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Everyone Is Wrong About Sex

August 4, AD2014 72 Comments

In case you missed it, I used my debut post on Catholic Stand to suggest that contraception may not be the great and mighty liberator of women that it’s chalked up to be, and maybe, just maybe, it does more harm than good.

The blog garnered a decent amount of response, much of which expressed shock and surprise that I would dare speak out against the 8th sacrament of synthetically neutralizing a woman’s fertility.

Outside of a few poorly executed personal digs, these comments (read: angry rants in long essay form) so perfectly highlighted the biggest problem we have whenever we talk about sex and birth control, which is that so many people, even those (and in many cases especially those) in marriages, have the absolute wrong idea about sex.

(I know, I know. Stay out of your bedroom. If you don’t want to hear it, scroll past the blog.)

Sex Is From God

Sex, as in the marital act between man and wife (not that fornication business), is from God, and like any other divine gift, it comes with an objective truth. That truth is that sex is first and foremost a procreative action that must always be ordered towards life, and in order for it to be so, it must be an act of complete, all-inclusive, unrestricted self-giving. This is precisely what makes sex such a wonderful, pleasurable, and unitive experience to begin with.

Artificial contraception does not allow for total self-giving. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It withholds. It shuts off a part of the woman to her husband and eliminates the life giving nature of sex. The same goes for the use of condoms, withdrawal, vasectomies, and any sexual act that isn’t ordered towards life. These are violations of God’s design, a distortion of the marital act, and are always gravely sinful.

And that’s just the truth of it.

Yet, so many people today have it completely backwards. They (being virtually all of secular society and, unfortunately, many Christians) want to separate the procreative aspect from the pleasurable aspect and put the wants and desires of the individuals at the center, and that is wrong.

NFP vs. Artificial Contraception

So what, then, about natural family planning? This was quite a point of contention in the comment section of the last blog, and it is often charged that NFP is nothing more than “Catholic birth control.”

Lumping NFP into the same category as artificial contraception is just simple ignorance, and here’s why.

NFP begins and ends with the concept of being open to life. Contraception does not.

NFP seeks to work with the gift of fertility. Contraception works against it.

NFP is about significantly more than avoiding pregnancy. Contraception is not.

Because it does nothing to disrupt the fertility cycle, NFP allows the marital act to remain open to life at all times. Contraception absolutely does not.

(I should also mention that much of the avoidance in NFP consists of patience and chastity. Yes! Even in marriage!)

Church View vs. World View

Look, I get it. Not everyone sees sex in the same light as the Church, and for most people, it would take a complete overhaul of their worldview in order for them to fall in line. Regardless, I’m still going to advocate for the objective truth, because sex is a holy and sacred act, and it should be treated as such.

For Catholics, this is simply non-negotiable. Still though, one favorite argument from dissenters is that a majority of Catholics today tend to ignore the Church’s teachings on sex and contraception.

That argument is moot, because our Church doesn’t work that way. Church teaching isn’t dictated by the congregations. It’s dictated by the truth and enforced by the Church authority.

So if that argument is true, all it means is that a majority of Catholics are flat wrong. It means a majority of Catholics need to start listening to the Church instead of the secular world. (And please, oh please, don’t come back with sensus fidelium. It does not meant what you think it means.)

But just in case there are any Catholics reading this blog that still think the Church’s views on sex are outdated or unimportant, I’m going end with a little perspective from one of the greatest theological minds today, Dr. Scott Hahn.

In his book, Rome Sweet Home, Dr. Hahn speaks at length about the marital act as a renewal of the marriage covenant, and he has some very strong words about throwing contraception into the mix:

When the marriage covenant is renewed, God uses it to give new life. To renew the martial covenant and use birth control to destroy the potential for new life is tantamount to receiving the Eucharist and spitting it on the ground. (Rome Sweet Home, New Conceptions on the Covenant, pg. 27)

Harsh? Maybe. True? Absolutely. Sex is about life. It’s about the total, unrestricted giving of the self. Anything else is outside of God’s design.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Matthew is a Catholic convert, blogger, and fan of all things espionage. He was raised in the deep South where he resides today with his wife and son. You can check him out on The Mackerel Snapper Blog and follow him on Twitter at @MackSnapMatt.

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  • 09heel

    I just got married in May. My wife is a type 1 diabetic, and of course the standard medicine is “oh, type 1 diabetes is a big pregnancy risk, here’s the pill.” When my wife mentioned wanting to use NFP, her endocrinologist looked at her like she had 5 heads. Once my wife got on my health insurance we were able to find a pro-life, NFP-only fertility care/ ob/gyn practice and we’re learning the Creighton model. Since being off the pill my wife feels better, has more sex drive, and yes, the sex is better!

