So hear me out… I practiced NFP for at least 5 years until very recently.
It started with a crisis of faith. I had a million doubts about God and the Church and long story short, last year I stopped practicing Catholicism. Once my belief in the Church was gone, it was only logical that I no longer abided by the Church’s rules.
(I’d like to emphasize that it was not a desire to use contraception that made me leave the Church, I only abandoned NFP as my only method when I realized I no longer believed in God and the Church. What led me to leave were my doubts about bigger matters, like origins and original sin, Christ and resurrection.)
For a little while there I embraced agnosticism/atheism. But then, months later, something happened to me that kinda shook me to my core and I felt I had to embrace faith in God in order to even continue functioning. Now, I’m well aware that because God exists it does not follow that Catholicism is true, but Catholicism is the form of spirituality that I’m most comfortable with - it’s how I relate to God. Despite not having evidence that I find convincing enough to prove that Jesus is/was what the Church teaches, it is still my way of conceptualizing God and so I can embrace all those teachings on faith - a faith that a few months ago I couldn’t find, but now, thankfully, I can. All that’s well and good.
However, having lost the faith and being in the process of apparently gaining it back, I no longer view the Church the way I used to. Originally, my conversion to Catholicism was a very heady, intellectual one. I read my way into the Church, so to speak. I loved how systematic the theology was and how cohesive it was and how there was an answer for everything. I’ve always been a black and white thinker, so this doesn’t surprise me. But what I’ve learned is that this tendency to think in black and white isn’t conducive to living in reality. There is lots of gray area in life. We can’t have all the answers, especially not in existential matters. No one can, not even the Church. I find my black and white thinking to be unhealthy, not just in religion, but in life in general… Now, I can no longer bring myself to viewing the Church that way. The difference is that before I was “certain” of myself, of the Church, … now I’m not so “certain”…
So with this uncertainty, I can open myself to accepting the teachings the Church through faith, trying to embrace the belief in Jesus and the Resurrection despite not having evidence (disclaimer: I know there’s “evidence” out there but I don’t find it conclusive). I can open myself to the belief that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood (Soul and Divinity) of Christ, not on evidence, but on a trust. I’m not “certain” that the Eucharist is really the Body of Christ, but I can believe it. And this is how I define my faith at this stage in my life. With uncertainty, but with an openness, despite lack of hardcore evidence.
So, I have a million doubts, but I’m learning to work past them…
But here’s the problem: It was my certainty that the Church was right about everything it taught on faith and morals that allowed me to feel comfortable with NFP and the contraception ban. I, however, intellectually, simply do not agree with the teaching (and I didn’t before either, I just accepted it because the Church taught it). I can not bring myself to believe that birth control is intrinsically evil. I can certainly see how it’s less than ideal, and I do love NFP for what it’s taught me about my body. But intrinsically evil? There is nothing in me that believes that to actually be true.
However, I’m well aware that that is what the Church teaches. But since I’m uncertain about the Church and it’s authority, I am in a position where this has become an insurmountable issue for me. The reason being because of the consequences. I don’t feel comfortable giving the Church - who’s authority I’m uncertain of - the benefit of the doubt when I am not personally convicted of the immorality of the matter, and so I don’t feel compelled to risk the consequences.
I’m no longer in a position where I feel it’s no big deal if I get pregnant like I was when I was first married. I already have three children and I am completely overwhelmed plus I’ve recently started dealing with mental (depression and anxiety) and physical health issues. I am in NO position to handle a pregnancy and a newborn. I have even had to hire full time help here at home because my doctor told me I should not be alone with my children (that alone is a huge financial burden). I feel that it would be incredibly irresponsible of me to not contracept. Of course, absolute abstinence is an option to avoid pregnancy. And that is what I’m sure most of you here will recommend. But I am not comfortable with the consequences of that either - of the kind of strain that that puts on a marriage. I’m especially not comfortable with those consequences considering I harbor doubts or uncertainty regarding the Church’s authority.
So I feel compelled to contracept because I feel I have a moral responsibility not to have any more children right now and a morally responsibility to safeguard my marriage by not forcing that degree of abstinence on my spouse. These things -my marriage, my children- are here and now, they are tangible and they are certain, they are realities. The Church’s teachings on birth control and it’s own authority to dictate such matters are abstract ideas to me, ideas that I’d like to find reasonable, but that right now I simply am not convinced of. This matters because a burden of the kind that I’m speaking of - of another pregnancy or of strict abstinence - is only bearable if one has the conviction that it is right and true. I simply don’t have that kind of conviction right now. I’m still wrestling with the bigger issues. So……….WHAT SHOULD A PERSON IN MY SHOES DO?