Everything you need to know about this very important topic, you can learn for yourself in one of these four sources:
1. The Holy Bible
2. The Code of Canon Law
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
4. The Apostolic Constitution: Gaudium et Spes
I say this for two reasons:
1) In the hopes that you will in fact study more deeply what the Church teaches on this topic (luckily all of these are found in the form of user friendly search engines on the internet – free of charge)
2) To affirm that what I will be speaking about tonight is not simply my opinion and more over if someone tells you that what I am teaching is NOT what the Church teaches, you can rest assured that that person is either misinformed or worse yet lying to you.
What you need to know about Contraception
Please understand that my personal observation and belief is that there is no greater evil in the world today than the mentality of contraception. It is not only evil, but it is used by many to spread evil through confusion.
I say this because there are so many misconceptions about this subject. In fact, the fact that there are so many misconceptions about such an important topic, and one that is so clearly spelled out for us, is very problematic in its own right.
Let's begin with Sacred Scripture. One of the clearest examples of God's attitude towards contraception in found in Genesis:
Genesis 38:9-10: “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also.”
Throughout history, the sin of contraception, before the pill, the medicine, the surgeries... was simply "to withdraw" before climax, as described above. This sin has always been referred to as "Onanism", because the perpetrator is Onan.
We should probably begin by dispelling the misconception that the prohibition of artificial contraception is a "Catholic Thing". It is a historical fact that all Christian denominations agreed with the prohibition of contraception until the 1930 Council of Lambeth, wherein the Anglican church was the first to break with Rome on the matter.
If we go to the founders of the Protestant faith, we read the words of Martin Luther and John Calvin. They wrote the following on the subject:
"Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother.
(Martin Luther Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44; 1544; LW, 7, 20-21)
"I will contend myself with briefly mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth with his seed, so that Tamar would not receive a future inheritor.
(John Calvin, in his Commentary on Genesis)
It is imperative, in discussions like this, we remember that words matter. Every word of what the Church teaches needs to be understood in its entirety and not taken out of context. This requires study and reflection.
Once the truth is understood, it then requires faith and forbearance to simply obey. Being a Catholic is not like belonging to a club or a company or a society. We are organically bound to our mother the Church. We are members (like fingers are members) of the mystical body of Christ. While Christ is the head of that body, the Pope is the vicar of the mystical body of Christ.
On this subject the Church teaches us in her Catechism, (CCC85)
"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."
This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”
On the subject of Peter, the Church teaches us (CCC553)
“Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven… " The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.”
We cover this topic now to relieve you of the temptation to question the authority of the Church in such intimate matters as what goes in on in a couple’s bedroom. We don’t have to worry about that – it’s clear, our membership in the Church is mystical and it is total.
On the subject of marriage, the Church makes clear that two points stand above all. Marriage is indissoluble and marriage has fecundity.
Now I think indissolubility is a pretty simple concept, and one that we all know to be true. Marriage is permanent and can not be broken, except by the death of one of the spouses.
The second point is more easily misunderstood (fecundity), because, to begin with, it’s not a word we use in every day language. But the word also deals with very complex criteria; it involves so many factors – emotional, physiological, psychological, economic, societal….
Fecundity, in 21st century American English, means “fertility”. So the Church teaches us that Marriage is permanent and it is fertile.
The Church states that (CCC2366) “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love (the sexual act) naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.”
(So understand that children are the natural fulfillment of marriage.)
“So the Church, which is "on the side of life" teaches that "it is necessary that each and every marriage act (that’s the sexual act) remain ordered, per se to the procreation of human life."
Just so you know, when the Church uses the words “per se”, it is meaning to direct us to the individual act itself, every time the act occurs. Now those “words” are very, very important. So every time a couple are together sexually, that ACT itself, has to be “ordered” towards having another child.
Keep in mind; this is quite different than simply being an act that is not ordered against having a child. In other words there is a propensity towards children the Church wishes us to be aware of, every time the sexual act is carried out.
"This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium (which is the teaching office of the Church), is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act (the sexual act)."
BOTH are equally important. I say this because there is a tendency in our culture – even our Catholic culture – to emphasize the positive aspects of the unitive dimension of lovemaking while minimizing as even harmful, the procreative aspects of the exact same act.
This mentality is embedded, deep within the psyche of man – and it’s called Hedonism. This is the mentality that views all pleasure as a good, and something to gravitate towards, and all suffering as an evil, which is to be avoided at all costs.
Thus, sexual gratification becomes synonymous with pleasure (and is considered good) – and children become synonymous with suffering (and are considered bad). This mentality is not only evil – it is condemned by the Holy Church and is NEVER to be confused with what is good. This mentality is what JPII referred to as the “culture of death”.
Let’s discuss how the Church really feels about marriage, in general. The following several passages are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
(CCC1660) The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).
(CCC 2201) The conjugal community (the sexual relationship) is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities.
(CCC 2202) A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated.
(CCC 1666) The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.
(CCC 2228) Parents' respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.
It is natural – it is organic and it’s easy to see that children (or at least an openness and gravitation towards children) can not be separated from marriage.
Openness to life:
(CCC 2367) Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. "Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility."
(CCC 2368) A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For justreasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
Now, understand, the objective criteria of morality means it is not open to interpretation or feelings – it is an object that is real and undeniable.
NOTE: “Responsible Parenthood was the word most of us heard in our marriage preparation classes as justification for us to greatly limit the number of children we produce. I was told “Responsible Parenthood” means have two kids so you can have enough money to give them what they want.”
Let’s re-read the sentence. “It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality”
The key word is generosity. The Church is actually saying the exact opposite of what we were told. The Church is saying your responsibility, your mission, your duty - is to be open to life – open to the possibilities of more children. The Church does not say we should “close-up-shop” after two kids – as so many of us have been told to do.
The Church goes on to say,
(CCC 2368) “When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his actions; criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving (NOT SELF-GETTING) and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart. “
This is a HUGE message.
Married Chastity speaks of approaching sexuality for what it really is and what it is not.
What it really is - is a beautiful harmonizing of love between two real lovers, united to one another and to God for life. As they come together, they generously take care of one another and are open to the reality of love that proceeds in the form of a baby – not a set number of babies – but always making sure that each and every sexual act MAY bring another baby.
If they just can’t have a baby right now, then they respect one another in tenderness and fidelity by lovingly abstaining from the sexual act, during fertile periods. But they leave it in God’s hands. The Church says time and again that the unitive and procreative aspects of lovemaking must both be present. Every time the couple is together sexually.
What the Church does NOT say is that unity is MORE important than procreativity.
They are absolutely equal.
The Church adds
(CCC 2369) "By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act (sex in marriage) preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood."
Now what I’m about to read to you is among the most important messages the Church can ever give you.
(CCC 2370) Periodic continence (which is the refraining from sexual intercourse), that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, (NFP) is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.
BTW, this is where I think a lot of marriage educators get off track. Sin has three components: 1) the Objective Moral Criteria, 2) The circumstance & 3) The Intention. What the Church is saying here is that NFP, rightly understood, passes the test from an objective morality point of view, but it depends on the circumstance and the intention as to whether it is being carried out in a sinful way.
The Church goes on to say:
These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom (freedom rightly understood is not the ability to what ever we wish but rather to do whatever is good).
In contrast, "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”:
NOTE: On the subject of intrinsically evil acts, the Church specifically states that these acts are always and per se - evil. In other words; they can not be good sometimes and evil at others.
They are evil to the core – they have no good in them – ever.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is telling you a lie!
The Church goes on to say
(CCC 2370) ”Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid (distorted or disrupted), through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other.”
What the Church means by this is very important. When we intentionally stand in the path of God giving us a child (for a selfish reason), we are saying “Lord, Lord, I give you my prayers, I give you my work, I go to Mass on Sunday, I send my kids to Catholic school, I belong to the Knights of Columbus, I participate in CYO – I give my time and money and effort – I give you everything - but my body. - - - - My body is MINE!
“This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle. . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.
(CCC 2371) "Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny."
This is heady and powerful stuff!