  • eddie too

    people speak and write all the time about the negative effect of recreational drugs.
    I wonder if people consider that chemicals (drugs) that are powerful enough to alter a woman’s basic bodily function in an extreme manner are far more likely to contribute to confused thinking and lack of emotional control than these relatively (in comparison to artificial contraceptives) recreational drugs that society is so interested in eliminating.
    and, that is not to mention the well-documented relationship between these artificial contraceptives and breast cancer, among other diseases.

  • Oh the burden of NFP! Maybe if I didn’t commit to carrying the cross I could bear the load of NFP. But, alas, I am too weary!

    Oh, but the cross consists in doing what is right, burden or no. There is no such thing as too great a burden.

    Also, contraception violates consent, which is the very thing that forms a marriage. So, contraception in a sacramental marriage is actually worse than fornication, because it is a sacrilege.

    • Riki

      I agree a 100%

  • WHB

    Amen, brother.

    • Matthew

      Thank you!

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    This is an excellent article–so clear and well said.

  • Andre B

    Outside of a few poorly executed personal digs, these comments (read: angry rants in long essay form) so perfectly highlighted the biggest problem we have whenever we talk about sex and birth control, which is that so many people, even those (and in many cases especially those) in marriages, have the absolute wrong idea about sex.

    To be fair, their were also plenty of comments criticizing your non sequiturs re: how society in general views women on birth control, and specifically the ridiculous notion that all men see birth control as a means to consequence free sex. If you want to think less of women who choose to use BC, or characterize men as mindless, lustful beasts, that’s your problem. However, that you failed to mention previously (and again here) the very serious medical reasons – which may have nothing to do with sex, and in no way serve to prevent pregnancy – that may prompt a women to take BC, makes it all that much harder to believe that you’re engaging with the reality of why many women take BC. Projecting your views on to others, especially with no evidence or logical argument, is prone to generate push-back.

  • David Peters

    Excellent article Matthew!

    • Matthew

      Thank you very much, David. I appreciate your support! Thank you for reading.

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  • You seem to assume that the procreation cannot be separated from eroticism … now this is simply a quite unBiblical assumption. Believers rely upon the notion that the Bible, all of its books, are the inspired Word of God. Most traditionalists and Orthodox Jews are quite miffed by the “Song of Songs” or “Song of Solomon” or “The Canticles” …whichever name you desire. The conversation between two young lovers and the chorus is about an erotic love, about the beauties of the female body, the breasts, the thighs, perfume and lush gardens. It is a celebration of erotic love and guess what? No mention of children, breeding, contraception..just plain eros. Divine inspiration celebrates raw sensuality. Probably the reason that you’t hear much about this book of Bible in Church or marriage instruction. Everyone is a tad uncomfortable so they made an allegory of the book…beginning in early Jewish thought.

    Contraception is hardly related to objective truth. It is a Catholic discipline, not an unerring statement of objective truth. You must remember that with months of the controversial Humanae Vitae, the Canadian Conference of Bishops issued the Winnipeg Statement which asserted the primary of conscience in matters of contraception. Guess what…P Paul VI never, ever dismissed condemned or revoked the statement of the Canadian Conference of Bishops. Objective Truth is by definition true for all people, at all times in all cultures…that water is two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to one oxygen atom is objective truth. When contraception is rejected by an overwhelming majority of Catholics, most Jews, many Christian denominations and many cultures would not make it an objective truth.

    As per the Winnipeg statement: It recognized that many Catholics, in spite of being bound by the encyclical, find it “either extremely difficult or even impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine”. These “should not be considered, or consider themselves, shut off from the body of the faithful. But they should remember that their good faith will be dependent on a sincere self-examination to determine the true motives and grounds for such suspension of assent and on continued effort to understand and deepen their knowledge of the teaching of the Church.” With regard to those in that situation, “the confessor or counsellor must show sympathetic understanding and reverence for the sincere good faith of those who fail in their effort to accept some point of the encyclical.”.

    The reality is that despite the input of the faithful, theologians and bishops, the RCC church maintains its position on contraception not because it is right, but because the Church can never admit that it’s wrong. Just look at the egregious amount of time it took the Church that it covered up clergy abuse…how long did the coverups continue and still do; how many bishop and cardinal abusers still are not defrocked…the problem is admitting one is wrong; simply a major problem within the Roman culture.

    • guest

      Excellent response, Phil. Wish I had said all that!!! Thank you, much!!!

    • James Toups

      Phil, your response smacks of anti-Catholic bigotry. The Church is a Church of sinners that would include laity, priests, nuns, bishops and popes. We strive for perfect union with Christ. That will be achieved when and if we reach heaven.

      Truth does not change because the majority says something is truth. Example: Slavery – pre 1864 most supported slavery in the USA including individuals, priests and bishops. The Church said it was wrong and It was wrong. Example: Abortion – Now a near majority support abortion. The Church says it is wrong. It is immoral and an abomination before God.

