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November 08, 2005

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Rich Leonardi

Good for Ms. Tennant!

This paragraph ...

What did my daily habit say about my faith in the One who reduced himself first to a cell, then two, then 128, then 256 and more, then to a defenseless baby—and whose door is always open for helpless intruders like me?

... is a near perfect encapsulation of what sin is, i.e., the driving of charity away from one's soul.

Can not an NFP-practicing couple maintain this sinful attitude -- and thereby sin?

As a practitioner, it's a question I've often put to myself, in so many words.

Jeff

This sense of discomfort never evolved into an absolute dogma: I still wouldn't say that taking contraceptives is a sin.

Of course not. I just wrote an entire article explaining why I think it is wrong and giving evidence as to why others shouldn't do it, but calling it a sin? Never.

This is a really good article, but it is still very interesting to me how many people, even those who disagree with contraception, still see the whole issue in terms of only physical realities: whether the pill is abortifacient, whether we are open to conceiving a child or not, the harmful effects of the pill. For me, my eyes were truly opened when I saw the issue in terms of the spiritual realities: my wife and I have been given a glorious, life-giving gift by God to image the Trinity and to bring children into this world because of our sexuality. Whether we're using the pill, a condom, or misusing NFP, we are not honoring God because we are going against the way He designed us. I pray the author is on her way to understanding this, but I don't think she's there yet.

Gerard E.

Catholic Wisdom: Wherever you go, it's already there. Will be common in three to five years in those glossy wymyn's magazines at the supermarket counter- Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Oprah, etc. Then to the younger women- Cosmo, Glamour. Uh, oh- hearing a cry in the wilderness. Rachel bewailing her children. Or something like that from that non-trendy Bible.

Nerina

"Can not an NFP-practicing couple maintain this sinful attitude -- and thereby sin?"

I ask myself this constantly, Rich. Am I REALLY open to God's plan for me in terms of children? Even though my husband and I are faithful NFP users, I wonder if we are failing to serve God when the only time we participate in the marital is during times of infertility. These are very difficult questions and though I or my husband can find "reasons" not to have another child right now, I wonder if we aren't using NFP as another form of birth control.

Nerina

"Can not an NFP-practicing couple maintain this sinful attitude -- and thereby sin?"

I ask myself this constantly, Rich. Am I REALLY open to God's plan for me in terms of children? Even though my husband and I are faithful NFP users, I wonder if we are failing to serve God when the only time we participate in the marital is during times of infertility. These are very difficult questions and though I or my husband can find "reasons" not to have another child right now, I wonder if we aren't using NFP as another form of birth control.

Old Zhou

This is almost a perfect example of evangelical Protestant moral theology at the start of the 21st century.

(1) The foundations are Scripture and personal experience. No Magisterium in sight. Not even any denominational guidelines. It is an absolutely personal experience.

(2) It is neither absolute nor universal; there is no "norm." The writer can easily change her mind tomorrow and go back the the pill, and write an equally wonderful essay about her new enlightenment, based on a new reading of Scripture and new personal experience. And she does not want to impose her current view on anyone.

But I'm glad she is where she is while she is there.

Greg Popcak

Nerina and Rich,

The sin of contraception is not the mere postponment of a pregnancy. The Church gives couples the right to do this under the teaching of responsible parenthood. The sin of contraception is the UNNATURAL ripping apart of the unitive and the procreative aspects of sex. But NFP teaches couples how to cooperate with the NATURAL separation built into the cycle by GOD HIMSELF. A couple using NFP for less than ideal reasons may be engaged in some kind of sin, but it is NOT the sin of contraception and it can never be.

Secondly, the decision to use NFP MUST be rooted in prayer and MUST be part of the desire to live a holy life. If you are praying together as a couple to seek God's will for your family and you are seeking to live a holy life then you must trust the conversation between you, your spouse, and God to inform your hearts about what ultimately constitutes a serious reason to postpone pregnancy and what does not. As Gaudium et Spes teaches, the couple--and not anyone else--must make this decision "in the sight of God." It is an awesome responsibility, but this struggle is part of the process of sanctification and the means by which a couple learns to attune their spiritual ears to the voice of God, calling them to become the family HE wants them to be.

Susan Peterson

Jeff, you are right; she hints that they are using barrier methods during the fertile period. But she has made a great leap away from some assumptions pretty universal in our culture. She has shown that she lets what others say sink in and reflects on what she hears. Having gone to CCL, she will know that using barrier methods during the fertile time is not being open to life. I think she will get there.
Susan Peterson

Liam

On a less-virtuous note, has anyone ever researched whether there is a correlation between taking the Pill and the struggles more women seem to have had maintaining their desired weight over the past 2 generations? I have had dear friends swear off it because they felt it really screwed up their bodies. Any freedom that comes by making war on your own body is not free, is it? (And that, traditionally, has been one of the reasons for lefty opponents of the Pill, IIRC.)

Liam

On a less-virtuous note, has anyone ever researched whether there is a correlation between taking the Pill and the struggles more women seem to have had maintaining their desired weight over the past 2 generations? I have had dear friends swear off it because they felt it really screwed up their bodies. Any freedom that comes by making war on your own body is not free, is it? (And that, traditionally, has been one of the reasons for lefty opponents of the Pill, IIRC.)

Maureen

Speaking only as a lifelong angster and worrywart, who thankfully doesn't have to deal with this particular chance for needless and endless guilt drama...

Occasionally not having sex is not the same as birth control. If God was making people have sex, neither sex nor life would be a gift, would it?

Married people have the Christian freedom to either feast or fast, as they like and as they feel prudent.

Maureen

Speaking only as a lifelong angster and worrywart, who thankfully doesn't have to deal with this particular chance for needless and endless guilt drama...

Occasionally not having sex is not the same as birth control. If God was making people have sex, neither sex nor life would be a gift, would it?

Married people have the Christian freedom to either feast or fast, as they like and as they feel prudent.

Old Zhou

Following Maureen, I would like to quote Pope John Paul II The Great, from the Grand Finale of Theology of the Body. This is from the General Audience of November 21, 1984, titled, "Respect for the Work of God," nn. 3-4 (my bold)

3. Respect for the work of God contributes to seeing that the conjugal act does not become diminished and deprived of the interior meaning of married life as a whole—that it does not become a habit—and that there is expressed in it a sufficient fullness of personal and ethical content, and also of religious content, that is, veneration for the majesty of the Creator, the only and the ultimate depository of the source of life, and for the spousal love of the Redeemer. All this creates and enlarges, so to speak, the interior space for the mutual freedom of the gift in which there is fully manifested the spousal meaning of masculinity and femininity.

The obstacle to this freedom is presented by the interior constriction of concupiscence, directed to the other "I" as an object of pleasure. Respect for what God creates gives freedom from this constriction. It frees from all that reduces the other "I" to a mere object and it strengthens the interior freedom of the gift.

4. This can happen only through a profound appreciation of the personal dignity of both the feminine "I" and the masculine "I" in their shared life. This spiritual appreciation is the fundamental fruit of the gift of the Spirit, which urges the person to respect the work of God. From this appreciation, and therefore indirectly from that gift, all the affectionate manifestations which make up the fabric of remaining faithful to the union of marriage derive their true spousal meaning. This union is expressed through the conjugal act only in given circumstances. But it can and it must be manifested continually, every day, through various affectionate manifestations which are determined by the capacity of a disinterested emotion of the "I" in relation to femininity and, reciprocally, in relation to masculinity.

