ASK FATHER: Conflict with parents about use of artificial contraception

From a reader…


I am 20 years old, and I believe that contraception is immoral. My parents do not. This has caused much strife at home. We went to our trusted parish priest together to discuss it. He told me that certain circumstances within marriage can make contraception justifiable. Now my parents believe the matter settled and think I am all the more unreasonable for not changing my mind. What should I do?

Your “trusted parish priest” is wrong.

Review Humanae vitae, Evangelium vitae, Donum vitae, and Dignitas personae for the definitive teaching.

There are narrow circumstances in which one spouse can without sinning endure its use when it is pretty much inflicted by the other spouse, but that does not justify its use.  Furthermore, invincible ignorance can mitigate the sinfulness of its use, but it does not justify its use.


If the issue is causing a lot of strife at home, it might be best not to discuss it. If your parents, having had guidance (bad guidance) from their parish priest about the advisability of birth control, are using it themselves, there’s nothing that you, their child, can do about it other than to pray that they receive more enlightened and better counsel.

You’ve discussed it, you’ve made your thoughts on the matter known, you’ve argued well (one hopes), and now might be the time to step back.  Fraternal correction doesn’t flow “upward”, as it were from children to parents in matters such as these.

Entrust them to the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, Christ’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage cannot be changed.

(I just thought I’d toss that in there, because I can.)

Moderation queue is, of course, ON for this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Titus says:

    Is this about contraception qua contraception, or is this about hormone pills qua treatment for some other medical condition? Why else is a twenty-year-old discussing the topic with one’s parents? And under what delusion could the priest possibly be under to claim their use was licit otherwise?

  2. vandalia says:

    On the one hand, I want to commend this young person about her(?) concern for her parents eternal welfare and her(?) faithfulness to Church teaching. On the other hand, I must admit that my first reaction was a feeling of great unease that a child would know her(?) parent’s sexual practices.

    I believe the key point in this discussion is the one Father Z identified: Fraternal correction does not flow upward. Parents are supposed to provide moral guidance for their children, children are supposed to honor their parents. This leaves the human mind to wonder exactly what a child should do when his parents are engaging in objectively evil behavior. However, in this general case I think we need to trust to the divine order that created the nature of the family and the role of the parents.

  3. thomas tucker says:

    Perhaps the priest was referring to the use of oral contraceptives as a medication to treat medical illness, rather than for the purpose of contraception?

  4. Orphrey says:

    I recently had a similar disturbing experience. My wife and I strive to follow the teaching of the Church on chastity and contraception. In a conversation with a priest about the challenges of chastity, he urged my wife and I to use condoms. He went on and on about it, concluding with the statement, “for those who are spiritually mature, a certain flexibility [about contraception] is possible.” I was dismayed to have a priest basically encouraging me to sin! I wasn’t sure if I should tell him that I thought his advice was wrong. I am a recent convert and this was the first time I encountered a priest advising me personally to violate the teachings of the Church. I thought to myself, “should I tell him that my wife and I want to live according to Humanae vitae, and that he may be leading souls into sin if he gives the same advice to others, and that his own soul may be in jeopardy due to this approach?” I wasn’t sure what to do. A little while later, my wife told him that we were concerned about the morality of the advice he gave, and he said that individual conscience is the ultimate guide to making decisions about contraception, so we don’t need to follow the Church if it doesn’t seem right to us. I would have appreciated it if instead he had given me advice such as: “It is good that you want to follow the teachings of the Church, and I encourage you to do so. You have access to the grace necessary to live up to the challenging call of growing in the virtue of chastity. It is hard, especially in today’s culture, but have confidence that by the special graces of the sacrament of marriage, you can be a good man and follow Our Lord faithfully! You can overcome your passions and do what is right. I am praying for you.” Instead, he basically counseled capitulation to the mores of our time and the base passions of our nature, and seems to have little conviction that the Church’s teaching is right and that we should strive to live up to it.

  5. TWF says:

    As Father said, all you can do is pray. My beloved Protestant wife insisted on using artificial birth control for a time. It pained me greatly. All I could do, to use Father’s word, was “endure” it. None of my arguments worked and as a Protestant she didn’t accept the Magisterium’s authority on this issue. I kept praying, especially to Our Lady and through the Rosary, and after only 2 or 3 months of my wife being “on the pill” she decided of her own that natural family planning was the best route for us. Praise God!

  6. anilwang says:

    I’m assuming this is the child correcting the parent and not the other way around, since if it is the other way around another conversation needs to be had.

    That being said, besides what Father Z pointed out, it’s also important to note that assuming that the the child’s parents go married in their early 20s, the child’s parents do not have many years left where they can conceive a child and they may already be at the stage where it is an unlikely possibility or impossibility even if they chose to have a child. They might not even be using contraception any more since it is impossible for them to conceive and all the strife might just be a matter of pride and resentment that the child is trying to “parent the parent” rather than because the parents are actually violating the moral law.

    My concern is elsewhere. IMO, it’s important to know what the “certain circumstances” the “trusted parish priest” was referring to. Some doctors prescribe hormonal therapy (essentially the contraception hormones) for women in menopause either to correct a perceived imbalance or ensure that no child is conceived when it is near certain that any conception will be miscarried or lead to an ectopic pregnancy. If this is the case, the “trusted parish priest” might actually believe that he is being faithful to Humanae vitae, Evangelium vitae, Donum vitae, and Dignitas personae and is simply using the principle of double effect.

