The Curious Controversy Over Natural Family Planning

When I entered the Church early in 1978 there was little enough discussion of natural family planning or of the Church’s teaching that use of contraceptives violated the law of God.  The Couple to Couple League had been founded just a few years earlier, and NFP was not a subject even written about much in the Catholic press, but when it did get noticed by orthodox journalists or writers, it received favorable attention.  But perhaps it is fair to say that it was seen at the time by most Catholics who had even heard of it as something a bit on the extreme side.  Use of NFP was definitely associated with being in the orthodox “wing” of the Church, perhaps even a bit hyper-orthodox, for the vast shift among Catholic couples to contraceptive use which took place in the early and mid-1960s was long over.

Now one of the, to me, most curious things that has arisen in the Catholic Church in the United States since, roughly I guess the early 1990s, has been a vocal, albeit probably not very large, anti-NFP movement.  Not surprisingly the Internet has facilitated this and perhaps allowed it to appear larger and more important than it really is.  This anti-NFP group consists not of the modernist, pro-contraceptive Catholics, who have never been supporters of natural family planning, but of those who claim the mantle of orthodoxy in their opposition to a method of child spacing sanctioned by popes since Pius XI.  I know that my claim that NFP has papal sanction will be hotly disputed by some critics.  Rather than repeat what I have written elsewhere, I invite readers to consult my 2006 article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review that provides appropriate quotations from papal teaching.  In this present article I want to discuss not the morality of NFP but the phenomenon of the opposition to it.

Most of this opposition to NFP appears to come from those who call themselves traditionalists, and are generally identified by their adherence to the 1962 Roman Missal, the traditional Latin Mass.  I am myself an adherent of that liturgy, and moreover it is certainly the case that many of the questions and concerns which the traditionalist movement raises about the direction of the Church and the state of theology since the Council are perfectly valid.  But on NFP they are just wrong.  The scientific and medical aspects of natural family planning were beginning to be understood around 1930, and the only papal reference by Pius XI was favorable though not very specific.  His successor, Pius XII, however, treated the subject more than once and at some length, and if anyone will read and understand the quotations provided in my 2006 article, he will be able to see that his attitude was favorable also.  So it is puzzling to me why those who claim to adhere to Catholic praxis as it was before the Council would want to dissent on that particular point.

Whether or not all the critics of NFP can be labeled as traditionalists is not clear, but even less clear to me are their motivations.  The arguments they employ are excellent examples of the kind of private judgment indulged in by Protestants, in that they take as their starting point something perfectly valid which they then proceed to twist or else they pick some dubious starting point which leads only to dubious conclusions.  For example, they might stress our dependence upon the providence of God, as if that dependence were somehow at odds with the exercise of the virtue of prudence in spacing children or determining family size.  These same critics would hardly, I suppose, fail to strap their children into seat belts or car seats on the specious plea that if God wants them to survive an accident surely he will watch out for them.  Or they will draw some principle out of thin air, such as the notion that procreation is the only licit reason for performing the marriage act, apparently oblivious of the fact that theology for centuries has recognized in addition various perfectly legitimate subsidiary reasons, summarized by Pius XI in Casti Conubii #59 as “mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence.”

In some cases, although they will admit the licitness of NFP in the abstract, they will restrict its use to extremely narrow circumstances.  Although large families are certainly characteristic of Catholics, and popes have praised large families, there are no magisterial documents mandating large families or restricting NFP use to narrow circumstances.  Sometimes it is claimed that one must have a serious reason to make use of periodic continence, but this is simply an error based on an English translation from an early Italian draft of Humanae Vitae.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2368) rightly speaks of “just reasons,” which is a correct translation of the authoritative Latin of Humanae Vitae, #16.  (For a discussion of this unfortunate mistranslation of Humanae Vitae, see Angela Bonilla, “Humanae Vitae: Grave Motives to Use a Good Translation,” which originally appeared in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, May 2007.)  These critics sometimes misuse Pius XII’s words in his famous Address to Midwives in which his mention of serious motives refers to those who intend to avoid having children “for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.”  And they ignore subsequent statements by Pius XII, such as his address about a month later to the Association of Large Families in which, referring to his previous address, he states that in it “We affirmed the legitimacy and at the same time the limits—truly very wide—of that controlling of births which, unlike the so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with God’s law.”  Nor is this even to mention the many statements in support of natural family planning by John Paul II, such as his very positive treatment of it in Familiaris Consortio, #32.

The teaching of the Church is that “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life” (Humanae Vitae #11, and quoted in CCC 2366).  NFP users, as is evident, do not violate this norm of morality.  But most fertile Catholic married couples do violate it, and it is an entirely reasonable cause of concern that so many of our coreligionists do not adhere to the moral law in such a serious matter.  But the critics of NFP, instead of addressing this widespread violation of the natural law, go after that tiny minority who do seek, usually at considerable sacrifice, to abide by the law of God by use of a method approved over and over again by the supreme pontiffs.  If these critics of NFP were truly interested in raising the level of morality in the Church one would think that they would become the most zealous of NFP teachers and promoters, instead of taking aim at that small group of their fellow Catholics who use NFP in order to avoid sin in their marriage.

No doubt someone will point out to me that NFP can be misused.  Truly so, just as any other legitimate human activity can.  But how often is it in fact misused?  NFP users tend to have larger families than the American Catholic norm, even if they do not have families of the size that the critics of NFP think they should have.

There is no mandate that couples must use NFP, and I am not criticizing those couples who do not choose to use it.  Husbands and wives are free in this matter, and those who use NFP, and those who, without resorting to illicit means, do not use it, have no cause to judge each other or regard each other as enemies.  Instead they might hope that someday all Catholic couples will avoid the serious sin of deliberately separating the unitive and the procreative aspects of the marriage act.

The world will always offer obstacles and temptations to living a Christian life.  There are many pointed examples of this in the United States and elsewhere today.  We Catholics have more than enough to do simply to preserve the Faith and prevent our coreligionists from abandoning the Church.  There is no reason to waste our time and energy in criticizing those Catholics who have chosen a different approach, but an approach entirely legitimate and consistent with God’s law.  Instead let us work together to address the real weaknesses and sources of scandal in the Church, the loss of Catholic identity, the ignorance of doctrine and the slipshod observance of Catholic moral teaching.  If we do these things we can be confident that we are contributing to building up the household of the Faith instead of creating discord within the too small ranks of orthodox Catholics.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “The Eltz Family” painted by Fedinand Georg Waldmüller in 1835.

Thomas Storck

By

Thomas Storck is the author of three books relating to Catholic social teaching and political thought. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Caelum et Terra, the New Oxford Review, and The Chesterton Review, where he sits on the editorial board. An archive of Mr. Storck’s writings can be found at www.thomasstorck.org.

  • AcceptingReality

    A guy named “Storck” writing about NFP. Now that’s ironic!

    • CharlesOConnell

      Like a guy named Lionel Tiger cited by Dr. Janet Smith in “Contraception: Why Not?”, writing about how male animals lose interest in females place on hormonal contraception.

  • lifeknight

    Interesting thoughts on NFP and I have observed the same mentality at our local TLM. Although not 100% “traditionalist”, I can see how NFP can be misused in our society. There is always a need for a material object or a responsibility with a new job, etc, etc. Truly “just” reasons may be illusive.
    However, several months ago I read the article by Angela Bonilla about the MIS- translation of H.V. regarding NFP. It totally changed my view of NFP. I have no qualms recommending it now.

  • Christophe

    NFP has nothing to do with sex. In fact, quite to the contrary – by definition, it means not having sex. And no married couple is required to have sex at every possible moment. So it’s really a non-issue.

    The question is, why is NFP being pushed by Church leaders as a legitimate way to be just like the rest of the world? “It’s 99 percent effective, more effective than barrier methods.” More effective at what? More effective at avoiding bringing a new soul into the world.

    Another novelty of the post-Vatican II Church.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But, as Miss Anscombe pointed out, “For you use the rhythm method not just by having intercourse now, but by not having it next week, say; and not having it next week isn’t something that does something to today’s intercourse to turn it into an infertile act; today’s intercourse is an ordinary act of intercourse, an ordinary marriage act.”

      Future inaction cannot determine the character of present action.

      • slainte

        But one’s present intention can determine the moral character of present action. If the goal of “scheduling” intercourse is to close down one’s openess to new human life, the contraceptive mind set has successfully entered the marital relationship.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          But it remains “open to new human life”; it simply makes conception unlikely, whilst doing nothing to prevent it. It is one thing to exclude someone from a meeting; quite another to schedule it for a time when he is unlikely to be able to attend.

          • slainte

            One’s intent in both schemes is purposed toward excluding the other; the first method is fairly straightforward involving direct action, the latter furtive and calculating.
            Neither seems very Catholic.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              Of course, the intention is the same in both cases. The difference is in the means adopted in pursuit of it, the one legitimate, the other not.

              • slainte

                If we intend to subvert the will of God, no method is justifiable.

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  Which is impossible. As St Thomas says, ““Whatever God wills absolutely, is done (otherwise He would not be omnipotent), although what He wills antecedently (or only conditionally) may not be done,” (Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I) thus He wills antecedently that all the fruits of the earth come to maturity, but He permits that many actually do not reach this maturity. We do not “subvert His will” by eating them, unless we act against His express prohibition.

                  • slainte

                    And if we truly trust in His will, not our own, all acts of intimate marital love will be fruitful for the couple, even those which do not result in pregnancy. It is axiomatic that not every act of intimate love results in pregnancy even those which occur during fertile periods.
                    His Will, not ours. His planning, not ours.

                    • BrianKillian

                      Are you against all abstinence, or are you against the combination of wanting to avoid pregnancy and wanting to have sexual intimacy at the same time?

                      For example, as far as I know, the Church has always permitted abstinence when necessary for couples. Even Paul advocated for periodic abstinence for prayer.

                      But I suspect the real problem is the timing of sexual intimacy to coincide with infertile times. This is hard to view in a positive light. Is that right?

                      I’m just trying to understand the problem that critics have.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      But in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI stresses the need for responsibility and prudence (which are moral virtues), “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

                      This presupposes planning and choceon our part

                • WSquared

                  What makes you think that a prayerful use of one’s God-given gift of reason necessarily amounts to a subversion of God’s will?

        • Kevin McCormick

          Indeed, that is a danger but there are many dangers in life and our purpose for being in the world is to follow God’s Word despite the temptations otherwise. But what was not mentioned in the above article nor in any of the current comments is that it is God’s design that human sexual intercourse be fertile for only a portion of a couple’s life. That is, only 1/4 to 1/3 of a healthy couple’s time together is fertile range and only then during their fertile years. If one of the spouses is ill and the couple chooses to abstain they have committed no sin. Similarly if a spouse is exhausted by the very difficult demands of married life, particularly in the modern age, or a breadwinner is jobless there is no sin in abstaining. In fact, there are innumerable reasons why a couple might believe that a given moment might be imprudent to co-create a new life. To have knowledge that some days are fertile and some are not is not sinful either. So choosing to act on days created infertile by God cannot be a sin unless motivated by purely selfish reasons. The Church has concluded that there are legitimate reasons for postponing pregnancy. Those who use NFP are in accord with God’s plan.

          • slainte

            The examination, I believe, is likely one of conscience and whether a person’s (or a couple’s) intent is to impose one’s own will over God’s; to control that which is God’s to control.
            Whether all the justifications you offer are acceptable to avoid creating a new life, I suppose ultimately, is God’s to decide.

        • ModerateMom17

          Only by your own personal definition of contraceptive mentality, not the Church’s.

          • slainte

            “Personal definitions” lead to confusion as everyone has one, and they all differ.
            I prefer to search for an objective definition which is informed by the entire tradition of Catholicism.

            • ModerateMom17

              If you believe that then why use the term contraceptive mentality when the Church never uses that term. In fact the Church makes clear that contraception is an act that is sinful not a ” mentality”. Nfp even IF it was used with selfish intentions ( big if) it’s still not contraceptive and can’t be.

              • slainte

                Planned Parenthood is the harbinger of the contraceptive mind set. It teaches that one may subjectively control and/or regulate one’s fertility until procreation becomes “convenient”. It offers carcinogenic birth control pills and abortifacients to assist women in their self actualization goals. Its founder Margaret Higgins Sanger, an Irish nominal Catholic, despised her own faith and rejected traditional large families because of the alleged encroachments they visited upon a woman’s personal liberties. Today’s cultural elites embrace Mrs. Sanger and her contraceptive mind set as worthy of imitation.

                I am cautious of any teaching that would inform a Catholic woman or couple that one may subjectively control or regulate one’s fertility, and still be in compliance with the totality of the Church’s tradition and God’s admonition that we should go forth and multiply. (Genesis 6-8)
                I am open to learning about Natural Family Planning, but wary of the very title of this endeavor.

            • MPI

              I just reread your last comment and this one but I am confused: are you seeking an objective definition (or reasons) when a couple might abstain from sex during fertile periods? Or are you arguing that the Church does not allow for the possibility of period continence during fertile periods for the purpose of child spacing?

        • Leila Miller

          NFP cannot be used with a “contraceptive mind set”. It can be used selfishly (as can anything), but not “contraceptively”. Please, read:

          http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-nfp-plea-stop-giving-warnings-and.html

          We should be rejoicing, not scolding!

          • slainte

            My intent is not to scold or condemn; I am a sinner.
            I am trying to understand what is expected of Catholics by Our Lord.

            • Leila Miller

              I understand, and I only meant that there is quite a lot of scolding that does go on (not by you specifically). We must not impose burdens on people that God Himself does not impose. We must be rejoicing every time we see couples turn from contraception and embrace morally licit forms of regulating births. I do hope you read the article, to get a feel for what I mean. Couples who give up contraception often feel like they are jumping off a cliff. They need encouragement and support. Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

              • Jenny

                Leila, your statement “We must be rejoicing every time we see couples turn from contraception and embrace morally licit forms of regulating births” is disordered. Using NFP shouldn’t be a joyful or desirable thing to do. It should be seen as a burden and an undesirable action that, due to serious reasons, has to be used for the time being. This mindset that the couple should determine each month if they can welcome a child into the family is disordered and wrong, yet it is propagated like crazy. Many in the church push NFP like it is a good and necessary thing for all couples to use and that is a shame because it is leading to an abuse of NFP. A couple who understands the true meaning of marriage and of the sexual act will not feel like they are “jumping off of a cliff” because they would view children as a blessing and the “supreme gift of marriage”.

                • Leila Miller

                  Jenny, I am sorry but you are wrong. It is ALWAYS joyful to see a couple give up contraception for NFP. I pray that you are not teaching RCIA anywhere, at any time.

                  You personally have no way of knowing whether any couple is “abusing” NFP, and you have no right to judge others’ hearts or motives. The Church says NFP is a licit and moral way to regulate births. Praise God the mind of the Church is not as you present it in this comment. I hope you are not influencing couples who are tentatively trying to make that difficult step away from sin and into virtue, as you might likely make them run away from the Church and not towards her.

                  May I ask how many children you have, Jenny? I’m just curious.

                  • Jenny

                    Leila, just a little background about me: I entered the Church 11 years ago. My husband and I were one of the couples who stopped using contraception and switched to NFP. So far, we have been blessed with 6 children.
                    I am not judging anyone. I myself have used NFP, including at the present time (although my husband and I are coming to the conclusion that we no longer have a serious reason to do so). So, NFP is necessary sometimes. But it shouldn’t be a desirable thing to do. Is it better than using contraception? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it should be the ideal.
                    I think of it in terms of attending Mass. As Catholics, we have the obligation to attend mass at least once a week on Sunday. This is the expectation of every Catholic. Are there times when one has to miss mass? Of course. Illness, extreme weather, etc sometimes makes it necessary to miss mass. But you don’t plan on missing mass; you don’t sit down with your husband and discuss whether or not you’ll be able to attend mass in the coming month. The assumption is that you will attend mass. You should feel sad if you have to miss mass. The same can be said for marriage. When a man and a woman marry, the foregone conclusion is that they will be open to life and have children if that is God’s plan. Having children is a normal, healthy part of marriage. It is the norm, not the exception. The question of a married couple shouldn’t be “Are we able to welcome a child into the family, but rather “Why shouldn’t we welcome another child into the family?” If you are going to say “no” to God then you better have a good reason for doing so.
                    On a personal note, I have enjoyed reading your blog “Little Catholic Bubble”. Your warm and welcoming personality has always seemed to shine through on your blog. Your personal attack against me in this thread however has led me to the conclusion that I will probably never visit your blog again. I’m sure that makes no difference to you, but I just thought I would mention it. I addressed a comment that you made; not you as a person. For you to tell me that I have no business teaching RCIA is uncharitable. I am a devout Catholic, loyal to the pope and the magisterium. None of my comments regarding NFP in any way contradict the teachings of the church. The audio sancto talk that another poster linked to is outstanding and has greatly influenced my thinking with regards to NFP.
                    I wish you the best!

                    • Leila Miller

                      Jenny, I think your analogy is wrong. We are obligated to attend mass and holy days of obligation on pain of mortal sin if we willfully miss (unless illness or obligation to family/charity [i.e., sick child/helping a wounded stranger in the street] keep us away). This is a matter of canon law and Church discipline, as the way the Church has decreed that we fulfill God’s law to keep the Lord’s Day holy (along with the “binding and loosing” of Holy Days).

                      There is no obligation (by moral law or canon law) that says a married couple must have sex on the fertile days, or that they must try to conceive each month. What a married couple does in their action or their sacrifice is not any concern of any other person (other than God or a spiritual director). Again, you presuppose all this “selfish” use of NFP, but you have no right to presuppose it. And as someone else mentioned, there can be a mis-use of prayer time (neglecting one’s children), but I don’t see any such admonitions about that coming at us constantly? Or ever. Why? Because we would never assume that people are abusing their prayer time, generally. So, why would we assume that people are using NFP selfishly? As if it’s any of our business.

                      Anyway, God bless you. I am glad you are a faithful Catholic (praise God!), but you have picked a non-fruitful avenue in which to draw folks to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of Christ’s Church. I don’t see anyone really commenting on the fact that NFP users have huge families, due to the open hearts that NFP engenders. By their fruits ye shall know them. NFP has borne very good fruit.

                      Take care and thanks.

                  • WSquared

                    ” I pray that you are not teaching RCIA anywhere, at any time.”

                    I second those prayers.