The attitude of respect for the work of God, which the Spirit stirs up in the couple, has an enormous significance for those affectionate manifestations. This is because side by side with it there is the capacity for deep satisfaction, admiration, disinterested attention to the visible and at the same time the invisible beauty of femininity and masculinity, and finally a deep appreciation of the disinterested gift of the other.

Married couples should daily practice "affectionate manifestations" with continence. It is about the love of God flowing through the couple, everyday, through the capacity of a disinterested (not selfish) emotion.

Marriage is not, primarily, about sex, which should "not become a habit," and should be "only in given circumstances" (e.g., want to have another child).

THAT is Theology of the Body.

The body is not for sex.
Sex is for making children.
We are called to a love-filled continence, both now and for eternity.
The body, both now and in the life to come in resurrection, is for communion.
Get used to it.

Cheeky Lawyer

"[A]n inconvenient interruption."

Ain't that the truth of how we describe children. It is actually quite sad that we see them as impositions and not gifts.

Admittedly, when your baby is screaming in your face unable to fall asleep and keeping you from a few moments with your wife, it can be quite taxing. But seen against the horizon of "gift," all of those minor struggles pale.

This paragraph spoke to me as well:

"Did no one tell them that newlyweds are supposed to secure some essentials before risking the intrusion of a baby? Didn't they want to make love without visualizing cribs? Didn't they need to get used to one another as husband and wife before succumbing to the asexual roles of sleep-deprived young parents? How would they find time to travel, to secure academic degrees, well-paying jobs, and a mortgage? And would they be able to afford Starbucks?"

As someone whose baby was born 2 days shy of his nine month anniversary, I had to chuckle. God has a plan and it is nice to get taken along for the ride. While we might not be the best bill boards for the effectiveness of NFP, I've been touched how a Protestant, with whom we are friends, have complimented us about our dedication to our daughter and that we've had a baby so young (relative to their friends).

No real point to my comments. A great article.

Old Zhou

Following Maureen, I would like to quote Pope John Paul II The Great, from the Grand Finale of Theology of the Body. This is from the General Audience of November 21, 1984, titled, "Respect for the Work of God," nn. 3-4 (my bold)

3. Respect for the work of God contributes to seeing that the conjugal act does not become diminished and deprived of the interior meaning of married life as a whole—that it does not become a habit—and that there is expressed in it a sufficient fullness of personal and ethical content, and also of religious content, that is, veneration for the majesty of the Creator, the only and the ultimate depository of the source of life, and for the spousal love of the Redeemer. All this creates and enlarges, so to speak, the interior space for the mutual freedom of the gift in which there is fully manifested the spousal meaning of masculinity and femininity.

The obstacle to this freedom is presented by the interior constriction of concupiscence, directed to the other "I" as an object of pleasure. Respect for what God creates gives freedom from this constriction. It frees from all that reduces the other "I" to a mere object and it strengthens the interior freedom of the gift.

4. This can happen only through a profound appreciation of the personal dignity of both the feminine "I" and the masculine "I" in their shared life. This spiritual appreciation is the fundamental fruit of the gift of the Spirit, which urges the person to respect the work of God. From this appreciation, and therefore indirectly from that gift, all the affectionate manifestations which make up the fabric of remaining faithful to the union of marriage derive their true spousal meaning. This union is expressed through the conjugal act only in given circumstances. But it can and it must be manifested continually, every day, through various affectionate manifestations which are determined by the capacity of a disinterested emotion of the "I" in relation to femininity and, reciprocally, in relation to masculinity.

The attitude of respect for the work of God, which the Spirit stirs up in the couple, has an enormous significance for those affectionate manifestations. This is because side by side with it there is the capacity for deep satisfaction, admiration, disinterested attention to the visible and at the same time the invisible beauty of femininity and masculinity, and finally a deep appreciation of the disinterested gift of the other.

Married couples should daily practice "affectionate manifestations" with continence. It is about the love of God flowing through the couple, everyday, through the capacity of a disinterested (not selfish) emotion.

Marriage is not, primarily, about sex, which should "not become a habit," and should be "only in given circumstances" (e.g., want to have another child).

THAT is Theology of the Body.

The body is not for sex.
Sex is for making children.
We are called to a love-filled continence, both now and for eternity.
The body, both now and in the life to come in resurrection, is for communion.
Get used to it.

Cheeky Lawyer

"[A]n inconvenient interruption."

Ain't that the truth of how we describe children. It is actually quite sad that we see them as impositions and not gifts.

Admittedly, when your baby is screaming in your face unable to fall asleep and keeping you from a few moments with your wife, it can be quite taxing. But seen against the horizon of "gift," all of those minor struggles pale.

This paragraph spoke to me as well:

"Did no one tell them that newlyweds are supposed to secure some essentials before risking the intrusion of a baby? Didn't they want to make love without visualizing cribs? Didn't they need to get used to one another as husband and wife before succumbing to the asexual roles of sleep-deprived young parents? How would they find time to travel, to secure academic degrees, well-paying jobs, and a mortgage? And would they be able to afford Starbucks?"

As someone whose baby was born 2 days shy of his nine month anniversary, I had to chuckle. God has a plan and it is nice to get taken along for the ride. While we might not be the best bill boards for the effectiveness of NFP, I've been touched how a Protestant, with whom we are friends, have complimented us about our dedication to our daughter and that we've had a baby so young (relative to their friends).

No real point to my comments. A great article.

julie b

Greg Popcak:

Thank you for your post.

scotch meg

Nerina,

Be careful about engaging in the contraceptive mentality, even in using NFP. It may sound facile coming from me, as I am probably past the age when I will bear another child. But I say "alas" to that, as I would never have guessed when I married my husband.

Experience is not the end-all and be-all. Zhou's post is well worth reading for the teaching of the church. However, experience is worth something... ours was to move from barrier contraceptives, to NFP, then, after welcoming our first two children, to a come-who-may attitude. Between my husband's work schedule, nursing, and my levels of fatigue, we have not exactly been overburdened with children (only 5). But as we moved farther and farther from the conventional wisdom of this age, we have experienced the love of God more and more dramatically. The children have brought us together in love in ways we could never have predicted.

I will never forget advice from a Protestant friend, that he and his wife only avoided pregnancy when God was calling them to do so. It is that attitude which we should bring to our marriages, and teach to our children. Sex, like all of God's gifts, is for His service, not just our own will... whether it be through strengthening our marriages or welcoming the children He places in our arms.

Liam,
My husband says that when he was briefly in full-time community practice as a neurologist (now he does mostly research and dementias), he saw a number of cases of stroke in young women due to the pill. And frequent cases of migraine headaches. Alas, all too often women are willing to medicate the symptoms, but not give up the root cause. Kill that fertility at all costs! If your friends have a sense that they are messing up their bodies, they are probably right. Just look at the informed consent inserts sometime.

Greg Popcak

Julie B.,

You're welcome. Its my pleasure.

Zhou,

I appreciated the post, but unless I misunderstand, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child. Clearly, they must be open to the possiblity of conception, but it is NOT church teaching that a couple must only have sex when they intend to conceive.

I agree, of course, with JPII's view that sex should never become the expression of mere habit (and that is one of the other benefits of NFP. Periodic abstinence acts as a strong deterent to this possibility.) But it does not follow from this point that a couple should never engage in intercourse UNLESS they are attempting conception.