    This view is incorrect, but since it involves some bio-ethical sophistication, the priest will likely dismiss any concern you have as being uninformed. If this is the case with the “trusted parish priest”, then you need to appeal to a higher authority such as a Catholic Bioethics organization such as or and discuss the matter with them and what the best approach is to correcting the “trusted parish priest”. After all, you don’t want the spiritual father of the parish to mislead others under his care, especially if he seems otherwise orthodox.

  7. jflare says:

    Unfortunately, I can relate all too well to this struggle.
    Because I am younger than my one sister, because I only vaguely had interest in dating through high school or college, because my family is the youngest of my generation on both sides of the family, I learned exceedingly little about any serious concerns related to sexuality that might impact anyone I knew. I did not know anything of concern about birth control pills–or other medical means–until my later 20’s. Even then, I only felt that I had any business learning more or having any say in anything because..I felt I had a need to know what I was talking about any person. …And nobody seemed to be seeking my input. Long story short, by the time I had any particular knowledge of the moral character of most of these..concerns..most of the family members who would be affected by them had long since begun contracepting, had undergone surgery for tying tubes, or had remarried in a non-Catholic church. Again, my opinion was not being sought. I recall once, I tried speaking with my sister about what her situation might be; she only reluctantly would discuss this. Sadly, she was then–and probably still is–using medical means to handle her needs. In her case, I understand her use to be aimed at allowing her to function at all, not hindered by serious cramps, so it could be worse. I still wish I could better encourage her to seek another medical opinion. I recall mentioning the Pope Paul VI Institute once; persuading her to come to Omaha would be difficult, at best. Oddly, though my parents were involved with Marriage and Engaged Encounter for some years, neither seemed terribly interested in learning or presenting more about Natural Family Planning or other approaches.

    It’s not so different, in some ways, from the dilemma regarding medical patients like Terri Schiavo. I had, at the time, brought up the idea that I considered this to have been a tragedy. My father thought I was nuts; my sister–who received her nursing degree from a Catholic college–thought Ms. Schiavo had been addressed appropriately.

    I would ask that we each offer prayers for more thorough catechesis in general, a greater realization of the need to handle matters of sexuality differently, and a will for repentance from all we each know.
    Lord help us!

  8. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Contraception qua contraception is never moral, but there are medical reasons, e.g. menorrhagia, where oral contraceptives can be used to treat a medical condition, but this is an instance of double effect. The applicability of such instances in the context of a marriage must involve consultation with an orthodox priest or deacon, and an orthodox physician.

    This heroic young lady is correct in believing that for any 20 year old, single young lady, the best contraceptive is continence. Hat’s off to you.

  9. JesusFreak84 says:

    If my parents tried that, they’d not be seeing their grandchildren. I would not expose my (theoretical) children to grandparents who think every kid past the third was a “mistake.”

  10. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Yet another instance of theological malpractice. Thanks for telling it like it is, Father Z, as you always do. I am reminded of a devout friend of mine who, upon telling her parish priest that her son recently left his wife and newborn child to enter the homosexual lifestyle, and that she’s heartbroken and deeply concerned for her son’s salvation, was told by the priest that she’s the one with the problem. “Would you prefer that your son live a lie? … He has to be true to his nature … Maybe you’re the one whose salvation is in peril because of your homophobic judgmentalism … yaddah yaddah yaddah.”

  11. Phil_NL says:

    Fraternal correction doesn’t flow “upward”, as it were from children to parents in matters such as these.

    Indeed. Now if the relation with one’s parents is particularly good, one might discuss the matter at an opportune moment in general terms, and only if your parents would understand, without words being spoken, that if they suspect you bring it up for a reason other than academic interest, your motive would be concern for their (spiritual) well-being.

    Otherwise, any parent would, rightly so, say “None of your damn business!” Not to mention that there is also something like common decency, which precludes discussing sexual activity of other adults. that might have been largely lost in present day society, but that’s no reason to join in.

    In fact, the only acceptable comment of a child on their parents’ sexual lives is “congratulations” on the announcement a sibling is on the way.

  12. Daniel W says:

    The priest might also have been referring to use of something that is contraceptive for a non-contraceptive effect, such certain pills treating problems relating to a woman’s ovaries. [Yes, as I understand, sometimes drugs which are contraceptives are prescribed for other reasons apart from the aim of contraception. In that case they are just a therapeutic drug which can be accepted or rejected as the case allows. The side effects are, therefore, secondary and not intended.] The contraceptive effect, again in the words of FRZ, must only be “endured”.

    Interestingly, the Church has not condemned the opinion of otherwise solid theologians who, since HV, assert that a woman who is raped in the days before she expects to ovulate may also take a (non-abortifacient) contraceptive to defend her fertility as she is not choosing “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive”.

    I pray for all young people seeking to defend the true beauty of married love.

  13. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    So sad. A young 20yo Catholic who cares enough about their to learn right from wrong based on teh actual magisterial teachings. This young Catholic disagrees with their older parents who clearly care less about learning the truth. Then this young Catholic is thrown under the bus by the priest.

    I really hope this young Catholic isn’t so scandalized as to leave the Church over this. I wonder if the priest thought about that before throwing the young Catholic under the bus. So sad.

  14. Eric says:

    Sometimes the “trusted parish priest” can pull one out of his ear.

    My wife and I had a dilemma about attending a “marriage” of a close family member. I suggested we ask our pastor about it. He gave kind of wishy washy homilies and didn’t seem too hard nosed about anything. I was sure he would say, ” no problem, go ahead.” He said, “nope, can’t go” much to my surprise. It started us on a path that I am very happy to be on.

    A priest earns his ‘eternal’ living on how he acts when the rubber meets the road.

  15. Midwest St. Michael says:

    The document “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life”, from the Pontifical Council for the Family, is worth reading on the matter as well, Fr. Z.

    The paragraph below from the section “The Teaching of the Church on Responsible Procreation” says, “This teaching is to be held as *definitive and irreformable*”:

    4. “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.”


  16. St Donatus says:

    I ran into this with my brother. His 30 year old son knows that contraception is wrong and has told his father. My brother thinks the priest is right and the Church is wrong. It would be inconvenient to have more children. They only make about $150,000 per year and between vacations, a nice home, new cars and Catholic school, they don’t have enough money to have more kids. He had a vasectomy and God still sent them a third child.

    I spoke to a priest recently that I consider a good priest with sound orthodox views but was surprised to have him tell me that ‘certain circumstances within marriage can make contraception justifiable’. I ask, either these priests don’t believe in the teachings of their own religion or their bishop is giving them the wrong message.

    Once the priests and bishops start telling people in private and in sermons that it is wrong, 90% of Catholics will continue to shrink the Catholic population in the Western world.

  17. pfreddys says:

    About 30 years ago a girl and I were taking about getting engaged when the subject of artificial birth control came up. She said it would be no problem we could go to Father Groovey and get a dispensation for it. I asked her what the situation was with her parents that they would be an exceptional case. She said oh no they just wanted to use it and he had given them a dispensation. I replied gee whiz if I ever want to murder someone I’ll be sure to look up Fr. Groovey for a dispensation. Well, it all did not work out which in retrospect was for the best.

  18. AmandaL says:

    Although it was not stated, perhaps this conversation came about because the 20 year old is approaching marriage.
    Interference from parents (and in-laws) has been a significant struggle in the lives of many devout young married couples I know.

  19. Konichiwa says:

    This is probably not as uncommon as we’d like. My former parish priest invited a priest to give a retreat, and he says that there are circumstances where “God will understand.” He never said it outright, but I understood clearly enough. Overall, I’ve not heard a homily or any invited priest teach that contraception is a sin at my parish. Even when addressing abortion, contraception is never brought up as sin.

  20. Indulgentiam says:

    After nursing school, several years in hospitals, on units, in ER’s and in the lab, then a looooong stint in the trenches at the health department I feel qualified to say to this young lady/gentleman, that she/he should absolutely disregard the folks telling her/him to contracept. They are wrong, dead wrong.

    Contraception is a pandora’s box of of the worst side effects you can imagine. Blood clots, aneurysms, you name it. And they happen a lot more often then the literature in those inserts report. How do I know that? Medical Review Boards. Every hospital has one. And reports are given to CDC, FDA, OSHA. There are other hormonal meds with greater efficacy and less side effects than the pill for correcting amenorrhea and all other female problems. Responsible Obgyn’s won’t even suggest the pill to correct existing imbalances as they know that the hormonal combination in the pill does not have the mechanism to correct imbalance but rather aims at creating it. Even condom spermicides have side effects.

    On top of which anyone with the smallest amount of biological knowledge will tell you that, there is always a price to pay when you mess with the bodies normal functions. And the price is invariably high. Think about it. Why do you think invetro has become such big business. All forms of artificial birth control damage the reproductive system. Do the research believe me you’ll find the truth. Start with the little insert that comes with the pack of pills, IUD, spermicide etc… If you don’t run screaming from the room then you don’t have the brains the Good GOD gave a stump.

    With barrier methods i.e. Diaphragms, sponges, spermicides, condoms etc. Actual failure rates are higher than “perfect-use” rates for a variety of reasons: mistakes on the part of those providing instructions on how to use the method, mistakes on the part of the method’s users, conscious user non-compliance with method etc… The package insert success percentage rate is based on “perfect use”. Still you have a 12%, and that’s real conservative, failure rate. Run the numbers.1.21 million abortions in America each year. 88.7% of all abortions take place by the twelfth week of pregnancy. These are CDC and Guttmacher institute numbers. These numbers don’t even take into account the number of abortions that take place each and every month when the pill does its nasty job of thinning the uterine wall and preventing implantation.

