So what to do if I can't stop contracepting?


#1

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?


#2

Not use contraception.


#3

And work through your difficulties …giving the “Yes” of faith and letting it be “faith seeking understanding”.

If someone came to you and said “I am not sure if cutting myself with knives is really wrong…but I am trying to understand the reasons for not doing so …what should I do in the mean time?”

What would you say?

You would give an answer seeking their good.

Now I know that they are two quite different ways of harming oneself or ones family-but I use that to hopefully explain my answers there.

Keep seeking - keep praying- *do not do it alone - seek out a good Priest who is quite faithful and generous with his Priesthood and bring your difficulties to him.
*

In Jesus of Nazareth and thus in his Church is* “true life” *


#4

To be frank, you have to make a choice.

While you have doubts, it sounds like there’s still a part of you that puts some stock in the Church’s teachings. You need to really stop and think about what this means to you. I encourage you to talk to people here, and to a priest about your doubts; don’t make this decision in isolation, do it after really listening to the explanations given, and praying over them.

If, after you’ve done this, some part of you still puts stock in the Church’s teachings, then I’d say that you have an obligation to acknowledge that fact and adhere to those teachings.

On the other hand, if you don’t, then I doubt the question will matter very much to you anymore. I would caution against using hormonal contraceptives though, there’s significant evidence that they cause long term damage to women.

In the mean time, since there is some part of you that still believes in Church teaching, you should adhere to those teachings, if only to be on the safe side.

I’ll pray for you, because I personally hope that your search brings you back to Christ.


#5

As a new Catholic, this is my one hangup also. I can see why some forms of contraception are morally wrong. The IUD and hormonal contraceptives can cause abortions. But I don’t understand why condoms aren’t allowed. I am with you on the catch 22- I am 42 and don’t wish to have children at my age as the risk to them and me for problems is greatly increased, but when I get married I also don’t want to force my husband to abstain, that seems like a recipe for disaster for a marriage.

I will pray for you, and perhaps you can pray for me.


#6

The reason contraceptives are bad isn’t simply because they can cause an abortion, it’s because they cut the sexual act off from its intended purpose and prevent an aspect of the human design from operating properly.


#7

Keep on with your “reversion” to the faith. It’s good that you’re back. If you can’t or won’t stop using birth control at this point, then please do this. at least use a method of birth control that is not an abortifacient. Pray each day for willingness to accept ALL tenets of the faith. Be open. Keep telling God how much you love him. Your heart will change.


#8

Doubtfire…

Let your doubts fall into the fire…:slight_smile:

Keep seeking…and seek out that Priest I mentioned to help work out your thoughts…

Jesus loves you and wants you to have life and have it abundantly…keep running towards him!


#9

Just for clarification, because a couple of people mentioned the distinction, I am not interested in hormones or IUDs. I’m speaking of barrier methods combined with NFP… They call that Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), I think.

Edit: despite the contraceptives, I still abstain on the more fertile days.


#10

@Doubtfire:

The theology of the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that it forces people into making a choice.

The Catholic Church officially teaches that it is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching doctrinal error. If it makes such a claim, then it is one of three things: 1) true, 2) delusional, 3) an imposter. When I first learned about this, I was like a shark that smelled blood in the water. The statement is so utterly brazen that it was almost comical to me. I just needed to find a single doctrine that the Church was wrong or inconsistent about, and the entire institution would come crashing down like a house of cards. How many cards do you need to topple to destroy a house of cards? You just need one.

If you don’t believe the Church is correct on its doctrines on human sexuality, then by default, you don’t believe in the Catholic Church. I’m not going out of my way to be divisive here, but logically, that is how it works. If somebody swears & announces in legal print that they are infallible, you just need to find one bad link. That’s it. It doesn’t make any sense to say that somebody is infallible with a few mistakes here and there. That’s just another way of saying that they are fallible, and if they are fallible, then what authority do they have to bind people to anything?

