Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Family practice.

"I should like you to be free of all worries." - 1 Corinthians 7: 32

I came across a post on NFP.  How To Ruin Your Marriage With NFP.  I'm guessing it's a good post from the comments I read.  Yes, I read the post. 

I don't get it though - Natural Family Planning, that is.

It's the same as birth control as far as I understand it, only natural.  Nevertheless, it seems rather clinical, and maybe a tad cerebral.

I have two friends who left the gay lifestyle and married, they have been married for years and years.  One couple used contraception, the other something akin to NFP.  However, the NFP couple used the practice not to limit or space the kids, but to find out when it was time to do it to make a baby.  The couple who contracepted did it to space and to limit - they have two kids.  (BTW - the men were fairly faithful over the years, occasional slip ups, but that's how it is with men.)  The only complaints from the wives - that I know of - were from the Mrs. of the contracepting couple.  She was disappointed with his performance.  Both couples remain married despite all.  I pretty much lost contact with them after the kids arrived - although I've kept in touch with the husbands - which is why I know what I know. 

I suppose that has nothing to do with the NFP story, except to show how it can be used outside the contraceptive mentality.   That said, it all seems very complicated to me.  Fortunately, I've never had to worry about it. 
I should like you to be free of anxieties... But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided... A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. - 1 Corinthians 7
And St Paul doesn't even mention what it's like if both spouses work, send the kids to daycare, etc..

I know the Church approves of NFP, so that's good.


Lest I mislead anyone because of my misunderstanding of what NFP is and is not, when in doubt, consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I declare and affirm that I am in agreement with all that the Catholic Church teaches regarding the regulation of birth by Catholic couples:
2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156
2369 "By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood."157

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:159 - CCC

My apologies if any readers mistook my post as official teaching of the Catholic Church.  Talk amongst yourselves.


  1. Well it can be used contraceptively - sadly..

  2. "how it can be used outside the contraceptive mentality, that is, the intention of spacing and limiting children."

    This is factually and doctrinally wrong. The "contraceptive mentality" is not the same as using NFP to limit or space births, but to do so for *selfish* reasons.

    Humanae Vitae, as well as Pius XII, as well as John Paul II, as well as Fr. Hardon, as well as all other well-respected moral theologians, make this abundantly clear.

    And it's not "oh, you can use it if you find yourself in dire straits and have no other option" - spacing births can be helpful in forestalling such dire cases in the first place, which may actually allow the couple to have more children. Is it more charitable to wait until the woman has a nervous breakdown from raising 5 children in 3 years or to allow her some time to recover and focus on each child?

    But it is NOT the same thing, even if the intent is to completely limit pregnancy for the duration of the marriage, as long as there is a serious reason.

    Yes, trads say the only option is 12 children or complete continence, but that is not what the Church teaches - at all.

    If I am ever married again, I hope I am old enough where I'd never be concerned with any of that crap anyway - it's a mess and it's fraught with stress and all kinds of dangers of resentment, etc. The moralists in the 1950s actually said they are hesitant to recommend it because it could lead to lack of harmony between the spouses.

    1. Hey Merc - I ammended that statement, but please leave your response up - it is good and you clarify the matter very well, thanks.

    2. Haha, I was going to take it down. I am very sorry if I came across as critical, Terry.

      And to forestall any flak from the good traditionalists I know - "some trads" say - I'm sure most of them are in total conformity with the Church, and some vocal folks online make the others look bad.

    3. Critical is good - I don't mind at all - it is how we arrive at a better understanding. Thanks.

  3. I hate posting long quotes, but I do not want people to think they are sinning when they are not - I now if I didn't know any better and read this, I'd be afraid I was in mortal sin for using NFP. So here's Humanae Vitae:

    If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

    Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. ***It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result.*** But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love."

  4. Furthermore, all moral theologians agree that even using NFP for invalid reasons is a sin of omission against *charity* and *generosity*, and emphatically not against *chastity* as contraceptives are.

    It's also hard to use NFP for selfish reasons - it sucks so bad that sooner or later "aw, whatever, let's have another kid anyway" will kick in, which is how things are supposed to work. Either that, or they resort to contraception.

    1. Told you I didn't know anything about it. Thanks for explaining the matter Merc. I'm sure it will be helpful to people such as myself who think it is the Catholic way to contracept.

      I was going to do a post on annulments as Catholic divorce, but I think I'll skip that one now. Haha!

  5. I just read a brief explanation here:

    What seemed significant to me is that "NFP is always open to the gift of life," even when a couple may have real reservations about having a child at a given time. Whereas contraception actually intends to purposely block conception, NFP is still ultimately open.

    I think NFP is a combination of right reason and prudence, on the one hand, yet still abandonment to God and trust in His will on the other.

    1. Obviously couples are free to regulate bith. Or am I still wrong? LOL!

  6. I would also like to add that there are some who are anti-NFP known as "Providentialists," as least from what I've seen. While I do not ultimately agree with their opposition to NFP, I do think there is something admirable and essential in the impulse of their position: namely, that this whole matter cannot be divorced from the spiritual aspect of our lives. Trust in God must inform everything as it is the basis of our entire lives: our salvation itself is contingent upon trust in God, and so everything is, or ought to be, an exercise in such trust.

    I think HV speaks well to this aspect that is sometimes not stressed enough in the NFP conversation (as you noted, it can become clinical or cerebral and, frankly, I read that article you linked to as well and I found it rather depressing for some reason - there was a lot of anxiety in the comments and it seems to me indicative of the spiritual being neglected):

    "But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life."

  7. "Obviously couples are free to regulate bith. Or am I still wrong? LOL!"

    I'm still having the "javascript" problem and I can't reply directly beneath your reply...

