But sure enough, somebody had to come out and post that quote by the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney. Of course, the commenter had the quote a little off; he/she wrote:
Yes, I made use of two quotations, one of which was in French, though I should have thought the technologically savvy apostles of NFP would have been aware of the technology known as Google Translate. The French means simply, “If you knew those who are in hell for not having given the world the children they had to give!” and was spoken by St. Jean-Marie Vianney.If I had a nickel for every time somebody brought that up as a sort of anti-NFP trump card--well, I'd still be broke, 'cause nickels don't add up the way they used to--but you get the idea.
This blogger has the whole passage:
There has been much discussion, much of it heated, and misunderstanding regarding a quote by St. John Vianney to a married woman regarding child bearing. I have found the context and quote in its entirety from a reliable source.There are a few things that strike me at once about this. In the first place, the pastoral context of the quote, and the Cure's assurance to the worried and troubled mother about to add to her already large family, places a different hue on this remark than I've seen given it before. Secondly, the Cure does not say "...those who are in hell..." but "...the women who will go to hell..." And finally, the Cure is telling the woman to see in the numerous children God has given her His confidence in her--a beautiful sentiment, indeed, regardless of one's family size!
This is from the book The Cure'D'Ars St. Jean-marie Vianney by Abbe Francis Trochu[...]
Married people were shown the nobility of their calling and he exhorted them to fulfill holily its duties. A lady of the name of Ruet, of Ouroux, in the department of the Rhone, had already a large family and was about to become a mother once more. She came to Ars in order to seek courage at the feet of its holy Cure. She had not long to wait, for M. Vianney summoned her from amid the crowd. "You look very sad my child." he said, when she was on her knees in his confessional. "Oh! I am so advanced in years Father!" :He comforted , my child... if you only knew the women who will go to hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it."
"Come now my little one, he said with fatherly kindliness to the woman who confided to him her anxiety because of her large family. "do not be alarmed at your burden' our Lord carries it with you. The good God does well all that he does: when he gives many children to a young mother it is that he deems her worthy to rear them. It is a mark of confidence on his part."
[All emphases and links in original--E.M.]
The person who views NFP with deep suspicion, seeing it as something the Church grudgingly permits a selfish age but really would rather not have at all, has a tendency to think that this quote means the following things:
A. The Cure is addressing those women who selfishly and unjustly refuse to pay the marriage debt.
B. NFP is, in all but the most dire of situations (and possibly even then; why, don't we all want to die in childbirth for the greater glory of God?), a selfish and unjust refusal to pay the marriage debt.
C. Therefore, women who use NFP must do so with fear and trembling, knowing that their selfish refusal to bear as many children as they physically can is probably placing their immortal souls in great peril; why, the Cure of Ars said so.
In the first place, St. John Vianney would never have failed to note that men as well as women can selfishly or unjustly refuse the marriage debt--and moreover, both men and women can selfishly and unjustly demand the payment of that debt, when the payment of it by the spouse might be somehow injurious to him or her (e.g., as in the case when the husband or wife is seriously ill or otherwise reasonably incapable, temporarily, of payment). So the good saint would not have spoken only of women (as the book quote shows he did) if he were castigating men and women for refusal to engage in marital activity with each other.
In the second place, St. John Vianney speaks of women "...who will go to hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it." This makes it far more likely that the Cure is speaking, here, of abortion or at least of attempts at contraception (many of which were, in fact, abortifacient in the 1800s) than that he is speaking of any type of periodic abstinence. I have heard people (rather scornfully, some of them) insist that back in the Good Old Catholic Days between 1786-1859 (the Cure's lifespan) nobody, especially no Catholic, ever had an abortion; and contraception wasn't even invented, yet! Alas, a simple check of history shows otherwise. Contraceptive pills and devices were widespread by the 1750s; condoms were used during that time period as well, though mass-produced rubber ones weren't manufactured until about a hundred years later; and the number of patent pills and remedies advertised as "Female Pills--to cure obstruction!" grew tremendously over the course of St. John Vianney's life. Those last named were almost invariably abortifacients, as their advertisements proclaimed in large letters: Do not use during pregnancy. Miscarriage will result... which diabolical wording allowed the heinous manufacturers both to demonstrate the true nature of the product, and absolve themselves of any legal responsibility at the same time. Since the good saint is speaking of women who may go to hell for not bringing children into the world, and since such sickening things were far more available than any of us would like to believe they were, back in his day, isn't it far more likely that he is speaking of women who were truly placing their souls in jeopardy by engaging in acts that are intrinsically evil, than that he is making a blanket statement essentially requiring Catholic women, for fear of their souls, to give birth as many times as is physically possible--especially since the Church has never taught that they must do any such thing?
And in the third place, even in the extremely unlikely event that the good saint had any kind of periodic abstinence in mind, we must note that, again, he is speaking of a sin involving women--but NFP is (and, indeed, must be) a mutual decision of husband and wife. St. John Vianney does not tell the fearful mother of the large family that many parents will be going to hell for not having all the children they could have had; yet if the decision to employ periodic abstinence is a mutual decision of husband and wife, and not a unilateral, selfish, unjust decision by a wife alone, then how on earth can anybody think that the Cure's admonition regarding women who have not brought into the world the children they might have has anything whatsoever to do with NFP? The husband is, after all, the head of the family; one might even argue (with a lot of Church tradition behind it) that if such a mutual decision were in error, the fault would be more greatly imputed to the husband, who has both the duty and the obligation to be the spiritual head of the family, not to go along meekly with a method of natural family planning if he is absolutely convinced that there is no just reason for its use. So, when the decision to use NFP (or, indeed, any other natural means; I tend to use NFP as a shorthand to mean them all, but I'm aware that there are other methods) has been prayerfully and carefully made by a husband and wife with, if necessary, the advice of their pastor and/or spiritual director taken into serious consideration, we simply aren't talking about the sort of selfish, unilateral decision that could lead either party to Hell--not when the Church approves of this whole thing in the first place.
To sum it all up, as a saint of the Church St. John Vianney would not now, from his position in the Heavenly Kingdom, guide any person to despise or hold in contempt any teaching of the Church, including her generous and loving pastoral wisdom contained in those teachings which unequivocally condemn artificial contraception and present the option of natural means of birth spacing for those couples who are justly motivated to use them. Unlike contraception or the graver sin of abortion, the use of natural means of birth spacing leaves open the door to life; God will give to every woman who uses NFP exactly the number of children He plans for her to have, and she is not risking her mortal soul when she and her husband, for just reasons, gratefully and prudently accept the Church's blessings upon NFP and other means of natural birth spacing. Taking a quote from the Cure out of context and using it as a stick to beat upon the consciences of those who are not in any way sinning in their use of NFP must, then, be viewed an extremely uncharitable act.