It’s Time to Talk Honestly about Natural Family Planning


Welcome to NFP Club.
The first rule of NFP Club is: You do not talk about NFP Club.

You can’t talk to engaged couples about NFP — you’ll scare them away. You can’t talk to experienced older couples, either, or you’ll get an earful about the bad old days of rhythm-and-blues and 23 children.
You can’t talk to radical providentialists, who insist that iustae causae translates as “fill your hungry belly with rocks, and get conceivin'”; and you can’t talk to non-Catholics, who will think you’re a pervert for even saying “abstinence.” Nor can you talk to your doctor, who will write “family planning: nothing” on your medical record (especially if you’ve caught that Sexually Transmitted Disease known as “pregnancy”).
And, of course, you can’t talk to a dissident priest, who thinks the Church has no business in your bedroom (immortal soul, si; bedroom, no). Nor even can you really talk to a faithful priest, who will be so thrilled you know what “NFP” stands for that he’ll assume you’re home free.
But if you don’t talk to someone, you’re going to jump in front of a train. The truth is, sometimes NFP stinks.
Yes, there are couples out there who rejoice in their obedient participation in God’s miraculous plan of procreation. There are men whose holy continence rivals St. Joseph’s, and women who sigh, “Fiat” every month.
But for many of us, uniting our wills with God’s sounds more like “Uncle.”
Don’t get me wrong: I think the prudent use of NFP can be a font of grace in a marriage. I (and the pope) think it is fully in conformity with the teachings of the Church. I even think that, after ten years, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
But is NFP, as its cheerleaders insist, God’s plan? Well, only in the same way that confession is God’s plan: It won’t kill you, and it gets the job done; but in God’s original plan, it wouldn’t have been necessary.
Confession is inconvenient and embarrassing, and most of the time, you do it just because you have to. Sometimes the only thing that makes it tolerable is considering the alternative.
NFP is the same: It’s the worst possible method, except for all the others. That’s because NFP is both an aid and a penance. It gives you the opportunity to grow spiritually, but it also gives you some first-class suffering to offer up.
It doesn’t help that some proponents of NFP pretend that it’s all togetherness and respect, profundity and cuddles. If you feel frustrated with it, remember that you’re not alone. Everyone struggles sometimes; it’s not just you. It helps no one to ignore the challenges. Catholics should talk about the trials of NFP, as well as the blessings.
That being said, here are some people you can talk to, and how:
Talk to your spouse. Men tend to be understandably reluctant to have these wretched conversations, but you have to do it. Women can use NFP on their own if necessary, but it’s not about being on your own — it’s about being together.
Men and women can easily misunderstand or underestimate each other’s unique trials in practicing NFP. Ask your spouse: What can I do to make this easier on you? And once you have listened, you can tell your side.
Talk to your priest. This is good for both you and the priest. Our spiritual fathers need to know how NFP plays out in the trenches. But don’t reject out of hand a celibate man’s ideas about sex: After hearing 46 million confessions, he probably knows more than you do, Mr. Pass-the-Absolution.
Talk to God. You can yell and whine at God. You can moan and growl and blubber — He can take it. Complain in detail every night, if it gives you some relief. Just don’t forget to end every rant with a plea:
Help me do better. Help me to notice when You’re trying to draw me closer to You. Help me to see sex, and my spouse, the way You do.
Talk to yourself. Justdon’t be a broken record. Give yourself something new to think about — reread church documents on marriage and family, take up your Catechism, or pick up a good Catholic book on sexuality. Don’t just settle for being obedient: Try to understand why God wants this for you. He doesn’t intend for you to be subserviently miserable, so keep returning to the reason behind the rule.
Talk to others who use NFP. This is why the Internet was invented. Of course, you will run into the usual assortment of jerks and weirdos, but mostly you will find married Catholics who are dying to commiserate, encourage, and share their good ideas. There are more of us than you think.
Here is a huge message board for people (mostly women) who use NFP. A man’s perspective is often harder to find, but “I Am Husband” and “With a Grain of Salt” are two good blogs by men who frequently discuss marriage.
Talk to people who don’t use NFP . . . carefully. Be honest, but offer a balanced picture. If you’re speaking to an engaged couple, don’t present NFP as a slick little vehicle for marital bliss and bouncy good times (guaranteed at least half the month). Don’t bother to pretty things up for couples who openly scoff at the Church. You won’t get through to them, and an overly rosy picture is discouraging for couples who are trying to do right.
Instead, speak honestly and fully. Most couples want to hear the full truth. I suggest something like this:
Look, God is asking you to do something that will sometimes be hard. But if you stick with it, there will be some incredible, unexpected rewards at least some of the time. These benefits are not inevitable, but they are achievable, and the alternatives offer only fleeting and shallow satisfactions. This is a chance to do something wonderful for your beloved. Do you love each other enough to take on this strange and beautiful challenge?
As long as it’s acceptable for everyone else to talk about sex these days, why should Catholics be shy? Many disenchanted couples are suffering from a lack of honest information about NFP. For their sake — and for our own — let’s find the people we can trust, and let’s be straight with each other.
For goodness sake, let’s talk about NFP.

Simcha Fisher

By

Simcha Fisher is a cradle Hebrew Catholic, freelance writer, and mother of eight young kids. She received her BA in literature from Thomas More College in New Hampshire. She contributes to Crisis Magazine and Faith & Family Live!, and blogs at I Have to Sit Down. She is sort of writing a book.

  • Sarahndipity

    This was brilliant: It’s the worst possible method, except for all the others.

    I was taken in by the NFP cheerleaders and was hugely disappointed after marriage. We need more articles like this!

  • Sarahndipity

    Oops. my html tags didn’t work. I meant to say:

    This was brilliant: It’s the worst possible method, except for all the others.

    I was taken in by the NFP cheerleaders and was hugely disappointed after marriage. We need more articles like this!

  • Joe Marier

    I looked at the sample charts and said, “Hey! We won’t be doing it for up to 2 weeks at a time! That’s probably going to be no fun.”

  • Boethius

    I just walked in and my wife said, “Sit down, you have to read this right away. Was she in our bedroom the other night?”

    My wife and I are NFP instructors and we do our best to present both the blessings and difficulties that accompany NFP. Yet even as an instructor, I (the husband-half of the instruction team) still find it to be an ongoing challenge. Just the other night I was commenting on these challenges using some rather colorful language. (My children were already asleep.) In many ways, NFP and the theology that underpins it have saved and transformed our marriage. It hasn’t been easy and there is no sign of it becoming easier in the years ahead. Yet it has been the source of so many graces.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Julie

    What a refreshing perspective.

  • NFP Cheerleader

    Great article! My husband and I have found NFP to be a real blessing and have generally had a very positive experience with it in our marriage. While it has been a little frustrating to use during certain periods like post partum, overall, our experience has been wonderful. That said, I learned after frequenting the board you reference that this certainly isn’t the case for everyone. When speaking with others about NFP, I now try to paint a more realistic picture of NFP use in marriage.

  • James

    I enjoyed the article. A reality check is always good.

    NFP instructors have a hard job.

    1.) The “cheerleading” perhaps can lead to “misleading”. Certainly the “cheerleading” is necessary to get the people to the “meeting”. That is a big problem for NFP in itself. Maybe in an effort to spread the word, excesses of the positive side have occurred.

    2.) NFP requires work/effort. That does not fit well in an “instant gratification” society. It is hard to compete with just take a pill, use some barrier device, or implant something in the womans body. NFP requires men to have an attitude adjustment and to actually be a participant in the process. Men are probalby the biggest obstacle in trying to “sell” NFP.

    To bad. The best rewards come from the things you have to WORK for.

  • Susan

    It’s so nice to be able to read your work again, Simcha. Great article!

  • Surivor of the Culture War

    We were a couple who didn’t accept the Church’s teaching on contraception…and for years we contracepted, and I even had vasectomy (since reversed, Deo gratia).

    After having been to the darkest part of the Culture of Death, I am a cheerleader for NFP. Frankly, I’d love to have more children, sadly, that’s not possible. NFP keeps my wife healthy and the two of us engaged in each other’s lives in and out of the bedroom. I MUST subordinate my own appetites to the good of my wife and the health of her body.

    Easy? Nope…but way easier than a mutilated body and a disintegrating marriage.

  • Sarah L.

    I’ve missed your blog and am glad to see you are writing here. Thanks for putting this out there for discussion.

  • John Jakubczyk

    A very good article. NFP instructors would include it in the packet of materials they give to young couples.

    Funny you should mention how NO one wants to talk about it. Our Bishop in Phoenix sent a directive to all priests to preach on NFP on the occasion of the occasion of Humane Vitae.’s 40th year. So at the Sunday morning mass the priest sheepishly tells the congregation of this directive, urges anyone interested to go on the internet and look for information, that most of the congregation is over 40 and does not need this information, and that we all should follow the Church’s teaching.Amen. Shortest sermon ever. Fortunately some priests followed through and discussed the subject admirably.

    Here is my take -from someone who has and has not practiced NFP. ( And when we were not using NFP, we were putting it ALL in God’s hands). Perhaps that accounts for God blessing us with 11 living children. I tell people God has been our family

    NFP is the best way for a man to learn how to appreciate his wife. It requires him to understand some things in life we men would just as soon ignore. It calls us to account before God and explain our true priorities in life. Not that any of this is easy. And then again, it reminds me what my father told me about sex and marriage. to paraphrase, sex is 1% of your marriage – and what a wonderful 1% it is – but remember keep everything in perspective.

    Can it be frustrating? Sure – but what is not frustrating at any given time?

    But does it open one’s outlet to a whole new and incredible perspective on your relationship with one’s spouse and the intimacy that involves Our Lord who blesses and fulfills the marriage with His grace.

    I think we need to posit the positive values of the Church’s teaching on sexual intimacy. This generation, so afraid of commitment, so distrusting of marriage because of the failures of their parents, so wary of being hurt and unhappy, need to hear the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel that radiates into the heart of family life.

    We who know the truth must not be afraid to share it in joy and humor with others.

    Simcha, keep up the good work. And tell the good news with a smile.

  • Kate Wicker

    ” …in God’s original plan, [NFP] wouldn’t have been necessary.”

    Ain’t that the truth?

    Wonderful article! Whenever I try to write about or discuss NFP, I feel like I either come off as a holy roller or a cry baby who’s scared about having another crying baby, but you tackled this topic so well. You were honest, but you remained faithful to the Church’s teachings on contraception. Thank you!

    –Kate

  • JC

    The essence of NFP is pinpointing the date of ovulation, and that’s also the most frustrating thing. So many couples, usually when breastfeeding, think they’ve followed all the “rules” and that they’re in the clear, and there’s a baby. We are clueless about how our last baby was conceived–best we can figure, what we thought was a period wasn’t, and she was conceived before what we thought was the period.

    Somewhere on the USCCB site is a document about a study of nearly 300 women, comparing the efficacy of every method of ovulation detection, from temperature to daily sonograms.

    The study turned up that temperature, saliva and calendar days are, as most people realize, next to useless.

    Even mucus-only is not very accurate at pinpointing ovulation, as breastfeeding women and women who experience double peaks know. Women *can* and often *do* ovulate with no mucus.

    The study said that LH detection (Marquette Method) is the most accurate way of pinpointing ovulation, short of owning your own sonogram machine.

    The USCCB’s NFP expert kind of dismissed the study a little too casually in the follow-up comments.

    The ClearBlue Fertility Monitor tells you exactly when LH surge occurs (you just need to remember that ovulation occurs 24 hours later).

    The big trick is “false peaks,” when sympto-thermal and mucus-only methods say, “You’re having LH surge,” but there’s no ovulation. Usually in those situations, ovulation occurs a few days later, *often with no symptoms*.

    ClearBlue Monitor (and its expensive elder sibling, Persona, which has to be ordered from UK) will not indicate ovulation if there’s a false peak–even if all the other indicators say it’s peak day.

    Persona is recommended for those who are concerned about using the latter part of Phase I.

  • gianetta

    I have been born, raised and educated Catholic. An alleged distinction between unnatural and natural used as a moral determinant in the area of contraception but apparently nowhere else, was always puzzling to me.

    Are using umbrellas in the rain (considered unnatural at the time), driving a car, riding an airplane, using the internet, living in houses and not in caves, growing crops and not just foraging, the invention of the wheel, fire, language, and just about everything else in culture that members of the Church freely use, UNNATURAL?

    The fallacy is the Church overstepping their boundaries into science and technology from the morality of its use, being highly inconsistent how this is defined. In other words, they decided that one method of contraception is natural and others are not. Not only that, everything “natural” is moral, and “unnatural” immoral?

    It’s natural to hate, not to forgive, to take what you want with or without force, This is about the only modern instance where a moral value has been decided on the basis of natural vs. unnatural.

    It’s also a question of taking some verses of the Tanach literally like Religious Jews similar to Fundamentalist Catholics who also “go and multiply” and not weigh them with other considerations, but not other verses like making burnt sacrifices or stoning criminals.

    The Church made a horrible mistake with its pronouncements on contraception. It is time not to cover up or make excuses but to admit this was wrong. Of course, no one expects that to happen.

  • NFP Cheerleader

    Gianetta,

    The Church’s opposition to artificial contraception isn’t because it isn’t “natural”. See Janet Smith’s explanation here:

    http://tinyurl.com/5sf5w5

    You’ll need to scroll down a bit to find her, but it’s worth reading.

  • Tito Edwards

    Simcha,

    After reading your article I have to say that you seem to have denigrated the idea of using NFP. Despite all the ‘aw shucks it’s great to use anyway’, your idea that confession is “inconvenient and embarrassing” does nothing to shed the light on the beautiful virtues of this blessed sacrament.

    Your condenscending attitude to “NFP Cheerleaders” doesn’t help explain the virtues, again, of NFP.

    We have enough problems having to battle dissenting priests and a virulent anti-life culture. We don’t need backbiting in our trenches denigrating NFP because it’s ‘difficult’ and ’embarrassing’.

    Using NFP does not mean succumbing our intellects to a dark age theology by crying “uncle” or by childishly berating this wonderful gift of God by saying it “stinks”. (that is an impression you have easily left by reading your article)

    I see that you were trying to be ‘honest’ and probably even ‘cute’ in your article, but I came away thinking that those that aren’t aware of NFP or are reluctant to take that extra step towards using NFP to be easily discouraged by your article.

  • MyGirl

    Because of complications with a current pregnancy, my doctor has told my husband and I that we cannot have intercourse for at least the next two months. He did not present this as thought it might be the least bit complicated or inconvenient, just a simple fact. Yet, I have noticed that many people are aghast at the idea of the periods of abstaining that are a neccessary part of NFP, especially the longer times that might come when getting started or figuring out a change, such as post partum.

    In the popular book Eat, Pray, Love (which I do not recommend), the author sets out on a year of celibacy as she is trying to figure herself out after a divorce. She does not make it through the year and the book ends, essentially, with an orgy and the beginning of a new relationship that seems to be grounded mostly in the physical. Oprah and her fans loved this book and viewed it as empowering to women, many readers said that it totally changed their lives.

    This reminds me of something Thomas Merton writes that when you choose to sleep on a friends floor after a night of partying it is not questioned by society, but if a monk chooses not to use a mattress as a form of mortification he is considered a deviant.

    So, it is fine in our society, for my doctor to impose abstaining on my husband and I because of minor health considerations, but not fine for my husband and I to choose to abstain when there are chemical sterilizations available? The health risks of those pills are probably not any less than the health risks I am facing right now.

    God help those couples who might have to abstain for health reasons and who have not used NFP in the past, they are totally unprepared for this and no one else is going to help them.

  • Maria

    Fabulous article, Simcha. I’ve been missing your blog terribly and what a treat to get a little Simcha-infusion.

    My husband and I both were a bit shocked by the difficulty of NFP. Growing up as good orthodox Catholic, we supposed that the difficult work of chastity was mainly over with marriage. Um, not so much. At first I felt guilty that I hated NFP during the times when we had to use it. Why wasn’t I like the those holier couples who were growing closer and charting their cycles by drawing pretty little pictures of a flower blooming (I’m serious!)? I finally came to realize that NFP is not what God originally designed for marriage; it is simply us doing our best with working with what is left of His beautiful design after the Fall.

  • Adriana

    Simcha:

    I am single, which means I must remain celibate, same as thousands of single men or women, gay or straight.

    For us, if we have sex once a year, we get called “unchaste”, “sinners”, and what not.

    And you cannot have sex for half a month?

    What is your complaint?

    Perhaps you will look with more compassion on the trials of those for whom marriage was not possible, and do not have the monastic vocation.

  • Anita

    I bet there are a lot of women out there like me: I wish I was practicing NFP. Instead, my husband, who won’t look seriously into the theology of NFP, insisted on contraception for himself, and after the birth of our 4th child, a vasectomy. I discussed at length with my priest, who suggested frequent confession and much prayer. I don’t blame my husband very much, since everything around him makes NFP seem silly. His priest, when he went to confession after the vasectomy gave him a quick absolution and said, well 4 children are enough!
    Thankfully, we have since adopted a child, and are looking into adopting another, so our family keeps growing.

    Adriana, I don’t think the difficulty lies so much, in NFP with periods of abstinence, which can be quite titillating if approached correctly, but with the stress of trying to figure out the whole thing. And being afraid of a pregnancy if you screw it up. There is also difficulty in getting both people on board all the time, which I can attest is very hard.

    Meanwhile, I ask my husband once a week to reverse his vasectomy. And pray…

  • NFP Cheerleader

    Adriana, it’s a little more complicated than that.

    Most of the time I was single, I was not in a serious relationship with someone I loved deeply. Remaining chaste really wasn’t difficult. When I dated my now husband, things got a little harder. We needed to enforce boundaries to help us remain chaste. We lived in separate residences, we were careful to no put ourselves in situations which might make it difficult to remain chaste, we had a shorter than average engagement when we did decide to get married.

    Now that we’re married, we can’t necessarily go to another house if we’re in our fertile period and are abstaining. Biologically speaking, women tend to desire relations more when they are ovulating, which is the time you need to abstain. The abstinence period can be longer than two weeks for some couples who have irregular cycles or are waiting for post partum return of fertility. The reality is that for many couples, not having sex for two weeks or more can cause stress since it is an important means of uniting with your spouse.

    I wouldn’t assume Simcha lacks compassion for the unmarried. I imagine her compassion is greater because of her own trials with NFP.

  • Kayzer

    Wow. This article is just what I needed right now. My husband & I constantly comment that our local Catholic paper would not want to interview us regarding NFP because we, too, think it “stinks” and we’re not afraid to tell people that.

    We have 7 living children (2 miscarriages) only 2 of which were conceived by us knowing when I was most fertile through NFP (meaning we “planned” them). At least 3 of our children were conceived as breastfeeding came to an end and I was not completely aware of my fertility returning. The other 2 were conceived simply because we chose to embrace our marital union at a time when I saw that fertility was beginning but thought we had more time for build up and peak (not so).

    Now we are getting “reeducated” on NFP after a miscarriage in Jan. ’08. We are taking seriously the need to abstain even when the mucus is barely there. Apparently I have a ton of mucus and a rather long fertile cycle that literally we have about 18 days in a 36 day cycle to be intimate (and not conceive). And of those 18 days, I am not always “in the mood” so it’s not like we are having sex everyday, more like only 8 or 9 days throughout my cycle.

    This is one of the more difficult times of our marriage – worse than my husband’s heart attack or my broken wrist. We are both commited to not having any more children and we have had many conversations about this (so it could be argued that we have “improved our communication”). But it is frustrating that when I feel the most desirous is also the time when I am most fertile. The feeling of rejection that my husband feels when I am infertile but don’t feel “in the mood” is huge.

    I totally agree with the comment about NFP: “in God’s original plan, it wouldn’t have been necessary.” But what I’d really like to hear is what does the Catholic Church teach about the UNITIVE aspect of a marriage when, agreed upon as a couple, a couple chooses not to procreate. We feel that we have been procreative and now the unitive part of our marriage is lacking (even though we practice the whole SPICE thing and have done so throughout our 20yrs of marriage).

    Thank you for your timely article. I am next going to check out some of the message boards that you mentioned.

