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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

NFP: Licit or Illicit?

Within the Church, there is a great battle raging.  This battle is truly for the heart of the Church and centers around sexual morality and ethics.  It is the battle between those Catholics who feel it is moral to use artificial birth control and those who stand behind the teachings of the Church on this topic.  In recent years, with the support of many wonderful priests and bishops, the tide is turning where more and more individuals are turning their hearts back to the teaching of the Church and rejecting artificial birth control as an intrinsic evil.

Yet, this is not the only struggle on this topic.  As Natural Family Planning instructors for the Couple to Couple League, my wife and I have encountered on several instances individuals and families within the Church who claim NFP to be no better than artificial birth control.  These people are good people who obviously seek to do God's work and support the Church, yet in their animosity towards NFP, they do great harm.  This harm stems from a rejection of the Church's teaching on the use of NFP.  I realize that for some of these people, it can be very difficult because they have been on the defensive within the Church itself for the past 40 years in regards to so many issues.   It would seem that they do not know what they can believe anymore and so some turn to the time before the tumult, namely the pre-Vatican II era.  And yet, in doing so, they lose so much of the rich development in the understanding of sexual ethics that has come from John Paul II's Theology of the Body and the need for orthodox Catholics to better understand the relationship of man and woman in response to a culture hostile to God's design for sex.  

In this smaller conflict, there is a need for proper catechesis. It is a matter of reminding these families that the Church's teachign truly does trump all, and in this case, NFP is licit.  Below is the beginning of a post written on the topic that does a thorough job of laying out the case for NFP in the heart of the Church.  I encourage you to read it, and if the Lord calls you to, send it to anyone who you think may benefit from its message.

Let’s talk about, sex, artificial birth control (ABC) and Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Let’s focus specifically on the licitness of NFP.  The things that follow here assume the Catholic position on ABC.  I understand that some who come here may not share our beliefs.  This is not about “convincing” non-Catholics of anything.  This is what you might call an “internal discussion.”  This is a discussion for those of us who are Catholic and who agree that ABC is morally wrong.  That is the foundation.  If this isn’t you, you may find this writing to be boring or even ridiculous.  That’s okay, you can just close the window and come back another time to see pictures of Gariníon or to see what is happening in our daily life.  Whether you stick around or not, this will be a very, very long entry.
Throughout the years, I’ve been exposed to a many, many, many conversations regarding Natural Family Planning.  I guess that comes with being Catholic, having a large family and being a certified NFP instructor (now retired!)  It has come up again recently in a couple of different venues.   I often find it frustrating to have conversations about this because people tend to be passionate about their position to the point of not being able to consider or hear anything else.  I also find that it is hard to fully “argue” your position in these types of conversations.  (That fact that it’s taking 3100+ words here might explain part of that!)
Sometimes in these conversations the question is trying to get to the heart of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, birth control, and what it all means.  Often, it boiled down to questioning the licitness of using NFP at all.  Many have wondered if using NFP shows a desire for control that is not an appropriate response to God’s creative prerogative, and is therefore just as evil as contraception.  This is what I’ve got on my mind today.  Let me say right upfront that while I do not criticize the people who are asking these questions (for in my experience, most truly appear to be seeking) I find the suggestion itself (that NFP is always wrong) to be, well, hogwash.
The conversations I was a part of or was exposed over the years to took all kinds of twists and turns and some of the things that were said or implied were mind-boggling to me.  Some of these things seemed a bit extreme.
I have heard or read more times than I can remember that since ABC and NFP have the same “end goal” in mind, (avoiding pregnancy) either both are valid or both are invalid.  This argument is put forth by those who reject the Church’s teaching against ABC as well as those who reject NFP along with ABC.  The problem with that line of thinking, in my opinion, is that it confuses the issue.  The problem with it is that it assumes that seeking to avoid pregnancy is always evil in all circumstances.  If that were true, then I would have to agree that no matter how you violate that, it is evil.  But avoiding pregnancy for a good (sufficient/grave/serious) reason is not evil.  The problem enters with the how.  It comes down to the meaning and purpose of sex and to the natural law regarding human sexuality
As I observed these conversations and took it all in, particularly over the past 15+ years, I kept coming back to one, single question:
Does no one read the catechism?

Read the rest here. 

2 comments:

  1. The wrongheaded perspective on NFP that is under discussion seems rather baldfacedly Freudian! Yes, we know that patriarchy doesn't want a single sperm to go to waste. I've come across Catholics who insist that artificial lubes are only acceptable if they're specifically spermophiliac, with the bizarre implication that artifice is better than creation.

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