    When we look at life organisms whether they be microscopic such as bacteria, or larger such as mammals, one of the common links between all life forms is that their cells are actively dividing. Gametes which are the sex cells that combine to form an organism are not complete cells and are dormant, meaning that they don’t actively replicate and have no potential for life unless they are “joined” during fertilization. Once fertilized, a new cell is formed that starts to replicate quickly like any other living organism. Fertilization occurs within the uterine tube and within 8 hours has already replicated several times. The cell remains in the uterine tube for four days before entering the uterus for implantation. Before implantation occurs the human embryo already has divided into over a hundred cells. Anything that we do knowingly ceasing that process is intentional. The intentional cessation of in uterine life is abortive. We can spin it however we like, but that’s the way it is.
    You can argue with the science but you’ll loose. Open to life means just that. You don’t take the decision out of the Almighty’s hands at any time. If HE sends you children then He will help you provide. Against all odds and all comers GOD provides. May be not all you want but definitely what you need. I went from a high paying titled job to cancer ridden cleaning woman. And when others ran GOD and Our Lady never failed to feed me and my little one. Rely not on your own understanding. GOD sees you and loves you and will never let you down, never.

  21. Jerry says:

    re: EoinOBolguidhir – “there are medical reasons, e.g. menorrhagia, where oral contraceptives can be used to treat a medical condition, but this is an instance of double effect.”

    An oft-overlooked prong of the test for application of the principle of double effect is that there must be proportionately grave reason for tolerating the unintended evil effects of the act.

    When dealing with the use of hormonal contraceptives by sexually active women who are still fertile, we must remember that the evil effects include not only contraception, but also potentially abortion. The latter, especially, sets a very high bar for the proportionality test.

    Another factor to be considered is the availability of alternative treatments with effects that are less morally objectionable. While many physicians don’t provide these options to patients, and may not even be aware of them, they do exist for many conditions for which the hormonal contraceptives are used as medical treatments.

    Other factors to consider are the short and long term risks the hormonal contraceptives present to the patient which are not present using the alternative treatments.

    Are menorrhagia or dysmenorrhea of proportionate severity to justify the risk of taking the life of an newly-conceived child? When alternate treatments are available?

    N.B. If the woman is not sexually active during the course of treatment, the contraception and abortion concerns are not a factor in the decision. Even then, it would be best for her to investigate the alternative treatments due to the risk of the adverse effects of the corntaceptive drugs to her own health.

  22. Oh man. I knew someone in the same situation. He had to face the fact (in middle age) that his parents (who married young) used NFP to deliberately limit their family to two children, ‘so that they could give them everything’. By ‘everything’ they meant not actual food and drink, but a private school education, piano lessons, university, etc.

    His solution was quite neat. He said that while he acknowledged the objective wrongness of what happened, he didn’t judge his parents (who are now well beyond childbearing years), and believed that they were wrongly advised by their parish priest – an all-too-common occurrence.

    I broke off my engagement because of contraception/family limitation issues, and I also ‘ruined’ a couple of promising first dates (one with an ex-seminarian) by discussing this subject and discovering that they held views different from mine, even about NFP’s proper uses.

    The ex-seminarian – an otherwise quite orthodox young man – cited a young married couple he knew, who he thought were doing a fabulous thing. They’d gotten married, but they intended to travel and have fun for the first few years, till they were ‘ready’ to have children. But being good Catholics, they were using NFP to ensure that fun could be had without consequences.

    I think NFP is great, by the way – I’m not dissing it per se; I have just known too many very public and proud examples of it being abused.

  23. iamlucky13 says:

    Quoting Philippa Martyr
    “They’d gotten married, but they intended to travel and have fun for the first few years, till they were ‘ready’ to have children.”

    I will say from experience, “waiting until we’re ready to have children” is a very slippery slope, even aside from the contraceptive mentality it applies to NFP. There will always be “one more thing” you want to check off your list before “being tied down” to the obligations of parenthood.

    Once a couple adopts that rationalization, it is extremely hard to transition to actually live out the solemn promise they made to “accept children lovingly from God.”

    Back to the original topic, I’m not the least surprised, but I’m encouraged by this woman who learned on her own important parts of her faith even though they weren’t passed on by her parents, who no doubt were misled by others. I’ve seen similar issues between parents and children before, and I wish I had some great advice on how (and how forcefully) to approach the topic, but all I can think of is to be patient with them coming to recognize something they’ve probably believed for decades was fine is wrong, and of course, to pray for them.

    Sadly, the priest flatly contradicting the clear teaching of the church is also not a surprise. Not after one particularly awkward confession where I sheepishly replied a priest who told me not to bother confessing something that, “The Catechism says very clearly…” only to have him respond with something along the lines of, “The Catechism is outdated.”

    (I can only hope that means Roe v. Wade is even more outdated)

    So as always, also pray for our priests, both for many vocations and for holy, learned priests.

  24. stephen c says:

    “sub caelo non invenitur alia calamitas, cari amici, quam amittere invitationem sibi filium vel filiam Dei atque, Deo volente, ceteris filios filiasque Dei producere”. Leon Bloy et al.

  25. Volanges says:

    It was years before I found out that ABC was wrong because in university a priest advised us that using the pill was left up to our conscience and if we had a good reason it was OK. It should be noted that that was in the early 70s, not long after the Canadian Catholic Bishops had responded to “Humanae Vitae” with the Winnipeg Statement. I have not heard one priest since contradict that in a homily or even in a day to day conversation.

    Fast forward 32 years and I had a priest say to me that his response to the family that was looking at having their grandchild aborted because his/her teenaged mother had fetal alcohol syndrome was “You have to do what’s best for your family.” ???? A discussion of H.V. and the Winnipeg statement with the same priest (who was my Pastor for 4 years) revealed that he thought the Vatican had responded to the Winnipeg Statement with the equivalent of “Right on, Brother!” Many of his generation have been misled by their own teachers and superiors and the errors have just kept being taught over the years.