      • CharlesOConnell

        This whole teapot tempest bears a strange relation to the Evangelical cultural reatreat & abandonment of public life following the Scopes “Monkey Trial” propaganda, especially following left liberal Hollywood’s “Abandon the Wind” with Spencer Tracy and Frederick March.

    • If I heard any Church leaders talk about the evils of contraception, the legitimacy of NFP, or anything at all related to the purpose of marriage, I’d clap for joy. As it is, I don’t hear Church leaders pushing NFP. All I hear is silence on all these issues. I hear plenty of lay misinformation from both sides however.

      • Proteios

        That style real issue isn’t it. Not the validity of NFP, but of near silence on the entire issue. I learned more about the Church teaching on contraception since the HHS mandate than I have ever…and probably will ever learn from our parish priests. They need to tackle these issues.

      • Joseph X.

        Ain’t that the truth. It’s a sad and pathetic fight — this NFP vs ultra-traditionalists — probably comprising less than 5% of American Catholics, who are all faithful to the Magisterium.

    • Leila Miller

      …by definition, it means not having sex.

      Wrong. NFP is information. It’s information that has been used to help many infertile couples conceive. It’s about achieving pregnancy as much as it is about avoiding pregnancy. It’s also used to identify medical problems and hormonal imbalances that affect the health of the wife. So, NFP does not mean “not having sex”.

      • Christophe

        Ms. Miller: I could engage in the same type of school-yard argumentation that you use by retorting, “I’m not wrong, you are,” but I will refrain. You are injecting a red herring into the debate. In referring to “NFP” throughout his article, Mr. Storck clearly means marital relations during times when the woman is infertile, not the observation of and resort to cycles in order to assist in conception.
        I invite you (and also Mr. Storck, who seems to be joining the current curious chorus that is determined to label “traditionalists” as “Protestants”) to reflect upon my point – why, during a time of unprecedented affluence and security in the West, are we “conservative” Catholics so intent on being like our secular neighbors and having only 2.1 children, except by licit means? What’s more precious than cooperating with God and bringing a new soul into the world? This stingy, grudging attitude among “conservative” Catholics is bewildering.
        See, contra, Chesterton, expressly invoking his Distributist principles in an attack upon Birth Control: “Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.”

        • MtMama

          I challenge you to come up with NFP using Catholics who are “intent on being like our secular neighbors and having only 2.1 children.” I know of no NFP users who purposely have only 2 children. If couples are adamant about not having more than 2 children, there are more sure ways of achieving this, like tubal ligation or a vasectomy. NFP would seem pretty “risky” to these kind of folks.

        • Leila Miller

          Christophe, I apologize if my attempt to be clear on the meaning of NFP was construed as “school-yard argumentation”. I consider definition of terms as essential to a conversation.

          I have to join my voice with MtMama. I am an NFP user and I have eight children. Last night I was at dinner with three other NFP couples, and they have nine, six, and seven children respectively. One couple who couldn’t make the dinner has five children so far. I am the oldest among the woman (at 46) and I’ve no doubt that the other ladies are not “done” having children. I don’t know these couples of which you speak, who have 2.1 children using NFP (except for one couple whose wife was clinically dead for twenty minutes on the table after her last delivery, and their reasons for avoiding pregnancy are “serious” for sure).

          If one starts out using NFP tentatively, NFP use has a way of changing one’s heart, and opening a couple to the gift of new life.

          Here’s how another writer put it in response to an NFP critic, just a day or so ago:

          Gawley seems to argue that there is a large host of couples who use NFP and limit their families to only one or two kids, and that this is evidence of NFP being part of a contraceptive culture.

          I just wonder where on earth Gawley finds such people. I’d be fascinated to meet them, because I have the strong sense that the ungenerous-NFP-couple is about as rare as the dodo.

          You know what I see when I run into non-traditionalist, “JP2-ish” Catholics who actually use NFP, or who even teach NFP for the local diocese? I generally see huge families. I can think of several off the top of my head who have 9, 8, 6-child families, all of whom fervently believe in the usefulness of NFP.

          Read the whole thing, here:

          http://johnvgerardi.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-heresy-of-nfp-come-on-now/

        • CharlesOConnell

          “School-yard argumentation” verges on the ad hominem attack. Unnecessary for those with truth behind their arguments, who can stick to the subject. GK Chesterton made a practice of generously acknowledging what truth he could find in his opponents’ positions, then showing them the greater truth of the Way.

        • James1225

          I would like to know exactly what is wrong with a couple deciding to just have a small family and using contraception to achieve that goal. That’s what my wife and I did and we have been happily married for 37 years and have two happy and healthy sons who we were able to successfully raise and educate and who are out living on their own.

          • Jenny

            James, the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. By contracepting, you and your wife said “no” to God. If you are Catholic, you should confess this immediately! I am glad that you have a happy marriage and two happy and healthy sons.

            • James1225

              We never have been the kind of Catholics who accepted all Church teachings without questioning any of them. We never accepted the idea that we couldn’t control the size of our family through contraception. Everything has turned out fine so we must have been doing something right. We wanted two children and that’s what we had.

              • Art Deco

                Well, James, you are what is known colloquially as a ‘protestant’. Practice your singing. And be sure to say ‘gambling’ when the pollster asks you which sin you hate the most.

                • James1225

                  There must be a lot of ‘protestants’ in the pews. Either that or NFP is more effective and more widely practiced than I thought.

                  • Leila Miller

                    James, yes, in America most Catholics don’t have the first clue why they are Catholic and not Protestant. We were very poorly catechized. Your paradigm is indeed a Protestant one and not a Catholic one. That is why we see so many lax and lukewarm Catholics today. Here is something I never knew growing up:

                    http://catholicexchange.com/sorry-youre-not-allowed-to-do-that/

                    • James1225

                      I read your article and I got what you said. Of the billion+ Catholics on the planet, only a small percentage of them are fully behind the hierarchy but they’ve always been Catholic and have found a way to sort of coexist with “management”. Count me among them.

                    • Leila Miller

                      Right. That “hierarchy” that Jesus just happened to set up and say about it, “He who hears you, hears me”. And all that jazz. The same Jesus who said that he would like to vomit the lukewarm out of his mouth (check the Book of Revelation). I guess you could hide among the numbers and play a game, but who are you really trying to fool? In the end, wouldn’t it have been better to be faithful? Don’t we all really want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” on that lonely day of judgement?

                      But I guess you’ve got popular opinion behind you. Good luck with that. I’m sure that will impress the Lord. 😉

                    • James1225

                      I know when I am out of my league. Summa cum laude from BC (my son is at the Law School) and 8 kids. You are a super Catholic. I am a cradle Catholic leaning toward agnosticism.

                      I don’t worry about the Last Judgment or afterlife. I have a brain. When it stops working, I will lose consciousness. That will be it.

                    • Leila Miller

                      I’m no super-Catholic, I’m just a sinner like everyone else. I just adore the Church and can’t believe my luck in having found it. God is good. I am still pinching myself. Yes, you do sound like an agnostic. I think you’d enjoy Stacy Trasancos’ blog (stacytrasancos.com). Or a book by Mensa member (and expert on the brains’ workings) Dr. Kevin Vost. It’s called From Atheism to Catholicism, and it’s an informative and entertaining read.

                      My best to your son! I pray somehow he will find the true faith over there at BC Law. Hopefully, he is a practicing Catholic. Either way, God bless you all!

              • WSquared

                Your life is not all about you and what you want.

                And enough Catholics who think they’re “questioning” the Church get miffed and indignant when the Church not only welcomes questioning, but in any dialogue, questions them right back.

                A lot of “questioning authority” turns out to be sissified, and a thinking assent always questions, and questions in humility.

                • James1225

                  A lot of “questioning authority” turns out to be sissified, and a thinking assent always questions, and questions in humility.

                  That is a bewildering sentence. What do you mean by “sissified”? And would you say that if I were a woman? Does it mean that I am being feminine?

                  • WSquared

                    Yes, I WOULD say that if you were a woman. I’ve said what I’ve said to you to many a woman, thanks, whenever her “questioning of authority,” like any man’s, is childish.

                    To say that you “question authority” while not questioning your own claim to it, and presuming that you are not blindly obedient without realizing that everyone obeys something, it’s a matter of whom or what, and that one can choose well or poorly, is childish, and yes, sissified. Because it lacks backbone.

                    • James1225

                      There is no need to question my authority over how I live my own life. It is absolute. So is yours.

