Sex within Marriage and Contraception

I have a question I struggle with at the moment.

As you all know, contraception is forbidden for a Christian, at least for Catholics. I am not sure about the official stance of the Catholic or Orthodox Church concerning natural family planning, basically avoiding sex when your wife is fertile, but I guess it is forbidden, too.

What would you do if your wife does not want more children, at the moment or in the future? For example, she has not yet processed a traumatic birth and is afraid of being pregnant again. Withholding sex and intimacy could potentially destroy the marriage and would bring the life of the other children in jeopardy.

What is your opinion on the matter?
 

redbeard

Hummingbird
Moderator
I have a question I struggle with at the moment.

As you all know, contraception is forbidden for a Christian, at least for Catholics. I am not sure about the official stance of the Catholic or Orthodox Church concerning natural family planning, basically avoiding sex when your wife is fertile, but I guess it is forbidden, too.

What would you do if your wife does not want more children, at the moment or in the future? For example, she has not yet processed a traumatic birth and is afraid of being pregnant again. Withholding sex and intimacy could potentially destroy the marriage and would bring the life of the other children in jeopardy.

What is your opinion on the matter?
The answer is that NFP is allowed by the Church under certain circumstances. Humanae Vitae is what you want to read to get up to speed:
Here's a good read on the reasons why/why not to practice NFP:
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
What would you do if your wife does not want more children, at the moment or in the future? For example, she has not yet processed a traumatic birth and is afraid of being pregnant again. Withholding sex and intimacy could potentially destroy the marriage and would bring the life of the other children in jeopardy.

What is your opinion on the matter?

She can not withhold sex for these reasons. Her not wanting Children simply isn't relevant, other than a personal cross of fear that she must bear or material want to release herself from the burden of Childbirth. It would be akin to a man deciding not to work to support the children.

Traditional Catholic Position as I have been explained is Pro Life - meaning that the married couple does not actively avoid having a child in any way. This includes avoiding sex during fertility cycle, or engaging in other non reproductive sexual acts. These are sinful acts for the confessional.
 
The answer is that NFP is allowed by the Church under certain circumstances. Humanae Vitae is what you want to read to get up to speed:
Here's a good read on the reasons why/why not to practice NFP:
Thank you @redbeard ! These resources answer my question.

The article from Taylor Marshal is a good explanation of the topic, but I would still recommend others with this question to read the whole Humanae Vitae.

Concerning my reasoning to still have sex to save the marriage in the name of other children:
"Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong." (Humanae Vitae, 14).
Here is the part Dr. Taylor Marshal bases his article on:
"With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” (Humanae Vitae, 10).
 

Advorsor

Sparrow
Slight tangent - but what about having sex when your wife is already pregnant? A man's seed is going to nothing at this point so is that any different than using contraception/pull-out?
 
Slight tangent - but what about having sex when your wife is already pregnant? A man's seed is going to nothing at this point so is that any different than using contraception/pull-out?
From the Humanae Vitae about NFP vs. Contraception:
"And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.” (Humanae Vitae, 16).
I also remember to have somewhere read in the Humanae Vitae, that infertile couples are still allowed to have intercourse. But I can not find it at the moment.

After rereading it again here is more information about NFP:
"If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. ” (Humanae Vitae, 16).
 

prendergast

Sparrow
All sex outside of procreation is sinful. If your wife is pregnant cage your carnal desires with prayer and support her pregnancy by doubling down on your provider responsibilities.
Yes sex outside procreation is sinful and I would say harmful as well. The reason why this is is because sex leaves you feeling drained and apathetic. It's like the soul leaves the body afterwards. People thousands of years ago were able to get away with this feeling because they were having sex only if their basic needs such as food, water, shelter were already met. They did not have much else to do and so they could afford to feel apathetic for hours/days after the fact. Modern civilization is set up so that apathy is costly. There is always so much you could be doing such as working on your hobbies thanks to the ample leisure time given to us. When you have sex several times a week it creates a never-ending feeling of carelessness. Save it for when you want to have kids!
 
Slight tangent - but what about having sex when your wife is already pregnant? A man's seed is going to nothing at this point so is that any different than using contraception/pull-out?

I'm not a theologian, but I think the concept is that all sex has to be ordered towards procreation.