  • FamilyMan

    I admit, I’ve never really understood the whole NFP thing. I’m sure that for some folks, it is a necessary thing, but for the vast majority of us, I can’t see it. I keep coming to the same conclusion–it is about control.

    Isn’t it easier to just have sex with your spouse when you both want to? (Or more likely, when you can actually find some time alone from your children! [smiley=happy])

    Children are a natural result, so sometimes your family will get a little bigger. After 26 years of marriage and 8 children, I realize that our time to have more kids is passing, but those “fruitful” years are short, and go so quickly.

    Our youngest will be 2 next week, and our oldest kids, now married, have provided 4 grandchildren so far. What fun!

    [Tangent: I have found few things sadder than speaking to fellow Catholics over 65, and finding at age 46 I have more grandchildren than they do.]

    Give up control, relax, and love your spouse. Simple.

  • Kayzer

    Adriana,
    I take great offense to your comment: “Perhaps you will look with more compassion on the trials of those for whom marriage was not possible, and do not have the monastic vocation.”

    The sacrament of marriage calls spouses to be unitive and chaste. That is part of marriage. Just as part of YOUR vocation is to remain pure and chaste.

    To say that we should not have any complaints is like me saying that because you do not have a spouse you are so lucky not to have to live with other people everyday.

    We need to all be respectful of each person’s call to their vocation and everything that goes with it.

  • Rosied

    I think you have some profound misunderstandings of why the Church forbids use of artificial contraception. Maybe you should go back and read Humanae Vitae–and then take a look at our sad society 40 years later. And then tell us how misguided the Church is.

    And don’t even get me started on the Pill–how unhealthy it is for women.

    We live in the age of ‘organic’ everything… why not organic sex?

  • Adriana

    Kayzer, you are very quick of telling others what their vocation is (specially while knowing less to nothing about them) without wondering how easy or hard it is.

    Now, if married couples who get to have sex regularly, but are denied the spontaneity of doing when they feel like it can bitch about not getting enough, why can’t singles bitch about not getting any?

    You are so very quick to judge as if chastity was easy and how do we dare complain? After all, great saints could conquer it – by rolling around on broken glass, like Saint Rose of Lima. But of course, we are not great saints, and rolling around on broken glass earns you a trip to the emergency ward, and a psychiatric evaluation.

    Let’s say that sex causes a lot of bitching.

    Of course, there is one aspect that has not been touched on – the rapid drop in infant mortality which required repeated pregnancies to keep the family size the same. I was reading the preface Laurence Sterne wrote for “Tristam Shandy” where he tells of his family life. He had one sibling, a sister, and then a long parade of brothres and sisters, each living up to three years old, and after each died, a pregnancy brought the next brother or sister, to live for three years, and then die. Of course, in those conditions family planning meant “have enough children to make sure that some of them grow up to adult age”.

    I think it is right that the Church endorse a method of family spacing – but is it too much to ask that She makes sure that it works?

  • NFP Cheerleader

    Adriana,

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you-and correct me if I am-but are you saying that NFP doesn’t work?

    Here’s a recent German study that came out showing that NFP is as effective as the pill:

    http://tinyurl.com/5rhf2o

    From personal experience, I can tell you it works well.

  • NFP Cheerleader

    FamilyMan,

    I certainly appreciate your laid back, take-them-as-they come attitude. I don’t think the number of people who need to use NFP is quite as small as you suggest, however. Unfortunately, not all of us have those fruitful birthing hips that some of our female sisters have. Or maybe our babies need a little help coming out. A hundred years ago, birth days were also death days. Thanks to modern medicine, many women and babies now avoid death thanks to C-sections. Approximately 30% of all births are by C-Section. Doctors recommend avoiding pregnancy 6 to 12 months after giving birth. With a 30% C-section rate, that’s a large number of women who need to avoid pregnancy for at least for a certain period of time.

  • KSK

    Great article. I think the biggest problem is the idea that NFP is a silver bullet for strong marriage. The old CCL materials certainly sell it that way. I thought my ex, for all his faults, was just a diamond in the rough because he was willing to use NFP. Not so. He insisted on Phase III-only as soon as we got married because he thought having a child anytime soon would “ruin his life.” NFP can be abused, terribly, and easily. I learned the hard way. I thought I never wanted to use NFP again. But now that I have a great husband and a beautiful 2 month-old baby, I’m open to using it to space our future children. We’re too tired most of the time anyway…

  • Ken

    Good for you, Family Man, for taking on the pro-birth control crowd here. I never did understand what the difference between a calendar and a condom is if both are instruments toward preventing a child.

  • FamilyMan

    Well, after a quarter-century of pregnancies (6 natural, 2 c-sections) and nursing, I’ve seen a lot of changes.

    The increased “need” for c-sections for one. Of course there are times for it, but at the levels the US has? C-section rates were no where near what they are today 50 years ago, but surely a third of women and their babies didn’t suffer needlessly because they weren’t practiced?

    I’m not arguing that there are short periods of time when following the birth of a child that the mother needs to heal. Any husband who doesn’t recognize that takes his life into his own hands…[smiley=wink]

    I still fail to see where NFP in this situation needs to be the way to work around commonsense. And once that interval has passed, it quickly becomes about control again.

    I’m not against it, I just suspect because it is “approved” that it is used more than it should be.

    Just seems like too much trouble, and taking too much joy out of life.

    Like I said before, I don’t really understand the whole thing. Maybe there are guidelines I’m unaware of? I can understand if the doctor says “6 months”, and NFP is used for that 6 months.

    But if it is left up to the individual to decide what those criteria are, where does the line get drawn between your will and His?

    Not trying to be difficult, but there just seems to be too much “wiggle room” for folks to fall into. Just me I guess.

  • kayzer

    If it makes you, Adriana, feel better to vent your frustrations about remaining pure as the Church teaches, fine. I am sure that there are many temptations and I do know that it is difficult stay away from sin.

    Perhaps you are at the wrong site if you think that married couples are “bitching” because of the way they use NFP to avoid a pregnancy.

    I will not pretend to understand you. Please do not pretend to understand me.

  • Beth

    But it is frustrating that when I feel the most desirous is also the time when I am most fertile. The feeling of rejection that my husband feels when I am infertile but don’t feel “in the mood” is huge.

    Kayzer wrote:

    Genesis 3:16–To the woman he said: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband and he shall be your master.” (emphasis added)

    Something that I’ve thought about for a few years…..I pray to accept this “punishment”, offer it up and hope someday I will see the *fruit* of my acceptance and offering. I DO believe it *counts*.

  • mother of four

    Catholic Birth Control. Kim Hahn quotes Archbishop Charles Chaput in her book, Life Giving Love: “The choice to abstain from a fertile act of intercourse is completely different from the willful choice to sterilize a fertile act of intercourse.”

    Kim Hahn is by no means a NFP cheerleader, though. She writes, “NFP is not the norm for married life, even though a couple can benefit from using it. It is God’s provision and the Church’s wisdom to provide for very difficult situations.” and, “…NFP is more a prescription for difficulty than a vitamin for healthy living.”

    My husband and I greatly benefit from returning time and time again to the wisdom she offers and I suspect that anyone who struggles with NFP would, too.

  • mother of four

    I just want to clarify my comment about Kimberly Hahn. When I say she is not a “NFP cheerleader” I mean that she does not advocate NFP for everyone in all circumstances. She is very balanced in her treatment of using NFP in marriage and brings up just about every pro and con that I can think of. A better quote from her book would be, “Couples can embrace openness to life without the assistance of NFP and be making a well-reasoned, responsible choice; and couples can embrace openness to life including NFP as an expression of of their trust in God. Both can be responsible and faith-filled choices.”

  • Amy V.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a more honest article about NFP. Thank you for taking the time to write with such sincere honesty. I thought only me and my few friends who use NFP were the only ones in the world who struggle! We’ve even joked about finding a religion that was easier.
    My husband and I are practicing Catholics and have made a conscience decision to obey the church that was established by Christ. However, this has been much more difficult than we ever imagined. I have had 5 c-sections and lost one baby to miscarriage. My doctor (she has delivered all 5 kids) has told me we cannot have more kids, she thinks I am at serious risk for uterine rupture. So along with all of the other stresses of NFP, and there are MANY, I worry that if I get pregnant, I may die.
    I have looked for loop-holes and can find none. So, God has brought us to a place where we must just simply trust Him. I can do what I can to chart correctly. My husband is a saint, and patiently bears the infrequency of the marital embrace with his wife. If I chart incorrectly and we get pregnant, I know that God will be glorified there as well in whatever his plan is for our lives.

    Some encouraging words from my priest:
    Using NFP is heroic.

    In marriage we are trying to help our spouses become saints.

  • Karen May

    My husband and I (both Protestants) were introduced to NFP by a lovely Catholic family. The mother of the family of 17 children was a certified NFP teacher (which, she said, was why she ONLY had 17). We had four children, which we decided was a good family size, and used NFP for almost 15 years. We only stopped the practice because of a necessary hysterectomy. The rewards (our closeness and sharing the experience and my personal health) far outweighed the challenges of not being able to do what we wanted whenever. I have always been a proponent of NFP, and always will. Just wanted you to know it works for non-Catholics, too. (PS: it took me a few years to throw away my charts — they really meant something to me!)

  • Andy

    Ken,

    Don’t misunderstand; NFP can be used for sinful reasons and motivations, too. A couple needs darn good reason to avoid children.

    However, you misunderstand church teaching if you think NFP is de facto the same as artificial contraception.

  • amy

    You never mentioned talking to those catholics who don’t use any birth control (nfp included) Not all of us are extremests and can actually offered some good advice, wisdom, and experience of Church teaching before the unvailing of NFP not to long ago. Remember, that there have always been “serious reasons” from the begining of the church, yet there wasn’t always NFP. I know that some people do have quite serious medical reasons, however, I can say with the utmost certainy that most of my catholic friends who use NFP are doing so for frivolous reasons.

  • Simcha Fisher

    One thing I’ve learned from using NFP is that it’s always a bad idea to decide whether some other couple has a good enough reason to use it.

    They may have a problem which is not obvious to you, which they don’t want to talk about. Or they may have a reason which wouldn’t be a big deal to you, but it’s a big deal to them. There’s a reason the Church hasn’t come out with a list of what’s a good enough reason, and what’s not!

    Please, do what you think is right in your marriage, and leave the sorting to God. You’re not doing your own soul any favors by sneering at people whose marriages are different from yours. And there are many, many differernt kinds of good marriages.

  • Kate Wicker

    Simcha, you make a good point about “just reasons.” I can, however, understand why Gianetta and others see the Church as pushing something that is natural rather than something that is virtuous. Even NFP cheerleaders can get way too caught up in how to do NFP rather than why we do it in the first place. Perhaps a better name would be God Family Planning. If we embrace NFP for the right reasons – as much as it stinks sometimes – then we aren’t just being “green.” We’re cooperating with the way God designed up and are putting our faith in the best family planner there is – God.

    God bless!

  • Heidi

    Thank you for your refreshing honesty on this subject. It isn’t perfect. And it is difficult. And people do need to be honest about the good and bad side.

  • JMW

    [quote=JC]The essence of NFP is pinpointing the date of ovulation, and that’s also the most frustrating thing.

    As an NFP teacher, please let me clarify this statement. Pinpointing NFP is actually not necessary to practice NFP, it is certainly not essential to know exactly which day you ovulated. The essence of NFP is being able to identify the fertile and infertile times of a cycle. Ovulation is most closely linked with peak day, or the last day of the more fertile type mucus; however, even though it’s usually very close to peak day, ovulation can occur before or after. To use NFP effectively, it doesn’t matter if you ovulate on the 17th or the 19th, as long as you know when you are still fertile and when the fertile time has passed if you are trying to postpone ovulation. That is why a cross-checking method of NFP is helpful, it gives you enough information to make a very informed decision regarding whether or not you are in a fertile period or not. It is true that the temperature sign is not the best indicator of exactly which day you ovulated, but the point of the temperature sign is not to identify the *day* of ovulation, but to show that ovulation has passed and that after waiting for confirmation, one can assume that the fertile time is over.

    Felt the need to clarify that.

  • Peter

    Once again Simcha nails it!

    Since I first posted on the topic of a man’s struggle with NFP I have had many men contact me confidentially to add their story to the huge silent group of men who have attemtped to raise this topic and have been shouted down by the feminists, the pornographers, and the prudish ‘Captain Catholics’.

    I defence of wives, they simply don’t get taught how to love their husbands any more. They just don’t know how, and nobody will tell them because we are all afraid to cop the flack from the feminazis and politically corrrect crowd.

    Think of a single sit-com, drama or TV family where the husband/father is presented as a strong, wise and respected figure. Now think of one where his need for recreation, domestic peace or sexual fulfillment are not the subject of derision or contempt but treated with respect. If we, the Church, don’t clearly present a different picture, guys have no hope of being understood.

  • M. H.

    This is really a fascinating thread. And although I never thought the day would come when I’d rush to Adriana’s defense (we never seem to come down on the same side of any issue), she definitely has a point about perspective. I’ve been on both sides of the fence (three sides, actually, but that’ll come a bit later).

    1) Without a vocation to religious life, I spent YEARS waiting for the right man to come along. We didn’t marry until I was 37 — a late vocation if there ever was one. And if at any time during those awful years of being single someone had said to me, “You can only have sex 18 days out of this month’s 31,” I’d have shouted, “WHOOOO-HOOOOO! Eighteen works for me!!!!!” πŸ˜‰ Would you give up not only your marital relations but the company of your spouse and children to go back and be single? God forbid!

    2) My husband and I used NFP right after we were married, and not even for one month did we manage to fill out the chart completely and correctly. The hardest part for us wasn’t the abstaining, it was the paperwork! We finally gave up and decided whatever happens, happens. Then we began to actively try to conceive. NFP sucks eggs (no pun intended) for more reasons that one.

    3) After some time of trying to conceive, it appears that we’re unable. Of course, there’s adoption, which we may consider when our finances aren’t so tight, and we will be happy with whatever God wills for us in this regard. But for those couples who find NFP terribly difficult, ask yourselves if tomorrow you found that one of you was infertile, wouldn’t you wish to go back to the days of abstention and charting?

    Yes, NFP is hard to practice in a world that says you can have it all, have it now, and have it for free (or at someone else’s expense). But we’re called to be counter-cultural in many ways. Believe me, single folks and truly heartbroken infertile people (those who have tried to conceive for years longer than my husband and I; we’re not in this category) still have much greater sacrifices to offer up to God, IMO.

    Just some random thoughts to keep everything in perspective!

  • pr

    First thing first, My wife and I both teach the Sympto Thermal method of NFP. Yes it can be hard sometimes. We just listened to Dr. Gregory Popcak this morning speaking about “What to do when NFP is hard” (http://www.exceptionalmarriages.com/)

    The sympto-thermal method CAN detect false peaks. That is the beauty of checking temps and mucus and the optional cevical sign. If you are having trouble detecting false peaks, double mucus patches, etc. please contact your local teacher and or the national office of your NFP method. It sounds like you did not get adequate training or did not fully understand it the first time.

    NFP can be hard for BOTH the Male and the Female. Many people think that it is just hard for the guy. But my wife has the harder time with it.

    We are teachers and openly admit that it is hard. But I can honestly tell you that it is better to use NFP than ANY other method of family planning or contraception. Not just for any religous aspects but the health aspects are an even better reason to use NFP.

    I don’t know much about the Marquette method since we do not have a local teacher to interact with. But I can honestly tell you that the Sympto Thermal method is extremely effective at 99% if it is taught and used properly. There is only 1 method available to know the exact day of ovulation and that is sonograms. The STM method can identify ovulation day with 2-3 days using both Mucus and Temperature observatations.

    It is sad that there are priests and doctors out there who do not fully understand modern day NFP. But do look around, there ARE knowledgable priests as well as doctors out there. It will be definitelly worth your while to find them. Don’t give up. Contact Dr. Popcak if you can. His practice is 100% over the phone now as he has seen the need for quality Catholic Counseling nationwide.
    He stated that he has received 100’s of calls from people that NFP is hard. In everyone one of these couples the underling problem was other marital issues not NFP. NFP mearly brought to light the other underling issues.

    Societal pressure are difficult, marriage pressures can get out of control if your realationship is not strong to begin with. Pray and God will provide. Good luck and God Bless. We will be praying for you.

  • Bob Hunt

    My wife and I very much appreciate this article. We’ve been married almost 19 years and have used nothing but NFP (Billings Method). We have three beautiful daughters (and, sadly, one miscarriage).

    We think it’s important to offer an honest and balanced picture of NFP. We used to do marriage prep for a diocese where we formerly lived and would encourage the couples to consider the Church’s teaching on marital sex and NFP, and not simply dismiss it out of hand. Most Catholic couples, I suspect, don’t even give the Church’s teaching any consideration at all.

    Couples should be taught to decide beforehand how they’re going to handle the difficult moments when the fires are burning. How can we respect the decisions we made in cooler moments, when our minds were in control? Will we go out for dinner? A walk in the park? Shopping? If you have some children already, invite them into your bedroom — better than any cold shower!

    NFP is not easy, but nothing in the lives of the saints is. Even prayer can be a burden at times. But the benefits are worth it, as we all know.

    God give us grace to be faithful, even when it’s hard to smile!

  • Joseph Lewis

    Before NFP there was the Rhythm Method. Before the rebellion of the 1960 the Church taught that abstinence from marital sex was ok anytime… but it could not be practiced if it caused either of the spouses to sin regarding purity.

    If the husband cuddles with his wife, becomes aroused and afterwards commits a sin against purity by him self then the abstinence could not be continued because it resulted in mortal sin.

    Or if the working wife was engaging in sin with a co-worker because she could not have sex with her husband then the abstinence could not be continued.

    Or it there was a tendency to commit other sexual sins because of abstinence then it is better to have the possibility of another child than to commit a series of mortal sins against purity.

    Sexual activity when spouses are alone and very near each other often is an overpowering desire and for normal spouses it is better to have another child than to commit a mortal sin.

    Nursing mothers are usually another way to space children a couple of years apart without the possibility of repeated mortal sins against purity.

    Joseph

  • Joseph Lewis

    Before NFP there was the Rhythm Method. Before the rebellion of the 1960 the Church taught that abstinence from marital sex was ok anytime… but it could not be practiced if it caused either of the spouses to sin regarding purity.

    If the husband cuddles with his wife, becomes aroused and afterwards commits a sin against purity by him self then the abstinence could not be continued because it resulted in mortal sin.

    Or if the working wife was engaging in sin with a co-worker because she could not have sex with her husband then the abstinence could not be continued.

    Or it there was a tendency to commit other sexual sins because of abstinence then it is better to have the possibility of another child than to commit a series of mortal sins against purity.

    Sexual activity when spouses are alone and very near each other often is an overpowering desire and for normal spouses it is better to have another child than to commit a mortal sin.

    Nursing mothers are usually another way to space children a couple of years apart without the possibility of repeated mortal sins against purity.

    Joseph

  • CC

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I have been trying to have this conversation with someone since I got married 5 years ago but every time I brought up how much we were struggling with NFP I got blasted by my fellow Catholic moms – especially on the blogs, when one blogger posted my desperate cries for help and proceeded to lecture me publicly that I must not be doing it right and it was my own mistakes, not any problems with NFP, to which 50 commenters then agreed.
    It is so important for women to be able to honestly discuss with other Catholic women how hard NFP can really be; and know that they won’t be attacked for not being pious enough. It is really hard to practice NFP, and we should be supporting and encouraging one another through the hardship, not judging. We get enough of that from everyone else! God’s grace is enough, but let’s try to help each other out!
    (On a practical note, being a *super* fertile person who’s gotten pregnant twice on days that were supposed to be “green light” days, even according to an NFP instructor, I have found a wonderful tool in assisting my biological readings. Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor. Works especially well during breastfeeding times, when you never know when your cycle will return. It’s taught by Marquette Method – check it out!)

  • Amy

    You are absolutely right and I don’t think people consider your point too often. Women have NOOOOOOOOO idea how easy it is for men to commit sins of impurity (yes, even good catholic men).

