Question 10


Dear Fr. Matthew
After sitting nervously in Church for a half hour, I summoned enough courage to enter the confessional and confess to the priest my on-going struggle to completely embrace NFP and to quit using barrier methods of contraception. My husband and I did not enter our marriage with the conviction that contraception is immoral; only after having children and falling in love with my faith have I come to understand this beautiful teaching. My husband is willing to use NFP for now, but I'm afraid he will get a vasectomy if we "accidentally" get pregnant. Anyhow, after discussing this with the priest, he responded: "Oh? Does that really work?" and "Large families are a burden" and "Just pray about it." I left the confessional thinking that the priest was giving me the green light to contracept!!! Now, knowing that the priest is acting in persona Christi, I've been driving myself crazy trying to figure this all out!!! I guess my question is/are: Is it a mortal or venial sin to contracept (I try to refrain from communion if we "slip"), will I go to hell, or is it ok since this priest, acting AS CHRIST, basically said it’s no big deal??? 
Thank you for your time! 

Dear Anonymous,

Believe it or not, there is confusion among some priests on moral issues like contraception and sterilization. The first thing to remember is that we priests do not determine morality, i.e., the rightness or wrongness of contraception and sterilization, or any other moral matter. Only God determines the moral order, and He teaches the moral order through his Church. The Church teaches that contraception and sterilization are seriously wrong, contrary to God's wonderful plan for spousal love. (See Humanae Vitae #11-14.)

We priests are not at liberty to contradict the teachings of the Church or even to pass over it in silence. We priests also must give an accounting to God for how we exercised our priesthood. We were ordained to proclaim God’s plan for human life, spousal love, marriage, and family. The people of God have a right to hear the authentic teachings of the Church from us at the pulpit, in the confessional, and in counseling. They really don’t want to hear our, or someone else’s, opinion on important matters.

I suggest that you:

  1. Be sure to get good and thorough teaching about NFP. You can know exactly where you are in your cycle if you use the method correctly.
  2. Read up more on the issue of contraception and sterilization. Read HUMANAE VITAE. The Couple to Couple League has many good things for you. Their website is See John Kippley's BIRTH CONTROL AND CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP, and his SEX AND THE MARRIAGE COVENANT.
  3. For a good audio tape on these issues, call One More Soul (800 307 7685) for a free copy of Dr. Janet Smith's talk on "Contraception, Why Not?"

You are in my prayers.

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB