Pope Francis: “Paul VI… had the strength to defend openness to life.”

From EWTN news:

Pope Francis took the opportunity during an address to families in the Philippines to praise Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing contraception and affirming Church teaching on sexuality and human life.

The Pope spoke Friday to families gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila during his Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines.

After discussing various threats to the family, including “a lack of openness to life,” he deviated briefly from his prepared remarks, transitioning from English to his native Spanish in order to speak from the heart about the subject.

“I think of Blessed Paul VI,” he said. “In a moment of that challenge of the growth of populations, he had the strength to defend openness to life.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld Catholic teaching on sexuality and the immorality of artificial contraception, predicting the negative consequences that would result from a cultural acceptance of birth control.

“He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught professors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases,” Pope Francis said.

“But he went further. He looked to the peoples beyond. He saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Pope Francis’ comments come in the wake of Philippines president Benigno Aquino’s signing a highly controversial reproductive health bill in 2013 that drew strong protest from local bishops and members of the faith.



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  1. Father Bartoloma says:

    wow. yay. that’s great..

  2. govmatt says:

    Very glad the Pope said this… but, I am disappointed that this is “news.” Or, to put it another way, the headline should read “In Philippines, Pope Comes Out as Catholic.”

    With all the (my) Francis-angst, the Holy Father has been very consistent, when the issue is raised, about his commitment to the social teachings of the Church on the right to life. Granted he hasn’t been leading the charge, but, he certainly has not contradicted traditional/moral teaching on this issue.

  3. Ave Crux says:

    As I have posted elsewhere on the internet where this article was reported upon, I was profoundly dismayed by Pope Francis’ remarks on this occasion. In the very act of supposedly praising Church (and Divine) teaching regarding God’s mandate that the human race be “fruitful and multiply”, he succeeds in making this very teaching appear to be a burden on the human race in general and families in particular, having the effect of calling this very teaching into question by making it seem imprudent and unrealistic while appearing at the same time to affirm it: “[Paul VI] saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous.”

    How could Pope Francis suggest that God bringing immortal souls into existence via “population growth” is a “challenge” to God’s plan for humanity and His very command to cooperate with Him in this matter? There is an implicit acceptance of the notion that children are a burden, not the very fulfillment of the divine plan.

    Indeed, if our vision were supernatural and if men would simply allow God to be God, we would see the wonders He would work for families “with His outstretched Arm” if they would only trust Him to do so and lead supernatural lives entirely submitted to His Holy Will.

    It is because entire nations have abandoned God that we are now reaping the fruits of the naturalism that filled the moral and spiritual vacuum. The joy God intended for large families has been replaced by a parsimonious second-guessing of His divine mandate and the sterile, sad efforts of mankind to provide for its own needs.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ explicitly addressed this error when He taught: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice and all else will be given you besides.”

  4. RAve says:

    I am waiting to see the translations of this speech. I have seen two, and they have differing meanings in important phrases.

  5. RAve says:

    Version 1

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

    Version 2

    “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.”

  6. jacobi says:

    Paul VI is not my favourite Pope but in one thing he was absolutely, startlingly, prophetically right on, was Humanae Vitae.

    Contraception, in its various forms, including abortion, has proved to be the biggest disaster to afflict the Western World, including the Catholic Church, in the 20th/21st centuries.
    That is why West European societies are shrinking, becoming elderly, frail and irresolute, and therefore dependant on large numbers of immigrants.

    Immigrants in themselves are no problem. As such they are welcome, whatever their race or nationality. But a very large and increasing percentage of these immigrants are Muslims and this will come to haunt our Christian and incidentally, Secularist societies as they are now beginning to realise, in the coming decades, even more so than it is doing at present.

    The sad thing is that Paul never forbade family planning, or specified numbers. All he did was to confirm that all sexual acts be open to new life. Natural Family Planning, something that is effective and actually more certain than artificial methods, is fully open to practising Catholics.
    And yet Catholics, abetted by the silence of post-Vatican II bishops on this subject, have adopted artificial birth control like the rest of secularist society, with disastrous consequences.

