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Who Decides What
Suppose that a husband says to his wife, "I've decided how many children we will have, when we will have them, and when we will stop having children, and you have no say in the matter." How would his wife react to this? Wouldn't she be upset at not having any influence over this decision? They are her children too; she raises and cares for them. And so, she rightly expects to have some say in matters which concern her children, especially in their very conception and birth.
And if a wife said the same to her husband, what would his response be? Would he not also be upset at having no role to play in decisions about the number of their children and when they will be born? They are his children too, he raises and cares for them, along with his wife.
Suppose that a husband and wife say to God, "We've decided how many children we will have, when we will have them, and when we will stop having children, and You have no say in the matter." How would God react to these words? Wouldn't God be offended at this couple's attempt to keep Him from having any influence over the procreation of children? All children are God's children. God raises them and cares for them, along with their parents. God offers His children eternal life. And so, God rightly requires every husband and wife to allow God to have influence over the procreation of their children.
Couples who use contraception are attempting to gain control over procreation. They seek control over whether or not they have children at all, over when their children will be conceived, how many children they will have, and when they will stop having children. Yet in trying to gain control over this aspect of their lives, the couple is also trying to limit the control which God ought to have over these decisions. You cannot have complete control over something and leave it in God's hands.
In using contraception, the couple is trying to eliminate the rightful influence which God has over the events of procreation. If a couple uses contraception, they are, by their actions, saying to God that they are unwilling to conceive a child, even if it be God's will. Contraception is a sin, a serious sin, because contraception, by its very design, attempts to prevent God from taking His rightful role in the process of the procreation of God's own children.
There is a passage in Holy Scripture which shows that contraception is a sin."If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right-- if he ... does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity ... --he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 18:5.6.9)The passage says that a man must not "approach a woman in her time of impurity," meaning when she is menstrating. This is prohibited because, even in ancient times, it was known that a woman would not become pregnant if she had relations during her "time of impurity". Thus, this passage condemns a contraceptive intention. (However, it is moral for Catholic spouses to have marital relations during any time in the woman's cycle.)
Contraception Can Cause Abortion
The aim of contraception is to prevent conception from occurring. However, certain methods of contraception also have the ability to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, or to kill the fertilized egg shortly after implantation, thereby causing the death of a human being very early in life. This type of abortion occurs before the woman even realizes she has conceived. Because the use of these types of contraception is so wide-spread, it is likely that most abortions occur in this way.
Further information on the abortifacient effect of certain types of contraception can be found at the following sites:
The Growing Debate about the Abortifacient Effect of the Birth Control Pill and the Principle of the Double Effect
Contraceptive or Abortifacient? Important Facts About Birth Control Chemicals
The Pill: Abortifacient or Contraceptive? A Literature Review
Glossary of Abortifacients
Natural Family Planning
Couples who use Natural Family Planning are allowing God to have some control over their lives and over the procreation of their children. Natural Family Planning gives the husband and wife some influence over decisions such as: when they will have children, how many children they will have and when they will be born. Natural Family Planning can even be used by older couples to decrease the likelihood that they will have any additional children.
A husband and wife should have some influence over the decisions of procreation. But they must also allow, and even welcome, God's power over their lives, their family and the conception and birth of their children. To use contraception is to try to eliminate God's role in the procreation of His children.
The methods used in Natural Family Planning are not in and of themselves sinful, because these methods are open to life and open to the will of God. There is no barrier or chemical preventing conception from occurring. The couple is not doing anything to prevent conception, or to oppose the will of God concerning the procreation of children. If it is God's will, a couple using Natural Family Planning could still conceive a child each time they engage in marital relations. In Holy Scripture, Abraham and Sarah were still able to conceive a child, by God's will, even though conception seemed unlikely due to their advanced ages.
If there were a natural method of birth control which gave couples complete control over the procreation of children, such a method would be, in and of itself, sinful, because it would not be open to life and to the will of God. The mere fact that a method of family planning is natural is not sufficient to cause the method to be, in itself, moral. The method must be open to life and to the will of God.
(Author's note: the following is a comment from a reader about NFP)"It would be nice if you added the effectiveness of NFP (Creighton Model) to achieve and avoid pregnancy, it is quite encouraging. When I left birthcontrol I was uneasy & scared. Knowing that NFP is quite reliable and brings the couple together assured me that this was the right move."
Be Open To God's Will
Even though Natural Family Planning is open to life and to the will of God, a husband and wife could still sin against God by using Natural Family Planning with a contraceptive intention. Artificial methods of birth control are sinful because they are, in and of themselves, not open to life and not open to the will of God. But natural methods can also be sinful, if they are used by the couple to achieve the same purpose as artificial birth control. If a couple is using a natural method of family planning with the intention of obtaining as much control over the events of procreation as possible, without leaving anything in God's hands, it is a sin just as if they were using artificial birth control.
A husband and wife are given by God the right to have some influence over the decisions of procreation. But God also has a right to make decisions for the couple about the conception and birth of their children. And so, when a couple engage in marital relations, their actions as well as their intentions must be open to life and open to the will of God.
A husband and wife who, for some serious reason, do not wish to conceive a child for a period of time, must still be willing to accept a decision from God to give them a child. Even though they have the right and responsibility to make some decisions about the conception and birth of their children, a couple must also be willing to accept God's will in these matters, even if God's will is not what they wanted or expected.
Is this requirement surprising to you? It should not be. All of life is the same way. If you are trying to gain complete control over the events of your life, without leaving anything in God's hands, it is a sin. We have a right and responsibility to make good decisions and holy plans, but we are also God's children. We must consider that God's plan for us in our lives may not be the same as what we are planning or hoping for. Every faithful Christian must accept God's will over his own will, for your will and God's will are not always the same. This is true in general in life, and it is true specifically concerning the conception of children.
God is far greater than we mere weak and mortal human beings. God understands things that we do not understand. God's plans come from His all-seeing wisdom. Our plans are the plans of sinners. God's will is holy and without flaw. Our wills are, at best, limited and, at worst, marred by sin and imperfection. If you truly worship the Eternal God, you must put God's will and God's plan above your own will and your own plans. To worship God is to put God above yourself. God is first.
Be generous with God. Accept His will and accept His children in your life and in your family. Don't try to gain complete control over the planning of your family. Let God take part in the decision-making. You don't know best. God knows best. Trust God.