  26. lmgilbert says:

    Indulgentiam, What a truly great and unusual comment. We need more of the same, much more. “Anyone with the smallest amount of biological knowledge will tell you that, there is always a price to pay when you mess with the bodies normal functions. And the price is invariably high.” One such price is the high divorce rate, 75% of which divorces are initiated by women. My understanding is that the pill keeps them in a state of simulated pregnancy, bloated and unhappy. (Indulgentam- is this a correct understanding of the effects of the pill?) After a while they are unwilling to pay that price for being sexual sumps for their husbands. This last phrase, though raw, is from the letter to the editors column of Time Magazine many years ago. Just on the level of the diction in our arguments, imho we Catholics tend to keep it on a very high ethical and philosophical plane-perhaps too high. We talk about natural law, the teaching of Humanae Vitae, “the Church teaches” when perhaps we would make a better defense of marriage and children if we framed our arguments as you have done, in pointing out the natural, medical consequences. The consequences inevitably have echoes of “the judgements of God,” and serve to ratify the philosophical, ethical arguments we have been making for years as well as the veracity of the Magisterium’s take on everything.

    Again, quoting your comment, “”Anyone with the smallest amount of biological knowledge will tell you that, there is always a price to pay when you mess with the bodies normal functions. And the price is invariably high.” Although I have no medical background, just going through life and keeping my eyes open as led me to the same conclusion. People who contracept pay for it.

  27. Ben Kenobi says:

    Couple thoughts here. One – it’s not clear to me that the child is the one initiating this. It is quite possible that the child’s parents initiated this in order to enforce their moral authority. This is not unusual. The response to seek the correct authority (parish priest), on this issue is well formed. Unfortunately the priest was not up to the task of faithfully teaching the will of God.

    “little while later, my wife told him that we were concerned about the morality of the advice he gave, and he said that individual conscience is the ultimate guide to making decisions about contraception, so we don’t need to follow the Church if it doesn’t seem right to us.”

    Magisterial authority is first and foremost. This is an essentially protestant understanding. The true understanding is that, “it doesn’t really matter what you think”. You can wish all you like for the speed of light to be faster or slower, but that doesn’t change the physical reality which is not subject to our whims. So it is with the teachings of the Catholic church. It is not up to us to affirm them – they remain true regardless of our presence because the truths were there long before we came about, and they’ll remain long after we perish.

    Our only job is to call red red and blue blue. Nothing more nor less.

  28. Elizabeth D says:

    I would suggest that if a woman is on “contraceptive” type hormones for medical health reasons, then particularly because she knows the medication does not always prevent conception but may cause early abortion of a fertilized egg (a baby), maybe she should prefer abstinence out of an abundance of carefulness, especially if she and her husband aren’t specifically trying to have a baby. And if they are trying to have a baby, the possibility of abortion and love for their children may lead her to spend some time off the hormone as they try to conceive.

  29. MalleusHaereticorum says:

    I’m in a very similar predicament at the moment, though a year younger. I haven’t brought it up with my local priest, but he’s such a modernist I doubt he would actually agree with H.V. I’ll bring it up with him nonetheless. My parents really let me down; they have told me that “you don’t have to believe everything the Church teaches to be Catholic”. Having encountered Protestantism, I realised I didn’t know much about my own Faith. So I did my research and concluded that the Catholic Church was indeed the One, True Church and Protestantism was in error. It was when discussing some of the interesting things that I had found (moral evils of contraception and missing Mass intentionally, usury is still condemned etc.) with my parents that the trouble started. I hope and pray for my parents and also for the other such families.

  30. Joan M says:

    We still have doctors prescribing that women take the pill to “regulate” their periods. But, the pill does nothing other than mask the symptoms. If it curative value, after a number of cycles taking the pill, the patient could go off the pill and the cycles would have been regulated. Instead, however, she finds she must continue to take this devilish pill – and, probably, later in life find, when she wants to conceive that the pill has damaged her fertility.

  31. PA mom says:

    As a younger person whose father told her husband it was “his job” to get a vasectomy after the birth of our fourth child, I have found it the best argument to just try to live the Church teaching the best I can. The stuff really hit the fan after husband explained that I had refused any such offers on his part.
    Dad lives in a perpetual state of wondering when next I will tell him I am pregnant, meanwhile, the Lord has declined our sometimes offered opportunities.
    Oddly, it was an intersection of learning from the Duggars the beauty of a larger family, my experience in my own family of my younger brother begging for a brother and getting a doll instead (which he hated), and the continued reading of this blog and others finally teaching me the Catholic understanding of married love all working to soften and change my heart from fear of excess children to a desire to do God’s will with my best effort and trust.
    So, don’t worry about arguing up. When you have beautiful grandchildren for your parents, and they are (relatively) well behaved and loving each other and them, your parents hearts will crack, a tiny bit at a time, to let their grandchildren in. And that will move them a step towards you in understanding.

  32. Kate says:

    AmandaL seems to have had the same impression as me as I read this comment.

