Birth control and Catholic

erinb007November 21, 2005

Hello, I am posting a question for my sister who is having trouble in her 7 year marriage. My BIL is an amazing guy (they are 30 and 29 and have been married for 7 years, one 2.5 year old child) who was raised DEVOUT Catholic. He almost became a priest. He has always been very spritual and attended mass regularly, but recently has decided he wants to "take his religion to the next level". Primarily, the thing that he would like to change is their use of birth control. He feels strongly that using any b.c. is against the catholic belief system, and needless to say, this is effecting their marriage and sex life. My sister loves him dearly and is trying to be understanding, at the same time feels dupped...she didn't sign up for this and feels like he is being too strict on his beliefs. He is very distraught and is very open to talking to her, they saw one counselor who suggested they find someone else more knowledgeable with their religious beliefs...I am stumped. I would not like it AT ALL if my husband (I am single, by the way) changed something so important in our life.



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Well it is possible for your sister to avoid pregnancy by becoming very in tune with her body, but unfortunately the onus would fall only upon her. She would have to carefully monitor her ovulation, and I realize she is already very upset with her husband's sudden change of heart. However, if she is willing, I believe there are kits that can verify when you are ovulating. Perhaps she could convince her hubby to continue using birth control for a few months while she is also using one of these kits that predict ovulation, to ascertain if she notices a difinitive result for the few days a month mid cycle, than for the rest of the time. If she can establish the few days a month she is fertile, and hubby is willing to forgo relations during and 2 to 3 days before and after her ovulation, for extra measure, they will hopefully be able to avoid a surprise pregnancy. Or am I misunderstanding, is her hubby implying he wants to continue things as usual and have as many children as happen naturally? That's a whole different ball game.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2005 at 4:58PM
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It depends on what the real reason is your BIL wants to change things, and even he may not know that. Does he want to have more kids? If so, why? Because he thinks God wants that? And he is afraid of God being mad? Does he not want to have as much s*x with his wife, and knows that the rhythm method might entail that? Does he not like their current method of birth control and thinks this is the only way to change it; by foregoing it all? They need to get to the subconscious reasons he wants change.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2005 at 10:12PM
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"He feels strongly that using any b.c. is against the catholic belief system" - Even the rhythm method is a form of birth control. While in college I took a class in Human Sexual Biology. One of the questions asked was - what do you call a couple who uses the rhythm method? - The answer - Parents.

I find it fascinating that any means of chemical or barrier birth control is considered wrong, but the rhythm method is considered okay. If it prevents conception (and we're not talking post-conception methods here), I fail to see how it could possibly matter how it is done. To have no effective means of birth control is to accept the fact that any sexual relations will result in a child. If you're not willing to have another child, then you need to refrain from having the relations. Which is not what marriage is supposed to be about. Intimacy is supposed to be one (and only one) of the cornerstones of a good marriage.

Erin, I agree with you. This is not a decision made by one but must be agreed upon by both. And if it cannot be agreed upon by both, I would, unfortunately, label this as a deal-breaker. Bringing more children into a relationship where they are not wanted is far more sinful than using birth control, in my opinion.

If I were her, I would not engage in sexual relations with him unless they use an effective means of birth control. His attitude actually seems selfish to me. And just so you know, I'm a guy.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 8:50AM
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Hmm, good points...and sadly, I think he does struggle with even feeling like the rhythm method is ok, as devout catholics (he didn't say this but I found some research) think that is "sinful" too, as the only reason you should be having sex is to have kids...something about taking the matter out of God's hands if you are trying to plan it out.I don't know. I am stumped. He has always had a lower sex drive (per my sister) than most, and I know he loves her dearly...I also know how strongly he feels about his religious beliefs. Since I am not religious at all, it's hard for me to relate. Yes, I think it seems selfish. Also, their only child has special needs, so my sister doesn't have the energy for another child right now. I think this whole mess has really zapped her sex drive too. Any catholics out there who can help me understand this?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 4:22PM
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While I agree that both parties need to agree on this issue, I think your sister's wishes should carry more weight. Women bear all the physical discomforts and risks of a pregnancy, and usually do more of the child care.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 9:16PM
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This guy really needs to have something pointed out to him. He got married and made vows to his wife to always be faithful to her; there is more to that than just avoiding adultry. He also needs to respect her opinions on those matters that affect both of them. It does not mean he needs to agree, but he must respect.

I don't see this as a whole lot different than if my wife were to tell me that she had made the decision that her widower mother was going to be moving in with us. Or to say that she took on a new job and we were moving to a different city. These are both things that require joint agreement. Birth control needs to fall into this category as well.

I get concerned when someone wants to take a turn in their life when it comes to religion. Not that it is a bad thing, but what is driving the change? thecitychicken has a valid point - what are the reasons?

