Skip to comments.Why We Quit Contracepting (Two couples tell their ‘conversion’ stories)
Posted on 08/16/2005 1:48:10 PM PDT by NYer
Having married in 1985 when both were medical students, Ann and Michael Moell had their life together planned out.
Once they established medical practices and had a big house with a sprawling back yard, they would begin to have children. Until then, Ann would take the birth-control pill.
Although both had grown up in large Catholic families in Ohio, neither was well versed or much interested in the Churchs teaching on birth regulation.
While we were in medical school and residency, we didnt think we had time for a child, Ann says. We had the American dream in mind, not just for ourselves but for the children we would have.
Their plans began to unravel four years into the marriage, when Ann stopped taking the pill because of persistent headaches.
Here we were, both studying medicine, and neither of us knew anything about the pill and its side effects, she recalls. It just isnt a topic in medical school because the pill is assumed to be a good thing.
They used periodic abstinence, condoms and other barrier methods but, within a year Ann became pregnant. They welcomed the child into their lives, yet continued to contracept.
After their third child arrived, Ann says, That was it. We were still young, with three children and growing medical practices. We thought we had to do something foolproof that would keep us from having more children.
They discussed the possibility of a vasectomy for Michael.
We thought it would be the best thing for our family, Michael explains.
Something happened, though, in the Moells pursuit of the American dream. Ann began to pray. The couple had begun attending Mass again with the birth and baptism of their first child, but they were just doing the Catholic thing, Michael says. We didnt know anything about contraception being sinful or that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. We were missing so much.
To actually ask God to give us an answer was something new, Ann admits. I was praying at Mass, God, show us what to do about this issue. A month later, I was pregnant. It was Gods answer. It was so immediate, so direct, and I was elated. It changed our whole attitude about who was in charge of our lives and our marriage.
They began using natural family planning, and have welcomed two more children into their lives.
But God was not finished with them yet. Ann was a family-practice physician who prescribed the pill. Michael was a pediatrician who was prescribing the pill for young girls. Someone gave them the videotape Contraception: Why Not? by Janet Smith. It changed the whole direction of our practices, Ann says. We started looking into the side effects of the pill and I knew I had to stop prescribing.
Now Dr. Ann Moell is a stay-at-home mother who volunteers as a prenatal-care physician at a pro-life pregnancy center in Dayton, Ohio. Michael left a pediatric partnership to open Holy Family Pediatrics, in the same building as the pregnancy center. About half his patients are pregnant teens referred by his wife. They recommend abstinence before marriage and NFP in marriage to their young patients. Many Catholic parents travel long distances to bring their children for routine care to Holy Family Pediatrics.
This has been a huge spiritual journey as well as a growth and learning experience in proper health care, says Ann.
It was a huge financial leap and leap of faith, to give up the partnership and open my own medical practice, Michael adds. Four months after I opened the door, our fourth child was born. I was questioning God the whole way. But its worked out better than I could have dreamed.
Conversion is a word Penny and John Harrison use often to describe their experience with birth control. They were married in 1983 in Pennys Protestant church; a Catholic priest witnessed the ceremony for John, who was raised in a Catholic family.
They used various forms of contraception for the first 10 years of marriage and had two children pre-conversion, as John describes it.
A Catholic Marriage Encounter weekend opened Pennys heart to the Church, and, when she decided to become a Catholic, all the assumptions of their lives were uprooted. While she was going through a parish RCIA program in their hometown of Kansas City, Mo., John began looking at his own faith and asking questions. He had no problems with the sacraments or the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but his vague knowledge of the Churchs teaching on contraception nagged at him.
When he and Penny asked a priest about the issue, we got some confusing and unspecific answers, John recalls. We ultimately were told to follow our conscience. Unfortunately, thats the answer too many Catholic couples get today, and theyre not being told the full beauty of the truth.
Penny entered the Church at the Easter Vigil in 1993 and shortly thereafter she and her husband went on a 10th-anniversary vacation without their two children.
We were both very uncomfortable using contraception on that trip, John said. We came back and just stopped using contraception of any kind, and prayed and hoped for another child.
Key to their decision was hearing a talk by Catholic evangelist Scott Hahn, a former Protestant minister, and reading Rome Sweet Home, in which Hahn and his wife, Kimberly, defend the Churchs teaching on contraception.
We date our deeper conversion to the heart of the Church primarily from the fervor we took from listening to Scott Hahns talks, John says.
Since their conversion, the Harrisons have had three more children, including twins in 1999.
I come from a Protestant background where it is considered irresponsible not to practice contraception, so Ive come a long way, Penny says. The problem was that when I was preparing to enter the Church, we knew what Catholics were supposed to believe but we couldnt find any Catholics who actually lived the teaching on contraception.
As teachers with the Couple to Couple League, which promotes NFP, John and Penny are seeing more and more couples open to the gift of life, she says. I tell them that, in the Nicene Creed, we call the Holy Spirit Lord and Giver of Life. If we take that title seriously, we cannot shut the Holy Spirit out of our marriages.
John says he tells couples who are not particularly religious that contraception is disrespectful to your wifes body. You expect a woman to take these hormones that make her body think shes pregnant just so she can be available to you sexually all the time. And it goes the other way too. Your wife expects you to put on a special device. Thats not very respectful of the man, either.
Love means giving your whole self to your spouse, adds Penny. And thats the great gift of NFP.
NFP saved my marriage. There's just so much more to it than "abstain during fertile days". I wish every couple would take classes and see what is available to them! I'm glad we found it when we did. :o)
One More Soul (A Non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the truth about the blessings of children and the harms of contraception..)
NFP is so great. It just makes you rather wow-ed about your own body --- and your spouses body ---- and the great way you-know-Who designed this whole sex project. I mean WOW!
I have tried to see the difference, spiritualy speaking, between NFP and birth control. I am a diehard Catholic and I'm coming up real short about the differences.
For instance........why is the couple who uses NFP any more within the guidelines of Jesus' teaching than the couple who uses birth control. I'm not trying to start any wars here or trying to interject my own beliefs, etc. I am having real difficulty seeing the difference. A couple practicing birth control is trying to prevent a pregnancy as is a couple using NFP......someone please clarify. Again, I'm not trying to place a wedge, I'm just really trying to intellectually and spiritually seek some clarification. At best, I believe the difference in the two birth control methods to be nominal.
If God gave you a birth control device as part of your anatomy, there would be no difference.
The God-given method of birth control is knowledge of fertility cycles and abstinence. If you use these, you use your body as intended. If you divert, block, or render infertile the sperm, you pervert the sexual act to exclude
(1) God, who is a partner in the procreative aspect of the marital act;
(2) Your spouse, who is no longer fully engaged in the unitive aspect of the marital act.
Dearest and I talk about this a lot. We just had our first interview with my local church. The deacon was very delighted to hear we intend to follow church teaching on this.
I understand your difficulty. I admit that intellectually, it's tough for me to see the difference. I accept on faith.
However, you ask:
"A couple practicing birth control is trying to prevent a pregnancy as is a couple using NFP......someone please clarify."
Here's a helpful analogy. A dieter is someone who is trying to lose weight. So is a bulimic. One does so by abstaining from overeating, the other by eating all he cares to eat, and then purging.
Both are aiming toward the same goal, but one METHOD is legitimate, and one METHOD is not.
Hope that helps.
Good for you and Dearest. The use of NFP to avoid pregnancy can be a struggle, but compared to the alternatives ... egad! Besides, starting a family at your stage of life, I'd think "avoidance" is the last thing on your mind :-). There is nothing more enjoyable than a Personal Relationship during your ovulation. The Urge to Merge is an unfailing indicator of fertility, at least in my experience - I even note it on my NFP charts, when I'm bothering to chart! Gosh, what was God thinking?
Getting one of these so I can get used to it. I find that I'm getting more in tune with my body. I also know that eating no meat shortens my *moon time*. If the urge to merge indicates fertility then I'm very fertile :O)
This is an excellent question and one that many other catholics wrestle with. No need to don the asbestos suit :-). Perhaps the following can provide you with a clear and concise response.
"Apart from the issue of side-effects, which is decisive in itself, one must recognize the difference between an end and a means. Most of morality, in fact, is concerned not about ends but about means. The end, moral as it may be in itself, does not justify the employment of an immoral means. Having a child is a good end, but surely achieving that end by means of kidnapping is morally distinguishable from becoming a parent by means of loving union with ones spouse. Money may be a desirable end, but obtaining it through theft, blackmail, or extortion, as opposed to earning it justly, is the difference between immorality and morality. Virtually everyone in the history of moral philosophy recognizes the validity of this distinction. Contraception violates the order established in nature by God between intercourse and procreation."
Contraception and Catholic Teaching
Really? Maybe I should try that, eventually. (6 more months of pregnancy, plus 9-10 months after, before I need to worry about it.)
Do you have "Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition" by Marilyn Shannon? Very good information there.
All life is sacred.
Thanks for the response! On one level I understand all the spiritual references to which to you responded. But I'd rather go to practical application to see if you can somehow hit a nerve with me and my spiritual blockage on this subject. So let me pose this practical situation upon two couples.........Couple "A" practices NFP from the beginning of their marriage to the end of their fertile lives never having conceived, never having bore a child but having followed the letter of the law of the Catholic Faith to a "T." Couple "B" practices interrupted coitus during every single love making act. During the course of their lives they have 4 mistakes and bring each of these pregnancies to full term and birth. They raise the children happily ever after and those children go on to give them grandchildren. Which couple has done God's work?
Oh yes and also very pain free. There are others good stuff but I don't want to gross out the freeper men ;-)
Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition is on my wish list now.
**If you divert, block, or render infertile the sperm, you pervert the sexual act to exclude
(1) God, who is a partner in the procreative aspect of the marital act;
(2) Your spouse, who is no longer fully engaged in the unitive aspect of the marital act.**
Thanks, although I read it first from Brian.
Jesus said, "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder." In context, of course, He was talking about divorce. However, the idea is equally applicable to contraception. God "joined together" sex and conception. For man to separate them, either by having sex while intentionally preventing conception, or by conceiving children outside the natural process, is a violation of God's design for humanity.
In contrast, the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy does not separate sex and conception. It simply avoids both, for a particular time. However, it's important to remember that the Church says that abstinence may be used to avoid conception only for "grave reasons" or "serious motives." Obviously, this is a very subjective question, but it's one that every couple is required to consider with real generosity. None of us can judge what is "serious" for another couple, but we can be sure that God is calling all of toward a conscientous openness to life, and not merely an objective acceptance of conception "if we have a surprise."
It could be that your "Couple A" has a serious medical reason for avoiding pregnancy. Or perhaps they have a disastrous marriage, but decide not to divorce due to their belief in the sanctity of their vows, in spite of the outcome. It is possible that their motives for avoiding pregnancy are within what the Church would consider "serious reasons." (Have you read "Humanae Vitae"? That would help a lot!)
Your Couple B is practicing sin, irrespective of the outcome. The seriousness of their sin depends on their level of knowledge and the nature of the relationship; as you know, mortal sin requires "Grave matter," which this is, but also "Full knowledge," and "Full consent of the will." From a personal standpoint (pardon my psychological baggage) I would not let a man use me as a toilet year after year, without being open to having children. He could have affairs, he could file for divorce, he could climb Mount Everest, but I simply wouldn't stand for it.
Both couples perverted their marriages differently. Couple A is deliberately childless. This is against the Church's teaching even if they used NFP. The Church only allows NFP for the purposes of pregancy prevention if prudent consideration exists to avoid a pregnancy at that particular time. For example, it is OK to prevent a pregnancy when probability of a birth defect is high, or there are grave health risks due to the age of the couple, or the couple truly cannot afford the child. It is also OK to delay a pregnancy for health or economic reason. It is not OK to prevent a pregnancy for frivolous reasons such as lack of affection for children or desire to maintain two careers, regardless of the method.
Couple B resisted the purpose of their marriage by denying themselves the gifts of unitive and procreative intercourse. Despite God's steering them in the right direction with the unintended pregnancies, they refuse to hear His command, They insult their children by referring to them as mistakes (whether or not they use the word themselves, their life objectively treats children as mistakes of contraception). The happy outcome of four children does not accrue to their merit because they resisted God's procreative work in them.
You might also want to invest $2 or so in Marilyn's "Managing Morning Sickness" brochure, just in case!
Before I go on I want to you undestand I am NOT trying to pick a fight. I'm just a person struggling mightily with this teaching. Allright then......
"In contrast, the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy does not separate sex and conception. It simply avoids both, for a particular time."
That is untrue! NFP allows couples to engage on a very calculating method....the pleasure of love-making WITHOUT the probability of conception. Yes, I know there is a time where there is a cease and desist. But there is also a time where the pleasure of love-making is engaged WITHOUT the chance of conception. And it is here that I struggle mightily with the Catholic teaching. There are couples who engage in sex while practicing birth-control and become pregnant and go on to have their children accordingly. NFP'ers brag about the effectiveness of their method. Think about that for a moment.....NFP practitioners brag about the effectiveness of their method over and above the "other" forbidden methods. They are essentially bragging about the ability to NOT BRING LIFE INTO THE WORLD!
It could be that your "Couple A" has a serious medical reason for avoiding pregnancy. Or perhaps they have a disastrous marriage, but decide not to divorce due to their belief in the sanctity of their vows, in spite of the outcome. It is possible that their motives for avoiding pregnancy are within what the Church would consider "serious reasons." (Have you read "Humanae Vitae"? That would help a lot!)"
What if that couple just wanted to be in line with the Catholic teaching....Nothing more!
