Should we respectfully leave the Church


I’ve been here before, but started again with a new name because I would prefer to be anonymous.

I have a terrible problem that is hurting my marriage, my family life and my spiritual life. I feel like there are no good answers. I am extremely torn and feel like our family might just be at a point where the only thing we can do is leave the Church for a while.

I will try to keep the details brief, but please feel free to ask more… Any compassionate advice would be welcome. What I am not interested in hearing is, “Stick to Church teaching and consider the misery your cross to bear!”

I had my fourth child last year. She is still nursing and I am not cycling yet. Therefore, NFP is not a super reliable way for me to avoid pregnancy. That pregnancy was extremely scary. I had hypertension and had to deliver the baby early via induction. The condition damaged my heart and at some point I will probably need a Pacemaker to correct it. I was on bed rest for four months, wherein I had to get full-time help to raise the other three children. We do have a wonderful new child and praise the Lord she is well and I did not pass away. I am still recovering, but hopefully will continue to get stronger.

A new pregnancy could be a life or death scenario for me. Beyond that, we definitely feel that our family is a great size and we are thankful for what we have. After four rough pregnancies, each one worse than the last, we feel very okay saying that we do not want any more pregnancies and are ready to move on to the next part of parenting - i.e. having a healthy, available mom who is not sick, pregnant and nursing all the time! Not always being in crisis mode and finally enjoying a little time that is less physically demanding on us.

We became pregnant right after we married and would really love to be a couple again, instead of two ships passing in the night just trying to get everything done for four tiny kids. We would love to be able to take a weekend away once in a while or just have peaceful dinners as a family vs. baby needing to nurse, toddler melting down, preschooler whining and tired, older child needing help with homework… This is infinitely worse when I am pregnant or postpartum, my husband is a single dad with some hired help. In other words, we are tired and ready to have a bit more freedom and flexibility in our world.

So, with those two things in mind my husband would like to get a vasectomy. I won’t like - it sounds wonderful. However, we are both Catholic and we know it’s a sin. I have told him that I do not want him to do it, as I fear he will burn in hell for it. He says he will do anything to protect me and our marriage. He says there is fundamentally no difference between using NFP to avoid pregnancy and using a vasectomy - both are purported to have the same “failure” rate. I will be very honest with you and say that I do not truly believe that we will be punished by God for prayerfully discerning that we need to not have more pregnancies and using modern medicine to achieve it. BUT, I do think there is value in being obedient to The Church, even if The Church is wrong on this point. If I am to call myself a Catholic, I need to abide by the “rules” whether they are reasonable or not.

My husband says that everyone at Mass is using contraception and not thinking twice about it, and that The Church needs to be flexible in cases like ours. We are not necessarily closed off to more CHILDREN forever, in fact we would love to adopt, but I just can’t be pregnant anymore.

I’ve told my husband that The Church would say we can do two things: Use NFP and hope that it does not fail and that we never make an error, or abstain for the next 20ish years (I am 33.) He says that is preposterous and that, while he is totally fine with limiting sexual activity, it is unacceptable to say that his sex life is totally over. He is a very tender, caring man and really enjoys that part of our relationship. It is not just as “itch to scratch” for him, but a way of renewing our vows and showing our love and intimacy. He is not your typical “dog” who just wants dirty sex constantly, but it IS very important to him to share that time with me.

But. He doesn’t want to kill me. He doesn’t want me to have to be on months of bed rest and not be able to be there for my older children. He doesn’t want me to feel so desperately sick. He feels it is his duty to protect me and our family from that.

It’s funny, I always wanted 6 or 7 kids. But, then reality struck. I am not very good at being pregnant. However, a life without any sexual intimacy cannot be healthy and my husband says that although he will do anything for me, that total abstinence would be damaging to him and to our relationship. I don’t know what to do - my marriage is a sacred bond. My family is a sacred unit. My responsibilities to The Church are real.

At this point I almost wonder if we wouldn’t be happier elsewhere. It just seems like we are in this small division of people who really, really can’t get pregnant (but would be fine with more children), really care about following the doctrine, and don’t want to burn in hell.

My husband says if I believe God would throw us in Hell for using contraception under these circumstances, then God is evil and most of the world is going to burn. I just don’t know.

Thanks for listening.

PS. we have talked with our priest, and while he did offer NFP as a solution, even he said that if circumstances were this dire, that God understands there is sometimes a gray area and we have to go with our conscience.

Avocadomom said:

“I had my fourth child last year. She is still nursing and I am not cycling yet.”

If you think it’s safe health-wise, go ahead and stop breastfeeding. You should have regular cycles within 2-3 months.

Weaning is not a federal offense.

“My husband says that everyone at Mass is using contraception and not thinking twice about it, and that The Church needs to be flexible in cases like ours.”

Your husband is mistaken about everybody using contraception.

“Use NFP and hope that it does not fail and that we never make an error, or abstain for the next 20ish years (I am 33.)”

Did your mom go into menopause at 53? If not, you probably don’t have 20 years of fertility ahead of you.

