Wednesday, February 8, 2012

That 98% thing

I'm getting just a little tired of hearing that "98% of American Catholics use contraception."

In the first place, it's such a dam' silly fake statistic. To buy it, you'd have to believe that 98% of the Catholics in America were sexually active people of childbearing age. I can vouch that this isn't the case in any parish I've ever attended.

In the second place, even if the statement is amended to "98 of sexually active American Catholics of childbearing age use contraception," we're still missing a ton of information. I'd like to see the following questions asked of self-identified Catholics:

a) Do you attend Sunday Mass every week unless impeded by a serious reasons such as illness or the care of infants, etc.?
b) Do you participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church?
c) If you are married, are you validly married in the Church?
d) If the answer to a-c is "yes," do you presently accept the Church's teaching against artificial contraception and avoid its use in all circumstances?

Now, there are still those who will insist that we add an "e" question, to wit: "Have you ever at any time violated the Church's teaching against artificial contraception?" But I think that question isn't needed; it encourages people to tell us about their private past sins, for which they are presumably repentant; it doesn't tell us if they only used it once or used it habitually for years, etc. A "yes" or "no" answer to "d" is the best measure of how many active, practicing, participating Catholics in otherwise good standing actively reject Church teaching against contraception.

Are there still going to be "no" answers to "d"? Probably. Church teaching against contraception could be taught more vibrantly and embraced more fully by lots of people. But I have a feeling that the number of those who answer "yes" to a-c, but still say "no" when it comes to "d", would be significantly, perhaps even dramatically, less than that oft-cited 98%.

Just for fun, because there's no way for me to do a scientific poll, I'd like to ask my Catholic readers to respond to questions a-d if they'd like. If you're uncomfortable attaching your real name, you can post anonymously on this one--but please "tag" your comment at the bottom with either a number or a world city (e.g., "London" or "78" or some such thing) so I can approve it.

UPDATE: Welcome, New Advent readers (and thanks to Kevin Knight for the link!) I do moderate comments on this blog, but am trying to approve them as quickly as possible. Your patience is appreciated!


freddy said...


Anonymous said...


although the last question (d) is really a 2 part question

part 1: Do I accept the teaching? Sure, sounds good on paper. Seems logical and right. part 2: Do I follow that teaching? Most of the time, but not always. And that's because there are deep, complicated, not-so-average circumstances warranting that a married couple not be sex-free for years on end. You know, that pesky unitive aspect that gets lip service but is ignored and undervalued. The church has never been able to project, predict, and anticipate all the unique circumstances that husband and wife face, and thus some couples have to do their own damage control for their marriage in the face of prolonged years of never having sex at all.

this is more common than people think or want to admit

the prepster

bearing said...

Yes to all four.

Anonymous said...


And if you had had 4(single)babies in 4.5 years, you would have wanted a break or a halt, too.

Is this what you mean by tag?

Red Cardigan said...

"24," yes, that's what I mean by "tag."

And I only had three babies in 3.5 years. :) But when my health demanded it, we began using NFP. We have used NFP for 13 years (alas, I still have high blood pressure, which I've talked about here before). I really believe very strongly that there is a natural method (NFP, Creighton, etc.) that will suit any couple's serious need to postpone or avoid pregnancy. For some couples, this may mean a consultation with experts as opposed to the typical NFP class offered in a parish, but I do believe--and I mean this very kindly, indeed--that salvation and one's immortal soul (and that of one's husband) is worth the effort.

Susan Archaeology cat said...

Yes to all.

Anonymous said...

see, there is where the massively annoying assumption that nfp solves all problems no matter what they are comes into play.


to think that a man-made/conceived method of natural family planning can answer for the complexity of two individuals in a marriage is nonsense. sex is a very deep thing, the most intimate thing a person can do with their spouse and it transcends thermometers and meters because it has an emotional and psychological, almost psychical scope to it.

it is the most overused generalization out there to suggest nfp as a cure all and it is massively insulting to us who have tried to use it and maybe not necessarily failed using it (from the preventing/spacing pregnancy) point of view), but to those of us who have seen firsthand how it has failed in the unitive department because it is unable to address the unitive aspect of the sex act when it puts the sex act on a calendar.

i guess you'd have to be there to know. which is why the church doesn't get it; they can't be there.

the prepster

Carrie said...

a) yes
b) yes
c) yes
d) YES!!!

Red Cardigan said...

Well, but, Prepster, sex is designed to produce children--that aspect is equal to the unitive aspect, and can't be removed entirely.

If there are serious (or just, as another translation puts it) reasons to avoid bringing another child into the world, a natural means of avoiding pregnancy can be morally licit.

It is never morally licit to use artificial contraception, and saying
"sex is a very deep thing, the most intimate thing a person can do with their spouse and it transcends thermometers and meters because it has an emotional and psychological, almost psychical scope to it..." doesn't excuse artificial contraception any more than it would excuse the hiring of prostitutes, the use of pornography, the agreement to commit adultery as part of an "open" marriage, or any other grave moral evil, just because the couple earnestly believed any of these things would improve their sex life.

To put it bluntly, it's not worth going to Hell over contraceptive sex. None of the alternatives to contraception (periodic or even total abstinence, the welcoming of many children, etc.) are easy--but neither is love. All contraception does is teach the spouses to view each other as objects--and that's the first step on the road to divorce.

Anonymous said...

"just because the couple earnestly believed any of these things would improve their sex life"

another assumption. that it's all about unbridled sex and passion and some modern concept of "sex life", yes? ugh.

for some it's about just being ABLE to have sex at all, ever

i understand how you put contraception on the same level as all the other immoral activities you listed such as porn and prostitutes, but person-to-person that's pretty insulting to me when I am a committed catholic trying to discuss this seriously within the brackets of a sacramental catholic marriage where the sacrament is taken very seriously and considered a holy thing.

you say one cannot have the unitive aspect without the procreative/open to life aspect. (and I KNOW that's what the church teaches, you're not going to teach me any new tricks here, i've read more catholic books on this topic than I care to admit). why does it never get phrased the other way around? perhaps I am asking something too big for you to see.

there are extenuating circumstances so large, so not to be believed, so problematic that yes, some of us are willing to risk hell* in order to know what true sexual and sacramental love with a spouse can be.

*and as with the list of conditions for mortal sin, we all know that there are psychological and emotional aspects of sin that sometime negate the sin as being mortal. of course, such negations are best left to the discretion and direction of a trusted priest. trust me, i've been there and done that more than once, and the result is always the same, which is that the solidarity of marriage must be informed by a normal sexual relationship that allows for an at least 50% chance of that unitive part to, well, play a part

we here in these commboxes are NOT the church, judge, or jury. those exasperated, sincere, and anxious-ridden catholics like myself and "24" above who answered "no" to letter d are not out to make a mockery of God or the catholic faith or our salvation. we are simply trying to survive.

the prepster

Red Cardigan said...

Prepster writes: "..for some it's about just being ABLE to have sex at all, ever..."

I obviously don't know what your situation is (and I wouldn't want to--I'm not someone who is qualified to teach NFP or discuss specific problems). But where did I say anything about unbridled sex and passion? I didn't. I said that you can't justify immoral means of "facilitating" a couple's sex life, no matter what they are--and contraception is one of those immoral means.

Now, I know that you know this. But you think that your circumstances, whatever those are, require the Church to give you some sort of exception from her teaching.

Catholicism doesn't work that way--because moral truths don't work that way. Either contraception is intrinsically evil (as the Catechism says it is) or it is permissible for everyone--in which case, the Church is not the Church.

Suppose, for instance, that a man learns he is HIV positive. Does he now have the "right," based on the unitive aspect of marriage, to use a condom with his wife? Leaving aside the reality that to do so would place her in grave danger (given condom failure rates), there is the moral truth that contraceptive sex is not ever morally licit. Not ever. The couple would be in the exact same situation as a couple who, because of the illness or physical impairment of one spouse or the other, was no longer physically capable of sex. Is such a couple suddenly "less married" because marital intimacy is permanently closed to them?

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, one more thing, Prepster: you wrote: "you say one cannot have the unitive aspect without the procreative/open to life aspect. (and I KNOW that's what the church teaches, you're not going to teach me any new tricks here, i've read more catholic books on this topic than I care to admit). why does it never get phrased the other way around? perhaps I am asking something too big for you to see."

It DOES get phrased the other way around. The procreative aspect is not permissible without the unitive. IVF and other immoral means of attempting to bring a child into being outside of the context of the marriage act is completely forbidden. There is no permission out there to be procreative without being unitive, in other words.

