Ok— maybe I’m not honestly planning on having 17 children. Actually, I’m not thinking about having children at all right now (due, of course, to my unmarried state).
I do, however, come from a family of 5 children—which for many people is a lot of children, especially given the fact that we are all within 2 years apart from one another. Every one of my 4 siblings is married with at least 1 child, giving me a grand total of 8 adorable nieces and nephews. And wanna know the “crazy” thing?
None of my siblings (nor my parents) practice artificial birth control. And if/when I get married, I won’t either.
Call it what you will. Irresponsible. Insane. Outright disturbing. I’ve heard it all before, and it only makes me more proud to be a part of a family that lives out and takes seriously this most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s not that I enjoy controversy for controversy’s sake. No—it’s that I wholeheartedly believe that a fuller truth, a truer happiness, and a more authentic love are on our side when it comes to the stance my family takes on using artificial contraception.
Why? Because I believe in marriage, and I believe in love. I believe the most perfect expression of the love between a husband and wife is the sexual union. And I unreservedly reject anything that seeks to cheapen or distort that expression of love and turn it into something it is not. To me (and I believe to anyone who really sits down and reflects on it with an open mind for some time), contraception is one of those things.
My family believes (as the Catholic Church teaches) that the purpose of sex within marriage is twofold: 1) for the unity of the couple, and 2) for the procreation of offspring. Don’t misunderstand my meaning. This DOES NOT mean that I think every time a married couple has sex that they need to be intending or trying to have a child. It simply means that the married couple needs to be open to having children as a result of their union.
It’s pretty clear why the unitive aspect of sex is so important to a married couple; but to our modern society, it’s far less clear why it matters that a couple be open to having children every time they engage in sex. Simply put, the reason is: love.
Life-giving Love: Sex is supposed to be a total gift of yourself to your spouse. The act of sex renews the wedding vows, to hold nothing back from your partner. Using contraception, we close off a part of ourselves from our spouse, cheapening the authentic expression of total, life giving love that sex is meant to be.
Respect: Because contraception rejects the life-giving aspect of the sexual union, I believe that it is a form of disrespect to the body—making the body little more than a mere instrument used for sexual pleasure. Of course, it is not at all that I think that most couples that use birth control are doing so with the intent of using one another, but I do think that, over time, it can be an unintended, and undesired effect (even if the couple cannot specifically point to birth control as the reason for their eventual emotional distance).
Come on, Get Real
I do realize (as does the Catholic Church) that often times there are legitimate reasons to space out or delay pregnancy within a family. In those cases, it is still not ever a good idea to contracept, because all of the negative effects that come with it still apply. However science has made great strides in a natural way for couples who need to either delay or achieve pregnancy. It’s called Natural Family Planning, and it has a near 99% success rate.
Rather than unnaturally altering or inhibiting the proper functions of the body, NFP requires the couple work with the woman’s body to achieve the desired result (it involves charts and temperature taking and all that jazz. Of course I’ve never done it, so I can’t really tell ya from experience). I can tell you that couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate less than 1% (fact). Though it’s important to realize that it’s not necessary for every couple—I believe that if you have the means to support a family and don’t have a good, non-selfish, reason for delaying children, there is no need to practice NFP in order to delay pregnancy. Love can’t be selfish, so neither can sex, right?
A Final Word on Children
People are uncomfortable with large families and lots of kids. I’ve never understood why. Though children are often messy and difficult to control, any mentally stable person who has children will tell you without hesitation about the joy that children bring to a life and to a marriage. Is raising a family easy? Hardly. Does the love they bring to a family make up a hundred fold for all of the struggle? Drawing from my own experience growing up in a larger family and from literally anyone I have talked to about their children, you better believe it does.