE about the Catholic faith.

Will pray for you and your family!
God bless,
Jennifer


#9

This is one of the most beautifully worded explanations for this type of concern that I’ve read. It reminded me of Matthew 7:9-11: “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”


#10

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