We can not take lovemaking lightly – and you can not remove children from the equation of lovemaking either.
The Church clearly states that in Gaudium et Spes – which by the way is an Apostolic Constitution of the second Vatican Council.
(Gaudium et Spes 50) “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28).
Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.
Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.
Thus they will fulfill their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life.”
NOTE: Remember, the Church is speaking to sub-Saharan Africans – to the slum dwellers of New Dehli and Rio de Janerio - to the poorest people on earth AS WELL as it is speaking to you and me; 21st century American Catholics.
The Church is NOT saying you should space your children so that you can buy a new car, or afford a vacation to Disneyworld every year or keep your girly figure… The Church is saying that if you CAN have another child and feed them and provide a dignified life, and ONLY you know if you can, then you should.
But always keep in mind the Church is on the side of life and the Church reminds you of your duty and responsibility to give your children little brothers and sisters.
We are all pro-life BUT there is more to being pro-life than just being anti-abortion.
The Church goes on to say
“(GS 50) Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself.
So let’s take each of these three criteria:
Right now, those who are married in the Catholic Church and who practice some form of artificial contraception, have a divorce rate of over 50%. So in other words more than half of those marriages will end in divorce. Even the most liberal in our society admit to the enormous damage divorce does to children.
On the other hand - The divorce rate for Catholics who practice NFP AND are open to life is 1.8%. Guys, 98.2% success rate and a virtual guaranty of sustainability. Then - factor in the happy, fruitful growing families you have know in your life. Love in a family does not divide every time a new baby comes home – it multiplies.
These are the kinds of facts the Church is speaking about in the last sentence I read – I’ll re-read it for you. “They should consult the interests of the family group.”.
Another point: In order for a civilization to replace it’s number (to not die from within), every adult female must produce an average of 2.1children.
Remember, many women can’t have children, many men can’t produce children, many women don’t get married at all – all these factors influence this 2.1 number.
Italy, Spain, and Japan, all produce below 1.5 babies per female. Great Britain and Germany below 2.0 - Their societies are dying.
The US, because of the heavy influence of Hispanic immigrants still produce around 2.07 children per woman.
The Muslim nations, on the other hand, are producing an average of 6.5 children per female. In the next 10 years, the four largest cities in the Netherlands (for example) will all have a Muslim majority.
Of the 10 nations with the highest birthrate on the planet, 8 of them are Muslim – all 10 of them are either in Africa or South America.
There is a disturbing trend towards social, violent upheaval in France and England as the Muslim population is beginning to swell.
These are the kinds of facts the Church is speaking about in the last sentence I read – I’ll re-read it for you. “They should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society.”
Now - lastly, the single biggest reason for the shortage of priests in our society is the two-child Catholic home. 75 years ago when so many families were large, there was not the intense interest by parents in passing on the family name, micro-managing the child’s academic and then early professional career and an intense concentration and longing for grandchildren. Because there were lots of kids to worry about, children were more able and apt to find the voice of God calling them to a priestly or religious vocation.
These are the kinds of facts the Church is speaking about in the last sentence I read – I’ll re-read it for you again. “They should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself.”
The Church goes on to teach
(GS 50)“The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God."
Everyone agrees with this and this is exactly where most marriage educators stop reading – but the Church goes on to say:
"But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.”
The following paragraph is one of the most profound things I’ve ever read from the Church – and one that stands completely contrary to what most people in the Church taught me as I was growing up and even as an adult.
“That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment."
What truly human fulfillment does the Church say the sexual act in marriage is impelled towards?
Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when, with a generous, human and Christian sense of responsibility, they (fulfill) the duty to procreate.
So the Church does “not” say you just have to NOT use artificial contraception. The Church says you have to be generous, in a spirit of sacrifice, in an effort to glorify God and with a sense of responsibility you have a DUTY to procreate.
Among the couples who fulfill their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.”
Now guys this is not some obscure, dusty old Church Cannon from the middle ages. This is from the supposedly radically progressive Vatican II. As such, it is a Dogma of the Church. We are required to believe and obey this instruction and it has NEVER changed.