I'm sure I misunderstood your point, but perhaps clarification would be helpful?

Greg Popcak

Julie B.,

You're welcome. Its my pleasure.

Zhou,

I appreciated the post, but unless I misunderstand, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child. Clearly, they must be open to the possiblity of conception, but it is NOT church teaching that a couple must only have sex when they intend to conceive.

I agree, of course, with JPII's view that sex should never become the expression of mere habit (and that is one of the other benefits of NFP. Periodic abstinence acts as a strong deterent to this possibility.) But it does not follow from this point that a couple should never engage in intercourse UNLESS they are attempting conception.

I'm sure I misunderstood your point, but perhaps clarification would be helpful?

Old Zhou

Greg, you write, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child.

Not at all. I really don't think in terms of "may not licitily." I'm not fond of legalism and minimalism, although I realize that is the stuff of Canon Law and Natural Law and Thomism and all that stuff--and why we have so many Catholics on the Supreme Court (yeah!).

I don't think in legal terms.

I'm think more in eschatological terms, looking "from the beginning" to "the life of the world to come," and what it means here and now.

What it means is that there is no sex in heaven. There is male and female, but no sex. That is where we are going. What does that mean for today? What does continence mean for marriage today? Marriage is much, much, much more than sex, which should be "only for given circumstances." If couples had this vision of marriage, I think there would be a lot less divorce. And no need for contraception.

Old Zhou

Greg, you write, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child.

Not at all. I really don't think in terms of "may not licitily." I'm not fond of legalism and minimalism, although I realize that is the stuff of Canon Law and Natural Law and Thomism and all that stuff--and why we have so many Catholics on the Supreme Court (yeah!).

I don't think in legal terms.

I'm think more in eschatological terms, looking "from the beginning" to "the life of the world to come," and what it means here and now.

What it means is that there is no sex in heaven. There is male and female, but no sex. That is where we are going. What does that mean for today? What does continence mean for marriage today? Marriage is much, much, much more than sex, which should be "only for given circumstances." If couples had this vision of marriage, I think there would be a lot less divorce. And no need for contraception.

Old Zhou

Greg, you write, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child.

Not at all. I really don't think in terms of "may not licitily." I'm not fond of legalism and minimalism, although I realize that is the stuff of Canon Law and Natural Law and Thomism and all that stuff--and why we have so many Catholics on the Supreme Court (yeah!).

I don't think in legal terms.

I'm think more in eschatological terms, looking "from the beginning" to "the life of the world to come," and what it means here and now.

What it means is that there is no sex in heaven. There is male and female, but no sex. That is where we are going. What does that mean for today? What does continence mean for marriage today? Marriage is much, much, much more than sex, which should be "only for given circumstances." If couples had this vision of marriage, I think there would be a lot less divorce. And no need for contraception.

Old Zhou

Greg, you write, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child.

Not at all. I really don't think in terms of "may not licitily." I'm not fond of legalism and minimalism, although I realize that is the stuff of Canon Law and Natural Law and Thomism and all that stuff--and why we have so many Catholics on the Supreme Court (yeah!).

I don't think in legal terms.

I'm think more in eschatological terms, looking "from the beginning" to "the life of the world to come," and what it means here and now.

What it means is that there is no sex in heaven. There is male and female, but no sex. That is where we are going. What does that mean for today? What does continence mean for marriage today? Marriage is much, much, much more than sex, which should be "only for given circumstances." Clearly, "given circumstances" includes desire for a child. What else? Sex is clearly not a cure for depression, or a preventive of adultery. What do you suggest?

If couples had this vision of marriage, I think there would be a lot less divorce. And no need for contraception.

And "continence" is not only in contrast to the "conjugal act." It is part of a whole life of and aspiration to holiness, of "self-mastery." From October 24, 1984 (General Audience):

2. This is very important for an adequate understanding of the virtue of continence and especially of the so-called "periodic continence" dealt with in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The conviction that the virtue of continence is set against the concupiscence of the flesh is correct, but it is not altogether complete. It is not complete especially when we take into account the fact that this virtue does not appear and does not act abstractly and therefore in isolation. But it always appears and acts in connection with the other virtues (nexus virtutum), and therefore in connection with prudence, justice, fortitude and above all with charity.

In the light of these considerations it is easy to understand that continence is not limited to offering resistance to the concupiscence of the flesh. But through this resistance it is open likewise to those values, more profound and more mature, inherent in the spousal significance of the body in its femininity and masculinity, as well as in the authentic freedom of the gift in the reciprocal relations of the persons.

Old Zhou

Greg, you write, you seem to be suggesting that a couple may not licitly engage in intercourse unless they are intending to conceive a child.

Not at all. I really don't think in terms of "may not licitily." I'm not fond of legalism and minimalism, although I realize that is the stuff of Canon Law and Natural Law and Thomism and all that stuff--and why we have so many Catholics on the Supreme Court (yeah!).

I don't think in legal terms.

I'm think more in eschatological terms, looking "from the beginning" to "the life of the world to come," and what it means here and now.

What it means is that there is no sex in heaven. There is male and female, but no sex. That is where we are going. What does that mean for today? What does continence mean for marriage today? Marriage is much, much, much more than sex, which should be "only for given circumstances." Clearly, "given circumstances" includes desire for a child. What else? Sex is clearly not a cure for depression, or a preventive of adultery. What do you suggest?

If couples had this vision of marriage, I think there would be a lot less divorce. And no need for contraception.

And "continence" is not only in contrast to the "conjugal act." It is part of a whole life of and aspiration to holiness, of "self-mastery." From October 24, 1984 (General Audience):

2. This is very important for an adequate understanding of the virtue of continence and especially of the so-called "periodic continence" dealt with in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The conviction that the virtue of continence is set against the concupiscence of the flesh is correct, but it is not altogether complete. It is not complete especially when we take into account the fact that this virtue does not appear and does not act abstractly and therefore in isolation. But it always appears and acts in connection with the other virtues (nexus virtutum), and therefore in connection with prudence, justice, fortitude and above all with charity.

In the light of these considerations it is easy to understand that continence is not limited to offering resistance to the concupiscence of the flesh. But through this resistance it is open likewise to those values, more profound and more mature, inherent in the spousal significance of the body in its femininity and masculinity, as well as in the authentic freedom of the gift in the reciprocal relations of the persons.

Old Zhou

Hey...Typepad is sick.
I'm not trying to reproduce my comments.
But apparently I'm getting errors back from typepad and the comment is then being posted...sometimes more than once.
Looks like others are also having this problem.
Oh well.

Realist

This is a repeat of a previous note:

We have pills to increase libido, to prevent pregnancy and to kill children (Plan B pills). It is obvious that we can develop any pill to influence our biological processes. What is missing in this area of course is the anti-libido pill. Eliminate the desire, eliminate the problem with, I assume, would be a Church approved method since Viagra et al use is not against any Church teaching to my knowledge.

Should the Church fund studies/development of such a pill(for a lot of reasons)? I doubt the drug companies will based on the profits they make on the other bioresponse pills.

Self-control you say? I could not agree more but it rarely works as evidenced by the 100,000 plus porn sites on the Internet, and the HIV epidemic in Africa. Put "porn" in the Google or Yahoo search engines and see what comes up. Then there are the cable/dish "adult" sites for added evidence.

