Catholic Birth Control

A woman I met commented that she had trouble explaining to her Protestant friends how
natural family planning (NFP) or periodic abstinence is any different from using contraception.
I suspect that other faithful Catholics may have the same difficulty. For those not aware, NFP
is a technique whereby a woman closely monitors her physical conditions (temperature,
mucus, and/or cervix) to determine with a very high degree of accuracy whether she is fertile.
The couple uses that information in their decisions regarding when they will have sex.

In order to compare the morality of these acts it is important to understand two aspects of any
moral decision--ends and means. The end is what someone is trying to achieve; the means is
how that person plans to achieve that end. Let's compare three methods of birth
control--periodic abstinence, contraception, and abortion. If we assume that a married couple
wishes to delay giving birth for a year for some very sound reasons
, all three methods are
equivalent regarding the end they are trying to achieve.

The evaluation of the morality of these methods should not end there. If we compare the
means being considered, we see that abortion differs from the other two in that it causes the
death of an innocent person. Anyone who recognizes the sanctity of human life should
consider abortion wrong.

What about NFP? Two things are required to practice NFP--periodic abstinence and
awareness of the woman's fertility. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in deciding to abstain
from having sex. God has not commanded us to have sex every day. There is also nothing
wrong in a woman having knowledge of her body. Knowledge comes from God. It is possible
for a couple to use NFP wrongly, but this only occurs if the end they are trying to achieve is
wrong. An example would be a married couple unreasonably closed to new life, only
concerned with worldly interests.

What about contraception? The Church clearly states that doing anything to deliberately
make the sexual act infertile is intrinsically evil. The Church recognizes that God created the
sexual act with two purposes--to bring forth new life and to strengthen the bond between
spouses. Sexual pleasure is not the end of the act but only a means to encourage us to
engage in it. When a couple deliberately prevents the procreative aspect of the act they are
changing the purpose of the act and making it unnatural. Although contraceptive sex may
appear the same as natural sex, its intrinsic nature more closely resembles masturbation or
sodomy. These acts are committed with the main purpose being pleasure. It is only through
recognition of God's sovereignty over sexual conduct that someone can understand that
masturbation, sodomy, and artificial birth control are wrong. People involved in these practices
seek to remove God from the sexual act.

The question is not, "How is NFP any different from contraceptive sex," but "How is
contraceptive sex different from sodomy or mutual masturbation?"