Off a Bridge: A Homily on Contraception Versus NFP

Editor’s Note: The following homily was given yesterday.

In our First reading today the Lord speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah says, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.”  I can assure you those are not words that any priest or bishop wants to hear the Lord say to them.  And so today–which begins the week the U.S. Bishops have proclaimed as “National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week”–I want to make sure that none of us are misled as to what the Church teaches concerning God’s vision of human sexuality.

On July 11th there was a summit in London on Family Planning that promoted a campaign to expand artificial contraception and abortion around the world. Melinda Gates, the wife of billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, pledged her support to this cause by donating $560 million to family planning services. That Melinda Gates claims to be a practicing Catholic is a sad fact–but not a surprising one, because she is just one of many confused Catholics who have disregarded the teachings of the Church on this matter in order to create their own morality and follow their own commandments. They falsely believe the Catholic Church is“out-of-touch”, “outdated”, “anti-women” and just plain wrong concerning this issue. And in doing so they completely disregard the words of Jesus who promised Peter, as head of His Church, that “what is bound on earth is bound in heaven.” And that ministry and promise is passed onto Pope Benedict in our own day.

To justify her views, Ms. Gates claimed that if we understood that 200 million women around the world wanted birth control then we would start to say, ‘Okay, that makes sense.’ Her logic seems to be that numbers or even a majority dictate and define morality. Now as I read her comments I couldn’t help but hear how my own Mother might respond to this misguided reasoning (and my mother knows a bit about conception, haven given birth to 12 children). I am sure my mother would say something like:  “Ms. Gates, if 200 million women jumped off a bridge…would you?” And that wouldn’t be a bad response because that is exactly what society, in embracing artificial contraception, is doing: they are jumping off the spiritual bridge into the depths of the culture of death, to their own demise.

The Catholic Church for 2,000 years has always taught that love, marriage, sex and procreation are all things that belong interconnected.  Each of these is a gift from our Creator and meant to be enjoyed only within the Sacrament of Marriage. Further, it is God’s will that each and every act of sexual intimacy contain two elements.  First, it must be open to life. Second, it must involve the physical union of the husband and wife. Anything less is a violation of God’s gift to married couples and a serious offense against Him.

Therein lies the sin of artificial contraception. Artificial contraception wants one of these elements without the other. It says “yes” to physical union, but “no” to the possibility of new life.  And as Pope Paul VI prophetically warned in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, there would be at least 4 serious consequences if the world embraced birth control:  1) a lowering of moral standards  2) a rise in infidelity and illegitimacy  3) reducing women to objects of pleasure to satisfy men  4) government coercion in reproductive matters. All of these should sound familiar because it is the rotten fruit that the world bears today. This is certainly proven through rampant immorality, the breakdown of marriage, the rise of single parent families, the growing addiction to pornography, and our own governments’ forced mandate for artificial contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs.

But the Catholic Church offers another way to responsible parenthood by embracing Natural Family Planning. This week, which is meant to raise awareness of NFP, gives us the opportunity to educate ourselves about the beautiful ways it can influence married life.

Now, many who use birth control like to say that artificial contraception and NFP are the same—but they are wrong. For where birth control sees pregnancy as a disease that needs to be avoided—NFP views life as a gift from God who is Love.  Where birth control separates the unitive aspect of sexuality from the procreative; NFP always unites these two elements.  While birth control practices unrestrained indulgence; NFP teaches self-restraint and occasional abstinence as part of responsible family planning.  Couples who practice NFP know its benefits.  They understand that marriage reflects the love of Christ, which is generous, self-sacrificing, passion-filled and life-giving.  They know when they live their married life in agreement with the teachings of the Church that their faith is deeper. In fact, many who practice NFP report better communication, growth in patience and holiness, and a deeper respect for God as the head of their household. On top of that NFP is totally green, does not cause cancer, is completely free, and it is successful.  And although it involves work, responsibility, and commitment—like all things that matter—it is worth it!

