Contraception Hurts Marriages, U.S. Bishops Say


GLENVIEW, IL (January 27, 2010) – Four challenges to marriage were addressed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in a pastoral letter last November, and the one given the most attention was contraception.

In the letter, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” the bishops based their teaching on birth control on Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (on Human Life), which states that the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage must not be separated, as they are in contraception.

The letter also discusses Natural family planning (NFP), which can be used both to achieve and to postpone a pregnancy:

“NFP makes use of periodic abstinence from sexual intercourse based upon the observation of the woman’s natural signs of fertility, in order to space births or to limit the number of children when there is a serious reason to do so. NFP methods require that couples learn, accept, and live with the wonders of how God made them. This is essentially different from contraception.

“Openness to procreation in the marital act involves acknowledg[ing] that one is not the master of the sources of life. Using the technology of contraception is an attempt at such mastery. By contrast, couples using methods of NFP do nothing to alter the conjugal act. Rather, they abstain from conjugal relations during the portion of the woman‘s menstrual cycle when conception is most likely. This practice fosters in couples an attitude of respect and wonder in the face of human life, which is sacred. It also fosters profound respect for one’s spouse, which is necessary for the mutual enjoyment of authentic intimacy.”

The four challenges to marriage today, the bishops said, are: contraception, same-sex unions, divorce, and cohabitation.

Concerning marriage and children, the bishops said,”There is a loss of belief in the value of those purposes when couples readily treat, as separate choices, the decisions to get married and to have children. This indicates a mentality in which children are seen not as integral to a marriage but as optional. When children are viewed in this way, there can be damaging consequences not only for them but also for the marriage itself.”

In the January/February issue of the Couple to Couple League’s (CCL) Family Foundations, CCL Executive Director Michael Manhart commented on the bishops’ letter and said that all of us are called to communion according to our vocation in life. “[T]his is a longing burning into our souls, but many have mistakenly bought into the false promises of contraception and the short-sighted idea that private relationships have no consequences beyond the two persons involved.”

Classes in the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning are offered by the Couple to Couple League to married and engaged couples, and can be taken at 15 locations in the Archdiocese of Chicago, IL and surrounding area, including southeast Milwaukee and northwest Indiana. A homestudy course is also available at CCL Central, at

The next series of classes in northeast Illinois will begin Fri., Jan. 29, 2010 at 7:30 pm at Holy Family Hospital in Des Plaines. To register, and for a list of classes throughout the U.S., go to CCL Central For information about the Chicago CCL chapter, go to