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Fatherly Advice: Coping With Infertility


A listener named Amanda shares that she and her husband suffer from infertility as a result of her husband’s battle with cancer. She asks how they can fulfill their duty to God in upholding the Sacrament of Matrimony without children, and shares that she does not feel welcome in the Church because infertility is not discussed often.

Father Dave responds, “It’s sad for me to hear that you feel like you don’t belong in the Church anymore. That is certainly not the Church’s goal. It is absolutely not the teaching of the Church about the Sacrament of Marriage. There’s nothing about our teaching of marriage and the fruitfulness of marriage that should ever make people feel like they are not welcome. I’m sorry that that’s the message that you hear because that’s not what we believe.”

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“Typically, when you look in church you see young adults in the singles group and you see some older seniors, and the other big group is the families. I certainly don’t diminish the fact that you may feel like there’s not a place for you. We don’t send the message that if you are married and you don’t have children, then there’s no place for you here, or that there is something theologically wrong with you because you’re not doing the Sacrament right. That is certainly not the case … Your duty and upholding the Sacrament of Matrimony is primarily to one another. We would say that the Sacrament of Matrimony has two main major ends. One is the two of you and your love and care for one another and how you live that out. The other one is being open to life and raising a family. It certainly doesn’t diminish that other equally important purpose of the Sacrament, which is the two of you.”

“Sacraments are ways in which we experience the presence of God in a tangible way. Matrimony doesn’t even primarily have to do with children. It is the complete and unconditional love that we can give to another human being and make that commitment for our entire lives. That is where the Sacrament of Matrimony begins for many people. We hope it does for you. For many people that then moves into us being other-centered together as a couple in raising children. But when that part doesn’t happen, it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re not fulfilling the Sacrament of Matrimony … If you’ve gotten this message from the Church, I’m sorry, and let me correct that message. Don’t think that you are doing something wrong or that you’re not doing your duty or not fulfilling the Sacrament. The vows that you made were to be open to life. That’s what you promised. You promised to welcome children. You didn’t promise a certain amount … There is also a misconception that we should burst here. You said that your husband had cancer. God didn’t punish him and give him cancer. God didn’t intend for you not to have children, so therefore he gave him cancer. None of that is what we believe.”

RELATED: On Belonging: How Adoption Is Like a Sacrament

Father Dave also encourages the couple to look into adoption, “You don’t have control about how the cancer affected your husband’s body and whether or not you can actually get pregnant. What you do have control over is how aggressively you might pursue adoption. So if any way in your heart, you’re feeling like, ‘We’re falling down on our duty or we’re not doing enough.’ Maybe that’s the part. I don’t know your situation and the Church does not require us by any means. I’m only saying this because of what I hear you saying. That it feels like you’re feeling like you could do more … The only thing you really can do more is pursue that option … I don’t know of anyone personally that has ever regretted adopting or has ever made a distinction of their adopted children and biological children.”