In your shoes, I think I’d wean, get cycles back, do some research on conservative NFP for high risk cases, and reconsider the whole situation at that point. Things may look much different at that point.

Best wishes!

I guess posts that begin like this leave me unsure what the poster wants to hear. There are really only two options here: Follow church teaching, or don’t. I don’t mean to be unkind, it’s not a lack of compassion, it’s simply that either you do or you don’t.

Leaving the church doesn’t change God’s will or God’s teaching in any way. I personally think that ‘God understands there are gray areas’ and ‘go with your conscience’ has led us to where we are today, everybody believing God will understand their reason for leaving Church teaching on whatever given subject.

Believe me, I do understand your fear. My mother has a history of severe post partum hemorrhage. I had the same thing after my first child. I had twins via C-section. I have had the same concerns about health. I do understand being worn out from caring for four young children.

But you’ve said upfront you don’t want to hear “Follow Church teaching,” and that leaves people the option of saying, “Don’t follow Church teaching,” or not answering.

My prayers are with you.

I can’t wean, she’s not a year yet. My cycles usually come back between 18-24 months postpartum anyway, nursing or not. So I do have that to look forward to.

First I wish you well physically, emotionally, spiritually, and any other way you need. :console:

I believe the prudential thing to do is to abstain for a while–not forever, certainly, but just until your cycle is reliable again. Sex is important in a marriage, it’s true, but it’s not as important as your health and the needs of your family. This is only a short period of adjustment after you been ill, it’s not forever. Consider that if you two are married for 50 years it’s only a fraction of the time you will have together. :slight_smile: And children grow up quickly–much more quickly than parents realize when they have a house full of active little ones. :wink:

No matter what you decide to do, you don’t have to leave the Church. What good would that really do? Would you be any less stressed if you abandoned the sacraments and the worship of our compassionate God? It may help if you and your husband were to pray together about this. I mean sit down, get out a prayer book or rosary and pray together just for this need. Persist in your prayers. God will answer. He may bring healing or he may strengthen your ability to be chaste as long as needed or some other thing no one could have imagined possible, but he will answer your prayers, be assured of that.

All the best to you and to your family.

Yours is a situation far too serious and complex for the Internet. With both your spiritual and physical lives at stake, no one can responsibly give advice on this anonymously.

You and your husband need the real-world counsel of an NFP instructor, Catholic physician, Catholic therapist, and/or a priest who does marriage and family therapy. If you don’t know where to turn, your local Catholic Charities might be a place to begin.

I am sorry you’re facing this. Your pain is evident from your post.

I don’t mind being told to stick to Church teaching, and I know that doctrine states that there is zero gray area. But what I don’t need, I guess, is people trivializing how difficult this is and chalking it up as “just a cross to bear” or “your husband is a selfish pervert if he won’t abstain for 20 years.” At this point, my husband does not see that willingly accepting that cross when there is a more convenient alternative to achieve the same goal as acceptable to our union.

And yes, my mom did go through menopause in her 50s. So did her sister and my grandmother.

Decisions of this gravity need to be made with the help of one’s doctor and pastor. CAF is great for throwing around hypothetical dilemmas, and hashing them out. But in the face of dire situations such as yours, no one here is qualified. All we can do is quote church teachings and give opinions. It feels an awful lot like tying up burdens for the backs of people who are already struggling under the weight of their cross, and then refusing (or being unable to) help them carry it. You deserve better than that.

You obviously already know what the Church teaches. I would like to clarify one point of apparent misunderstanding. With regards to avoiding pregnancy, the Church does not teach that the intention to avoid pregnancy is wrong. There are some situations which such an intention might even be deemed necessary. The Church does teach, however, that there are morally licit means to avoid pregnancy, and there are also immoral means to do so. You already demonstrate that you know what means the Church deems morally licit. But your husband’s perspective of the means being equivalent because the intention is the same is mistaken.

I am so sorry for the difficulties you face. And I completely understand that you and your husband are afraid of making a mistake with NFP, but that neither of you are able to face the thought of total abstinence. I do know that there are some CAF regulars who are in the same situation and they have successfully used a very conservative form of NFP for years to avoid pregnancy. I hope they will be able to provide some sort of counsel for you.

All that is to say, please do not leave the Church. Remember the words of St. Peter to Jesus, when Jesus asked if they (His apostles) would leave Him, too? St. Peter replied “to whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.” Whenever any Catholic is tempted to leave the barque of St. Peter because of hard teachings and feeling like we shouldn’t remain if we cannot accept them, let us recall St. Peter’s response and continue striving in the faith, with pastoral help and recourse to the sacraments and intercessory prayer.

I apologize for such a long response that doesn’t offer anything concrete. I have several friends who have gone through such a trial, or are currently going through it. I cannot possibly advise them, but I never want them to feel alone in their decision. I encourage them, as I encourage you, to make their decision prayerfully with the help of their priest (pastor).

I’m confused about the thread title. I wonder if it is possible to respectfully walk away from the Church instituted by Our Lord and from His Real Presence in the Sacrament of Communion. It seems like a rejection…perhaps I am misreading?

