20 Kids & Counting For The Duggars: Quiverfull Vs. NFP


Time to come up with another J-name! TLC’s Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, stars of the reality TV show “19 Kids & Counting,” just announced they’re expecting their 20th child, due this spring.

The 45-year-old mom said she’s taking extra precautions after experiencing a complicated 19th pregnancy, when Josie was born premature at 25 weeks. People magazine reported:

 Michelle, who is under the care of a high-risk pregnancy doctor, says she is being cautious, eating a lot of protein and green vegetables and abstaining from caffeine. 

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of women have preeclampsia – Michelle had it with her second pregnancy – and the condition can strike randomly. Women who have had it previously are at higher risk, however.

“We are just going to do the best we can,” says Michelle.  “I am taking a nap every day, and we are just taking good care.”

Jim Bob agrees: “If we had lived by fear after Michelle had preeclampsia after her second delivery, we would have missed out on all our wonderful blessings,” he says. “So many of her pregnancies have gone extremely well.” 

The Duggars are conservative Christians whose fundamental Biblical beliefs led them to reject birth control, a stance the Catholic Church shares. The Duggars “decided to allow God to determine the number of children” they would have, an open-to-life philosophy that resembles the attitude of many Catholics who who use natural family planning.

My understanding is that the Duggars adhere to Quiverfull principles on family planning, explained like this, according to Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Quiverfull adherents maintain that God “opens and closes the womb” of a woman on a case-by-case basis, and that attempts to regulate fertility are a subjugation of divine power.

Thus, the defining practice of a Quiverfull married couple is not to use any form of birth control and to maintain continual “openness to children,” to the possibility of conception, during routine sexual intercourse irrespective of timing of the month during the ovulation cycle.

This is considered by Quiverfull adherents to be a principal, if not the primary, aspect of their Christian calling in submission to the lordship of  Christ. 

By contrast, NFP-using Catholics practice responsible parenthood, which means they are also open to life and trust God’s will but may at times choose to abstain from sex (based on fertility signs) when they have discerned they are not called to welcome another child at the time.

Pope Paul VI defines responsible parenthood in his 1968 encyclical Humane Vitae:

In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.

Married couples are called to prayerfully discern family size, knowing they will ultimately be held accountable for their decision, Pope Paul VI notes in Gaudium et Spes:

It is the married couple themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God.

NFP is far more open to life and trusting of God than any other family-planning practice or religious tenet, but compared with the Quiverfull approach, it gives a bit more control to humans by allowing them to at times avoid pregnancy.

CatholicMatchers, what are your impressions of NFP vs. Quiverfull? Have I got it right? Are you preparing to one day practice NFP? Do you agree with secular critics who say Michelle Duggar shouldn’t be having any more babies at her age and given the difficulty of her last pregnancy? What are your thoughts on pregnancy in your 40s?



  1. Jillian-1014035 September 26, 2013 Reply

    I think they are great parents too..indeed not everyone is called to a large family.

  2. Deborah-696127 November 11, 2011 Reply

    I’ve watched the show a couple of times and I’m amazed with their parenting skills. Their children are much more mature than many adults that I’ve met. How many 20 year olds are happy to bring a chaperone along on a date with their fiance? There aren’t many people who would be able to handle 20 children, but I have to applaud the Duggar’s for the way they have raised and continue to raise their children.

  3. Benjamin-148488 November 9, 2011 Reply

    Thought provoking article, indeed, and constructed well, but may I ask why there is not presented here a fully historical and balanced look at God’s will for man and wife to procreate, if such a topic is to be approached? Is this article, in truth, simply promoting NFP? Is this article, in its NFP slant, intended to provoke thoughts on the other extreme? While the provided “Catholic” links are those supporting “NFP”, I do not believe the provided links are enough, in the sense of painting the richer, fuller picture desired by entire audience who may seek to discuss this corporately. Most definitely, there are more Church writings about the benefits of a larger family than People magazine and wikipedia could offer. A bear minimum to enlarge the discussion would be to add, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (in particular, regarding sections III and IV): http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm
    The blog post would benefit from further documentation, both from Church legal documents, Church teaching, and Church history to present in balanced and spiritually edifying and nourishing fashion the reasons for a man and wife to seek the consummate will of God for their lives, without impediment and hindrance from limited viewpoints both pro and con? I am not saying this to diminish the great question posed, but I only am responding to challenge the knowledgeable author to present a more mature, wise, and robust exhortation to follow the eternal and all-powerful will of God, with as little fear as possible. There are millions of untold accounts and thousands of written accounts of the efficacy of large, God-fearing families that, by their number alone, brought countless saints into the world, and by association, countless parents and ancestors of those who may wish to join in this discussion. Of course, there are numerous amounts of saints who hail from smaller families. The point is this: the number of children, as stated by the other poster, is a deeply personal subject, truly known, appreciated, and shared best between God and the couple. May Christ’s loving light illuminate all of your hearts as you pursue God’s will for your lives.

  4. Michael-422117 November 8, 2011 Reply

    I think that the secular credits need to keep their opinions to themselves; how many children Michelle and Jim Bob have is a decision that lies between them and God. It isn’t anyone else’s business.

    In general terms, I think NFP and Quiverfull are both perfectly valid principles for couples to follow in opening themselves to God’s will. Which of the two a husband and wife choose to follow should be dependent on prayerful reflection and personal preference.

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