The Moral Difference
Some people ask, “If natural fertility methods are so effective, what is the moral difference between them and contraception? After all, the result might be the same – pregnancy is avoided.”
As in any moral decision, couples need to consider not just the ‘end’, but also the ‘means’ by which that end is achieved. For some methods of contraception including some forms of the ‘pill’ and IUDs, the end can often directly involve the destruction of a human life through the disruption of implantation. With respect to some other forms of contraception (e.g. condoms), although the intended outcome of avoiding pregnancy (the end) might be the same as for natural fertility methods, there is an important difference in the means.
Couples who use a natural fertility method do not in any way alter their fertility, but accept it in its natural rhythms. These couples do not make a conscious choice against their fertility when they choose to use the naturally infertile phases for intercourse, because these acts of love are infertile by God’s design. The sacred meaning of sexual intercourse as a total gift of self is preserved; they can freely and wholeheartedly enter into sexual intercourse at these infertile times knowing that they hold nothing back from each other and accept each other fully.
On the other hand, when a couple chooses contraception to avoid a pregnancy, their potential as a couple to fully express their total self-giving is impeded. By intentionally excluding their fertility from their lovemaking, even by mutual agreement and for seemingly good reasons, they withhold a vital part of themselves and thus undermine the sacred meaning of their specific exchange.
The Church is not indifferent to the difficulties many couples face in attempting to live out this vision. It draws close to couples in difficulty, and calls them to find a solution to their challenges through a full respect for the truth of their love.3
The Language of Love
Natural fertility methods promote an attitude of shared responsibility for your fertility management and family planning decisions. The process of learning about your fertility and how to apply your knowledge will provide an opportunity for you as a couple to grow in your mutual appreciation of each other and your sexuality.
Sexual intercourse is not just a celebration of the intimacy and love between a husband and wife; it is also a means to create it. The sacred language of sexual intercourse, allows you, as husband and wife, to use your entire body to say: “I share myself with you totally, and I accept you unconditionally in all your masculine/feminine uniqueness”. By using a natural method, you can confidently plan your family without compromising the sacred meaning of sexual intercourse – you can avoid any notion of rejection and make each and every act of love one of total self-giving and unconditional acceptance.
3. Pope John Paul II, Letter to the Centre for Natural Fertility Regulation, 1998.