  7. Tony Phillips says:

    I too have difficulty finding much (good) to say about Paul VI. When it comes to this topic, the most I can manage is: even a broken clock is right twice a day.
    (The other time being that thing about smoke entering the church….)

    Could never understand why NFP’s OK…certainly don’t see how it’s ‘more certain’ than artificial methods.

  8. Traductora says:

    I don’t know what language he used for his address, but in the Spanish version, it says “confessors” and not “professors.” In other words, the usual “pastoral” thing where the Church maintains the law but simply doesn’t put it into practice or doesn’t encourage that it be put into practice. This was one of the big weaknesses of Vatican II, even in the case of the liturgy; while the Novus Ordo certainly had enough problems in its own right, the “pastoral provision” given to the bishops to make various adaptations was what brought us the clown masses, eccentric “translations,” etc. And I think this is the same approach Cdl Kasper is recommending for the divorced and remarried issue: keep the doctrine and the law, but simply cease to expect anyone to adhere to it and in fact don’t even discuss it.

    Naturally, confessors should be helpful, but I doubt that most people even confess it or probably even think about it.

    That said, this was an important general statement in the context of the Philippines because the government there is heavily pushing population control and contraception. The only thing that has been shown to really lower the birth rate is more education for girls, along with an insistence on marriage before children, because both things raise the age at which people start to have children and also reduce poverty (the poor also have a higher fertility rate, probably as a natural compensating mechanism for the threats to their survival).

    The Pope said some very nice things about families, based on the Holy Family. I was a little puzzled by the “ideological colonization” remarks. I thought at first that he was referring to things like the homosexual attacks on marriage, but then he said that materialism and a lifestyle that destroys family life and the basic demands of Christian morality were examples of ideological colonization, so I’m not sure what he meant. Immediately after that, he did say that the family was suffering from attempts to redefine it, as well as materialism, a throw-away culture and failure to be open to life. So who knows?

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Humanae Vitae, why Paul VI is Blessed.

    Pray for Pope Francis. He has aged so much and looks very tired. This trip was a great idea.

  10. Joseph-Mary says:

    “Compassion in specific cases”? So sometimes sin is okay?

    And it is not easy for me to think of Paul VI as a blessed. I read that even the alleged miracle was questionable. But it helps to be post-conciliar! Other popes such as Leo XIII–who’s he? Did he do anything?

    In the end Paul VI could not come out against true teaching and morals but the discussion of contraception over years and with so many thinking it would be approved, the result was that for all intents and purposes, it was. There were high prelates publicly in dissent and still are–oh, is that ‘compassion in specific cases’?

    Let me say this: There are things that would have been different in my life and family had not the Church seemed to be on shifting sand instead of rock. And even today we have VERY high clergy endorsing intrinsic evils either openly or winking at them and NOTHING is done to counter their statements, not even from the Pope. They speak out with impunity. And the Catholic Church does not seem much different to the Masses except that it has a popular leader and has had many pedophiles: that is the secular image.

    The Church leadership seems a ‘toothless tiger”.

  11. Tither says:

    I actually find the little caveat about «professors» or «confessors» being advised to be more compassionate’ to be incredibly damaging. Is that not a subtle way of saying Curren and all the other apostate American theologians who rejected Humanae Vitae were really doing the right thing with Paul VI’s wink and nod.??
    On a positive note, I’m holding out hope that out a consistent ‘respect for creation’ theme, Francis will come out against gay marriage, gender identity madness, and contraception in his forthcoming encyclical. Would be a great Jesuitical coup de gras! But I’m probably being too optimistic…

  12. Imrahil says:

    Could never understand why NFP’s OK.

    In marriage, it’s okay to have sex. And it’s okay (if the legitime demand of the spouse does not stand against that) not to have sex. So, it’s legitimate to have sex on specific days. You are not artificially perverting the nature of the marriage act.

    Well, this was somewhat simplified – rejecting to have children at all for all life, and that for downright materialistic reasons and only them, would be illegitimate for example. But I do guess this is the theory in its main outlines.