Why the Church teaches what it teaches about Contraception
The Sacramental nature of the sexual act in marriage:
So fine – we’ve read about what the Church teaches about contraception. But we also need to consider why.
Why is this sexual act, which is designed by the good God to be so fun, why is it so necessary to ensure that each and every time we do it – is should be ordered towards having a child?
We really do live in historic times.
There is a school of thought, fresh to the Church, developed out of the tremendous intellect of the Saint Pope John Paul II which is referred to as the Theology of the Body. From the time he was a young priest in Poland, Saint JPII honed his understanding of relationships and their sexual nature. He was able to take the Thomistic view of creation and develop something truly unique and fresh.
Where as St. Thomas Aquinas gave us an ordered view of creation, of matter and form, of the hierarchical relationship between God and all things (including his highest creation – man) Saint Pope JPII was able to take this work a step further to explain how man was created as a friend to God and was created in His image and likeness.
So, what’s the big deal about being faithful to your wife, never wandering from her sexually, enjoying the unitive aspects of sexuality with her and not being open to the legitimate burden of more children? What would be so wrong with that?
You will hear all kinds of answers. Everything from the Church has a hang-up about sex, to the Church is just about numbers and money and the collection plate, to the Church wants to tell you what to do in your bedroom, to the Church has a power complex… I’ve heard ‘em all.
I have to say again that in my personal opinion, all the social evils in the world today, from terrorism, to pornography, to materialism, to abortion, to divorce, to rampant homosexuality… all can trace their origins back to a contraceptive mentality.
How? – because we have harnessed the most primordial function in humanity and in doing so have re-written the language of the value of human life and human sexuality.
No decision about the transmission of life should ever be made in an effort to facilitate a material possession or idea.
This is why it’s such a big deal.
The Language of the Body:
Catholic crosses always have a corpus affixed to them. There is a reason for this. Because the Catholic faith teaches that without Christ’s passion and death, His resurrection has NO MEANING.
Now, we are called to join Christ on his throne as the King of Kings. His throne is not a plush seat of velvet but rather the cross upon which he hangs.
We are called to share in his redemptive suffering. Through our baptism, we unite with Jesus on the cross, in expiation through our sacrifice and suffering to share in His priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions.
Marriage finds it’s crowing achievement in the glorious struggle towards salvation. One day at a time, one challenge at a time, walking the walk of life with your life’s partner. Therein lies the majesty and mystery of married love. This relationship of marriage is intended to be like no other relationship on earth or in your lifetime. It is indissoluble, it is sacramental, it is unitive and procreative and it lasts until you die.
Of course, lovemaking is perhaps it’s most unique attribute.
Consider the following ideas about lovemaking itself.
When you and your wife become amorous, and she is fertile, the image of a little soul should appear, waiting to come into the world. This little soul could be your son or daughter. It could be the first American Pope or the inventor of a vaccine for Cancer. He or she might in fact deserve to be here. More importantly it might be that they are SUPPOSED to be here.
The decision to allow this soul to unite to his or her body, can not be made frivolously or with undo attention to our desires or appetites or our material comfort.
That is what the Church teaches.
Consider the imagery of the sexual act, in relationship to Christ himself.
No where else in this world can we so closely imitate Christ, opening his arms in humble and self-sacrificing love, as when our wives open themselves to our manly approach. The vulnerability of her posture and the tenderness of our advancement, knowing another child may form in her womb as a result of your union, emulates Christ laying down his life for others, with little regard to himself, his comfort or his sustaining life.
In this way, the altar of the Church, where the sacrifice of Christ is repeated over and over again, is duplicated in the altar of the domestic Church which is the marital bed.
It can be seen that when the married couple unite, knowing the act of love-making may in fact produce another child, even though now might not be the best time, is an act of selfless surrender to God’s will for the good of the family, the good of the Church and the good of society. This is exactly what Gaudium et Spes referres to as the “total reciprocal self-giving”, experienced in lovemaking, carried out in chaste abandonment for the good of others.
