|You're an engaged Catholic couple? Here, take this information on NFP!|
And here it is: We both basically hold that NFP is not an essential part of a happy, normal Catholic marriage. And therefore, both of us have decided we have no reason to even learn it at this time.
|They sound irresponsible!|
If you are a married Catholic couple practicing NFP, or an engaged couple learning about it, please do not take any of what I am saying as a judgmental statement upon you personally. I do not claim to know, or even have a desire to know, the reasons you feel you need to learn it or practice it. It is a very private matter between two people, but I feel the catechesis on NFP within the Catholic Church has been skewed, generalized and lacking in its fullness.
|NFP? Hey! Wait! I'm supposed to be number eight!|
- Fr. Hugh Calkins wrote about his growing concerns about what eventually evolved into NFP, then known as the "rhythm method" back in 1948. You can read it here.
- Also, a blogger, Dr. Jay Boyd, has a series of articles on NFP that pretty much sum up many of our concerns about NFP.
- Article titled: Why You Don't Have to Use NFP
- Pope Pius XII on NFP (section on Birth Control): Address to Midwives
Our reasoning can basically be explained in many of the articles mentioned above. But here is a rough outline of our thought process on the matter.
- The primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Thus, it would be expected that if a couple were to wed, babies would follow (God willing, many chunky babies :) ). There should normally be no typical societal question of, "When are you going to start your family?" For every Catholic couple, it should be assumed, "Right away!" Let's bring back our claim to the title! Let's bring back the presence and sounds of gobs of children at mass!
|What have happened to all the large Catholic families?|
- NFP should only be an option for grave and serious reasons. Why is NFP being promoted to every engaged Catholic couple? I would think most people could easily learn the NFP charting system if a serious and grave reason occurred in their married lives. In my opinion, being taught NFP without a grave matter at hand would make it all too easy to undermine the seriousness of preventing or delaying pregnancy.
|Not to be taken lightly.|
- Why would Catholics "plan" out a family? The family is God's plan for marriage and He created a pretty great system. How many will children will we have? As many souls as God blesses us with. I will often respond with, "a baker's dozen," when asked how many children we will have. It's basically to imply we would love as many as God will give us. We plan to take our role of giving him souls and educating those souls about Him very seriously.
It is unfortunate that the perception and understanding of NFP is poorly instructed upon and these errors are coming from our Catholic dioceses, priests, and fellow Catholics. I would like to think that the majority of Catholic couples are not experiencing constant truly grave issues within their marriages.
Let's work together as Catholic couples to once again bring a strong face to marriage and family: the beauty, the fruitfulness, the joy, the triumph in hardships, and the size of our ranks.
This can be a very touchy topic for people, I know. If you are learning or using NFP and you were unaware of this controversy, I would say do your research. These are very confusing times as there are still those distorting Catholic teachings to more closely match societal norms. And being Catholic is quite far from the societal norm these days.
On a lighter topic, Anth and I were able to visit the Milwaukee domes recently. I highly recommend frequent visits to the tropical dome during long and cold Wisconsin winters.
|Greenery, warmth, humidity and light. Good for the soul.|
Just a couple quick thoughts from Anthony: I understand the big push for NFP. Our culture is so broken that contraception is as commonplace as, say, owning a car. It's just assumed that you'll do it. And it is incredibly controversial even within the Church: the National Schismatic Reporter regularly posts editorials about how many Catholics use contraception, as part of their push to get this unchanging and unchangeable Catholic teaching repealed (which always makes me wonder what would happen if they devoted even half that energy to getting Roe vs. Wade repealed . . .). So most priests and counsellors are eager to give Catholic couples an alternative that does not break with official Church teaching, and out comes NFP at every opportunity.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn't fix the underlying issue, which is the belief that responsible couples have few kids, properly spaced. This is supposedly better for the kids (more money! More time for activities! Less divided parental attention!) and, of course, for the parents (more money! More time for activities! Less divided parental attention!). But, speaking as number four of a family of nine, I have to call foul. I had an absolutely awesome childhood. My parents couldn't give their children the shiny toys, the big enough house, the vacations, or the college funds. But they gave us something better: lots of love, and lots of brothers and sisters. I never felt like my parents weren't giving me enough attention. And as much as my siblings could drive me crazy (and I, of course, them), I would never have traded them for nicer toys or more goodies or "opportunities." They're family, with all that that implies. And just today I was rereading an interview I did with my parents for a class in college, and both of my parents listed children as the main benefit of marriage. They certainly don't think they made a bad trade.
