When a couple approaches the Catholic Church for the Sacrament of Matrimony, they are asked: Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? Society tells us children are commodities, sex is for pleasure only, and unwanted pregnancies are punishments. With the recent HHS ruling, it is important we educate ourselves about the teachings of our Faith. The Catholic Church teaches that children are gifts to be accepted lovingly from God, that sex is for both unity of a married couple and procreation, that all babies are miracles, and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let us consider some of the myths that surround the Church’s teaching on marriage, sex, and babies:
Myth: It is your God-given responsibility as a married couple to have as many children as physically possible.
Fact: Children are gifts from God, neither to be rejected or demanded. However, a couple with just cause may choose to postpone pregnancy using natural means. Just cause for postponing pregnancy is established by considering responsibility to God, to one another, to existing family and to society (in that order). Each couple will make this personal determination prayerfully in the presence of God. For example, a woman may be physically capable of bearing more children, but the family may not be able to financially or emotionally support more children.
Myth: Sex for pleasure is evil.
Fact: The Catholic Church teaches that sex has two primary purposes: to unify the couple and for the couple to procreate. We were designed to enjoy sexual intimacy with our spouse. As long as pleasure is not the only purpose, there is nothing wrong with finding pleasure as a married couple coming together. Each marital act must be open to both of these ends; they are intricately connected in our creation. When a woman engages in sexual intercourse, her body releases the hormones oxytocin and prolactin. The primary purpose of these hormones is to help the woman relax and attach to her partner.
Myth: The only acceptable method for spacing children is the rhythm method.
Fact: Modern methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) are NOT the rhythm method. The Catholic Church accepts modern NFP as a way to postpone pregnancy. NFP is rooted in science and faith and relies on the signs a woman’s body gives as a result of her hormones. This also means that NFP works for couples even when a woman has irregular cycles because the same hormones that cause the irregular cycle also cause the physical, observable signs to determine potential fertility. NFP is as effective as artificial methods of spacing children (98% when used correctly).
Myth: The Catholic Church is the only church to ever prohibit artificial birth control.
Fact: ALL Christian denominations prohibited artificial birth control until 1930. The teaching of the Catholic Church has never wavered. Pope Paul VI upheld the teachings of the church in 1968 with Humanae Vitae and Blessed Pope John Paul II expounded and deepened the understanding of the teaching with Man and Woman, He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. The Church’s teaching is based on the human dignity of each person, made in the image and likeness of God, from the moment of conception to natural death.
Myth: A married couple may only space children in extreme circumstances.
Fact: Married couples may space children for a number of reasons, and these reasons will be unique to each family. The teaching of the Church says that this decision is to be made prayerfully in the presence of God with a well formed conscience. A couple will form their conscience through prayerful study of Church teaching, discussion with one another, and/or discussion with a spiritual director or their Pastor.
Myth: Natural family planning (NFP) is difficult to learn and use.
Fact: NFP is taught in short courses and only takes about 1 minute per day to use. Couples across the world, including those in remote, poor countries, are able to use modern methods of NFP.
For more information on NFP, please contact the Dept. of Formation & Mission, 304-230-1529