Maureen

Aehhhhh! The double post madness!

(It looks like posts are posting before the browser thinks they're done processing. Try opening a new window and seeing if your comments have appeared before you press the button again. If they're already up, then kill the comment box.)

Re: Zhou et al.

Again, speaking as someone totally uninvolved in the issue except as someone who once was conceived and born, it seems to me that there's a world of difference in terms of feeling between "we're doing this only to have kids" and "we're doing this in love as God has called us to do, we hope for kids, and we'll take whatever adventure God sends us".

Also, there's a grimness I see in people who are desperately trying to have kids as well as in those who are desperately trying not to have them. While the aim is obviously better in the former case, I think that even without resorting to illicit methods (IVF, etc.), it could result in almost as bad a devaluation of conjugal love. (Not to say that there's anything wrong with working hard at a shared project; just to say that getting obsessed and mechanical is not a good plan.)

Chris Sullivan

Rich asks "Can not an NFP-practicing couple maintain this sinful attitude -- and thereby sin?"

Of course they can.

But each couple has to make a prudential decision for themselves, given their own financial and other circumstances, about whether to make more or less exclusive use of infertile periods.

The fact that NFP couples have limited resources, have many children, and are asking the questions that Rich and Nerina are asking, strongly suggests that you are acting in accord with the divine will.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says :-

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood.

2370 (quoting Humanae Vitae) "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil.

Exclusive recourse to (what one thinks are) infertile periods certainly doesn't "render procreation impossible" in an environment where one is open to children.

God Bless

Old Zhou

For the techies...Typepad Status Reports.

dcs

It is obvious that we can develop any pill to influence our biological processes.

Try monk's pepper instead.

I think that the Church would oppose such a pill, at least for married people, since one is obliged to render the marriage debt whenever one's spouse makes a reasonable request for it. That is, if one's wife asks one for conjugal relations, one better have a good reason for refusing ("err, sorry, but I took my pill today"). The Church did not oppose Viagra for this very reason: it helps older men to render the marriage debt to their wives.

Susan Peterson

Speaking of the weight problem, one of my daughers had the opposite problem with hormonal contraceptives. She had an "implant". She lost her appetite, could hardly force herself to eat. She knew she was too skinny, didn't have anorexia nervosa. But people started asking if she were anorexic(meaning anorexia nervosa). The doctor was reluctant to ascribe this to the implant, told her to eat ice cream etc. Even when she found information saying that the implant could have this effect rather than the opposite in rare cases, he really didn't want to remove it. She definitely looked cachectic...her breasts had withered away to nothing, an area of wrinkled skin on her flat chest; all her ribs showed. She finally insisted on having it removed, after which she immediately began to gain weight and returned to a normal healthy weight within half a year.
Susan Peterson

alias clio

It may be that NFP, as it is, doesn't "render procreation impossible". But I suspect that this is something scientists will soon (?) be able to pin down much more accurately. What then? Will it force Catholics to turn back to "have sex whenever, and hope for the best?" Or, for those whose health or finances cannot support further children, will it force them to give up sexual relations altogether?

Another issue I thought I'd mention: someone above said that there's no pill to reduce libido, but in fact, that appears to be one of the most commonly cited side-effects of the pill, both in its original format and the "mini-pill" (low estrogen) version. This seems to be a medical reaction to the hormones in the pills. I'm sure someone out there knows more about this than I do; but it's not a fact that anyone has ever cared to publicize too much...

One of the points made by Germaine Greer in her weird, horrible-but-wonderful "Sex and Destiny" is that the danger of intercourse, and the continual risk of pregnancy, was one of the things that preserved the excitement of the conjugal act.

Susan Peterson

What if one member of a couple wants to have more children and the other one doesn't?
Lets say they have 3 or 4 and the youngest one is past weaning and they are both still fairly young, and while they are not well to do, financial issues are not desperately pressing. Add that one child has a problem which means that he requires more than the average amount of attention from his mother and which could conceivably keep him dependent on his family longer than usual. Given these factors, one member of a couple feels it makes no sense to have another child, while another one wants another and feels they can handle it.

Should the presumption be that they do not have another unless both agree? Or should the presumption be that they continue to have children unless both agree they have a good reason to practice NFP and abstain during fertile times? Does it matter whether it is the wife who feels more cannot be handled and the husband who wants more, or if it is the other way around, if it is the husband who feels that prudence dictates they not have more,and the wife who feels they can and who would like to have another? Suppose each says he or she has prayed about it, and each is still convinced he or she is right?

If the husband approaches the wife in her fertile time and she is the one who doesn't feel they should have more children, may she say no? If the wife approaches the husband in her fertile time, and HE is the one who doesn't feel they should have more children, may HE say no? Is there any moral difference between these two reciprocal situations?

Is a wife morally obliged to monitor her fertility and keep a chart of it because her husband wants to know when she is fertile so he can avoid a pregnancy, although she doesn't want to avoid a pregnancy? There isn't any reciprocal of this situation that I can think of-the closest is: Is the husband is obliged to look at his wife's chart and not approach her when she is fertile if he knows she believes they shouldn't have another child?

None of these are my situation as I am past the years of childbearing. To be honest, in my situation there was a lot of unconscious or subconscious stuff going on which influenced what finally happened, in which one or the other actually desired something other than he or she could consciously admit, and also in which the need for emotional closeness when that wouldn't happen unless there was sexual closeness, distorted the intellectual interpretation of fertility signs...so that such clear dichotomies never arose. But does anyone have ideas about how they should be resolved when they do?

Susan Peterson

Susan Peterson

alias clio,
You misunderstood the sentence "NFP doesn't make procreation impossible," as if this were because it is inaccurate. Used properly it is accurate. What the writer meant is that the use of NFP does not make any particular act of intercourse which would have been fertile if not interfered with to be infertile. ( either ahead of time by the pill, or at the time of intercourse by barrier methods) Thus the rest of the first paragraph of your comment makes no sense.
SFP

anon

Susan Peterson's questions above are good ones. How do couples resolve the type of situations she describes? I myself am in one of the situations mentioned.

Chris Sullivan

Susan,

Even a strict use of NFP has a conception rate of somewhere between 1% and 4%, depending on which figures one quotes.

My point was that even a strict use of NFP, restricting intercourse to only the periods determined to be infertile, does not "render procreation impossible".

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

I think the questions Susan poses are really material for love in action.

I expect the way these are resolved are the same way any other marital differences of opinion are resolved - in dialogue, prayer, respect for the dignity of the other partner, and in love.

I don't know that there's necessarily any boilerplate/textbook/doctrinal answer that addresses every case other than to state the principles which the couple have to work out in practice.

God Bless

Realist

DCS,

It was assumed that the anti-libido pills would be for each partner of course. But the pills would have a much greater use population then just married couples. Teenagers and priests (being blunt) come to mind.

"The Church did not oppose Viagra for this very reason: it helps older men to render the marriage debt to their wives." My post-menopausal wife will get good laugh from that one since unfortunately there is no Viagra pill yet for women. Do you have a reference for this "Viagra" rule for older/younger men?

Marie C

Regarding birth control and weight -- I foolishly used Depo-provera before I was married. I was overweight to begin with, but gained another 30 pounds. Now, I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome as a result of such a bad decision -- the different doctors I have consulted said as much.