    I find, by the way, that some thought of Pope Bl. Paul VI is somewhat overlooked in Humanae vitae. He does condemn the personal choice of married people to contracept immoral; yes. But then he is also quite concerned about contraception abetting such situations where the choice is not personal, where it is, e. g., downright dictatorship that enforces contraception. And I’d think that societal pressure, which comes up when people start to do that thing, can do that to. [But that doesn’t seem to work when, hypothetically, only NFP is the other choice, does it?]

  13. Imrahil says:

    last paragraph: “as immoral”.

  14. Imrahil says:

    And it is not easy for me to think of Paul VI as a blessed.

    “Someone is a blessed” means “the Holy See allows particular churches and communities to work on the supposition that N. N. is in Heaven”. Likewise, “someone is a Saint” means “the Church teaches that N. N. is in Heaven”.

    And as we don’t know about the hearts of men, the duration of purgatory, and possible extraordinary lessening of punishments, I do find that easy to believe. I also find it possible, say, to believe a beatification and critizise it at the same time.

    Sure, the Church picks such blesseds and Saints as she chooses to show to the faithful as particularly exemplary, having heroic virtue and all that – but all that is not, w.r.t. canonizations, infallibly done, and in any case: if we know someone is in Heaven, then we can pray to him, however little exemplary his life was in the hypothesis.

  15. Bender says:

    “He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught professors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases,” Pope Francis said.

    This I fear is the big take-away – not that the Pope spoke against contraception use, but that he said that there were exceptions to the rule and that “in particular cases” it would be “compassionate” to say to a couple to go ahead and use contraception — and that the Pope then further justified this by saying that that is what Paul VI taught.

    What else would “be particularly compassionate” mean?? Be particularly compassionate and tell couples to not use contraception to an even greater degree? That’s a nonsensical reading of it. It could only mean that in certain cases contraceptive use would be appropriate. And in a more general sense, that “compassion” meant doing away with Church teaching in some cases. That Church teaching was too mean, too harsh — that Church teaching was not absolute, but relative, and thus it was wrong at times to insist on it. That the greater charity would be to go against Church teaching.

    The thing is, ever since Humanae Vitae came out, priests have been “compassionate” in “particular cases,” telling couples to go ahead and use contraception if they believed that not using it was unduly burdensome in their situation. And so, of course, the exception became the rule.

  16. marcelus says:

    there is a saying in spanish “palo porque bogas, palo porque no bogas”

    Kind of like: “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

    So if PF did not uphold teaching, he was wrong and if he did he is also wrong.

    Ahh, please take a break and leave the scarpel aside and the catholic detective eyelop.

    This is supposed to be rare “bening” note on PF here and still, is twisted the other way around.

  17. kpoterack says:

    Traductora and Joseph-Mary:

    The word is almost certainly “confessors” and “not professors” (which makes no sense), and the most charitable (and I think accurate) understanding of his talk about “compassion in particular cases” is explained in this excerpt from a LifeSite news website:

    “Francis noted that Paul VI knew of the difficulties in families and thus “in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases.” John Paul Meenan, a professor of moral theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy told LifeSiteNews that the 1968 encyclical did speak of particular difficult cases and suggested the use of natural family planning.

    Humanae Vitae says that where there are “well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles…”

    The encyclical speaks of compassion, saying that the Church knows the weaknesses of the faithful: “She has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners.” It adds, however, that “she cannot do otherwise than teach the law.””


  18. jacobi says:

    @ Tony,

    You are not the only one, but the FPA stand by their claim

    Something to do with carelessness produced by overconfidence on the one hand, versus the now very exact monitoring technology, I suppose.

    Desisting for up to 8 days can be a problem, but others , clergy, all Catholics outside of a valid marriage between a man and a woman, business men, military, those who are ill, disabled etc, etc, have to, so it’s not such a big deal?

