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Anonymous Ryan wrote:

Dear Catholic Answers,

I have been in a relationship with a wonderful woman; we've been dating for 9 months now. She is not Catholic but has always been respectful of my faith and has even said she'd consider becoming Catholic herself.

We're now starting to talk about bigger issues like marriage and kids.

My girlfriend though has OCD and has let me know that she feels she wants to adopt kids, but that she can't have kids by pregnancy due to anxiety concerns related to OCD. She feels that becoming pregnant would produce intense anxiety and depression from her OCD, so she believes she needs to use birth control for health reasons.

My questions are:

  • Would this be considered licit in the eyes of the Catholic Church?
  • Is it permissible for me to pursue marriage with my girlfriend if she wants to adopt kids, but not have them through pregnancy?
  • Would this qualify as having an "openness to life"?

I'm a lifelong Catholic and want to please God. I also love my girlfriend and am very serious about her. These questions have really been causing challenges in our relationship lately, so I would be eternally grateful for any guidance you could provide her.

Also, please pray for us, too.

Thank you, and God bless you for your crucial ministry!

— Ryan
  { Is it permissible for me to pursue marriage with my girlfriend if she wants to adopt kids, but not have them through pregnancy? }

Bob replied:

Dear Ryan,

Thank you so much for the question.  This is a difficult situation because artificial birth control is gravely immoral and cannot be condoned, and at the same time to consummate a marriage you must have marital relations that presuppose openness to life.  It probably feels like you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The only way I see this working is if she were to consider counseling for the OCD, anxiety, and whatever else may present this obstacle to her (or some similar path to change her heart and mind).  Also, I would make it clear that this is not something you can compromise on; you need a solid moral foundation in this relationship or it is doomed before it even starts.

So, you must pray earnestly for God's Will in this, and be accepting of whatever the Answer is. You will know the answer if a path opens, or conversely if there are unmovable obstacles.  In the end, you will be rewarded for your faithfulness regardless of the immediate outcome.  Trust is costly, but makes us better and more like Christ our Lord, who underwent the ultimate challenge in His passion.

I'll be praying for you, too. Be strong.


Bob Kirby

Ryan replied:

Dear Mr. Kirby,

Thank you very much for your response.  Just a few follow-up questions if I may.

First, to clarify,  I am a lifelong Catholic, and I accept all of the Church's teachings, including that of birth control.  I have expressed my beliefs to my girlfriend on this matter, though I am trying to speak with clarity and charity as you do on here.  I should also note that my girlfriend has always been respectful and supportive of my Catholic faith even though she does not share it herself . . . and I'm also humbled by her telling me (of her own volition) that she is open to becoming Catholic.  I ask your prayers for both of us.

Seeing that my partner is not Catholic, she feels she would need to be on birth control for her OCD.  So, one question is:

Side note: We are both in agreement that sexual intimacy belongs in marriage, so my questions all pertain to a potential future marriage.

  • Also, given that I have expressed my reservations to her about the use of contraception, am I still at fault if she chooses to contracept? 
  • Is her intention to use contraception in itself an impediment to marriage, or not?

I have read some Catholic literature on this topic, and it is a bit confusing, so I am really interested in your answer.  If you have any resources, you think would be beneficial to me, I'm certainly open to that as well.

Please know I speak these words and ask these questions with a seeking heart and mind. 

Thank you for your time and your support. 

May God richly bless you and yours in this holy season of Advent.



Bob replied:

Dear Ryan,

The Principle of Double Effect would not apply here because the primary medical object of the intervention is the suppression of the reproductive system per se; the purported "intent", albeit re-framed as a psychological benefit, as a deterrent to anxiety from OCD, does not supplant this primary effect.  Rather. in the case of medical interventions like tubal pregnancy, the interventions are aimed at saving the mother directly (sometimes a hysterectomy for the cessation of a hemorrhage or similar procedures), and the abortion that results in some cases is an undesired effect, which if it could be avoided, would be.  The difference in the two circumstances is not simply intent but also the nature of the intervention: the object is different.  In your case, the object is intrinsically immoral, it would be like saying it is okay to have an abortion because the anxiety the mother would have in bearing the child is too great.  We can't do evil that good comes from it.

In your girlfriend's case, the avoidance of anxiety from OCD can be achieved by many other interventions that don't obstruct the natural fertility that is germane to conjugal relations in a valid marriage.  Likewise, artificial birth controls have other accompanying issues: failure and abortifacients.  In the case of the ABCs that involve barriers (i.e., condoms), there is a significant failure rate that does result in pregnancy.  

  • What then?  <Abortion?>

This is not a solution.  Likewise:

  • pills
  • uterine implants, and
  • other medical interventions

    have abortifacient characteristics
    (They prevent the embryo from implanting in the womb thus providing a deliberate miscarriage or abortion).

  • So, if you were facing an "unplanned pregnancy", how would your wife respond?  

She would either rise to the occasion and learn to adapt through counseling and therapy or abort.  Not a good recipe for a happy marriage, to deal with so much crisis undermining peace and stability.

My suggestion is that she do the work ahead of time to overcome the OCD-related fears and:

  • enter into a marriage in full agreement that pregnancy is a blessing, and to be left to God's Will, or
  • don't get married.

The emotional pain of this crisis is either going to play out now or later, you can't avoid that altogether.  If it was me, I would have a serious discussion and be prepared to give up the relationship if it doesn't look like God is blessing it.

Doing the right thing is costly.  I'll pray for you.



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