      Flawed logic, Phil. The Church is a not majority rule democratic institution. It is guided by the Holy Spirit.

      The truth is based on the 2000 year old magisterial teaching of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ not 35,000 different denominational opinions.

      God Bless

    • Elijah fan

      Agree with you on abortion in that the Church always said it was wrong. On slavery, the same Popes who wrote against slavery did not oppose the theological exceptions that permitted slavery in Catholic theology. The exceptions included “caught in a just war” and ” born to a slave mother” which was affirmed in the decretals ( the old canon law). That’s why religious orders still had slaves in the 19th century and no Pope disciplined them. They were following the exceptions and the Vatican actually answered questions from various countries on slave matters into the 19th century. So it wasn’t Catholics disobeying the Popes…it was Popes not excommunicating anyone for slavery because they knew the universities continued to teach the exceptions. Read ” The Church That Can and Cannot Change” by John Noonan Jr. for a granular history on this. He is a Federal Judge who requires evidence in such matters. The exceptions only ended at Vatican II because they continued in moral theology tomes as late as 1960…Iorio’s 5th edition of his Theologia Moralis. It was the Quakers who really opposed slavery without exceptions after a certain point in the 18th century. Actually slavery does have an exception biblically which is rare…nomadic cultures that have no prison buildings must use slavery instead for thieves e.g. or those nomadic cultures would execute petty thieves which is extreme for theft. That’s why God gives slavery of a chattel type to the Jews in Leviticus 25: 45-46. And hopefully Amazon primitive tribes are using slavery rather than execution for petty crimes.

    • Matthew

      Spot on, James. Thanks for your input!

    • James Toups

      Thanks for your service to Christ’s Church. Keep up the great articles. God Bless.

    • Ronk

      You have clearly missed the fact that the Song of Songs ends BEFORE the couple get married. There is no actual procreation in it because there is no actual sexual activity in it.

    • You confuse sexual eroticism with procreation….the Canticle celebrates erotic love and that erotic love is there be it in the mind or through intercourse…I never said there was either marriage or procreation.

    • Matthew

      No one is making the case that “erotic” love cannot exist between the spouses. The two should desire one another. If they didn’t, sex would not be the pleasurable, unitive experience that it is. The point is that it should never be separated from or come before the life giving aspect.

    • My point, Matthew, is that the “Song of Songs” never speaks to erotic love and breeding children….not in some cases, nor in every case. Canticles never speaks of breeding offspring, but solely about the necessary love between lovers. The disciple of the RCC has opposed contraception and abortion, the latter I agree with, the former is debunked by the Canadian Conference of Bishops in the Winnipeg statement which HAS NEVER been challenged by Rome….the silence of Rome is very indicative of a lack of faith in the totality of HV.
      It is important to opponents of contraception to address the issues of the Winnepeg Statement.

    • Matthew

      First let me say that I’m happy to hear that we agree on matters of abortion.

      Let’s pretend for a moment that the Winnipeg Statement was endorsed by Rome (it wasn’t), but for the sake of arguing, let’s say that it was. There seem to be a lot of “if’s” in the statement, leading one to believe that a couple who chooses to use contraception MUST have exhausted all other possibilities first. It doesn’t say, “Whatever feels right, or is easiest for you.” If the current attitude towards contraception is any indication, you’d still have a lot of people that don’t fall in line with that statement, i.e, those who just automatically go to contraception because it’s the most convenient.

      Regardless, the Winnipeg Statement was not endorsed by Rome, and it didn’t come from Rome. It came from a dissenting group of Bishops in the 60’s, and from what I understand, no other group of Bishops have made any similar declaration.

      I understand how it can trouble some that Rome hasn’t come out and said “Hey, don’t say that.” But what’s more important than what the Church hasn’t’ is said is what the Church has said, and that is that contraception is a grave sin. The case is closed. Any other teaching is dissent from Rome. Every Pope since Humane Viate has expressly forbidden the use of contraception and affirmed that sex in marriage must always be life giving.

      So, I wouldn’t be so quick to justify the use of contraception based of off one group of Bishops, regardless of whether or not Rome has told them to retract the statement. They have made it clear the official teaching of the Church, and all Catholics should look first to Rome.

      Sometimes you get dissenters in the Church, that doesn’t negate the official Church teaching.

      On another note, there’s significant evidence that the Winnipeg Statement is simply falling into a dusty corner of history with the Canadian Bishops. In 2008 they released the pastoral letter Liberating Potential which encouraged the faithful to rediscover Humane Viate, and it didn’t mention a word about the Winnipeg Statement. I also know for a fact that the London Diocese in Ontario, Canada teaches the Church position on contraception to engaged couples who are to be married in the Catholic Church.

