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  • Writer's pictureKaroline Heldt, CFCP

"Catholic Contraception"

Updated: Feb 28

“Catholic contraception”, an oxymoron if ever there was one. But there are many people who use this term to define Creighton Model FertilityCare (CrMS) (and other methods of Natural Family Planning for that matter). However, CrMS and contraception by no means belong in the same category. Here’s why…

With the use of a form of contraception, whether it is a physical barrier (condom) or a chemical barrier (pill, or other hormonal device) you are interrupting or impeding the natural order or progression of the act of intercourse between spouses. An act of intercourse that under natural circumstances could have resulted in the conception of a human life, is prevented from doing so.

CrMS uses what we call “the principle of selective intercourse”. When charting a woman’s fertility and infertility with CrMS, a couple has a very clear understanding of which days are considered “fertile” or “infertile”. When using the principle of selective intercourse, a couple chooses either days of fertility or infertility to engage in intercourse depending on their intentions with using the system (to achieve or avoid pregnancy). If a couple exclusively uses days of infertility for intercourse, they are effectively using the system to avoid pregnancy. When they do so, they are operating within the natural order of things. An act of intercourse is complete, without resulting in the conception of human life.

Babies are not the only reason for sex in marriage.

The Theology of the Body by Pope St. John Paul II tells us that a deeper understanding of the way our bodies were designed by God can give us a deeper understanding of God Himself; so much so that St JPII was able to write over 700 pages on the subject! If God intended sex in marriage to only be for babies, our bodies would speak that truth and women would be fertile all the time (like men are). But women are actually infertile for the majority of each cycle. Intercourse for the married couple during times of infertility is important for manifesting their mutual love, bonding and renewing their marital covenant.

Avoiding pregnancy is not the purpose of the Creighton Model System.

It can be used to avoid pregnancy using the principle of selective intercourse but the system is a true system of family planning because it can be used both to avoid or achieve pregnancy at any time. You don’t “stop” using it when you decide you want to have a baby. As a matter of fact, a large portion of clients come to our center with the express purpose of achieving pregnancy. With teaching of the system, the emphasis is equally on achieving or avoiding. All couples are taught both ways to use the system because…

“The question of how many children should be born belongs to the honest judgement of the parents”. (1) It is a decision that cannot be made by a government, priest, doctor, your in-laws or your friends. The Church is very consistent and explicit in that the responsibility lies with the parents, within the sacrament of marriage, to discern family size.

St. Pope Paul VI explains further in his encyclical Populorum Progressio:

“Finally, it is for parents to decide, with full knowledge of the matter, on the number of their children, taking into account their responsibilities toward:

  • God

  • Themselves

  • The children they have already brought into the world

  • The community to which they belong

In all this, they must follow the demands of their own conscience, enlightened by God’s law authentically interpreted and sustained by confidence in Him.”

In the encyclical Humanae Vitae, St. Pope Paul VI describes this decision making as “responsible parenthood” which is exercised by “looking at physical, economic, psychological and social conditions and guided by

  • Prudent considerations

  • Generosity

  • Due respect for moral principles.

Dr. Janet Smith expands upon responsible parenthood in her writing Human Vitae: A Generation Later when she reminds us that family size considerations include:

  • “The health of the spouses and other family members,

  • “The financial situation of the family,

  • “The emotional stability of all involved,

  • “Conditions in the society in which one lives.”

Children are “the supreme gift of marriage”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2378)

The most incredible part of having a complete knowledge of your fertility as a couple is the ability to make a conscious, deliberate and free will choice to be co-creators with God in the marital act, bringing a new human life, body and soul into existence.

(1)This principle was defined by the Second Vatican Council Gaudium et Spes and reiterated by St Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae.

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