May God bless you and your family. Amen.

I really appreciate it. I don’t have any Catholic friends who abide by Church teaching in this area, and our priest has counseled us that it would be acceptable to discern a vasectomy. I am really just so tired of thinking about it, talking about it, worrying about it, and trying to find a solution that does not seem to be available.

I think this is about the best answer you’re going to get here! A bunch of people on the internet can only start quoting scripture or encyclicals, leaving you more confused and frightened.

At this point I almost wonder if we wouldn’t be happier elsewhere. It just seems like we are in this small division of people who really, really can’t get pregnant (but would be fine with more children), really care about following the doctrine, and don’t want to burn in hell.

Despite popular opinion, worshiping God is not about being happy. It is about God and worshiping him and learning to follow him. I only point this out because, as someone who used to church shop, I can tell you that with church you will be chasing the “happiness” rabbit forever. If you want happiness just go to the movies or something. Lol.

PS. we have talked with our priest, and while he did offer NFP as a solution, even he said that if circumstances were this dire, that God understands there is sometimes a gray area and we have to go with our conscience.

I think all you can do is seek counsel from a priest and the church.

I agree with this. The only thing I would add is to be very selective of your source of counsel. Don’t pick a priest or a pastor just because he is convenient.

Look for a priest who is older, mature, patient, kind, compassionate, and above all holy. That is a tall order, but you are making some major decisions and deserve the very best direction.

Similar for others - make sure you find good people to help guide you.

I am so sorry for what you are going through.

Having heart problems and facing a scary future is not something to trivialize. However please do not consider leaving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the Mass the Sacraments and the Catholic Church, we WANT YOU and Jesus loves you so much!

Of course your sex life is important, no one would ever claim that it isn’t. With NFP you wouldn’t have to abstain from sex, you would just have to watch your cycles closely. You can get a very conservative model that is as reliable as a vasectomy but you already knew that, you probably are just concerned that keeping track of your cycles may be tedious perhaps?

I am concerned about the advice you got from your priest already. He is wrong that sterilization is a “gray area” and is leading you astray. Your husband has a beautiful body which is wonderful! Your husband’s body is a gift from God and his wonderful body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He should not mutilate his body, only bad things can come from that. Please reconsider, I will pray for you, I know it is tempting. Please take care.

Okay, I understand and see the difference. Thanks for clarifying.

My mother also went through menopause in her 50s, and as I said, I also had some health issues. I do hope no one here would trivialize what you’re facing. I don’t think a man is selfish or a pervert at all for wanting that part of marriage. It’s an important part of marriage.

While we can debate the semantics of “everybody” ABC is very high among Catholics. Shockingly high. A majority use it. If we want to discern if that is 51 percent or 99 percent it really does not matter. I grew up Mormon and in Mormon country. Mormons do not teach ABC is wrong but they do tend to use it less than the Catholics I know. At one point, when we first took NFP it was a class of 12 couples, we were the only non Mormons including the instructors. So while it was at a Catholic parish it was run by and attended by Mormons… Yet about 2 kids was the norm for that parish. (it was a very wealthy parish)

Keep in mind we taught NFP and marriage prep. A vast majority of Catholics in the west, use ABC. Including at one time, my wife and I.

I feel comfortable taking about former diocese I lived in (several) but prefer to leave my current one out for the most part. I will say this. Our parish is titled “A pro life, Pro family parish” In this day and age of Catholic “communities” it is quite refreshing. We also live in the Midwest which seems to have a large family as a normality though most do not farm anymore and it is a lower income area of the country. Our Bishop is one of the leading minds in current Catholic healthcare circles.

The rest of your post. Spot on.

Well stated.:thumbsup:

Personally, I agree with your priest on this dire situation and my advice would be to go with what he has told you above. Also, I don’t think leaving the Church would do you any good.

Good luck and God bless. I will keep your family in my prayers tonight.

I will get to the rest of your post believe me. But for now I just want to say that it is a HUGE same that priests give this advice. I have been told by different priests the following:

  1. Masturbation is perfectly normal and that I should do it to improve my marriage.
  2. Birth Control is fine. One even said that BXVI said it was ok. Others have said that all forms of ABC are fine.
  3. Anal and oral sex to completion are fine. (:eek: Don’t even ask how the confession got that specific!)
  4. For my marriage the priest
  5. Use of NFP was fine for any reason.

Now, I knew what the Church taught and I formed my conscience to be Holy. A priest does not wipe away your culpability outside of confession. They have no authority or wisdom beyond what the Church teaches. I am sorry for your spiritual director and leader of your parish. It saddens me. Many times I have had to say “Father, I just need absolution”

I have been scandalized recently by a priest who left the Church to pursue a homosexual relationship. So this issue hits real close to home for me. Our priests, all of them, need prayer.

You are advocating a position against the Church. Against the OPs very soul.

Do you wish to accept any judgement that implies?

Personally I don’t think you should counsel against the Church on the forums, I believe it is against the rules. You could sympathize, talk about the moral implications and even question, but encouraging a fellow Christian into mortal sin… Yikes.

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