The best I can say is to go back and pray about it. Operate on your logos, not on your pathos. You seem like an studious type of person, so if you want a heavyweight pack of literature, I would recommend “Why Humanae Vitae Was Right”, which contains a list of essays on the subject. You should not be surprised that you are encountering a crisis of some sort or another. Rather, a person should be surprised if they do not. You are a human being.

A child does not need to fully understand all of his parent’s rules in order to obey them & be a good child, even though understanding the rules is ideal, and what the child ought to work towards. In the same way, it is not necessary for you to understand all of the Church’s doctrines in order to receive communion, so it is possible for you to continue to receive during this crisis. However, it is necessary for you to submit to them out of love & fidelity in order to receive communion. Strictly speaking, the sagest Catholic in the world does not understand Church doctrine; not fully.


#11

Remember that if you were the only person in the world, our God would be no less willing to suffer for your life. The Virgin Mary’s heart was pierced with a sword of pain, and even in her tears of anguish, God did not relent. I pray for your wisdom, strength & diligence in your search for truth, and in having your faith restored, and in finding joy & peace in the beauty of being Christ’s bride & lover. All Saints, pray for us. Amen.


#12

Two of my sisters are agnostic and they still practice NFP because of the medical issues they’ve had with multiple forms of medicinal birth control as well as it simply not working. (both have gotten pregnant while on the pill) My one sister is somewhat of a hippie and loves to sing the praises of how natural, accurate, and empowering NFP is at all of her drum circles and music festivals.


#13

I am going to let more qualified people answer your question in regard to contraception, but I would like reply to something you said:

There actually is quite substantive evidence to show people who do not understand the belief in the Real Presence. This is helpful because if you can show scientifically minded people a scientific foundation for one of the biggest Catholic teachings out there, the rest falls into place quite nicely. If you meditate on what is revealed in this video, I think you will be able to submit to the authority of the Church on the matters you are currently expressing a voluntary doubt about.

Here is a link for you. I think it will help build your faith, which I’m not in any way trying to criticize, by the way. I think the fact that you are willing to trust these teachings on faith is fantastic. I just wanted to let you know that there is a very nice pairing of faith as well as science in this regard.

youtube.com/watch?v=qbg_dhI4XCs

The video is in Spanish, but there are English subtitles. The man giving this talk was once an atheist and converted to the Catholic Faith after studying certain mystics, Eucharistic miracles, and other spiritual phenomena. :slight_smile:


#14

What does your husband say about this? Would he be willing to abstain a little more so you could abandon the barrier method?

Also, it is *not *irresponsible to become pregnant! Our society teaches us this at a young age as an alternative to the truth, which is that it is *sinful *to have sex before marriage. Their idea is that sex is fine: the bad thing is to “get caught,” by pregnancy or STD. So all our ideas are completely warped.

Right now, it might be a bad time for you or your family, but not irresponsible.


#15

Bottom line: Does God love you? Did God not in fact create you because He loves you? Isn’t it true that, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your conception, God was in control and was creating you on purpose, because He loves you?

Furthermore is this not true of every human being who is alive right now?

Therefore, why would it not be true of your future children?


#16

Any suggestions to stop contracepting are ignoring my question. Right now I honestly can’t do that because of the reasons I explained in my OP. What I need to know is, should I continue trying to be Catholic with the hope that at some later date, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month, maybe next year, I can loose the fear I have of giving the Church the benefit of the doubt or even change my belief about the matter? Or, since I can’t manage to make it convincing to my self right now, is there no point in trying to continue with Catholicism?


#17

D0ubtfire,

I appreciate your post.  It was very honest and clear and I just wanted to say that I can understand where you are coming from. (I'm swimming in massive doubts too currently)  I don't really have any answers for you, but I just wanted to say thank you for your post.