I have confessed this sin, but now I am wondering if I am still committing mortal sin by not making a concerted effort to lose weight. Apparently, losing might help my hormones to become more "regular", but it doesn't mean I will be fertile again. The priests I have talked to haven't been very clear regarding this issue.

Isabelle

If you don't seriously regret having to use NFP, you are probably using it as contraception.

dcs

"The Church did not oppose Viagra for this very reason: it helps older men to render the marriage debt to their wives." My post-menopausal wife will get good laugh from that one since unfortunately there is no Viagra pill yet for women. Do you have a reference for this "Viagra" rule for older/younger men?

Hmmm, perhaps I shouldn't have said "older men," although I think it is generally older men (and professional cyclists ;-)) who struggle most with ED. But I seem to recall that being the reasoning behind the Church "approval" of Viagra -- it helped men with ED to be able to render the marriage debt to their wives. Of course it was couched in the personalist gobbledygook of modern Church statements.

dcs

If the husband approaches the wife in her fertile time and she is the one who doesn't feel they should have more children, may she say no? If the wife approaches the husband in her fertile time, and HE is the one who doesn't feel they should have more children, may HE say no? Is there any moral difference between these two reciprocal situations?

To be honest, I don't know whether moral theology has progressed to the point at which one can get a definitive answer to these questions. Of course I'm not a moralist so I could be mistaken (or ill-informed, or whatever). I do know that "mutual consent" is supposed to be one of the conditions for licit use of NFP. But I don't think that goes far enough in answering your questions.

Andy

"Self-control you say? I could not agree more but it rarely works..."

"How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." Matthew 7:14

No one said the journey would be easy. The discipline of self-control is not easy, especially today. Just because it's not easy doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for it. As Christ says: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

I like the comment that "Any freedom that comes by making war on your own body is not free". I think it applies to the anti-libido drugs as well.

Maureen

Um... Isabelle... this approach seems to me to be just asking to make people compulsive and guiltridden. And I do say this as someone who will get compulsive and guiltridden about just about anything, given half a chance or no chance at all.

If something is a good and prudent thing to do, how is it that you should regret having to do it? You regret having to do bad things, not good things. Good things and prudent things carry with them the satisfaction of not having regrets, I would think.

Are we improperly drinking a glass of wine with dinner if the whole time we don't regret it not being changed into the Precious Blood? Because yes, God can make wine turn into the gift of Himself, just as He can make sex, even NFP infertile time sex, create babies. But He doesn't have to do it with every bottle of wine to make wine a good thing, or to justify wine's existence!

To take it another way, if someone was perpetually regretting that one glass of wine couldn't be the whole bottle, I'd think they had a serious problem.

Look, I realize that I'm not facing the same challenges as the married people here. But I also thought that Theology of the Body was about relaxing to God's will and acting prudently at the same time, which means the use the same criteria as we do for all sorts of daily prudential choices. If you can choose as a family when to eat and when to fast, you can choose as a married couple when to have sex and when not to. We don't have a Christian freedom more basic than that.

Period. End of guilt.

If you really want to tie yourself into knots of obsessive guilt, though, I can think of some much more fun knots for you, ones that won't potentially destroy the happiness of your marriage. Just sayin'.

Susan Peterson

Marie C...what you did in the past is forgiven if you confessed it.

As for losing weight, perhaps you and I and the many other overweight Americans are gluttonous, but I dont' think we are committing a mortal sin of gluttony. Maybe I am too casual about this...but if there is sin in it it might be more in not giving the dollars we spend for snack foods to the poor than anything else. Perhaps some sin in not taking better care of our bodies, more if this is so severe it means you would deprive your spouse and children of your care by dying early. I haven't heard a good analysis of gluttony as it applies to present day Americans, ever.

If you are saying that if you lost weight you might be fertile so staying heavy is wrong because it opposes fertility, well, I think that is a far stretch. You aren't staying heavy in order not to be fertile, are you?

Susan Peterson

Realist

DSC,

"Professional cyclists", a priceless comment. And a great response especially the last one about "gobbledygook" of modern Church statements. I could not agree more. These Vatican guys must get paid by the word. Maybe an "anti-word" pill would help them?? :))

Ken

I haven't heard a good analysis of gluttony as it applies to present day Americans, ever.

In Screwtape Letters, C.S.Lewis makes a point that gluttony does not necessarily mean eating-until-you-burst a la Monty Python's "Mr Creosote". Screwtape's example is an old woman who eats maybe an anorexic's amount of calories, but everything has to be prepared Just So. Just like Mr Creosote, what she eats completely controls her life to the point of crowding out everything else.

I leave you to make the application to Fad Diet of the Week and Organic Health Food Fundamentalists. "Call not Unclean what God hath declared Clean."

(Nya ha ha, My Dear Wormwood...)

Nerina

Thanks to all (especially Greg) for words of wisdom and support.

Susan proposes a hypothetical situation that very closely mirrors mine. We do have four children currently (and I say that with hope for more), one is autistic, and we are relatively young (late-30s). The problem we face as a couple is the one Susan writes about. I deeply desire more children, even FEEL God calling me to it, but my husband is just not on the same page right now. He is a good man who gives 100% of himself as a parent and husband. I am very blessed to have him.

When asked why he can't consent to more children now, he cites the fear of not being able to do enough for the kids. My oldest son requires extra attention and I feel my husband has placed such a high expectation on himself in terms of what constitutes "good parenting." I've reached a point in my prayer life and in my relationship to Christ, that I feel God will provide for us. I'm not saying it would necessarily be easy, but that God will remain ever faithful and merciful with whatever challenges we may face with my oldest son and other children born to us.

I think most stressful for us, as a couple, is this difference in desires which presents itself anew each month. He knows of my desire (I have been very honest and have pleaded my case, so to speak) and he has been equally forthcoming with his reservations. I love and respect him both as a husband and father, but this is very hard on a marriage month after month.

Isabelle

Hi Maureen,

Thanks for your post. It was very good and full of insight for me.

I once heard that love is the only thing that makes Our Lord's yoke easy and His burden light. Wasn't it St. Augustine who said "Love God then do whatever you will"? That is how I was taught to see and to try to live the divine gift of married love.

Love seeks union and in marriage God joins us as one; permitting us a small share in the magnificient union of the Most Blessed Trinity; reflecting Their love and unity in the sacrament of holy matrimony.

It seems to me that for a husband or wife in love to *have* to avoid one another for any reason would be a sorrow. To fear what could happen because we love one another is a poverty.

Jesus came to set us free in love. If our intentions are pure and not selfish they will fulfill the requirements of love and we will not have to be afraid of each other, of our children or of anything the future holds.

That was all I meant.

I am not very prudent when it comes to love I'm afraid.

God Bless,

Isabelle


As you are more than well aware, Love often requires us to sacrifice our selves for the well being of those we love so when a husband or wife has to use NFP it must be for a reason of Love or sacrifice.

Isabelle

oops, that last part was supposed to be erased. I can go on and on and on.

sorry

Chris Sullivan

Nerina,

I think most married couples have been through something similar. I know we have. My paryers are with you in this difficult time.

I feel God will provide for us

It's worth bearing in mind that he often does provide directly for families, but the many who starve to death every day are witness that he provides in the sense of making available to all of humanity what we collectively need, and gives us free will to distribute those goods as we see fit, which isn't always to directly provide what every family needs.

