NFP To Avoid With Intent to Adopt


I am the mother of four grown children, and have tried my best to raise them with the teachings of the Catholic Church. My 22 yr. old daughter wants to know why it would be wrong for a married couple to use NFP to completely prevent pregnancy in favor of adopting unwanted children. How do I answer her? Thank you.


Dear Colleen:

Your daughter’s question is unique in that she asks why it would be wrong for a married couple to use NFP (Natural Family Planning) to completely prevent pregnancy and she shows compassion in considering adopting children perhaps abandoned by their parents or given for adoption.

We should start with God’s definition and intention for marriage. It is a life-long covenant between a man and a woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. When a baptized man and baptized woman enter into this covenant, it is a sacrament – a means by which the two share in the inner life of God. They have the vocation to guide each other and their children to marriage. If a couple never intends or attempts to have children, their marriage could be considered invalid.

In a way, the first part of her question is: “What is the difference between Natural Family Planning and contraception?” A major difference is in the mentality. The conjugal or marital act is by its nature open to the acceptance of life. The Church teaches that if there are serious reasons for spacing the births of children, whether because of health or external circumstances, it is permissible to take into account the natural cycles of the woman to have relations during periods of infertility (an example would be Natural Family Planning). A couple may even be permitted to employ NFP indefinitely. However, should they engage in relations, even in what might be infertile periods the couple should be open to life.

Contraception is to be rejected in all its forms. This rejection is based on a correct and integral understanding of the person and human sexuality. On the other hand, the same reasons of an anthropological order justify recourse to periodic abstinence during times of the woman’s fertility as I mentioned above. Rejecting contraception and using natural methods for regulating births means choosing to base interpersonal relations between the husband and wife on mutual respect, self-giving, total acceptance and fidelity.

According to our faith as in the Bible and in history of our Church, children are a blessing. That a man and woman can cooperate in the creative power of God is amazing! Sterility was often seen as a curse. What should we make of situations where couples cannot conceive naturally? The Church looks with compassion on these couples who want to have children; adoption should be encouraged, promoted and facilitated by appropriate legislation so that the many children who lack parents may receive a home that will contribute to their human development. In addition, research and investment directed at the prevention of sterility deserve encouragement.

Your daughter does show a compassionate heart in considering adoption, but I wonder if there might be some fear on her part to conceive and bear children. It is a big responsibility and involves tremendous sacrifice. Women have a singular and amazing vocation in being mothers. The weight of this responsibility must not be used as a justification for being closed to having children, but must guide the decisions of the spouses in a generous acceptance of life. “In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised both in the duly pondered and generous decision to have a large family, and in the decision, made for serious reasons and in respect of the moral law, to avoid for a time or even indeterminately a new birth” (Humanae Vitae 10). The Church does teach that the judgment concerning the interval of time between births, and that regarding the number of children, belongs to the spouses alone (See Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 234). Having said this, a couple should not approach the Sacrament of Marriage if they do not intend to have children. Being open to children is God’s initiative in giving marriage to humanity.

Colleen, you have an irreplaceable role in raising children and you have a particular responsibility in the area of sexual education and human and moral values connected with it. You may consider, if you have not already done so, to teach your children about John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” which provides for a comprehensive understanding of the human person, especially in the area of sexuality.

So, as a summary your daughter should not use NFP to avoid conceiving children should she marry. And, if she does marry, she and her husband are free to adopt children, but should not exclude themselves from being open to and/or conceiving children.

Let me close by recommending paragraphs 230-237 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church which touch on the core of the question asked.

Mom, keep up the good work. God bless you.

Fr. Ed

Answered By:

Fr. Ed Horning
Fr. Edward Horning is a priest for the Diocese of San Diego, and Pastor of the Catholic parishes of Westmoreland and Brawley. Fr. Ed co-hosts a radio program about Theology of the Body called “Buenos Días en el Camino” on Thursdays from 9am-10am on ESNE radio (El Sembrador). The video recording of Fr. Hornings presentation in Spanish at the National HV50 conference held July 27-28 in Ontario, California on 50 años de Humanae Vitae: Viendo el mundo con los lentes de Humanae Vitae y la Teología del Cuerpo can be viewed

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