    • Matthew

      Also, I wouldn’t take Song of Songs at face value, nor would I use it for an argument against the fact that procreation must come first. There’s nothing wrong with expressing the love you have for your spouse, nor is there anything wrong with appreciating the physical beauty of your spouse. The life giving nature of sex is the given (or should be).

      I could write a poem to my wife telling her how much I love her, how beautiful she is, and how much I love having sex with her. I won’t, but I could, and I could do it without having to remind her that every time we make love, it’s ordered towards the creation of new life.

      If I write an article about the Alabama Crimson Tide, I don’t expressly comment that the Crimson Tide is a football team. That’s the given. Same goes for Song of Songs

  • Rosalinda Lozano

    NFP as it has been revised and taught today is so accurate that it can and is abused in marriage. There is a very fine line and many Catholic marriages try to balance it every month hoping and praying that this type of conception avoidance is accepted in the eyes of God – as Catholics, we know it isn’t… unless there is GRAVE medical or financial reason. Grave means grave, not if you can’t give each child a party, name brand clothes and the newest ipod. Grave. In the end, everyone can justify why, but we know that God knows and that is all that matters.

    • Elijah fan

      You are getting the word “grave” not from an encyclical but from Pius XII’s address to the midwives which is of lower authority than encyclicals and Humanae Vitae, an actual encyclical uses the word “serious” instead and further notes that such reasons can be various categories not simply being on the brink of heavy debt or starvation:
      Humanae Vitae, sect. 10:
      ” With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

    • James

      If couples are giving up sex for name brand clothes and a new iPod, pray for them. Their cross is heavy enough!

      I find it hard to believe that couples can be hedonists outside the bedroom, but the model of chastity inside it.

    • guest

      For all good reasons or sanity, solvency, and general health, especially the woman’s, conception must be avoided for most of a woman’s child bearing years. There are excellent reasons why the average range of family size is 2-5 children which can be achieved within the first 5-10 years of marriage. Women should not be regarded as objects of procreation, any more than objects of sex. There are many other ways women are life giving to society. Having babies is only one. Moreover, everyone has grave reasons for spacing and limiting the number of children they have. It is part of the human condition. How they do this is between them and God.

  • Des Farrell

    ‘And please, oh please, don’t come back with sensus fidelium. It does not meant what you think it means.’

    Perhaps you might want to consider if the tone you have chosen is really going to convince others that you are right. Invitational rather than argumentative is the future for Catholic writers I suspect. Perhaps I’m wrong though…

    • Matthew

      I think you’re absolutely right. I also think that the argument of “a majority of Catholics believe (x)” gets used far too often to endorse behavior that is contrary to Church teaching.

      If you’d be interested in learning more about what sensus fidelium is, I suggest taking a look at what Pope Francis has recently said about it.

  • Bill S

    so many people, even those (and in many cases especially those) in marriages, have the absolute wrong idea about sex.

    Spoken like a true Catholic. It’s easy to pontificate without giving any consideration to the specifics of each individual couple’s circumstances. This is the havoc that religion has wreaked on poor ignorant people who abide by its ridiculous dictates. This is why there are so many unwanted children, particularly in Catholic countries. Someone like you has no authority to say who is right and who is wrong about sex. I have enjoyed a rich and satisfying sex life and had two fully planned children who are now adults. For someone who is still wet behind the ears to imply that he knows more about human sexuality than I and others like me is almost laughable.

    • guest

      Well said Bill S. Thank you so much! The ban on contraception in marriage does not reflect an all just, all merciful, all loving God. I’ve read all about NFP for years. It lays a heavy burden on couples, especially the woman who must “get it right” every month and refrain from intimacy when she most desires it all her childbearing years, except those few times when a child is planned. For lots of people NFP is dicey, stressful, and clinical, not at all supportive of marriage. I often find adult converts to be harshly dogmatic and very judgmental on all matters of faith and morals, but especially on birth control.

    • James Toups

      You assertion that NFP is not supportive of marriage does not square with the facts. Fact: NFP couples have a less than 2% divorce rate. Fact: contracepting couples divorce rate matches that of the general population of about 50%.

      The key to NFP is mutual respect and self control. It is recognizing that we are human beings with a spiritual soul which raises us above the beasts. We do have self control. It is not the responsibility of the wife alone. It is the responsibility of both spouses as a couple. I find it interesting that self control is a “heavy burden”. NFP teaches when highest fertility occurs. Typically 4-5 days a month. 4-5 days of abstaining is not a heavy burden. If monitored as a couple the burden is shared and can even become a joy in understanding how my wife’s body works.

      We are both Cradle Catholics, we discovered NFP 22 years ago and have used it for both spacing and conceiving.

      God Bless.

    • James, your data is somewhat skewed when making generalizations. Data indicates that 2% of Catholic woman use NFP, whereas 98% have at one time used contraception. To infer lower divorce rates from these disparate samples is a statistical fallacy. It is good that it works for you and your wife, will you impose the same “burden” on nomadic peoples in underdeveloped more primitive cultures?

