Why Don’t We Want More Children?

Welcome back! It’s Day 5 in our weeklong series on natural family planning (NFP). This post is linked up with NFP Link Week hosted at the blog NFP and Me.

DISCLAIMER: This series is meant to inform and spark conversation about the Church’s teaching on respect for human life. While these answers are in-line with Catholic Tradition, they are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. We are not bioethicists nor moral theologians and do not claim to speak on behalf of the Church in answering them. For more information, dive into resources provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. **Special thanks to Fr. Albert Bruecken, Conception Seminary College, and Adam Storey, Director of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Des Moines, for sharing inspiration, ideas, and words for this series.


According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average size of the American household has decreased by about one person. American culture is definitely voting for the smaller family and material well-being over the riches of multiple children. If any culture can materially afford big families, it is ours. Even from an economic point of view, the United States is powerful not because of its standard of living or its natural resources, but because of its greatest resource: people.

The medieval theologians and philosophers, in talking about God, say: Goodness diffuses itself, it wants to be shared by many. If our culture is so good, then why don’t we want to have more children and share it with them?

It’s a question we’re pondering today, on this forty-fifth anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching on the regulation of births. A widely misunderstood papal document, Humanae Vitae immediately sparked dissent among many Catholics, especially in developed countries. That dissent lingers still today. With the passage of time, however, it has also proven prophetic. Pope Paul VI cautioned that four major problems would arise if the Church’s teaching on the regulation of births was ignored. What follows is a thumbnail sketch of each.

1 — Marital infidelity and indiscriminate sexual promiscuity will become cultural norms.

Since the mid 1960s, the rates of the following have all increased: abortion, divorce, wife and child abuse, venereal disease, and out-of-wedlock births. The nuclear family is no longer the cornerstone of society as it once was. Is this solely due to the birth control pill? No, but it is undeniably a major factor as the pill is the foundation upon which the sexual revolution was built. Love-making and baby-making are no longer synonymous.

2 — The objectification of women will become epidemic.

Despite the routine criticism that Holy Mother Church is anti-woman, Humanae Vitae warned of the sexual exploitation of women long before the message even entered the cultural mainstream. While artificial contraception has been hailed as a great agent for liberation of women, the real effect has been to liberate men from responsibility of their sexual conquests.

3 — Governments will be allowed to assume responsibility for family planning.

This is truly a humanitarian crisis. Stories of forced abortions and baby dumping abound in modern day China whose government recently reaffirmed support for its long-standing, one-child policy. Such population control initiatives are a routine part of foreign aid discussions. The massive export of contraceptives, abortion, and sterilization by developed countries to the third world is a thinly-veiled form of population warfare and cultural engineering.

4 — People will develop a false sense of control over their bodies giving rise to a narcissistic me-centered culture.

At the heart of contraception is the belief that fertility is at best an option and at worst a disease which must be cured, with a developing baby viewed essentially as a parasite. In this attitude, the organic link between contraception and abortion becomes clear. If the disease of fertility can be prevented, it should be; if not, its effect (new life) must be removed like a malignant tumor. Either way, the potential for bearing new life, a defining element of a woman’s identity, is recast as a weakness. In this regard, “Woman becomes the object of the tools she relies on to ensure her own liberation and defense, while man takes no share of the burden,” according to Archbishop Charles Chaput.

As author Neil Postman observed in his book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, technological change is not additive but ecological. A significant new technology does not “add” something to a society; it changes everything. Contraceptive technology, precisely because of its impact on sexual intimacy, has subverted our understanding of the purpose of sexuality, fertility, marriage, and human relationships in general.

So let’s revisit that key question from earlier: If our culture is so good, then why don’t we want to have more children and share it with them?

Up tomorrow in the series: one spouse is interested in practicing natural family planning and the other is not. Then what?

Links to other posts in this NFP series:


  1. says

    “Contraceptive technology, precisely because of its impact on sexual intimacy, has subverted our understanding of the purpose of sexuality, fertility, marriage, and human relationships in general.”

    This is brilliant.

    When our parents were young, having a big family was something of which to be proud. Now? I feel like I have to defend our position almost constantly, even to our own parents, who had big families themselves! It’s mind boggling to me.

    Much of it goes back to being selfish, and in control. I’m astounded and wonder WHY people can’t see the progression from a contraceptive mentality to the decimation of our marriages and families.

    • Catholic Practicing NFP without 10 kids says

      “Decimation of our marriages and families?” Good heavens!! Are you actually suggesting that Catholics with small families have decimated marriages and families? It is vitriolic language such as this that results in Catholics rolling their eyes at the Church’s teaching on sexuality when advocates contend that the failure to follow the Church’s teaching is a primary cause of the breakdown of the family. There are so few advocates for the method that are like me that I cannot stand to listen to them anymore. We used NFP but I have never once heard a speaker or couple advocate or teacher of the method that is anything like our family. Nor are they adoptive parents like us. I am a woman that has always worked full time in a very demanding career and am the primary financial support for the family. My husband works for a non-profit, but also works full time. We have two biological children and one who joined our family by adoption. The couples who teach the method are never like us. Indeed, I was raised in a family of nine children and my husband was raised in a family of seven children and both mothers worked full time. So the stay-at-home always excited to add another baby type of woman is just not like me. And the fact that I have only three children has nothing to do with abandoning NFP, and believe me, many of the NFP advocates have assumed so. No one in this conversation ever addresses the fact that your NFP badge is not ten children. It is faithful and loving adherance to the Church’s teaching.


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