The fathers condemn the sinfulness of all methods of contraception, including methods which assess the fertility of the woman. Either way, one sins in intending to frustrate the natural result of sexual intercourse.Is one actually frustrating the natural end of sexual intercourse if they aren't even doing it?
No, abstinence from intercourse with virtuous intentions (ascesis) is not frustrating the end of intercourse, because in this case, intercourse does not even occur. Planning only to have intercourse when the woman is infertile, and abstaining when she is fertile is inherently sinful because it is performed with the wrong intention, just as giving money to the poor hoping to be seen is sinful. In both cases, the act can be good, but the desires of the mind incline it to evil.
Those who engage in either sin in mind by planning to prevent conception as a result of sexual intercourse, and in deed by engaging in sexual intercourse while intending to prevent its natural end. For this reason, the argument that NFP is inherently superior to other methods of contraception because it involves sacrifice is untenable.It seems like you are saying that there is no moral difference in actions if the intent is the same.
No, I am saying that sacrifices made for sinful intentions are not God-pleasing. I do not think that such an idea should come as a shock. There is no virtue in performing any sort of asceticism if the desire behind it is sinful. If I were to sleep on a bed of rocks each night for the purpose of the denial of the flesh, this would be virtuous, but if I were to do the same in order to earn the praise of men, this would be sinful. The argument then that NFP is superior to other methods of contraception because of the abstinence involved is not a good one, because abstinence from intercourse is not spiritually profitable if the intention is wrong. I am denying, in other words, that certain actions are inherently virtuous. Virtue comes from fear of God, not from worldly desires.
For example, if a person's intent is the death of someone there would be no difference between letting the person die and actively murdering them.
In terms of whether the action is sinful? No. The degree of sinfulness differs, but both are sinful and grave because of the evil intentions behind them. This example, however does not apply perfectly, because with the case of NFP and contraception, the same action is performed for the same intentions (intercourse with the intention not to conceive), whereas in this example different actions are performed for the same intention. Intercourse with NFP does not differ from intercourse with contraception as an act except for the planning and periodic abstinence which goes into it, something which its adherents mistakenly think to be virtuous behavior. If anything, there is only one thing which is better about NFP, and that is that the sin is simply committed less often.
The days when intercourse is avoided on account of the woman's fertility are not a sacrifice which one may account to be God-pleasing, because its end is sinful. Just as with those who give money to the poor to be seen, those who abstain from sexual intercourse only during fertile periods for the premeditated intention of preventing the conception of a child receive their reward in this life, not because the act they perform is inherently evil, but because their intention is sinful. So it is sinful for a married couple to intend not to have children?
Yes. Marriage is not only for companionship, but also for the begetting of new life.
Yes but not unpardonably so, insofar as it only fails to reflect the ideal we are to live up to. This matter, especially in the modern era, however, requires prudence, and this is the role economy plays in the life of the Church.
If a married couple wishes to avoid having a child is it okay for them to practice abstinence during both fertile and infertile periods?
Yes, because intercourse does not occur, it is less sinful in that respect than contraception. It is pardonable if there is some pressing need for the couple not to have children at some point in time. It is, however, not generally considered pardonable for a couple to avoid having children entirely. Ideally, a couple should engage in abstinence for the purpose of ascesis alone, and also attempt to have children during breaks in abstinence. But as with all ideals of Christian life, this is nearly impossible to attain, which is why it is important that a prudent confessor exercise economy in his treatment of those who fall short of the ideal.
What has not been mentioned yet is that intercourse has multiple ends, one for the union of man and woman, and the other for producing children. The ideal couple would use intercourse for both of these ends without hindering either willfully, and also would willfully abstain from intercourse for periods of time out of a mutual desire for disciplining the flesh. Those who are spiritually healthy can balance all of these things without falling into sin, but those who are spiritually sick (the vast majority of us) will be incapable of handling such an austere manner of life. The confessor then must assess how sick his spiritual children are, and administer the canons with prudence as medicine, being permissive of certain behaviors in order to guide those sick with sin out of sin and steer them away from higher degrees of sin. In this sense, if avoiding having children is necessary, abstinence would be the best method. If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make. It must be understood that in Orthodoxy, we are all held to standards which will likely seem impossibly high, with concessions being made for our weakness that we might grow spiritually rather than be hindered by a strict application of them.
I liked your post and agreed with almost everything you wrote until this..
" If however, the couple cannot bear the have burden of abstinence placed in then, to prevent them from falling deeper into sin, the allowance to use contraception might be a prudent decision to make."
The true Church of Christ, the traditional Catholic Church teaches that contraception is a mortal sin, you will go to hell for this, this is why most people today are going to hell, the traditional church also teaches that NFP is a mortal sin, the modern vatican 2 sect teaches that it's ok. Since you are not Catholic you may not care what I post below, but it's relevant to the original poster who is considering catholicism.
Why is NFP wrong?
NFP is wrong because it’s birth control; it’s against conception. It’s a refusal on the part of those
who use it to be open to the children that God planned to send them.It’s no different in its purpose from artificial contraception,
and therefore it’s a moral evil just like artificial
The Teaching of the Catholic Papal Magisterium
Pope Pius XI spoke from the Chair of Peter in his 1931 encyclical Casti Connubii on Christian marriage. His teaching shows that
all forms of birth prevention are evil . We quote a long excerpt from his encyclical which sums up the issue.
Pope Pius XI,
(#’s 53 -56), Dec. 31, 1930:
“And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First
consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in
matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one
hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of the family circumstances. “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically
against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good . Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature
and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. “Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘
Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.’
Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it (Gen. 38:8 -10).http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/42_NFP.pdf