    • James Toups

      Typical, your only defense to your anti catholic bigotry is calling the data skewed. The data is factual and accurate. Facts don’t lie.

    • Well, then correct the flaws in my statistical interpretations…and just how is data anti-catholic bigotry. That’s the usual defense when you cannot substantiate your premises….just fall back on the olde bigotry line.

    • James

      The “98% of Catholics have used contraception” used with the implication that 98% of Catholic women disagree with Catholic teaching is a classic example of how to lie with statistics.

      According to a recent survey, about 13% of self-identifying Catholic women of reproductive age currently do not use contraception. Among weekly mass-going Catholic women who have been to confession in the past year, the number is much higher. Even among those who do not fully agree with Church teaching, there are those who accept parts, but not all. Furthermore, many have not been told correct Catholic teaching on the issue.

      What this says is that women who self-identify as Catholic but do not practice and women who have not been properly instructed on Church teaching use contraception in rates similar to the general population. Which is not surprising in the least.

    • Andre B

      Facts, absent of context, neither lie nor tell the ‘truth’. The context absent from your divorce rate comparison:

      In 2000, 505 women “who had taken NFP instruction at least three to over ten years ago” were surveyed (nonrandomly) with regard to a host of social issues, and their results were compared to representative samples of American women of similar age and to Catholic women in the U.S. of similar age. Concerning marital stability, the study’s results show a much lower divorce rate in the NFP group compared to women of the general population.

      So, right away, this should be a red-flag; comparing Catholic NFP practitioners (usually among the most devote + conservative of the faithful, and therefore some of the least likely to divorce to begin with) to the general population.

      The author of the study you cite warns about reading too much causation into this correlation:

      Further research is required in order to determine if this relationship is in any sense causal, or whether the relationship between practicing NFP and family stability is due to other factors common to these couples, including their strong religious beliefs and practices, and if these developed after they began practicing NFP.

      It’s not anti-Catholic to point out that the author of the research herself can’t say whether there’s any direct link between NFP and divorce.

    • James

      What is, IMHO, probably going on:

      1. Couples less likely to divorce are more likely to choose NFP.
      2. NFP users don’t have to deal with the unpleasant side-effects of contraceptives.
      3. NFP users are better informed about mood changes related to the wife’s cycle.

      This study out of Germany/Austria/Switzerland that shows that NFP couples do have a lower divorce rate. Religious couples have the lowest rate, but even non-practicing non-religious couples have a divorce rate significantly lower than the national average. So yes, if couples are devout, they would have a lower divorce rates, but this is not the entire issue.

    • Andre B

      I think I would point out that:

      1. We again have a study dealing primarily with Christian practitioners of NFP (94% of respondents), where the vast majority of respondents were Catholic (74%).

      2. Not only that, but those surveyed were all members of “INER (Institute for natural conception regulation) most of whom are also teaching this method.“.

      3. The respondents tended to be better educated, happier in their professions, and more secure in their finances than average.

      So, we have a study that shows that well educated, successful, financially stable Catholic teachers of NFP have a lower divorce rate than average. The main benefits of NFP they seem to highlight are that increased communication between husband and wife, specifically with regards to sexual matters, improved their relationships. Taking these factors together, it seems much less likely that keeping God in the bedroom is what drives this lower divorce rate, and much more likely that well off people, who practice good communication skills, and are told they cannot divorce have lower divorce rates.

    • James

      A survey centered on German-speaking Alpine areas would be expected to have a large Catholic percentage. Many would self-identify as Catholic even if they do not practice.

      These couples do have a lot going for them even without NFP, as I pointed out. Furthermore, because many of the couples do teach the method, they probably have better training in the method than the average user, leading to less worry and greater satisfaction with the method.

      How do these couples compare to similar couples (well off, good communication skills, disdain for divorce) who do not use NFP? I suspect the divorce rate among both sets of couples is low. To the extent that NFP does reduce the divorce rate, I believe the real driver is avoiding contraceptive side-effects as opposed to religious reasons.

    • Andre B

      Hi James,

      I’m not sure I caught where in our exchange you pointed out the other advantages (education, career, wealth) the couples surveyed had.

      You seem to conclude that the key factor in NFP reducing divorce is the avoiding of contraceptive side-effects, not moral or faith reasons. I’d like to make two observations in response. First, that would not seem to be the driver being implied by the OP. Second, you seem to acknowledge the down-sides of contraception, while not acknowledging that the survey respondents are part of a subset of people for who NFP works for, and for whom we might assume that the negative aspects of NFP are not an issue for. This subset is not representative of the general population.

    • James

      Couples with these socioeconomic advantages are less likely to divorce than the general population. If couples who use NFP disproportionately have these advantages then this could be a reason for the lower divorce rate. The more stable the couple, the more likely they are to choose NFP.