                    • Anna

                      One can never separate the procreative aim from the unitive aim in thought word or deed when engaging in conjugal intercourse. To do so would be a sin. No grave reason whatsover can change that truth. The contrary teaching of this is what has led us to the serious crisis of moral decay- contraception ,divorce, abortion, rampant fornication, and homosexuality.Thinking, agreeing to, and acting on having recourse during the infertile period exclusively in order to avoid having children separates the procreative aim from the unitive aim. NFP is wrong when it teaches this method as morally permissable. It is so blantantly obvious that NFP is promoting contraception. I understand that in this Godless, selfish, sex saturated, hedonistic and immodest world that some would find it difficult to abstain. However, are we realy so proud, pumped up,cowardly and selfish that we cannot admit that separating the primary purpose of marriage from the secondary purpose is a grave sin? Our Lord has given us everything to combat sin. Go to the sacrament of confession and ask for forgiveness. If your contrition is sincere you just may gain the courage, humility and perserverance that you need. Pray for an increase in the virtues.Pray for an increase in faith. No matter how you slice it the Church has always taught and still does, despite the contradicting writings of Popes Pius XII and Pope Paul VI, that one can never separate the procreative from the unitive aims without it being contrary to God’s law and natural law. Pius XI says, “Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such away that the act is deliberately frustrated in it’s natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin” (Casti Connubii,1930). And also when he says , For in matrimony as well as in the use of matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivation of love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are SUBORDINATED to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.” In Scripture “the angel Raphael said to him [Tobias]: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and FROM THEIR MIND, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power… And when the third night is past, though shalt take the virgin with the fear of the LOrd, moved rather for love of CHILDREN than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayest obtain a blessing in children…[Tobias said] And now, Lord, though knowest, that not for fleshy lust do I take my sister for wife, but only for the love of POSTERITY, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.” (Tobias 6:16-17, 22;8-9) Of course if you look this reading up in your Novus Order New American Bible you will see that they changed the words and replace conjugal intercourse for the purpose of children for something more vague when they rewrite it to say in the NAB Tobit chapter 8;7 “Now, Lord, you Know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age” Even John Paul II tried to explain in his book Love and Responsibility that pp.66-69, that ” The Church as has been mentioned previously, teaches, and has always taught that the primary end of marriage is Procreatio, but that it has as a secondary end, defined in Latin terminology as mutuum adiutorium. Apart from these atertiary aim is mentioned- remidium concupiscentiae. Marriage, objectively considered, must provide first of all, the means of continuing existence, secondly a conjugal life for man and woman, and thirdly a legitimate orientation for desire.” In Acta Apostolica Sedis., 36,103; April 20, 1944 it says the following in response to this question put forth; “May one subscribe to the opinion of certain modern authers who deny that the principle end of marriage is the begetting and education of children, or who teach that the secondary end is not essentially subordinated to the primary end, but is equally primary and indepent/” The reply was “No.”

                    • James1225

                      Anna,

                      All that you have written here is contrary to the teachings of the Church today. You are either Catholic or you are not. You can’t be more Catholic than the Church and the Pope. Any more than that is religious extremism. Extremism is never good for a person or society.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    What, in my opinion, motivates those who oppose NFP is the reality of having a post- Vatican II Catholic Church that was hijacked by the protestant wing and left it in shambles. They oppose NFP because they will allow not even a suggestion that the Church is going to continue to play foot-loose’ with her teachings and push, instead, for overly strict interpretations of dogma. It is classical reaction formation in psychological jargon and perfectly understandable.

    Rather than being treated as right wing nuts by their bishops, their bishops ought to be solicitous of their concerns about a Church left unguarded against the wolf. Unfortunately, far too many bishops have been content over the past 50 years to marginalize those who adhere to a strict interpretation of Church teachings. I recall one priest I know referring to another priest as a “Jansenist.’ That’s the attitude within the Church that orthodoxy has had to put up with.

    • WSquared

      I agree with this up to a point, Deacon Peitler. Your first paragraph is spot on.

      Your second paragraph describes something a little dicier. I agree that bishops should not treat as right-wing nuts those who are reacting to the highjacking of Vatican II in the way you describe.

      But it is also true that many of these Catholics bring it on themselves to some degree when they attempt to mandate what the Church does not. When these Catholics and their very strict interpretation of Church teaching needlessly trouble the consciences of other Catholics, it becomes a pastoral problem,and bishops must attend to both.

      Some Catholics’ “hermeneutic of reaction” is understandable. But it is not orthodox. Orthodoxy is not permissibly wide, but it is not scrupulously narrow, either. Moreover, Vatican II was not a rupture, but in reacting to Vatican II to the degree that some do, they put themselves in agreement with the progressives who assumed that Vatican II gave them not only license, but a mandate, to run the Church off the rails– “beyond Jesus,” and therefore predictably on a road to nowhere.

    • Desideriusbenevantensis

      The only thing that motivates me is that it is a genuine heresy of our era that is more insidious because it is method of contraception “baptised as being catholic” seen as morally accepteable where other forms are not. Research shows that NFP is not taught primarily to encourage child birth but primaarily with the intent discourageing it. There is no distinction between artificial and natural within the end result of shared term family planning, as the end result of both frustration of God’s abilities to give us children. It becomes a worship of lust. This intent of all family pllauing is to encourage a view of the birth of children as being a burden to be avoided or something harmful, dangerous to to the life of the mother and the satisfaction of lust as “all important” greater than years spend necessarily in chastity or contienence within marriage. Additionally it seeks to undermine and ignore the traditional penitential periods, of lent, advent, ember days, fridays and wednesdays when not only do we abstain from all meat and dairy but also marital relations.

      in the words of St. Augustine “This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her, is joined to the man to gratify his passion (The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 [A.D. 388]).”

      NFP is to gratify the passions in order to worship at the phallic-altar which is all for the greater glory and honor of sex !

      NFPers offer the new pagan sacrifice to Satan through its bloodless and spiritual offering of not permitting children to be born. It represents the new sacrifice of Cain which is fighting to replace the eternal sacrifice of
      the Mass.

      Secondly, NFP by instilling into people the mistrust or even hatred of God’s Providence, increases the tendency within society for its draconian lust of blood.

  • Marie Kokes

    Thank you for a great article.

    I was kind of shocked years ago when I found out about the darn-near rabid opposition to NFP in certain circles. John Kippley has set out the moral justification for it and defended it, including all of the recommendations by the various popes, for decades.

    NFP involves learning about and applying knowledge of the way God has made the bodies of men and women and how they function regarding their mutual fertility. It may be used with an intention to either postpone or seek pregnancy.

    Couples having trouble conceiving have achieved success through greater awareness of aspects of both male and female reproductive biology.

    Understanding “ecological breastfeeding” as a part of natural mothering (as defined by Sheila Kippley) is also a part of NFP. God did not design women’s bodies to have a child every year, but rather He built in a natural period of infertility so that a mother could attend to the needs of her infant before immediately becoming pregnant with another. Attachment-parenting with nursing on-demand (ecological breastfeeding) confers numerous emotional and physiological benefits to both mother and child. A side-effect of ecological breastfeeding (whether wanted or not) results in child spacing of about two years.

    I have heard of couples (and personally know of one couple in a sister’s extended family) who have deliberately cut short their child’s breastfeeding or used formula specifically because they desired a large family and had married later in life . Denying your child the benefits of breastfeeding and natural mothering for this purpose seems misguided because you have a duty to nurture (to the best of your practical ability) the children you have in the here and now.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that *not* using the NFP of natural mothering can be a troubling aspect of the whole NFP question among those families wanting to “keep up with the Jones’s” as far as having a big family.

    • Guest

      Are you saying that married couples are obligated to have intercourse at random intervals making attempts to avoid any observance of the couple’s cycle? I’m not sure I understand this argument against the observation of naturally occurring events and acting or not acting in accordance with the couple’s discernment of God’s will.

      • Marie Kokes

        This reply also appears under another comment. I think it was put under my comment mistakenly as it does not address anything that I wrote.

        “Reply
        Kevin McCormick Matthew
        • 12 hours ago
        Are you saying that married couples are obligated to have intercourse at random intervals making attempts to avoid any observance of the couple’s cycle? I’m not sure I understand this argument against the observation of naturally occurring events and acting or not acting in accordance with the couple’s discernment of God’s will. It seems to me to be a very “blind faith” spirituality.”

  • Pingback: Storck Brings Great Insight on NFP » Restatement of the Obvious()

  • hombre111

    During my hour long morning prayer time, I found myself distracted from the Office of Readings by thoughts about this article and by the response of our good Deacon Ed. He and most of the others on this thread are self-proclaimed “orthodox Catholics.” They call other Catholics “Protestant.” But, as a student of history, I find it is the “orthodox” Catholics who have adopted the attitude that characterized the Protestant Reformation. What those old reformers wanted was a perfect, sinless Church. After the Reformation, the Catholic Church was made up of all those sinners left behind who did not hurry over to the way of perfection. But the perfection pursued by the modern “orthodox is a strange kind of perfection. It has almost entirely to do with our sexual behavior, as if the Sixth were the first and only commandment.
    Crisis seems amazingly silent about the violence that afflicts our country. And the woeful consequences of untrammeled greed. And the probable fate of a nation with a few mega rich and more, and more, and more people falling into poverty. And the consequences for an entire world when we use up and waste its non-renewable resources. And what it does to our souls when we are an enthusiastic part of a militaristic nation in a state of perpetual war.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      There you go shooting from the lip…yet again.

      #1 I find it surprising that a Catholic priest would take umbrage with anyone’s adherence to orthodoxy. Quite surprising, indeed. You say you are a student of history so I would guess you are quite familiar with the many Church Councils of the first 500 years and the fact that they all concerned issues of orthodoxy.

      #2 In your rush to write your screed, you fail to notice that I was NOT referring to Protestants (with a capital “P”) – as in various sects of Christianity. The word I used was “protestants” as in those who PROTEST.

      Father, try not to be so rash in your accusations, especially when your attacks are ad hominem.

      • hombre111

        “Ad hominem?” In my logic class, I learned that an “ad hominem” argument tries to win by attacking the character of an opponent. Show where I did that above.
        I have no quibble with orthodoxy, only with those who insist that their brand is the only orthodoxy. Catholicism is wider than that. And the thread has used Protestant with a capital “P”. So, it is interesting to see how the howl for perfection was a major theme during the Protestant revolt and then again, today. And even with a small “p,” the orthodox protest, and protest, and protest.
        To bring up the councils of the first 500 years is to change the argument. I am talking about the religious wars of the last 500 years, and the interesting comparison between the Reformers of yore and the orthodox of today.