Last week Melinda Gates proclaimed that the universal desire of mothers to give their children “every good thing” can only be fulfilled when access to contraceptives is universal.  I would like to remind her that the only “good” that truly matters is God Himself and living our life in conformity to His will.  And so perhaps Ms. Gates and many others who are truly interested in making sure mothers give “good things” to their children should carry out the advice of Blessed Pope John Paul II who once said: “the greatest gift that you can give your child is a sibling.”  For then maybe our society and our world would begin to see that children are a precious gift from God—and not the burden that the selfish culture of death claims them to be!


Fr. Don Siciliano is the pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church in Cincinnati, OH

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  • Dessy12

    Thank you Father for this wonderful, concise overview of church teaching and the ramifications of Catholics and society not following the will of God.    It would change the world if more priests gave homilies like this.

  • Karen

    I agree with Dessy12!  So many Catholics don’t even know Church teaching anymore.  We need to keep hearing it from the pulpits!

  • Dheinrich

    Father Don,
    Thank you for not being afraid to tell the faithful what we need to hear not what we want to hear. May God give other priests the same courage.

  • rakeys

    Yes, many Catholics say that contraception and NFP are the same. tIf so, why not choose NFP. There must be something different.  The Church has actually stated that contraception is “intrinsically evil”. Many Catholics respond by saying they are following their conscience when they use contraception, and we must always follow our conscience. But if the Church says contraception is wrong how can you be following your conscience?  The Church says you must follow a well-informed conscience. Often they are following an erroneous or mal- formed conscience. 
    They say they are following an inner voice.
    In every moral decision there are two inner voices. Cartoons picture it as an angel on one shoulder, the devil on the other. One says “no” you shouldn’t do it, the other says “Yes”, go ahead. It is OK for you.
    Were Adam and Eve were following their conscience when they ate the apple. Yes, they knew God said not to, but the devil, the other voice, said that God was deceiving them, and they would not die if they ate the fruit, they would become like god. So they ate the fruit. They chose not to follow God’s command, but were influenced by others and followed their own desires.  Same with contraception.
    The rewards of following God’s plan for marriage and using NFP are tremendous. All of our priest’s owe it to their parishioners to tell them of the benefits of using NFP. NFP does work. It is not always easy, but being a disciple is not always easy

  • aw

    thank you for this article

  • Gfeldman

    Thank you Father for your homily yesterday! It’s wonderful to hear from the pulpit the truth of what the Church teaches! Thanks again! Michelle

  • AnnaMarie53

    Thank you, Father, for this concise, easily understandable homily.  I wish more pastors would preach this from their pulpits.  It is not easy to live the life of a Christian and none of us do it perfectly; that is why I tell people I am a “practicing Catholic.”  I never get it 100% right!

  • L. Rose

    Maybe if more priest would not be afraid to teach us what we need to know about our faith instead of worrying if they might upset the people, we could all be instructed properly because we could be fed by Christ word like we should be through dedicated and wonderful priest like fr. Don that care about their people and do what they are called to do. Teach. We need more like this who are not afraid to tell us like it is. It may not always be what we want to hear, (and sometimes a hard pill to take) but it is needed. Priest are supposed to be leading us to heaven not sugar coating our way but preparing us a path that leads us to HIM. This is the only way we can get their. Help us to grow strong in our faith.

  • God love you for this homily. I would be so happy if similar were said at all of our Catholic Churches throughout the world.  Having benefit from learning the natural methods of spacing our children in the 60’s I was able to stay faithful and not fearful of poverty. As an auto mechanic my husband could not even take a vacation. I am so happy our Holy Church is building up the faith where it is most needed.  

  • Fr Chris Fontanini

    Fr. Don
    Great homily! I am going to have to take some cues from you to preach more often on this controversial, yet vital teaching. Thanks for the insights! I hope all is going well since the days at Kenrick Theological Seminary. God Bless! Fr. Chris Fontanini