NFP vs total abstinence

I just read a thread about NFP and was wondering about something…

Let’s say a married couple has 2 kids already. They decide not to have anymore children because they are happy and satisfied with the number they already have. They both always said they’d have 2, and they feel like that’s all they want/need. Basically, they didn’t do any sort of discerning to see if this was or was not a serious reason to not have more, they simply just don’t want more. Plain and simple.

Now, I will provide 2 methods of how they went about avoiding more children, and I’d like to start a discussion on whether one method is more or less moral than the other.

Method 1: They chart and use NFP to abstain from sex during the fertile days

Method 2: They decide to abstain from sex 100% for the rest of their marriage.

Basically, I want to know if the restrictions for using NFP (that there be serious reason) also applies to using 100% abstinence.

Why or why not?

Each spouse grants a gift to the other. If gift reception is mutually refused, then there is no violation of marital consent. The obligation to preserve the species is incurred when the couple “make use of the specific act”.

Pope Pius XII expressed it this way:The matrimonial contract, which confers on the married couple the right to satisfy the inclination of nature, constitutes them in a state of life, namely, the matrimonial state. Now, on married couples, who make use of the specific act of their state, nature and the Creator impose the function of providing for the preservation of mankind. This is the characteristic service which gives rise to the peculiar value of their state, the bonum prolis. The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life.

~ [/FONT]

Does this mean that in the situation I described, total abstinence would be ok but periodic, fertile abstinence would not?

Pope Pius XII said in that same address that exclusive use of natural sterile periods, is sometimes justified: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. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to tile full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.

~ [/FONT]

Hmm interesting. See, that just makes it even harder for me to understand why NFP is ok and other non abortificient means are not… :frowning:

Join the club.

I will just say that NFP is a newer aspect of theology. And it may take time, perhaps more time than you and I will witness in our lifetime to understand the mind of the Church. Until then, I choose to focus on the idea of trying to be Holy and generous with our procreative directives and marital responsibilities.

It is because the immorality of contraception lies in the intrinsic act itself (the end of which is separating the unitive and procreative aspects of the act), not in its Consequences (no baby at this time), nor necessarily in its Intentions (which may also be good, eg. Space children for economic or other just reasons).


NFP used with an immoral Intention (and the true intention can be challenging to discern) makes the adoption of NFP, or indeed of permanent abstention, immoral. But it does not make it contraception.

Yes, very true.

So your’e giving a different answer than than Vico. Vico said permanent abstinence is not immoral if agreed upon by both partners. So, which is it?

Just an aside… whether the couple do NFP or totally abstain would only be relevant until menopause, not the rest of their marriage.

No, there’s no moral difference between NFP and total abtinence. They are both licit ways to avoid pregnancy. They preserve the moral ends of sexual intercourse as the total and mutual self giving to each other.

Not really, I am just widening the assessment. Vico assumes a good Intention I suspect? I’m pointing out that if the Intention is not good, then the morality is tarnished.

I think maybe I am not making myself completely clear in my OP. Let me try wording it this way…

In order to use periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy, a couple needs to have serious reasons. We all know this is true

In order to use complete abstinence to avoid pregnancy, a couple needs to have serious reasons. Is this true or false?

Of course it is true. You are essentially talking about a marriage being converted into a Josephite relationship, at least until menopause. A Josephite marriage can be entered from the beginning, but only with serious reasons, much counseling and preparation, and appropriate direction from the priest. I would say that permanent continence should only be considered after much agreement between the couple as well as with their respective spiritual directors.

Serious, or I think “Just” is the better word. All acts, to be moral, require a “Just” Intention (reason, motivation). Delay pregnancy due to economic conditions is a Just reason to abstain. Delay pregnancy so that one may pursue selfish ends is not Just. The Consequences of the act also must be at least morally neutral. So, abstaining would need to be consistent with marital harmony too.

Ok, let’s change serious to just. So when I asked, “is this true or false” is the answer then true?

Sorry, I just like to get very clear, to the point, responses. :slight_smile:

Gotcha. So basically, a husband and wife are required to keep having sex even if they both agree not to anymore?

Sorry, you’ll have to go with my statement, which is expressed very clearly, in the appropriate moral framework. If you don’t understand my answer, by all means point out where it is not clear and I’ll explain further.


PS: Did you hear the one about the prosecution attorney who asked the following question, demanding a “yes or know” response? “Have you stopped beating you wife yet?” The defendant had never beaten his wife - how is he to answer yes or no?

USCCB, 2006 wrote on Natural Family Planning:
“The Church’s support for NFP is not based on its being “natural” as opposed to artificial. Rather, NFP respects the God-given power to love a new human life into being even when we are not actively seeking to exercise that power. However, because NFP does not change the human body in any way, or upset its balance with potentially harmful drugs or devices, people of other faiths or of no religious affiliation have also come to accept and use it from a desire to work in harmony with their bodies. They have also found that it leads couples to show greater attentiveness to and respect for each other.”…ft-of-life.cfm

:confused: I believe all she said was that embarking on a program of complete abstinence should not be done lightly.

Your rider that “they both agree” suggests it is has been given some consideration. But it does not address their motivation and circumstances - all of which go to determining morality.

“If gift reception is mutually refused, then there is no violation of marital consent.” means that there is no intention the defraud one another from either spouse.

Also if there are threatening health issues, the obligation ceases:The Medical indication [for NFP] is a serious danger to the health or the life of the mother, diagnosed by a doctor, qualified either from a scientific point of view or from a moral point of view. In such a case the obligation “of providing for the preservation of mankind” (621) ceases, because a woman is not obliged, by the matrimonial contract, to expose herself to dangers or injury which are not ordinarily part of maternity (Courier de Rome, June 1991, p.2**). **

(Reference: No. 621 in* Papal Teaching: Matrimony. Selected and arranged by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, trans. Michael J. Byrnes. Boston: St. Paul Books, *1963.)

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