        • Deacon Ed Peitler

          there’s no such animal as a “brand” of orthodoxy…a belief is either orthodox or it is not…we’ve had enough of the relativism that has infected the Church

          • hombre111

            Mmm, maybe not. I can remember my seminary days in one of the most “orthodox” seminaries in the U.S., run by the Sulpicians. Anyway, the books we used were manuals written in Latin, and as we studied the different aspects of our Faith, various teachings had “theological notes” attached: De Fide, certain, most probable, probable, and less probable. If I remember correctly, we were only “obliged” to accept without question De Fide, certain, and most probable opinions. If major theologians and the majority of the Catholic faithful accepted something, it was most probable. If there was disagreement, it became probable. By that guide, Humanae Vitae was Pope Paul VI’s effort to turn the Church’s teaching on birth control into something “certain.” But when the majority of the Catholic faithful and many prominent theologians refused to accept the teaching, it probably went down in theological certitude to only probable or less probable.
            All that aside, would you pray for the success of the prison ministry I am involved in? We have come to a fork in the road and need some discernment.

            • James1225

              Sorry. I got interrupted by a phone call and forgot what the article was about. I meant that the Church needs to change its stand on contraception, not gay marriage. That is another post for another article. My bad.

            • Art Deco

              All that aside, would you pray for the success of the prison ministry I am involved in?

              I will pray that the other participants will have the sense to give you the heave-ho, unless, of course, they are worse than you are, in which case I will pray that the local bishop shuts the whole business down.

          • James1225

            Deacon,

            What you so disdainfully refer to as “relativism” is exactly the kind of open-mindedness that the Catholic Church needs in order to minister to the needs of the flock. The “orthodoxy” that you seem to treasure is nothing more than a failure to adapt like that which we used to think led to the demise of the dinosaurs before we learned that it was actually caused by an asteroid. But I digress. You say that something is either orthodoxy or it isn’t. Black and white like your tuxedo get up there. But life is more like a rainbow, if you know what I mean. The Church has got to try to understand that and not be so stiff-necked about things like gay marriage.

          • James1225

            Sorry. I got interrupted by a phone call and forgot what the article was about. I meant that the Church needs to change its stand on contraception, not gay marriage. That is another post for another article. My bad.

            • Art Deco

              The Church is not a political club. If a ‘stand’ is incorporated within Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, or the Magisterium, ecclesiastical authority has no warrant to pretend otherwise. The notion that artificial contraception is licit does not have much history prior to about 1930.

              • James1225

                OK. 1930 is a good start. It’s called progress. When we look at history and how good things evolve from not as good things, it stands to reason that advances in contraception and its increased availability constitute a step forward. Time for the Church to step into the 21st century.

                • Art Deco

                  “Progress” is a notion favored by those who confound the benefits of technology with the benefits of grace. You really need to be in some other denomination.

                  • James1225

                    I have my parish, my friends, etc. I see no need to switch to episcopalian or anything else. There are plenty of Catholics who don’t take it as seriously as you, nor should they.

                    • Art Deco

                      If you do not take it seriously, what are you doing there?

                    • James1225

                      There’s lots of reasons to go to Church. Getting guidance on whether or not to use contraception is not one of them.

                    • Art Deco

                      You’re being frivolous.

                    • James1225

                      I being real. I don’t look to the Church for guidance on when to have children and how many. That’s a matter for my wife and me.

                    • WSquared

                      I don’t look to the Church for guidance on when to have children and how many. That’s a matter for my wife and me.

                      The Church doesn’t tell you when to have children and how many. That’s obvious from any cursory reading of Humanae Vitae. All she says is “no”to contraception, and then leaves off; it then becomes a matter of prayerful discernment, which means keeping God in the loop and allowing the sacraments to work.

                      …none of which will work effectively if one persists in living in a state of mortal sin. And willfully choosing to dissent on Church teaching on contraception amounts to mortal sin if the three conditions for mortal sin apply– grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent of the will.

                    • James1225

                      And willfully choosing to dissent on Church teaching on contraception amounts to mortal sin if the three conditions for mortal sin apply– grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent of the will.

                      You can live your life believing that. I pass.

                    • WSquared

                      I spent all of my life until recently believing what you believe. I found it stultifying and spiritually and intellectually boring, thanks. Because it didn’t think or see big enough.

                      Moreover, it’s quite interesting that you would choose to commit serious sin, and then blather repeatedly on these forums that God and what the Church teaches do not make sense when you choose to compromise your capacity to engage Him, and thus to see and to understand.

                    • James1225

                      I spent all of my life until recently believing what you believe. I found it stultifying and spiritually and intellectually boring, thanks. Because it didn’t think or see big enough.

                      I’m satisfied with the size of what I think and see. It’s actually pretty big and goes back 14 billion years.

                • WSquared

                  …progress WHERE? Progress without direction is meaningless, whereby a step forward won’t preclude stepping off a cliff.

                  • James1225

                    As Melinda Gates said regarding the Catholic Church’s stand on contraception, it’s OK if we disagree. My wife took the pill for forty years except when we wanted are two children. It was a responsible choice to make.

    • And what it does to our souls when we are an enthusiastic part of a militaristic nation in a state of perpetual war.

      Does this mean we can count on your support against Obama who seems determined to bomb Syria unilaterally?

      • hombre111

        Yep. Although I do ponder the irony. The U.S. fought a cold war, bringing death to millions, for the right to be number one. So, we are number one. Up till now, we have claimed the right to be (most of the time, but especially when it comes to Israel or oil) the world’s policeman. Why stop now? Do we want to do number one on the cheap? “Nobles oblige.”

        • Art Deco

          I see none of your seminary training incorporated any modern history. The United States was number one in 1945 as a consequence of the vagaries of international politics. Fully half the world’s industrial capacity was within our borders. The ‘fighting’ we had to do was during the course of the 1st and 2d World Wars in which we were not even original participants.

          Consequent to 1945, all of our notable military engagements have been contra flagitious characters (North Korean Communists, North Vietnamese Communists, Iraqi Ba’athists). International conflict is a constant in human relations. A passably benevolent hegemon can act to contain it or not, but it is invariably latent.

          The notion that American administrations from Truman to Obama are the source of misery in this world is just pig ignorant.

          It is difficult to imagine you could ever have been a fit instructor of any subject.

          • hombre111

            Let me offer one well-researched book into the Vietnam war: “Fire in the Lake,” by Frances Fitzgerald. Costs about six bucks on Amazon. Read it, and shut up.

            • Art Deco

              I will take not one piece of advice from frauds and ignoramuses.

              Frances FitzGerald was a passing character in Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims. Not someone to waste one’s time on.

              • hombre111

                Then you don’t want to learn the real story. Please, don’t lecture me on studying modern history. I an old, old man. My life began on chapter forty of a sixty chapter American History book. I watched the Cold War unfold as a young man, with the slaughter of millions. I counted all the lies and pretense that got us into Vietnam. I watched the U.S. support and arm Sadam. I saw Bush’s unblushing lies about weapons of mass destruction. Now the Right tries to re-right history. Typical.

                • Art Deco

                  You are an ignorant old man and make use of political sectaries (associated with publications with a long history of acting as press agents for foreign reds) as authorities. Your age merely removes any trace of an excuse.

    • Art Deco

      Crisis seems amazingly silent about the violence that afflicts our
      country. And the woeful consequences of untrammeled greed. And the
      probable fate of a nation with a few mega rich and more, and more, and
      more people falling into poverty. And the consequences for an entire
      world when we use up and waste its non-renewable resources. And what it
      does to our souls when we are an enthusiastic part of a militaristic
      nation in a state of perpetual war.

      Any other Democratic Party talking-points you would care to hit?

    • Desideriusbenevantensis

      Better to acknolwedge the tireless, constant and consistent teaching of the church that married people have only two choices morally permissible for them; either to abstain by mutual agreement from marital relations, or to accept such children as God sends. Better to accept this, and fail at it, and confess the sin to a priest, than to never confess it, live a lie with NFP or contraception and think you are pure in your lust.

      What should be sought is the truth, no matter if we fail at it or not.
      Failure God will not condemn us for if we are repentent. Arrogance that WE control what God controls is what we may be condemned for. This is not about be scrupulous, this is about accepting a hard challenge and making the most of it, no matter how impossible it seems for us. This is the challenge of our entire lifes.
      God is merciful, He loves mankind, through Christs redemption and crushing of sin we can be forgiven always, but His natural law is beyond our control.

      • hombre111

        I think this argument puzzles most people. It surely puzzles me. God is gentler than that.

  • Proteios

    We use NFP. My wife has learned a great deal about her body and we join together in the process as God intended. We have three kids. I think the problem is that is some circles it is not treated as a matrimonial approach to knowing a woman’s God given rhythms. It is spoken of as “Catholic contraception”. Therefore the underlying idea is that we can contracept too, just using a different method. NO!
    It can be used in many ways and the method itself bears no more blame than a hammer. it is a tool. but if used improperly, like hitting someone in the head, the hammer becomes a weapon and not a beneficial tool.
    In short, it is a mere tool. A good one. But if sold as contraception puts the wrong context and hence the context for any argument at the forefront…this blinding people to the positive.

  • CharlesOConnell

    At one time, the Latin rite forbade marital relations after menopause as a matter of discipline not doctrine.

    Rad Trads should keep in mind, regarding the right of the Latin rite to issue and abrogate disciplinary regulations, St. Faustina’ s diary observation that the enemy of souls “can mimic a humble man, but never an obedient one”.

    • slainte

      “Rad Trads”……this is a divisive and unacceptable term…..we are all Roman Catholics.

      • CharlesOConnell

        Sorry, I heard it on the radio.

        Hope “The Real Catholics” will hear you.

  • A good and timely article. I think it is also time for Catholics to recognize the importance and beauty of the celibate life. This can be in the context of a priestly vocation or as a consecrated celibate. Protestantism has always eschewed such a life since Luther’s original attacks on celibacy has denigrating the family. In this way I think many anti-NFPs also resemble Protestants.

  • Matthew

    Mr. Storck, if I may explain the rational that many give for opposing NFP:
    It is a perfectly valid opinion to hold that using NFP with the intention of avoiding conception makes each marital act of the couple at least venially sinful. A Dominican of sound theology heroically defended this position both in theory and practice in the 1940s and ’50s, holding it to be more probable than the opposing opinion. From his writings, it appears that the abusive method of recommending the rhythm method was not much better than those who pass NFP off as more effective contraception today

    A thorough reading of St Alphonsus’s moral theology also demonstrates that the Doctor of Moral Theology would hold couples using NFP guilty of venial sin (see his commentary on the use of the marital act during pregnancy, except in case of grave temptation). And the Church has said that a confessor (a fortiori a layman) may follow St Alphonsus’s counsel from his Theologia Moralis in any particular, without needing to examine the rationale (quite a statement!) His rationale in this case is simple: it is always sinful intentionally to separate the primary end of the marital act from the act itself. Even if one engage in the act ostensibly for one or the other of its secondary purposes (e.g., sanitas), that does not allow someone intentionally to avoid the primary end (whether naturally or unnaturally). And this is why the Doctor of Moral Theology explains that engaging in the marital act during pregnancy is venially sinful (except in case of grave temptation) – because one chooses a secondary end while precluding the primary end.

    Finally, the practice of NFP seems to place the souls of the spouses in danger by avoiding the marital act even when it may be a matter of debt to prevent the other (or oneself) from falling. These are the principle reasons sound traditionalists (and non-traditionalists) oppose NFP, though certainly many additional reasons could be presented.

    • Kevin McCormick

      Are you saying that married couples are obligated to have intercourse at random intervals making attempts to avoid any observance of the couple’s cycle? I’m not sure I understand this argument against the observation of naturally occurring events and acting or not acting in accordance with the couple’s discernment of God’s will. It seems to me to be a very “blind faith” spirituality.

    • Thomas Storck

      Matthew,

      You are basing your opinion on two theologians, not on the magisterium. It is true that we may safely follow St. Alphonsus in moral questions – but surely not when he is not in harmony with papal teaching, for which lack of harmony of course he is not culpable, since he had been dead for sometime. But while no one requires you to use periodic abstinence, you certainly have no right to teach others the opinions you do (e.g. that use of marriage during a known infertile time is a venial sin absent a case of grave temptation) when they are so obviously contrary to Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II.
      BTW, St. Thomas (Summa contra Gentiles III, 122, taught the opposite, “Si autem per accidens generatio ex emissione seminis sequi non possit, non propter hoc est contra naturam, nec peccatum: sicut si contingat mulierem sterilem esse.”

      • Thomas Storck

        I fear I wasn’t entirely clear. St. Thomas, I meant, taught the opposite
        to your assertion, Matthew, not to the papal teaching.

      • slainte

        Have the popes you reference declared and/or supported Natural Family Planning as an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church?

        • Augustus

          If NFP is morally acceptable as far as the ordinary magisterium is concerned, then those who use it should not be accused of sinfulness. It does not have to be declared infallible by a council or a pope speaking “ex cathedra” for it to be morally licit.

          • slainte

            I have not accused anyone of being sinful.
            I seek clarity regarding whether the popes referenced by the article’s author have pronounced Natural Family Planning as an infallible teaching of the Church.
            The level of Authority is always a relevant consideration on a matter of such importance to so many.

            • Marie Kokes

              John Kippley has made the case that it has met the conditions for an infallible teaching. He explains the conditions (as defined by the magisterium ) and lists the papal teachings etc. that he believes more than fulfill the conditions.Very few teachings are made explicitly “ex cathedra” . I am thoroughly convinced by his arguments. If you are interested in reading them, he lays them out in “Sex and the Marriage Covenant”, available on Amazon.

              • slainte

                Thank you. I will look into this book.

            • Thomas Storck

              Slainte,
              You’ve said about yourself, more than once in the comments, that you’re only seeking knowledge or clarity. But you do seem to have a very definite point of view on this.
              As to your question, NFP has been taught as licit by several popes and numerous bishops in union with him over time and thus would seem to be taught infallibly by the ordinary magisterium. This is the way that the great bulk of the Church’s moral teaching is proposed to the faithful – by way of the Church’s ordinary teaching. If you’re asking for a solemn act of the extraordinary magisterium, then ironically, your position turns out to be the same as those who claim that contraception has never been infallibly condemned.

              • slainte

                Mr. Storck, I have a very definite point of view regarding those who would sow division among Catholics and who would silence the opinions of those who, like poster Matthew, raise legitimate theological counter-arguments in response to your position, and are thus summarily dismissed.
                At the heart of your article and the comments of not a few posters is an intolerance and dismissal of those Catholics gratutitously labeled as Traditional, or Rad Trads, or the 5%.
                This is not a Christ like spirit; it is not Catholic, and I would venture to say that it is not morally licit.

                • Thomas Storck

                  Slainte,
                  It is not Catholics who support NFP who are sowing divisions. I wrote this article in view of the extensive, and apparently growing, effort of anti-NFP Catholics who are troubling the consciences of many Catholic couples. Also, neither I nor other posters dismissed Matthew summarily – we made arguments and gave evidence for the contrary view.

                  • slainte

                    Mr. Storck, I have no knowledge of Natural Family Planning (“NFP”) beyond your article and the postings here. I have never spoken to anybody about this movement nor have I accused another person of “sinning”.
                    Where is “….the extensive, and apparently growing, effort of anti-NFP Catholics who are troubling the consciences of many Catholic couples…?” With due respect, sir, they are not present in this forum.

                    What is present in this forum is a spirit of intolerance that freely mis-characterizes other Roman Catholics who question the foundational basis for NFP or its supporting ecclesial Authority, as “Trads, Rad Trads, less than 5%”; this is patently uncharitable.
                    I would re-read your article in light of what I have just stated. It is difficult enough to navigate a secular culture that is anti-Catholic without having to deal with other Catholics who denigrate those within the fold they arbitrarily deem un-Enlightened.
                    Pax Christi.

                    • Thomas Storck

                      Slainte,

                      You really had “no knowledge of Natural Family Planning (“NFP”) beyond your article and the postings here”? You mean you never heard of it before and had no opinion on it? Wow, quite surprising.
                      It’s odd, though, if you had “no knowledge of Natural Family Planning” till you read my article that you aren’t more well disposed, since the article was obviously in favor of it and you have no other
                      knowledge of it.

                      As to people who are troubling Catholic consciences, have you read Matthew’s comment above? Or the comment of the poster who said a priest told him NFP was sinful? Apparently you are not acquainted with one or more blogs which devote considerable space toward attacking NFP.

      • Matthew

        Mr Storck,

        Thank you for your response. I do agree that one ought not to take one theologian’s word on moral theology (and St Alphonsus himself reprimanded those who would follow his opinions blindly without examining them… it was only the Church who said otherwise!) As to St Alphonsus, the Magisterium has said that one may follow his opinion without scruple (without qualification, full stop), and I do so in any element I have personally studied. Moreover, many other moral theologians have held and do hold the same position. While one may claim that the modern opinion is probable, I would argue that the opinion I presented above is more probable and quite more probable at that. This particular point seems well-founded in St Alphonsus’s thought, and I will share his rationale here, taken from something else I have written:

        As with almost all matters of moral theology, there are and can be differing opinions. I (and others who oppose NFP) find the opinion of St Alphonsus to be more probable than that of John Paull II and other moderns. While procreation is not the only end of the marital act, it is the only essential end, without which the marital act would not exist. Therefore, intentionally to prevent the final end of the act from being accomplished is a sinful abuse of the act, which, above all other acts, must be regulated by reason (because it pertains to a most important element of life: the propagation of the species and the proper rearing of children and ultimately all of society). Moreover, excess in this respect is by far the norm after the Fall (as we see full-blown today, though Our Lady of Fatima told us nearly a century ago that more souls are damned on account of impurity than on account of any other sin). While the practice of NFP per se is not immoral (it can be used to conceive rather than prevent conception), the act of engaging in the marital act with the express intention of not conceiving (and, indeed, with the intention of preventing conception insofar as it lies within the ability of the spouses) is immoral on account of the intention, which is central to assessing any neutral or morally good object (the “doing”) of a moral act. (The circumstance of the act could also make it immoral, e.g., on account of grave illness of a spouse or because it may spread serious disease). If we all are agreed on these premises, then it is possible to disagree on the morality of the act and still be Catholics in good standing. To me, the crux is based on the primary end of the act and on the intention of the act, neither of which I have ever seen successfully refuted in the above opinion. You can make arguments ad auctoritatem, but as I said, I would far prefer St Alphonsus to the moderns, particularly when the moderns do no address the above and when the Magisterium has said that even a confessor (a fortiori a layman) can follow any of the particulars in St Alphonsus’s Moral Theology without scruple, even without examining the causes. It is true that the Magisterium also said that it is permissible to allow a penitent to continue to abuse the rhythm method in a way that is venially sinful if he would otherwise abuse the marital act in a way that is mortally sinful because, while lamentable, even intentional venial sin does not preclude absolution.

