Post-children celibacy more ideal than NFP?


#1

According to Humane Vitae and the catechesis there is nothing wrong in using NFP if you for a good and unselfish reason cannot receive more children. However, I often get the impression that if you want to be really holy as a married couple, you should stick to total abstinence when you no longer have the intention of receiving more children (as for example the beatified couple Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini did).

And even if total abstinence isn’t officially proclaimed to be the ideal way of living for couples who for just reasons do not want to receive more children, are there any church documents or theologians that say that NFP (that is, intercourse during infertile periods within the limits of just moderation) could actually be better than post-children celibacy? Theology of the Body, or Christopher West, perhaps?

Humane Vitae and the Catechesis says this:

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. (Humane Vitae 16)

The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation. (Pius XII, Discourse, October 29,1951, quoted from CCC 2362)

I have also found this quote from Fulton Sheen’s “Three to get married”:

When husband and wife live their married lives as reflections of
the Divine Prototype, their relations one with another become a
source of merit. They save their souls through union with one
another. Sacramental grace is communicated in the marriage act.

And also this article which I am unsure of its origin that says:

If marriage is in itself a divine way of holiness, then all of its natural elements, including of course intimate conjugal relations, are a matter of sanctification. Certainly (as we will see below) these relations must be marked by temperance; yet total abstinence from such relations cannot be proposed as an ideal or ascetical goal for married people.

Anything else?


#2

I believe that this approach will usually lead to post-children divorce.

There are two purposes for sex: pro-creative and unitive.

When the family is complete and the pro-creative purpose of sex is over, the unitive purpose of sex still exists.


#3

The marital act is the outward sign of the sacrament. There is no reason to deny the sacrament just because you are past the point of being able to welcome more children into the family. The unitive aspect is just as important as the procreative.


#4

don’t know why OP has received this impression, it is not taught in any NFP course or materials I am familiar with.


#5

Ahlman,

According to Pope John Paul II, His Theology of the Body and the CCC, this is the Churches teachings.

We know that denying your spouse Conjugal Love in Marriage is a sin. We have seen several post on the Forums dealing with this issue either wife or husband denying their spouse.

From Corinthians we see:

1 Corinthians 7: 4-5

4 A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.

5 Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.

From Pope John Paul II:
John Paul II also says that if the only reason a couple is having sex is to transmit life, then they may be in danger of using each other rather than loving each other (see Love & Responsibility p. 233).

Also, John Paul describes the “beatifying experience” of conjugal union as a foretaste of the joys of heaven (see TB, Dec 16, 1981 and Jan 13, 1982). In Love & Responsibility, by his detailed discussion of the husband’s responsibility - out of authentic love for his wife - to see that she achieves sexual climax (see Love & Responsibility pp. 270-278).

CCC States:

V. THE GOODS AND REQUIREMENTS OF CONJUGAL LOVE

1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh."153 They "are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving."154 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.

1646 By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The "intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them."157

III. THE LOVE OF HUSBAND AND WIFE

2360 Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.

2361 "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death."143

"The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude."145 Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:

2364 The married couple forms "the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent."147 Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh.


#6

My question is this: after you have “built-out” your family and you have the number of children that you feel you can support and nurture and care for, what then?

You and your spouse could be in your thirties, with no present intention to conceive more children, with 15 or more years of fertility ahead of you.

Is “we’re done for now” a serious reason?


#7

The couple in question (the Quattrocchi’s, who were recently beautified) were a bit older than 30 when they agreed to stop having relations. My understanding is that they were in their mid-40s possibly older, so they might have reached natural infertility anyway. Nevertheless, they agreed as part of a 3rd Order type arrangement. (NOTE: I don’t think any 3rd Orders required married couples to give up sex, this was the couple’s personal decision.) They choice this route as a way to devote themselves more fully to prayer. So in effect, they stayed within their marrige, but lived as if they were in the cloister. I do not think this is the route all married couples are called to take. Other married Saints have not freely chosen this and yet have become Saints. Living ascetically is not for everyone.