Anonymous said...

A) yes
B) yes
C) yes
D) yes

I had 4 babies in 4.5 years as well -- and we already had two before those 4. I am not trying to make myself look saintly, because I am so far from that it is practically laughable to contemplate. I am only saying that I understand about wanting - needing! - a break.

But that desperate need to "have a break" doesn't override the Church's teaching for me. I don't necessarily feel comfortable diving into it in a blog comment box, but suffice it to say that my husband and I have not had an always rosy past with NFP. In fact, we've had many trials with it, but I know in my very heart that I never felt more distant from my husband than when we used contraception. We took care of the procreative aspect and somehow shut down the unitive aspect along with it. There was no "there" there.


Anonymous said...

When your periods are one time 3 weeks, next time 6 weeks, and your temperature never changes, NFP is definitely a challenge, and sex is just Russian Roulette. The only alternateive is no sex, which does not lead to a happy pair of parents or happy children.


Turmarion said...

a) Yes. Not to toot my own horn (I'm far too aware of my own sinfulness), but just informationally, in the twenty-two years since I came into the Church, I've missed Sunday Mass or Holy Days of Obligation no more than about a dozen times, mostly as a result of travelling without sufficient planning (all confessed) and once when I was in the hospital.

b) Yes.

c) Yes--twelve years in April, one child. FWIW we wanted more, and tried several times, but for health reasons too long to go into, it didn't work out.

d) In brief, no. In slightly more detail, I accept the underlying rationale (marriage should be ordered to having and rearing children, and if children are completely and definitively excluded over the course of the marriage, there is a grave defect in the marriage), but I don't think that every sexual act by a married couple must be "open to life" in the highly technical theological meaning of that phrase; I think the theological arguments regarding "moral objects" are incoherent and are an example of the weakness of aspects of Thomistic thought; and I don't think contraception is "intrinsically evil" in the sense in which that is generally understood. To go into the full nuances of my views here would be far, far beyond the capacity of a blog post.

Counting myself, there are at least three thus far that answered "yes" to a-c and "no" to d. From a blog post, it's impossible to say how common we are; but at least we're evidence that practicing, active, well-informed Catholics in good standing who take their faith very seriously exist who also disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception. Those of us in that category--understandably, I hope--do find it rather offensive when you make cracks about the "rights of promiscuous women" to birth control, or you-know-what pills, or about hoping that users of contraception will contracept themselves out of existence, and so on.

I do believe--and I mean this very kindly, indeed--that salvation and one's immortal soul (and that of one's husband) is worth the effort.

I'm sure it is meant kindly. However, if you really, truly, in the depths of your heart think that a Catholic who follows all the other teachings of his Church, gives to charity, is faithful to his or her spouse for life, has children and raises them in the faith, and in general does the best he or she can to live a Christian life, but who uses birth control is going to be doomed to burn in Hell for all eternity--well, if that's the case, I don't think there's really much area for theological discussion.

I don't reject the possibility of Hell, btw--while I tend to be a universalist, it's more a matter of hope than dogma for me--but I think one area in which the Church has severely damaged its credibility and has marred the teaching of a God of love is in the vast number of comparatively minor sins which it has taught make one Hell fodder. George Carlin said it well in noting that while fish was no longer mandated on Fridays, he bet there were still guys in Hell doing time on a meat rap!

I understand that one can construct arguments as to why missing Mass or eating meat on a Friday or using birth control are mortal sins; but I think the whole model of sin, confession, and redemption used by the Western Church is hopelessly flawed, and that the Eastern Orthodox views (while not being really any more lax than those of the West) really catch the nuance and subtlety of the situation far more effectively.

Red Cardigan said...

24, have you ever consulted with anyone about that? I'm certainly no expert, but such irregularities combined with a static temperature seem to be evidence of something underlying--perhaps thyroid? In any case, I know that people who have irregularities sometimes find the Creighton model more effective.

Rose said...

Yes to all four.

The trouble with having children is that the child-bearing is all front-loaded and when we're at our poorest: 20s to 30s.

It gets better, though, even if it seems overwhelming at the beginning. For the first year in my life as a married woman, I see the clouds parting when it comes to money and time; I'm 34. But I know all those hard years, money invested, will help me in my elderly years. And I'm only talking about tangibles like money.

I've even come to believe that working hard is the natural condition of man and if we aren't, something will turn out terribly: debt, loneliness, etc. This has come about by seeing the recession separate the ants from the grasshoppers as well as observing baby-boomer relatives entering old age and seeing who is worried and lonely and who is not.


I believe it has been good for our marriage. My husband and I come from parents whose relationships have been unstable, but our relationship and marriage does not resemble theirs in any way. I have no doubt, given issues of unipolar disorder, that our lives would have been similarly disordered were it not for following the church's teachings.

Anonymous said...

24, please believe me when I say that I understand where you are coming from. I truly do and I can sympathize. NFP is no cake walk for us. It is a kindness to say my cycles are erratic -- sometimes as short as 11 days and sometimes as long as 45 or 50. And I never know which it will be! And my basal temp is always a sub 98 degrees, and often sub 97 degrees. In fact, because of other hormonal issues, I've pretty much abandoned relying on my temp as an accurate indicator of ovulation. I know what you are talking about, and it's so hard.

I am respectful of your situation and I can only speak to my own experiences. We felt as you did not very long ago, and that path was dividing us more than not being able to have sex. I cannot explain, except to say that NFP is the pits except for every other method out there.

I hope this does not come across as condescending, as that is not my intention.


Red Cardigan said...

Turmarion writes: "I'm sure it is meant kindly. However, if you really, truly, in the depths of your heart think that a Catholic who follows all the other teachings of his Church, gives to charity, is faithful to his or her spouse for life, has children and raises them in the faith, and in general does the best he or she can to live a Christian life, but who uses birth control is going to be doomed to burn in Hell for all eternity--well, if that's the case, I don't think there's really much area for theological discussion."

It has been the teaching of the Church throughout her history that a single unconfessed, unrepented, deliberate mortal sin is sufficient to place the soul in jeopardy of eternal death. For a sin to be mortal, three things must be true: the sin must be grave, the person committing it must know it is gravely wrong, and the person committing it must freely choose it anyway. Well, contraception is clearly taught by the Church to be gravely wrong; nobody here can claim invincible ignorance.

What I'm seeing here from the pro-contraception/contraceptive mentality Catholics is this idea that they can just decide, on their own, against the clear teaching of the Church, that birth control is totally fine for them. Honestly, how is this different from a young couple deciding that fornication is right for them? It's not. And equally honestly, I'm less worried about hurting the feelings of the birth control "Catholic" crowd than I am about any of you losing your souls over this.

Anonymous said...

my life has been greatly reordered since my reversion to catholicism; it has literally saved me

that being said, every hope and dream i had for my marriage in the deepest, fullest sense of "unitive" (sexual, and the great emotional gifts that come with that) has been dashed in one way or another.

i'm just lucky i'm married to a near saint and that i have enough sense and reverence for the rest of catholicism to see it through

interesting how the unspoken thread here is the assumption that admission of contraceptive use must mean that one is using contraceptives all the time. no, not all the time. mostly it's 6, 9, or 12 months of suffering with no sex because of fear of hell. wow! what a fantastic christian life! so much joy! because, you know, god intended it to be that one never has sex with their spouse!

Tumarion, thanks for coming forward. this is hard to discuss without being eaten alive by black and white dictates.

the prepster

Anonymous said...

well, i have to admit it's pretty deliberate when I decide to have sex with my spouse maybe once or twice a year because I can sense that we are so broken and dying inside from lack of physical love and all that comes with it

so, yeah, i'll risk hell to love my spouse a couple of times a year

if it were easy and mindless, it would be birth control of one sort or another and giving into our carnal desires at will/whim (i wish!) but it's not - it's deliberate, you bet!

because you see, when we want to make love in the fullest sense, we want to make love. we don't want to make love according to the wholly (un)natural edicts of nfp.

Red Cardigan said...

Again, Prepster, without knowing your situation, I ask what Catholic, pro-life, NFP-friendly medical advice you've sought or received. The Tepeyac Family Center in VA might be a good place to start if you haven't tried them; their website has contact info etc.

Too often I've seen people say, essentially, that natural means are too hard or don't work for them personally because of some particular health issue, etc.: and they're only really rejecting the CCL's NFP method, because it's the only one they've ever heard of or tried. There are morally sound alternatives out there, many of which can be tailored to suit an individual woman's specific needs.

And there are also secular doctors who will play the fear game and convince women that natural means aren't possible for them--I've heard of those situations, too.

Rebecca in ID said...

Yes to all...and I would like to add that twice I have conceived when I was desperately trying to avoid; can't get into details but if it had not been for the Church's clear teaching I would have pretty easily fallen into contraception...but I believe that all things work to the good of those who love God. The fruit in the garden was just one thing, but it was something clearly commanded, wasn't it? This differs in that it is a matter not just of positive law but of natural law; it is written on our very beings. But even if we can't understand how that is so, we know that it is commanded in a very serious way, and that is enough. How could we possibly enter heaven with the attitude of obeying only those commandments we understand and approve of? How can we presume to measure all things by our own minds alone? Where does faith come in? If I thought I could comprehend every truth taught by Christ, I'd be a little alarmed...we should expect that God is greater than anything we can think, imagine or feel.

Turmarion said...

Red, I'm quite familiar with the teachings and theology on mortal sin. It's the method the West uses that I have a problem with. Remember the post about calling a blog "Catholic", where Mark Shea explained how Canon Law comes out of the old Roman tradition of making mind-numbingly detailed and precise regulations for every conceivable thing, with the understanding that in actual practice it's more or less negotiable? That view is very much influential in moral theology--that's where you get the dichotomy between dogmatic teaching and pastoral practice.

I realize that in many circles "pastoral" is rather a dirty word and is construed as a synonym for "laxly ignoring Church dogma", but I think it's more a matter of Romanitas--"we'll forbid this categorically, but you can negotiate details and exceptions with your pastor". In the book Salt of the Earth even then-Cardinal Ratzinger obliquely indicated such an approach in the discussion on contraception (from here, emphasis added):

[Ratzinger:] I would say that in the question of contraception we ought to look more at these basic options in which the Church is leading a struggle for man. The point of the Church's objections is to underscore this battle. The way these objections are formulated is perhaps not always completely felicitous, but what is at stake are such major cardinal points of human existence.

[Peter Seewald:] The question remains whether you can reproach someone, say a couple who already have several children, for not having a positive attitude toward children.

[Ratzinger:] No, of course not, and that shouldn't happen, either.

[Seewald:] But must these people nevertheless have the idea that they are living in some sort of sin if they ...

[Ratzinger:] I would say that those are questions that ought to be discussed with one's spiritual director, with one's priest, because they can't be projected into the abstract.

OK, have to cut this in two for length.

Turmarion said...

What I'm seeing here from the pro-contraception/contraceptive mentality Catholics is this idea that they can just decide, on their own, against the clear teaching of the Church, that birth control is totally fine for them.

Not so. I think the Church is incorrect in its current application of this teaching, and that it is a legitimate matter of conscience at issue; and that doing so is not to be done lightly. Of course, we could go back and forth about that for days with no agreement; but the point is that it's a subtle and complex issue.

Two final points: Regarding NFP and medical necessity, just as there are accounts of couples who use NFP successfully, there are also many accounts of couples who used NFP faithfully, correctly, and diligently for years only to find that it just didn't work out for them. Of course, one could always come back with "they didn't try/pray hard enough, they weren't motivated enough, etc.", but who is anyone not in the actual marriage to say? Those who disagree with Church teaching often say unkind or disparaging things about couples who do use NFP; that, too, is wrong. One can't make statements about the bona fides either way in regard to someone else's marriage. I'm sure NFP works fine for many, just as I'm sure it doesn't work for many who have sincerely tried it.

Back when Rod Dreher was still Catholic, he said once that he wished that NFP promoters would be honest that for some couples NFP would be a true sacrifice, a huge difficulty, and might never give them a completely satisfying sex life. I second him. Look, if one is promoting fasting or greater prayer, e.g., it does no good to talk about how great it is to fast or how extra prayer is always uplifting. Fasting is difficult--if it wasn't, it wouldn't be a spiritual discipline; and as C. S. Lewis pointed out, prayer for us here on Earth is probably a drudgery and a task more often than not. No reason not to do it, but still. If there were an air of honesty that NFP, for some couples, might not make their marriage happier or more effective, might be a huge burden, might be more a cross to be borne than some form of Hot Catholic Lovin' à la Christopher West; if there were this honesty, I think it would get a better hearing.

Second: My feelings or those of 24 or whoever aren't really relevant, and once more, I don't doubt your motives to be pure. Still, there is the issue of lack of charity, which seems to me to be at issue in these cases. OK, it's for our own good, from your perspective, but consider the two cases in the Gospels in which Jesus dealt with sexual sinners directly (the Woman at the Well in John Ch. 4 and the woman caught in adultery in John Ch. 8). Not only does he not call the women in question nasty names, etc., but he says nothing harsher than "Go and sin no more". With the woman at the well, he doesn't even say that much!

I'm not trying to open a can of worms, and not expecting you'll agree; but at least I think there needs to be an appreciation of nuance on this issue.

Having said that, while I don't much like the mode of your approach (you probably find mine irritating as well), I once more emphasize that I have no doubt of the sincerity and goodness of your motives. I make no claim to be anything other than a sinner, doing the best he can by his flawed lights, and certainly in constant need of God's grace and mercy. In that light, though we disagree, all I can say is what St. Thomas More most felicitously said: "Pray for me, as I for thee, that we merrily meet in heaven!"

Red Cardigan said...

Well, but, Turmarion, as Rebecca points out, avoiding contraception is a matter of natural law. It's not some minor, negotiable thing.

And as you say yourself, Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more; He didn't tell her to go and ponder whether or not adultery was really right for her. For all we know, she was in a horrible, loveless marriage, but Christ didn't offer her any easy "out."

Not all of us will suffer and struggle mightily with NFP (in my situation, it helps that the alternative is a pregnancy that neither I nor a baby might survive; if it was just *my* life I might have been selfishly--yes, I mean that--tempted to risk it more than once over these last 13 years!). Nobody is saying that those who do suffer and struggle aren't carrying a true cross. We're just NOT saying, "Hey, put down that cross, and take the easy road." Those words don't come from someone who loves us.

Anonymous said...

1) Yes
2) Yes
3) No (I have never married, never had children, never had sexual intercourse, although I had mutual masturbation sessions several times with men when I was in college. I knew that premarital intercourse was a mortal sin, but not that any sex act between a man and a woman before marriage was also a mortal sin -- I blame that to poor post-Vatican II catechesis. I thought masturbation (whether by oneself or with another) was a venial sin instead. I lost several relationships because I refused to have intercourse.)
4) Yes, I accept the Church's teaching against artificial contraception and avoid its use in all circumstances.


Anonymous said...

yes to all four.

as to (d), in my particular circumstance, I agree to abide to Church teaching, but my spouse does not. So - to not infringe upon each other's conscience, we have been abstinent (though I suppose the proper term would be practicing continence) for more than 2 years.

And it is tough, no doubt about it. The temptation is very great to either get a vasectomy or just say "the hell with it". But then I remember that saying "the hell with it" could very well turn into "into hell with it" at the end. I'm not going to be presumptious of God's mercy by convincing myself that I can sin in the night and confess in the morning. The salvation of my soul - and my spouse's - is the most important thing here. Would we have a happier marriage if I violated my conscience? More than likely. But being happy in this life is not the goal. Making it to heaven is the goal, and the Church proposes the best means by attaining heaven, so I will listen to her above listening to my wife.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the prepster's comments at 542.

As for me, yes yes yes no. I accept the teaching as ideal, but it is too risky for me.
I use nothing that could possibly act as an abortifacient though, such as the pill.
My children need a living mother.
My husband needs a wife. I need a husband. My children need married parents.
End of story.
I am at full peace with this.
I would urge anyone else struggling with this to make a decision and move on.


Anonymous said...

Yes to all 4

~C in MA

Nicole said...

Because I'm Catholic, and you asked:
a) yes
b) yes
c) yes
d) yes

Carrie said...

I'd also like to point out that there are many methods of NFP; if one method doesn't work for you, try another one. I am not a good candidate for STM; I do not sleep well at night. I have found a good match with the Creighton Model, which is mucus-only. I would strongly urge any couple who has irregular cycles, strange temperatures, or unusual situations to perhaps try a different method with assistance from a trained instructor. You just may be surprised that your situation is not as impossible as it seems!

Anonymous said...

Yes to all. My husband is not Catholic, but we willingly practice NFP together (it is sometimes a joy and sometimes a burden) and the question in my mind is always "if a non-Catholic can do this, why can't Catholics?"

- Puzzled

Anonymous said...