        As far as infertile or aged couples, the exception proves the rule, and they are infertile not voluntarily but involuntarily. Without trying to poke fun, I would say that using infertility as an argument in favor of NFP is akin to saying it’s okay to get black-out drunk because we sleep at night. Yes, women naturally become infertile, but that doesn’t permit them to attempt to be infertile while naturally still fertile or intentionally to use their periods of infertility as a means to a secondary end of the marital act, while the primary end is necessarily frustrated (except, as I said, in case of grave temptation, as marriage and the marital act are also given to us as a remedy for concupiscence.)

        I will add that I agree with St Thomas in contra Gentiles, and I think it is capable of being reconciled with St Alphonsus (and in fact is in perfect harmony with his position – of course, St Alphonsus himself was the firmest of Thomists in an age that had largely abandoned St Thomas).

        • Thomas Storck

          Matthew,
          Thank you for your temperate reply. I must admit though, I am surprised that in any argument from authority anyone would reply on a theologian – however venerable – instead of the magisterium of several popes. Remember too, that there was no reliable knowledge of a woman’s monthly cycle in the 18th century, so St. Alphonsus could not have been responding to exactly the same moral question the Church has faced since 1930.
          You say that the Church has endorsed St. Alphonsus as a trustworthy moralist. True, but the Church has also pronounced
          favorably on NFP. You cannot use the Church-sanctioned authority of St. Alphonsus to argue against that very authority of the Church.
          BTW, you haven’t presented any citations to St. Alphonsus. Can you do so?

          • Matthew

            I agree entirely that the writings of Popes in the 20th century give more weight to the contrary opinion. My apologies for not referencing this fact in copy & pasting my previous statements on argument from authority. Unfortunately, I have not entered into these types of discussions in some time and do not have the reference from the Magisterium telling confessors that they may follow St Alphonsus’s opinion in any matter (ergo, that they can instruct their penitents in the opinion I have presented here), but I do have the references from St Alphonsus’s Moral Theology: Lib 6, Tract 6, Cap 2, Dub 2, Art 1, 924: Quer. III. An licet coire conjugibus tempore praegnationis? Commune est id non esse mortale, nisi adsit periculum abortus; ita omnes cum Sanch … (etc.) … Utrum autem, secluso periculum abortus, sit culpa venialis habere coitum cum praegnante? Affirmant… quia stante foetu concepto. frustratur semen suo fine generationis. Idque confirmant ex auctoritate plurium SS Patrum. … **Certum mihi** arridet sententia, quam tenent Pont … (etc.) … et huic se adnectunt etiam Pal et Ronc ll cc nempe quod coitus cum praegnante non possit excusari a culpa veniale, nisi adsit periculum incontinentiae, vel alia honesta causa, juxta dicta num 882 dub 1 etc. (In that dubium St Alphonsus examines whether it is licit to marry primarily as a remedy for concupiscence. I can share that here, as well, if needed, though it is fairly long.)

            • Thomas Storck

              Matthew,

              Thank you for the quotation from St. Alphonsus. It seems clear though it would be interesting to have it in context. E.g., when he
              says “Affirmant” – what is the subject? The Fathers, theologians?
              And is that his opinion too?

              But much more importantly, I’m beginning to think that perhaps you don’t accept the legitimacy of some of the 20th century popes.
              You wrote, ” I find the opinion of St Alphonsus to be more probable than that of John Paul II and other moderns.” And I imagine you’re
              aware that it’s not just John Paul II with whom you are in
              disagreement, but Pius XI, Pius XII and Paul VI. Don’t papal
              statements have more weight than theological opinions. And do
              you really think that the pope who gave the endorsement to
              St. Alphonsus’ moral teaching meant that that teaching could be
              adhered to even when it was in conflict with papal teaching?

              • Matthew

                Mr Storck,
                Affirmant refers to the list of people that follows, which I omitted (…) In this case he quotes St Thomas, Sotus, Palud., Alens., Palac. (referencing Sanchez). He generally will either say “the first opinion affirms/negates” [the position] or “such-and-such authors affirm/negate” [the position] after posing a question. In other words, those authors affirm [that it is a venial sin to engage in the marital act during pregnancy (so long as there is no danger of abortion)], because statu foetu concepto, etc.

                To be clear, I believe wholeheartedly that the 20th century Popes are all legitimate successors of St Peter and valid Popes. It is important to be able to distinguish, however, that Popes very rarely speak in such a way as to preclude ongoing debate in the realm of moral theology. The cases in which that happened before Modernism are increasingly more rare

                So, while it is clear the modern Popes are most definitely condemning the pernicious errors of their (and our) day (e.g., abortion, contraception, etc.), that is not to say that their statements about the “fringe” elements of this question are definitive or meant to be definitive. If they were, they would come out and say so very clearly, as they did with contraception, abortion, etc. In other words, while they are statements of Popes and do hold weight in that regard, they shouldn’t be taken as definitive. (Even the rationale given in support of de fide pronouncements from ecumenical councils on dogmatic theology are not infallible, much less side comments about moral theology in an encyclical that is not aimed at definitively answering the fringe question.)

                I would not say that St Alphonsus’s teaching is in conflict with papal teaching, as Popes, as I mentioned, almost exclusively leave the more delicate issues of moral theology to discussion of theologians without making a definitive statement, outside the most egregious cases. And I don’t think any of the modern Popes would have said that such opinions are *binding* on the faithful, even if they would propose that they are at least probable or even perhaps more probable, in their opinions. I apologize for being long-winded, but what I’m getting at is that moral theology has always been an inexact science, which is why theologians speak of “probable,” “more probable,” “most probable,” and (sometimes) “certain.” In no way do I think these Popes would consider their supporting statements made in these encyclicals as certain opinions to the exclusion of all others.

                Oh, and I just noticed I copied the quotation incorrectly on a fairly important point. I thought the saint was using “certum” as an adverb (which would be abnormal… and my Latin is a bit rusty, as well.) It should say “Caeterum mihi” – but the essential meaning remains that St Alphonsus does say that he favors the opinion that “will not excuse from venial sin” those who engage in the marital act during pregnancy (except as indicated).

                • Thomas Storck

                  Matthew,
                  It’s difficult to have an adequate debate on the foundations of moral theology in comboxes. So I’ll just say that I find it extremely odd that you would think that the papal statements on NFP have so little doctrinal value.

    • Led

      Matthew, don’t you think that’s a problematic understanding of our obligation to the Magisterium? You pick one Dominican theologian (a losing game – if we are going to pick random theologians and take their word as more of a guide than the popes and bishops, we’ll end up losing our connection to the successors of the apostles – plus, there are many particular theologians who think using contraception isn’t a sin!) I don’t understand how individual Catholics who care about the authority of the teaching Church can just arrogate that authority to themselves on the basis of a couple of cherry-picked sources – even saints! St. Augustine thought it was sinful to have intercourse except as necessary for procreation. The Church has not adopted that view. So no, it’s not a “perfectly valid opinion,” and it is certainly, certainly not an opinion that can be used to condemn others. That is to make oneself the Magisterium.

    • athelstane

      It is a perfectly valid opinion to hold that using NFP with the intention of avoiding conception makes each marital act of the couple at least venially sinful.

      It’s valid for you to propose this proposition, Matthew, and at least a few reputable theologians have done so down through the ages. But the Magisterium has never affirmed it, and it does not therefore seem reasonable for confessors to insist upon it in advising laity as to their moral obligations.

    • Mike

      And now all anti-NFPers must learn NFP so they can make sure to not make love during infertile times, because then they wouldn’t be open to life. No mucus, no fertility, no sex. Ever!

  • franthie

    An excellent article on this subject ‘Heroic Parenthood by Christopher Gawley’ can be found at several locations on the internet and, I’d say, is most illuminating. It takes the view that, while NFP is undoubtedly a licit dispensation, it has been ‘a spectacular failure’.

    • Sam Scot

      Agree. I have nothing against NFP per se, and loved the
      http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2013/features_may13.html. Mr. Gawley doesn’t fault NFP users, but the culture and our timid hierarchy:
      “Our Lord did not come so that we may have a dispensation or a life centered around infertility: He came for us to have an abundant life. . . ‘Abundant’ means plentiful and abounding, and an abundant family life undoubtedly includes plentiful and bounding children. If you have spent any time with large devout families you would realize several things. First, they are generally speaking a mess—kids everywhere, parents frazzled, shoes missing, beds unmade, ball in the house, and milk spilled in the kitchen. Second, they are generally happy—the insanity of the moment is often punctuated with laughter, with tears of a variety of milestones and accomplishments, with a plethora of hugs and kisses, and the wonder of life at its passing stages.”
      Not everyone is blessed with abounding children. But they are an awe-inspiring, history-changing gift from God. We should hear large families celebrated at the pulpit. As Mr. Gawley says, “We should not settle for ‘responsible parenthood,’ but aspire to ‘heroic parenthood.’ ” Prudence is necessary, even on an adventure. But life IS an adventure.