There is the book The Good News on Sex and Marriage by West, approved by then Bishop Chaput, that might be worth a look. Something I saw, growing up in a fairly conservative protestant denomination, were people who would make a big deal of perceived sins that they did not personally struggle with. Sometimes they would even invent sins (dancing, drinking, smoking, etc.) Raised their rank over others I suppose. Counseling others who are in sin is one thing, but I would be cautious about proposing burdens for others that go beyond magisterial teachings.
A pretty good talk on contraception is from Janet Smith, a CD or an MP3 of it can be obtained from her site here.

Regarding the original post, if a woman does not want to be open to new life during times of good health and such, then the vocation of marriage may not have been the best choice. Of the children she currently has, can point to the last one born and say "you were the one too many, I wish you had never been born?" More children do not dilute the love in a family, they add to it. Only in the last 100 or so years has western culture seen children as a burden instead of a blessing. Some people think that having a small family means more good things for the children--on the contrary, this day and age, having a good number of brothers and sisters may be the best asset those children have later in life. I have known single children grow up, and be the sole caregiver to to the elderly parents, or suffer from a lack of connections. It would be interesting to see statistics on how much more likely single children, or children from small families, are to commit suicide or die of accidental overdoses later in life.
 

mgill0600

Pigeon
I'm not Catholic or Orthodox so maybe my input here is irrelevant but it's not like contraception is a relatively new phenomenon, it's just new in that todays methods are so convenient, widespread and effective. Would we say that contraception in and of itself is evil/sinful? Or more that the behavior of the humans who use it can tend towards evil/sin.

My humble opinion is that like any technological advancement of this age. The tech itself is not evil, however the person using it may have less than righteous intentions.

So then if contraception is used within the bounds of marriage, does this violate God's law? I contend that it doesn't. Sure you can say it's against nature but so are many of the modern conveniences we take for granted today that are not considered sinful such as drugs, surgeries, dams, roads, central heating etc...

I also do not see any biblical basis for claiming sex is for procreation only. Yes God does say "be fruitful and multiply" but how many children counts to this command, is 1 enough? 3? 10? That is never specified so I think we have to assume that at least 1 child counts. Does this mean if a married couple only has 1 child to comply with God's command they should never have sex again? Are we to assume that Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were not having sex until after the fall? After all, child birth had not yet been imputed to Eve as punishment for her sin so if they were having sex it couldn't have been just for procreation.

Just some thoughts I had on this issue so disregard if you're looking for a deep analysis here. I am not a pastor or priest or Biblical scholar, but this is a fascinating topic to me.
 

Reem

Chicken
Contraception And Nfp: The Moral Difference - Rev. Paul A. Marx, O.S.B, Ph. D.

 

Reem

Chicken
Conscientious Catholics And Birth Control: A Response To Father Overberc - Paul M. Quay

The Best Of Natural Family Planning - Frances Day

Natural Family Planning - Daria Sockey
 

GWYW2015

Woodpecker
Here is my response from the other thread on this since you referenced this one over there-

Q2-Marital use of contraception is not biblically prohibited, but avoidance of having children is (be fruitful and multiply). So I see nothing immoral about spacing if that is best for her since she has already been faithful to birth a child.

Q1-The wife is to submit to her husband. If there are issues that need addressed then they should hash it all out. That doesn't mean he always is making the wisest decision, but she is to submit to him because he has his reasons. He needs to be able to explain them as to why he believes this is the best thing to do, but even if she still doesn't agree with him, she is to submit to him.
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
Slight tangent - but what about having sex when your wife is already pregnant? A man's seed is going to nothing at this point so is that any different than using contraception/pull-out?

I'm pretty sure this is fine.

The couple is supposed to be joined and sex is part of this. This is the bond of marriage, sex is the expectation. If both parties don't want to avoid having sex during pregnancy than it is fine. But if one party does want to have sex than the other should ablige, exceptions being if the woman is very sick or it is very late in the pregnancy than the husband should be understanding.

It is a situation like people in their 50s, they are not fertile but can still engage in the act without sin.
 