B)Yes (at least I try)

Question E would be a problem for me because I used contraception for medical reasons and as a Protestant. I think it is that kind of question that leads to those doubtful 98% stats...

Anonymous said...

If 98% of people lie, should the Church say it is OK?

Anonymous said...


TAG 99

Elise said...

A Red Cardigan deserves a red heart to go along with it: check out my Liebster blog post: I picked you!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to break it to you, but it's the contraceptive mentality that is sinful, not just artificial contraception. . . that means that so-called natural means of contraception (NFP), if used with a contraceptive mindset are just as sinful as using a condom or whatever.


Anonymous said...

a) yes
b) yes, as best I can
c) yes
d) yes, since I've been Catholic


Anonymous said...

I don't believe the 98% number either - 90% of all statistics are invented on the spot.
As for your questions -

I've been married 40 years and have used contraception all 40. I don't think my wife should wear herself out in child-bearing. I've known families who've had 4 children in 4.5 years - in fact I knew 1 family that had 16 children in 20 years - 2 of them 9.5 months apart. The little ones had dirty diapers past the age they should have been potty-trained, the older ones ran wild, the wife was worn out, the father was a drunk.

Anonymous said...

#24, I strongly recommend the Clear Blue Easy fertility monitor. It does an amazing job of analyzing the chemicals in your urine in order to indicate which days are leading up to ovulation, as well as the day of ovulation. Whether your period varies always, or you are post-partum and unsure when fertility will return, the Clear Blue easy fertility monitor allows you to do NFP with clear information and without playing roulette.

-Anonymous in South Bend

Unknown said...

The 98% figure that is being thrown around comes from a study/poll on this topic. However, it is intentionally misleading by selecting a specified age group of women and excluding those that are not sexually active (per their definition) from that group, I forget what else they do to get the numbers to come out to 98%, but it is done to intentionally mislead the readers into believing that a surprising large percentage of Catholic's use contraception.

John. said...

Yes to all 4

Allison in AK said...

Yes to them all. And we have a 1:4 chance of cystic fibrosis with every pregnancy. Expecting #7 (2 have it). I write this, not to put ourselves up on a pedestal, but to illustrate these truths we've realized : none of us is guaranteed tomorrow ; enjoy your spouse ; have your babies ; live well ; get to Heaven. NFP is too much work for us! Another child always wins and we know that we won't regret it in our twilight years, should we be so granted. Sorry for preaching. Maybe.

Paul in the GNW said...

Me: A: Yes B: Yes, C:Yes D: Yes

My wife A: Yes, B: Yes C:Yes D:struggling

We have been married 16 years and have never used contraception. We were fortunate to have had instruction in Creighton Method by a trained Creighton instructor. (Creighton is the only method that insists that all instructors receive thorough training directly from Creighton and follow up and suprevision). Thanks to the Creighton Method we were able to use NFP at all since it turns out my wife had irregular periods and eventually a Creighton Trained Doctor prescribed hormonal treatment that did actually regularize my wife's periods. Since Creighton was observation only and not temperature we never dealt with that. Throughout our early marriage we were on extra restrictive Creighton rules (if we were not trying to achieve conception). However, we shortly switched to achieving behavior but we actually had trouble conceiving and think we had one miscarriage.

We did eventually conceive but soon had spotting and other signs of complication. The years of charting and the work with a NFP Doctor was a lifesaver, and natural (not synthetic) progesterone was prescribed - the same hormone my wife had taken to regularize her periods.

Since then we have added 3 children. We have found in our circumstances that practicing NFP is very challenging. 2 of our children were conceived on days that from our charts don't make sense as fertile days. Where we live now we don't have acces to good NFP / Creighton assistance. My wife doesn't like doing the observation and keeping track. We've gone extended periods of time without intercourse when we thought it was important not to conceive.

We are blessed that we have had NFP. We were blessed to be converted to the truth before we married by a medical lecture by both of the Dr.s Billings. We have been blessed by the Creighton Method and for anyone have problem, even if it involved travel and expense, please really considered getting instruction from a Creighton Instructor and see a Creighton Trained Dr.

It hasn't been easy. I understand why people falter. However, it is one thing to sin in weakness, it is another entirely to convince yourself it wasn't sin.

My wife (who is currently 33 weeks pregnant - we weren't charting at all - but thought we were "done") would be more negative and emphasize the difficulty even more, but she would still agree - it was the only way.

Our marriage isn't perfect, but I fully believe that contraception would have destroyed it (for us) mainly because of my own weakness and selfishness. I know myself, and I would have used my wife as an object and would have not dealt with sin and temptation in that area that NFP forced me to confront.

God Bless everyone. I pray for you all.

freddy said...

This has been a fairly mature and charitable discussion.

The one thing I find most curious is the similarity of arguments from the "no to 'd'" crowd to the arguments used by the "divorce and remarriage" crowd. Namely:

1. "But our case is special!"
Certainly every couple is unique. But the idea that the Church is wrong or mean because they didn't foresee your particular situation is to demean the sacrifice of couples suffering the same problems and to deny the grace and healing power of Christ. You are not alone in your pain, and there is help.

2. "But we're *suffering*! God doesn't want us to be unhappy!"
God does want you to be happy: with Him, in heaven. They don't call this life the "vale of tears" for nothing! When I suffered my first miscarriage I couldn't believe that God would let that happen to me. By the time I suffered a third, I could --because of the wisdom and support of others -- accept the pain and unite it with the horrors faced by my sisters in parts of Asia, where pregnant women are occasionally beaten until they miscarry. A Christian is joyful, not because they are magically pain free and happy, but because he/she knows that this world is not all there is.

3. "I've gone deeply into the study of this issue and have come to the conclusion that the Church is wrong. As a matter of conscience I must disobey the Church."
It's kind of a big thing to disagree with a couple thousand years of accumulated wisdom and learning, but pride has a way of blinding all of us at one time or another. It takes real courage to be humble and submissive when you do not understand and do not wish to obey, but what we expect from our children we should be willing to give to our Mother.

ashley said...

a) yes
b) yes
c) yes
d) YES

Thank you for making this point about how misleading that 98% "statistic" is!

Sam Monosov said...

"It has been the teaching of the Church throughout her history that a single unconfessed, unrepented, deliberate mortal sin is sufficient to place the soul in jeopardy of eternal death."

If this is really God's standard for who goes to heaven, I think I'd prefer hell. The people there are probably far more interesting.

Red Cardigan said...

All: thank you for continuing this discussion in a spirit of charity. That is important.

Elise: Thank you! :)

Martin: Yes, I think people who use NFP understand fully that couples aren't supposed to use NFP in order to fill their lives with material riches and trips to Acapulco instead of children. However, if you read this thread, you will see that natural means of fertility regulation are difficult, challenging, and require self-sacrificing love, which is probably why you don't see too many people using it with anything like a contraceptive mentality. Moreover, it appears that those using it who have commented here use it for two serious reasons: health/medical, or need to space children so as to be just to the children one already has in caring for them. I don't see too many people saying, "I wanted one perfect child to be my mini-me and then we used NFP so we could be as selfish as possible." I can't help but wonder why so many people think that "NFP" and "contraceptive mentality" even go together?

In fact, some of the people who have shared here are using NFP in truly heroic circumstances, and are witnesses to the rest of us of the beauty of God's plan for marriage. Beauty isn't some kind of cheap prettiness, either--beauty, whether in art, nature, human living, etc. requires struggle, effort, and even pain.

RCR_Chris said...

Yes, to all four questions.

No, NFP is not the "rhythm method", contrary to the the claims of people who seem to think 50 year old similarities to current technology are equivalents.

As a long time NFP user, (who has avoided having any more children for 6 years so far), I can state that "menstrual cycle" or any other kind of timing is irrelevant.

Nor is NFP equivalent to "No sex", as the sadly ignorant and simplistic seem to think.

Is NFP a sacrifice? Sure. Sometimes my wife & I would like to have intercourse, but the way our bodies naturally work, we need to wait a couple or three days. Yeah it can be difficult to "go without" intercourse sometimes, although there are plenty of morally licit ways to share intimacy together than just intercourse.

Even if intercourse were the only thing to do waiting a few days isn't the end of the world, and if a marriage is "rocky" because the couple can't always delay gratification a bit, then there are far bigger problems in the relationship than how often you have intercourse.