    I am happily finding that some children of those couples who gave birth in the late 1960’s – the late 1980’s are not following in the contraceptive mindset their parents had, and this is sending some new gradparents into a real tizzy.
    This “trend” seems to mirror the consternation that many older feminists have when young women want to stay home with their children. “What did we work so hard for?” the old feminists are asking.
    In the same way, I’ve heard new grandparents lament and make excuses for 3rd and 4th grandchildren issued forth from the same adult child. “We were surprised they went for the 3rd…”
    I think this lamentation has more to do with their realization that they did something wrong rather than not liking the new baby. Or perhaps they have real concerns about their children being overwhelmed – in which case it would be great for them to lend a hand rather than to take off for a “seniors only” trip to Tahiti.
    At any rate, I’m thrilled when the young couples I know bring life into this world (and some are doing purely out of natural “I don’t want hormones in my body” reasons with no thought about religious teachings….)

    In regards to “endure” – – is this code for “not have sexual relations”? The use of hormonal contraception for medical treatment of ovarian issues, etc. by a married woman calls for a suspension in sexual relations for the time period that she is undergoing treatment. This is what my priest taught me. I find that coded words like “endure” lead many astray and don’t help at all. (As in, “Gee, my wife is on the Pill for medical reasons, so I guess, even though I’d like more children, I have to endure the sad truth that no children will be created when I have sex with her.”)

  33. Kerry says:

    Re: “The Catechism is outdated.” Suppose time falsified scientific truths, say, the molecular bonds in water, or electron valences in sodium chloride. How fortunate we are that the passage of time only falsifies moral truths.

  34. Elizium23 says:

    We single people have analogous problems to this. For me personally it was at least one confessor who condoned masturbation. For years I was in thrall to it and in the last years it felt like confessing it did no good if it wasn’t even viewed as sin. Thankfully I traded up, and confirming with a trusted priest, a really trusted one, that it was confessable, I was finally able to kick the habit. I can’t tell you how freeing that feels. It was a monkey on my back, and went hand-in-hand with looking at nudes. I never liked hardcore porn much, but it’s nevertheless degrading to women you meet when you’re perfectly happy to see all the rest in states of undress on your computer screen, and having your way with them.

    Long story short, I was tangled up in an even larger web of sexual sins, and of course every day I struggle to free myself from these demon-infested traps. Any chance of a vocation to anything is shot to pieces. But I do have a handle on my personal salvation and that’s the only thing that matters in the end, ne?

    It gets me to thinking about how we interpret the law. Some of us ossified types like to read books and we know our reliable sources. We know it’s wrong because we looked it up. However, we follow a religion that doesn’t worship documents or a book. We worship the Word Incarnate. We honor oral tradition. So imagine how hard it is to say “ignore that man, that representative of Christ in the flesh, who says this is OK, because it says in this text…” There’s a fundamental disconnect when permissive clergy allow all kinds of things that are supposedly forbidden by the law. You know what is said among secular lawyers about a man who represents himself. Well, we are representing ourselves when we attempt to interpret the law from a book without a really trusted priest. How does it look to outsiders when Catholics have to admit among themselves that the rank and file clergy is not to be trusted to interpret the law, especially when it comes to things where the secular world is telling us a different story? How does it feel when official statements come down from on high that something is forbidden, when people in parishes are being winked at and nudged and promised that all is good, as you were, don’t worry about those mean old men wearing dresses in a faraway land?

    It reminds me of this married couple once who were told, from on high, that something was forbidden, but one of the locals assured them it was fine, and then they found out about consequences for our actions.

  35. James Waters says:

    My wife and I face similar difficulties with my own parents – who are themselves practising Catholics, but who had only two children. We have had five and though my parents love their grandchildren, one has the distinct impression that they have not approved of our third through fifth pregnancies (“irresponsible” you see). We have just learned we are expecting number 6, and are terrified of their reaction. My wife comes from a large family so her side is fine. In all other respects, we are closer to my family than to hers. The reaction of our Protestant relations, friends and colleagues is to be expected. Sadly, even our otherwise conservative parish clergy (EF-saying to boot) seems a little cool to the idea of large families….nobody else has more than 4 of our generation, most have 2 and the priests seem fine with that….no condemmation of birth control and exhortations to fecundity from an otherwise very orthodox pulpit… is so depressing and lonely. We used to attend the SSPX and are tempted to return as at least there we get support and approval and not cynicism, and large families are common. Prayers would be appreciated!

  36. Indulgentiam says:


    lmgilbert says: “My understanding is that the pill keeps them in a state of simulated pregnancy, bloated and unhappy. (Indulgentam- is this a correct understanding of the effects of the pill?)”
    It’s not that easy.
    **First I’ll apologize to Father. I know he hates long pastes. If this doesn’t make it to post , it’s perfectly understandable. But I couldn’t give a shorter answer. Not that there isn’t one. Just that I don’t know how to do it.

    Normally, the pituitary gland produces two hormones called FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone). These hormones serve to stimulate the ovary to produce an egg each month (ie, to ovulate). The ovary is the site of production of the woman’s two central female hormones, estradiol (EST), a type of estrogen, and progesterone (PRO), a type of progestin. Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are a combination of synthetic estrogen and progestin. Oral contraceptives “fool” the pituitary gland so that it produces less follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These two hormones are needed for ovulation to occur, therefore, OCPs (oral contraceptive pill) suppress, but do not eliminate ovulation.