  19. Maltese says:

    “Compassion in certain cases” only means that NFP is morally justified when a couple literally doesn’t have the means to bring a child into the world–this might be the case in a few of the poorest areas in South America. It is not true in the vast majority of these United States. And abortion is a form of birth control in Russia, for instance. I will say this, “Griswold v. Connecticut” led to “Roe v. Wade.” Contraception and abortion are two heads of the same dragon. One can protest: “Come one! One is killing and one is preventing life!” True, but on purely philosophical grounds, they stand on the same footing–According to the US Supreme Court. Both use a hidden penumbral “right to privacy.” I focus on the US, because the world looks to us, and when the Supreme Court decided Roe, the rest of the world also began to ‘legalize’ abortion. In this sense, Paul VI was prophetic. Griswold, which only concerns contraception, led to Roe, which has lead to the death of untold millions.

  20. As much as faithful Catholics would like to say something positive about Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae may not be as good as we have been led to believe.

    Isn’t Humanae Vitae a Trojan horse in that it appears to speak against contraception, its actual effect is to promote contraception? The encyclical also seems to promote the happiness of the marriage [the spouses] over the true purpose of procreation.

    Humanae Vitae states “excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)” Or in other words, ANY action with the intention of avoiding children is unlawful. The basis for judging lawfulness is not the method, but always the intention. The encyclical ambiguously back-peddles by arguing only against artificial contraception [leaving a gap for natural contraception, of which there are many means] and then also by stating:

    “It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love. ”

    Both cannot be true: “preventing procreation” is a sin and “intention to avoid children” is okay. These are contradicting statements.

    For most of my life I felt that by exercising one’s will, having a ‘good’ reason, and not using chemicals, somehow made up for the intention to avoid procreation. Then I read Humanae Vitae in its entirety and saw the direct contradictions within: one statement says that intending to avoid children is always wrong and then later there are exceptions to contraception. Both cannot be true. Intending to contracept is either wrong or it is not.

    There is a difference between how the Church is being made to appear that she has changed Her teaching and what the Church still actually teaches. Has the Church ever before this document promoted any kind of contraception, whether physical, natural or chemical? Didn’t St Thomas Aquinas rail against the Manichean practice of avoiding times of fertility in order to avoid children? There are ample resources to peruse including Pius XI’s Casti Connubii and Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to Midwives.

    In the abortion fight, we teach that there are no exceptions, no good reasons ever for abortion. Why is this same logic not applied to contraception?

    The sin of contraception is not the method but the intention, the sin of contraception is the intention to avoid conception. Old doctors even used to refer to this practice as “fraudulent intercourse”. Before the Lambeth Conference, any kind of contraception under any circumstance was viewed as evil. The Lambeth Conference, the head of the snake, snuck in with ‘rare and serious’ allowances. Now look where that trajectory has us today.

    One way witches got their evil reputation, was not because of their good use of natural knowledge, but by their methods for causing abortions and methods of contraception. Thus it is not just extreme pharmaceutical measures that are sinful – any method is wrong. As any good Catholic knows, abortion and contraception are of the devil.

    Are economics and health exceptions to the rule? Didn’t men used to be grilled by potential fathers-in-law as to their ability to support a large family? These decisions used to be made before marriage, when marriage was not based on only love and self-indulgence but by reason and duty. [yes of course bad stuff can happen after a marriage, that is not the point here]

    We all need to understand that life begins not simply at conception, but in the mind of God. He planned each and every one of us before Time began. When we stop the procreation of a child, the devil wins in the frustration of God’s very plan for our time, place, purpose, milieu, and family. Contraception is more evil than abortion because it stops life before the soul even comes into existence.

    Sorry to rattle cages here – as mine was rattled once. This idea made me furious…until I did the research and had to accept the obvious.

    This subtle change in the acceptance of contraception by Pope Paul VI also explains the failure in the fight against abortion, the confusion on commitment against contraception from those who should be speaking up, and the triumph of the evils accurately predicted in the section “Consequences of Artificial Methods”.

