What if my wife refuses to use NFP?

My wife and I have been married for about a year. I am Catholic and she is Methodist. During that time she used artifical contraception for about 5 months against my wishes. Then she stopped using birth control and insisted that I use the withdrawel method. Which I did though I knew it was wrong. I was told in confession by one priest that “it was more important to retain sexual intimacy with my wife then to worry about the withdrawl issue.” A few months later the issue was still weighing on my conscience so I went to confession to a different priest and he said “that we were not being open to life” and we had 3 options: celebacy until we were ready to have children, NFP, or accept children if God wills them. I really love both of these priests but I tend to beleive the second’s guidance, though it is more difficult. I told my wife and she was livid. She rejects NFP as just another form of birth control and she says it’s too much of a hassel, she’s doesn’t want to have children right now (for valid reasons), and has chose celebacy but basically blames it on me. I am willing to be celebate, but I would rather be unitively and procreativly intimate with my wife. I wonder if there is any way to convince her to use NFP? I’m really afraid she might divorce me. What should I do?

Dear friend,

Both priests seem to be unaware of a very important Vatican document called ‘Vade mecum for Confessors,’ paragraph 13.


A Catholic in your situation may engage in intercourse while the other is using a form of birth control under the following conditions:

“Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund (the act is not life giving). In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist.46, 561).] This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met:

  1. when the cooperating spouse already intends only what the Church allows.

  2. when the marriage could fail because of the other spouse’s hostility to Church teaching in this.

  3. when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).

Remember, you may not use the contraceptive. So withdrawal is not possible. Nor may you use a condom, etc. It must be the spouse who wants to use it who in fact uses it.

This should put your mind at ease and reduce the present tensions in your marriage.
You and your wife are in our prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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