  • frustrated

    After using NFP off and on for the first 10 years of our marriage, my husband made the decision that we would only use NFP in the future. We already had 5 kids and he felt it would be the right thing to do. After 4 years of using NFP exclusively, I am completely miserable. We are LUCKY to get intimate one or two times a MONTH…kids, job, exhaustion. We finally got away for a family vacation, but I was ovulating so there was NO opportunity for intimacy. My husband has no evident problem with this arrangement… knowing he is not sinning… that makes him happy. He understands my struggle with this, but feels this is necessary since this is what the Church asks of us.

    Connecting with my husband so rarely…throws me in a depression at times. I feel all alone in this struggle and completely misunderstood. I feel guilty if I desire to use contraception, but worse if intimacy is non-existent.

    Thanks for writing this article…it gives me great hope that one day the church will ease up on this black and white teaching.

  • K

    This is for Kayzer — You’d said that “The feeling of rejection that my husband feels when I am infertile but don’t feel “in the mood” is huge” … I appreciate that you have nine children and have practiced NFP for much longer than my husband and I have (we have four children so far), but I just want to humbly and gently suggest that you being “in the mood” is not a requirement for being intimate with your husband … and what an extra-loving gift of self it might be for you to be with him even when you’re feeling like you’d rather not.

  • Phil

    Simcha writes:

    “Confession is inconvenient and embarrassing, and most of the time, you do it just because you have to. Sometimes the only thing that makes it tolerable is considering the alternative.”

    That really is a very sad view of the beautiful gift from God that is the Sacrament of Confession.

    If the Catholic life is lived as series of checklists of “things I gotta do and rules I gotta follow”, then it wouldn’t be surprising to find that an adult would be stuck at the faith formation level of a middle school student. But, if the Catholic life is lived with the fullness that God wants and the Church encourages, then the focus is on loving and serving our Lord…and, then, the pursuit of holiness becomes a life of joy in the midst of trials.

  • Lauren

    Friends,

    I’d like to reply to the last post here — difference b/t NFP and a Condom.

    What is the difference between abortion and miscarriage? After all, they BOTH result in a dead baby, right? Yes, but in one, God takes the life… the other puts us in a position to arbitrate and decide who lives and who dies.

    The point? The ends never justifies the means. With NFP, we are creative cooperators with LIFE — the most incredible, important gift of all which God has given us. We are not rejecting fertility, killing sperm, and saying our plans are more important than His. Praise God that we can be purified through our trials and cooperate with his grace (make it a discernment process) rather than making us God.

    This isn’t to ease the difficulty, but to recognize the grace and reward in following Him.

  • Annie

    My husband and I used NFP after losing our 6th child early on. We had half-hapazardly used it after our 5th, and were determined not to put ourselves in the way of God’s plans for us and our family. However, 6th child was lost due to uterine fibroids, and doctor said, you can get pregnant again but you will never carry, your uterus is full of fibroids. So…we used NFP for nearly 20 years after that. (Hubby was in his late 40’s by then) It was rocky at times. And not always easy. Now we have 4 children who have left the Faith, 3 grandchildren who are not baptized because of wayward parents (2 in invalid marriages) and I wonder…somewhere years ago I read that couples who practice NFP for a good reason are almost guaranteed that their children will keep the Faith. Guess I read that wrong. We also prayed the rosary with our children every night, gave them home instruction off and on (2 graduated from Catholic high schools), they received all the sacraments permitted. We tried to set a good example.
    Catholic couples today, open to life, have a much better chance of raising children who will interiorize the Faith, especially if they are home schooled. Twenty-five years ago a very holy priest opined that the Church failed families after Vatican II. In some ways, he is correct. We did not have all the wonderful aids today that are available: DVDs CDs, magazines, and faithful priests who will speak the truth in love. And other couples to encourage and help. And of course, Theology of the Body, thanks to JPII. We were raised with mostly fear of doing anything against 6th and 9th commandmants. Now we have a POSITIVE image of the body, and God’s plan for humanity.

  • Annie

    My husband and I used NFP after losing our 6th child early on. We had half-hapazardly used it after our 5th, and were determined not to put ourselves in the way of God’s plans for us and our family. However, 6th child was lost due to uterine fibroids, and doctor said, you can get pregnant again but you will never carry, your uterus is full of fibroids. So…we used NFP for nearly 20 years after that. (Hubby was in his late 40’s by then) It was rocky at times. And not always easy. Now we have 4 children who have left the Faith, 3 grandchildren who are not baptized because of wayward parents (2 in invalid marriages) and I wonder…somewhere years ago I read that couples who practice NFP for a good reason are almost guaranteed that their children will keep the Faith. Guess I read that wrong. We also prayed the rosary with our children every night, gave them home instruction off and on (2 graduated from Catholic high schools), they received all the sacraments permitted. We tried to set a good example.
    Catholic couples today, open to life, have a much better chance of raising children who will interiorize the Faith, especially if they are home schooled. Twenty-five years ago a very holy priest opined that the Church failed families after Vatican II. In some ways, he is correct. We did not have all the wonderful aids today that are available: DVDs CDs, magazines, and faithful priests who will speak the truth in love. And other couples to encourage and help. And of course, Theology of the Body, thanks to JPII. We were raised with mostly fear of doing anything against 6th and 9th commandmants. Now we have a POSITIVE image of the body, and God’s plan for humanity.

  • V2

    Ken and Family Man,

    Please read Humanae Vitae and do not try to be holier than the Church. The Church teaches the legitimacy of periodic continence for the spacing of births or even the indefinite postponing of a birth when there are good (not frivolous or selfish) reasons present. If you are able to multiply like rabbits with no concern for your ability to provide well for all those children, well thanks be to God for this blessing. But do not impose stricter regulations on your fellow members of the Body of Christ when even the Pope does not.

    Everyone: the problem is NOT NFP. The problem is communication between spouses. Simcha, your article is good for provoking discussion. But I am worried that you say NFP can be practiced by the wife alone if necessary. That is unacceptable and a recipe for disaster. This is why people think they need devices like Persona and Baby Comp: so they can point to a red light that says not now honey. It’s the machine’s fault we can’t have sex! That way the wife is off the hook. Couples need to communicate about sex. Also, learning it early on in marriage (or during engagement) is helpful. I think trying to learn it while nursing babies and caring for a large brood would be next to impossible. Also easier for the husband before he has the stress of providing for a large family and when he can focus more on the wife alone. Eight kids on he’s not going to want to or have time to think about cervical mucous and the wonder of the fertility cycle.

  • ART DeANGELIS

    Wife says “I think I’m pregnant AGAIN!!!” I reply “damn it all can’t you count.” She cries a little & I say “if it happens again we’ll send the next baby to Mother Teresa”.

    (When I was single in the 60’s I was looking forward to the Catholic doctor’s development of the pill & the Church’s acceptance – boy was I disappointed!)

    But I was a conservative Mass. Catholic (can you believe Mass. used to have them)& I played the Pope’s game. (When I play a game I play to WIN, but I play by the RULES!) Besides I was afraid of the FIRES OF HELL!

    I didn’t realize it at the time that I was being truly blessed by the Lord with 5 wonderful sons who are practicing Catholics. As adults now they’ll say “we’re going out this evening, but let’s pray together before we leave”

    May I ask your prayers for Major Dave, my F-16 pilot son, who is leaving to participate in our criminal war in Iraq and I hope not Iran.

    Take some moments to research http://www.patriotsquestion911.com and Google Jesse Ventura, Bilderberg, Tri-lateral Commission, North American Union to become enlightened as to the nefarious policies of the Neo-con agenda!

    God bless America – we certainly need it!

    ART

  • PT

    Art,

    What on earth?????

  • Margaret H.

    Simcha,

    Thank you for your thought-provoking article. It’s about time…

    I don’t think anyone who wants a good Catholic marriage fully realizes what the future will hold for themselves as husband and wife. That reality alone deserves some respect from those who would criticize their fellow posters about their supposed lack of virtue. As Simcha said, there needs to be great compassion exhibited when commenting on the experience of others whether or not they use NFP or under what circumstances they use it….we’re all works in progress and may not have all come from supportive rah-rah Catholic environments. I think if we keep seeking God and his design, we may not find complete bliss, but at least feel we’re going in the right direction in our faith life. I cling to that hope.

    For myself, the realization that sex was included along with “until death do you part” has been a major struggle for me. That sounds odd, but I was thinking that there are so many other facets to a marriage that sex would eventually be less and less of an issue. Boy, was I wrong. Most of the time loving my husband is 100 percent gift to him because I really don’t desire sex most of the time. Over the years we’ve had countless conversations, prayed together and apart about the situation, and it is still a struggle. The people who say pray and sacrifice for your spouse and everything will be okay haven’t given me a time frame for when things will magically improve and we will stand on the mountaintop and bask in the glory of God’s benevolent smile….I guess we have to wait until we actually die to find out. Feh. If life was Heaven on Earth we wouldn’t desire Heaven and do everything we could to get there, would we?

    Re: confession. I receive the sacrament regularly and I have yet to feel the relief so many people say they receive from it. I cringe every time I have to go into the priest and confess (usually) the same stuff knowing that I’ll be right back in the confessional in a couple of weeks again confessing the same thing or a variation of it. I do it anyway again because I am hopeful that eventually I’ll see some progress.

    Hang in there, Miss Simcha, and those who are struggling.

    Peace.

  • Gwen

    Wow! I am surprised by this article. I could not disagree more with everything that was said. I love going to confession and feel great when I leave. I don’t do it “because I have too.” I also disagree about NFP. We have been using NFP for over 8 years. We have really not had a problem or felt uncomfortable about it at all. We have 6 living children and 1 in heaven. I feel like everything that has been said has missed the point. If NFP is so uncomfortable, don’t use it. Nothing in the Catholic faith says you MUST use NFP. You can just accept the children as they come. If you choose to space children for whatever reason, then there may be some suffering necessary(although we haven’t had any to speak of ). Christ suffered and died for us and asked us to carry our cross. Do it for the love of God because he wills it, without complaint. Whining about how hard our life is, is just plain silly. And to the one who said they are done – perhaps you should do a little more reading, the procreative and unitive aspects of marriage should not be separated. It is for our Lord to decide. Look to the saints, you don’t hear a whole lot of complaining from them and they went through alot. We need to embrace our crosses! This is when we get real spiritual growth that doesn’t allow for complaining. Perhaps you all should read Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence or some lives of the saints to put it all in perspective. I thought the article almost made a mockery of the beautiful teachings of the church which were skipped in favor of lifes inconveniences. I hope readers of this article will read further and not stop here! I am sorry to be critical, but I was apalled while reading!

  • V2

    Dear Simcha,

    I have to apologize for taking you out of context. This is an issue that I tend to be passionate about, and I read you too quickly. When you say that NFP can be used by wife alone if necessary, I see that you are not advocating that. That is very clear from your article.

    My husband and I have 12 years of experience practicing NFP, and four great kids as of now. We learned it during engagement, but have certainly had many struggles along the way. I do remember post-partum and breast-feeding times being particularly challenging, at least with the first two, or even three. But during those 12 years we have gradually deepened our ability to communicate and become closer and closer. We have also learned the method well and I can say that no baby of ours has been a surprise. There were a couple of times when we were waiting and then just said, “the heck with it,” and there was the baby soon after. But we knew it was possible. I get frustrated when I hear people say, “I have NO IDEA where this baby came from.” There is no mystery. Even people with difficult cycles can use NFP. Find a very good teacher. I never learned Creighton, but I understand they impart superior observation skills. To whomever it was that said you can get pregnant without mucous, I am no doctor or scientist, but I think you should research that further. The mucous is necessary for the sperm to thrive and get to the egg. Check it out. Bottom line: Communicate well, love much, learn the method well (if you need it), be as generous as God is calling you to be, pray.

    Simcha: I really liked your post about not judging others. We have no right. Only God can judge. This is a very private matter. Just as the person in the grocery store looking down on us with all of our kids in tow has no right to judge us for having big families, no one has the right to make someone feel inferior that they are unable to provide well in all aspects for 10 instead of 4 or 5. God gave us the power of reason and he gave us the fertility cycle and free will. We have prayer as a lifeline and for discernment of His will for us.

    God Bless

  • S

    V2 wrote: To whomever it was that said you can get pregnant without mucous, I am no doctor or scientist, but I think you should research that further. The mucous is necessary for the sperm to thrive and get to the egg. Check it out.

    I didn’t say it, but here is the info from The Creighton Model introductory booklet, 1996: “The sperm need cervical mucus to survive. Sperm, in the absence of good mucus will die literally within hours or even minutes when placed into the vagina. In the presence of good cervical mucus, however, the sperm may live from three to five days. Sperm survival is directly dependent upon the presence of good cervical mucus.”

    That said, you can, potentially, be pre-peak and wait to the end of the day – have made good observations – have seen nothing – have intercourse and get pregnant if that cervical mucus appears within a few hours after intercourse – and then you observe it the next morning – and then you have a short pre-peak build-up and ovulate within 3 to 5 days. I’m just saying. It happened to us (and of course we accepted it as God’s will because, as the Church teaches, EVERY marital act is to be open to life) But, it didn’t give us much confidence in NFP and made the difficulties we encountered, seem – not worth it.

  • I’m a Mother of 18

    I am a 41 year old mother of 18. 12 on earth, 1 currently in utero and 5 in Heaven.

    I tried to get my husband on board with NFP. Having a baby every 16-18 months was (and is) very hard on me.
    I don’t regret any of them though..I love each one of them dearly!

    I think we would have qualified for the use of NFP under Humanae Vitae #16 (for Good and Serious reason) because of my health issues in the past.

    My husband refuses to listen to me when I tell him I’m ovulating and tells me that he knows I’m not?! I think I’ve proven that I was 18 times now.

    I wrestle with being obedient as I truly believe that my husband is the “head” and I am the “help meet”. I wrestle with the fact that GOD is in control of EVERY conception and that nothing is “random”….and that NFP might not be the answer. I wrestle with the fact that perhaps I should have insisted (although it would have damaged our marriage) that we abstain. I guess at times I was a little concerned that there might have been force.

    Please, I know you do not know me but pray for me and our little blessing I’m now carrying (although many of you reading this would know me if I identified myself).

  • Babs

    I have to say that I am puzzled by the overall tone of the article, because in my experience NFP (the sympto-thermal method) has worked beautifully in my marriage. I would use it even if the Church did not require it, because it conforms to the natural law: if you want a baby, have sex during the fertile time – if you don’t, don’t. Railing against nature and nature’s laws and their attendant imperfections seems pretty pointless.

    Marriage and family seems like such a tremendous blessing to me, and I simply bring to mind those who long for marriage and have none, and those who long for children and have none, when I feel a bit “entitled” in my life. And, I might add, NFP for me has really meant “togetherness and respect, profundity and cuddles.” Why would I lie about it? I am a real person, not a pretender, a propagandist, or some other such bore. How do you feel about me, if I feel this joy? Maybe that’s the problem. Not NFP.

    Perhaps this mood and attitude is brought about by the theology of the body movement (or perversions of it) which tempt us to elevate sex to a level it was never meant to have and to place upon sex a burden too great for it to bear. Books like “Holy Sex” (and the like) amplify sex to be a great means to spiritual progress, whereas most of prior Christian tradition, in my eyes, calls us to abstain from the pleasures of the flesh to become spiritually strong. If you place sex in its proper place, having to do without it isn’t “first class suffering.” Come on! It’s just sex! Your child doesn’t have cancer. Your husband hasn’t been sent into war. You don’t have to walk 50 miles barefoot for food or medication for your babies. You just have to wait for your sex. That’s certainly not the stuff of Greek tragedy.

    Compared to the vast and dark influence of the culture of death and the horrors of sexual slavery and addiction, living a life in the light of NFP is like a haven in the midst of a battle field. I thank God good men and women of reason and faith transmitted this way of life to me. I say thank you, thank you to them.

    Glad you are writing again, Simcha.

  • Puzzled

    What happens if the husband is totally unwilling?
    Or is willing only until the “urge” hits.

  • Suffering in silence

    the wife has no say in the matter.
    It is an area of “control” used by the otherwise wonderful husband.

  • Joshua

    Perfect in this article seems to mean that control is taken out of God’s Hands and purely into the hands of the married couple. I’m not meaning to be judgmental, but that’s just how it read.

  • ab

    Dearest brothers and sisters,

    God bless you all for your fidelity to God. Remember that He knows the difficulties that many of you embrace for love of Him. If no one else understands that,it does not matter. Keep going! Keep running the race! Perservere! And keep your eyes on Jesus.

    Art, be assured of my heartfelt and sincere prayers for your son, Major Dave. And, thank you. May the Precious Blood of Jesus cover him always and keep him safe.

  • Sarah

    You folks who have never had a problem with NFP – I’m glad it’s been great for you. I only ask that you understand that it’s not great for everyone. You probably have regular cycles, or if you don’t, at least clear signs. I have PCOS, which means I have very long, very irregular cycles, and my fertility signs are confusing. I’ve also had cervical erosion, which makes observations difficult. I’ve had two surprise pregnancies. You know how NFP can be during breastfeeding? Imagine it being like that almost all the time.

    Obviously, things could be a lot worse. NFP did work for us for about four years – we had a long break between the first and second surprise pregnancies. I haven’t been in a situation where I might die if I got pregnant, only difficult financial situations. Many people with PCOS have trouble conceiving, and I’ve concieved twice, without trying. I go to a wonderful NFP-only doctor who diagnosed me with PCOS, and I’m working with them on getting treated and figuring out how to make NFP work better for me. It’s not as if I have to rely on the rhythm method, which would be useless for me. So I try to count my blessings. But NFP has not been that great. I’m glad we have it, and I’m very greatful for my NFP-only doctor. At best, it’s had no effect on our marriage, and at worst it’s been a huge strain. It is what it is.

  • Heather

    I do not think that your article was horrible, but I think it wasn’t really that honest. First of all, NFP is not contraception if used in the correct manner. If you are using it as such, that is not what it is intended for. We as husbands and wives need to pray much and talk much. It is especially important that husbands be sensitive to what is going on with their wives bodies. I would say that if their is a disagreement in using NFP, that it comes from insecureties on one or both of the couple’s part. Also, if you can’t communicate honestly about other things, then communicating honestly about this is not going to happen. For my husband and myself, NFP is the only way. Staying faithful to the Jesus’ words and His call on our life as husband and wife are what is most important to us. Is it hard? Yes, but again, prayer, prayer, prayer. Part of the problem is that the Church is not teaching what it should in this area. Sure, there is the talk before you get married, but then what? I’m sure I could go on, but there are always going to be cynics out there who despise the Fatih and what we as Catholics stand for. And by the way I think that confession is a wonderful sacrament. So many graces come to us from sincerely admitting that we were wrong.
    Jesus, Mary and Joseph, teach us to love as you love.

  • Elizabeth B.

    Simcha,

    This is a great article–and I miss reading your thoughts on your blog! I’m glad to read in the comments that NFP has worked so well (and with so little difficulty) for so many. But in many of these same comments I was saddened to hear the attitude that if one finds NFP in any way difficult then one should either not use it, or is not doing it right.

    At the time of my engagement and wedding I would describe myself as an NFP cheerleader. I started charting before I got married so I would have practice. NFP worked very well overall for us, and until we had children we thought it was (usually) pretty easy. Breastfeeding threw us a pretty huge curve ball though. And since I had been severely ill due to pregancy with my first, we pretty much HAD to abstain. It was a very difficult year and a half for our marriage. Now, even with years of practice behind me, I find it very difficult to chart correctly, with nights interrupted by a toddler with nightmares and days spent trying to keep the 17 month old from killing himself.

    I firmly believe that what the Church teaches about NFP is true. And for me, it has overall worked pretty well. But not everybody has my experience (and many women don’t have a cycle as regular as mine, either). Sometimes NFP has been extremely difficult–far worse than I ever imagined possible when I got married. Suffering and sacrifice are part of the Christian life, but if we can’t turn to our fellow Catholics for a little understanding and encouragement, then where can we turn? Some of these comments are so devoid of charity that it’s very discouraging. Let’s try to have some genuine sympathy with each other and remember how limited our knowledge of others’ hearts and minds really is.

