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The beauty of church teaching on spousal love

Almost half a century ago, some married couples left the Catholic Church over it.

A few priests left the priesthood because of it.

Some clergy ignored it or even counseled against it.  In practice, most Catholic spouses rejected it.

I’m speaking of Pope Paul VI’s teaching on artificial contraception in his Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae, written in 1968.  

Studies indicate that the great majority of married couples today practice some kind of artificial birth control.  It appears that the Church’s teaching has fallen on deaf ears. With such a poor response, why has the Church teaching continued to prohibit artificial contraception as a means of limiting the number of children in families? 

Is Mother Church that out of step with the lived experience of the faithful that she just can’t admit she made a mistake?  Not at all! 

The Church provides us with National NFP Awareness Week (July 24-30) to educate us so we might recapture the beauty and significance of the Church’s teaching on spousal love and to remind us of the grave consequences of discarding God’s plan for marriage.

The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. 

Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life, and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses. It harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life. 

In their recent document on marriage, the U.S. Bishops wrote:  “By using contraception, married couples may think that they are avoiding problems or easing tensions, that they are exerting control over their lives.
At the same time, they may think that they are doing nothing harmful to their marriages.”*

The language of the body is meant to express total self-gift, an unreserved openness to the possibility of procreation. Certainly, today’s contraceptive mentality, including sterilization, lacks such openness. 
Whenever the sexual union of a husband and wife is reduced to a means of solely self-gratification, conjugal love is diminished.

Natural Family Planning is a holistic approach to family planning that promotes openness to the transmission of human life and recognizes the value of children.  Natural Family Planning is not a contraceptive.  It does nothing to prevent conception.

NFP Awareness Week
July 24-30

Instead, married couples adjust their behavior according to their family planning intention using the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of a woman’s fertility cycle.

Through Natural Family Planning, a couple’s communication and trust are deepened, ultimately strengthening their marriage. A husband and wife reflect the relationship of Christ and His Church.  Christ gives Himself freely and completely.  It is in that freedom and total giving that spousal love is expressed.

I earnestly hope and pray that you will make a special effort, especially this week, to learn more about Natural Family Planning and come to understand and embrace what the Church has always taught:  procreation requires a sacrificial love whereby children become the supreme gift of marriage.  The Church can never compromise when it comes to the dignity and worth of every human person and the sacred purpose and meaning of marriage.

Our diocesan directors of Natural Family Planning, Suzanne and Angelo Pietropaoli, work hard to educate us about Natural Family Planning, particularly our engaged couples. We are grateful to them and to our certified teachers who volunteer their time in this life-affirming ministry.  Please check out our diocesan webpage at www.dioogdensburg.org/nfp for more information and see the special features on pages 8-9 in this Week’s North Country Catholic.
(* “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, USCCB, 2010.)

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