"For example, it is OK to prevent a pregnancy when probability of a birth defect is high, or there are grave health risks due to the age of the couple, or the couple truly cannot afford the child."
So then.......the difference is INTENT and NOT the method by which the intent is applied. If that's the case......a couple nearing the age of infertility is not in grave danger if they had a vasectomy, right?
So does this mean that to be a good Catholic ya gotta have a dozen or so kids wether or not you can afford to care for them properly?
So? The Church does not forbid enjoyng sex within marriage when the chance of pregnancy is ordinarily nil. The Church does not forbid from exercising prudent judgement and even praise such effective judgement. What it does forbid is
(1) any gesture of disrespect or exclusion of God, especially in matter where God plays a pivotal role;
(2) any violation of the commandment to be fruitful over the course of marital life, -- that is, it forbids deliberate childnessness.
It is not in line with Catholic teaching to avoid conception without a serious reason. Have you read the Catechism? Have you read "Human Vitae"? It is not "Catholic teaching" to use natural methods to avoid conception universally.
If they wanted to be "in line with Catholic teaching" straight up, they would view the primary end of their marriage as the procreation and education of children, and would therefore have as many children as naturally resulted during the marriage. The use of NFP to avoid pregnancy is AN EXCEPTION to the generalization that children are an unmerited gift from God, for which we should long, which we should accept without reservation.
Between NFP and artificial means, it doesn't have to do with intention, but rather it has to do with the inherent nature of the METHOD.
That's why the analogy of the dieter versus the bulimic.
It's tough to fault the dieter for trying to shed a few pounds by eating a little less.
Nonetheless, that we accept the worthiness of dieting does not mean we must accept the worthiness of bulimia.
As for folks who use NFP to NEVER have children, well, we'd call a dieter who diets to extreme excess an anorexic, which is also a disordered state. The INTENTION is also important, and for the anorexic, the intention has gone beyond what is healthy.
Intention is important, but using means that are not intrinsically evil is equally important.
I could split the hairs again in your post to me. I am not going there anymore. I will just remain utterly confused on this one teaching of the Catholic Church.
As I said in my opening post, I think the spiritual difference between NFPer's and those practicing artificial birth control are very, very minute. The bottom line for me, they both are INTENT on preventing a pregnancy/bringing life into the world at a particular time in their lives. The method by which they accomplish this is, at least to me, simply splitting hairs.
The difference is both intent and the method. The use of NFP to avoid pregancy is invalid if the intent is invalid, namely if the intent is, for example, to have two uninterrupted careers.
The use of contraception is invalid method even when the intent, as with an older couple, is valid.
Vasectomy, on top of everything else, is self-mutilation, which is an additional sin.
This moral teaching about intent and method should not surprise anyone, as we are familiar with it in other areas of life. For example, we don't steal money (improper method of getting rich) even though the intent might be proper, to pay for the college. Nor do we display wealth in order to impress the neighbor (improper intent) even though the method of making that money, engaging in honest commerce, is proper.
If you think that's true, then you've never tried to figure the conception date of a child, and ended up saying "Dang it - there's no way ... but here it is anyway!" There is *always* a possibility of conception if a couple is (a) not infertile for some medical reason, and (b) not deliberately preventing conception through barriers, chemicals, etc.
View my profile page, and note my Sally (the guileless blonde, holding flowers, sitting with her grandfather.) There is *always* a possibility of conception.
Well, God didn't give us pacemakers as part of our anatomy, is that also sinful and a perversion of the God-given heartbeat? For that matter, he also didn't give us stomach feeding tubes, so is it sinful to insert one into a person's belly?
The difference is roughly, between coming to church to pray and coming to church, turning your back to the altar, plugging in earphones and listening to Smashing Pumpkins. The intent in both cases is to be in church...
A heart attack is a bad thing. Starvation is a bad thing. Avoiding those outcomes (by any moral means) is good. A child is a good thing. Avoiding that outcome, even by morally-acceptable means, requires a strong reason.
"There is *always* a possibility of conception."
Yes, we are on the same page! As a matter of fact, pregnancy is much more likely in artificial birth control then it is with NFP. As I've said, those that teach NFP assert the effectiveness of preventing pregnancy using said method.
The difference is that in order to heal an illness, to use an artificial device is ethical. If your intent is to defeat the healthy operation of your body, you cannot use anything that is not inherent to that very operation.
Is it too abstract? Your body is made to procreate, and the female body is made to be periodically infertile, and is has a brain to count days, take temperature, etc. It is OK to follow the way God designed the body toward an otherwise moral goal.
"The difference is roughly, between coming to church to pray and coming to church, turning your back to the altar, plugging in earphones and listening to Smashing Pumpkins. The intent in both cases is to be in church..."
Thanks for your imput. But that is simply Hyperbole! Please read my posts more thoroughly.
I need to leave. Will check back later.
Well, prolife conservative, this is a good honest question. For me, it was like one of those optical illusion pictures where all you see is squiggly lines and then after you stare at it for about 5 minutes, you see the letters
"J-E-S-U-S" or whatever, and then you're thumping our brow and saying, "Why didn't I see it? It's always been there!" And from that point on, you can't NOT see it, it's so obvious.
I'm sending this link so you can take a look at an article I posted on this:
And I refer you also to Post #6 which has more links.
I gotta get off now because I got some stuff in the oven... but I'll get back on the thread later and try to post some things that might be helpful.
I think that's a very unfortunate direction to be taking, and the director of the Couple-to-Couple League has recently addressed this question. The teaching of NFP has been driven by the fact that the majority of Catholic married couples do use artificial birth control, do drastically limit the number of their children. The majority of engaged couples plan to do the same. The thinking is that if NFP instruction takes the position of "same result, morally-approved (and healthier) means," eventually couples will come to see the blessing of an abundant family.
This has been my personal experience. My husband and I started using NFP for practical reasons (insurance didn't cover birth control pills), and over time came to see (numerous) children as the ultimate reward of our marriage.
As the article mentioned, and earlier comments emphasized, a big problem is that many, many couples come to marriage with absolutely no Catholic or Biblical foundation. Their beliefs, practices, and expectations are strictly a function of the culture. This formation should start at Baptism, but it isn't ... starting with NFP as "birth control" is at least starting *somewhere*!
Good points. Though my interpretation of a 'strong reason' is probably different, since I would include the couple's intent. Parenting is our biggest responsibility, and IMHO not to be entered into lightly or unprepared, if possible, though obviously sometimes unexpected blessings do occur. Of course once the child is on the way previous intent gets thrown out the window, because then the only option is to provide the best care possible. But for those not yet pregnant, who would prefer to wait so as to reach a point where they can afford a child(s), I would consider waiting to likely be in the future child's best interest. Love can overcome a lot, but given a choice why bring a child into a very difficult situation, if they can wait a few years and avoid that?
Ultimately it comes down to how we each intepret scripture.
BTW, you have some really cute kids. Congratulations!
"The use of NFP to avoid pregancy is invalid if the intent is invalid, namely if the intent is, for example, to have two uninterrupted careers."
What if the intent is to space the children? Is that valid? What if there are only two bedrooms in the house and the couple is going on the fourth child? Is that valid? What if the husband is expecting a decrease in pay? Is that valid? What if the wife is having trouble raising so many children, she finds the task daunting? Is that valid? What if the couple is in the middle of a move to another city soon? Is that valid? I'm not trying to be cute, I'm really not. I just have a problem, to a very large degree, with Letter of the law Catholics, and the NFP issue brings it to the fore more than any other Catholic issue I can think of. It is the splitting of hairs and that's where our discussion has gone here. No one, as much as they have tried, has put my questions to bed in a very practical and reasonable content which would squash all my doubts. I have studied this NFP issue intensively and it's the practical application that just gives me fits. I know I'm supposed to buy into NFP as a good Catholic and to fortify my faith with it's practice. But on an intellectual basis I am not getting it. I understand "Do NOT KILL." , "Do Not steal" and the other 99.99% of our simple and strighforward Roman Catholic Faith." I understand it's moral applications, the intent, the consequences, etc. It all makes sense. However, this one issue still confounds me to no end. Maybe one day the proverbial light bulb will illuminate in my soul.
Now do your homework. There's plenty of information posted to this thread by other freepers.
Thank you ... they are cute! I didn't realize until the 3rd or 4th one how absolutely insane I was about babies ... and I like them even when they're older. The intellectual companionship of my 14-year-old more than outweighs the teenage hormonal whoop-de-do! She is simply an exciting person - like my own youth, only much better.
The Church says that "strong reasons" are up to the discernment of the couple. It's not for me to judge another couple's motivation, or them to judge me. My husband and I did not think that his being unemployed, with six children, was sufficient reason to avoid another. We had a miscarriage, and then I was expecting again, before he found a new position. We simply trusted in God's provision, and found that it carried us. However, I would never say that another couple in the same situation was morally obligated to do the same! We might look at things differently, ourselves, if a similar situation arose in the future.
Only the people "on the ground" can evaluate their reasons for abstinence to avoid pregnancy ... but from a Biblical standpoint, they should evaluate with the heart of Christ, who said, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my Name, welcomes Me."