The Catholic Church’s position on contraception is clear—an emphatic ‘no way, never okay’. Instead, many Catholic married couples have learned to use natural family planning (NFP) as a way to work with a woman’s natural cycle of fertile and infertile days to achieve or avoid pregnancy at different stages of their marriage. But is it okay to use NFP with the goal of completely avoiding pregnancy—In other words, with the intention of never having children?
Patrick Madrid responded to this listener question with a simple “no”, but also provided an in-depth look at the reasons behind his answer.
God commands us to be fruitful and multiply, and the Church instructs us that the purpose of the marital act is not just pleasure and bonding among spouses, but procreation as well. When one of those aspects is taken away, it warps the very meaning of sex as God created it.
“Because the two aspects of the marriage act involve on one hand the possibility of procreation and on the other hand, the deepening of the friendship between the husband and wife, that both elements of the marriage act must be present. If you take one without the other then it’s a distortion,” explained Patrick.
Making use of natural family planning to avoid pregnancy indefinitely is not the same as using artificial contraction. You aren’t having sex with the intention of not procreating, but instead you are avoiding that intimacy altogether when a child could be conceived. Patrick provided a comparison that might be helpful.
“You’re not making use of a good act—the marriage act—in a way that’s illicit; you’re not making use of it at all. It would be analogous to fasting. If you were to fast, that’s a good thing, and there are times when fasting is medically necessary or helpful, but you can’t fast indefinitely or you’ll die.”
Of course, you won’t die from not having children. But while using NFP with the intent to never have children is not the same thing as using contraception for the same purpose, Patrick argues that it involves a “contraceptive mentality” because the couple is “saying no to God’s possible gift of life.”
Are there reasons why a couple would need to refrain from having children? Yes, there are some serious reasons why a married couple could licitly avoid having children through NFP. However, this is not the case for most couples.
“If there is no just cause and the only real reason is they just don’t want any children, then they’re going into marriage with the wrong attitude. In fact, I would argue that’s probably an impediment to a valid marriage,” Patrick said.
Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays at 8-11am CT only on Relevant Radio.