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Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6 [Open] ^ | August 4, 2008 | Christopher West

Posted on 08/06/2008 10:35:11 PM PDT by Salvation

Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6

August 4th, 2008 by Christopher West

For several columns now we’ve been reflecting on the Church’s teaching on contraception in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s letter Humanae Vitae [Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four]. We’ve observed that sexual intercourse is meant to incarnate the marriage commitment itself, and that an integral part of that commitment is openness to children.

So, does fidelity to the wedding vows imply that couples are to leave the number of children they have entirely to “chance”? No. In calling couples to a responsible love, the Church calls them also to a responsible parenthood.

Pope Paul VI stated clearly that those are considered “to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family, or who, for serious reasons and with due respect to the moral law, choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period” (HV 10). Notice that large families should result from prudent reflection, not “chance.” Notice too that couples must have “serious reasons” to avoid pregnancy and must respect the moral law.

Assuming a couple have a serious reason to avoid a child (this could be financial, physical, psychological, etc.), what could they do that would not violate the consummate expression of their sacrament? In other words, what could they do to avoid conceiving a child that would not render them unfaithful to their wedding vows? You’re doing it right now (I presume). They could abstain from sex. There is nothing wrong with abstaining from sex when there’s a good reason to do so. The Church has always recognized that the only method of “birth control” that respects the language of divine love is “self-control.”

A further question arises: Would a couple be doing anything to falsify their sexual union if they embraced during a time of natural infertility? Take, for example, a couple past childbearing years. They know their union will not result in a child. Are they violating their vows if they engage in intercourse with this knowledge? Are they contracepting? No. Contraception, by definition, is the choice to engage in an act of intercourse, but then do something else to render it sterile. This can be done by using various devices, hormones, surgical procedures, and the age-old method of withdrawal.

Couple holding handsCouples who use natural family planning (NFP) when they have a just reason to avoid pregnancy never render their sexual acts sterile; they never contracept. They track their fertility, abstain when they are fertile and, if they so desire, embrace when they are naturally infertile. Readers unfamiliar with modern NFP methods should note that they are 98-99% effective at avoiding pregnancy when used properly. Furthermore, any woman, regardless of the regularity of her cycles, can use NFP successfully. This is not your grandmother’s “rhythm method.”

To some people this seems like splitting hairs. “What’s the big difference,” they ask, “between rendering the union sterile yourself and just waiting until it’s naturally infertile? The end result is the same: both couples avoid children.” To which I respond, what’s the big difference between killing Grandma and just waiting until she dies naturally? End result’s the same thing: dead Grandma. Yes, but one is a serious sin called murder, and the other is an act of God.

If a person can tell the difference between euthanasia and natural death, he can tell the difference between contraception and NFP. It’s the same difference. I’m not equating contraception and murder. That’s not the analogy. Rather, Grandma’s natural death and a woman’s natural period of infertility are both acts of God. But in killing Grandma or in rendering sex sterile, we take the powers of life into our own hands — just like the deceiver originally tempted us to do — and make ourselves like God (see Gn 3:5).

This is why Pope John Paul II concludes that contraception “is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God” (address Oct. 10, 1983).

If you have resisted the Church’s teaching on contraception, maybe it’s time to give it some more thought.


[Editor’s note: Please enjoy regular features from this and other enlightening authors discussing Catholic teaching on sexuality in CE’s Theology of the Body channel.]

This column first appeared as part of Christopher West’s Body Language series for the Catholic press (

Christopher West is a fellow of the Theology of the Body Institute. His books and tapes on the “theology of the body” are available from our online store.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Moral Issues; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; contraception; naturalfamplanning
Open thread. For your information and discussion.
1 posted on 08/06/2008 10:35:11 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

2 posted on 08/06/2008 10:37:05 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6 [Open]
Sex Speaks: True and False Prophets — Part 4 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and the Language of the Body — Part 3 of 6 [Open]
Does Contraception Foster Love? — Part 2 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and Cultural Chaos — Part 1 of 6 [Open]

3 posted on 08/06/2008 10:41:30 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6 [Open]
Journey to the Truth (Natural Family Planning) [Open]

Enslaving Women One Pill at a Time (Birth Control Pills and Natural Family Planning)

