Question 15


Dear Fr. Matthew @ the Abbey,

If a couple wants to avoid children, why must there be a serious reason for doing so? 
Thank you, Howard. - L.

Dear Howard, We must examine the role of children in a marriage. What is God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family? All of these dimensions of human life are so important that we must look to our Creator, and the Designer of human nature, for their meaning and basic structure. This implies that we are not to simply reconstruct and redesign them according to contemporary trends and personal whims. 

Children are an integral part of marriage and the spousal act. Married couples find their completion as parents. With the exception of total infertility, marriage involves a family. The child is God’s greatest gift to a couple. The child enlarges their hearts, increases their capacity to give and receive love, and adds to the richness of their family life. An openness to children is a requirement for a valid marriage ceremony.

God’s plan for spousal love involves making the total gift of one’s self to their spouse. This total gift of self involves one’s fertility, one’s makeup as a bodied person. The Church teaches us, on behalf of Jesus, her founder, that every spousal act must contain these two dimensions: 1) a unitive (love-giving) one, and 2) a procreative (life-giving) one. This does not mean that every spousal act must result in a new pregnancy. But it does mean that every spousal act must remain open to the goodness of our fertility, and to the possibility that God may choose to create a new person, who will live forever. 

Parents are free cooperators with God. They freely make the decisions about the spacing and number of children. But they are to use morally good means to accomplish this end. Natural Family Planning provides us with such a morally good means. And they should have serious (versus trivial) reasons for avoiding more children. What is called for is responsible parenthood: having as many children as they can responsibly care for. God knows how many children He wishes to send into your marriage and family. It is for you and your wife to discover His plan for your family, and then to welcome it. 

I suggest that you read, or re-read, Humanae Vitae. 

Cordially yours, 
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB