My wife and I have four children. Having that many children (is four really a lot?) and being Catholic usually gives people a good laugh. They automatically assume that our Catholicism is the reason why my wife and I have so many children. Well, that is only partly wrong. Being Catholic, we do not believe in artificial contraceptives. We do, however, believe in NFP. Contrary to what many believe, Catholics do not believe in having children indiscriminately. Responsible family planning is a moral obligation. Pope Francis recently made this point.
During the course of his pontificate, I have personally defended Pope Francis. In fact, one fairly well-known Catholic known on Twitter as @catholiclisa blocked us for defending Pope Francis. The problem has been that Pope Francis has made what many believe to be some poorly worded statements. It must be admitted that, at times, Pope Francis has been a little too vague, or a little too generalized. That might explain people’s shock when Pope Francis explicitly condemned both homosexuality and the use of artificial contraceptives. It seems a large number of people were under the assumption that Pope Francis was a heretic. One would think that 2000 years of spreading, expounding, and defending the truth would teach people that there will never be a heretical pope.
Yet, true to the Church’s history, Pope Francis encourages us to seek balance. I do not believe Pope Francis’ words were the best way to express this balanced view, but the Pope made a good point. Francis said that Catholic couples do not need to feel as if they must breed “like rabbits”. Even too many Catholics live under the wrong impression that the Church expects us to have as many children as we can. This, of course, is not the case. The Church understands that there is a certain amount of responsibility married couples must have as it pertains to procreation.
Though procreation is the primary purpose of marriage it must be done responsibly. There are financial concerns that must play a part. There may also be health concerns for the mother. It may be necessary to limit the number of children a woman may have, or to space them out. Married couples must trust that God knows what He is doing, and will not give them more children than they can handle. Yet, God also gave married couples a way to enjoy the conjugal act without having to become pregnant every time. We may make use of these natural methods, but this must be done responsibly.
This is what Pope Francis meant. He had previously said that Pope Bl. Paul VI was correct to condemn the use of artificial contraceptives. We must not use them. Yet, we must not bear children that we can not care for responsibly. Hopefully, Pope Francis’ recent comments will not clear up any doubts of his fidelity to Catholic Teaching, but encourage all mankind to abandon the sinful, unscriptural practice of artificial contraceptives.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity