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My faith, contraception and family

Shadow of a couple.

Shadow of a couple. Credit: iStock

G.K. Chesterton, the writer and convert to the Catholic Church, was amused by the term birth control.

“What is quaintly called Birth Control,” he said, “is in fact, of course, a scheme for preventing birth in order to escape control.”

Artificial birth control, or contraceptives, is a major moral issue with a small number of Catholics (15 percent) adhering to what the church teaches concerning marriage and family. My husband and I are among the 15 percent who appreciate the beauty, coherence and freshness of the church’s teaching that can be found nowhere else. We’ve been married 51 years, and we have seven children and 34 grandchildren.

I believe that natural and divine law view the primary purpose of sex to be procreation. The pleasure experienced from sexual intercourse is an additional blessing from God that helps strengthen the bond of intimacy of the married couple.

The basic purpose of sexuality is clearly procreation. This has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church since the Frist Council of Nicea (325 AD). In my view, contraception is unnatural because it goes into a human body to stop something that’s natural for the body.

After having six children by age 33, we decided to use natural family planning, which is premised upon the beauty and necessity of marital intimacy. Because it relies on occasional abstinence, NFP summons couples to communication and self-mastery. At times, my husband and I mutually consented to “take a chance” at a time fertility was possible. And so, we had a seventh child, who now has three children of his own. We couldn’t be more pleased.

NFP doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage, nor does it exempt a marriage from all the ordinary sufferings of marriage, but NFP is an attempt to build a house on rock and not sand. Studies have shown that women who use NFP, more often have happier marriages and a lower divorce rate, higher rates of marital relations, a deeper intimacy with their husbands, are personally happier, are less likely to have an abortion and less likely to have sex outside of marriage. The couple, their children and society all benefit.

When we got married in 1964, divorce was not that common. Blessed Pope Paul V1 was prophetic when he said that if the encyclical Humanae Vitae was not heeded, the divorce rate would increase. That’s exactly what happened. Within a dozen years the divorce rate doubled. Today, 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce, often adversely impacting the children.

I understand that many couples who contracept might do so with good intentions. Many couples believe it’s necessary for holding their marriage together, or that contraception is harmless. Many married couples have become so habituated to contraception that the church’s teaching may seem shocking. Insisting on the necessity of contraception rests upon myths about marriage which are simply not true.

Since the continuation of the human race depends on procreation, God intended sexual activity to be viewed as something special — combining love, pleasure and procreation in a special set of actions by married couples.

Elizabeth L. Russo of Port Washington taught in elementary schools in New York City.