What I've just learned recently is that the faith can't ever be halfsies... its either all or nothing, and we've got to ultimately decide if we are going to put the work in or not.   I don't  say this to upset you or put pressure on you to conform either way, only that I've realized that to have faith ( which is a precious gift, which you probably already realize as well) we have to practice it, live it, believe it.   Otherwise, its just kind of sits on the side while we sin more and more... even without wanting to.   

I think you have brought here your concerns about a specific topic of the faith and wanted others to help you with clarity, but I suggest to you that maybe you need more prayer time instead. I know that when you have the faith, everything seems to fall into order, but when you have doubts, you start to sink like Peter. I don’t think ever focusing in on faith issues and deciding if it makes sense or not to you will ever convince us to have faith. Faith is not intellectual, it comes from the heart. One thing is needed then: More time in prayer, in faith (however small it is) in which to ask God for rejuvenation and strength and also guidance for your issue here. He gave it to you once before (as you said) and He can restore and replenish it for you too. Doubts will come… especially when we are at that place that is like putting our feet to hot coals and being asked to walk… but don’t shy away from it! This is the exact moments in life that will strengthen our will and our faith to do what God asks us to do. You are like Peter looking at the waves thinking… no way this can’t be done God! But God just says “trust!”. Pretty stink’in difficult if you ask me- almost sets me in a rage sometimes because I feel He asks for too much, when in clarity it is probably very small in comparison to what others have gone through.

Just take real time to pray about this! Take one day at a time and don’t worry about the future. Who knows God may protect you from getting pregnant, or bless you with a much needed child for your future somehow. You never know. But you can trust that when you do something God’s way, you did it the best way your heart trusted in. And that brings peace. What other faith way do you know of that you trust? Nothing? Then there ya go.

You have many concerns and worries on your mind right now, but only one thing is important… make it so… the rest will follow.

Luke 10: 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Best wishes to you … Please pray for me as well. My sympathy, I pray for you. Doubts are not fun especially in scary times which ask a lot of us.


#18

Start at the roots… Just God. Start small and don’t think God wants leaps and bounds from you when He already must know the fear and trepidation you have over issues. I do think He can be stern… but that’s not something I can judge for you, only He can. I would just “do”, even if you don’t feel like it. It reminds me of this passage…

James 2:24 -25 You see, that person receives God’s approval because of what he does, not only because of what he believes. She (Rahab) received God’s approval because of what she did."

 If you aren't sure about Catholicism in general.. just start with the Scriptures, which is God's Word.   Start with God.   Go back to your first love.   From there, everything else will fall into play and you will be guided so as long as you are truly seeking Jesus first.

#19

Of course contreception is one of those things that is evil in and of itself. It is not morally permissible even for atheists ( though they would disagree ). You may use NFP under the present circumstances, I’m sure.

But your main problem is spiritual. Continue going to Church but do not receive the sacraments in your present state of doubt. Continue praying, read the New Testament and pray for faith. It is clear from the New Testament that Christ established the Catholic Church as his Church and that it is the Church to whom he sent the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. You would also benefit from reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, linked below.

Prayers
Linus2nd


#20

If you don’t understand Church doctrine on contraception but defer to its teaching, you can continue to receive communion. Love is an action of the will; it is not a feeling. You do not require good feelings or intellectual certitude on a particular teaching in order to be a faithful spouse to Christ.

If you continue to use contraceptives, then according to the Catholic Church, you are gravely violating the procreative & unitive bond of sacred marriage, and you cannot receive Jesus Christ in a soul that is dead to sin without gravely offending him further. There is nothing that says you cannot continue to attend Mass or religious activities, but being a Catholic that is knowingly not obeying her teachings is obviously awkward and out-of-sorts. Hypothetically, you could join the vast number that simply receive communion anyway and pretend, but that is mostly something that occurs with people born in nominally Catholic families that require evangelization & conversion into the faith.

So can you participate in the Catholic Church in the sacraments: no.

Can you participate in the Catholic Church: of course. Even an atheist can do that.


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