New Study Shows Natural Family Planning Technique More “Effective” Than Contraception

Fargo) Diocese set to require pre-marriage course in natural family planning

Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning

Clerical Contraception (Important Read! By Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer)

(Fargo) Diocese set to require pre-marriage course in natural family planning

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 25, 2004

IS NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING A 'HERESY'? (Trads, please take note)

Thanks Doc: More (and Younger) Doctors Support Natural Family Planning

Couple say Natural Family Planning strengthens marriage

Reflections: Natural family planning vs sexism

British Medical Journal: Natural Family Planning= Effective Birth Control Supported by Catholic Chrch

Natural Family Planning

4 posted on 08/06/2008 10:48:49 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Dear Salvation,

On the day I was married, I swore to accept children lovingly from God. My husband and I never used contraception, because we wanted to bring into this world as many children as God chose to give us.

It took us seven years before our first successful pregnancy. Difficult pregnancy, touch and go throughout. Second pregnancy, lots of complications, a premature abruption, and a preemie birth. Following year, small battle with uterine cancer. Next year, another miscarriage. My OB, a member of the Physicians for Life, warned me against having any more children.

At 40, I gave birth to my 3rd child (using NFP). My OB pleaded with my husband and I to go forward with a tubal ligation. My cycle was all over the map, my uterus a damaged war zone, and my health was fragile. We followed the OB's advice.

NFP is an excellent way to fulfill God's purpose for marriage. Unfortunately, I was one of the 1% who needed to go a different route.

5 posted on 08/07/2008 1:19:05 AM PDT by TheWriterTX (Proud Retrosexual Wife of 15 Years)
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To: Salvation

West does an excellent job showing the difference between contraception and natural family planning. Unfortunately, there are some Catholics who deny that there is any difference between the two or who believe that NFP is morally permissible only for “grave” reasons, which is not what the Church teaches.

Unfortunately, there are far more Catholics who have gullibly swallowed all of the negative propaganda about NFP and who, therefore, practice contraception in the mistaken belief that it’s morally permissible as long as the circumstances or their intentions would seem to justify it. In other words, they are moral relativists on this issue.

6 posted on 08/07/2008 4:38:38 AM PDT by steadfastconservative
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To: TheWriterTX
Hey there,

I just checked out Physicians for Life's website, and couldn't find a list of doctors. How did you find an OB who is a member? Was it just chance or can you look one up from a list somewhere? Thanks!

7 posted on 08/07/2008 8:03:06 AM PDT by To Hell With Poverty (I'll take a "third Bush term" over a second Carter term ANY DAY!)
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To: Salvation
Notice that large families should result from prudent reflection, not “chance.”

There's no such thing as having a child by "chance." Only God can create life.

I know many couples who leave their fertility in God's hands -- they trust God completely for His perfect timing in blessing them with children, and in His provision. They don't practice NFP, because they wish God to be in complete control. They have tangibly seen God's hand on their lives with the timing of their children.

As far as the debate - while the means of contraception may vary (NFP vs. barrier/abortifacient/surgical), and the morality of each as well, they all have the same intent: prevention of pregnancy. (Or to be perfectly accurate in the case of the Pill or IUD, prevention of implantation).

The Christians I know who use NFP use it just like the Pill, only without the abortifacient side-effects. The intent with of use of either is usually the same: worldly concerns (money, convenience, selfishness, social acceptance) overriding eternal ones.

I know there are people who use NFP for REAL health (physical or psychological) reasons, but I see most Christians use it as a "safe" alternative to the Pill. Their view of children (as I've observed it) is no different from that of the average non-Christian. Many times have I seen otherwise wonderful Christian families with one or two children visibly shudder when innocently asked if they hoped to have more, as if I'd asked if they'd like to saw their arm off with a dull knife. The reaction is often revulsion at the idea. It's just inexplicably sad.

"The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing. But in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.”
8 posted on 08/07/2008 11:05:33 AM PDT by Zechariah_8_13 (The golden rule can't operate through a government program, it can only work between people.)
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To: To Hell With Poverty

9 posted on 08/07/2008 11:07:26 AM PDT by Zechariah_8_13 (The golden rule can't operate through a government program, it can only work between people.)
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