I am grateful in discovering your site today. God is good. He quickly answered my prayers for guidance.
I read your letter to Ken, which I found very informative. One thing it is not clear on, is artificial contraception use at mortal sin? I believe it is, but I find the Church weak on listing mortal sins. I have read the Catechism on this and find it vague as well. If it is mortal, is there a prayer or novena to say for those who practice it? Let me explain my concern.
Through the help of intercessory prayers of Mary and the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, I recently embraced the Church's teachings on Birth Control and opened my heart up to new life. As a result, my husband and I have been just blessed by a baby boy.
Today, I was just subjected at my postpartum checkup to a nurse practitioner trying to convince me to use condoms at least while I nursed after informing her I would use NFP. I tried to explain that this choice was for religious reasons, but she continued by stressing the ineffectiveness of NFP while nursing and the health concerns of conceiving within 6 months after a birth. She finally scraped up information on NFP out of a book and made copies for me. I intend to enroll in a class offered by our arch-diocese.
I am not only feeling isolated but anxious for my friends. Last night, I attended a baby shower at my church for another lady. As a sat amidst several other church going ladies, my friends mention their birth control methods which were not NFP. I remember how hard it was for me to change my mind on this issue; therefore, felt incapable of verbally convincing them. I stayed quiet, but I am worried for their salvation. I agree with St. Paul, I'm working on my salvation with fear and trembling. Knowing that to die in a state of mortal sin means hell, how can they repent from a sin that they do not recognize. I feel prayer is my best course. What would you suggest?
My God bless you and your mission.
Thank you for your e-mail with the kind words. I was delighted to hear about you and your husband's decision to embrace the Church's teaching on fecundity in marriage. I pray that God will give your strength and joy as you continue in that path. It can be hard especially given the lack of support you encountered from your health care provider, as well as among your church friends. Did you find a helpful course in your diocese? We are just in the process of setting up something more substantial here in Seattle, involving doctors, priests and marriage couples. Please say a prayer for us.
I've been mulling over your question about whether using artificial contraception is a mortal sin. It is hard to see how an affirmative answer could be avoided. Birth control is an act against the transmission of human life as well as the basic meaning of self-giving in marriage. As such it is "serious matter." However, certain conditions need to be fulfilled. Let me explain.
A sin is a knowing and deliberate violation of God's law. It is clear from the Catechism that birth control is a serious violation of God's law, not just for Catholics but for all people. Still for many it does not seem to be a "knowing" violation. They are surrounded by a culture whose highest authorities (medical professionals, media figures, professors, etc.) not only see nothing wrong with birth control but consider it an exercise of "responsibility."
The question then arises whether you should make your friends aware of what they are doing and thus cause them to incur the guilt of mortal sin. A couple things need to be said. First even if they do not recognize birth control as a sin, let alone a mortal sin, they still will suffer the consequences. God has created us in such a way that when we violate his law, we are affected by it. I might not think there is anything wrong with gluttony, but when I overeat I suffer the consequences, some immediate, others long range. The same is true for birth control. I tried to illustrate that in my article on the Negative Effects of Birth Control and the Postive Benefits of Natural Family Planning.
Second your friends consciences are not completely clouded over. Notice a certain bravado, the indulgent joking about NFP, and above all a shifting of blame. "I am doing this because my doctor (or my husband) wants me to." If you really were to challenge them, you would be met with a put down, a sneer or worse. It takes a lot of prayer to know the moment you can effectively witness to your faith.
It helps that some non-Catholics are embracing fertility awareness. Some have done it from a strictly secular point of view, others because of their commitment to the pro-life movement. Chemical contraceptives (the pill, Depo-provera, Norplant,etc.) are abortifacient. (Even Planned Parenthood acknowledges that one of their mechanisms is to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. see: /norplant2.html ). There is small, but growing recognition that the taproot of the culture of death is birth control.
Anyway, Kim, I do assure you of my prayers. The road you and your husband have embarked on can sometimes be a very lonely one. But it is the narrow path that Jesus spoke of.
Fr. Phil Bloom
P.S. When we talk to others about the moral law, we must always be ready to acknowledge our own weaknesses and failures--and that it's whole purpose is to lead us to Jesus, his grace (cf. Rom 3:23ff.)