I know of no better correlation to Christ laying out his life, in abject humility, stumbeling under the weight of HIs cross, for the love of His children, than the image of a mother of a large family, with her heart beating on the floor, trying to make sense of it all, trying to understand how she’s ever going to make it to the finish line – THAT is the love of Jesus Christ.
Consider the Holy Trinity. The Church teaches that the Holy Trinity can be seen as God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, who love each other so much that what proceeds from them both is another whole person – the Holy Spirit.
Nowhere else in our world, does this phenomenon touch us so directly as when we lovingly embrace our beloved wife in the marital bed and from our love proceeds from us both a whole new person. God does not create humans on his own. WE are co-creators with HIM. As such we have a tremendous responsibility to be open to HIS children.
Another image; the hypostatic union, which is the mystery of Christ’s humanity and divinity united in one person, is near-perfectly imitated in the human and divine unity which exists at the moment of conception. This carnal being, infused with an immortal soul is unlike any experience on earth, and it happens every time a couple is open to life and co-create a baby with God.
Consider next the words of Christ in the 6th chapter of John:
 I am the bread of life.
 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper'na-um.
 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this?
 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
So - likewise, the one-flesh union, which Saint Pope JPII speaks about again and again, (which by the way comes from the quote in Genesis 2:24 – a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and they shall be one flesh). This image of a one-flesh union which is fully present in the faithful lovemaking of married couples, open to life; where we join with our wives in this beautiful and fleshy encounter, in the marital bed, is a mere representation of the fleshy encounter we have with Christ at the moment we consume his body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.
The sexual act in marriage is Eucharistic in nature. We can not desecrate this Eucharist.
As described above this is a difficult teaching, especially since we live in a world and time which has conveniently convinced us that we can have “as few children as possible”, and still be “open to life”. That is NOT what the Church teaches.
When you think of the “one flesh union” embodied in the sexual act between a husband and wife, and consider its Eucharistic relevance, how can we ever cheapen its outcome by being selfish towards children again?
So then we should get back to NFP – remembering that NFP IS in conformity with the criteria of objective morality; but remembering also that we need to consider the other two components of sin, the circumstance and the intention.
So lastly, the question has to be answered, is NFP contraception? While it is not artificial and it does not impose a device or treatment to render procreation impossible, it does exercise our will over the immediate procreation of children in marriage.
If a couple use NFP because they want to have sex but they positively are not interested in having ANY more children, then their intention is EXACTLY the same intention as a couple using artificial contraception EXCEPT they are trying to remain obedient to the teachings of the Church.
So how can the Church say that NFP is moral, when it really does such a similar thing to artificial contraception? To be more exact, how can NFP be good when contraception is bad, when they both set out to achieve the same thing?
Because they don’t set out to achieve the same thing, if NFP is done as it was intended.
However, even if a couple used NFP in the wrong way, to close the wellsprings of life out of selfish desires, permanently in their mind; NFP is different enough than contraception in the mere fact that no artificial impediment stands in the way of the transmission of life during the sexual act. NFP does not allow the unitive pleasure of the sexual act to occur without at least the possibility of the procreative aspect as well.
NFP, like drinking alcohol, is morally neutral. Remember it IS in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. However, getting drunk is gravely evil as would be using NFP in a selfish or irresponsible or even permanent way (to the extent that it can), if there were no continual reflection on whether or not the couple could accept another child.
While it may not be the mortal sin of contraception, to use NFP in this way, per se, it might be the mortal sin of injustice or selfishness or even despair.
The Church teaches that NFP can be used to periodically space children, according to the grave needs (not wants) of the family. To use NFP in order to “close up shop”, without the presence of a serious or even grave reason, would be and is always gravely immoral.
Pope Pius XII, spoke about this issue just eight months before he died. He addressed a crowd gathered in Rome with the following words: “In this matter, everything depends on the intention. You can multiply laws and make the penalties heavier; you can give irrefutable proofs of the stupidity of birth control theories and of the harm that comes from putting them into practice; but as long as there is no sincere determination to let the Creator carry on His work as He chooses, then human selfishness will always find new sophistries and excuses to still the voice of conscience (to the extent it can), and to carry on abuses.
