Something I read on here recently reminded me of something that a priest said to me several years ago. I just wonder what the community on here thinks of it. He told me, without identifying anyone by name, a story about middle-aged Catholic married couple who had come to him for advice. My guess is that they were at a previous parish of his that was in a different city 50 miles away. So there was no risk of my having any idea who they were, just in case anyone worries about confidentiality issues.
In short, it seems that the problem the couple came to him with was that because they were leading an active sex life without birth control, the woman repeatedly became pregnant and each time had a miscarriage. Apparently they had been married for many years, had never used contraception, and had many children. They seemed to be presented as an ideal Catholic married couple. Their dilemma was, should they keep on having sex and seemingly inevitably have one miscarriage after another, or should they abstain until the woman had well and truly completed the menopause.
The priest’s advice was as follows, and I am necessarily paraphrasing as I wasn’t there: “Just use condoms. You have observed Catholic teaching through the whole of your marriage and you have had many children. At this stage in your lives, sex serves a different purpose. It is now about bonding you as a couple, not about having more children. If you keep having sex without birth control, you’ll keep having more miscarriages, which will damage you physically and emotionally. If you abstain from sex until you have completed the menopause, it will put an intolerable strain on your marriage. So, with my blessing and with a clear conscience, just use condoms for the next few years.”
At the time I thought that this seemed to be a very practical and pastoral approach to a difficult situation, but from what I have read on here I suspect that people will think that the priest was heterodox and may even have endangered his parishioners’ souls. I quoted the incident to an Anglican theology professor and he seemed to think that he priest’s advice was good, but he objected to the fact that a couple who have an urbane and sophisticated priest in Europe can get one kind of advice while couples in Africa would invariably be given another kind of advice.