(Tag) 7

Brantly Millegan said...

a. yes
b. yes
c. yes
d. yes

Susan said...

a. yes
b. yes
c. yes
d. yes
BTW I had 4 children in 4.8 years. Number 5 came 8 years later when I was 46. No nfp. Just God's will.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion and comment. Now to stir the pot:

This is hypocritical. I was employed as a behavior therapist in a Catholic organization in the state of Illinois (St. Coletta's) which was responsible, in at least part, for running group homes for mentally disabled young adults (until about the age of late 20s). As part of the practice, all women of child-bearing ages were given (gasp) birth control pills to prevent a pregnancy should these women be violated. Within this organization, while I was employed there, there was an incident of abuse, although it had to do with a male-male situation. Because these women couldn't not be protected at all times (male staff did have access to these women during certain times, never at night, but during a potential time of transportation or at the shelted workshop). Was it wrong to give these women birth-control? And I will stress again, this was a CATHOLIC not for profit agency.

JC said...

a) Yes
b) Yes
c) Yes
d) Yes

About that 98% figure (which comes from the Guttmacher Institute, btw), it represents the percentage of Catholics who have ever used contraception. Thus, people like this who used contraception one time and then regretted it would be counted in that 98% (if they answered the question honestly), even though she and her husband do not contracept; and, as Mr Ross Douthat notes his latest posting, there are quite a few "Catholics who practice their faith intermittently, drifting away and then being tugged back, without having any particular desire to see its teachings changed to suit their lifestyles."

Anonymous said...

Yes to all 4.

To say you are a 'practicing Catholic' without following all of the Church's doctrines is am empty phrase. If I get to choose what qualifies as 'practicing', I can say I disbelieve in the Eucharist, never go to Mass, not care at all about the poor, and have as many abortions as I would like, and still consider myself 'practicing'. People are confused about what Catholics believe because of the 'practicing' Catholics who dissent from official Church teaching.

We tell how well our consciences are formed by how closely they follow the Church's teaching.

And, Sam, if you think those in Hell are more interesting, you may want to read up on the lives of the saints.


Anonymous said...

Yes -- I'd like to also add that Hubby teaches Adult Formation classes at Church, and we're both very active in the social life of the parrish as well.

NFP has been the biggest struggle in my 5 years of marriage. My husband and I are both converts to Cahtolicism. We converted before we were married and were both gung-ho about the teaching until real life set in. I simply cannot believe that contraception or completing the marriage act outside the "appropriate place," is the same as lust.

This isn't a conclusion I came to flippantly. We both married as virgins. Then we had 2 kids within the first 3 years of marriage, while trying to practice NFP. We were then completely abstinent for A WHOLE YEAR because having kids completely derailed our life (broke, homeless, I had to quit school, moved in with in-laws). We were trying to get back on track, and the thought of another pregnancy scared us both.

Unfortunately the only way to find out if you have messed up reading your chart, is a surprise pregnancy. I was fearful of intimacy with my husband and fearful of hell if I contracepted.

Through this year of abstinence, I prayed and continued to be a "good" Catholic. I finally concluded that God wants me to have a happy marriage, to live without fear, and to care for my children without further complicating our life situation.

I cannot use birth control pills b/c I know how harmful that is to my body and the potential abortefecient effects, but we do use other methods which violate Church teaching.

This is the first time in my marriage that I've been able to be intimate with my husband without fear of pregnancy or fear of God's wrath. It's been psychologically healing on a personal level.


Susan said...

Yes to all 4

I have had 6 c- sections. I am 42. Non -ovulatory cycles for 4 years, or so I thought. Youngest is 2. I am terrified of getting pregnant again, for physical and mental health reasons.

It is by God's grace and mercy that I leave my fertility to Him. I trust that He will take care of me. It is all I can do. As Peter said, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. ". I am not great. Only God is great.

Jesus taught us that death does not have the final victory. I count on Him.

Anonymous said...

Yes to all four - Qualify item d) After the birth of our fifth child, we took my wife's temperature every morning - starting a week after the start of her period and ending after her temperature stayed up for four consecutive days; following the sympto-thermal method of trying to determine her fertile period for about 17 years (presumptive age near menopause). A lot of prayer was needed for us to keep with d). But then, our education was pretty much pre-Vatican II.

Red Cardigan said...

KC, does your pastor know that you and your husband are dissenters from Church teaching, and still allow your husband to conduct Adult Formation classes? I think that's scandalous, if so.

I'm not, alas, surprised that so many people have come forward to admit to the sin of contraceptive use, here. But I am surprised that so many of them seem to think they are still Catholics in good standing and can receive Holy Communion, be active in their parish life, and otherwise wear the mask of the faithful Catholic.

From time to time on this blog I've encountered people who admit to using birth control and dissenting from Church teaching--but who also say that they either don't go to Mass anymore or that they attend Mass and participate to the degree they can, but don't approach the altar, receive Holy Communion, or otherwise participate in the sacramental life of the Church.

They are the honest ones.

Believe me, it breaks my heart to write that. But you can't just unilaterally decide that a grave sin involving something the Church has recognized as intrinsically evil--that is, evil in its very essence--isn't any big deal and shouldn't stop you from taking the Eucharist. It should. If you don't believe me, please ask your local bishop for clarification.

Anonymous said...

Another comment: Some proportion of the population refuses to answer polls relating to sex and their attitudes towards it on the basis that it is too personal. People who answer polls about sex are not representative of the entire population, even of the age group that they represent. So the "98%" figure may be true of the sample who were willing to answer the poll questions, but not the population as a whole.

Anonymous said...

1. yes
2. yes
3. yes
4. yes


Anonymous said...

To all those who've contributed comments, my thanks and prayers. I'm a young Catholic priest, deeply committed to the fullness of the Church's teaching, and it's helpful to see folks discuss this from the midst of their own experiences, both joy-filled and difficult.

Just as marriage is in great jeopardy in our country, it is a source of great joy that we are having this conversation, and that the Church's teaching is being explained and defended beautifully by married men and women! Thank you!

To those who have rejected the Church's teaching in some way, I especially appreciate your honesty in expressing that. I believe the Church makes an invitation to you to deeper conversion, but I can only imagine the obstacles that present themselves. Know of my prayers for you.

Red Cardigan, just got pointed here from NewAdvent... keep up the good honest discussion!

God Bless,
Fr. somewhere in the US

Mary said...

Should we also ask how many women have used ovulation monitoring in order to GET pregnant?
NFP and ovulation charting/kits are in most ways, the same thing (except for the "activity/inactivity" part).
Maybe an "e", too: how many of you used artificial birth control when you were young (and foolish) but have not used artificial birth control since coming back to the Church.

RCR_Chris said...


Not all pastors know or care what their catechists think or believe.

The Pastor at my parish knows that the RCIA director not only objects to some Catholic doctrines, but holds some fully heretical ideas...

Apparently as long as she doesn't intentionally teach people trying to learn about the Catholic faith her ideas, that's OK. But in reality, when my wife was going through RCIA to complete the sacraments, she reported several instances, including being told "Purgatory isn't real", or that Sunday mass is optional (missing mass isn't a sin as long as you have a reason, like something better to do.)

Not long ago, I heard her claiming that the Church changes the deposit of faith/doctrine, based on the old incorrect claim that you have to be Catholic to go to heaven.

IMO, the dissent from Catholic doctrine held by so many today is hugely due to such crummy catechesis.

Anonymous said...


Reading through the comments I've seen some people citing difficulties with NFP. I'm a med student working on Napro certification through Creighton. Women who have very irregular cycles, enough to make NFP predictions invalid, have an underlying Pathology. Almost 100% of the time. Many times its PCOS, endometriosis,or a number of things. But, they should seek out a NaPro trained physician so they can resolve the problem. This is the big benefit of NFP (especially creighton model). Contraceptives used to "fix" these problems are only bandaids, and this can lead to permanent infertility.

Kansas Med

Anonymous said...

I agree with all 4, However, I am not of child-bearing age and it doesn't affect my marriage, but I have a daughter who is affected. I don't agree with contraception, but she has stopped attending Mass because she does. Sad.

eulogos said...

Susan Peterson
a. yes
b. yes
c. yes (was married before I became a Catholic, neither party baptized. This was a valid but not sacramental marriage even after I was baptized, until my husband was baptized many years later, at which point it automatically became sacramental.
d. yes, after I became a Catholic I accepted that teaching.

But I would have to answer yes to a question whether I EVER used contraception.
Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

Yes- but I strongly disagree with the churches position on contraception more specifically that every act of intercourse has to be open to life. Or at least not artificially thwart what the church thinks is the primary end to intercourse since many people have intercourse who cannot ever conceive. However, for now I am in obedience to the church. When I no longer feel that I can be, I'll leave and join the Episcopalians.


Anonymous said...