  21. Clinton R. says:

    This is the problem with the Church post Vatican II; she no longer can speak clearly and precisely. Instead we are given double talk that only leads to confusion. With Pope Francis, the level of confusion has risen to unprecedented levels. We can read St. Peter in his Epistles, we can read the encyclicals of popes of centuries past, and in doing so, we see the Doctrine of the Church plainly stated. Now, verbal gymnastics must be used to try to spin papal pronouncements to fit with orthodoxy.

    Since we are on the topic of contraception, it might be useful to read what Pope Pius XI said in Casti Connubii. Note the clarity and forthrightfulness:

    “And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of the family circumstances.

    “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

    “Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.’ Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it (Gen. 38:8-10).

    “Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

  22. Cody says:

    “Desisting for up to 8 days can be a problem, but others , clergy, all Catholics outside of a valid marriage between a man and a woman, business men, military, those who are ill, disabled etc, etc, have to, so it’s not such a big deal?”

    I’m not speaking in favor of BC, but let me qualify your statement a bit: first, “up to 8 days”? Says who? I’ve been married for 8 years, and the only time my wife and I can generally engage in intercourse more than twice a month is when she’s pregnant or trying to get pregnant. If we’re trying to avoid pregnancy, that effectively means total abstinence. And yes, we are charting correctly and accurately. We’ve had it looked at by professionals. The problem is that my wife’s body just works differently from the text-book cases they show you in the course.

    Furthermore, 8 days or 28 days, it’s a lot easier if you don’t share a bed with the person next to you.

  23. Mike says:


    While one can use NFP with a contraceptive intention or mentality–and that would be wrong–there is, according to Paul VI and JPII, a huge difference between: a) doing something that insures, no way, no how, a baby results from intercouse, and b) timing the marriage act to those periods which are not likely to produce a baby.

    B still allows God to intervene, and respects the body’s cyclical nature…surely this is significant difference?

  24. Traductora says:

    Tina, I think you might be suffering from a now very rare disease: scruples. Marriage involves sex and in fact is not even considered a valid marriage until it is sexually consummated. And obviously, this means being open to children. And marriage means being open to children, but there are times when marriage does not involve sex and obviously there is then no possibility of children. This can be voluntarily, for example, during certain traditional periods of abstinence or for personal reasons, or involuntarily, as in the case of illness.

    When St Thomas talked about the Manichees, he was talking about a group that had so many bizarre sexual practices and doctrines it w0uld make your head spin, so I don’t think they’re a good example!

    So people are still married, whether they are engaging in sexual activities or not, and they are still open to children when that is a possibility (which would obviously occur only with sexual activity). But that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t decide when it would be good – or not advisable – to have another child.

    Once upon a time, married couples often spent less time together, for one reason or another, mostly because there was a man’s world and a woman’s world, and men were often away. Now they sleep in their bed every night, so the challenges of abstinence might be greater. But if it happens, it happens, and if the result is a child, God meant that to happen. And the couple is open to this.

    In my mind, the greater challenge is people who want a child and can’t have one…while many methods of assisted reproduction are forbidden by the Church. Fertility declines in higher income societies, for some reason, possibly because the body is programmed to know when it has enough food and there’s enough to go around and it doesn’t need to overproduce (as it does in an impoverished society with high infant mortality rates and the need of parents to have many children to assure support in their old age). We have a significantly declining birth rate in the West, not only because of contraception and abortion, but because of declining fertility. So this is something the Church should address, because I know many good Catholics who would love to worry about having too many children.

  25. jacobi says:

    The answer to yor question is the FPA. They are the experts not me. If you disagree I suggest you take it up with them. And by the way I am not at all interested in the particulatr circumstances of your marriage!

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Tina,

    You wrote:

    “Both cannot be true: “preventing procreation” is a sin and “intention to avoid children” is okay. These are contradicting statements.”

    Not necessarily. One can say, for instance: “I intend to die by shooting myself,” or “I intend to die by living to my last breath.” In both cases, there is an intention to die, but one method is immoral, while the other is not. In Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI wrote:

    “Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

    He says that those who exercise intercourse in a manner so as to frustrate it commit an intrinsically immoral act, but abstaining from intercourse is the exact opposite of exercising intercourse. Nothing in the act, itself, is frustrated because there is no act to frustrate. Abstaining is a meta-act. It is a choice to skip the act. No one has to have sex. Just because one has an urge does not mean that one has to satisfy it. Urges are to be controlled by reason.

    Let me be really clear, here. I think I can clear up your contradiction. Using NFP with the intention of never having children is, obviously sinful, because the meta-law, itself, is to not have children. Using natural planning as a means of coincidentally avoiding children is not morally sinful if one agrees that should children happen, anyways, they are wanted. One is open to children with NFP, it is just that one happens to have intercourse during unfertile periods. This could happen entirely at random or it could happen by a secondary cause, as well. Suppose a man had to take some medicine once a month – say a short acting radioactive isotope at a certain favorable window of time and that just happened to correspond to his wife’s infertile period. Have they frustrated procreation? It is a coincidence, even though it could be foreseen that it would result in not having children and the Law of Double Effect certainly applies. When one does not have enough money to even feed the children one has, it is medicinal for the other children to avoid intercourse for a time and if that time just happens to coincide with the wife’s infertile period, even if it is foreseen, the Law of Double Effect still holds. If one uses NFP for a non-medicinal purpose, such as for greed or to foster a certain life-style, then there is no medicinal purpose, only a selfish one. That is the intention that renders NFP immoral and NFP can be immoral to use.

    St. Paul even counseled couples to abstain for a while if they wanted to in order to devote themselves to the Lord. In a way, NFP is related to this. If one uses NFP in a way which allows one to devote oneself to the Lord, it is moral; if one uses it in a way that one is devoted to oneself, it is immoral.

    Does that make sense? To deliberately frustrate procreation refers to the actual act while in progress or after. Before the act, other, secondary considerations may come into play.

    Of course, in my world, there would be no contraception, at all, including NFP, except for medical emergencies (which would be very rare to practically non-existent). In my world, families would have 10 – 20 children, if possible, and if the family could not afford them, the community would pitch in. I can think that there are many couples who cannot have children who would love to cooperate in the care and raising of children by proxy. This is one way to decrease violence and increase adaptive behaviors. Of course, in my world, everyone would be a saint.

    Ah, well. Maybe, this will happen sometime after World War IV. Have you noticed that there have been very few Utopian movies made in the last fifty years?

    The Chicken

  27. Neal says:

    Yeah I had a good chuckle about the 8 days too. Thanks for the laughs, we should do it again sometime.

  28. stephen c says:

    Tina, the fact that many criticize you does not mean your comment was not compassionate and thoughtful. Thanks for expressing the point of view that we are children of God, with all the consequences of that overwhelming truth.

  29. avecrux says:

    I believe the Masked Chicken is correct and his explanation is clear.

    My husband used to teach marriage prep and came up with the following:

    Let’s say a man has to communicate something confidential to his brother, but his sister-in-law is present. He has good reason to ensure that he is alone with his brother when he speaks. How is that accomplished?

    He could kill his sister-in-law. Obviously very extreme.
    He could drug his sister-in-law. Less extreme, but still completely inappropriate.

    So – he is left with the option of simply being patient and waiting til she leaves.
    This is not an action “against” his sister-in-law – in fact, it respects her completely. It is merely observing the circumstances which make his important, confidential communication with his brother possible.

  30. jhayes says:

    Tina, in his 1951 Address to Midwives, Pius XII said that NFP was lawful in some circumstances – even for the whole duration of the marriage.

    Birth Control

    Today, besides, another grave problem has arisen, namely, if and how far the obligation of being ready for the service of maternity is reconcilable with the ever more general recourse to the periods of natural sterility the so-called “agenesic” periods in woman, which seems a clear expression of a will contrary to that precept.
    Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to tile full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.

  31. Imrahil says:

    If one uses NFP for a non-medicinal purpose, such as for greed or to foster a certain life-style, then there is no medicinal purpose, only a selfish one.