Sometimes what we feel God is calling us to is only, well, what we feel.

Maybe the process of discussing with your husband and working out a common solution is part of the process of discerning God's will for you ?

God Bless

Isabelle

And, sometimes what we feel God is calling us to is what God is calling us to. We don't have feelings for nothing you know.

I will remember your precious family in prayer Nernia.

Isabelle

amt

"If you don't seriously regret having to use NFP, you are probably using it as contraception."

You cannot use NFP "as contraception". Contraception renders an act of intercourse infertile. This is always immoral, regardless of the gravity or selfishness of the reasons for avoiding pregnancy.

NFP could be used for selfish reasons, but that does not make it "contraception". The moral questions of why you avoid pregnancy and how you avoid pregnancy are separate issues.

Nerina

Chris, thanks for your thoughts.

I guess my bigger wonder is how as a couple, can be so "at odds" on this issue? Surely if God is calling me to have another child (and I don't mean this in some abstract way - I mean I discern his voice, ever louder, calling me), why isn't my husband hearing this same call. This is the stuff that confounds the mind, frankly. "Two shall become one" and all that, yet we are sharply divided at this point. As I said, very stressful.

On a different note, I know one way God is using my family to build His kingdom, is by having and raising children who will be good stewards of God's gifts. This includes feeding the hungry. With four more disciples in the world, they can be salt and yeast. And I DO believe that God provides for individual families. Not necessarily in the way a couple may have originally hoped for, but provide nonetheless. My autistic son was not what I envisioned for a first child, but the lessons learned (about sacrificial love and humility) have brought me one step closer to my heavenly home.

Nerina

Thank you, Isabelle.

Maria Ashwell

Nerina, I think we're in the same spot! I will certainly pray for you. Let us both wait patiently upon the Lord and our dear husbands.

Isabelle

Hello amt!

Thank you for responding to my thoughts.

I understand what you are saying but sometimes we try to hide our true intentions not only from God ( very silly) but even from ourselves and those closest to us. However,the holiness of our actions always depends on the purity of our intention.

I know that the true meaning of NFP must always be intended for the purpose and fulfillment of love. It can and most certainly is abused even by people who would deny it even to their own hearts.

Love is free and never afraid. It is generous and perfectly open to God Who Is infinite Love and Who can only enrich us here and in eternity. Love never fears the gift of a child as it is the sacred gift that love(God) and (one's beloved) gives to love and which we receive with joy and hope for the future!

I think we can intend to use NFP as a means to quiet our fears and to be in charge even of life. A man can become afraid of his wife's fertility and deliberately avoid her even though she may need his affection in sexual union causing her emotional harm. The intention of the use of NFP in these instanses is not love and is therefore lacking what God intended. It is deliberately acting in a manner that thwarts conception even at the expense of our spouses good.

Love always acts for the good of the beloved and so when it is required that spouses remain apart it is a sorrow but a sacrifice that love requires and is gladly fulfilled.


Chris Sullivan

And I DO believe that God provides for individual families.

I do too. And I know many instances of it.

But how to reconcile this with those families which, right now, are starving to death ? Does God not provide for those families ? Or is his provision the obligation on the rest of us to help them out ?

I'm just a little wary of the argument that, if we have more children, God will directly provide for them all. It doesn't seem in accord with the Catechism,which teaches :-

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

You cannot use NFP "as contraception". Contraception renders an act of intercourse infertile.

I'm not sure if this is quite correct. All contraceptive methods don't render every act of intercourse infertile. They all have a "failure rate".

Is there an official Catholic definition of contraception? It seems to be something we keep coming back to discuss. Humanae Vitae uses the term contraception without defining it. Unless we take the "render procreation impossible" as the definition of contraception.

But if that's the case, then are condoms and the like actually contraception as they also do not "render procreation impossible" but only "render procreation less likely" ?

God Bless

anon

Nerina,
I am the same "anon" who posted above in regard to Susan Peterson's questions. I am in a similar situation to yours. We are in our late 30s and have three children. I would like to have more children but my husband worries a lot about the financial aspects. I am a stay-at-home mom and he works hard but not in field where he'll ever make a lot of money. He is also an immigrant to this country and so has very strong feelings about his children having a better life than he had in the old country. We have also discussed this a lot and prayed about it. It's a difficult situation. I continue to wait and pray.

amt

"However,the holiness of our actions always depends on the purity of our intention"

Not only the intention, but also the act itself.

A couple who fears that a pregnancy may prove fatal to the mother and use the pill are contracepting, although avoiding pregnancy for a serious reason.

A couple who delay pregnancy so that the woman can look slim at next year's high school reunion, and use NFP to do so, are NOT contracepting, although their motives for using NFP may be selfish and wrong.

I agree with your thoughts on how NFP can be misused. But my point is that this misuse can never be called "contraceptive", as contraception refers to the specific act of attempting to render an act of intercourse infertile.

Many Catholics fail to understand this distinction. There is a widespread belief that the Church's teaching is that you should not do anything to avoid pregnancy (nfp is allowed because it is unreliable!). Therefore, the logic goes, if you do have good reason to avoid pregnancy, you may as well use contraception. The sin is perceived to be in avoiding pregnancy, not in how you do it.

I teach marriage prep, and every month, without fail, someone asks "But what's the difference between nfp and contraception? Either way, you're avoiding pregnancy", and every other head nods. Calling the selfish use of NFP "contraceptive" is not going to help these couples understand the difference.

Contraception is "intrinsically evil"; NFP is "in conformity with the objective criteria of morality" (CCC 2370). NFP can be misused, but it is not the same as contraception.

scotch meg

Nerina and Maria,

I will pray for you.

Is the problem that your husbands are afraid of numerous additional children? Or just one more is too many? The reason I ask is that, after all, fertility does decline over time. I had my fourth child at 35 and thought I was done because no one else showed up for 5 years. Then we had our 5th when I was 40. Now I'm 46, so I really am pretty sure I'm done (unless God is good enough to make me an exception...)

As far as resolving the situation goes, keep talking. And praying. We have had issues that have lasted years, although not quite so tough as this one. Working together, you will come to a solution sooner or later.

God bless you.

Isabelle

Chris, it is true that we should be prudent and responsible but as my mom used to say, love doesn't count the cost. I am so glad she didn't. I was the fifth of seven sisters. We take very good care of our mother now since my dad died. She is like our queen!

husband of amt

Chris,
Technically: "every action which whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible." (CCC, 2370)

Isabelle

amt, is the deliberate selfish use of nfp a mortal sin? I know that contraception in intrinsically evil but isn't selfishness the root of all sin?

I never had these problems. I had infertility and after the last test, and every cent we had was told there was no hope. LOL. They never heard of the Rosary! Would have gladly given my life a thousand times for just a glimpse of our beautiful children. I always felt I was living a miracle!

Thank you for your response. You are teaching me.

Isabelle

Greg Popcak

Nerina,

It is a little difficult to get too into the details of your personal situation on a blog, but I'll just offer the following comment.

You wrote, "I guess my bigger wonder is how as a couple, can be so "at odds" on this issue?"

This is where my comments about prayer and seeking God's will into play. You and your DH need to be sitting down every night and praying TOGETHER, "God, this is what is on my heart, this is what is on her heart, but WE want to know what is on YOUR heart. Give us the grace-- through our conversations with you and with each other--to listen to what you are saying to each of us. Help us bring the pieces of the truth you are communicating to both of our hearts. Enable us to create the whole picture you are asking us to assemble of those pieces."

