Voluntary childlessness

Some people don’t want to marry and have children, is this acceptable? Or is everybody save priests and nuns commanded to “be fruitful and multiply”?

Nobody has to marry. But if they do, there is strong Scriptural injunction to have children, if nature allows it.

How many children they have, is a decision that can only be made by any individual couple, possibly — I said possibly — with the assistance of a confessor or spiritual director, if they cannot come to a decision on their own.

Choosing never to have children at all, unless there is some compelling reason to do so (discovering after the marriage that one of the spouses could pass on a grave genetic defect, or discovering that pregnancy would kill the mother or ruin her health, etc.), is very hard to defend. If a couple absolutely, positively cannot think of having a child, then the only solution is abstinence until the menopause (and, to be safe, for some time after, you never know). If NFP fails — what then?

(FWIW, immoral contraception and immoral sterilization can and do fail as well. Only castration would work, and no person who fires on all their pistons would seek castration as a form of sterilization. I have to doubt that any ethical doctor would do such a thing, and as far as this contemporary craze to have oneself cosmetically converted to a facsimile of the opposite gender, no, that’s not a deliberately sought method of contraception. Lord have mercy.)

It is also theoretically possible that a couple, after getting married, could discern that “we’re just not cut out to be parents” (psychological problems, substance dependency, etc.), but at that point, they need to see professional help to see if this situation is a lifelong one.

Marriage is intrinsically ordered to the begetting of new life unless nature makes it impossible. And I keep saying “after the marriage” because if they know these things about themselves going into the marriage, it might be a sign that, despite their wishes, they do not have a vocation to marriage at all.

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It is acceptable as a lay people to stay single. Some will never find a spouse, others may have strong “countraindication” for marriage or something of some kind that make marriage not desirable.

But to marry, we need to want to have children if we are of childbearing age and able to have some.


So well put.

I actually wrote a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which is what it was called then, before that it had the delicious title of “the Holy Office”, indeed, the address at which it is located in Rome is called that in Italian) in early 2020, asking whether a married couple could licitly, and without sin, resolve never to have children for the duration of their marriage, while using NFP, solely because they do not want children, without any accompanying aggravating factor (grave illness, severe lack of money or other resources, knowing they would pass on a grave genetic defect, etc.).

That was at the height of COVID, and I never received a reply. I have to imagine that, if they had ever answered (I’m not sending it again), the reply would be something like “subjective reasons for never having children are so diverse, and so unique to the individual couple, that the Church cannot speak definitively on the matter” (or something like that).

Here it is, if you’re interested:


Incidentally, speaking of COVID, it finally caught up with me a couple of weeks ago. The doctor’s office prescribed Paxlovid and a five-day quarantine, and I was then fine, tested negative, and have gotten on with life. It wasn’t a bad case, it ran its course in about 48 hours, basically a lot of sweat and a lot of sleep. I’ve had worse colds than that, and I regret to say, in my misspent youth, worse hangovers. (I have since become an almost-absolute teetotaler.) Deo gratias, my unvaccinated mother, who is very elderly (92) and in poor health, didn’t get sick.

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It’s totally acceptable within Catholic teaching. I’ve known several people who don’t want to marry and have children who are faithful Catholics. I think people suffering asexuality and same sex attraction have heroically chosen this option in the past.


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