  • gianetta

    According to the advice of NFP Cheerleader and as a willing curious person of the same name, I read Janet Smith’s article. It would be beyond the scope of comments here to answer every detail, but on the whole one can say as in Hebrew, “the best is (often) the enemy of the good”.

    While it may be the ideal to have a spirit guided sexuality in marriage, the real is too often what one has to deal with. I can say as a child of a married couple in the 60’s who were trying to do the so-called right thing by the Church, the whole scene of the “rhythm system” was wildly out of synch, a source of confusion, frustration, even leading to violence in the home.

    Apart from my being told that any other way is “unnatural” by countless clergy, the fear as brought up here by other commenters, is that pandemonium would result if restrictions were taken away. In other words, there is only puritanism and promiscuity with nothing else in between. Sadly, the pendulum swings back and forth, missing the golden mean everytime.

    Repression is not the answer. As a matter of fact, doing so lies at the core of pederasty–drives that would have had a “natural” outlet in marriage are twisted into more unnatural shapes. Please note that clergy could still marry by the time of the first Lateran Council in the 1100’s.

    The best destroying the good–why such a preoccupation with the mechanics of procreation? The mouth is an organ of speech and mourishment as well. Presumably pleasure in eating would be less virtuous? (And I also heard THAT one as well!!)

    The point is people will be cheap and sleazy or noble and spiritual with or without contraception, in or out of marriage, or in the convent and monastery.

    The so-called Sexual Revolution has been a disaster not for the freedoms it offered but for what people have done with them.

  • Sara

    Is there a website for NFP that discusses the method and has contact information for a provider, perhaps without the “cheerleader” qualities described here. I am following my provider’s directions without the results she says I should see and need to talk to someone who can tell me more than just “you’re not doing it right.” I assume that since many providers and successful users visit here, you might know something.

  • concerned

    I was very concerned about you mom of 18 after I read your post.
    Conceiving a child should involve communication from both husband and wife. To hear that your husband refuses to listen to you is not right. You then went to say that there were times that you didn’t say no (to sex) and at the time were concerned that there might be force. Did you mean your husband would force you to have sex against your will? That would be rape.

    Your post really upset me and perhaps I am not getting the whole picture. Obedience is one thing abuse is another. Yes your husband is the head but he needs to love you as Christ loves the Church, and if that means abstaining from sex while you are fertile so your body can rest from pregnancy that is what he needs to do.

    I know this is the internet and it is hard to read between the lines so if I am way off I’m sorry.

  • Peter

    Nobody reading my blog (linked in the article) could accuse me of being an NFP cheerleader πŸ˜‰ and I have attempted to express the frustration I have heard from many men who do not feel safe to express it. This can sound a little negative about NFP at times, just as the frustration Simcha expresses sounds like she is having a go at NFP. Unless, of course, you notice that she has assumed the Church is right about birth control etc and is simply being real about the struggle of some couples in living out their faith in this area.

    I wish it wasn’t necessary to respond to comments about the evils of ‘sexual repression’ supposedly caused by all these NFP couples taking cold showers between counting days on charts, especially when the old furphy of sexual misconduct among clergy is blamed on celibacy as if these were connected.

    First, check out Philip Jenkins book “Pedophiles and Priests” and face up to the fact (demonstrated clearly in the book) that married clergy have higher rates of abuse than celibate clergy.

    Second, the ‘frustration’ of living out an NFP marriage is great, but to propose abandoning it because such frustration may cause more sinful results than use of an immoral contraceptive method is laughable. The average divorce rate in Australia is nearing 50%. The average among those ‘repressed and frustrated’ couples using the Billings NFP method? Just 1%!

    For all their admitted frustation, married couples choosing to struggle towards a full acceptance of the difficult reality of their shared stewardship of the gift of love and life, there is a surprising absence of the abuse, abandonment and disfunction which is so prevelant among those who claim contraception allows them to go with their ‘natural’ urges.

    Sometimes it is hard to do what is right. At these times we don’t need people who find this particular thing easy smugly telling us how easy they find it. We also don’t need someone to pop us a pill to suppress the reality of the situation so we can pretend it doesn’t exist. We need real help, real advice in our struggle to be holy in this wonderful vocation called marriage.

  • Dawn

    …cause I actually really enjoy using NFP. Of course, I came to it as an atheist-soon-to-be-Catholic after nearly a decade of hard-core secular sexual degradation (including porn). So frankly, abstinence isn’t that big a deal when it means I won’t be used like a piece of meat anymore! I actually do get a charge out of all that high-brow theological stuff like “one-flesh union” and “reflecting the inner life of God.” But it’s true that it’s more challenging for some than others and I do what I can to make sure I don’t make it harder for my DH. It’s T-shirts and granny underwear during Phase 2; nighties are for the rest of the month. It certainly helps to have a sense of humor about it, as well as a Tivo–we save our favorite shows for the abstinence days, when we need a distraction! =)

  • Dawn

    Ken wrote: Good for you, Family Man, for taking on the pro-birth control crowd here. I never did understand what the difference between a calendar and a condom is if both are instruments toward preventing a child.

    Ken: The ends don’t justify the means. Since when is robbing a bank and working for your paycheck on the same moral grounds? Contraception deliberately shuts the door to God and suppresses an integral part of oneself (your fertility), a part of us that God obviously thought important enough to include in the creation of an immortal soul.

    I have a chronic pain condition and being pregnant absolutely debilitates me. Before we miscarried last year, I spent most of my pregnancy hobbling around our home, weeping, because I could not take my pain medication. A friend gets hyperemesis with each pregnancy so badly she has to be hospitalized and sent home with nursing care once they get the vomiting down to a dozen times a day. Another gets severe postpartum depression after each birth and cannot care for her existing children, whom she homeschools.

    Were we to just throw caution to the wind and “enjoy our spouse” whenever, ourselves, spouses, and children would suffer terribly. Everything is possible to the man who doesn’t have to do it…please don’t put a burden on people that the Church does not. If Christ has given us the gift of NFP–and it is a gift, because we have a moral and reliable means of avoiding this kind of suffering–then it is out of compassion and love for us. Please open your heart and have more compassion for those who have not been blessed with the easy pregnancies and births that your family obviously has.

  • FamilyMan

    Um, OK.

    I think my point was not one of being holier than anyone else, let alone the Church.

    Ken’s comment is his own to defend as he sees fit.

    I was just trying to give a different slant on the topic, “Talk Honestly about Natural Family Planning”. From my perspective, NFP doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble. And I encouraged everyone to just enjoy their spouses.

    I realize that there are folks who have genuine medical concerns and needs–that wasn’t my point. Those who don’t might consider an easier option.

    Simple. I just think it is easier my way, and certainly not more or less holy than NFP. Fortunately, so does my wife. The Church certainly supports a husband and wife just being open to life, too.

    If anyone felt “judged” by my thoughts, my apologies.

  • questioning the divcorce rate

    Peter noted that the divorce rate among those who use NFP is 1% (and we are too assume that it is NFP itself that causes the low divorce rate.)

    I have never been able to use this as an argument as couples who pray together on a regular basis and worship together also have the same low divorce rate, they may or may not use contraception.

    Being a scientist at heart who reads alot of studies in other areas I am also critical of research. Are the unhappy NFP couples stepping forward for these studies so that their results are included? Or only those who have a desire to see the Church’s teaching validated?

  • E K Bell

    I never did understand what the difference between a calendar and a condom is if both are instruments toward preventing a child.

    Without going into intimate details I would say that we may change WHEN we have sex due to charting but using a condom would change HOW we had sex. (and chemical means would change my body!)

    The means are important not just the ends.

    I would also point out that there are serious reasons to refrain from children either for a time (such as my sister who was in a wheelchair for 6 weeks after the birth of her first child, she was told to give her body plenty of healing time before becoming pregnant again) or indefinitely. To assume that those using NFP do not have serious reasons is to judge others on insufficent grounds. I will agree that our culture does appear to lead people into exaggerated ideas of what is necessary to properly bring up children.

  • M. H.

    Babs wrote: Marriage and family seems like such a tremendous blessing to me, and I simply bring to mind those who long for marriage and have none, and those who long for children and have none, when I feel a bit “entitled” in my life. And, I might add, NFP for me has really meant “togetherness and respect, profundity and cuddles.” Why would I lie about it? I am a real person, not a pretender, a propagandist, or some other such bore. How do you feel about me, if I feel this joy? Maybe that’s the problem. Not NFP.

    If you place sex in its proper place, having to do without it isn’t “first class suffering.” Come on! It’s just sex! Your child doesn’t have cancer. Your husband hasn’t been sent into war. You don’t have to walk 50 miles barefoot for food or medication for your babies. You just have to wait for your sex. That’s certainly not the stuff of Greek tragedy.

    Thanks for this post. If sex were food, this whole string would be a long diatribe about how some chosen people “only” get to eat the fresh, nutritious, and delectable prime rib ten times a month instead of the 31 times our baser appetites would prefer.

    Who has it worse than NFPers?

    –Celibates
    –Single folks
    –People who struggle against homosexual attraction
    –Widows and widowers
    –Those caught in the sex trade
    –Incest and rape victims
    –etc.

    Thanks for injecting a does of reality into this string!

  • knowing what others are sufferin

    In light of the last thread, we can’t know what the sufferings of others couples are. I’m not sure what type of scale or rating system you are using to determine who has it worse. I find it much harder to be married than to be celibate and I think they have it easy:) The burden that NFP places on some couples just might be the last straw for them. Perhaps you lead a charmed life and the biggest suffering you can come up with is abstaining 14 days a month. Don’t make any assumptions about the trials of other couples. If God calls you to offer up your NFP sufferings then by all means do it.

  • Kenneth

    I’m sick of people complaining about abstinence as nothing but pure suffering, as well as so many looking down upon single life and religious life. Celibacy is a joyful vocation where one can serve God completely and not some painful exercise of obedience (although it does require we mortify the evil desires of the flesh, but that goes for married people too). I think it would be wise to read the seventh chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians again:
    http://newadvent.org/bible/1co007.htm

    Also, NFP is a good thing because it has self-mortification built in. Any attitude that views NFP as a burden seems to be on the slippery slope towards using sex solely as a means for pleasure and not as a gift from God that brings spouses together and allows them to join in His creative act. It is absolutely ungrateful towards God to complain that what he asks of us requires work rather than simply allowing us instant gratification. We ought to distrust ourselves because more often than not we have evil impulses and urges that would cause us to sin. It is only through trust and love of God that we can make progress in the spiritual life, married or not.

    I know living a good life is difficult because I am very very far from perfect, but to pretend as if our desire for easiness and instant gratification are not evils that we suffer because of the Fall is to be dishonest with ourselves.

  • Simcha Fisher

    I’m reminded of a passage from some female humorist from the 50’s — maybe Jean Kerr? She had written a short, light piece called “I Like Priests.” It was about how much she likes priests, and why.

    She was deluged with dozens of angry letters from people demanding to know what was wrong with nuns? And how about deacons — doesn’t she like deacons? She said she could see her future in writing doomed to an endless succession of essays: “I like the Knights of Columbus” . . “I like the Ursuline Sisters” . . .”I like the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. . .

    Folks, I only had 1,000 words. If you didn’t see your favorite aspect of the NFP debate covered here, then that’s why.

    There are ten thousand ways to suffer, and it doesn’t strike me as particularly Christian to say things like, “I’m sick of hearing about this” or “What’s the big deal?” You don’t have that particular cross? Wonderful – be thankful for that, and pray for an increase in charity toward those who suffer more than you do.

    Also, there are ten thousand ways to follow God’s will. It doesn’t strike me as particularly Christian for a lay person who is a complete stranger to decide whether someone else is following God’s will. Last I heard, the Cure of Ars had very little company in his ability to read souls.

    I know someone who is postponing another baby because she wants to lose five pounds. Trivial, right? A selfish misuse of NFP, clearly.

    Well, it turns out she was afraid her husband would leave her because he wants her to have a perfect body. There are people who commented here, who, not knowing that second, more personal reason, would have added to her suffering by calling her selfish and shallow.

    Please, just remember, you do not know, ever, what is truly going on in another person’s marriage.

    The other point I want to make is that the pain and trials of NFP are not, primarily, because someone wants to have sex on a particular day, but has to wait a few days to satisfy their desire.

    The worst part, which an unmarried person cannot understand, is what it can do to your relationship when you and your spouse react to abstinence in different ways. It’s not that I’m feeling frisky and have to be patient! It’s that a husband and wife can unintentionally hurt each other very badly while trying to do the right thing.

  • anonymous

    I stumbled upon this article while reading another blog… I am a a former Catholic, and the church’s rigidity about birth control was one of my reasons for choosing another faith. I was forced to learn NFP at my Catholic high school, as part of my Marriage and Christian Family class, senior year. We had to take our temperatures, and fill out these charts about our cycles, and turn them in. It felt, to me, like a huge violation of my privacy. Granted, this was awhile ago- the eighties. I agree with the poster who questioned the logic of the Church’s position. I certainly respect and admire couples who use NFP- if it is their choice- but the post by the poor woman with eighteen kids really caught my attention!! Mon Dieu, if ever there were an argument for sterilization!!

  • Lynn

    I was forced to learn NFP at my Catholic high school, as part of my Marriage and Christian Family class, senior year. We had to take our temperatures, and fill out these charts about our cycles, and turn them in.

    Even in the eighties, this was probably a violation of privacy rights. If you were 18 or older at the time, you could probably have refused and made your case. If you were under 18, your parents could have made your case for you, or if they were not so inclined you could have gotten a court appointed advocate.

    If this is still going on anywhere, even in a Catholic school, this is absolutely completely illegal. No teacher has the right to ask you to provide personal information about body functions as part of a homework assignment. If male teachers have access to that information, there are sexual harassment and abuse issues at play here, too.

    When you think about it, this is forced participation in a BC method, which is an odd thing for a Catholic school to engage in. Can you imagine the outrage from the Catholic quarter should a school force their daughters to learn to use a diaphragm and have to show the results of how well they’re learning it to the teachers? Oy!

  • Lynn

    Gianetta said:

    I have been born, raised and educated Catholic. An alleged distinction between unnatural and natural used as a moral determinant in the area of contraception but apparently nowhere else, was always puzzling to me.

    Gianetta, I agree with you, although I think the examples you use are out of place and not demonstrative of what you’re trying to say.

    The Church teaches that NFP works _with_ the natural rhythms of the body rather than against them, hence the “God’s natural plan” thing.

    For me, a better analogy would be that of eating — feeding oneself is a natural function designed by God to provide one with nutrition and energy for healthy physical function. Gluttony and sloth (to keep this in “Catholic” terms) are therefore sinful — they work against the body’s natural design.

    But why, then, are the obese and lazy not chastized just as non-NFP BC users are? This is what puzzles me — it’s okay to poison one’s body and allow it to become diseased and dysfunctional to the point where the burden of repair or care is placed on others (rising medical costs/taxes), but it’s a mortal sin to use a condom with the same prayerful intent as someone who uses NFP. This is a big sticking point for me, too.

  • Kay

    K says:

    I just want to humbly and gently suggest that you being “in the mood” is not a requirement for being intimate with your husband … and what an extra-loving gift of self it might be for you to be with him even when you’re feeling like you’d rather not.

    And the difference between this and handing him a blow-up doll is…?

    Sorry, but I find that beyond offensive — the woman must make herself available to the man even if she’s not aroused to do so (usually resulting in painful intercourse for her, and maybe resulting in vaginal tearing), and you think there’s a decent, honorable man out there who would consider this an “extra-loving gift”?

    My husband would throw up at the notion of emotionally manipulating me into performing a sexual act I didn’t particularly want to engage in. Actually, he’d call it rape, as would I.

  • K supporter

    I think you misunderstood K. What I think (s)he meant: For many women, myself included, if we don’t take the effort to remember that s@x is a gift of ourselves to our husband and instead spend more time focusing on how exhausted, overwhelmed, etc we are, we’d never be in the mood. S@x is about so much more than just us and our biological urges. K wasn’t saying passively accept your husband’s advances – redirect your mind so that you want to make a gift of yourself mentally, even if your body certainly wouldn’t have chosen that as its’ first activity. Your body warms up to your mind’s decision.

  • Lynn/Kay

    First — my brain on dyslexia, sorry — I was thinking “K” in order to correctly attribute the quote (I admit I’m an idiot and can’t manage to grasp the “quote” function here) and therefore wrote out “K” (k-a-y) when writing my name. Anyways…I usually only do it when I’m aggravated, so there you go — my fault for letting my emotions get the best of me.

    Secondly, this is a potentially abusive take on the unitive aspect of intercourse. There’s too much room for one party to emotionally manipulate the other partner into engaging in a sexual act he or she would rather not engage in.

    The Church does not teach that one partner should feel as if he or she has to submit to sexual advances for any reason if he or she isn’t freely willing to do so, and to have another layperson (although this coming from a priest would be worse!) imply a person ought to get over oneself and “gift” him or her self to the other partner is, well, my stomach is actually turning at the thought of it.

    Offering yourself up as masturbation assistance for your partner is, well, gross.

  • pcr

    REGARDING:
    >I was forced to learn NFP at my Catholic high school, as part >of my Marriage and Christian Family class, senior year. We had >to take our temperatures, and fill out these charts about our >cycles, and turn them in.
    ….
    >When you think about it, this is forced participation in a BC >method, which is an odd thing for a Catholic school to engage >in.

    NFP IS NOT CATHOLIC BIRTH CONTROL!

    NFP is simply fertility awareness.

    What a couple does with that knowledge of fertility awareness
    works within the teachings of the Theology of the Family.

  • Lynn

    Yes, NFP is “Catholic” birth control in the sense that it is a method of planning (controlling) the timing of the birth of one’s children to the best of one’s ability (NFP has the same rate of effectiveness as the pill) sanctioned for use by the Catholic Church.

    It may not be contraception but it is indeed birth control. The method may be based on fertility awareness, but that’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how the method works if the goal is to control to the best of one’s ability how one will space one’s children. Even if you use NFP to enhance your chances of becoming pregnant, you’re still attempting to exert some kind of personal control over the matter.

    My lawyer husband says requiring girls to participate in fertility awareness PRACTICE and to submit charts containing this personal information is indeed illegal and he finds it hard to be believe any school system would be that stupid.

    After a re-read through these comments, the ones claiming Catholic girls need to be “taught” how to “love” their husbands, this one in which a girl was forced to let adult teachers know when she was or wasn’t fertile (wonder why the male teachers wanted that information, hmmmm…a little rape on the side without worrying about a baby, maybe?), and then that garbage about Catholic women being obligated to “gift” themselves to their husbands in order to alleviate the men’s physical desires, I’ve come to believe that the Catholic Church has succeeded in objectifying women in the most repulsive way ever. They are things, to be “gifted” as sexual objects, or things to be impregnated when so desired. NFP completely separates the unitive from the procreative, more so than any other method of BC available, and women are treated either as sex toys or incubators rather than whole human beings worthy of love and respect.

    You raping pigs can keep your dehumanizing NFP. You obviously treat women as sex toys or brood mares depending on your mood, not like real people. You’re gross

  • E K Bell

    In my experience there can be a difference between not particularly wanting sex ‘I’d rather not’ and not wanting sex at all ‘No way!’.

    For example:

    Right now I’m nursing a young infant.

    Due to a number of associated factors, I don’t desire/think about sex most of the time
    BUT I can enjoy it once we get going-the interest may not be there but the ability to enjoy it still is.

    What this means is that similar advice (coupled with the information that being slow to be aroused during breastfeeding was common) was very useful to me.

    In much the same way as encouraging another young mom to get out despite feeling like it’s too much work might be useful to her.

    It’s not that my husband EVER did more then indicate that he was interested or has ever laid a guilt trip on me but rather that I found MYSELF happier if I allowed his interest to remind me that this is indeed enjoyable.

  • Lynn

    Right. In YOUR experience. Key word: YOUR.

