Some Catholics may need a periodic reminder that small families are not synonymous with bad or poorly catechized Catholics.

I was reminded of this recently when, in a span of a few weeks, I read a Catholic’s post on social media essentially chiding families with few children and spoke with a mother who’d lost six babies to miscarriage.

An estimated 15% of couples will experience infertility, which can mean they have trouble conceiving or that a woman becomes pregnant but has a miscarriage or stillbirth. About 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. I personally have a handful of friends who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive a longed-for child or who have lost babies after carrying them for weeks in the womb.

We know church teaching on artificial contraception: It is not permitted. But the church approves of natural methods to space births for the good of the couple and the good of the family. At the same time it is important to remember that smaller families or a childless marriage is not always an intellectual or emotional choice but a fully biological one. The church understands this; we should too. There likely are husbands and wives in your parish’s pews who have yearned for a child or grieved the loss of one — or more. It is a piercing and often private heartache.

So, as with most soul-related things, let’s leave any judgment of a couple’s childbearing to God.