    Oral contraceptives have two other main effects:
    They thin the inner lining of the uterus (called the endometrium), depleting it of glycogen (ie, a type of sugar), and decreasing its thickness. A thinner endometrium has a decreased blood supply.
    They may thicken the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for the sperm to travel up through the cervix. The evidence for this is weak and not strongly supported by the rabbit model.
    Of course, OCP use could not cause abortions if it always stopped ovulation so this needs to be the first issue that is raised. A clear proof of the occurrence of ovulation is provided by noting what the drug companies which manufacture OCPs state. If one opens up the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference, 1998) one will find a table describing the “efficacy rate” of the OCP. In every table listed under each OCP one notes a “typical failure rate” of 3%. The PDR defines this as the rate of annual pregnancy occurrence noted in “typical couples who initiate use of a method (not necessarily for the first time) and who use it consistently and correctly during the first year if they do not stop for any other reason.” This means that even couples who used the pill consistently over the course of a year had a pregnancy rate of 3%. A 1996 paper by Potter 7 gave an excellent overview of the matter. She noted that the most recent data point to a rate of pregnancy for “typical use” as being 7%, which is probably the more accurate statistic given the immediacy of her research and the fact that today’s OCPs are lower dose ones, theoretically permitting a higher rate of breakthrough ovulation. From these estimates of OCP failure and the common experience of on-pill pregnancies, it is clear that both ovulation and conception occur in couples who use OCPs.
    It would appear so. Because we know that use of the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) allows ovulation and conception to occur at times, if OCP use causes unfavorable changes in the endometrium it would make it difficult for the unborn child to implant, and would support the conclusion that it acts as an abortifacient.
    The first change that use of the OCP makes is to markedly decrease the thickness of a woman’s endometrial lining. Women who take OCPs know this because they can tell you that the volume of menstrual contents lost in their monthly cycles significantly decreases once they start taking OCPs. Obviously if a woman is losing less menstrual contents each month, the layer of endometrium that is being shed must be thinner and less well developed.
    In 1991 researchers in the U.S. performed MRI scans (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) on the uteri of women, some of whom were taking OCPs and some of whom were not. The OCP users had endometrial linings that were almost 2 millimeters thinner than that of the nonusers. Although this may sound like a small difference, it represented a 57% reduction in the thickness of the endometrial lining in women who used OCPs in this study. In essence they changed the cellular structure of the endometrium. Here’s a quick lesson on cancer. You connect the dots. Cells become cancer cells because of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) damage. DNA is in every cell and it directs all its actions. In a normal cell, when DNA is damaged the cell either repairs the damage or dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, but the cell doesn’t die like it should. Instead, the cell goes on making new cells that the body doesn’t need. These new cells all have the same damaged DNA as the first abnormal cell does. OCP’s produce a 57% change in the way cells behave in the endometrium. How do you think they do that?
    The proponents of the pill have in their literature: the pill will
    “Reduced risk of womb and ovarian cancers, which lasts for decades
    Increased risk of breast and cervical cancers, which goes away within about 10 years of stopping the Pill”
    That shouldn’t make sense to anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together. Does it make sense that something that causes cancer can also cure it???
    If cancer can go away on its own then shoot they lit me up like a Christmas tree for 2 years running with radiation for nothing. All I had to do was wait 10 years and the cancer would have disappeared. That’s major horse manure that is.
    The science is out there. The Good GOD gave you a brain. With the advent of the internet GOD has made it easier to go looking for truth. There are computers in every library and they’re free to use. Believe me when we appear at judgment we won’t have a leg to stand on. Hope this helped.

  37. MrsMacD says:

    It’s epidemic. Children have to raise the bar to meet the minimum requirements of living our Faith. Our family fathers and our church fathers have failed us. What happens when we raise the bar even higher? Start loving poverty? Shunning television? Living in seclusion? Loving prayer? Quiet? Fasting? Having more than 1.2 children? Preserving their innocence? Wearing cassoks? Birettas!? And heaven forbid dressing modestly! Our home is our sanctuary, our domestic church, when the world is in it, it becomes incredibly painful, if we’ve resolved to be faithful. Holy Martyrs, pray for us! Pray for all the youth that have seen through the lie, God grant them the grace to persevere!

    “… Unless you hate father and mother.., you shall have no part of me” it’s an old story. The martyrs endured it. It’s hard when your parents or priests, who are supposed to represent God, puporting to be Catholic tell you the lie, who can be trusted?

  38. Sonshine135 says:

    Parish Priests with good intentions have probably led more souls to Hell then we can imagine. I will pray for this Priest and thank God for His infinite mercy.

    I am curious as to whether the Priest provided council at all around NFP. I really wish that back in the day my Priest would have been more obstinate about this and preaching it from the pulpit. I am often mortified when I think back to how I pumped my wife full of cancer causing chemicals. Worse than that, how many numerous offenses did I commit to my Lord? It was a complete lack of trust, humility, and obedience.

    The irony is that health-nuts usually have no issue with contraception at all. So while they get mad at cancer causing companies, polluters, and “free radicals” being introduced into their blood stream, they seem to give a pass on birth control pills.