    When you use your own experience of what passes for a mature, wholly realized, loving relationship (but sounds little better than those sick old men of the FDLS and their little girl brides who probably also had to be “taught” how to “love” their husbands, and who are also used willy-nilly by the men as objects to satisfy sexual urges or for impregnation, depending on their mood) to tell other women that they have a Christian obligation to “gift” themselves (now they’re THINGS, or pieces of meat, or just a handy set of vaginal walls to rub oneself between for sexual gratification? DISGUSTING!!!) to their menfolk because those poor drooling cretins will be tempted to do something sinful if the women don’t give in, no matter what the woman might feel.

    Why not just stay out of other people’s beds? I thought all you people believed marriage was between one man and one woman, not a man, a woman, the people in the pew next to you, the priest, the busybody next door, the preachy know-it-all, the self-loathing female who denigrates herself through sex by making an object out of herself to “gift” to her husband.

    If you like rape fantasies, fine, but play in private. Don’t teach girls they’re expected to allow themselves to be used against their will.

  • Liz

    Lynn,

    It sounds like you have a lot of issues about s@x. I’m praying for you.

    Liz

  • Mary Margaret

    Lynn,

    I have some sympathy for your views. It frankly does not sit well with me that women are (not always, but sometimes) being told to do that which they do not want to do. Yes, marriage should be a total gift of oneself to the other, but in issues of sex, it sure seems to be a one-way street all too often. Basically, if a woman does not want to have sex, she should not feel obliged to do so. (Nor should a man, BTW.)

    That said, I think that you are being far too judgemental of those women who find that giving themselves to their husbands when they are not initially interested are being used. These are adult women making a choice, and they should not be denigrated for making a choice that you would not make. If they find pleasure and fulfillment therein, more power to them! If they are called by God to love their husbands at times which are inconvenient and do it anyway, God bless them.

    I am a Catholic myself, and I struggle with this teaching about ABC. I tend to think that NFP is frequently nothing more than birth control without the “artificial”. ABC that is, or may be, abortifacient is clearly wrong. Condoms or diaphragms–I just don’t see it. I try, folks. I’ve listened to the discussions and reasoning, and I still don’t get it. I’m not dissenting here, but I am struggling to understand why barrier methods are so much worse than timing methods. I will continue to read these discussions and try to learn from all of you.

    Lynn, may God bless you. I think you have an honest POV–I just wish that you would express it with more charity.

  • Rebecca

    I really enjoyed the honesty and openness of your article. I would like to point to two things which I think are pretty essential in the whole picture of NFP. First, I’d like to lodge a friendly objection against the use of the term “NFP” as a synonym for “periodic abstinence to avoid conception”. NFP stands for “natural family planning”, I know you know that, but let’s look carefully for a minute–since we are, unlike the beasts, reasonable animals, it is natural for us to use our intelligence about our actions, and since God created us with a nature, there are ways to plan which are in accord with that nature, and ways which are not. If we just look at what God’s general idea is for the reasonable spacing of offspring in higher mammals, it clearly has very much to do with the suppression of cycles through breastfeeding. In cultures where the pill is unknown, babies are generally spaced around three or four years apart due to lactational ammenhorrea alone. I did not know this at the time I was married, and I think many people are not aware of this. I encourage people to read Sheila Kippley’s excellent book on this topic. I do not think it is possible to understand our nature and God’s plan without understanding this central fact about fertility–that in general, if we are breastfeeding in the way nature intends (sleeping with our babies, nursing them on their own schedules, not giving them pretend nipples to suck on, not leaving them for extended periods of time), our cycle will be suppressed until about the time that we are physically ready to have another child. Whether we are mentally/emotionally ready or ready in other ways, will really vary from couple to couple and be affected by many factors, but boy, not having to deal with a cycle for a year or two after a birth sure is nice in so many ways. I have met some women who do not experience this lactational ammenhorrea despite practicing this kind of breastfeeding relationship–perhaps it is connected to hormone imbalance, I don’t know–it would be nice to know, but the fact is that hardly anyone pays any attention to breastfeeding and its effects on fertility, and hardly anyone practices ecological breastfeeding as defined by Kippley, which is not some fad thing, but is the way of breastfeeding practiced in most cultures, in most times. But in my mind, this is the elephant in the room in any discussion of NFP. This is the oldest form of natural family planning, and has nothing to do with charts, temperatures, or tiny pictures of blooming flowers. The charts and things are extremely helpful, and God bless the people who have taken the care to figure that stuff out, but I think all that has to be related to the core of nature’s plan–breastfeeding and its suppression of the cycle–in order to make any sense.

    My second point is peripheral to your main point, but I think it’s important–any discussion of the moral use of periodic continence should bear in mind the points made in an excellent article recently written by Angela Bonilla, entitled, “Humanae Vitae: grave reasons to use a good translation”. It can be read online here: http://www.ignatius.com/magazines/hprweb/bonilla.htm
    It is a rather scholarly article but well worth the time spent; I believe that if Catholics understood the points being made by this author, the whole nature and tone of discussions about NFP would be vastly different.
    Again I appreciate your candor and I too would like to see more discussion, especially more courageous and level-headed discussion, of this topic, in every aspect. It has tremendous consequences, and the knee-jerk responses I see so often are not very helpful.
    God bless you and your family, and if you are the same Simcha who was in the TMI summer program in high school with me, it’s good to “see” you again after all these years.
    Rebecca (the red-headed one)

  • Kate

    I would hope that, were you to say “Well, I’m not really in the mood tonight, but since it’s our Anniversary, let’s go for it!” to your husband, he would gently and ardently do all he could to get you ‘in the mood’ before the completion of the act.

    I think what the earlier poster ‘K’ was trying to get at was this – sex may often seem undesirable to a woman when she is comfy in her chair reading her blogs or painting her toenails or working on her theses or whatnot. But we are not animals enslaved to the whims of our biological drives – we are humans whose physiology is interactive and reactive with our mental processes. Which means that you can CHOOSE to be available to your husband because you love him (not because your juices are flowing) and by making that choice and engaging in foreplay, find that, ‘hey, look at that, I’m in the mood after all!’

    Heck, if it was left to me in my abstraction and laziness…well, I’d have an awful lot less fun than I do. πŸ˜‰

    Trust me, no one here is advocating any sort of rape. Just generousity and a bit of effort occasionally. The same thing an good therapist will suggest.

  • Lynn

    Yes, Liz, I KNOW what rape is, so when I see it all dressed up as something else I can recognize it for what it is.

    My husband would NEVER pressure me into sex with some half-arsed gobbledygook about his needs and my obligation to “gift” myself. Don’t DARE insult my husband, who is a REAL man, by suggesting he’d pressure me into anything against my will. HE is not a rapist. And just how disgustingly condescending is this:

    –I would hope that, were you to say “Well, I’m not really in the mood tonight, but since it’s our Anniversary, let’s go for it!” to your husband, he would gently and ardently do all he could to get you ‘in the mood’ before the completion of the act.–

    Oh, if I’m a GOOD GIRL, and let myself be manipulated into being raped, maybe my rapist husband would be nice enough to let me have a little pleasure, too…???

    THAT’S SICK. That’s disgusting and sick and evil. That’s the most evil thing I’ve seen in a long time.

    And you give THINGS as gifts. When you reduce acesss to a woman’s vagina as a “gift”, you reduce her to a THING. NO legitimate therapist of any kind (except maybe a male Catholic therapist with an agenda) would suggest such a thing, so you’re wrong there. I KNOW that, too, so don’t lie. That’s a dirty lie you wrote in case some Catholic girl is reading this and might be getting ideas in her head about, oh, say, having supremacy over her own body, having the right to say no, being an actual, complete, individual human being herself.

    You Catholics obviously don’t even know what real love is, so there’s no way you could understand anything about trust and wholeness and how real men, GOOD men, love women they see as whole people and whom they genuinely do love.

    You all sound either like those sad little inbred brainwashed FDLS girls or like a bunch of barnyard animals getting ready to breed. You’re not whole. You see sex as orgasms or babies, nothing more. In totally separating sex into one of two purely biological functions, you’ve taken both the human and the divine out of it, and as a result you’re all something less yourselves. You can’t even see it because you all think you’re so RIGHT about everything and that using NFP must mean you’re better and holier than everyone else so you couldn’t possibly be COMPLETELY wrong about the whole thing.

    The really stupid thing about all this is how you look down on those who don’t use your crappy method of BIRTH CONTROL (which is what it is no matter what you’ve tricked yourselves into believing) because you think anything else separates the procreative from the unitive, yet NFP does NOTHING else but separate the procreative from the unitive — that’s HOW it works. You’ve just pretzel-twisted the logic with all kinds of woo-woo holy talk and brainwashed yourselves into thinking it doesn’t do that at all. You’re WRONG.

    I feel sorry for you because you men will only ever be a bunch of pigs with rapist mentalities and you women will only be a bunch of brainwashed sows (on days X, Y and Z, when you’re fertile) or blow-up dolls (on days A, B and C when you’re not fertile), and you’ll never know what genuine, true intimacy is.

  • Lynn

    One more thing, and then I’m done because I’m literally shaking and on the verge of vomiting:

    Does it ever occur to you sexually and emotionally retarded idiots that just MAYBE non-Catholic women, or non-NFP using women are more likely to feel naturally and genuinely physically desirous of their husbands because their husbands haven’t reduced them to inanimate objects? Maybe if your husbands would stop treating you like a blow-up doll he requires in order to satisfy his “sinful” urges or a walking incubator he requires to pass on his DNA, and started treating you like real people, you might want to be with him, and he you, for all the RIGHT reasons.

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    I’m dropping in to ask everyone to tone it down a bit. I know this is a matter of passionate debate, but let’s make sure we’re having a passionate, charitable debate.

    Please remember our Combox rule: “Always assume the good intentions of the other person, especially when you disagree. And avoid personal attacks.”

    Thanks to all.

  • anonymous

    For “Wow! this can’t be legal!”I was 17 in 1981, (I am the original poster), and I went to St. Francis HIgh, in Sacramento, California, and this was required for our Marriage and Christian Family Living Class. I refused to complete the assignment- I had health issues, and could not have, even had I wanted to. I was also too embarrassed to tell the teacher. (I suspect that many 17 year olds would not want to discuss their menstrual cycles with a teacher) I really hated that school. Well, I wrote a paper about all of the different methods of birth control, and promptly got a “D” in the class. Anyway, the experience ended my relationship with the Catholic Church. I am now an Episcopalian, as are my two children, and my husband. I guess I am still angry, on some level, about the way I was treated at St. Francis. Yes, this really happened.

  • Renee

    Secular science has embraced NFP, there is the book “Take Charge of Your Fertility” (www.ovusoft.com) and the author wrote a book for young teens titled, “Cycle Savvy” (www.cyclesavvy.com). The author was pressured by adult women on how they wished they knew about the information regarding NFP going through puberty.

    Just this month there was an article regarding how How Birth Control Brings Us Down By Meredith F. Small, LiveScience’s Human Nature Columnist

    “Oxytocin is the hormone that helps dilate the cervix before birth and is responsible for letting down milk for breastfeeding. In cultures with no birth control, adult women give birth more often and lactate much of the time. Over most of human history, women have also been involved with babies most of their adult lives.

    Traditionally, then, women have been constantly under the influence of a hormone that promotes selective social memory, and women seem often to be the keepers of positive social interactions and the initiators of diplomacy and peace-making.’

    “But what men haven’t realized is that the oxytocin universe has altered for many women. In Western culture today, women barely lactate at all, leaving them just as physiologically ready to hold a grudge, to never forget the face that did them wrong, as any man.”

    BTW Oxytocin is also the hormone that is released during orgasm by both men and woman, but in completely differing ways.

    Also there is Teen Star (www.teenstarprogram.org/index.asp) that bases the fertility awareness method to help young adults understand their sexuality.

    “We know what doesn’t work — “preaching” abstinence, “promoting” condoms

    TeenSTAR (Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility) is a developmental curriculum which uses learning one’s fertility pattern to teach responsible decision-making and communication skills in the area of sexual behavior and enhances teens’ self-understanding and self-esteem. Can be offered once a week in health, physical education, family life, biology or sociology class for two semesters. Best results for primary prevention if offered in grades 7-9.”

    I didn’t learn about NFP (Billings Ovulation) until I wanted to have a baby and kept with it to space my children (since I was using formula with the first and second), and used ecological breastfeeding later on when I didn’t chart.

    As for Lynn, I shrug my shoulders. The knowledge behind NFP made me better understand how the enjoyment of sex and the bonding between my husband and I. The bonding creates a stable environment to welcome and raise children. My husband and I may be open to having more children without charting.

    My husband isn’t a lawyer, but I happen to be one (inactive status). I joke to people I’ll go back to practice when I hit menopause. As for legalities of what schools teach students, school systems can pretty much teach whatever they want, parents have no say.

    RONALD C. BROWN, ET AL., Plaintiffs – Appellants v. HOT, SEXY AND SAFER PRODUCTIONS, INC., ET AL.,
    Defendants – Appellees.

  • Lynn

    No, Renee the “inactive” lawyer who doesn’t have a clue. Requiring girls to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in a BC method is illegal. You can teach the science behind it, but you cannot legally REQUIRE them to track their own fertility and give this information about their bodies to the teaching staff.

    It’s illegal. Against the law. Prosecutable. They can have every last dime sued away from them because of this and rightfully so.

    Maybe if you were an ACTIVE lawyer (say, like, with a LICENSE TO PRACTICE!!!) you might know this. But you’re not.

    According to ACTIVE, PRACTICING, LICENSED lawyers, this is illegal.

    On Monday morning I am going to make a few calls to a few authoratative organizations in the state of California and to a few journalist friends of ours and have this looked into.

    This is an illegal practice and any school system that requires underage girls to chart their fertility and hand this over to the teaching staff is acting illegally and should and will be stopped.

  • Lynn

    Also, in PRIVATE schools, such as the Catholic one mentioned, parents very much do have a say.

    It’s called their checkbook.

  • anonymous

    Lynn,
    Regarding my original post- THIS WAS IN 1981!! TWENTY SIX YEARS AGO!!!!!! yes, I hated my high school, yes this really happened….but in all fairness, this is probably not going on now!!!!
    The woman who was the principal, at that time, was extremely dogmatic. She was removed in 1999. This is a matter of public record. This principal- I will not give her name- was very authoritarian, etc, and I could give examples of her behavior, but I won’t. The point is, requiring us to learn NFP in religion class was ridiculous, a violation of privacy, and probably illegal. But that was not the only stupid, unfair thing that went on at that school in 1981. Come to think of it, we all know that an awful lot of things went on under the radar, in the Catholic church, in those days. Still, the outrage expressed on this board makes me feel vindicated- I was not wrong for feeling that my privacy was violated. My parents, and friends, had the attitude that we should just go along with the assignment, and not make waves, because it was the second semester of senior year. So, maybe I should not have named the school, but I doubt that this is still going on. (Also, again in the spirit of fairness, St. Francis has an excellent academic reputation)

  • Limbo

    Ken wrote: Good for you, Family Man, for taking on the pro-birth control crowd here. I never did understand what the difference between a calendar and a condom is if both are instruments toward preventing a child.

    Well said Ken !!

    You lot call yourselves Catholics.
    Why are you all so hell bent on not bringing a beautiful little baby into the world and then letting the Lord weave His Grace in your life ??

    Only through total abandonment to the Lord in the Sacrament of Marriage can one be totally blessed in this life and the next.

    The Novus Ordo Conservative Catholic of today (priests included) see marriage as a lifestyle choice rather than the sacrament that it is.
    The primary purpose of that sacrament is for the procreation of children.

    That was God’s plan anyway…so don’t prattle “thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” and then consult your fertility chart.

    Give God a break !

  • SA

    That was God’s plan anyway…so don’t prattle “thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” and then consult your fertility chart.

    Limbo, that reasoning doesn’t follow at all. Do you wear a seat belt in the car? If so, then maybe you are thwarting God’s will if you are in an accident.

    God helps those who help themselves. Just as it is imprudent not to wear a seat belt, for some couples it is imprudent to have children for various reasons. For them, they have prayerfully discerned that it IS God’s will that they avoid pregnancy. If God wants them to have a child, they will still get pregnant. Many couples have reported unexpected pregnancies as a result of NFP; that was God’s will and they accept it. They don’t run off to get an abortion.

    God created women’s bodies to be fertile sometimes and not fertile other times. There is nothing contrary to His Will to use knowledge of those fertile times. He could have created women so that they would be fertile at any time, but He didn’t. If the Church thought that NFP was wrong it wouldn’t have spoken of it in a positive manner in its teachings and documents. For you to say that it is hypocrisy to pray that God’s will be done and “consult a fertility chart” is taking the Magisterium upon your shoulders.

  • St. Paulite

    Thank you for opening a thread to this important discussion. There are so many different opinions that its impossible to recap it all. I would just like to make 2 points, that allude to some of the comments above:

    1) NFP is not and should not be viewed as an legitimate form of contraception. The late Pope John Paul II in his book points out clearly that every couple about to have marital intercourse should be able to say to themselves “This may result in a child and I am open to that”. Therefore, the pro-child mentality must never be obscured from the act, although there may be just reasons for making this outcome a remote possiblity. I’m not saying that anyone was claiming the opposite of this, but it seemed worth stating.

    2) Just because people have frustrations regarding the burdens of NFP doesn’t mean they hate it, or dislike it, or wish it didn’t exist. It is human nature to express ourselves when faced with a difficulty, and though NFP for one couple may be easy, for another it may be a real trial, and we as brothers and sisters in the faith should try and have empathy for that. One may not agree, or understand at first sight, where somebody is coming from, but I think it is our duty in charity to take the words from their heart seriously and see if there may be something to it.

  • Babs

    Simcha Fisher wrote: The worst part, which an unmarried person cannot understand, is what it can do to your relationship when you and your spouse react to abstinence in different ways. It’s not that I’m feeling frisky and have to be patient! It’s that a husband and wife can unintentionally hurt each other very badly while trying to do the right thing.

    Wait a minute here; I’ve got to call you on this one. It seems that NFP is not the problem… the true problem is the disposition of those using it. You can fight over who does the dishes, but does the fighting spring from the nature of dishwashing? How do you hurt each other? Flying thermometers, leaching mercury into the marital bed? Chart paper-cuts? No, of course not.

    NFP doesn’t hurt people. People hurt people.

    And, I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the fact that the hurt is unintentional. Unintentional hurts are quick to heal, easy to forgive, and don’t hurt “very badly.” You seem to refer to something more simmering and persistent… something that adds up to “first class suffering” and has probably very little to do with NFP. I know you think all this is private – but you invite people into your experience, hint at your well of suffering, and then become offended with the “you don’t know me.” How frustrating.

    Do you want to make it better, or just complain? So many times (so many) women have approached me with NFP complaints, and it’s astonishing how little of them have to do with a real method failure. This is what I hear when I really listen: lack of will to commit to a method and its disciplines on the part of the wife, or a husband who is lacking mastery over his sexuality. That’s it, and I’m trying to be dead honest.

    Please, we cannot blame NFP, which is a simple tool, for our failings in virtue. To make it better we have to tell ourselves some important truths like:

    I picked this guy and now I can’t change him and have to live with him.

    I have a problem doing without sex because of my habits of mind and body.

    I like to berate my wife for sex because I like the feeling of power, so it makes me not feel so helpless in the world.

    I withdraw in sullen anger if I don’t get what I want.

    I like punishing my husband by teasing him when we can’t have relations: it makes me feel sexy and powerful.

    I am too lazy to discover the other wonderful aspects of my wife’s personality… I just focus on sex because it’s easy.

    Once we humbly reveal our lack of virtue to ourselves and to God, we begin to heal. We unlock a way out. We live in freedom.

    So, you are right, Simcha, no more silence about NFP. I want the whole truth, the deep truth, about how we stop hurting each other in these marriages that are supposed to be our greatest joy.

  • Limbo

    St. Augustine was right on target when he wrote in The Morals of the Manichees: “Marriage, as the marriage tablets themselves proclaim, joins male and female for the procreation of children. Whoever says that to procreate children is a worse sin than to copulate thereby prohibits the purpose of marriage; and he makes the woman no more a wife than a harlot, who, when she has been given certain gifts, is joined to a man to satisfy his lust.

