Lesson 39 – Marriage – Birth Prevention

Birth Prevention

(Mutual Self-Giving, Self-Recovery)


Peace be to you.

Birth control

The subject about to be discussed is birth control.

The words are not very proper, first of all, because those who believe in it actually believe in neither birth nor in control.

Therefore, we shall never use the words again – they are finished.


We propose first to answer one or two objections or false philosophies about the subject of the purpose of marriage.

The first is this:  married couples will often say, we cannot afford more children.”  Therefore, we have a right to fumble with the levers of life.  Those who make a statement of this particular kind probably never think of the terrible principles that they are enunciating, namely the primacy of the economic over the human.


Now just suppose one put that into practice in other walks of life.

*Suppose a family had five children but they had enough money to buy only four hats.  Do you think they should be permitted to cut off the head of a child, in order to bring the economic to the level of the human and the human to the level of the economic?

*Suppose a husband says he can no longer support his wife.  Ought he be entitled to shoot her?


  • What is forgotten here in giving the primacy to the economic is that we receive blessings when we put ourselves in the area of God’s love.

A waif on the street does not receive food, clothing, and shelter as a child in the family because that waif is outside of the environment of love.  So too to the extent that we put ourselves outside of the environment and the area of God’s Love we exclude those divine assistances that would otherwise come to us.


Those who put the primacy upon the economic are really not interested in saving or earning. They are interested in spending and it is that which dictates the frustration of life.

There’s a brood of idle passions and a desire for more credit and more clothes and more selfishness which dictates their philosophy.

They believe that they are free, therefore, as we said, to manipulate life apart from God’s Laws because it is only Catholics that are bound by the laws of fruitfulness of marriage.  So, they say Catholics are opposed to any frustration of human life in marriage. That indeed is true. But it must be remembered that those who are not Catholic are no more free to violate God’s natural laws than anyone else. It just happens here that the Church is defending here a natural law and because we are about the only ones who are defending it, there are some who are led into the error of believing that the opposition to the frustration of love is purely and solely a Catholic doctrine. We could conceivably reach a stage in the world where Catholics alone might believe that 2 and 2 make 4 and grass is green in the springtime.

  • These are principles that belong to the natural order. So is the principle that marriage is destined to be fruitful.


Example of This:

Just suppose that a vast majority of people went around with their eyes blindfolded and their ears plugged up. We would very soon have a papal encyclical which would oppose that, and the church would say it is not right to blindfold your eyes or to plug up your ears.  Does not reason, does not the natural law tell you that the eyes were made for seeing and that the ears were made for hearing? Therefore, you must allow these organs to work out the functions for which God created them. There indeed would be many who would say, “Oh, the Catholic church is opposed to eye control. The Catholic church is in opposition to ear control.” Certainly!  Because reason tells us why these organs were made. So, too, a husband and wife were made in a certain way and God created male and female in a certain way and therefore these organs are to be permitted to function according to the way that God made them.

  • What are we going to make this world, a universe in which we pick up violins and bows and never produce music?
  • A universe in which sculptors pick up chisels and never touch them to marble in order to create a statue?
  • Are we going to have trees blooming but never any fruit? Signposts that lead nowhere?

Is life and love to be reduced to a kind of an epidermic content and contact without any fruit or purpose?  But that is all negative.


We must always take the positive position and on this particular subject of the fruit of love we will describe and enunciate two sublime teachings.

  • One, love in marriage creates the deepest kind of unity and
  • Secondly, that deep unity of love by its very nature, tends to an incarnation.



1: We said that love in marriage creates the deepest kind of unity of love.

We might also say, by the way, that this particular point that we are to develop proves also that there is not to be a union of sexes outside of marriage.

***Have you ever noticed that scripture nowhere speaks of marriage in terms of sex, but always in terms of knowledge?  Why is that? ***

Well, first of all let us prove the point. The book of Genesis for example says, “Now Adam had knowledge of his wife Eve and she conceived.”  (Genesis 4:1)

Had knowledge of her. When the angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Mother that she was chosen to be mother of our Blessed Lord, she asked, “How can this be, since I have no knowledge of man?” (Luke 1:34)

  • Notice here that there was no question of the ignorance of conception but of some deeper mystery.

So, St. Paul says, “Husbands, possess your wives in knowledge.”  (1 Peter 3:7)


Why is marriage spoken of as knowledge?

Well, for this reason.

 Because one of the closest forms of unity in the natural order is that which comes from knowledge.

You look out on a flower or a tree – you know these things. They enter into your mind. There begins to be a unity, and the closest kind of unity in the natural order between the knower and the thing which is known.

We cannot think of anything more close than the union of your mind and that which you know.

  • So sacred scripture compares marriage to knowledge because marriage produces a unity and it demands fidelity.

When a man knows a woman, there is a unity that is created between the two that is like to the union between the mind and that which is known. That unity is so close, so intimate, that it may be known – may be used, rather — over and over again, but it never again may be reacquired.

They are two in one flesh…

  • From that point on, there is nothing that happens to a woman that does not happen to the man who made her a woman.

He made her a woman; she made him a man.

And just as you are always indebted to the one who gave you the knowledge about Shakespeare, namely your alma mater, so too one is always indebted to the one who created the unity between the two.

The resulting psychic changes indeed are great, but they are great also in the order of the body.

  • The woman can never again return to virginity;
  • the man can never again return to ignorance.

Something has happened to make them one and from that oneness comes fidelity so long as either has a body.  They can never put themselves back into a state that they had before. 


Therefore, it is not just an experience, it is a bond that continues to exist as long as life itself. 


2: Now in married couples this union is very deep and that brings us now to our second point that all love tends toward an incarnation.

Thus far we have spoken of the love of husband and wife creating a deep bond of unity, a unity of love.

Now we want to show that this love naturally tends to diffuse itself.  Everything that is good diffuses itself.

  • The sun is good; it diffuses itself in light and heat.
  • A flower is good; it diffuses itself in perfume.
  • Animals are good; they diffuse themselves in the generation of their kind.
  • Man is good; his mind is good – his mind diffuses itself in thoughts.
  • God is good. God diffuses Himself not only in creation, but from all Eternity. God has an Eternal Son; the source of all generation is in God.


      Let not therefore husbands and wives be told that procreation is an imitation of the beasts of the field. It is rather an imitation of God who, from all eternity, has an Eternal Son, the Son to whom he can say in the agelessness of eternity,

“Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. This day without beginning or end.”  ( Psalm 2:7 , Acts 13:33 , Hebrews 5:5)


Now this power of generation, which is eternal in the Godhead, is communicated to man’s mind; it is communicated to the body of a husband and to the body of a wife.

God himself said, “Shall I make others bring forth children and Myself be barren?”  (Isaiah 66:9)


  • Therefore, the power of generation is not a push from below. It is a gift from above.
  • Not only do we find, therefore, that the motive power for begetting children is in the Trinity, but it is also in the Incarnation because all love ends in an incarnation, even God’s.

God so loved man that He became Enfleshed in the human nature.

What is our Blessed Lord, but God’s Love Incarnate, God’s Love walking this earth in the form and habit of man? You see how beautiful Love is?



Mutual Self-giving—Self Recovery:

If one could give a definition of love in the light of the Trinity and the Incarnation,

  • it might be that love is mutual self giving which ends in self recovery.
  • It is mutual self giving because no one is good unless he gives.
  • But if love were just mutual self-giving, it could end in exhaustion. Therefore, love is a mutual self giving which ends in self recovery.


In the Trinity, there’s the giving of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Holy Spirit and there is the self-recovery in the sense that the Trinity – I mean, the Holy Spirit – is the Bond which unites Father and Son, the Unity of Love.  And so, too, it is with husband and wife there is a mutual self-giving of husband and wife and that mutual self-giving ends in self recovery, which is the child.


  • The thrill of the farmer as he sees a grain of wheat he planted coming into life.
  • The joy of seeing a geranium bud in a tin-full of earth on a tenement window sill.
  • The ecstasy of a saint at seeing a sinner dead in sin, responding to prayer and beginning to live in Christ.

 All of these are earth’s witnesses to the inherent happiness that comes to anyone who sees life springing and sprouting or aborning.

Love does not mean just the joy to possess.  It means to the will to see a new life born out of that love, to see someone created in one’s own image and likeness.

And what is the child then?

    The child becomes the bond, the union between husband and wife.

The child unveils father within the husband and mother within the wife. There is a new relationship created. Not only did the father make her, his wife, a mother, but the child made him a father.

You see, Love becomes a kind of an ascension from the sense plane that goes back again to God.


Children are almost like beads in a rosary, binding together the love of husband and wife. 


Love always demands someone unrevealed. It flourishes only in mystery. No one ever wants to hear a singer hit her highest note, nor to hear an orator carry passion to tatters, to very rags. One never wants to see the infinite denied or life’s urge stilled, or a passion glutted.


  • One wants to see an unfolding, an enrichment, an enfleshment of love, and that is what happens in marriage when there are children.





One distinct mystery after another is unfolded.

  • There is the unfolding of the mystery of the body and there begins to be the unfolding of a new mystery, the mystery of motherhood and the mystery of fatherhood.
  • Then when the children have to be trained, there comes the mystery of father craft and mother craft. New areas of exploration are opened up and there is never dullness.

Indeed, the husband after a time, may become dull to the wife and the wife to the husband, but when the children are born,

  • the first boy, well he begins to be the new life of the husband all over again, and the wife becomes very pretty once more.
  • Then, a daughter and as each child is born, they bind together husband and wife, as a reflection of the binding love of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity.
  • Then because each child has a soul to save, there becomes an awakening of sweet responsibility of the father and the mother.


As Kalil Gibran wrote when he spoke of children, he said,

“Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls’ dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them. But, seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday.  You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the Infinite and He bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the Infinite. Let your end bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness, for even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.”


That is the story of life. God sets up the target; you are the bow and your children are the arrows. 

They have a Messianic mission in your life;

  • they represent the conquest of Love over the ego;
  • they symbolize the defeat of your selfishness;
  • they represent the victory of charity.

Every child begets sacrifice, tends toward an incarnation and every child becomes for you a pledge of your own salvation and how happy you will be on Judgment day when God says to you, your love has borne fruit.

If God did not bless you with children, in any case, you will always rejoice that you never buried love in a napkin.

You sent it back again to God from which it came.

God love you. 

1. In today’s lesson on Birth Prevention – what stood out the most to you?



2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “Mutual Self-Giving, Self-Recovery” to this lesson?



3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of Birth Prevention?



4. Now that you have learned more about – Birth Prevention- Mutual Self-Giving, Self Recovery
– what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?

To view the context, please visit https://www.kofc.org/en/catechism/index.html  or




The openness to fertility

  1. 1652. “‘By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.’[GS 48 # 1; 50.]
    Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: ‘It is not good that man should be alone,’ and ‘from the beginning (he) made them male and female’; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.
    [GS 50 # 1; cf. Gen 2:18 ; Mt 19:4 ; Gen 1:28 .]
  2. 1653. “The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.[Cf. GE 3.] In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.[Cf. FC 28.]
  3. 1654. “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice. “




You shall not commit adultery.[112]
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”
But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart

I.             “MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM . . .” (Continuation)


The fecundity of marriage

  1. 2366. “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So, the Church, which ‘is on the side of life’[FC 30.] teaches that ‘each and every marriage act must remain open ‘per se’ to the transmission of life.’[HV 11.] ‘This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.’[HV 12; cf. Pius XI, encyclical, Casti connubii.]


  1. 2367. “Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God.[Cf. Eph 3:14 ; Mt 23:9 .] ‘Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.’[GS 50 # 2.]



  1. 2368. “A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
    When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.
    [GS 51 # 3.]
  2. 2369. “‘By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.’[Cf. HV 12.]
  3. 2370. “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.[HV 16.] These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, ‘every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil:[HV 14.]
    Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality…. The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.
    [FC 32.]
  4. 2371. “‘Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man’s eternal destiny.’[GS 51 # 4.]
  5. 2372. “The state has a responsibility for its citizens’ well-being. In this capacity it is legitimate for it to intervene to orient the demography of the population. This can be done by means of objective and respectful information, but certainly not by authoritarian, coercive measures. The state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.[Cf. HV 23; PP 37.] It is not authorized to intervene in this area with means contrary to the moral law. “


The gift of a child
  1. 2373. “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.[Cf. GS 50 # 2.]
  2. 2374. “Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. ‘What will you give me,’ asks Abraham of God, ‘for I continue childless?’[Gen 15:2 .] And Rachel cries to her husband Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’[Gen 30:1 .]
  3. 2375. “Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed ‘at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.’[CDF, Donum vitae intro., 2.]
  4. 2376. “Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other.’[CDF, Donum vitae II, 1.]



  1. 2377. “Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.’[CDF, Donum vitae II, 5.] ‘Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union …. Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.’[CDF, Donum vitae II, 4.]
  2. 2378. “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The ‘supreme gift of marriage’ is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged ‘right to a child’ would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right ‘to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,’ and ‘the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.’[CDF, Donum vitae II, 8.]
  3. 2379. “The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others. “
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