And as for finding a different counselor who is "more knowledgeable with their religious beliefs" - I think it sounds more like they just need a counselor who can figure things out. That one was obviously worthless.

NedraW states that she feels that the woman should have the most say in this issue. I'm not sure I agree with that. I feel that decisions of this type should be made equally. And if one person does not want children, whether it be him or her, then they don't happen. Bringing a child into the world is a serious matter that requires the agreement of both parties. If both parties are not willing to take on the challenge, it just shouldn't happen.

They can both lobby for their preference, but nothing should change in their habits until they reach an agreement. They should both be mature enough to at least accomplish that. If not, she should refuse to engage, as it may result in another child.

If he really wants to take his religion to the next level, and believes the sex is only for procreation, and his wife wants no more children, then I guess he should be told his sex life is over until his wife goes through menopause. Then again, if sex is only for procreation, there will be no sex after menopause either, I guess. If he appears to be distraught now, wait until he finds out that sex is no longer an option. Of course, realistically, that will probably be the end of the marriage.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 8:29AM
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I was raised Catholic in a family with 6 children. To this day, we swear my parents only had sex 6 times, LOL!
I no longer attend a Catholic church, but I understand the feelings your BIL has.

Before he makes any changes, he needs to pray about it and study scripture. What matters is what God's word says, not the Vatican. From my understanding, God values their marriage first and foremost, not the size of their family. In fact, I think God would be very disturbed if your BIL forced his wife to do something she was reluctant to do. Should this conflict lead to a divorce, it would grieve God terribly.

There is no clear statement in scripture that birth control is a sin, just that children are a blessing. Someone can correct me if I am wrong on this. However, you don't change the rules in the middle of the marriage. If he has the faith he says he does, he will pray constantly for his wife and him to be of one mind. God will make the changes, not your BIL.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 10:03AM
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As a Catholic, God's word is interpreted by the Vatican. Sex is for procreation. If you don't want children, you don't have sex. Divorce is not recognized by the Catholic church. It has to be annulled. Perhaps the BIL changed the rules already, by allowing birth control. Now, he wants to go back to the teachings of the church. Which is no birth control. Only a counselor that is also a devout Catholic, can help the sister understand why he feels as he does. Perhaps they need to go see the Father of their church.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 12:50PM
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Poor sister. Sounds like she is in for a lifestyle change that she had not planned on.

The extra children will mean that her life will go down an entirely different path. Is this something she can accept?

Understanding how husband feels is fine - or not - doesn't matter;

What is important here is can she accept and be happy with this choice of lifestyle? If so then that is wonderful - be happy for her.

If not then she has some she has some serious issues to contend with. Husband is not going to change his beliefs and desires - ever. A persons 'deep down' religious convictions cannot be changed if they have total faith.

She has to decide if her convictions are the same as his.

She should not fall into the trap of " I don't feel the same way so therefore I am a bad person ". We all have the right to practice our beliefs the way we see fit and be judged by only One.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 9:37AM
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when ever he wants a little action, she could always tell him to take a cold shower and talk to his god about it. after a couple months of that, he might change his beliefs.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:10AM
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"Only a counselor that is also a devout Catholic, can help the sister understand why he feels as he does. " My concern with this is that it will probably result in her feeling even more pressured to take on his lifestyle, which he thrust upon her in the middle of the game.

It's a shame when something so intimate and fulfilling can drive two people apart. It is also a shame when someone actually believes that sex is only for procreation and only engages when they want a child. I can't imagine having the feeling of 'oh, I hope it works this time so we don't have to keep doing it.'

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 8:10AM
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First, I'm Roman Catholic, and since you asked it sounds like your BIL has decided to use his "faith" to control your sister anyway he can.More Children or unprotected sex is not a Roman Catholic requirement.He's conning her

Why not suggest his next level of being Catholic be spending 10 hours a week workiing with the elderly, disabled, the poor or the addicted,instead of abusing his marriage. OR he could become a lay ministers or a Eurcharistic minister.
These are activie things he can do to serve his faith.

Upending his marriage is not a Roman Catholic thing to do.

ITs helping others that Jesus called for...

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 11:29AM
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My thoughts: if my husband suddenly decided that he either 1) wanted children or 2) wanted only unprotected sex, I would leave him. I love him dearly, and that situation is not at all likely, but that's a deal-breaker. I could never enjoy sex wondering if there was going to be a baby on the way. And I couldn't enjoy the marriage without sex. And I couldn't enjoy life with a baby.

There is no way to resolve this issue, in my opinion. One person wants kids (or doesn't want to take action to prevent more kids, which is the same thing in my book) and the other doesn't. There is no middle ground; you can't have half a child or a part-time child. Your sister and BIL have a lot of soul-searching to do. Someone is not going to be happy- no way around it. Whether or not they can stay married is very personal and I can't advise them either way. I know what I would do.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 11:16AM
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Are you close enough to where your sister lives to know her parish priest? Many priest have differing views on BC. In fact, some even endorse the use of "the pill" to the benifit of the marriage.

