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Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

I understand that sexual intercourse within marriage should only be done to introduce new life into the world.

  • Does that mean if a couple only wants two (2) children, they can only engage in it twice,
    or however many times it takes to bring forth two [children|new lives]?

  • When else are they allowed to engage in the act?

  • If you're going to bring up the topic of a "woman's cycle" as natural birth control,
    isn't that contraceptive as well?

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous

  { Under what circumstances is sexual intercourse within marriage OK? }

Paul replied:

Dear Anonymous,

Your premise is not entirely true. It's not that sexual love can be expressed only when a child is in mind, but rather, the potentiality of a child should not be intentionally blocked. Love and life is the natural double meaning of sexual intercourse, but both don't always have to be the motive.

As long as there is no intent to contracept then intercourse between spouses is morally legitimate.

Yes, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a moral option when it comes to spacing children for
non-selfish reasons; and, no, it is not contraceptive. It is cooperating with the design and purpose for which God created us rather than contradicting it. In other words, NFP or periodic abstinence does not violate natural law.

Take two people who want to maintain their weight for a beauty contest they're in next week.
One diets by skipping a meal, now and then, while the other enjoys heavy calorie-laden meals
but vomits afterwards. They both achieve the same goal: neither gained a pound.

  • Which of the two did it morally?

Same principle applies to NFP. Contraception is akin to sexual bulimia.

Peace,

Paul

Eric replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

You have an incorrect understanding of the Catholic view.

The Catholic view is that every act of intercourse must be "open to life", that is to say, must not involve any deliberate elements that throw up barriers to new life. It doesn't mean that each act has to produce a child; no one has control over that but God. Thus it is legitimate for a couple to have conjugal relations when the woman is not fertile, because you are working within the natural, God-ordained purpose and use of marriage, not attempting to thwart them.

In general, couples should be generous and open to life. The attitude of:

"I want exactly 2.1 children."

should be foreign to a Christian's mind as that's not what God calls us to. We must not be conformed to this world but to the kingdom of God. If there are grave reasons, couples can use techniques such as Natural Family Planning (not to be confused with the much less effective rhythm method) to space their children appropriately. NFP takes advantage of periods you know the woman is not fertile (from physical signs). Those using NFP are still open to life and still leaving things in God's hands, as opposed to forcing the body into an unnatural state in an attempt to totally exclude, as much as possible, conception. Put another way, NFP reduces the chances for conception but is not intended to go against ("contra") it, in the sense of thwarting the natural and healthy workings of the body.

It's like if you are parents and you want to have a private discussion with your spouse. You might go into the bedroom and shut the door so the kids will stay out. Now you can lock the door, preventing them from coming in and excluding them entirely, or you can merely shut it, sending the signal that they should avoid coming in, but not preventing them from doing so in an emergency.

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

Just to add to what Paul and Eric have said, within the marital covenant, sexual intercourse is always greatly encouraged for two reasons:

  • babies
    and
  • the bonding of spouses

As both my colleagues pointed out there should never be an obstacle to new life at any time.
Despite what our modern culture says, God didn't put any limits on family size, but said,

"Go forth and multiple".

Through a shared prayer life and spousal conversation, the Lord will tell any couple how big your family should be, despite what our culture tells you. I know of one family with 10 children and another family with 14!

I would recommend a very good tape by world-renowned teacher Janet E. Smith called:

"Contraception: Why Not?"  [ Text Version ]

You can find it on the web.

We get a lot of questions that deal with an array of sexual issues.

All men and women deal with the after effects of original sin. This is called concupiscence.

Although, due to this fallen nature, our minds and bodies may be drawn to see the Church's view on sexual issues as:

the Church of No.

when we step back and learn about our nature and our passions through what the Catechism teaches, we will begin to see the Church's view on these issues as:

the Church of Divine Logic and True Love (for our well being).

Mike

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