Then, you talk and pray and get more info then talk and pray about that info and talk and pray and get more info and so on. Each time you do, you will find that God does bring your hearts closer together.

The most common 2 reasons that couples can't resolve the differences you describe are (1) they frame the question in terms of "who's right? Him or me?" Instead of "How does God want us to assemble these two seemingly disparate sets of concerns into one whole?" (It is possible after all that the Holy Spirit is actually speaking to each of you, but he wants you to do the work of putting the two pieces together into a whole that will be unique for your family). and (2)The couple doesn't pray together. Maybe she prays and he doesn't. Maybe she prays and he prays separately, but not together. Neither of these work. Unless the H and W are on their knees together, communicating their hearts to God at the same time, they will never sort this out. The Christian faith is ultimately about learning to celebrate deep intimacy with God and each other. Likewise, making babies is supposed to be about intimacy--not a numbers game. Therefore, after a certain point of just allowing them to "coast," God may insist that a couple do the work that godly intimacy requires before giving them the clear sign to have another child. He introduces the seeming differences in the couples heart as a way of motivating them to do the work on the unitive end that they have been--perhaps unwittingly--avoiding. If they do the work, he will allow them to experiece the unity of mind that leads to a celebration of the love that is so powerful that in nine months it has to be given its own name.

Hope that helps.

Isabelle

Beautiful Gregg! I am learning so much here!

Louise

One friend of mine was saying that she read about a protestant couple on mission, who were praying for God's guidance in every tiny thing - except parenthood! It was "Of course we'll only have two children."

It's as though Jesus is Lord of everything except our reproductive organs.

I think the main thing in deciding to procreate is prayer.

Chris Sullivan

husband of amt,

Your definition of contraception as "every action which whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible" (CCC, 2370) seems to be correct.

I looked up the Glossary at the back of my copy of the Catechism (2nd edition - the 1st edition doesn't seem to have a glossary), which was prepared by Archbishop Levada (who presumably knows what he is talking about as he is now head of the CDF), and it defnes "contraception, artificial" as "the use of mechanical, chemical, or medical procedures to prevent conception from taking place as a result of sexual intercourse".

I'm still puzzled as none of the commonly thought of contraceptive methods (save those which use abortion) actually prevent conception. All they do is impede, or reduce the probability of conception.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

Thanks Greg. Very well put.

God Bless

Zippy

If something is a good and prudent thing to do, how is it that you should regret having to do it? You regret having to do bad things, not good things.

NO! We never have to do bad things. Quite the contrary: we must not do bad things. It is perfectly reasonable and normal to feel regret at having to do something that is morally licit though, and I think the heuristic "if you do not regret practicing NFP then you probably do not need to practice NFP" is a very useful one that ought to be given careful consideration.

carolyn

"if you do not regret practicing NFP then you probably do not need to practice NFP" is a very useful one that ought to be given careful consideration."

But what's the alternative if circumstances renders another pregnancy inadvisable?

Abstinence? That's tough on the marriage.

Nerina

Chris, I'm not sure what your overriding intent is with your messages, but it seems like you are critical of my desire to have more children when there are starving people in the world. Is this the correct interpretation? If not, I apologize. Again, I'll tell you that I am a much more committed Christian now, having had children, then I was before them. I think one of the greatest gifts of parenting is a complete humbling of one's self (truly, a dying of one's old self) so that Christ may more fully live in a person. As a result, I take much more seriously, Christ's commands to take of those with less. I believe it, I preach it, and I practice it. Rest assured, my tax forms bear this out. And I don't think it should really be part of the discussion. I'm focusing more on how this issue affects, my marriage and fulfilling God's plan for me. I would think a Catholic discussion forum is a place that would actually support a person's desire for more children. I find having a child the most selfless act (when approached in the right frame of mind) a person can do.

Greg, thank you again for your insight. And you pegged it with point 2. No, we don't pray as a couple. I spend alot of time in personal prayer and we pray as a family, but as a couple? Nope. We don't. And we should. We can share very intimate physical acts, but why is prayer so intimidating to people who love each other? My husband, I'm sure, would be open to it, but we've never thought to do it.

This point: "God may insist that a couple do the work that godly intimacy requires before giving them the clear sign to have another child. He introduces the seeming differences in the couples heart as a way of motivating them to do the work on the unitive end that they have been--perhaps unwittingly--avoiding," is something I had not thought of but seems to fit in my situation. We have much work to do.

Maria and anon and all others who are dealing with this in their marriages, let us all pray for each other.

Zippy

But what's the alternative if circumstances renders another pregnancy inadvisable?

The standard for the licit use of NFP is either "grave reasons" or "serious reasons" depending upon which magisterial source you cite. "Inadvisable" raises the question of why pregnancy is inadvisable, and the answer should be that it is inadvisable for grave/serious reasons. Again, I think the "if you don't regret using NFP then your reasons may not be grave/serious" heuristic that was suggested by another commenter might be useful; and in general the idea that you can't feel regret at having to do something that it is licit for you to do - which initially spurred my comment - is wrong.

Chris Sullivan

Nerina,

I think your desire to have more children is holy and wonderful and I'm with you on everything you wrote in your last post.

My only point was that the Catholic Church does not teach that God will directly provide for as many children as one desires to have. The idea that Christians will be automatically showered with material blessings is a protestant one, although one strong in our culture. It isn't a wise basis on which to make decisions on family size.

I will keep you all in my prayers.

God Bless

anonthisonce

Reading over this thread, I have a couple things to offer.

First, only the couple can decide if they have serious and grave reasons to postpone pregnancy. What may be serious for one may not be for another. A hypothetical example: two women have a health problem that requires them to stay off their feet in the third trimester of pregnancy. One, who has lots of extended family nearby who love to help her, has eight children; the other, living in a rural area with no relatives close, has four.

Second, in the cases of couples who can't agree on whether to have another child, the advice of a good spiritual director is invaluable. I think if I were in this position my parish priest would definitely have good insights.

Third, as an NFP user, my current prayer is "Lord, 'reason x' is still unfortunately present. Please help us to solve 'reason x' in Your good time. In the meantime, if you should choose to send us a new little one despite our use of NFP, please help me to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby despite 'reason x'. You know we are always open to whatever Your will is, and we know You will help us to do Your will. Amen."

carolyn

"grave reasons" "serious reasons"

What rises to this standard? What if you didn't want more children because you want a life for yourself? I've had 5 myself and as much as I wouldn't have it any other way, it was very hard work and you sometimes feel as if you were underwater until your youngest is 5. A woman not wanting this for herself is understandable.

Is that serious or grave? Somehow I don't think it would pass muster. So what are your options? Is it your very *attitude* that's sinful, no matter what you do to prevent conception? Or is it only sinful if you don't totally abstain instead of periodically as in NFP.

Everything I ever read on the ewtn question board doesn't ever answer that question.

Zippy

I am just an ordinary average lay person, but to the best of my knowledge the magisterium has never formally clarified those particular examples. All that we have to go on is the abstract principle that in order to be licit, the reasons for using NFP must be grave or serious (depending upon which source is cited).

To the best of my knowledge there does not have to be a grave or serious reason to abstain completely (and indeed Josephite marriages are generally looked upon favorably, though obviously they are not for everyone).