      No, NFP does not work for every couple, but there is always a reason why. The method works pretty well and is no more failure prone than any other contraceptive. Most of the problems involve poor/inadequate instruction, lack of medical support when needed, resentment toward the Church/negative view of faith, or other unrelated relational problems. If you are looking for more, Marshall and Fehring each did studies that involved user dissatisfaction.

    • Andre B

      Hi James,

      Sorry, didn’t intend for you to repeat yourself with that first paragraph, I just was thrown off by:

      These couples do have a lot going for them even without NFP, as I pointed out.

      as I hadn’t seen you say anything previously. I still don’t see where you had, but it’s a minor point that I brought up just to make sure I was understanding everything.

      The more stable the couple, the more likely they are to choose NFP.

      Maybe I’m missing something, but where is this claim supported?

      Most of the problems involve poor/inadequate instruction, lack of medical support when needed, resentment toward the Church/negative view of faith, or other unrelated relational problems.

      Interestingly, you do not mention any medical issues or cycle-irregularity for the woman in your reasons that NFP might not work. In my lay-understanding of the issues, these two are usually the two biggest concerns that couples have when deciding whether or not NFP works for them.

      Also, it should be mentioned that many of the issues you list are also true of the reasons that couples have difficulties with contraception.

    • asmondius

      ‘To infer lower divorce rates from these disparate samples is a statistical fallacy.’
      You seem to be a little confused – let me help.

      A ‘rate’ is a percentage, which is a ratio, which can be expressed as a fraction. A ratio is not validated based upon the size of the number in the denominator.

    • I know what a rate is and how it’s determined…there is no sigificance statistically when one denominator is infinitely small with respect to the population and the other denominator is huge with respect to the totality of te population. No controls, no significance to data…

    • asmondius

      You are repeating the same mistake – the significance of the rate is not based upon volume.

    • guest

      Well, good for you! However, you are only one person. For many people NFP is not so simple; it is often very confusing and unreliable, depending on the nature of the woman’s menstrual cycle, which varies from woman to woman. I know lives have been ruined by NFP. You obviously don’t know much about the nuances here. And please, the woman must do the real work of getting it right every month; she has to become the gatekeeper, no matter how much her husband looks at the chart.

    • James

      With all due respect, Catholic teaching isn’t the problem and contraception isn’t the solution.

      Not all methods work well for all women, but usually one method will work. But the same can be said for contraception. How many women have tried pill after pill, method after method to try to find one with side effects that aren’t too terrible? Not to mention that contraception also has a failure rate.

      Yes, couples struggle with NFP. Our experience is that, unfortunately, instructors and organizations don’t always do a good job in teaching the method. One class from a well-known Catholic organization was inadequate, inaccurate, and incomprehensible. If that is all a couple had to go on, it would certainly be confusing and unreliable. Still, another class from a different organization was excellent. The failing of a lay Catholic organization is not the fault of the Church. In another 10 years or so, everything will be done with high-tech hormone sensors and fertility apps. The most modern method of NFP today basically uses a high end fertility monitor backwards.

      Also, if a woman’s fertility is genuinely incomprehensible, this is often the sign of a bigger health problem. Ignoring the problem is not the solution.

      Finally, if either spouse is a “gatekeeper”, that’s a marital issue, not an NFP issue. You don’t think “gatekeeping” exists in marriages with contraception? In either situation, gatekeeping is a sign that the couple isn’t in agreement about something and they are using sex as a bargaining chip.

    • Bill S

      Good point. Converts are actually attracted to the laws that are set in stone and the dogma. Those, to them, are plusses, not minuses.

      I deconverted after being religious off and on for 60 years. Never paid any attention to the stand on contraception. Apparently, neither do most Catholics.

    • Matthew

      There is a significant difference between judgment and recognizing sin and encouraging others to stay away from it.

      That aside, I’d be interested to hear more about how banning contraception from marital act doesn’t reflect an “all just, all merciful, all loving God.” To me, using contraception reflects a distrust of God, and a refusal to allow Him lordship over every aspect of our lives.

      As I said, sex is from God. He did not create contraception right there along with it. He meant for it to be a particular way, and by adding or subtracting anything that inhibits the life giving power of sex, you’re removing God from the situation and taking it into your own hands.

    • Bill S

      To me, using contraception reflects a distrust of God, and a refusal to allow Him lordship over every aspect of our lives.

      I know that you have found a nice supportive forum to tell everyone how to live their lives, but it is just too easy to just regurgitate Church teaching as you do. You look at people who just have more and more kids as perfect examples of those who trust God and those who use contraception to enjoy sex and responsively plan the size of their family as distrusting God. That’s laughable in its simplemindedness. Life is so much more diverse and complex than seem able to address. What you consider that we should do to show our trust in God is disconcerting.