  • Peter

    With respect to those who say that married couples complaining about abstinence is pathetic since celibate and single people have to abstain all the time, I say this is comparing apples with oranges.

    First, sexual intimacy is at the heart of my vocation as a married man. It’s not just a sideshow, it is at the very heart of this holy vocation of marriage. I’m supposed to make love to my wife. Not only this, when I am in a period of abstinence, I STILL share a house, a couch and a bed with the most attractive woman in the world (to me), which is somewhat different than single life.

    Yes, I HAVE lived the single life, and at the time my hormones were far more active and agressive than they are now. The whole difference was that I knew that my calling was to abstain and I didn’t place myself in any situation which tempted me to do otherwise.

    It is true that some things are superficially the same. I can still yake a long run or a cold shower in tough times, but at the heart of the matter abstaining for a period IN marriage is a world apart from abstaining as a single/celibate person.

    Please don’t get me wrong. The single/celibate life carries its own struggles and sacrifices which may be harder in some ways than married life. My point is that the struggles are difference and cannot be compared as easily some here have suggested.

  • Limbo

    St. John Vianney, “A mother of many children, who was about to be a mother once more, came to Ars (the place where St. John Vianney resided) to seek courage from him.

  • Lynn

    Well, if “Saint” Augustine knew about anything, it was about “harlots”, whom he felt ought to be kept around in order to help men alleviate their sinful lust.

    St. Augustine only confirms the actuality of NFP: that it is completely demeaning to both women and men.

    NFP teaches exactly what Augustine is teaching. The Church, Augustine and NFP all teach that women are merely things, or mabye animals, and they can serve one of two purposes, providing sexual pleasure for men or providing an incubator for the next generation.

    Nowhere in Augustine’s words, or in any of these NFP-as-something-sacred balloons of hot air, is ANY recognition of women as anything more than these two biological functions. Augustine didn’t even see women as complete human beings, equally worthy and loved in the eyes of God as men were, so who cares what he has to say about anything? The guy was a self-admitted pig who probably suffered from every STD out there. Gross. Like any decent, intelligent woman would pay his words any mind at all.

    Same thing for John Vianney. Women’s worth was in how many babies she could breed for the Church. Who is he to judge anyone, or claim they’ll be in hell for babies HE PERSONALLY believes they should have had and has no knowledge of knowing WHY they didn’t have. Vianney’s words are exactly why busybody, bitter old biddies who obviously have issues with having children go around poking their ugly noses into other couples’ lives and beds and familes, toting up the number of children and judging them accordingly.

    What ever happened to mind your own damned business and get your nasty, dirty minds out of other people’s intimate lives? You say you’re all about God and God’s will and God’s plan and God’s design, but the truth is you’re really only all about what you think everyone else should be doing so you can be comfortable with your own choices. Misery loves company. If you have to have seven kids you never really wanted, you want everyone else to be in the same boat so you can feel better about it.

    This is the sickest, most dehumanizing garbage I’ve ever seen. Whatever happened to love and caring and nurturing and recognizing your partner as a real, live human being? For that matter, whatever happened to God here? None of this is about God’s will. It’s all about people imposing their will on others out of pride and ego, is all.

  • Catholic Convert

    Lynn,

    You have made some extreme comments and some all-encompassing generalizations in your comments to this article. While there certainly are abusive marriages where the woman is not viewed with the dignity and respect that she deserves, you cannot reasonably conclude that the cause is NFP. Knowing only that someone uses or supports the use of NFP you have no rational basis to make any further judgment or conclusion about them. Consider that abuse and disrespect of women can exist in ANY relationship, regardless of the chosen method of family planning. I am certain that every person here would completely agree with you with regard to the importance of loving, caring, and nurturing your partner as a real live human being. So then, what are you really arguing for?

    -That all women who use NFP are disrespected and abused?
    -That all women who use NFP must have as many children as possible?
    -That all women who use NFP are solely objects of the man’s pleasure?

    There is no basis at all to make such generalizations – why waste your time and energy making such arguments? I think that the real root of the issue is really the question of what is moral and right. The Catholic Church says that NFP is morally right and you disagree – so let’s talk about that.

  • Catholic Convert

    For Lynn (continued)

    As Catholics, we believe in the teaching authority of the Church. We believe that the Church does, in fact, have the authority to make judgments on what is right and what is wrong. The Church says that contraception is wrong. The reasoning behind this is very well explained in the following transcript of a talk by Janet Smith –

    Contraception: Why Not? – Dr Janet Smith
    http://tinyurl.com/6obnnf

    You might also consider the following article written in response to a woman who perhaps held views similar to yours –

    The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae – by Fr Jay Scott Newmann
    http://tinyurl.com/65rbc9

    In any case, if you accept the Catholic Church as a teaching authority – a pillar of Truth in a sinful world – then you should reconsider the teaching on contraception & NFP. You will find that most supporters of NFP, truly love God, love their spouses, and take the teachings of the Catholic Church seriously.

    Peace in Christ
    -Catholic Convert

  • Lynn

    Just because the Catholic Church says something is moral and right doesn’t make it so. They’ve hardly a stellar track record in the “moral and right” department.

    NFP is a tool. Fine. It’s information people may choose to use for whatever reasons suit them. Some choose it for it’s natural health aspects, some women enjoy being attuned to their body’s natural rhythms, some women/couples use it as their exclusive method of BC and some as one of several methods of BC they include in their marriage.

    So far, so good.

    BUT…

    When NFP ITSELF becomes something one idolizes, when people start assuming that the mere use of NFP grants you some special status, or grants you something “holy” that other people don’t get, then the trouble starts…as I originally said in my first post.

    Add to that the posts about girls being trained to “love” their husbands properly, about women being “morally obligated” to attend to their husbands’ physical desires regardless of their own state of mind, about women “gifting” themselves to men (oh, puke!), and about underage girls being required to chart their cycles and hand the charts in to adults, and both the “moral and right” argument and the “NFP is good because it works with God’s natural design and doesn’t separate the procreative from the unitive” argument completely fall apart.

    The truth, the reality, the fact is NFP is the ONLY method of birth control that depends SOLELY on separating the procreative from the unitive. That’s how it works — pinpoint to a 99% accuracy rate the days when sex will be procreative, and avoid those days, and save sex for the days we’ll know it’s 99% only, er, “unitive” (which seems to boil down to physical pleasure for the people here — there’s a decided lack of understanding of the fullness of intimate expression that makes me wonder if, in LOLKitty-speak, ur doin’ it right…)

    If you’re Catholic and believe you have to do everything “they” tell you to do or you’ll go to hell, fine. Whatever. People believe all kinds of nonsense and they’re surely free to do so. But when you tell another couple that their marriage is something less than yours based ONLY on the method of BC they use, or, as I’ve seen on some of the meaner, nastier Catholic blogs, that the partners are reduced to sex objects, or that women have a moral obligation to “gift” themselves to their husbands, then you’re way off and deserve to get ripped every which way from now ’til the sun sets for the very last time.

    Moral, right, good, holy — that’s all about intent, and intent is about hearts and minds. NFP can’t make your relationship moral or good or holy anymore than a diaphragm can make it immoral or bad or unholy. Only what’s going on in your hearts and heads can.

    And, sorry, but rape happens within marriage, and coerced sex is rape, no matter how you try to justify it with manipulative language.

  • Catholic Convert

    Lynn,
    I must disagree with your first point – as you may have read in the Fr Newmann article, the Catholic Church DOES have some say with regard to what is right and moral! It is an authority given to the Church by Jesus. In terms of the ‘track record’ that you refer to, it is important to make a distinction between the teaching authority of the Church and the actions of some members of the Church. While the Church teaching is morally right, the fact is that people don’t always live up to what the Church teaches. For example, the Church calls us to love our enemies and not to judge others. The Church’s teaching is not wrong just because we do not live up to this standard, rather, this simply shows that we are all imperfect people who do not always do or say the right thing.

    You are right to say that NFP can’t make your relationship moral, good or holy – there is a lot more to it than that. Intent does count for a lot. There is the intent to allow God into the relationship. There is the intent to work with the way God designed our bodies. As you may have read in Janet Smith’s talk, contraception is at the root of many problems. Regardless of the intent of the couple using contraception, that intent still does not make contraception itself morally right.

    It sounds like you have dealt with some individuals who were rather judgmental and unkind in their communication with you – I sincerrely apologize if your were offended with your dealings with them. Please don’t let the actions of a few color your views of the Catholic Church as a whole.

    Peace in Christ –
    Catholic Convert

  • Lynn

    IF you’re Catholic, you MAY believe the Catholic Church has some say regarding what it right and moral.

    If you’re NOT Catholic, the Church has no moral authority whatsoever, even if some of what they teach may coincide with your own beliefs.

    If you’re Catholic, and you choose these things for yourself, fine, but the fact that you’re Catholic and that you personally believe the Catholic Church has authority over these things as far as your own life goes doesn’t mean you now have authority over anyone at all, much less non-Catholics.

    That’s the problem — people want to know why this isn’t an appropriate topic of conversation outside of very limited circumstances — I’ll tell you why — because it’s bad manners and it’s a topic that’s bound to hurt people (not just self-righteous offense, but deeply wound people and shake their beliefs).

    It’s never okay to discuss what other people OUGHT to be doing in their bedrooms. Once you go down that road, it’s impossible to stay away from making judments about other people’s most private and intimate lives, and once you do that, you leave yourself open to being called “hypocrite”. When far too many Catholics are publicly claiming that people they don’t even know are using each other as sex toys merely because they use other methods of BC than NFP BC, Catholics deserve to be called out for their disgusting take on human sexuality and their blatant hypocrisy when it comes to this matter.

    Any man who publicly claims that young, underage, unmarried girls need to be taught how to “love” their husbands (translation: brainwashed into “gifting” themselves during non-fertile periods for their husbands’ physical pleasure) and that wives have a “moral obligation” to see to their husbands’ sexual needs is stating loud and clear that Catholic men are as guilty as anyone else of objectifying women and using them as sex toys. He’s not only claiming they do this — he’s claiming it’s their obligation and moral duty!

    Well, right back atcha. If this entire post proved nothing else, it proved that NFP is just another method of BC and Catholics are just like all the people they love to hate.

    Whatever.

    I just feel sorry for the women who are silently and fearfully carrying out their big “moral obligation” with a bunch of creeps who don’t even see them as human beings. That’s a damned tragedy, and what makes it worse is these poor women are taught to think that God wants this in their lives.

  • Literacy-chic

    Lynn, your presence–insistent presence–on this thread begs several questions. The first is, why stick yourself in a context such as this, with people who profess belief in something (whether it is the Church itself or the morality of NFP or immorality of artificial contraception) in order to attack and demean? Clearly, you knew that your opinion would be the minority, and your posts do not suggest that you were looking for clarification, enlightenment, or common ground. Nor did you honestly expect to convert others to your way of thinking. So why torture yourself to the point of wanting to vomit over something that you are inventing by your absolute determination to take what was said in a spirit that was other than what was meant? This crown can be judgmental, but so can anyone who is discussing a belief that is not shared with others.

    For the record: We are big boys & girls who know that there can be rape within marriage. That is an unfortunate fact. We trust that those who are using NFP for moral reasons are acting morally and respectfully toward their partners. This is not always the case, but it is helpful if we assume that people who want to act according to Catholic morality in their sexual relations also want to do so in other aspects of their lives.

    Also for the record: objectification is in the eye of the beholder. It is fine to generalize about it when we take feminist theory or women’s studies courses, but in real life, you can’t always call “objectification!” from reading someone’s comments on a thread like this. Even among the gender studies crowd, some consider certain sexual behaviors objectifying, while others see it as performativity, and so okay. This crowd, like the gender studies crowd, theorizes about objectification, but from a theological basis. Those whom you have attacked are honestly seeking to avoid objectification–more honestly, in fact, than the feminists whose rhetoric you adopt in many of your comments. You reduce Catholic women to some poor, brainwashed saps who don’t know when they’re being raped. Or to naive young girls coerced into doing their husband’s will because they are powerless and trapped. That’s hardly respectful towards adult women, trusting in their ability to make their own decisions.

    Your beef against the Catholic Church is just that–your beef. It doesn’t play well here.

  • Literacy-chic

    And a few random thoughts on the NFP discussion:

    First, when I first learned about NFP, I thought it would be really cool to learn about charting and cycles in biology. After all, sex ed was pretty embarrassing and I don’t feel like I learned anything about REAL biology at all. I do take the point of a male teacher being potentially problematic. Now, if it were taught in a same-sex class by a nun, not so much…

    I have seen NFP used as a means of control by a husband. In some cases the “collaborative” nature can not only be damaging to the relationship, but offputting, and potentially problematic in other ways. “Gee, hon–I seem to have lots of slippery mucus today” could either be a serious turnoff, or quite the opposite, depending. Sorry, but we’ve all heard the lingo, right?

    Finally, I definitely find the emphasis on the husband’s urges to be demeaning to both husband and wife, since men are, of course, always going to be champing at the bit?? That’s insulting to you, guys!! Consider that the male sex urge is spread out more evenly (unless husband and wife are really biologically attuned to one another, which can happen). Waiting for fertile time to be over does not diminish his desire. Also, if his desire is less than the woman’s at a given time, although he is so insatiable by nature (as a male), that can only reflect badly on her, right? I don’t see it mentioned very often (though one person–I forget who–did earlier in the comments) that women biologically want sex more during fertile times. That can either lead to frustration or uncalculated “risks” even when pregnancy is to be avoided, which may cause marital strain. That can be tough even for a couple who are theoretically “open to life”! It is also possible that sex will not be as enjoyable for the woman when fertile time is over. Yes, I know, Eve’s transgression, yadda yadda. You know, that’s just not comforting or helpful. Neither is saying, well, he’s got it tough but for her it’s a welcome break. What is this, the 1950s? (I mean that in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, so please don’t take offense.)

    The REAL elephant in the room, of course, is who takes care of all of those kiddos!! The presumption of everyone here is that the NFP wife is a stay-at-home mom. And the idea that the wife is a contributer to the family income is not generally regarded in these discussions as sufficient reason to postpone pregnancy (not that it’s really anyone else’s business to make that pronouncement, as others have stated). I absolutely believe in being there for my children when they are infants, but as my family’s hope to move on from graduate-school poverty, I can’t just keep having one every 2 years (after the youngest is weaned). But the husband is the breadwinner! Well, truth be told, I have the greater upward mobility and earning potential right now, and that’s really important for my family. Does that mean I’m not fulfilling my vocation as wife & mom? No, I don’t think so. But it does mean we have to consider the issue of how best to space our children, while remaining open to God’s will to the best of our abilities. So no throwing away the charts for us!!

  • Lynn

    There are certain statements that are so beyond the pale that, yes, we can call them for what they are, and that is certainly the case here.

    When the very same Catholics posting on this thread are guilty of judging and condemning people they do not know based on the method of BC they use then I have every right to point out that they are equally as guilty. When someone has told me that I don’t love my husband and he doesn’t love me because we don’t use NFP, then I absolutely will point out that there are Catholics who use NFP who don’t really love their partners and who objectify people and use them for selfish purposes too.

    Why is it that every single defense and explanation and rationalization and excuse here (because there are certainly no REASONS being given, not in the truest sense of the word) is based on biological function alone? There is not one single hint of anything deeper between married people than physical pleasure or fertility. Not a clue from a single person here that intimate relationships can be about something more than getting a pleasure pay-off, or getting pregnant. It’s that emotional and sexual immaturity, that pretzel logic and rationalization, and the ridiculously transparant claim that NFP is not birth control, that NFP doesn’t create a barrier (but then, when the entire sexual relationship to the Catholic mind is only biological and physical, I guess you can’t see that emotional and mental barriers to God’s design are just as much barriers as a condom or diaphragm, that is demeaning to God’s design for the best of what men and women can be through marriage.

    You believe birth control is a sin, so you’ve managed to rationalize your way into eating your cake and having it too. How very human. You’ve also managed to raise NFP to some bizarre sacramental status so you can lord it over people who choose otherwise in order to feel better than other people. Again, how very human. And how very, very “Catholic”.

    This is God’s plan, God’s design exactly how…? To niggle out of what you say you believe your Church teaches on some hyper-rationalized technicality? To make birth control not-birth-control so it’s okay to do exactly what all the other people are doing? I’m really beginning to wonder if Catholics could somehow rationalize abortions into not-abortions they’d be lining up around the block to get them.

  • Literacy-chic

    There is not one single hint of anything deeper between married people than physical pleasure or fertility. Not a clue from a single person here that intimate relationships can be about something more than getting a pleasure pay-off, or getting pregnant.

    I think this is because it’s already being presumed. It’s a “goes without saying” kind of thing and you are the only one missing it with your determination to think the worst of Catholics. Not to mention your determination to have the last word! EVERYONE talks about sex being important emotionally–the whole culture tells us we can’t live without it because it’s tied to our psychological well-being. Which is not entirely true, of course, though it is very important in a marital relationship. (But a strong marriage can survive even without it, if one or the other spouse is unable.) To tie sexuality back to fertility is actually a very radical move. That’s the whole point. When you enter into a dialogue, you typically want to understand the grounding. That is why some very nice people provided you with links. You may or not find the materials convincing, but you would at least have a better understanding of the discourse.

    Best,

    Literacy-chic

  • Pentimento

    I’ve been missing your blog and your stylish writing. This was a great essay – thank you.

  • Lynn

    I was thinking more like something spiritual…more like a connection to the divine…

    I read the links, and I’d actually read them and similar articles before.

    I just haven’t agreed to drink the Kool-Aid, which is what’s really bothering you. I haven’t agreed to let someone else do my thinking for me. There’s a huge logical disconnect between what the Catholic Church claims it believes, claims it teaches, provides as the basis for it’s teaching and what, in fact, in actuality, is going on. It’s that disconnect some Catholics choose to ignore, which would be fine on its own if those very same Catholics were content to keep it to themselves and not go sticking their noses into other people’s bedrooms. I don’t care what people believe as long as those beliefs don’t lead to actions that demean and dehumanize other people. That’s the problem here.

    And who the hell are you to tell me whether or not I can respond any longer? Are you paying for this bandwidth? Is this your personal site? You want the right to respond to me but also want to chase me away from responding to you? Who are you — the 4th Dixie Chick?? Sorry — if you post responses to me, with my name in the header, I’m going to respond right back. Grow up.

  • Lynn

    I was thinking of something even deeper…something more spiritual…a true connection with the divine…not just pop-psychology gobbledygook…

  • Lynn

    BTW, I’ve read the links. I’ve seen them before, and I’ve read dozens of similar articles. I don’t agree with the rationalizations put forth in support of the claim, and I find a huge disconnect with what these people claim to believe and what in actuality is going on. Playing mind-games and word-games in order to justify something you’re condemning others for isn’t particularly original or hard to see through.

    Also, who are you to tell me not to respond to you? You want to respond to me and then tell me to go away and shut up because I refuse to capitulate. Who are you — the 4th Dixie Chick? You want to say your piece, you want to get your digs in, but then you want to tell me I’m not welcome here. You want the right to have your say while at the same time preventing anyone from disagreeing?

  • Catholic Convert

    Lynn,

    Ever hear of a straw man argument? You spend a lot of time in your posts attacking and getting worked up about various misrepresentations of what Catholics truly believe. Rather than honestly evaluating and discussing the Catholic position (did you even read the articles I mentioned?), you fall back into an inflated outrage over things that don’t truly represent what Catholics believe or what the Catholic Church really teaches. What are you after? Are you so determined to be angry? Catholics as a whole don’t think they are better than you for any particular reason. Catholics don’t support the brainwashing of women, marital rape, or any such nonsense. Ranting about these things doesn’t help you or anyone else. Catholics are actually in AGREEMENT with you that marriage is important & that spouses should treat each other with love, dignity, and respect. Catholics would actually agree with you about the bonding & unitive nature of sex in marriage. Catholics actually do have some common ground with you in condemning the things you are getting so worked up about.

