The Humanae Vitae is difficult to accept and even more difficult to live out because many believe contraception allows us to be responsible parents and allows us to exercise our so-called “freedom”. What we want is to be “free” to have sex when we want without having to worry about getting pregnant. Having to accept the discipline that comes with practicing chastity and abstinence seems to difficult and unnecessary in a world where other options are easily accessible and acceptable.
Sex is meant to be a gift for married couples, it serves to purposes, pleasure and procreation. These two are meant to be kept in balance. Contraception tips the scale and sex is used only for pleasure. When we reduce the chance of pregnancy, then we justify sex outside of marriage, pre-marital sex, same-sex, and extra marital affairs, which is infidelity.
When contraception fails, some resort to abortion as a back up. As Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Others chose life for that child and take responsibility for the life that has been created. Even when life is created outside of God’s plan – God can redeem it and make it beautiful. Every human being is a result of millions of sexual unions. History of humanity is determined by who had sex with whom. Remember this the next time you celebrate your birthday, what you are celebrating is that your parents had sex.
Sex is a language that says, I give all of myself to you. While couples use contraception, their marital act is incomplete. They are lying to each other with their bodies, and there are real consequences in their relationship. It affects their communication, the level of intimacy and the way they view each other, and others of the opposite sex. What they think is freedom from the rules, is causing them to be slaves to their own bodies.
From personal experience I can share that when we reached a low point in our marriage, we turned to the Church for help. It was through learning the teaching of the Church on marriage and family that we recognized what we were doing wrong in our marriage. First, we took our sin to confession, and then years later, Dave felt called to have the vasectomy reversed.
In the past 11 years since we have learned the Church’s teaching, we have come to see God’s plan for marriage and family is based on love and what is best for us. God is the creator. He created us in His image and likeness. He loves us so much, gives us a share in His creative power. We do our part with the physical union and God implants the soul. The three of us share a love so powerful it becomes a third person – a child.
St. John Paul II, in the Theology of the Body, spoke of the four pillars of a Catholic marriage. The spouses are a gift to each other and their relationship is to be total, faithful, fruitful and forever.
A total self gift as it relates to the marital act, means nothing is held back, not the life-giving seed, or the life-bearing womb. Contraception reduces the possibility of a life being created, it says, I give only part of myself to you.
Being a faithful gift to our spouse means that I have made a commitment before God and others to be true to the marriage vows, to only become one with my spouse. Having sex outside of marriage only proves that one can be unfaithful, because they are capable of having sex with someone they are not married to. Pre-marital sex, in a sense is practice for being unfaithful to your spouse.
Being fruitful requires an openness to the possibility of life being created, not placing any physical barriers that can prevent pregnancy. The Catholic church teaches couples to use Natural Family Planning (NFP), this is not Catholic birth control. NFP ultimately tracks the women’s natural cycle for fertile and infertile signs. If the couple have good, moral reason to avoid pregnancy, they abstain from sex on her fertile days.
A couple who struggles with infertility, meaning that they do not use any contraception but find they are unable to conceive, are still being fruitful in that they are not placing any physical barriers to prevent conception. It is a difficult reality for these couples who want to have children of their own and the church recognizes how trying this can be for the couple. While there are some Catholic doctors who can help with some of the difficulties couples face, these couples are asked to stay fruitful through their involvement in parish life, and adoption or foster parenting. The church teaching is since God ordained that life be created within the marital act, procedures like IVF and surrogacy are illicit because it goes against the dignity of the human person. (I could write a whole other post on this issue).
The fourth pillar, that the couples share a love that is forever, requires that they have made a commitment to each other before God and other witnesses. The marital act becomes a renewal of the vows they made on their wedding day. This is good for the family and society. Children deserve to be born into the security of the family, to a couple who are committed to stay together. Sure, in today’s world where divorce is rampant this seems to make little sense, I am writing about marriage as God intended it to be. The increase in the number of divorces in many cases is a consequence of not accepting the church’s teaching.
The virtues of chastity, modesty, and self-mastery are for the married and unmarried alike. Married couples need to practice these virtues to successfully use NFP and to fulfill the four pillars of marriage. If they practice these virtues before marriage they will be more successful continuing to practice them within marriage.
The church is not against sex. In fact, the church teaching is that sex is very good. It was one of the first commandments of God to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God assigned pleasure to sex, the same way He assigned pleasure to eating and sleeping. Each of them is to be enjoyed in their proper context, proper time and in a proper amount. Think about what happens when eat too much, or too little or eat foods that are not good for us. How about if we sleep too much, too little or at inappropriate times. There are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences. The same applies to sex.
Sex is meant to be a gift to the married couple for the good of their marriage and for their family. With mutual respect for the dignity of the person. Natural Family Planning (NFP) encourages open communication and empowers the couple to learn about their bodies. I will write more on NFP in a future post. For now here are some resources for you to learn more about Theology of the Body.