#8

Are there any examples of any canonized ones? I know about St Thomas More, whom I by the way chose as my confirmation patron saint, but I guess he was proclaimed a saint mainly because he became a martyr.


#9

There is an entire books about Saints who were married, called, appropriately enough, Married Saints. Admittedly, many were widowed and later became religious, but not all.


#10

That is very interesting, Sally–thanks for posting that.


#11

We can also assume Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla and her husband were not married celibates, as it was the heroic pregnancy and birth which demonstrated her heroic virtue.

I would so like to see raised to the altar more saintly emamples of the holiness of conjugal love.


#12

I guess one of the main reasons that has given me the impression that celibacy is generally the best way to holiness is because the vast majority of all canonized saints have been celibate, and that the only (?) married couple that have been beatified together just because they lived a holy life as a family practiced post-children celibacy (not to mention that the core image of the family, The Holy Family, also lived in this way).

One can always speculate about the reasons for this. Maybe it is because those that have become really holy through a regular family life are unknown just because they lived so humble, ordinary lives. And maybe it is because the theology of the body - that sex in fact is meant to be something sacred that can actually lead a married couple not just closer to each other but also closer to God - is something that the Church relatively recently have begun to understand.


#13

I used to think that you had to be a virgin to be a canonized Saint.


#14

you can’t be celibate after you stop having children unless you divorce, get an annulment and stay single. Celibacy means unmarried. Don’t you mean to ask "is total abstinence better (and on what ways, on what levels) than periodic abstinence–NFP–for couples who have decided for good and prudential reasons not to have more children?

then you further muddy the discussion by introducing the topic of whether celibacy (unmarried chastity) is better (and you don’t specify on what way or on what level better) than the married state.

do you mean “is either of these conditions a more sure road to sanctity?”
“which of these conditions is ontological higher?”
“is either of these choices inherently more ‘moral’ than another?”

this discussion won’t be very helpful if we don’t know what the question is


#15

I would say “…just as legitimate a reason for the act as the procreative.”

In no way is it as important as the procreative.


#16

Sorry if I confused anyone with the term “post-children celibacy”. I indeed meant “total abstinence for couples who have decided for good and prudential reasons not to have more children”.

What I mean is this: It is obvious that celibacy isn’t the ideal for everyone. The gift to be able to joyfully live a celibate life isn’t given to everyone, and God indeed positively calls people to the married life. It is also clear that it by no means is wrong for a couple to use NFP and to seek the pleasure and enjoyment of the marital act, even though they try to avoid having more children (while still being open to the possibility).

However, “not being a sin” doesn’t have to mean the same thing as “brings you closer to God”. The Church is not late to teach us that sex can be misused in many different ways, mainly because it can be done in a mere selfish rather than a self-giving way, and that at least partial abstinence is always a good thing for a married couple. But what has been said about sex actually being something that can bring the couple closer to God, even if they try to avoid children by using NFP, and therefore in (at least) some circumstances can be better than total abstinence?


#17

I’m not sure I truly understand the question… you’re trying to define which is BETTER? NFP or Celibacy? :confused:

Here are some quotes from the catechism… explaining that Conjugal Love is a “good” and a “requirement” of marriage…

V. The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love

1643
"Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter—appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values."152

The unity and indissolubility of marriage

1644
The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh."153 They "are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving."154 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.

1645
"The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection."155 Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive.156

The fidelity of conjugal love

1646
By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The "intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them."157

1647
The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning.

1648
It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.158


#18

Uncertain if this, in fact, clarifies anything on this thread, but it sure is a wonderful quote from Tertullian’s Ad Uxorem:

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts.


#19

#20

what is tertullian’s Ad Uxorem?

a letter to his wife. link: tertullian.org/works/ad_uxorem.htm


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