Dear Father | Birth control, divorce hang in the balance in deciding worse of two evils
There are two ways of answering your question; pastorally and academically. Pastorally, I would address the personal and very painful issues associated with your rejection by a seemingly uncaring husband, but I do not consider this to be the proper forum for that. I recommend you contact your pastor or one of the counselors at Catholic Family Services for help.
There is, however, an aspect to your question that deals with the ethical issue of the lesser of two evils, and this is exactly the venue for that kind of discussion. Yes, there are situations in which the only apparent options are evil, but they're somewhat rare. Most such cases actually involve a fallacy of logic called the false dilemma. A false dilemma occurs when someone proposes two alternatives as the only possible options when, in fact, there is at least one more. For example, a young man turns sixteen and tells his parents that unless he gets a new Mustang for his birthday he'll have to kill himself. There is at least one other option whereby he doesn't get the car but somehow manages to survive. Typically, the false dilemma is proposed as a way of corrupting or co-opting a good and moral person, as in the case of a terrorist who threatens to kill a child unless his wicked demands are met.
Let's say that your husband was Clyde Barrow and he insisted, as a condition for staying married to you, that you assist him in the family business, namely, armed robbery and murder. What should one do then? There is no Catholic teaching of "choosing the lesser of two evils," but there is another one, ancient and derived from the letters of St. Paul, that no matter how good the end, one may never achieve it through evil means.
In your case, I suspect that if your husband truly loved you, some other way could have been worked out. I know many couples whose use of the natural way of family planning not only saved their marriages, but added such a new depth and beauty to their love that they drew closer to each other than they had ever been before. How? They re-discovered romance through an enhanced respect for one another in the virtue of chastity. They found out that there are many kinds of intercourse in which a couple engages, i.e., intellectual, spiritual, social, physical, emotional, etc., and that the physical act is most satisfying and enriching when the other kinds are present. A man I know said it best: "We don't have sex as often as we once did, but we make love a lot more often." Our "culture" sells sex, God promotes love; marriages will be saved when couples embrace God's way.
Msgr. Mitas is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Union and dean of the Washington Deanery. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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