What does the Church teach about family planning?
In an earlier issue, we looked at why the Church teaches us to reject contraception. I’ve received some shorter questions on the topic and will hit as many as I can here.
Isn’t NFP simply the same as contraception?
Not at all. The Priests For Life website gives us some great reasons why:
- NFP does not involve attempting to engage in a sexual act and doing something to that act to ensure that it be infertile. It permits the inherent ordination of the act to remain.
- NFP keeps sex and responsibility together.
- NFP promotes all the elements of marriage for a couple (we talked about this previously.)
- NFP keeps family planning in the hands of both the husband and the wife: They work together and must communicate well for it to work
- NFP is a positive approach that helps couples who wish to get pregnant but are unable.
Pope John Paul II gave an excellent address on this topic which you can find at: http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/nfpweek/nfpcontraception.shtml
What about contraception outside of marriage? What does the Church teach there?
As far as I can find, the Church has no teaching on contraception outside of marriage for the simplest of reasons: sex outside of marriage is a mortal sin. Unlike many secular institutions, the Church believes in you and in the power of God in you to refrain from sex outside of marriage. You know those commercials that say “Don’t drink and drive”? Notice they don’t follow up with “but if you do, wear a helmet.”
What if my doctor requires me to take pills or undergo a procedure that makes it impossible for me to have children? What do I do?
The Church teaches us that, sometimes, such a thing is unavoidable. This quote is from Humanae Vitae:
“The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result therefrom – provided such impediment is not directly intended. (Paragraph 15)
It is important to note that, when we talk about therapeutic means, we are not talking about acne or minor conditions. Women who take the hormones in the pill to treat physiological conditions, and not for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy, are not contracepting.
What about Third World countries? I’ve read some strong condemnations of the Church refusing to help distribute contraception in places where people are too poor to have children – why would we do that?
I confess that, on this one, I wonder where these folks’ concern about Third World countries goes beyond this argument? Travel to any Third World country and you will find the Church there, feeding the poor and taking care of the people in need: fighting for the dignity of the people there. In terms of this question, I can’t say it better than Pope John XXIII:
“No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values.” (John XXIII, Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), pg. 447 [TPS VII, pg. 331])
His point is simple. We want to help people because they have the dignity of being humans – children of God. Because of that, we can’t offer a solution to those problems that takes away from the very dignity that moved us!
Why is this teaching so important for the Church?
My friend Dan really nailed it in an email to me, I’d like to quote him:
“This is the positive message of the Church’s vision of the human person. In a sense, this whole discussion is about attempting to separate our sexuality from our personhood: to make sex what we do instead of who we are and to thus obscure our calling to be God’s image and likeness.”
So, there it is! There are so many questions and my space is limited. Dig deep, brothers and sisters, let this beautiful teaching transform us and deepen our understanding of the gift of our humanity and God’s love!
Enjoy another day in God’s presence.