Last week, in this bulletin article and in my homily, I referred to the Church’s teaching in regards to the dignity of Christian marriage. 52 years ago (July 25, 1968) Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Church that the dual purpose of marriage – the unitive and procreative – must always be respected. Contraception separates these two primary purposes of marriage which by nature are meant to be together. Many American Catholics share the confusion of the rest of our country when it comes to this teaching. Some have been using various forms of contraception, or even selected permanent contraception (sterilization), thinking that it was the morally right thing to do to space or limit the number of children in their family. When a morally good alternative is suggested (natural family planning), they become confused because, after all, “don’t they both have the same goal? That is, don’t they both intend to prevent a pregnancy?” Though the goals may be the same (though that isn’t always the case), the means are quite different. Contraception intentionally makes sterile an act that would otherwise be open to new life, even though it doesn’t always result in a new life. Couples who practice natural family planning abstain from the marital act during times of fertility. The difference could be likened to distinguishing two means of losing weight: either by dieting, that is, not eating so much and abstaining from food during certain times (like snacks between meals); and by bulimia, that is, by eating food then causing oneself to throw it back up. Of course, every analogy falls short. Nevertheless, just as throwing up one’s meal after eating is both unhealthy and morally wrong, so too is contraception unhealthy (for a married couple’s relationship, and oftentimes physically) and morally wrong. And since NFP is based on the knowledge of when a couple is fertile, it can be used to achieve a pregnancy. Try that with a contraceptive! You can find more info on marriage and NFP on these sites: www.diolc.org, www.catholic.com, and www.omsoul.com.
May God bless you!