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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | Openness to life
Tag Archives: Openness to life

Periodic Abstinence For All of Marriage

Commenting on the contraceptive mentality post Allison asked a pointed question.

How do you feel about those who say they never want children but use NFP because it’s the only thing approved by the Church? Not sure how often that happens, but would you still think that their view is okay? Or do you view children as a part of marriage for those who are able?

Rebecca gave a great explanation of why some couples using NFP might say that they plan on never having children, but I think that Allison wanted a more general answer, so here is my view. I am posting it here so that you can all chime in with your wisdom.

Marriage is like life: we are not called to decide everything all at once, but rather to discern and live each day. Of course it is wise to plan, but there is nothing wrong with looking ahead and honestly admitting that our best of plans will not achieve every ideal.

If a couple is able to continuously discern the need to avoid pregnancy, and these moments end up adding up to their entire reproductive lives, then that is sad in some way, but certainly not sinful.

It seems highly unlikely to me that a couple would abstain from sex rather than use contraception if they were so closed to children as to violate their promises to the Church and to each other.

Furthermore, the Church’s minimum standard is that we must not separate sexual intercourse from reproduction. But married couples are not required to engage in sexual activity at all, as long as abstinence is mutually agreed upon. If it is okay for some rare couples to never engage in sexual intercourse, then it must certainly be okay for some to never have children, even though they may have no fertility issues.

I have never met a faithful Catholic couple who would not wish to have all the material, health, relational, and societal blessings required for raising children. But we live in a world where not everyone has everything, and as long as that is the case there will be couples who are unable to ever discern an appropriate time to enter the marital embrace with the hopes of conceiving a child. Children are certainly the supreme gift of marriage, but not every married couple is blessed with the resources and situation to seek out the transmission of human life.

Catholics who support contraception often assert that the Church should require marriages to be open to life rather than “that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life“. But the Church insists that moral law is not about the marriage as a whole and ignoring “details” of particular acts, but rather about each and every act added up to the whole. And if each and every sexual act is open to life, even though highly unlikely to result in pregnancy, the Church’s minimum standard1 has been met.

How would you answer Allison’s question?

1. Of course there may still be the question of whether a couple is being selfish or generous in their approach to giving themselves to each other, but that is no more true for the continuously “avoiding” couple than for all couples who “resort to infertile periods!”

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