    I really hope that the person posing the question sticks to NFP.

  39. robtbrown says:

    1. Objectively, Contraception is morally prohibited. There’s no reason to add the word “artificial”.

    2. I don’t understand why the matter of contraceptives was raised. Fr Z said the question was about contraception not contraceptives.

    3. As a convert 45 years ago I understand the problem of conflict with parents about the Church. I don’t see any problem with the disagreement–family life is not like Ozzie and Harriet.

  40. robtbrown says:


    a priest who told me not to bother confessing something that, “The Catechism says very clearly…” only to have him respond with something along the lines of, “The Catechism is outdated.”

    Isn’t it funny they only consider sexual morality outdated. Not theft or murder.

  41. slainewe says:

    “They’d gotten married, but they intended to travel and have fun for the first few years, till they were ‘ready’ to have children.”

    So much for that marriage preparation course! This attitude always floors me; like a newly ordained priest telling his bishop, “I intend to have fun for a few years before you assign me to a parish.”

    That aside, I always wonder how Catholics can consciously make the decision (depending on when they will die) not to be alive for their child’s graduation, marriage, birth of a grandchild, or great-grandchild. Every year they wait to give birth is a year less on earth helping and praying for their children. And a year sooner in their children’s lives that they may have to start caring for their parents.

  42. Indulgentiam says:

    robtbrown says:”1. Objectively, Contraception is morally prohibited. —I agree 100%—
    “There’s no reason to add the word “artificial”. —-There is if one understands the dynamics behind the arguments and the intent of those driving it.

    2. I don’t understand why the matter of contraceptives was raised. Fr Z said the question was about contraception not contraceptives.

    The discussion of one naturally necessitates the inclusion of the other. Think, what and how or means and methods. Besides if there are Priests out there, and clearly there are, thinking that artificial contraceptives do anything other than cause disruption to normal bodily functions then, certainly, the discussion needs to be had somewhere, ok…really…everywhere. :)

  43. george says:

    slainewe says: “And a year sooner in their children’s lives that they may have to start caring for their parents.”

    But maybe those children would rather have fun for a few years before taking care of their parents… I don’t think that is a correct attitude, but should many of these older folks be surprised how that worm turns and complain that both their children are too busy to care for them or visit them?

    Maybe more children wouldn’t have been such a bad idea…

  44. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Might I take this opportunity to point out that the reason that some of us only have two children is simply because we haven’t been blessed with more?

  45. chantgirl says:

    The subject of contraception comes up more often than you would think between children and parents. When I was pregnant with our third or fourth, my father-in-law secretly offered to my husband that he would pay for his vasectomy while I was recovering from childbirth (so that I wouldn’t know!). When my husband told me, I responded that if he were to be tempted, to remember that if he did do such a thing and I found out about it, that I would not sleep with him anymore. While it may not have been the best response, it seems to have been a good deterrent. The potential complications of a vasectomy helped set his opposition as well ;)

    For some reason, as soon as you are engaged, people find no problem quizzing you about your family planning choices and desired number of children. I can’t understand why anyone thinks that they have a right to this information!

  46. MrsMacD says:

    **Pats (X)MCCLXIII on the back.** Don’t worry dear. Sts. Anne and Joachim, Mary and Joseph and St. Elizabeth and Zachary only got one child. It’s part of His plan. Trust Him, and when you’re falsely accused remember that they were too. God be with you and bless you!

  47. James Waters says:

    One knows full well that many couples with few or no children are in this situation through no fault of their own and often wish they had children, or a larger family. We do need to remember this and not to lash out indiscriminately at childless couples or those with onkly 1, 2 or 3. That being said, I believe it is far more common that people who have only a couple of kids have planned it that way, and probably by use of artificial contraceptives or by sterilisation. The bemused disbelief, astonishment or incomprehension of non- Catholics, and their questionining is rude and painful, but not so half as painful as that of Catholics, above all ones relations, and worst of all, otherwise orthodox Catholic clergy. It angers me that my parish is full of small families, ours being the largest of our generation, or of the generation before ours, by a long shot, and nothing is ever said or done by otherwise admirable priests, who see, untroubled by the prevailimh contraceptive culture, or at best patronisingly pat us on our back for beinh ” good Catholics”. More often, they seem a little cool to our “failure” at NFP. In our partof the world, large families are the preserve of the SSPX and I am starting to miss them.

  48. KaTeKu says:

    To Indulgentiam: Thank you for scientific based arguments. I like it.

    To Orphrey: Stady on. We are in very similar situation. Our parrish priest tried to please me so he told me at the confession that my grave sin is not much of a sin at all. However my spiritual guide set the thing clearly. And yes, I also received a lecture from my mother (not catholic) in high pitched voice on the matter of contraception when she found out that I was pregnant for the third time just after we´ve celebrated 3rd wedding anniversary.

  49. RAve says:

    Perhaps those involved can simply ask them whether or not they agree with the most pastoral-ist-est pope evah, Pope Francis. No joke: today while in the Philippines he boldly reaffirmed Church teaching that all contraception is wrong, explaining that when Pope Paul VI issued the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, he got it right!

    Official-ish source:

    “I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching. And from the heavens he blesses us today.”

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