Isabelle

"What if you didn't want more children because you want a life for yourself?"

There probably isn't a mother or father in the world that hasn't wanted that if even for a short while, anyway.

Self love (selfishness), though, is the rival of the love of God. They are enemies. Our love of self must be extinguished in order for us to enter heaven where we will be filled only with God who is love.

I am a mother and agree it is hard work! It doesn't help much that the world hates us now more than ever especially if we have more than 1 or two children but we are not here to please the world or to abide by its commandments.

We are here to love and to be loved. We are here to be transformed into Christ who was hated by the world and who gave every drop of his blood so that we could have life eternal.

We are mothers. We are here to serve, not to be served. We must ask our Lord and our Lady to grace us with every grace to love as they loved us. We will not see our reward here for this is not our home. We do have a home though and I believe mothers of one or twenty children will most certainly have a place near the head of the table where they will be served by angels even!

Forgive me but I do think (perhaps mistakenly that you are concerned very much with rules). Just love God, your husband and your beautiful family and all will fall in in place. Do all things according to the requirements of love even when abiding in the Churches teaching of NFP. Seek the council of a good and holy priest. Take time to pray and enjoy your family.

Don't worry and "do not be afraid" . Let God be with you in all things. And last but not least reject the world's messages that motherhood is not important. To Almighty God, you are a little queen and He believes in you and in all that you do! He is counting on you and waiting to receive you into the most beautiful kingdom of His love. I hear the laundry is always done and the dishes are taken care of.

I hope you have a beautiful day tomorrow. I am most grateful for your sacrifices for Christ and for all the world. You probably have great kids too!


carolyn

"To the best of my knowledge there does not have to be a grave or serious reason to abstain completely (and indeed Josephite marriages are generally looked upon favorably, though obviously they are not for everyone)."

Well, that's the answer that ewtn is tiptoeing around. Total abstinence brings up lots of problems of its own, messing as it would be with the very heart of marriage, There's something about that option that smacks of destroying the village in order to save it, so few want to address it.

And why has the church EVER looked at josephite marriages favorably? It gives ammunition to those who think the church antisex, And its not TOTB sex-affirming any way you look at it.

One wore point and I'll shut up. There are many who sincerely feel that more than 2 or 3 are, given western consumption patterns, imprudent. You could even make a case that it's sinfully irresponsible. Chris Sullivan touches on this. The answer that there's plenty of room for everyone ignores political realities, much of which are very much the result of original sin and so not going anywhere anytime soon. (In retrospect. I've wondered if my husband and I behaved selfishly rather than selflessly in bringing 5 into a world which, let's face it, is not a happy place. We *wanted* many kids but perhaps preconciously we only wanted to get our genes into the next generation as a biologist would put it, and thus were selfish.)

So what would be the proper course of action for those true environmental believers? I'd love the Vatican to produce a document to give the answer, although I's be afraid of what it would say.

carolyn

Isabelle--

Thank you for your kind words. I'm very happy with my family and they are great kids, but I'm concerned about these larger issues.

Chris Sullivan

carolyn,

I don't believe for a moment that you acted irresponsibly or selfishly in having and raising 5 children.

I expect rather that you have raised 5 children who will do their part to help make the world a better place.

I think the Vatican has already pronounced that governments may take measures to reduce population growth where the reasons for this are "serious or grave", but insists that such measures be in accord with the moral code (usually they aren't).

God Bless

Isabelle

Carolyn,

>>" Total abstinence brings up lots of problems of its own, messing as it would be with the very heart of marriage,'

Sex isn't the heart of marriage, Love is.

Sexual union is merely the expression of that which already exists in the real unity of two distinct persons.

The Church must look upon all love as favorable as it has as it's source, God Who is Love. This love can be expressed in other spiritual or ordinary ways of service working profoundly for the beloved's good here and for eternity.

>>"One wore point and I'll shut up. There are many who sincerely feel that more than 2 or 3 are, given western consumption patterns, imprudent."

Imprudent according to their personal reasononing or imprudent according to the Divine guidance of the Holy Spirit? 'God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are other than our ways'." Being subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a virtue the church calls prudence. It is not being careful according to the data you read in the NYT.

>>"In retrospect. I've wondered if my husband and I behaved selfishly rather than selflessly in bringing 5 into a world which, let's face it, is not a happy place."

Your children's lives and your grandchildren's lives will eventually answer this for you here and our Lord who was perfecty happy in heaven but who entered the very unhappy place of the world has certainly answered this in the Resurrection. Your children are a gift of His generosity and He never acts in a selfish manner.

>>"We *wanted* many kids but perhaps preconciously we only wanted to get our genes into the next generation as a biologist would put it, and thus were selfish.)

It isn't about what we want or don't want. It is about loving all that God sends us in our lives and about serving Him though our daily duty which sanctifies us. It is about doing God's will and not counting the cost to ourselves because we love Him and for Him love others.

If you did preconciously want only to get your genes into the next generation, you would conciously see your children as mere biological material now. I know you don't.

Your children are the fruit of the love of two distinct persons in union with each other and God. They are infinitely beautiful as they reflect this image of love to everyone.

The proper course for those true enviornmental believers is, to learn to love God, more than the world, and the world will be a better and more beautiful place for as many people as God chooses to send into it.

The more we cling to the goods and ideas of the world, the less we will be able to enter the Kingdom of our home with God. Only Love will be permitted to enter and find rest. Environmental politics may hinder our souls but our childrens prayers on our behalf will be heard and answered.


Isabelle

Chris,

You said: "I think the Vatican has already pronounced that governments may take measures to reduce population growth where the reasons for this are "serious or grave", but insists that such measures be in accord with the moral code (usually they aren't).

I can't imagine this as much of the world is presently in a birth derth. With abortion, disease and contraception killing or preventing the growth of much of the world's population, many countries need many more children. Like Mother Theresa said, how can there be too many children? That's like saying there are too many flowers.

However I would be interested in seeing any such document you suspect the Vatican has issued. Please do the board a service and try to find it.

I never heard the Chruch say that parts of the world were overpopulated.

God Bless,

Isabelle

Rick

Isabelle,

May I first say, Very beautiful posts!

Regarding the cite you asked for from Chris, this passage from Humanae Vitae is included in the Catechism:

2372 The state has a responsibility for its citizens' well-being. In this capacity it is legitimate for it to intervene to orient the demography of the population. This can be done by means of objective and respectful information, but certainly not by authoritarian, coercive measures. The state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.161 In this area, it is not authorized to employ means contrary to the moral law.

I think ways a state might legitimately "intervene" are funding NFP classes, encouraging breastfeeding (and the natural spacing that often follows), encouraging higher education (and hence delayed marriage and motherhood) for women, etc.

Isabelle

Thank you so very much for giving me this very beautiful passage from Humanae Vitae. I understand Chris's post much better now seeing the Church's teaching in context. I think it is so beautiful!

God Bless,

Isabelle

Zippy

And why has the church EVER looked at josephite marriages favorably?

I can suggest some reasons. Because sometimes perfect continence is absolutely required as a matter of the moral law, as was the case in, for example, the marriage of Michael and Terri Schiavo. And those who set an example voluntarily unite themselves with those who are Josephite out of necessity, as well as with consecrated virgins of all sorts. There are no doubt other reasons as well.

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