By Meg Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2006 ( – The US Bishops have a third document slated for review at their semi-annual Baltimore meeting and this document will address marital love and the gift of life. The document is entitled “Married Love and the Gift of Life” and talks of the “false note” that contraception introduces to a marriage. As an ethical alternative, the document supports Natural Family Planning which, used under the right circumstances, “enables couples to cooperate with the body as God designed it.”

Catholic News Service reports that the document is intended to be used as a brochure and will be in ‘question and answer’ format.ÂÂ It was authored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities along with the committees on Doctrine and Marriage and Family Life.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ

When asked by about the timing of the document, Dr. Richard Doerflinger, interim Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB, said, “The conviction has grown that there is a pastoral need for a simple educational piece addressed to Catholics considering marriage.” He said that it initially stemmed from the thought that some Catholics did not understand the abortifacient nature of some contraceptives but “quickly became a discussion of the lack of educational material from the bishops on overall teaching in general.”

Doerflinger said that the document was authored in the hope that the teaching would be welcomed by an entire generation that did not grow up amidst the debate that was created by Humanae Vitae about the Church’s authority to teach on such issues. The bishops hope that instead, Catholics today can focus on “the beauty of this teaching.”

Doerflinger explained that the document “touches on the theology of the body” but its purpose is to “appeal to the aspirations of people planning to get married – it talks about the meaning of married love and the complete openness to each other that this requires. It proposes that this includes an openness to the divine gift of being able to help create a new life together.”Â

The document condemns the use of contraception saying, “When couples use contraception, either physical or chemical, they suppress their fertility, exerting ultimate control over this power to create a new human life with God.”Â

The authors convey the warnings of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II who said that a “contraceptive mentality” would lead to more abortions and other evils. According to the document, “These predictions have come true… Today we see a pandemic of sexually transmitted diseases, an enormous rise in cohabitation, one in three children born outside of marriage, and abortion used by many when contraception fails.”

The document also warns against some of the newest forms of contraception, such as the ‘morning after pill’ which can be abortifacient.

Natural Family Planning is strongly supported throughout the document as a way that couples may, in serious circumstances, use the natural fertility cycles of a woman’s body to morally avoid conceiving a child. In NFP, a couple monitors the woman’s fertility and abstains from sexual intercourse when she is fertile.Â

The document says, “A couple need not desire or seek to have a child in each and every act of intercourse. And it is not wrong for couples to have intercourse even when they know the woman is naturally infertile… But they should never act to suppress or curtail the life-giving power given by God that is an integral part of what they pledged to each other in their marriage vows.”

The document is careful to explain that children are a gift to be welcomed. However, it explains, “In married life, serious circumstances—financial, physical, psychological, or those involving responsibilities to other family members—may arise to make an increase in family size untimely. The church understands this, while encouraging couples to take a generous view of children.”

Cardinal Keeler, chairman of the USCCB’s Pro-life Committee, wrote the introduction to the document saying that he expects the new brochure will be especially useful for those Catholics who are engaged or intend to be married or those who are newly married. Priests and seminarians will also find particular use in the document as they prepare couples for marriage and assist already married couples in living out a truly Catholic marriage.Â

According to Keeler’s introduction, Catholic couples currently “report using contraceptives at about the same level as those of other faiths or of no faith.” Only four percent of Catholics use Natural Family Planning.

Doerflinger said that a list of additional resources will be found at the end of the document including works by Christopher West, Dr. Janet Smith and Pope John Paul II’s initial talks on the Theology of the Body.
  This current pro-life document is welcomed by orthodox Catholics as there has been a considerable lack of public teaching on the issue resulting in Catholic marriages experiencing the same increasing rates of breakdown and resulting destruction of family life as non-Catholics. The document sums up its core message stating, “A failure to respect married love’s power to help create new life has eroded respect for life and for the sanctity of marriage.”
  Read Related LifeSite Coverage:

US Bishops Conference Set to Release Document on Contraception and the Culture of Life

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The Difference between Artificial Contraception and Natural Family Planning