Can we admit one thing? It is not a sacred right to have sex with a spouse. Priests, Monks, Nuns, conscecrated virgins, or even people who are simply single and unmarried will, according to Church law, go their entire lives without having sex. If your spouse would unfortunately lose the ability to have sex (i.e. a horrible accident that rendered them in a coma, or unable to utilize their sexual organs), you do not get a disspensation from the marriage or the law against mastrubation is not drawn back for your special case. You can be lawfully married and never have sex for various reasons, and it is not the case that anyone is invalidating or impeding your marriage. You are not "spiritually dead" if you do not have sex with your spouse, and you can be "intimate" with each other without having sex.

Human beings are not dogs, inextricably bound to their desires. Sexual desire (and yes, even emotional desire) are incredibly hard to combat--I myself and not sinless on this account. But to act like the Church asks the impossible when it says you cannot have sex unless you are open to life is not an unduly difficult burden.

If a doctor told you that you could no longer eat your favorite food if you did not want to suffer from some horrible disease, you could not say "oh, but the doctor is unrealistic, and what they ask for is too difficult," and then choose to ignore his rule. The same is with the Church: sexual love (even its unitive aspect, which by the way is NOT equal to the procreative aspect: the natural purpose of sex is to create human life) is deadly not performed in the bounds of a marriage open to life. Even if the unitive element of sex must be ignored, it is better to not have sex at all than to violate the Holy Law of the Church, not only because unitive love that is not open to the procreative act is selfish and abusive to the spouse it is done toward, but also because disobedience and trusting onself over the Church is an inisidious and dangerous instance of pride. Sex between spouses that is not immediately done for procreation is already the Church being lax, giving our fallen natures a break, but it is not the perfection of the act.

I do not see how this is someone being "Judgmental," and I do not see how it is "up for debate." It is not merely a positive law of the Church in which exceptions can be made, it is a philosophical understanding of the rammifications of the nature purpose of sex within the context of a sacramental marriage. No one here is presenting philosophical arguments against this teaching: indeed, I the rammifications of this arguments are something even non-Catholics should adhere too. To do otherwise is to willing act in a way less than human.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

1. Yes
2. Yes
3. Yes
4. Yes
I finally humbled myself enough to admit obedience has to be first, even if I don't understand or agree. For if the Church is right about anything, then it's right about everything.
"it's one thing to sin out of weakness. It's another thing to convince yourself it isn't sin" - amen to that.

Brian Killian said...

I understand how it happens that Catholic couples turn to contraception. They don't see themselves having the strength to practice abstinence, and they can't get pregnant again for whatever reason, and so they choose the route that seems to them to be the lesser evil.

And their culpability might vary from case to case. They don't want to be dissenters, or troublemakers, they are just trying to survive as couples or as families.

But there is an assumption that always lies under the surface of these kinds of threads. Another sort of myth.

It's the assumption that contraceptive sex is exactly the same as non-contraceptive sex. By that I mean that it is assumed that the 'unitive' dimension of sex is possible even when using contraception. And I believe that is a serious mistake.

When the Church says that the unitive and the procreative are inseparable, what is meant is that the act can only be unitive in so far as it's a procreative kind of act (not to be confused with procreative in fact).

This isn't pulled out of a cardinals hat somewhere in the Vatican, this is the nature of reality the way God made it.

The kind of unity that sex is supposed to be in the sacrament of marriage (and that the spouses long for) can not be had simply by putting your parts in the right place. That's a necessary but not a sufficient condition. The logos of sex also plays a part. As Aristotle noted, there's no real unity between friends without a 'transcendent third' that c an mediate that unity. For unity can't be manufactured. It must come, not from the flesh or the will of man, but of God.

And God's will for sex, expressed through the logos which he gave it, is that it is a procreative kind of act. And that spousal love, that unique love designed to image God like no other, is a procreative kind of love.

So when you contracept, your sexual activity is no more of a unity than mutual masturbation or homosexuality would be unitive. You spurn the grammar with which to express the unity that you really long for.

Your contraceptive sexual acts can no more express the unity of love than Judas' kiss could express friendship after throwing thirty pieces of silver in front of the authorities. It's just not objectively possible. Couples can understand this intuitively.

The sex is just not the same. It sucks.

So yes, by using contraception or sterilization, you can solve one problem on a practical level. But it would be a big mistake to imagine that you haven't created other potentially serious problems and swept them under the rug to wreak havoc later.

There is no solution to the problem that love is the cross, and that this cross can't be kept out of the bedroom.

Love can abstain. It's worth it.

Fr. Savio said...

I'd just like to point out that the teaching of the Church on this meets the requirements for infalliblity. I know lots of misinformation is out there, but as a trained theologian earning an advanced degree in a pontifical faculty, I can tell you that it does indeed meet the requirements. It is a case of the ordinary and universal (and frankly, though this is a different issue, Traditional) magisterium. Not every infallible teaching has to come from the pope ex cathedra. So, while I work as a parish priest as well, and understand the enormous difficulties involved, and in no way wish to hurt those who have immense struggles in this area, nonetheless I think it needs to be clear that this issue is neither optional, debatable, nor, unfortunately, venial. It is an infallible doctrine of the universal magisterium. The weight of the objective action is grave, not venial.

But let us always continue to pray for those who face a true martyrdom in order to be able to obey this teaching. May they remember that they share in their own way with Catholics throughout the world - Pakistan, China, India - who must be willing to suffer in order to avoid forsaking their faith. God bless you all. I know it is a huge cross.

freddy said...

What a thoughtful and encouraging conversation.

To the priests commenting here: thank you and may God bless you! You will be in my prayers.

Rebecca in ID said...

Well said, Brian Killian...and thank you both of the priests who have contributed, for your charitable clarity.

Anonymous 3030 I understand what you are trying to say but it is important to have a thorough understanding on the side of orthodoxy so as not to scandalize those who reject the Church's teaching on this. Your statement, "Sex between spouses that is not immediately done for procreation is already the Church being lax, giving our fallen natures a break, but it is not the perfection of the act", is at least misleading--it is not fallen nature or some compromise on the part of the Church that every sexual act does not produce offspring. It is part of the intention of nature, God-created nature, that a woman have a cycle, and that she be infertile during the greater part of her cycle. Although you are right that it is in a way the "perfection" of the act to create a new life, this does not make sexual intercourse during infertile times something not good and holy. St. Paul tells us that the union between man and wife is a great mystery that symbolizes the union of Christ and his Church and this is true whether that union will result in the creation of a child or not. We are not Puritans; not even close!

Anonymous said...


And like very many Catholics, I would have to be counted in the alleged 98% of contraceptors because I used conmtraceptives between the ages of 18 and 20, when I was a pagan, a political lesbian, and a dyke (but still made love with men) -- and that was over 40 years ago.

For that matter, what percent of Cathoilic wives and mothers are ex-lesbians, I ask you? You would eb surprised, no doubt. We repent our fault, failings, misdirections and mistakes. And we try to live love wisely and well, within the laws of Gosd, the precepts of the Church, and the mind of Christ.

Anonymous said...

and Yes (though I did contracept as a Protestant)
Red Cardigan, thank you for putting this discussion out there, and Fr. Savio, thank you for your words. This issue has nearly destroyed my marriage. My husband agrees that all acts of intercourse need to be open to life, but seems to think that during my fertile times, I should "serve his needs" in every other way possible. I refuse to violate Church, and therefore Christ's, commandments. He posits that the Church teaching is "hypocritical" and that "the Church has no business telling married couples what to do" and most importantly, the Church "doesn't have the guts to teach this from the pulpit because it would chase everyone away."
This wasn't an issue when we were newly married and looking forward to children, but now that he does NOT want any more kids, we are abstinent for several days a month. He has often told me that now he lusts after other women, I've destroyed our marriage, and I know if we didn't have kids he would leave.
It is comforting to know that there are other couples struggling with this issue.

Red Cardigan said...

AEK, I'll pray for you and for your marriage. It saddens me greatly that so many women are the ones being treated badly--and yet, I think it is contraception that encourages this. Men are taught to expect that women are supposed to be sexually "available" at all times. You are heroic for persevering in the face of this heartbreak. Perhaps your husband might be open to counseling?

James Joseph said...

The 800 pound gorilla in the room:

At the heart of the matter intimate relationships between Men and Women are more about celibacy than anything else.

Mike said...

From State College, PA
and-a Yes!

anna lisa said...