Can you have a talk on her behalf? If successful, then the priest could talk to BIL and get him on the same page. Conversely, perhaps a marriage encounter sessiohn would be helpful. The point of such retreats is to listen to each other in a spiritful manner.

I am Catholic, I have also had my tubes tied, because having more children would have endangered my life and the life of any unborn child. Expanding on this thought, I have had many friends who are very devout, and some friends who had taken holy orders -- tell me that the welfare of the existing family (children) was of equal concern to that of any future children. No matter what you hear in the sound bites from the news or press releases about what Roman Catholics believe, it is not a clearly black and white viewpoint.

If he continues to push, Catholic Charities has counselors available.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 8:44PM
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I have a catholic question. If someone was married and they divorced and the catholic church annulled the marriage, (they had no children) then if they were asked if they have ever been married, would the answer be yes, or no?
If they answered no (because the church annulled the marriage) is that the truth? Does an annullment mean that in the eyes of the church, the marriage never happened, or that they do not recognize the marriage any longer?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 1:25PM
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I'm not a Catholic, and I don't pretend to know Catholic doctrine nor do I presume to comment upon it.

I'm just joining in because something the original poster said in her later post caught my attention:

"He has always had a lower sex drive (per my sister) than most..."

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and suggest another possibility no one has mentioned. I'm guessing this guy is, consciously or unconsciously, trying to avoid having sex. It doesn't matter why -- low sex drive, guilt because he feels it's sinful, whatever. But I think there is a lot of pressure on men in our society to want and have sex as much as possible. It's not easy for them to admit that they just don't want it very often (or at all). But there are a lot of guys out there like that. If he is one of them, then this is a good way to avoid much or all sex without facing anything about himself: "It's not what I want, it's what the Church commands."
Just a thought.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 4:32PM
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bnicebkind - great question. I think, however, the answer is that from a legal standpoint, the answer would be 'yes', you were previously married. After all, it was a matter of public record, assuming you applied for and received a marriage license.

I do find it interesting that the church can annul a marriage, especially one that has resulted in children. And I have seen it happen. Many priests will not perform a marriage ceremony for someone who has been divorced. The catholic church does not want to believe in divorce, so it chooses to annul marriages, usually with a hefty contribution to the church (once again, I have seen it happen). By annulling the marriage, they allow you to get married again in the church. To me, it appears that an annullment in the catholic church is kind of a 'cleansing' step, so to speak, to allow a second marriage. But I don't think that I could ever, in good conscience, say that I was never married just because an annullment had taken place.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 8:34AM
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Susan-good to know about the Pill...I had no idea that some priests approve of it. Great point gellchom...I have wondered the same thing. Also, he had some sexual abuse from a brother when he was 7, he claims he is over that, but I don't see how! It all has to factor together, don't you think????

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 2:33PM
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I had a slightly different thought than gellchom - I wondered if he had gay tendencies.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 12:03PM
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As a lifelong Catholic who has actualy studied church teachings, I can tell you that the church does NOT view sex as only for procreation. Anyone who says that (including a priest) is just plain wrong. Sex is considered to have both unitive (unity of the spouses) and procreative purposes.

The idea of the "rhythm" method is outdated. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the method currently used.

While I don't agree with everything the church teaches (and this is one of those areas), the only way to deal with this is for both parties to respect one another and arrive at a solution together, perhaps with a pastor and with a marriage counselor to help them.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 4:26PM
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erin, I bet the abuse plays a huge part of what's going on. It sounds to me like he is hiding behind his religion to avoid the true feelings he has about sex. I also don't think anyone really "gets over" that kind of abuse. Maybe you learn to live with it and accept it, but I believe it is still always there with you, just like anything that ever happens to any of us.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 6:17PM
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"Does an annullment mean that in the eyes of the church, the marriage never happened, or that they do not recognize the marriage any longer?"

I have had an an annulment. It does not mean that my marriage never happened. Of course it happened. What an annulment does is to show that the marriage was never truly a marriage in the eyes of the church. You have to have a very good reason for getting an annulment. Not everyone is granted one. The "marriage" has to meet certain "requirements" to be brought up to the Tribunal for annulment. The annulment proves that a true marriage never existed. It is not an easy process.

"To me, it appears that an annulment in the catholic church is kind of a 'cleansing' step, so to speak, to allow a second marriage."
Like my comment above: The annulment only proves that the marriage was null in the eyes of the church. Not eveyone who applies for one will get one. It's not like a divorce. It adheres to strict rules and regulations and one must have a good reason for applying for one.

Here is a link if you are interested in finding out more

Here is a link that might be useful: annulment

    Bookmark   January 9, 2006 at 12:14PM
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