Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

What is your faith group's position on the number of children couples should have? Has this changed in recent years as the population ages, especially in North America?

Our position has not changed. In the Book of Genesis (1:27-28) we read that God created us in his own image, "...male and female he created them; he blessed them and said Be fruitful and multiply". The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. Married couples should understand that in their duty of transmitting human life, they are cooperating in the work of the Creator, as stated in the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes (50:2). Consequently, the Church forbids all forms of artificial contraception, including chemical and barrier approaches to preventing fertilization.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2368) recognizes that spouses may wish to regulate the births of their children, although it states that "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". Keeping this in mind, married couples can have recourse to following methods such as Natural Family Planning (NFP) which could include the Billings Ovulation method or the calendar "rhythm" method.

Therefore, in our faith group, couples can have recourse to certain approved methods of family planning. What is rejected, however, is any thinking or strategy which denies the giftedness and sacredness or human life in its initiation, or which threatens marriage and family. The magisterium of the Church would view such a denial or threat in any direct contraceptive act. Most important of all, is that married couples should be guided by the fact that this sacrament signifies the union of Christ and the Church. In this, their human love is perfected and strengthened and they become his witnesses to the world.