You know really the Church is so good to us. She takes great strides to make sure we have all the answers we need to make these decisions. WE generally choose NOT to look too deeply so as to get an answer that will disagree with our desires.
For example, listen to the following dialog between the medical community and the mind of the Church. Pointed questions concerning tubal ligations are answered. They are answered clearly and loudly. The answers to these questions help US to understand exactly what the church teaches about tubal ligations and as such about all forms of artificial contraception. Again, this dialog is available free of charge, on-line on the Vatican web-site.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS PROPOSED
CONCERNING "UTERINE ISOLATION" AND RELATED MATTERS
The Cardinal Members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in answer to the questions examined in ordinary session decreed the following replies:
Q. 1.When the uterus becomes so seriously injured (e.g., during a delivery or a Caesarian section) so as to render medically indicated even its total removal (hysterectomy) in order to counter an immediate serious threat to the life or health of the mother, is it licit to perform such a procedure notwithstanding the permanent sterility which will result for the woman?
Q. 2.When the uterus (e.g., as a result of previous Caesarian sections) is in a state such that while not constituting in itself a present risk to the life or health of the woman, nevertheless is foreseeably incapable of carrying a future pregnancy to term without danger to the mother, danger which in some cases could be serious, is it licit to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) in order to prevent a possible future danger deriving from conception?
Q. 3.In the same situation as in no. 2, is it licit to substitute tubal ligation, also called "uterine isolation," for the hysterectomy, since the same end would be attained of averting the risks of a possible pregnancy by means of a procedure which is much simpler for the doctor and less serious for the woman, and since in addition, in some cases, the ensuing sterility might be reversible?
In the first case, the hysterectomy is licit because it has a directly therapeutic character, even though it may be foreseen that permanent sterility will result. In fact, it is the pathological condition of the uterus (e.g., a hemorrhage which cannot be stopped by other means), which makes its removal medically indicated. The removal of the organ has as its aim, therefore, the curtailing of a serious present danger to the woman independent of a possible future pregnancy.
From the moral point of view, the cases of hysterectomy and "uterine isolation" in the circumstances described in nos. 2 and 3 are different. These fall into the moral category of direct sterilization which in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's document Quaecumque Sterilizatio is defined as an action « whose sole, immediate effect is to render the generative faculty incapable of procreation ». And the same document continues: « It (direct sterilization) is absolutely forbidden ... according to the teaching of the Church, even when it is motivated by a subjectively right intention of curing or preventing a physical or psychological ill-effect which is foreseen or feared as a result of pregnancy ».
In point of fact, the uterus as described in no. 2 does not constitute in and of itself any present danger to the woman. Indeed the proposal to substitute "uterine isolation" for hysterectomy under the same conditions shows precisely that the uterus in and of itself does not pose a pathological problem for the woman.
Therefore, the described procedures do not have a properly therapeutic character but are aimed in themselves at rendering sterile future sexual acts freely chosen. The end of avoiding risks to the mother, deriving from a possible pregnancy, is thus pursued by means of a direct sterilization, in itself always morally illicit, while other ways, which are morally licit, remain open to free choice. (NFP)
The contrary opinion which considers the interventions described in nos. 2 and 3 as indirect sterilizations, licit under certain conditions, cannot be regarded as valid and may not be followed in Catholic hospitals.
During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, the Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II approved these responses adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered them to be published.
Rome, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the 31st of July 1993.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger
So, getting back to Pope Pius XII, he finished by saying:
Now the value of the testimony offered by the parents of large families lies not only in their unequivocal and forceful rejection of any deliberate compromise between the law of God and human selfishness, but also in their readiness to accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God their children -- in whatever number it may please Him to send them. “
So, in closing, I’d like invite you to open and read the next article entitled "The Natural Family". It expands on the more important subject we touched upon above. Rather than write about Natural Family Planning, I’d like to address exactly what a Natural Family is.
The key to happiness is to understand God’s will and to make it your will. Not to try to force God to accept YOUR will.
We sincerely thank you for your time and effort to understand the Truth of human sexulaity, marriage, family and God's will.