    That being said, let me clarify one point about NFP – it is simply a way that works with the way God designed our bodies to achieve or avoid pregnancy. By virtue of how it works it fosters communication in the marriage. NFP is NOT a method that in and of itself reduces a woman to an object of a man’s pleasure. If you choose to apply that logic, one could just as easily argue that artificial birth control reduces a woman to an object of a man’s pleasure – and more effectively too since no abstinence is required!

    Peace in Christ –
    Catholic Convert

  • rb6

    The article was honest, and for that, the author deserves praise. The myths surrounding NFP are as astounding as they are excruciating for those of us who don’t buy its promises (I did use it for several years and found it to be not exactly an earth shattering blessing for my marriage, but discontinued based on my view that it simply wasn’t necessary).

    In furtherance of even greater honesty, the proper term for this type of contraception is “FAM” or “fertility awareness method” because, in my humble opinion, the intent of its users is no more and no less contraceptive than any other method. Moreover, those who have their children after having used “artificial” contraception love them just as much as those who never bothered — another finely grained NFP myth.

    And if Gianetta is wrong about the bases of the Church’s objection to artificial contraception (so-called) she can hardly be blamed for making a distinction that is often offered up by adherents to the practice themselves as a reason for why they are not sinning by trying not to have children.

  • Literacy-chic

    The connection with the Divine is certainly a component of the Catholic theological discussions of sexuality, whether or not you see it represented in every single treatment of the topic. Those whom you represent so uncharitably are well aware of that aspect of sexuality, though they may understand it differently than you.

    By all means, Lynn, continue to prattle away. Clearly, you have some things to work out, or at least some venom to release.

    Catholic Convert is right on.

    Of course, none of this changes the original point that for those who do accept NFP as something they need to try to do in order to live their marriages according to Catholic sexual morality, it is simply NOT EASY. No matter how many people make the point that we shouldn’t complain, or that it really is easy, it’s not. At least for the less saintly of us! πŸ˜‰ But we ALL need to respect each others’ struggles, as our particular weaknesses might not be weaknesses for someone else, and vice versa. I can say that this is a HUGE weakness for me. It kept me from converting for years and I knew I would always struggle with it. So people who demean that struggle from either direction–by telling me that I need to just blow it off and ignore the Church because I know better with my superior judgment and rationality, as well as those who tell me that it’s really a simple choice because I *do* get to have sex, after all, or that I should really give it over to God without using NFP at all–are equally offensive to someone who really does try to understand, to make NFP work in their marriages, and to love morally according to the system of belief that they have accepted as TRUE.

  • Lynn

    Literacy-Chic, and you keep responding to me directly in the same breath you’re whining about me responding. Whatever.

    Catholic Convert, it’s not a strawman.

    What the Catholic Church teaches in theory is one thing and how various Catholics, some of whom claim to have more authority than others on any number of matters, interpret those teachings and/or practice those teachings is something else again altogether.

    As I’ve said, if couples use NFP and it’s a mutually positive experience, fine.

    When you claim that NFP doesn’t work against God’s natural design merely because it’s based on God’s natural design (as is ANY method of BC — they’re all based on knowledge of how the body works), you’re wrong.

    The only way any human being can work against God’s plan is if he or she (or they, if we’re talking about a mutual decision between married partners) INTENDS to do so. NFP is no less against God’s plan than a condom. It’s the why that matters here, not the what.

    To claim that a highly-refined, intricate method of charting cycles and pinpointing fertile periods with near-100% accuracy and then using that information to willfully plan your sex lives around those days is not working WITH your body. It’s working against it — you’re planning ahead of time to have intercourse while preventing to the highest degree possible the chances of conceiving a new life. That’s not with — that’s against. You’re separating out fertility. You’re “giving” (in Catholic terms) everything to each other and to God EXCEPT your fertility. You’re taking fertility out of God’s hands and usurping control. You’re doing all the things you claim non-NFP BC automatically does, regardless of the intent behind the use.

    When this FACT of separation of purpose, this WILLFUL avoidance of fertility, is further compounded by inequal status in a relationship, or is used by manipulative people with selfish agendas, or when it’s used for shallow and material purposes, NFP is very much working against God’s plan.

    Catholics are fond of saying the end never justifies the means. Well, often the means don’t justify the end, either. Using NFP doesn’t make the intention any less the same than the intention behind using any other method. Both can be used responsibly, both can be used frivolously. One method doesn’t instill any more worth, love, morality, holiness or depth to your marriage than any other.

  • Catholic Convert

    Dear Lynn,

    One basic truth of moral theology is that it is not right to take part in something evil in order to accomplish something good. This truth applies no matter how noble the intention or how good a person might be. Contraception is immoral because of it’s nature, NOT due to ANY intent or attribute of the person using contraception. So why then, is contraception immoral? One angle on this is the fruits of contraception. Janet Smith’s talk gives a detailed breakdown of what contraception has brought to society. Mary Eberstadt has a good article as well (http://tinyurl.com/6quk6q ). In a nutshell, contraception has helped to fuel our cultural moral breakdown. Contraception has allowed soaring sexual immorality, infidelity, pre-marital sex, abortion, and a host of other problems. Are all these problems, that are clearly linked to the wide availability of contraception, results of something that is so good and moral?

    You have the right idea in terms of how NFP works but, you miss the point somewhat. There is no moral problem with spacing the births of children or, for good reasons, to avoid pregnancy altogether. By naturally being aware of one’s fertile and infertile times, one can effectively achieve or avoid pregnancy in a morally acceptable way. I am sure that you will continue to argue that there is no difference between contraception and NFP in that both are simply methods to avoid pregnancy. That is perhaps best addressed in the words of Janet Smith in this passage from her talk: Contraception – Why Not (http://tinyurl.com/6obnnf ) –

    “The differences between contraception and natural family planning.” Now, a lot of people say, “What’s the difference?” You have two couples who don’t want to have a baby and want to have sex and they’re doing the same thing. They’re trying to have sex without trying to have babies or without wanting to have babies. They’re doing the same thing. And that’s a very common confusion and a very common complaint, and I’m going to try and help you think about it.
    The first thing I want to say to such couples, such people, is, “Well, if contraception and Natural Family Planning are the same, why not just use Natural Family Planning?” And you know what they say, “But, that would be completely different. I’d have to change everything.” I say, “Wait a second. You just told me there’s no difference and now you tell me it’d be completely different.” But, of course, what they mean is no moral difference, but they recognize that there’d be an enormous lifestyle difference. I say, “But, wait a second. If there’s an enormous lifestyle difference, then that may be a hint that there’s some kind of a moral difference as well.” At first, I try to point out to them this simple principle in ethics that the ends do not justify the means. Stated another way: “You must have good means to good ends. Not only your goal must be good, but also the way you get there must be good.” So consider a couple who doesn’t want a child for probably a very good reason – A couple who is contracepting. Another couple using Natural Family Planning also does not want a child for a very good reason. One couple uses contraception and one uses Natural Family Planning. Consider two men, or individuals, who both want to support their family. One robs a bank and one gets a job. They’re both doing the same thing – they’re both supporting their family, but they’ve chosen very different means.

    Peace in Christ –
    Catholic Convert

  • Lynn

    Okay — I totally understand what you’re getting at, but there are still some problems with making this the basis for an across the board rejection for all BC except NFP.

    First of all, all people using non-NFP BC aren’t engaging in the seamier side of life. They’re not all sexually promiscuous, nor do they choose abortion should they find themselves unexpectedly or inconveniently pregnant, nor did they all shack up prior to marriage, nor do all non-NFP BC users end up divorced, and so on. Flip side — some NFP users have engaged or are engaging in these harmful behaviors.

    Secondly, NFP was fine tuned to work as effectively as the pill in order to compete with the pill (among other non-NFP BC methods, the pill supposedly being the most effective of these). Actually, the trajectory of “Catholic birth control” (for lack of a better term) starts pre-rhythm method — the Church, I believe, originally held that priests/pastors could privately approve abstinence from intercourse for individual couples experiencing specific situations. From there things sort of slid into a blanket approval of abstinence for couples experiencing these very serious situations, and then right on into acceptance of general use of the rhythm method (such as it was) for any couple personally perceiving their situation to be grave, and then next thing you know, the Church is basically competing with popular culture (not to mention the rest of mainstream Christianity), and somehow allows for this super-effective fertility awareness method to become the norm for all couples. Supposedly the couples were to have “grave” reasons for using NFP to avoid conception, but the definition of “grave” has also been watered down to include virtually anything.

    Here we are now in the 21st century, and the Catholic Church finds itself painted into a corner over this. On the one hand, we’re all to be obeying God’s will and remaining open to life, and on the other, we’ve all been given the go ahead to use this 99% effective method of avoiding pregnancy based on our own private discernment. What to do? Is using NFP different than what the rest of popular culture is doing any longer? Really? Honestly?

    So now we have to make NFP different somehow to retroactively justify what the Church’s original stand on all this was. You’ve got to make the logic fit the end result somehow, and that’s why so very many people have a hard time swallowing this teaching — they instinctively pick up on what a big mess it really is — they pick up on the brokenness, IMO.

    Here you’ve got women separating out this piece of her whole person — this piece of her sexuality — her fertility on a DAILY basis — every day she is reminded that this “part” is separate and only joined with the rest of her when it’s convenient. She is then supposed to make available the rest of herself without this part — her body isn’t really designed to do this — her body, on a purely physiological level, is designed to not just be receptive to physical intimacy during her more fertile period, but sometimes to be the sexual aggressor at that time. So, she’s denying her fertility, she’s denying her cycle of desire, emotionally and intellectually she wants to be with her husband, and it ends up one big frustrated, broken mess. It’s never complete. It’s never pure or whole.

    At the very least, the quick use of a barrier method takes this daily pressure off women. At least it restores a little natural spontenaity back to the design.

    Anyway, not very clearly put, but that’s how I see it. It think these articles about NFP are really just smoke and mirrors designed so the Church can save face here.

  • anonymous

    Wow, this has gotten heated!! The next time the pope spends 24 hours in labor, I will listen to what he has to say about birth control!!! The idea that some elderly celibate man should tell me how to plan my family makes me want to scream! There, I’ve said it!

  • Lynn

    –Consider two men, or individuals, who both want to support their family. One robs a bank and one gets a job. They’re both doing the same thing – they’re both supporting their family, but they’ve chosen very different means.–

    See, here’s an example of what I mean. This kind of twisted analogy doesn’t even make sense, but it’s designed to manipulate, and it’s created out of a need to justify NFP while villifying non-NFP BC in an order to make NFP fit into the Church’s real stand on BC.

    The analogy (which isn’t an analogy because robbing a bank isn’t a job, it’s a crime) focuses on the means in and of itself rather than the intentions and motivations of the people who chose those means.

    A better analogy would be between two men who hold similar jobs (legal jobs), one of whom exels through hard work and integrity, the other through dishonesty, backstabbing, etc.

    The Church has almost unwittingly sanctioned BC — they’ve sanctioned a 99% effective BC method and allowed each couple to discern for themselves the reasons they personally believe are valid for using it as often and for as long as they like. That part is the same. The only real difference between valid BC and non-valid BC is in the WHY.

    I’m not arguing for a return to the old days — I’m hardly going to come running back to the Catholic Church any day soon — I’m just arguing for a little genuine honesty here. Stop with the smoke and mirrors and the horse manure and all the other nonsense and call NFP for what it obviously is (I would LOVE to witness God’s reaction to all this — I wouldn’t buy anything as weak as these pro-NFP/anti-non-NFP arguments from a five year old). Accept that with free will comes great responsibility and that God never intended the Catholic Church to be a substitute for the free will of the individual. Seriously — do you really think God is so stupid He’s going to accept “but the Church said I could” as a reason for anything? C’mon. He sees through all the loopholes and the little technicalities and fuzzy logic and knows they’re really just a bunch of excuses.

  • Michael

    Just to state the obvious: anyone having seven children can hardly present themselves as evidence that NFP works. In fact, when I get in my next conversation on the subject, I’ll be sure to bring up this article as an example of the failure of NFP.

  • Literacy-chic

    Lynn’s logic (addressing the logic, not the person, so as not to be offensive) is much clearer, and I think I now understand where she is coming from. To me, however, it seems not so much to point towards an acceptance of all forms of birth control (or at least the non-abortifacient types) on the basis of acceptance of NFP as a rejection of NFP as not in the spirit of Catholic understanding of the morality of child planning, or spacing, or birth “control.” I agree with Lynn, for the record, that not all contracepting couples are doing harm to their relationship with each other. I was once part of a contracepting couple, and we came through alright. I think that my marital sexuality has altered since I became Catholic, but that was not as a result of NFP! I do have problems with the part of the NFP rhetoric that says that contracepting couples do not respect each other. And like Lynn, I have trouble accepting that NFP automatically makes couples more respectful of one another. We all know that that’s not true. And “worrying” whether the wife is possibly fertile is not respecting her fertility. I know Lynn says that she is not advocating a return to the old days, but that is where the logic leads.

    On the other hand, she is right on that God is not fooled, but she is also right that we can’t see WHAT God’s reaction is–at this point, anyway. So we have to do the best that we can according to out belief that the Church does (or does not, as the case may be) have some authority in moral teaching, including teaching about sexual morality within marriage.

    God seeing through our excuses is an interesting thing to ponder. We believe that we do have free will, but that we operate within God’s design. God can create life within NFP and God can create life when a couple contracepts. It’s that “failure rate” (or success of God rate, if you will) that’s present with all contraceptives. The difference with NFP is not that it makes it easier for God (He’s GOD, for goodness sake!), but that it acknowledges that life does come from God, and not from science, or technology, or humans. It comes from God through man and woman in the sexual act, by way of the PERPETUAL fertility of man and the periodic fertility of woman. That’s not always a terribly comfortable thing to acknowledge.

    The Church teaches that acknowledgment of God in all things is what we should strive for. Hence, the Church teaches that NFP is an acceptable means of child spacing, and leave it to the couple to determine why and when to space their children. After all, even when the couple decides to space children a certain way, that decision may not be in accordance with God’s plan. It is easier to accept that plan if we have a built-in acknowledgment that God’s plan is, indeed, THERE, even in our marital sexuality and family lives.

    Like Lynn, I have a lot of questions about the inequity of NFP for women given the increased desire women experience when fertile that men NEVER experience. This is part of the “why NFP is HARD, FRUSTRATING, etc.” for me. I don’t claim to have everything figured out. But I do know that the answer would be that the woman’s sexuality and sexual fulfillment IS whole when she is fulfilling her emotional needs, sexual desires, and fertile potential simultaneously. Why it’s easier for men (and it is easier for men, since waiting a while is not going to lessen their desire physiologically) is also hard for me to explain. I’m not going to accept that God wants women to have superior self-denial within marriage, whatever Eve may have done (after all, Adam went along with it!). But I don’t think that the Church is talking through both sides of the mouth, using smoke & mirrors, etc., either. I just think that the rationale is different from what Lynn’s reasoning suggests.

  • Literacy-chic

    It’s probably obvious, but using a barrier method with FAM during fertile times would actually increase the failure rate of the barrier since any failure of the device itself would be more likely to result in pregnancy, statistically speaking, than if the barrier were being work indiscriminately during fertile and infertile times alike!

  • Lynn

    –I know Lynn says that she is not advocating a return to the old days, but that is where the logic leads.–

    For Catholics, yes, because it has to, or at least they have to pay lip service to this conclusion in order to look like “good” Catholics. For me, the logic leads to the conclusion that, if the NFP itself is neither here nor there in all of this, if it’s just a tool, a system of collecting, organizing and analyzing data, then the Church’s teaching (in practice, if not doctrinally) wherein couples are free to plan their families as they believe best suits _them_ (not as best suits God), then dickering over the method of BC is a ridiculous red herring.

    –It is easier to accept that plan if we have a built-in acknowledgment that God’s plan is, indeed, THERE, even in our marital sexuality and family lives.–

    But there is no built-in acknowledgment that God’s plan is “there” just because a couple uses NFP. Acknowledgment of God’s plan can only exist in a person’s mind or psyche. If a couple is genuinely striving to discern God’s will in all aspects of their lives, then that acknowledgment is there no matter what method of BC they’re using.

    This is exactly my point — that BECAUSE of this brave new and oh-so-rad (yes, I’m being sarcastic) take on NFP, certain Catholics believe the mere use of NFP, no matter what the end — no matter what the discernment process or lack thereof — in and of itself makes their intentions good and holy and in keeping with “God’s plan”. It’s this belief that they have a “built-in acknowledgment” that God’s plan is at work if they just use NFP instead of a diaphragm or hormonal birth control that creates complete blindness and arrogance and then leads to the snarky, mean, stupid condemnation of anyone who doesn’t use it.

  • thomas

    not too old to have sex or want to any more… just old enough not to feel you’re going to go insane if you have to wait one more night. passion clouds reason. and reason says you can’t deform your sex.

  • Steve45243

    Michael wrote: Just to state the obvious: anyone having seven children can hardly present themselves as evidence that NFP works. In fact, when I get in my next conversation on the subject, I’ll be sure to bring up this article as an example of the failure of NFP.

    Actually, NFP can be used to plan a family naturally, not just to avoid having one. My wife and I have three children who, due to our practice of NFP, were conceived almost the moment we wanted them to be since we knew exactly when to engage in the marital embrace.

  • Lynn

    “The marital embrace”…??

    Jesus God Almighty.

    “The marital embrace”…?

    Well, aren’t you a bundle of sexy romance, dude…if my husband used that phrase I’d tell him to pack up and leave. I wouldn’t stay married to any pansy who used prissy little terms like that for a second longer than I had to. Luckily, I’m married to a real man and we both actually LIKE sex and don’t think of it strictly in terms of an agricultural endeavor.

  • kateg

    Michael,

    NFP can be very effective for some couples. What happens sometimes with large families is that the mother is so overwhelmed caring for little ones that it is difficult to track her cycles with the lack of sleep and exhaustion mixed in there. Also, us with the dynamics of family life being such that the only night her and her husband can be together is a “maybe I’m fertile night” and it is a choice between celibacy (at some point) or potentially conceiving another child.

    Some moms can handle a large family and don’t have any intentions of using NFP to avoid a pregnancy. So don’t assume a large family means NFP is not working as they may not even use the method in the first place.

  • V2

    This post is for all the women who talk about being “not in the mood” as if that is an irrefutable excuse for not being intimate with your husband. Let me share a personal story. Early in our marriage I often felt this way, too. So I do understand. These were post-partum times, and fertility wasn’t even an issue. My husband read an article by a woman who had had breast cancer and a double mastectomy. She, too, felt “not in the mood”. And you can understand why. But she came to the realization that in refusing to try to come out of sadness over what had befallen her, she was closing herself off from her husband. This was not love. Even though she had a tremendously difficult situation that anyone would pity her for, she saw that she was wrong. And she forced herself to be in the mood for the love of her dear husband. I used this example in my own life and was amazed at the difference it made.

    I remember a friend’s apartment where she lived with other single Catholic women. They had a sign posted on the bathroom mirror. It said something like…when we live in community we don’t ever say: “I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to, etc.” You give even when (especially when!) it’s hard. And God will reward you.

    Please take this as a helping hand, not as a criticism. It was a light bulb moment for me. I hope it helps other women.

    God bless.

  • Lynn

    But only women have to “force” themselves into giving their bodies to their husbands to use for his sexual gratification? Men don’t have to do this? Men don’t have to “force” themselves to keep their pants zipped?

    This is complete sexist, rapist BS.

    No woman anywhere in any situation is “morally obligated” to have sex with any man any where in any situation.

    To state otherwise is to advocate for rape. To raise your sons to expect this forced sexual consent from women is to raise your sons to be rapists.

    No means no. If he can’t deal and he starts coercing you or forcing you, you call 911 and have him taken away in handcuffs. Period.

    Any husband who manipulates his wife with this kind of garbage does NOT love his wife, and any religion that manipulates women into thinking they are obligated to endure unwanted sexual advances has nothing to do with God.

    God does not want women to be forced into sexual situations, or coerced, or manipulated, or made to feel guilty if they say no.

    Any woman who teaches younger women they must force themselves to oblige a man who wants sex is a procurer for a rapist. That’s all.

    You are one sick woman, “V2”.

