Last week, I wrote an article that answered in part a question regarding the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception. Today, I would like to offer more food for thought for anyone who is struggling with this issue.
The most basic and important reason I gave for why the Church condemns artificial contraception was that it removes God from the couple’s fertility decisions. There is another point I’d like to follow that up with.
A couple’s happiness depends upon the spouses living marriage as marriage was intended by God, and by using the personal gifts each one brings to the marriage as they were intended. This creates harmony between the two spouses and within the family as a whole. Allow me to illustrate…
Think for a moment about food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks – whatever you like is fine. Food serves two purposes; it provides bodily sustenance and it provides pleasure. We need to eat to survive, but we also enjoy food. It smells good, it tastes good. It brings a great deal of pleasure to our palates.
But what happens when you don’t use food the way it was intended? What happens when someone eats the food to enjoy it, and then goes and throws it up so as not to absorb the calories and gain weight? That’s called an eating disorder. It causes major health problems as does other eating disorders such as gluttony or starvation. The food consumed is not used for it’s intended purpose and the result is damage to body, mind and soul.
It’s the same thing with a couple’s fertility and why contraception is immoral and bad for a marriage. Sex is intended for procreation, just as it is intended for pleasure. Artificial contraception prevents sex and fertility from being used the way God intended and results in damage to the body and the happiness of the couple. Artificial birth control disorders the health and happiness of the marriage.
In his papal encyclical, Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI warned about a very specific danger that contraception posed to marriage:
Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men-especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point-have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anticonceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion (Item 17, HUMANAE VITAE, encyclical Letter by Pope Paul VI, July 25, 1968).
Let’s flip this coin on it’s side, now, and look at Natural Family Planning. NFP is much more than a natural way to achieve or avoid pregnancy… it’s a way for couples to find harmony in their relationship through constant communication and team work – a level of harmony that is completely void when using artificial birth control. A couple gets to know the cycle of fertility and work together to achieve or avoid pregnancy. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides direction on responsible parenting and knowing when it is permissible to avoid pregnancy, but these situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and should be a decision made by the couple, a spiritual director, and their doctor.
And speaking to those who still need convincing, there are a few more practical perks a couple has when using NFP. There’s nothing harmful to put into your body. There’s no expensive surgery or monthly pharmacy costs. The government and your employer don’t have to be involved in your personal fertility decisions. The only side affect is a better relationship for the couple.
I encourage you to do your homework if you are unfamiliar with this and read more about it. To help, here are some books you may be interested in reading:
- Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach by John And Sheila Kippley
- Natural Family Planning: A Catholic Approach by Mary Lee Barron
As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org