"Yes" to all four. It has not always been easy. We lost a lot of $ in the recession but see our 8 kids, ages 2-24 as "winning the lottery". For all of those experiencing super abundant fertility, consider breastfeeding "on demand" if you can. Every time the baby nurses, it sends a message to the brain to suppress ovulation! God's original plan works, so the body gets a rest. Man's ingenuity, NFP, does the rest. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

@ Brian Killian--Thank you for your wisdom! As for me--my husband was not always "on board" with me. He also secretly had a vasectomy after our fourth--I discovered it in the most miraculous way. He reversed it. We went on to have four more. We always loved each other, but he came from a very pagan, pornographic environment. Through the grace of God, he renounced the sin, and I need to honestly say that this PURE man who is my husband, is so attractive to me now, but most profoundly, on the DEEPEST level, where 1 plus 1 equals 3, that we have beautiful, intimate love like never before almost every day. Yes. No exaggeration. It's been years now. Husbands who use porn, please take heed. Your wife may not know it with her BRAIN, she'll intuit it with her SPIRIT.

Disney1957 said...

a. yes
b. yes
c. yes
d. NO!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to talk about when people were younger. People make mistakes and have been forgiven... it's like labeling everyone who has ever told a lie a liar, ever stolen a thief, etc., even if they repented and it happened years ago and they no longer practice what they did before. People grow up.

I am not Catholic (yet), but I agree with the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception. Artificial birth control has made more divorces, broken families, using others for pleasure, depression, etc. Human beings are created in the image of God; they are not sex objects. Sex is a wonderful thing that should be used properly and not abused.

I also think the teaching on NFP (the real NFP, *not* the rhythm method which is what the secular media tells people that NFP is) needs to be more widespread. Most people have false information, such as it doesn't work, if I use NFP I'll never be able to have sex, etc. NFP limits the times you can have sex if you're spacing children or can't afford more kids right now, but it doesn't mean you can never have sex at all. When used correctly, NFP is very effective with a low failure rate, and the divorce rate for people who follow the Church's teaching on NFP is <1-2%.

And if you are the sort of person with a high sex drive that needs to have sex every day, you need to learn some self control. Offer up your suffering for the sins of others. If your spouse becomes ill, has to leave on a business trip, etc., you may have to go a while without sex, so it's always good to learn self-control.

I think the biggest problem is that most so-called "Catholics" do not go to church regularly (if at all), and the catechesis over the last few decades has been very poor. NFP is only the tip of the iceberg. Many people don't know what their church teaches about Jesus, the Eucharist, etc. They don't believe in hell (everyone is going to heaven and/or the bad people will simply be erased), Jesus is not God (just some dude, or they practice historical denialism and say that Jesus never existed), etc. There seriously needs to be a new evangelization or millions of souls are going to be in big trouble.

Charles said...

The 98 percent quote comes from a deceptive statement in the text of the Guttmacher report. Look at the actual data on page 8.

The 98 percent comes from a sample population, which I quoted directly from the study, as "Current contraceptive use among women at risk of unintended pregnancy*" and further defined as "*Restricted to sexually active women who are not pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant".

It doesn't speak to all Catholics or all sexually experienced Catholics, but merely asks a population of Catholics, who were having sex and separating the act from procreation (here, the study erroneously groups NFP), what methods they use.

Anonymous said...

1. Yes
2. Yes
3. Yes
4. Yes

Emily K said...


North Platte, NE

Anonymous said...


The problem once again is that we choose to make God and the Church in our image. We want the Church to be what we want. We pick out the teachings that make us feel good, or those that we feel we can handle. The rest...we just disregard. We forget that the 1st Vatican Council stated that we have to hold as true everything the Church teaches--not just the stuff we like.

For some reason people in the Church decide that their circumstances are so special that the rules can't possibly apply to them. If only the pope could realize that we are Americans and thus entitled to special treatment. Children are expensive. Sure many 3rd world people live on almost nothing, but we must have our cake and eat it to.

My wife and I gave up on NFP 10 years ago and embraced God's plan for us. We had babies 5,6, and 7 in our 40's, and life has never been better. So many people reject God's plan for them and choose their own path, and then wonder why their path in life is so complicated. "My yolk is light and my burden is light" someone once said.

Yes to all 4


Siarlys Jenkins said...

A woman's purpose is not to "serve his needs" even if he is her husband. If it is not mutual, it is not marriage.

(As a male of the species, I thought I should offer that observation, although I was not going to comment on this post otherwise.)

Anonymous said...

a yes
b yes
c yes
d yes
from a Catholic Dad in Peterborough Ontario

Anonymous said...

Yes x4.

Anonymous said...

Happily, yes to all four!


Anonymous said...

a - yes
b - yes
c - yes
d - yes (for the past 16 years of our 26 year marriage).

Leo Ladenson said...

Anonymous said...

Cradle Catholic civilly married for 19 yrs, nfp for past 2 yrs, convalidation on our anniversary last year w/our 3 boys there! It is a struggle at times but having to reform the distorted secular veiw of women is hard especially with an over sexed society. But I love my God and my wife! Wish I knew then what I know now and I would not have hurt my wife so.
YES to all 4 to the best of our ability.
We are all struggling (thank you Jesus for confession and grace) that's why we are all here to help each other cuz we all fall short...
1st time posting ever...I don't like it

Anonymous said...

About the NFP thing, my wife and I entered the Church a couple of years ago. Before that she was on the pill, and concieved twice within 1 - 2 months after she stopped taking it, i.e., highly fertile. Last child was born a year and a half ago, after he was born we took an NFP class and no pregnancies since then. So, a pretty good track record so far, when she averaged a pregnancy every ~45 days of not being on the pill. And her cycles go from about 20 to 35 days. And no, NFP is not the Rythm Metheod.

We're trying to avoid concieving right now due to health issues (there were issues discovered in the last c-section that could put mother and child at risk in a future pregnancy), and flat out just getting old. Yes that means not having sex at times, but as others have said very well, having sex whenever one wants, or even at all, is not a right God owes us. It is a gift that ought to be appreciated when, and if, it is given.

After the second child we thought we were done. Two sounded good, and we married a little later in life anyway. A few yeras later when we were thinking about joining the Church we decided to stop contracepting and take the NFP class next time it was offered and see how NFP worked. That was just after we had bought another few packs of birth control pills from the pharmacy, only to end up not using most of them. Well, she got pregnant before the first NFP class. Strangest possesion I have is the reciept where we paid $80 for the birth control pills not to have our son. Either of us would give every last thing we own to keep him, we would die to protect him, and there sits a reciept for $80 we paid to keep him out of existance.

Anonymous said...

a) Yes. I rarely miss Mass and when I do there is always a serious reason. (Or for a Holy Day of Obligation, I had to take my final exam and there were no other Masses to go to. I went to confession for that one--I don't count that as an reasonable circumstance because I probably could have arranged to take my final at another time.)
b) Yes.
c) No, I am not married. I believe that my vocation is to some sort of consecrated single life. I do not believe I have ever experienced lust, I have kept my virginity, I have kept my (sexual) purity of heart, body, and mind, I have not given away my "first kiss," and I never plan to. I live chastely for my state in life and I am eagerly running toward being His Bride.
d) Yes. I have been told by a doctor that I should be on the pill because I cannot bear children due to health reasons, but I told him absolutely not for the very fact that I am a Catholic (oh, and I'm not sexually active so it is a moot point). The Catholic Church teaches and zealously guards the Truth taught by Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Second person of the Blessed Trinity. If She says that contraception is a mortal sin, then I will accept that. The Church has for Her head the Son of God. In matters of Faith and Moral She is infallible and holy because Her head is infallible and holy.

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous at 12:25--wow. That $80 receipt. What an incredible thing to ponder.

Anonymous at 12:26--I'll pray for your vocation! Have you considered the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word? :)

To all: I'm so impressed by the level of charity and respect shown here. I appreciate the two priests who have weighed in--leadership from our pastors is so important on issues like these.

I sincerely hope that those who have admitted to struggling with this issue will be inspired by the stories shared thus far (and please feel free to continue!) and will prayerfully consider taking another look at their contraceptive use, with the guidance of their pastors and confessors. I know that I'm deeply inspired by those whose crosses seem much, much larger than my own, but who cheerfully bear witness to the fullness of the Church's teaching against artificial contraception in their lives and practices.

Ron Jon said...

There are so many other ways to show love and affection other than genital sex.
Unfortunately that's something 90's sitcoms or Hollywood never taught us.
Talking, making music, writing poetry, even playing chess, go fishing together, hiking, etc.
You see people, your wife is more than just your penis' sheath.
We have given our genitals way too much importance. We don't need them to live, seriously, you could totally live without genitals. They are not crucial. Try using your brain with your wife for a while and you'll find that she is a human being too, who likes other stuff other than genital sex.
And NFP works if you have patience, and genital sex is also so much better if you have patience.
Instant gratification has ruined the human race.

