Q. A friend says Natural Family Planning should only be used under the most dire circumstances, like absolute poverty or profound mental or physical illness. Apart from those circumstances, my friend says my husband and I should simply trust God’s Providence. Others say NFP can be used to avoid pregnancy according to the judgment of the couple. What does the Church teach?
A. Openness to life is a fundamental component of marriage—in fact, being open to life is absolutely essential to being married. Couples are called to accept children lovingly and generously, and we are called, by God, to be fruitful. Procreation is the ordinary way in which couples share in God’s divine and generous love— it is, in one sense, a part of the ordinary mission of marriage.
Of course, any artificial means of “family planning”—any form of contraception used to avoid pregnancy—is absolutely contrary to the meaning of marriage, and to the meaning of sexual love in the context of marriage. Sterilizing the marital act through contraception is gravely immoral.
But the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “for just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children.” Humanae Vitae elaborates: “with regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”
The moral theologian Christian Brugger says that “there is no decision more serious to a Catholic couple than whether or not to participate with God in bringing a new human person into existence. The more serious a decision, the more it is due prayer, discussion and discernment.” This discernment should include the issues of family finances, physical health, and family needs. Couple should be careful not to avoid procreation because of undue fear, or inconvenience, or simple preference. Instead, couples are called to discern the question of children from the perspective of generosity— couples should ask themselves how much they are called, and able, to share in God’s creative love through the good of procreation.
Write to Ask the Register online or at 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.