Q : 
My husband and I have not have sex for over a year because I was pregnant for 9 months and had health issues so we could not have sex during pregnancy. I am now 3 months postpartum and not sure when my fertility will return. I gave birth by cesarean so it’s not safe to have another baby until 18 months. My question is, can Catholic married couples use contraception in a situation like this? I don’t want my husband to masturbate if I keep him waiting.
【 Question from 】 New Zealand 新西蘭

Fr. Francis : 

The short answer to your question is no. Contraception is not just prevention of contraception, but it is really anti-union and anti-life, which is the very opposite of the marital embrace.

It is anti-union, because for the sake of “meeting one’s sexual needs”, you put a barrier between the two who vowed to become one flesh. Be it a mechanical barrier like a condom or a chemical barrier like the pill, contraception is declaring that there is of you or of me that we cannot give to each other, as if it is a disease. But our fertility is not a disease. It is a gift. If it is not conducive to the health of the family to celebrate fertility, it must remain honoured by abstinence and other forms of emotional and spiritual union, and not to be sacrificed and trampled.

And moreover, once fertility is out of the equation, sex can easily be reduced to a mere need. Sex is not a need. It must be a conscious, mutual act of love. It is when we condone it to be a need that we begin to also allow for one partner to use another for sexual satisfaction. It is no longer a mutual total gift of self, but a reduction of a person into a means, because I have this need.

It is anti-life, because contraception is saying no to life, physically and also more importantly mentally. Couples who used to engage in contracepted sex are training themselves to see conception is a surprise rather than a necessary and very healthy part of the decision. Such a mindset is dangerous because from here it can lead to rejection of life, guilt and blame on self and the other, viewing the new life as an inconvenience and a hindrance, and God forbids, as something to be rid of. Although the contraceptive mindset does not necessarily lead to an abortive mindset, almost all abortive mindset begins with a contraceptive one; and that happens to the best of us.

And if you are using the pill, the pill does not stop a woman from ovulation absolutely. Every pill now has a secondary mechanism or sometimes the only mechanism of stopping progesterone, which prevents the uterus lining to be ready for the conceived embryo to be planted. This means that the pill works most of the time not by preventing ovulation, but by making the womb hostile for the conceived baby to survive. In other words, it aborts babies.

There is already a lot in the literature on this topic, so I’m not going to write more. I encourage you to read up on this from authors like Christopher West and Dr. Janet Smith. They are totally orthodox and their experiences on this issue also provide much pastoral encouragement.

Above all, I encourage both of you to pray on this. Ask God to show you other ways to true intimacy. I know quite a few couples who for one reason or another cannot engage in sexual union, sometimes for many years. Not a few of them told me once they accepted this as a sacrifice, they learned so much more about each other and about how to truly love the other person. They discover that in prayer and service, that sexual energy they used to call “a need” can be channeled into love, understanding, patience, creative expressions of affection, accompaniment, and the day to day caring for and building up of the other.