I know that a Dad to ten children without a theology degree is probably NOT the right person to be writing this article. Last week I got booked on The Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart, “Do Catholic Couples Have to Use Natural Family Planning?”
The simple answer is no. Catholic married couples do not have an obligation to learn, let alone use, Natural Family Planning (NFP). In fact, I could argue quite the opposite. It is there for Catholic married couples who need to use it. And IMHO there are very few American Catholics who are obliged to use it for grave or serious reasons.
The fact is that the science of fertility was unknown to most of the world until the last century or so. We are fortunate to be living now in the 21st century with access to the wonderful world of science. Married Catholic couples with a legitimate reason to either avoid pregnancy altogether or must space their offspring for grave or moral reason certainly should learn and use some form of Natural Family Planning. For the rest of us, the vast majority of married Catholic couples, I say, “GO FOR IT.”
What is responsible parenthood?
Humanae Vitae is quite clear on this point when Pope Paul VI wrote, “responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have children.”
Clearly this does not mean when “we” decide that “we” can only afford, or need, or want, just two or three children, that we are being generously open to having more children.
Sadly statistics show that Catholic married couples practice some form of artificial birth control, which is most always intrinsically evil. Last year a Gallup poll showed that 82 percent of U.S. Catholics — and 89% of all Americans — say birth control is morally acceptable. NFP when used to prevent life for no legitimate reason contributes to a societal contraception mentality. NFP is not, as many Catholics believe, a “Church-approved” method of birth control. It should only be used if Catholic married couples are having difficulty having children or have a grave reason to space or prevent children from entering the world. There is no requirement for married Catholic couples to learn it or use it.
Be fruitful and multiply!
Most people these days are shocked to learn that we actually have 10 children (8 boys, two girls ages 11-30, two adopted). We were not always open to that idea. In fact, our story has been recounted in a couple of books. After three children, my wife went on The Pill, which was prescribed to her by our Catholic parish priest, who was also a family physician. I prayed for the birth control to fail, for I wanted lots of kids. Patti got pregnant with our 4th boy, Jacob who was born on my birthday, on Mother’s Day (just like me) and on the feast of the Fatima apparitions on May 13th. Think we got the message? Nope. Patti determined that four was enough, and talked me into a vasectomy. A year later we both realized our grave error, I got a reversal and Patti got pregnant five more times over the next 12 years! Now with ten kids, even in Catholic circles, we are an oddity because of the size of our brood.
That wasn’t the case a generation or two ago when big families were the norm instead of the exception. Today, even though our standard of living is higher, Americans have increased the number of vehicles they drive and reduced the number of children they are having. Couples worry about the material things of this world, forgetting that creating a child is the only treasure they can produce for the next world. As often as I can I tell young couples, “Children are the only things we can bring to heaven, the rest of the stuff stays here.”
So instead of worrying about how a new child will impact you financially or even worse, worry what others may think of you for having lots of children, you should rejoice that you actually can have as many children as God has planned for you! Instead of Natural Family “Planning” why not just GO FOR IT and let God plan your family for you.
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