Natural Family Planning, unfortunately, often seems little more than a Catholic birth control. It is supposed to be just fine because the method used is not artificial, but "natural." But it's not the "natural" I have a problem with, but the "family planning."
That's heresy today. I mean, of course you should plan your family! It's the responsible thing to do! Of course you should have only the kids you can afford! Right? I mean, right?
But where is our trusting acceptance of God's will and God's providence? Yes, you should not be irresponsible. Meaning: if you can't start a family, you should probably not be getting married. And yes, if you run into a grave difficulty, NFP is there for you. But there seems to be a big change in what we consider grave today, and a big change in what we consider affordable today. My parents struggled financially all their lives, and they are still struggling. Less kids would have alleviated that struggle exponentially. Lots of people thought that they had more kids than they could afford. But guess what? We were all fed, clothed, and happy.
I don't ever judge a couple on the number of kids they have. I don't know the circumstances. I know couples who have really good, grave reasons to use NFP. But I do ask that other people don't judge Andrea and myself on the number of kids we have. 'Cause we are going to have a lot. And we are going to love each and every one. And we are going to struggle financially; that's a given. But we will be rich — rich in family. Rich in love.
An addendum from Andrea:
I also found this great explanation on AveMariaSingles.com.
Church Teaching Question: Isn't Natural Family Planning (NFP) a form of contraception? Answer:Technically, no. But in motive, it can be. The Church officially teaches that NFP is permitted for use by a married couple who, for grave reasons, needs to space having children for a reasonable amount of time. The NFP method does NOT intentionally seek to “block” life, as artificial means of contraception do. Therefore, since NFP methods are done with an openness to life should conception still take place, this is permitted by the Church. But notice the conditions: (1) married couple, (2) grave reasons, (3) reasonable amount of time. It is obvious that we are talking about intercourse within marriage, which is the only time intercourse is permitted by the Church. But what many do not realize is that the Church is allowing NFP only for “grave reasons,” and it is only for a short time. “Grave reasons” means that you have to have a really good reason that makes the conception of a child something that would be harmful to the family at that specific time. This is something that MUST be discussed with the couple’s pastor or a trusted priest friend. It is not a decision to make lightly or on their own. Having money problems is rarely a “grave reason,” but it is used often. There might be a serious health issue to tend to first. Whatever the reason, NFP is never to be seen as a normal way to put off having children just because the couple does not want children at the time.
NFP is also NOT to be used for the motive of putting off having children at the time of the marriage. Too many feel they need to “get to know each other first.” For goodness’ sake, don’t get married yet if you don’t know each other well enough. The main reason to actually take the plunge to get married is to have intercourse and be open to children. Otherwise, everything else can be done with each other without getting married.
Marriage is about having children and being open to life. “Be fruitful and multiply,” the Lord commanded the human race. NFP can be very much abused and even be used as a contraceptive if the motive of the couple is less than noble as seen in the purpose of marriage. So in the case of bad motives for postponing or prohibiting having children, NFP can still be in the area of contraception.
NFP is primarily about knowing when you CAN get pregnant and using that important information to help with conception. It is a positive method because it is meant to do something positive, which is to help a couple be fruitful in their marriage. May all Catholics who marry see NFP as a vehicle to helping them in the great honor God has given them to become “co-creators” along with God in bringing children into their lives. And what an honor and privilege it is to help God populate the earth and Heaven itself, as well as give Him so much glory, which every child does.