    I think if it is understood only from the perspective of trying to regulate birth, then I could see where contraception may look no different than NFP. I think that it needs to be approached and understood from a more complete perspective: I think NFP flows from a certain view of man and his relationship with God as well as the couple's relationship with one another that takes into account the total good: not simply procreation in itself, but man's spiritual life, the growth in true intimacy and union between the man and woman as well as the good of the children.

    I think HV was written, in part, as a response to a greater, more complete understanding of the context of married love and procreation rather than as a concession.

  8. Just in case I wasn't clear above in quoting from HV: the "stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life" is not a good thing!

    God is being left out; one can live effectively without trust and so sever any relationship with Him. That is, I believe, the deepest danger.

    1. Patrick, I'd say that NFP should be something done in conjunction with spiritual direction, or at least with prayer.

      But sometimes it's just practical - have a baby, NFP for a year, have another baby, etc. It becomes part of the routine, and not a major decision each time. Like I said, I know some spouses who managed to have 8 or 9 kids this way.

      And while I do not think everyone should or is capable of having 9 children, I do think couples should be as generous as they can be - and this is why using NFP selfishly would be a sin of omission against generosity, NOT a sin of comission against chastity.

  9. Terry - above, re: annulments

    I am going through one right now, as you know. My wife decided unilaterally after a short time that she wanted out, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

    In my case, I sincerely want to know if the vows we made were valid, or if there was some deficiency. I will accept whatever conclusion the tribunal comes to. I am ready to live a "celibate" life if that's what I am called to, but if God wants me to be married, maybe He wants me to know my previous one is invalid.

    As to marriages falling apart and being declared null after 20 years and 6 children, I do think there is something fishy going on. But maybe not - who knows? Some priests say that because we are so messed up culturally, a lot of people never REALLY know what they are committing to in the first place. I don't want to be the one who judges them.

  10. No offense to anyone but if you're going to have 8 or 9 kids why bother with NFP at all? You might as well be a providentialist.

  11. A girlfriend of mine told me about 5 years ago that she had always wanted to be Catholic. I had never really spoken openly about my faith until that moment. It was the turning point of my life. I decided I was going to tell her everything. I babysat her 3 kids while we went to RCIA. Contraception was the last hard teaching I needed to tell her about. I was going to chicken out and not tell her, but I thought, if I don't tell her, who will? Maybe this teaching will make her reject the whole faith, but at least she would come by her faith honestly. Would you believe she had high blood pressure, so she couldn't take the pill, and she was allergic to latex, so she couldn't use condoms. She was already doing NFP.

    Even though public speaking gives me a heart attack, I signed up to teach NFP last year. I haven't taught a class yet, but the research project I did for the class was a big hit and I have been asked to present it in many venues.

    I'm one of seven kids. My parents used nothing - not even NFP. They wanted all of us. I asked my Dad this past Easter what was the most money he ever made in a year. He said $14,000. We never needed a thing. As a matter of fact, most of us were rather, um, well fed. And my parents weren't fanatics about the faith either. We never prayed together as a family (not that we shouldn't have) and my parents were super lenient with us last 3 girls. I tell the people who hear my talk that I tell them all this contraception vs. NFP stuff because I want them to have what I have - the joy of a big happy family.

    1. Very cool - thanks for that.

    2. Awesome story. I wonder how someone could even support themselves on 14,000,
      much less 9 people! (seriously, I make quite a bit more than that and struggle sometimes to support just myself)

      Contraception really *is* the hardest teaching, isn't it? It destroyed my brief marriage - my wife couldn't take it and left me over it.

      Just a word though - NFP doesn't mean the spouses don't *want* the child - sometimes it's really not a matter of want at all, and sometimes, like I mentioned above, it's a way to help ensure stability so one can welcome more than they would have otherwise (4 kids in 3 years can burn you out). But in any event, a big difference with NFP and contraception is that with the former there is no child who would have been, because there was no act to bring them forth in the first place. But of course you know that, and your story is beautiful.

    3. Oops, sorry...didn't mean to infer that people who practice NFP don't want children. It's just amazing to me that my parents trusted God so much when they had so little. We kids give them everything their little hearts desire now, but even if we were all still poor, we have each other and get along and that's the greatest wealth anyone could want.

    4. That's awesome, ck.

      If you don't mind me asking, when were you born? It must have been around the same time as my parents if your parents are still alive.

      I'm still shocked by $14,000 :)

      Did he not have a house note, car note, student loans (HAH! only my poor generation has to deal with that), etc?

    5. I was born in 1970.

      My dad was a jack-of-all-trades. He was a car mechanic, wedding photographer, truck driver, etc. He had inherited a small fortune, invested it in his own truck driving business, and lost his shirt. (In addition to trusting God, he trusts everybody - not a good business model.) My dad is like that guy in Fiddler on the Roof who asks God if it would be so bad if he could be rich. I think my Dad now sees that, if he was, he would have just spoiled us all and we would be at each other's throats over who got what.

      They never planned for retirement, but through a strange twist of circumstances, a pile of money fell in their lap just in time for them to buy the property we used to camp at as kids ($5 a day to camp there - we could afford that). They've been through a lot in life (my mom nearly died when we were all still little) but now it seems as if God is saying to them, "Well done good and faithful servants."

    6. That's great.

      My family also grew up living paycheck to paycheck, never "breaking through". We had all we needed, of course, like you, but never "made it."

      Years later I see what a benefit it was to all of us, especially my parents, and especially my father.

      And yet, we were richer than most people in the world ...

  12. Right Terry--that's how it is with men. And they lived happily ever after. Wink, wink.

    1. Haha! Tell me what you really think - you are the only one who picked up on that. So what painting would you want if I were to award you one? You never told me.

  13. Oh I don't know Terry. Doesn't the Academy decide on the award? If I had to list something, you know I love our Lady.


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