    Dear Chicken, I agree w.r.t. (actual) greed; I disagree w.r.t. “fostering a certain life-style”, given that life-style could possibly be well within the societally accepted life-styles partaining to one’s estate and status.

    Descending into comparative poverty as a sacrifice in order to have more children is laudable, of course, but not, I’d assume, obligatory.

    (I say that as grandson of a family which was the subject of the rumour “how much money they must have”, given the number of children. They had less vacations-abroad than others, as far as I know. And I greatly enjoy the company of all of my cousins. Still: what is voluntary is voluntary, and what is obligatory is obligatory.)

  32. The Masked Chicken (may his feathers never molt, and may the eleven herbs and spices never approach his august personage!) put it far more eloquently than I could. What he said, with the caveat that I assume he includes psychological reasons for avoiding more children at a certain time under “medical reasons.”

  33. Thorfinn says:

    “I was a little puzzled by the “ideological colonization” remarks.”

    Most contraceptions are sacrifices at the altar of materialism. It’s pervasive & insidious. Common wisdom states that you shouldn’t have more children than you can afford [living a middle class Western lifestyle]. By that standard 99% of the developing world should never have children – and that is not unintentional. Once that is accepted, Pandora’s box is open.

  34. Andkaras says:

    Why does not the book of Tobit enter into these discussion more often? Surely it gives an obvious directive as to the manner and disposition a for the couple as they discern the prudence of whether to engage in the marital act or not. It is no mistake that the angel Raphael figures so prominently in this bedtime story from God to His children.

  35. Imrahil says:

    Dear Tina,

    I think we can rest assured that Pope Bl. Paul VI, when he spoke about “actions to prevent children”, was not intending to include the counting of the female cycle.

    It is the precise difference between contraception and NFP that the letter is not an “action” in Humanae vitae’s sense, but an inaction, viz. not having sex.

  36. MisterH says:


    I disagree and I believe you are misinterpreting the teaching of the Church.

    In Church teaching their is no requirement for a married couple to have as many children as possible. Spacing of children is permitted as long as it is for serious and unselfish reasons. The Church also teaches that every act of intercourse must be open to life and must not block the transmission of life.

    You focus on intention and imply that a desire to avoid pregnancy for unselfish reasons is no different than a desire to do so for selfish reasons. Church teaching makes a distinction here, even if you do not.

    You also dismiss the issue of means. Yet, means are also important to morality, in addition to intention. My intention may be to help the poor. If I give from my savings to do so that is morally acceptable. If I steal the money from someone else to do so that is not morally acceptable. Means have to be part of the discussion as well.

    With NFP the couple sacrifices the pleasure of the marital act during fertile periods if they need, for serious and unselfish reasons, to avoid pregnancy. The Church teaches that this decision is morally acceptable. On the other hand, when using contraception, the couple is unwilling to sacrifice the pleasure of the marital act at that point, selfishly goes ahead anyway, and artificially blocks the transmission of life. The Church teaches that this decision is immoral.

  37. Oh sorry a correction: I meant St Augustine railed against the Manichees.

    On the Morals of the Manichaeans, Chapter 18:
    “Is it not you who hold that begetting children, by which souls are confined in flesh, is a greater sin than cohabitation? Is it not you who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time, lest the soul should be entangled in flesh? This proves that you approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage, and makes the woman not a wife, but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion. Where there is a wife there must be marriage. But there is no marriage where motherhood is not in view; therefore neither is there a wife. In this way you forbid marriage. Nor can you defend yourselves successfully from this charge, long ago brought against you prophetically by the Holy Spirit.”

    I have observed that those who are invested in a way of life are the most indignant over a change, such as those who have had an abortion are often the most difficult to convert. Sometimes we don’t want to accept a truth because the wrong answer is useful to us.
    The conversation about contraception is challenging. I am hopeful that all here passionately want to know and follow the Church’s long-held teachings. I may be clumsy and unclear, but that is my objective. May God have mercy on us all and help us to see and accept the truth – please pray for me as I pray for you.

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