    • Matthew

      You shouldn’t assume, Bill. I never said that I “look to people who have more and more children as those who trust God.” Nor do I suggest that responsible family planning shouldn’t be considered. The Church doesn’t even say that. It just says you can’t defile the marital act to do it.

    • Bill S

      The Church doesn’t even say that. It just says you can’t defile the marital act to do it.

      So. Using condoms or other contraceptives would “defile the marital act”? So there are millions of defilements of the marital act taking place every night?

    • Matthew

      Uhm…yes. That’s what I’ve been saying.

    • Bill S

      With all the problems in this world, you want to make an issue of couples practicing contraception. That’s so wrong. Drilled marital acts. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    • guest

      Well said, again, Bill. It’s good to read someone here with some real human understanding.

    • Bill S

      Thank you,

      I and most people I know, almost all Catholic, have planned our families and have had two or three kids. People who have a problem with that should not be deciding other people’s futures. We’re all older now and some have grand kids. I don’t believe in a God who is going to have a problem with us for not having 6 or more kids each.

    • James Toups

      Bill, you may not like the Church teaching on sex and marriage including contraception, it does however remain the truth. The martial act is unitive and procreative. Our marriage is a triune covenant between husband, wife and God. When you reject the procreative nature of marital sexual union you reject God from your marital relationship.

      To say the Church teaching wreaks havoc on the poor sounds like american cultural elitism and belittles the poor. I grew up in a large poor family and we all turned out just fine thank you, as did the my parents family etc. General acceptance of contraception is a recent historical occurrence. You may want to read Humanae Vitae it is a prophetic infallible papal encyclical. By the way, I am not a “wet behind the ears” recently married father as you so uncharitably accused Matthew of being. I am a Father of six living children married 25 years first grandchild on the way soon.
      We are called to be open to God’s great gift of life. Each and every child is a gift from God. Planned or a surprise they are a gift from God planned since the beginning of time. I will not want to face God and have Him show me the child I rejected that say was going to save 1000 souls or cure cancer. Parenting and marriage is about self sacrifice and giving our will over to Christ.

    • Bill S

      When you reject the procreative nature of marital sexual union you reject God from your marital relationship.

      Well, I at least reject the God that you have come to believe in. And I guess I reject the God about whom the Catholic Church teaches and also that of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and maybe even Buddhists. 

      In one sense, all these religions have given their followers a sense of meaning and purpose and a wonderful way to live. I’m sure that is the case with you. 

      Nonetheless, religions instill their followers with all kinds of taboos that they then try to impose on others. Contraception is one such taboo for Catholics. There are many others too many to mention here.

      Attitudes toward sex are very problematic for the real serious Catholics. I lived my religious life as one of the less serious had fewer scruples in regard to planning my family and enjoying sex with my wife.

    • guest

      The use of contraception in marriage neither rejects the procreative nature of marriage, nor does it reject God in marriage. God sees this in His children and understands the intent of their hearts, even if people like you don’t. Using inflated language as you do never makes an argument compelling. I would never tell anyone not to use NFP. I am saying it is one way, but should not be called the only morally right way. The church has changed on other issues of moral theology over the centuries; it can change on this one too, although I don’t expect to see it in my life time. However, the sooner the better.

    • Matthew

      The Church is not going to change Her teaching on this issue.

    • guest

      Don’t be so sure. Pius XII went out on a limb when he approved the old calendar rhythm method. Some said he sold out to modernity by doing so. It was a departure from previous teaching that no intimacy in marriage was licit unless the intent was to conceive. However, it was most humane, showing mercy, justice, and love. Blessed John Henry Newman once said: If a teaching finds no echo in the hearts of the faithful, then we can be fairly sure it is not an authentic teaching. The ban on contraception is rejected by an overwhelming majority of Catholics, most Jews, and many Christian denominations. These large groups would not call it an objective truth. In reality it is a Catholic discipline. In matters of birth control conscience must be primary. This does not mean just agreeing with somebody else. Though not a democracy, the church in its leadership needs to listen to the hearts and minds of its members to reflect a just, merciful, and loving God.

    • Matthew

      Contraception is not a “discipline” in the Church. Celibate priests is a discipline. Contraception is specifically regarded as contrary to the moral good. It is, and has been, directly forbidden time and time again by Pope after Pope after Pope. You can even find writings from the earliest Church Fathers declaring that preventing the life giving nature of sex through outside or synthetic means is wrong.

      Contraception has always been wrong in the Church. It isn’t any thing new. The claim that “an overwhelming majority” of Catholics reject this teaching isn’t’ necessarily true either. The whole 98% number was twisted by the media and used to fit a narrative. Even if it were true in our current society, that wouldn’t negate over 1500 years of moral teaching. All it would men is that a lot of Catholics need to get it together and start listening to the Church again.

