The proper context of sexual expression is marriage, where a husband and wife have the security of a life-long and total commitment in which they can give themselves one to the other. This total self-giving, which begins with the marriage vows, is expressed physically in the marital embrace.
For serious reasons, a couple may legitimately wish to avoid or defer pregnancy. In itself, this desire (as long as it is not motivated by selfishness) is reasonable. The question then becomes: how can this be accomplished in a way that is in accord with the nature of marriage?
Many couples choose to use artificial contraception to accomplish this, yet this contradicts the true meaning of human sexuality and marriage. The use of contraception involves two decisions: 1) a decision to engage in sexual intercourse; and 2) a decision to interfere with one of the natural purposes of sexual intercourse by artificial means. This second decision contradicts the total-self-giving that is expressed by the marital embrace itself and introduces an element of “holding back” into the relationship.
The Catholic Church teaches (and human reason can discover on its own) that the use of any artificial methods of contraception is seriously immoral.
In contrast to artificial methods of contraception, there are different methods of natural family planning. These methods work within the framework that God designed by making the couple aware of the woman’s natural cycle of fertility and infertility. Here, the couple evaluates together whether or not they want to focus on achieving or deferring pregnancy and, after ascertaining the woman’s state of fertility or infertility, makes an informed decision about whether to engage in sexual activity. In natural family planning, there is nothing introduced into the act of sexual intercourse that interferes with the purpose of the act itself and the couple show respect for their fertility as an integral part of one another.
Modern methods of natural family planning (NFP) are as effective in deferring pregnancy as contraceptives, are morally permissible, and have no unwanted side-effects. For more information on Natural Family Planning, see the US Bishops’ website. For information on why contraception is immoral and the positive life-giving alternatives, see Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae vitae.
Natural Family Planning Providers in the Area:
Hannah Linnenbringer, PhD, FCP
Bret and Erin Witte
Jeremy and Maria Henson
Please visit www.midmonfp.org for more information.