  • Catholic Convert

    Lynn, you just don’t get it. In your eagerness to label people as sick or sexist or abusive rapists you take leave of reason and common sense. You remind me of a militant feminist who irrationally thinks all men are sexist abusive pigs and women who support men are witless, mind controlled, sex objects

  • Lynn

    And your problem is that you’re equating “love” with access to sexual favors.

    But THAT’S the problem with NFP — THAT’S why it’s not even close to following God’s “natural” design.

    NFP works against God’s natural design much more so than any other method of BC out there.

    It breaks relationships. It demeans women. It completely objectifies and degrades them. It splits a woman into two completely subsurvient roles and destroys her sense of wholeness, of self. It also demeans men, turning them into these knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing cretins who are completely controlled by their sexual needs.

    If your BC method puts women in the position of “forcing” (not my word, “V2’s” word — forcing — force — sex and force in the same sentence ONLY EVER EQUAL RAPE) themselves to give in to their men’s physical urges even if they do not wish to — even if the notion is completely repellant to them.

    Giving in love when it’s hard (no pun intended…) does NOT mean allowing your body to be used. It does NOT mean being guilted or manipulated into thinking that saying no makes you less holy or less loving or less frickin’ Catholic than anyone else.

    V2’s words are disturbing and revealing at the same time, but not surprising or shocking to me any more.

    This is what happens when the god you worship is your self. This is what happens when religion is all about you all the time — you and your needs and how you can make others sacrifice and suffer in order to get what you want, all while manipulating and brainwashing them into thinking that their sacrifice and suffering will make them little saints. This is a technique used by every cult in the world. This is what happens when the selfish, cruel, bullying egomaniacs prey on the weak.

    There’s no love here. None at all. Just a deliberate attempt to frighten and bully and manipulate young women into thinking if they don’t allow themselves to be used like blow up dolls, if they don’t allow men to force themselves upon them, they aren’t good and holy and worthy people.

    This isn’t love. It’s fear and manipulation.

    Frankly, I don’t believe V2 is a woman, anyway. No dignified, self-respecting woman would say such things. I think V2 is probably that creepy Peter guy who’s all about grooming young girls into being little sex dolls for the men in their lives.

  • NFP student

    I like this article because it brings out all sides of this discussion. For my husband and myself, we have found pregnancy does not agree with me.

    I am on my 4th pregnancy in 5 years. I’m not bitter and I adore my children. This pregnancy was totally unplanned, and very scary for me considering my last. Each pregnancy has caused me emotional and mental distress. I have tried eating all the right things and exercising, but I still have constant panic attacks and night terrors throughout my pregnancies. After this child is born, my husband and I plan to stop having children for a while. We are not closing any doors by any means, but Family Man’s attitude would not be healthy for our marriage or our family as it is. Breast feeding offered me no infertile period at all.

    The difference NFP offers is that it gives husband and wife an opportunity to take a break, as it were, and make clear headed CHASTE decisions about having children. Condoms and artificial birth control methods foster an attitude of actions not having consequences.

    My husband and I are embarking a very difficult journey after this baby is born, there is no question. I’m glad to read that someone other than the two of us finds NFP scary and hard when it is important to avoid another pregnancy. It doesn’t mean we aren’t up for the challenge, just that we need to know we aren’t the first to be frustrated by this.

  • Lynn

    -Condoms and artificial birth control methods foster an attitude of actions not having consequences-

    Attitudes are in your head. You can’t catch them from a condom.

  • Nerina

    WOW. I have to give it up for Lynn. She is probably the most caustic and mean-spirited thread bully I have ever wasted precious moments of time reading. Congratulations to her for such elevated comments as:

    “I wouldn’t stay married to any pansy who used prissy little terms like that for a second longer than I had to.”

    or

    “And who the hell are you to tell me whether or not I can respond any longer? Are you paying for this bandwidth? Is this your personal site? You want the right to respond to me but also want to chase me away from responding to you? Who are you — the 4th Dixie Chick??”

    Other commenters like Catholic Convert and Literacy-chic have responded with charity and clarity (far more than I am able to provide), and yet Lynn continues to bully her way through.

    It’s too bad, because as others have noted, this is a much-needed discussion. Even Lynn has some interesting points – but her vitriolic voice drowns out any useful comments.

    Thank you, Simcha, for providing a venue in which honest, struggling and faithful Catholics can air their concerns.

  • Catholic Convert

    Dear Lynn,

    I begin to suspect that you can twist and distort just about anything. It is completely delusional on your part to think that I, or anyone else in this discussion, equates love solely with sex. Indeed, sex is certainly a part of marital love but by no means is it the only thing. In fact, the idea of giving in love actually reaches all aspects of life – from simple doing dishes to caring for a sick spouse or child. Giving when it is hard is a matter of CHOICE – giving of yourself when you don’t necessarily feel like it. AGAIN, it should go without saying that the giving in love should come from both sides. Communication of the wants and needs between husband and wife should be a given. Respect for the free will and dignity of husband and wife is not in question. It seems that the only one hurling accusations of force, coercion, and rape is you.

    You did vaguely bring the topic back to the subject of NFP – I would first like to counter that it is actually ABC (artificial birth control) that works against God’s natural design much more so than NFP. After all, is a condom in any way natural? Is taking a hormone cocktail like the pill natural? Certainly the IUD must be natural? What IS part of God’s natural design are the periods of fertility and infertility that are naturally part of a woman

  • Lynn

    Not even the Catholic Church argues the “natural” point on the basis that condoms are made of latex or hormonal BC pills are comprised of synthetic hormones.

    The “natural” part is about the body’s natural design, otherwise you’re pretty much arguing against all of modern Western medicine, technology, synthetic fibers, etc.

    I already stated NFP is just a system of gathering and organizing data, and that’s all it’s ever going to be. It’s not a sacrament and using it doesn’t make anyone holy or good or the end use holy or good. It doesn’t come with built-in reminders or attitudes, either.

    It’s just birth control, no matter how you slice it and no matter what woo-woo fluffy spiritual stuff you or anyone else wants to attach to it. That stuff comes from your head.

    As you and I both say, ANY method of BC (among a million other things that go on in any relationship) can demean and objectify one or both partners and can create barriers in the relationship. Again, all THAT stuff is in your head — in intent.

    Just because SOME people abuse non-NFP BC doesn’t mean it’s the non-NFP BC that’s at fault. People abuse NFP, too. It may be a little more complicated, but that doesn’t make the abuse any less abusive. If you’re going to argue that a BC method is bad and immoral because some people abuse it, then you have to lump NFP in with all the other methods.

    I don’t care what you do in your bedroom or what BC you use. I do care about the hypocrisy and the dumbed-down, mindless, BS that gets passed off for reason when it comes to this topic, and I sure as hell care when people are advocating for what essentially boils down to rape.

    If people CHOOSE to have sex with their partner even if they’d really rather be reading a book, that’s fine. When people are being guilted into thinking they HAVE to say yes even when they want to say no or they’re not good people, then there’s a problem.

    Also, you completely expose the Church’s take on human sexuality for the misogynistic, demeaning BS it is when you do this — when you claim the Church teaches that women are morally obligated to allow men to use their bodies for sexual gratification even when they don’t want to be touched, you pretty much illuminate exactly what it is the Church really thinks of women.

    NFP, to go by your logic, is the ONE method of birth control that facilitates this kind of thinking. So, yep, non-NFP BC over NFP any day of the week as far as I’m concerned.

    And what is up with holding pregnancy up as the only “consequence” of sex? Again, the messages are so mixed — are babies blessings that come from God’s will, or are they punishment coming from God? You sound like Barack Obama.

    Sure, there are consequences to promiscuity, but that doesn’t make non-NFP BC bad. It makes promiscuity bad. There are consequences to driving a car irresponsibly — does that make the cars bad or does it make irresponsible driving bad? If we get rid of all the cars tomorrow, we get rid of the consequences of irresponsible driving, but we still don’t get rid of irresponsible attitudes.

  • Sean

    I think one of the aspects I like about NFP is that, unlike ABC, I am not putting barriers between myself and my wife, whether it is physical or chemical. We are living with each others sexuality with respect. NFP is congruent with our human nature in that we get to think and choose. When we do have sex we give each other over to the other completely. Sperm and egg aren’t prevented from each other by time and thoughtful, prayerful choice, not with latex or hormones. By using NFP with a clear and faithful understanding and purpose I might know when she is infertile but by waiting to have sex during that time we are still laid bare to each other and God.
    I also have a fuller appreciation for my wife because I understand what she is going through with her cycle. I get to play a small part with helping her chart and she is a good partner who understands when times get frustrating. One of the things I sometimes lose sight of is that frustration isn’t always the worst thing in the world. It is a penance like the author states and it is a gift in a way.

    I have found myself looking at my wife with a new lens because of NFP. I think we get to temper our passions and on the night that I might find particularly challenging I might express to her how hard it is and it leads to a wonderful conversation that we wouldn’t have had if we weren’t using NFP.

    Of course it isn’t always some ideal life you lead thanks to this method. Sometimes she or I get snappy because of miscommunication (usually on my part) or some unspoken expectations but like many things, it isn’t the fault of NFP but how and why we are using it.

    I don’t know if that all makes sense but it sure is nice to see that the subject of NFP is brought up.

  • Lynn

    –When we do have sex we give each other over to the other completely.–

    Not unless you’re planning to have a baby, you’re not. NFP completely separates the unitive and procreative. It says that, if you don’t wish to have a baby, I’ll give only my body to you for unitive purposes, but I won’t give you my fertility.

    Maybe men don’t get this because men don’t have to have their sexuality torn in two like women who use NFP do. It’s hardly respectful of a woman’s sexuality to have to deny her desire and/or “force” herself into a sexual situation if her husband wants sex but no baby.

    NFP is a barrier method — just because the barriers aren’t tangible, they’re there.

    NFP is the cause of frustration. When women aren’t allowed to be whole and couples aren’t allowed to act naturally, it’s frustrating.

    NFP is birth control and, as such, it’s open to abusive use, brokenness and a variety of other factors that are decidedly not in keeping with God’s plan.

    That the Catholic Church has gone out of it’s way to render NFP as effective as the pill speaks volumes to the notion that NFP leaves you “open to life”. It doesn’t leave you any more open to life than any other BC method.

    True openness to life is an attitude. It doesn’t come along or not come along with any particular BC method.

  • Sean

    I am a little perplexed at your insistence on trying to shoot down everyone’s posts Lynn.

    –NFP completely separates the unitive and procreative.–
    This is entirely false. Do you not understand the difference between artificial birth control and NFP? Time and reason are not artificial means of controlling your family. Speaking strictly in biological terms I am not preventing sperm from my wife and she isn’t preventing ovulation. That is allowing the procreative act to be present. Pills and latex don’t allow that. All your statements seem to revolve around the false notion that NFP somehow removes this very fact. Just because an egg isn’t present doesn’t mean that sex has procreative potential removed. Maybe I don’t understand what you’re saying but could you more clearly show how this isn’t the case?

    It is true that some people may have selfish intentions for delaying children but that hardly makes NFP the reason. But I wasn’t arguing that point.

    –NFP is the cause of frustration. When women aren’t allowed to be whole and couples aren’t allowed to act naturally, it’s frustrating.–
    NFP isn’t the cause of my frustration. My desire the have sex when it isn’t the right time is the frustration. Being allowed to act naturally and act impulsively aren’t equal. If my wife and I are in a car and we want to have sex, are cars the cause of my frustration? That doesn’t make any sense. Neither does blaming NFP.

    And my wife is treated as a whole person. I don’t see how NFP doesn’t respect her wholeness. In fact I think I more fully appreciate her because I understand and appreciate her fertility in a way that someone who doesn’t know and practice NFP might not necessarily understand.

    –Maybe men don’t get this because men don’t have to have their sexuality torn in two like women who use NFP do. It’s hardly respectful of a woman’s sexuality to have to deny her desire and/or “force” herself into a sexual situation if her husband wants sex but no baby.–
    How is NFP denying my wife’s desire or forcing her into sex? Our reasons for delaying a child might frustrate our desire to have sex, but so does a long car trip. NFP doesn’t grab my wife and fling her on the bed and force her to have sex with me at my whim, and neither do I.

    –True openness to life is an attitude. It doesn’t come along or not come along with any particular BC method. —
    It is an attitude and a way of living. And in fact it can come with what family planning method you use. If you’re wearing a condom you aren’t open to the potential to life because you are denying sperm. Open to life? No. If you are using the pill you are preventing ovulation. Open to life? No.

    If you are using NFP you allow sperm and you allow ovulation. This is open to life. If you are not using the pill or a condom but you aren’t charting your fertile signs, this is open to life too. These are the only two forms of sex that I know of that are truly and completely open to life. One is more open to Providence and the other is something that let’s couple’s discern if the time is right for another child. The couple’s attitude doesn’t take away from the fact the method is open to life.

    Peace be with you.

  • Lynn

    I do understand the difference between non-NFP and NFP which is why I get both how and why NFP separates the unitive from the procreative. The “artificial” qualifier is a red herring. Even the Catholic Church doesn’t use this distinction, but it’s one individual Catholics fall into using because it’s impossible to make the logic work any other way.

    The Church’s teaching is based on natural design, not lack of synthetic materials. God’s natural design for the body in regards to sex and procreation is obvious. When you work to control that design by isolating one particular piece of the whole design and removing it from the process, you’ve separated the unitive from the procreative. You’ve interfered with the original design.

    NFP does affect women much more so than it does men. NFP was developed to help women isolate a particular physiological event and then arrange her life around that event. NFP means women have to deny their naturally designed cycles of desire while “forcing” (a word, btw, introduced by some nasty-minded Catholic in a previous comment, not me) themselves into sexual situations in order to satisfy their husbands’ needs. This speaks of a deeply tragic brokenness in these women’s lives and in their relationships.

    All I can say about the long car trip comment is that, er, you lack creativity and imagination…

    The problem with comparing NFP to non-NFP methods is that y’all went out of your way to make it as effective as the pill and exponentially more effective than barrier methods. So the whole “open to life” nonsense falls apart. Technically, a diaphragm is more “open to life” in the sense you speak of than NFP. Also, if just allowing ovulation and allowing sperm are the metrics here, then mutual masturbation, oral sex, whathaveyou (the sky’s the limit here, as long as you don’t prevent ovulation or barricade sperm with a condom or diaphragm!) are just as “open to life” as intercourse while using NFP is.

    Look, if you need to tell yourselves these things about NFP — that using it automatically makes you more “open to life” than anyone else on the planet, and that it makes you holier, better, whatever, fine. That’s you — that’s your insecurity and lack of confidence. You can’t take the truth of who other people are away from God, and what God knows about a person is the only thing that matters in the end.

    I just feel sorry for you because of the obvioius lack of wholeness and richness and depth and nuance in your intimate lives. You’ve traded it all in for a feast of bread and water, all in the hopes that you’ll win some big prize after you’re dead and gone from this Earth. That’s just sad.

  • Sean

    Lynn,

    I could show you how you are misinterpreting or just not understanding NFP. I realize none of these arguments are going to change your mind and it is a shame you feel you need to disparage people and their relationships. It would be nice to have an honest conversation but I don’t see the point if you aren’t going to be charitable: “All I can say about the long car trip comment is that, er, you lack creativity and imagination…” and “I just feel sorry for you because of the obvioius lack of wholeness and richness and depth and nuance in your intimate lives. You’ve traded it all in for a feast of bread and water, all in the hopes that you’ll win some big prize after you’re dead and gone from this Earth. That’s just sad.”

    These kind of personal attacks are summed up by your last sentence. It’s too bad this topic was not better moderated.

  • NFP student

    Lynn,
    I said that artificial means of birth control FOSTER an attitude. Actions matter and feed our attitudes. While actions are what our bodies do and attitudes are what our minds do, are not the two connected? What we do or do not do creates an atmosphere for positive or negative feelings and attitudes.

    For us, and I can only speak to that, NFP has offered discipline, which we should clarify is different from punishment. I did initially have a bad attitude about NFP, but in accepting that I believe what the church teaches on all other points, I figured I should give this one a shot too. I’m so happy I did, especially now that I am experiencing a pregnancy that keeps me from being physically available for sex.

    Marriage is hard. Healthy living is hard. It’s so much easier to run through a drive-thru and watch T.V. rather than fix and eat a healthy meal at the table with the family, but which promotes a healthier family atmosphere? As far as my experience has taken me, NFP is simply healthy sexual living. Why is this a problem?

  • Lynn

    Sean — the car trip comment was a joke. Duh. The rest is what I come away with when you try to rationalize NFP. But that’s what happens — these broken images I get of your intimate relationships are a reflection of just exactly how NFP breaks people, particularly women. As for disparaging other people’s relationships, what the hell do you think those who promotoe NFP have done to those who have used non-NFP BC for decades?

    NFP-Student — NFP can also foster all kinds of abuse, too. See, that’s my point. NFP is a THING. It’s inanimate. It’s merely a system of collecting and organizing data. That’s it. Ain’t ever gonna be anything else no matter how you dress it up (lipstick, pigs and all that…/rolleyes).

    So YOU can say using NFP puts you into some kind of positive mindset, but it must might put someone else into some kind of misogynistic mindset, or abusive mindset, or controlling mindset, or whatever. If it works for you, great. Just don’t generalize and make claims about NFP that aren’t true, or claims about non-NFP BC that aren’t true, either — that’s where this all falls apart — when you attribute qualities to an inanimate object that are clearly not there.

    I have never claimed that those who choose to use NFP and are happy with it are a problem. Healthy sexual living is always a good thing. As I have said and you have obviously not bothered to read, the attitudes I’ve seen here (and which I can only assume are fostered by the use of NFP in those specific people) are not healthy at all. Guilting and coercing and manipulating women into “forcing” themselves into having sex when they don’t want to is NOT healthy sexual living. It’s rape. Period. “Teaching” young school girls how to “love” their future spouses (as in brainwashing them to give in to unwanted sexual advances out of some half-arsed sense of duty to God) is not healthy sexual living. It’s sexual grooming. Period. Forcing underage girls to chart their fertility so male teachers can have access to this information is not healthy sexual living. It’s inappropriate intrusion, invasion and violation of another person’s privacy regarding her body. Period.

    Personally, _for me_, NFP is not healthy and would not lead to anything good in my marriage. _To me_, it breaks women and, by default, breaks relationships — if one person is a relationship is broken, the relationship is broken. _To me_ — personally — NFP would not be healthy sexual living. For you it is. No problems there. But see, that’s the thing about private lives and intimacy — a tool that’s healthy for you might be destructive for someone else.

    And, to bring this back to Sean’s accusation, when you claim any choice besides NFP is unhealthy, then you denigrate other people’s relationships.

    NFP is a choice, and that’s fine. If it’s a good thing in your life, great. Enjoy. But it’s not a magic bullet for marital bliss, it isn’t necessarily going to bring anyone closer to God, and it doesn’t automatically eliminate the possibility of abuses of all kinds (as evidenced by some of the commentary on this thread alone). To try and sell it as such is a huge mistake.

  • Lynn

    –…keeps me from being physically available for sex–

    You do understand, don’t you, that using phrases like this — phrases that completely remove the human AND the divine from sex, like it’s about on the same level as going to the bathroom in the hierarchy of bodily functions, that you don’t really help the discussion much?

    This is exactly what I mean when I say it all sounds so broken and limited and stunted and sad.

    You’re not “physically available for sex”…? My God. No wonder you’re happy you have the excuse of your pregnancy to make yourself unavailable.

    In all the decades I’ve been married, I am so thankful that my husband never made me feel so unhuman and low that I felt my obligation to him was to be “physically available for sex”. Serioiusly.

    The phrase does illustrate perfectly, however, the innate brokenness of NFP — the woman is divided into either “physically available for sex” or physically available for impregnation. That’s tragic. Worse than tragic. It’s…dead.

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Hi Folks,

    I’m closing this thread for further comment. NFP is a touchy subject — I know — but things are getting too personal here. Remember our rule: Avoid ad hominem attacks and try to assume the good will of the other person.

    We disagree on a lot of issues; that’s one of the reasons why we want this site to be a place where we can discuss those differences in patience and charity. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary if we want to have productive online conversations.

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