      I can’t deal in absolutes, because I am not God. But I can tell you that the odds of the Catholic Church ever changing its teaching on Contraception are virtually zero. There’s no reason to hope otherwise. It’s a moral issue that has been spoken on and upheld time and time again throughout the history of the Church. It isn’t changing.

    • guest

      I am saying NFP is the Catholic discipline, not contraception! Let’s just say I disagree on the rest of it. You are far too dogmatic on a matter that is far from settled. Just saying that something has always been a certain way is not a convincing argument for saying it should always be that way.

    • Matthew

      I’m honestly interested as to why you believe that the matter of contraception isn’t settled. The Church is clear. I don’t know who much more settled it could possibly be.

    • James Toups

      Simply said you are incorrect. The facts of the last 55 years prove otherwise. The Church is correct and will not change on this.

  • Elijah fan

    One problem is that Church teaching is enforced and its not enforced. While on paper and in assiduously John Paul II parish priests, its enforced, a separate signal was sent all along and by Rome that She is also the non enforcer herein. When Humanae Vitae was introduced at its press conference, theologian Msgr. Lambrushini introduced it as non infallible twice stated and he was saying that to the generation that had the Assumption encyclical announced as ex cathedra when they were children. They were taught to value ex cathedra highly. To announce to them that HV was not infallible was demotivating to say the least. The incident is easily googled by using the monseignor’s name plus Humanae Vitae. Theologian Germain Grisez later said however that the issue was infallibly settled in the universal ordinary magisterium as always and everywhere taught. In comes two periti from Vatican II with greater international cache than Grisez….Frs. Karl Rahner and Bernard Haring who say it is not always and everywhere taught in the deepest sense because authors like John Noonan Jr. were showing disturbing elements in the texts of the saints from the beginning…texts that showed a fondness for Stoicism in a number of cases…a fondness that Jerome announces in Against Jovinianus as he calls the Stoic Seneca…”our Seneca”….and states that he gets many ideas on marriage from Seneca. Some Stoics saw sex as immoral unless procreation was willed in each case. The Church now rejects that idea but it was present in saint after saint in the early church….the same saints who denounced contraception. That is…the Church accepts a slice of what the early saints said but not the other slice. The saints seemed to have read first century Stoic Musonius Rufus in particular.
    Here he is denouncing any sex that is not procreative: Lecture XII-2: ” Men who are not wantons or immoral are bound to consider sexual intercourse justified only when it occurs in marriage and is indulged in for the purpose of begetting children, since that is lawful, but unjust and unlawful when it is mere pleasure-seeking, even in marriage.”
    The Church in accepting the use of the infertile times of the cycle rejects the Stoicism of this passage but the very saints who opposed contraception followed this stoic idea in their other passages…examples:
    Jerome: ” Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]).
    Clement of Alexandria: ” To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature” ”The Instructor of Children” 2:10:95:3.
    Lactantius: ” the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring” ( Divine Institutes, 6:23:18).
    All three of these are identical to Musonius Rufus and all three are rejected by the modern Popes who allow for the morality of using the infertile times.
    The loftiest dissenters were not disciplined or restricted in their writing even by John Paul II because Catholic moral theology tomes permit prayerful struggled dissent to the doubtfully infallible as in oddly enough Germain Grisez massive ” Way of the Lord Jesus” vol.1, pages 853-854. This exception for struggled prayerful dissent postdates Lumen Gentium’s ” religious submission of mind and will” in seriously declared non infallible matters. That is the imprimatured moral theology tomes permit an exception to LG 25 if the dissent is prayerful,studiously researched, counseled etc.
    That’s why no Pope censored Rahner or Haring in their dissent. The many convert pundits and bloggers on the internet are unaware of these nuances….or these texts.

    • tommyk

      More interpretation.

  • james

    In Matt: 19 Jesus is asked about marriage and whether it was expedient to do so. His unenthusiastic response on the subject involved making oneself a eunuch and “ let him
    who can accept it who can.” If it wasn’t for the BVM it is speculative at best to say Jesus
    would have turned water into wine at Cana. If it wasn’t for the magical, mystical number
    7 in Jewish tradition there might have been 6 sacraments. Even with an option of more
    than one wife it still required 20% of the ten commandments to keep those who married,
    in line. And now we have chastity within marriage 500 years after the church advised marital relations include a cloth between churning bodies because pleasure was only a secondary
    gain to fertility. No wonder Woodstock happened. It was inevitable. Robert Louis Stevenson
    said it best “ Times are changed with him who marries; there are no more by-path meadows,
    where you may innocently linger, but the road lies long and straight and dusty to the grave.”

    • tommyk

      Thank you for that!

    • james


  • John Morgan

    “Church teaching isn’t dictated by the congregations. It’s dictated by the truth and enforced by the Church authority.” Well said. Sometimes the truth is harsh. But that’s what makes it the truth.