I hear this all too often after sharing the fact that I am one of five children. It’s a common assumption that a family with many children must be Catholic. Well, in my case, it’s true. I was born and raised Cathoic, as were both of my parents (and they both have four siblings). So, yes, it may seem that larger families tend to be Catholic.
As a child I didn’t understand how people could so easily identify my religion. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized it was more of a joke than an educated guess, which I now know stems from the fact that the Catholic church has a moral stance against using contraception. So, if you like doin’ it and refuse to use some form of birth control, you’re probably going to end up with a few more children that what you had planned for. The Catholic church only “allows” for the use of abstinence or Natural Family Planning when it comes to avoiding pregnancies.
But just because the Catholic church speaks against birth control, doesn’t mean that it can’t keep up with the times. In fact, the Pope has lessened his stance on the use of condoms, calling them “the lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner.” That being said, I looked into how some other religions view contraception.
Protestantism holds a wide view of birth control; I’ll categorize them into groups: The “children in abundance” group sees all forms of birth control (including natural family planning, but with the exception of abstinence) as wrong. The “children in managed abundance” group finds natural family planning to be acceptable. The “children in moderation” group accepts a wide range of birth control. And finally, the “no children” group believes that it is within a human’s rights to decide whether or not they will conceive.
Neither Islam nor Hinduism hold anything against birth control. However, both religions encourage procreation and taking care of one’s family. Of course, Hinduism also finds ethical issues with producing more offspring that what the environment can handle, so having too many children may be treated as a violation of the Hindu nonviolent rule of conduct. And in Islam, the guidelines for the use of contraception include having both parents agree to it, and the form of birth control should not cause harm or permanent sterility to the person subjected to it.
Judaism also has varied takes on the use of birth control and can be sorted into three groups: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Orthodox Jews tend to only accept birth control in cases in which a couple already has multiple children. Conservative Jews allow more flexibility when it comes to using birth control to adapt to modern society. And Reform Jews allow for people to use their own judgment on how and when they use birth control.
Even though it may seem as if Catholics are stricter on the use of contraception, it doesn’t mean that women won’t. A survey says that 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control. So, who really knows why large families are all just assumed to be Catholic.