Anonymous said...

Yes to all.

BTW, none of my children are closer than than 2 years apart because I breastfed them and used no formula.


Dave said...

Yes to all 4. It is certainly not easy, but who said it was supposed to be easy? Not Jesus. My wife and I probably only make love about twice a month, if that. Still, we have the deeper joy of knowing that we are following Christ without limit (at least in that area) - and, yes, the Church *IS* the voice of Christ when it comes to its teachings.

I don't presume to lecture those who answered No on #4, but there really are solutions that work for very nearly everyone. If nothing works, then you are being asked to carry a very special cross. I will pray for everyone who has posted on this thread.

Kelly said...

a. Yes
b. Yes
c. Yes
d. Yes

Thank you for doing this! MamaKelly 3

Sarah said...

Question (and no, I'm not being snarky - I've just never heard an explanation to this one). I respect and agree with the Church's policy of being open to life. However, I've never understood how they consider NFP to be acceptable given the instructions in 1 Corinthians 7 on marital relations which specifically state that the only acceptable reason to avoid sex with a spouse is for a time of prayer. I understand the church's compassion for married couples and their desire to space children (and much of me agrees with that), but how does the church reconcile the fact that this allowance contradicts a direct command in scripture?

A second question I'd also love to hear/read a discussion on. The church's argument about the purpose of marriage and sex is very logical, specifically in that marriage cannot be divided from one of its purposes: children. However (I'm not just trying to play semantics), wouldn't something like condom use during one's fertile days actually be more open to life than not having sex with your spouse at all during that time? Other birth control methods can fail (allowing children) while withholding from sex altogether cannot. Would be so curious to hear others thoughts on this. Thanks! Please understand this is out of a spirit of curiosity and interest, not out of trying to pick fights.

Anonymous said...

c)Not married, plan to be married to a Catholic validly in the Church

Dallas (I'm not quite sure what you meant about tagging)

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear that many in the Vatican, much of the clergy, and theologians felt uneasy about the publication of Humanae Vitae and thought it was the wrong thing to do. The conversation above reflects much of the conversation that Catholic (and yes, I mean Catholic) priests, bishops, cardinals, and moral/systematic theologians have been having since before its publication.
Too many encounter this issue as though it is finished; we've arrived. This is simply not the case.
Please read the following article published in 1993:

God bless!

Riley said...

This post and the comments reflect Cardinal Dulles' fears about the negative effects of Humanae Vitae on American Catholics:
Avery Dulles, SJ., issued this warning:

"In view of the American tradition of freedom and pluralism, it would be a serious mistake to use the encyclical as a kind of Catholic loyalty test. Nothing could so quickly snuff out the spirit of per­sonal responsibility, which has done so much to invigorate American Catholicism in the past few years.

Nothing could be more discouraging to young people and intellectuals, upon whom the future of our Church so greatly depends. Nothing could be more destructive of the necessary autonomy of Catholic universities and journals, which have begun to prosper so well. Nothing, finally, could be more harmful to the mutual relations of trust and cordiality that have recently been established between bishops and theologians."

The idea of a "Catholic loyalty test" should strike all of us as profoundly misdirected. Unless of course we want to question Cardinal Dulles' catholicity.

Rebecca in ID said...

Sarah--St. Paul's admonition was speaking about abstaining from sexual relations for a significant amount of time. There were Cathari-type gnostics who periodically advocated abstaining from sex entirely or for very long periods as though this is a more holy way for spouses to live, and he was contradicting that and saying that sexual relations are good and holy. Obviously we are not obligated to have sex with our spouse twice a day or every day or every other day--we should maintain sexual relations in a general way, and St. Paul is saying that if we decide to take a month off for retreat, that is fine. Likewise we recognize that iff a spouse needs to go on a business trip, or whatever, that is okay too. NFP, even practiced in its strictest form, does allow couples to maintain a sexual relationship!

It is also important to understand, regarding your second question, that the Church's objection to contraception is *not* that the couple is trying to avoid children. It is okay to be trying to avoid children, and in fact it may be very laudable to be attempting to avoid conceiving, in many circumstances. What the Church objects to is the perverse action of performing the act *while* cutting off its natural end, which is always--forgive my bluntness--semen entering the vagina. So the difference would be much like the difference between desiring to lose weight and abstaining from the donut in order to do so, or desiring to lose weight and eating the donut and then barfing it back up again. We all think that's gross and wrong; unfortunately we have been conditioned not to think that preventing the natural end of sex is gross and wrong. The immediate goal of sex is the seed entering the woman; the immediate purpose of food is nourishment. So saying, "isn't abstaining less life-giving than at least having sex even if it's protected"...that's kind of like saying, "isn't eating the donut and barfing it back up more nourishing than abstaining from the donut".

Moreover, people who do the Roman thing with food or are otherwise disordered with regard to it, do not experience the pleasure and delight of eating that someone who uses food temperately and according to nature's intention does. That's the sad thing here; this is all for our own happiness; it is not an arbitrary command, as many seem to think it is.

Anonymous said...

priest's wife said...

yes to all four- and in my 'little Catholic bubble' with many friends and family members it is yes to all 4- so I can't believe the 98% statistic.

like you, Red Cardigan, I have serious health issues that led us to spacing (12.5, 11.5, 20-week miscarried boy who should be 7, 4.5 and 2.5 are the ages of the kiddos) and probably NFP to avoid completely now- even though we couldn't say no to God

Anonymous said...

i'm reading this discussion and I see it as an absolute opportunity for some here (not all, especially some of the truly anonymous ones who made no commentary other than their 4 yes's) as a fantastic opportunity to parade out their smug pride.

in fact, as someone pointed out above, this "litmus test" of orthodoxy is seriously flawed and i think it's becoming a rather destructive conversation on the whole.

the folks here who want to accuse me and others with selfishness, addiction to gential sex, not knowing/understanding the true nature of lovemaking with my spouse, being slaves to cultural norms and messages, etc., etc., are really acting in a presumptive manner and it's massively offensive. it's so easy to be RIGHT all the time. (priest's wife among them, speaking for her family and friends too! interesting though that i know other conservative catholics like myself that have lied through our teeth about contraception to others, so good she knows it all.)

people here think it's perfectly acceptable for me to not have sex with my spouse for the next 5 or so years of my life. they really think that's just fine and the price to pay for orthodoxy! i'm baffled by this completely out of touch take on marriage and humanity. and furthermore they'd like to assume people like myself, who care deeply about the church's teachings and fear hell (too much) haven't heard of the fertility monitors or other methods of nfp. said all so "helpful" and mamby pamby. if only you'd do [fill in the blank] method of nfp, all your problems would be solved!

nfp is unable to solve our problems. multiple good, holy priests understand this because we have poured our hearts out to them. we know the advice we've been given and we know our own consciences.

here's a hint and clue to the truth: there are people sitting next to you at your homeschool group and at your pro-lie rally who are contracepting, whether quite often or rarely (like us.) i know this because i'm that person. and i'm quite sure i'm not the only one.

you all can keep your holy suffering, i want no part of it.

the prepster

Red Cardigan said...

Prepster, no one has accused you of anything. You are taking others' comments far too personally.

I'm sorry that you don't like the truth the Church teaches, that contraceptive sex is intrinsically evil, no exceptions. Whether you are personally morally culpable is not for anyone here to judge, but you can't change the truth to suit your circumstances.

It is not smug pride, but concern for the truth, that motivates people to post here what I know they intend to be quite helpful suggestions. If you know for a fact that there is no way for you to use NFP or any natural method, that your circumstances are so rare, so incredibly difficult, so far beyond what anyone here has posted at all that natural means are not even possible--it still does not change, and can not change, the reality that contraception is a grave moral evil, always.

You will be in my prayers at Mass tomorrow.

Dave said...


Cardinal Dulles at one time did not give assent to Humanae Vitae, but before his death he had come to regret that, and gave his full assent to the teaching.

Dave said...

"You can all keep your holy suffering, i want no part of it"

You need to think about what you are saying.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.(Matthew 16:24)

Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

Yes, your relationship with Christ is more important than your sex life...indeed more important than your life itself.

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

a) yes
b) yes
c) yes
c) YES (Though we started out contracepting for the first six years of our marriage and before. Praise God I reverted and my husband converted.)