My understanding is that NFP is totally permissible as long as it isn't out of selfishness. If you never use NFP and marry a young, fertile woman and have a normal sex life you would easily have 15 or 16 kids. Either that, or you would have to avoid having sex completely aside from a few times a year. This is why I'm willing to be dollars to donuts that most of the men here are younger and do not have children based off what I'm reading. Not trying to criticize, but merely explain that the logisitcs of completely avoiding NFP is not possible indefinitely.
Super big families are especially important nowadays, but I simply don't believe everyone's plan is to have that many kids. I know plenty of good Catholic families that have two or three or four kids and a few who never had any and these are traditional Catholics too.

Here is an article from the Catholic Gentleman, a conservative pro-masculine Catholic site advocating for NFP.

 
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This is just my personal opinion, but NFP strikes me as a weasely way to tell yourself your sex life is "ordered towards procreation" while at the same time doing everything possible to avoid pregnancy.

If you are deliberately trying to prevent pregnancy (regardless of what method is used), then it is not ordered towards procreation.

It is not doing everything possible to avoid procreation. Surgical sterilization, the pill, etc., are precisely "doing everything possible." Instead of going against nature, it is working with it. If God wanted women to be in a fertile state for weeks at a time, He could have done just that.

The difference between NFP and artificial contraception is the difference between going on a diet and going to the vomitorium after dinner. They are not the same. G.K. Chesterton said that birth control was no births and no control. NFP requires mutual self-control and has some births. And unlike artificial birth control, instead of risking long-term inability to become pregnant (e.g., long term use of the pill), it facilitates pregnancies when the reason for avoiding them goes away.

Agreed it should only be used if there are strong, legitimate reasons to avoid pregnancy at the time. But "ordered towards" is not the same thing as having intercourse if and only if there will be a high likelihood of pregnancy that time. If you believe what you wrote then you should feel obligated to take an NFP class so as to pinpoint the couple of days each month a female has a 50%+ chance of becoming pregnant, and limit intercourse to that couple of days a month only. And couples that are natrually infertile, they should abstain from intercourse the moment of medical diagnosis? Or is it OK with you for them to continue to have intercourse that is ordered towards procreation?

I would be very careful about laying burdens on others that goes beyond magisterial teachings, lest other people fall into despair in an area of life that is hard enough already.
 

Rob Banks

Pelican
It is not doing everything possible to avoid procreation. Surgical sterilization, the pill, etc., are precisely "doing everything possible." Instead of going against nature, it is working with it. If God wanted women to be in a fertile state for weeks at a time, He could have done just that.

The difference between NFP and artificial contraception is the difference between going on a diet and going to the vomitorium after dinner. They are not the same. G.K. Chesterton said that birth control was no births and no control. NFP requires mutual self-control and has some births. And unlike artificial birth control, instead of risking long-term inability to become pregnant (e.g., long term use of the pill), it facilitates pregnancies when the reason for avoiding them goes away.

Agreed it should only be used if there are strong, legitimate reasons to avoid pregnancy at the time. But "ordered towards" is not the same thing as having intercourse if and only if there will be a high likelihood of pregnancy that time. If you believe what you wrote then you should feel obligated to take an NFP class so as to pinpoint the couple of days each month a female has a 50%+ chance of becoming pregnant, and limit intercourse to that couple of days a month only. And couples that are natrually infertile, they should abstain from intercourse the moment of medical diagnosis? Or is it OK with you for them to continue to have intercourse that is ordered towards procreation?
"Vomitorium." I like that word.

You misunderstood my comment. First of all, of course NFP is not "doing everything possible" to avoid pregnancy. I meant that NFP is doing everything possible to avoid pregnancy while still obeying the letter of the law in Catholic teaching. In my opinion, it is legalistic. You are technically obeying the rules, but in your heart your goal is to enjoy sex without it leading to pregnancy.

And yes, of course NFP isn't as bad as contraception. But I still think it is a way for Catholics to believe they are following God's law while still getting what they want (sexual pleasure without pregnancy).

I have even heard Catholics recommend that men, when they need to provide a semen sample for medical testing, obtain this sample by having relations with their wives and using a perforated condom. That way, technically you are letting some of the semen through, although in practice it is mostly obstructed and thr chance of pregnancy is greatly reduced.

If you take NFP to its logical conclusion, then would it not be licit to use the above method (perforated condom) as a means of avoiding pregnancy even when the semen is not needed for medical testing?
I would be very careful about laying burdens on others that goes beyond magisterial teachings, lest other people fall into despair in an area of life that is hard enough already.
This I agree with very much.
 
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