      • franthie

        Glad you were able to find the article, and thanks for the quotation and the link you provide. This other way of looking at the subject is more enriching, and, for me, too, persuasively truthful.

      • BrianKillian

        Really, he doesn’t fault NFP users? He excludes them from the category of “heroic parenthood’ and puts them instead into the category of “contraception-light” and “keeping up with the Joneses”. In other words, he slanders them by denying their sacrifices.

        Or how about this:

        “What critics of NFP zealotry mean by “contraceptive mentality” is that people — many people — use NFP as the practical substitute for contraception to avoid children altogether while still enjoying the sensual pleasures of marital relations.”

        People use NFP to avoid children ALTOGETHER? I’ve never encountered anyone who uses NFP to avoid children altogether. People use NFP to temporarily put off another pregnancy during difficult times, not to keep children away so they can enjoy the sensual pleasures of marital relations without any responsibility. This is slander.

        Why do so many NFP users have big families? Does that not disprove the “altogether” theory of NFP? Where do ‘trads’ get this fantasy from?

        Please, enlighten me.

      • Margaret

        And yet many of the Catholic NFP using families I know have 5, 6, 7, even 11 children. In fact most of them I know have more than the average family. Where is this idea of NFP=small sad families coming from? I just don’t understand.

        • Leila Miller

          Thank you, Margaret.

          I use NFP and have eight children. My best friend has seven. Others in my close circle of NFP users have six, nine and six, and many other friends the same. Most are not done having children, either. Some are (sadly) infertile or have life-threatening conditions (and how sad that some folks would judge them, wondering if they are contracepting!). This judgmentalism about NFP use really has to stop.

  • mortimer zilch

    Billings. Billings. Billings. I can’t say it enough: The Billings Method was THE breakthrough response to Pope Paul VI’s call for a method of birth regulation pleasing to God. Drs. John and Evelyn Billings answered his call. It is the essential breakthrough. http://www.woomb.org
    “What every woman ought to know.” It’s also one of the BEST things that I have ever learned, and even enabled me as “co-Creators with God” (J-PII) to select the genders of our three children, g-b-g.

    • RV

      Didn’t work for me. My signs are too ambiguous.We use Marquette.

      • mortimer zilch

        that may certainly be true, if…if you had taken birth control pills some time prior; if you do extreme exercise; if you take anti-histimine medications; have the flu; or are subject to hormonal imbalances or taking steroidal medications.

  • misterheche

    July marked the 45th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic
    encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception.

    At the link, the reader will find helpful information and resources to help readers
    better understand this important teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Readers
    will also find information on Natural Family Planning which is an
    effective, healthy, and natural alternative to artificial contraception,
    an alternative that is, importantly, fully compatible with Catholic
    teaching, ethics, and
    morality.

    http://allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/2013/07/humane-vitae-at-45-why-catholic-church.html

  • BrianKillian

    I find that behind the traditionalists’ criticism of NFP always lies a strange form of providentialism. One that, as you correctly observed, treats virtues in marriage like prudence and even love for one’s spouse as evil things, as if God’s providence is so delicate that a little NFP could ruin it. Do their wives never have a head ache?

    They have the most wild fantasies about NFP users which leads them to slander people who use NFP as being just a ‘contraception-light’ form of the whole pack of contraception users, just keeping up with the Joneses and avoiding children.

    It’s really the strangest thing to observe just how ungrounded in reality they are.

  • Nate Cameron

    I consider myself a Traditionalist but I don’t have any problems w/ NFP when used appropriately. I think the biggest gripe in “some circles” is probably the misrepresentation of it’s purpose as “Catholic birth control”, not so much an argument on the morality of it. I agree that there needs to be a just reason for using this method, but who can say what that is for each individual family? Using NFP to avoid pregnancy forever does seem to be the assumption that some have, though I don’t know of any NFP users who do not have larger than average families or are not open to life.

  • Magdalene

    Thank you for this article. It helps to clear up some misunderstandings. I know also that Mother Teresa was a promoter of NFP or so I have read. Still, a vast majority of Catholics use unapproved methods of birth control and it is still rarely addressed in most parishes.

  • The Truth

    I returned to the “catholic” church after a long absence. I attended “catholic” schools beginning in the 60’s and after doing my own reading and searching have since left the church. I’ve come to realize I have never been taught the truth. I have also come to realize that there are more protestants in the Catholic church than actual Catholics. It took another Protestant to help me realize that. She said to me while I was attending church, that Catholics believe the same things as protestants. And finally the light came on.

    • Confused

      ???

  • Joseph X.

    Thanks for this article, Thomas. I’d heard from a priest that I greatly admire that NFP was sinful. I’m relieved to have read this.

  • a dubois

    Why is this an issue – if Catholics were doing what was right – what is the problem – and concern about a intimate personal issue – unless there is a subversive motive behind the NFP metality ???

  • Sancte_Alphonsus

    ‘Go forth and multiply.’ What’s so hard to understand about that? Taking temperatures, feeling vaginal mucous, making note of it’s consistency and plotting it all out on graph paper on a daily basis all to avoid a blessing from God; a child. Or is a child not a blessing any more? What is the message being sent? If I went through such great lengths to avoid receiving a birthday present from you what would you think?

    Don’t downplay the ‘just reasons’ – the Priest giving this sermon lays down the proper understanding: http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20120212-The-Sanctity-of-Marriage-The-Duty-of-Motherhood-Versus-the-Abuses-of-NFP.html

    I’m sure the Church tolerates NFP under certain circumstances just as Moses tolerated divorce and we know what Christ said about that – it was because of the hardness of your hearts but it was not so from the beginning.

    My wife and I practiced NFP when we were first married – every Catholic couple being married had to take a class on it prior to being wed. We used it out of fear – monetary fear – being a newly wed couple with shallow pockets. Faith in money, and in having enough of it, was what directed our actions while true faith took a back seat. Later we repented – giving way to a rightly ordered faith and letting God decide the number of blessings He chose to give us. Living in a 2 bed 1 bath home and barely making ends meat left us feeling vulnerable to what we sometimes perceived to be a cruel God who wants to bury us in children keep our faces mired in extreme poverty – 10 kids in a 2 bed 1 bath house – that’s what we were afraid of. Well, God is merciful – He is just – He is caring. Lo and behold after our third child God closed the womb of my wife… we cannot get pregnant again at this point. After multiple tests from the gynecologist it was determined that her cervix is closed up tight… my youngest child is now five. We would love to have more children but God knows our strengths and weaknesses – he knows maybe I would ruin ten children if I had them but the three He gave us – that is enough for us… for now.

    So we live in our 2 bed / 1 bath home – we home school in our 931 sq. ft. home at our dining room table and we we’re not the victim of a cruel God who wants to see us living in a muddy shack with barefoot children and a constantly pregnant wife. This is what is best for us – no doubt. Now we’re finally able to move out of our little house into something bigger. Our house is under contract and we’re looking for something just a tiny bit bigger but on a piece of land. Maybe our Lord will open the womb of my wife and give us further blessings once we have the space for them. I would love that – but I will leave that decision to Him.

    • Kandle Ynostrosa

      Please do not forget some people do have moral reaons to use NFP. For example, I have had c-sections with all my children. I am not opposed to God giving me another blessing at ANY time. However, for my health and the health of any future children God may give me, I should refrain if possible from giving birth for at least two years between children to heal completely (as per three seperate doctors from three seperate hospitals). My husband and I use NFP not to keep from having children (we have been blessed with five) but to keep me healthy to raise any children that God does give us.

      • Sancte_Alphonsus

        Kandle, I did mention ‘just reasons’ for using NFP with a link to a very good sermon on the topic if you ever get the chance to listen. I’m not the judge, nor do I ever judge anyone who uses NFP because I don’t have all the facts and it’s not my business. A ‘just cause’ is not something that is decided on by an outsider but is something that an individual (or couple) determines with an informed conscience and with Catholic principles.

        God Bless you and your family!

    • Thomas Storck

      “I’m sure the Church tolerates NFP under certain circumstances just as Moses tolerated divorce ”
      Divorce is against the natural law; restriction of the marriage act to infertile times for a just reason is not. Have you actually read the papal statements on NFP?

    • Lynn

      Actually, I was once offered a wonderful present that I did, indeed, turn down. It was a new car. I needed a replacement car, but I did *not* want or need the beautiful model that was offered. Why? Because the property taxes and insurance that went along with it were more than I could afford. So I do think it is reasonable to be grateful that someone (or Someone) offers a gift, and to say, “No, thank you. I’m not prepared to take proper care of that gift right now.”

  • James1225

    Since my wife and I were not overly religious during her child bearing years, she took the pill except when we wanted children. We saw the rhythm method (as we called it then) as one of those quirky things that only the most hardcore Catholics practiced. We even had a priest friend who told us it was ok although he did end up leaving the priesthood. These traditionalists who even have a problem with NFP are way, way over the top.

  • John Kippley

    I haven’t seen it mentioned in the many comments I reviewed hastily, but one reason why some of the Latin Mass Magazine folks object to systematic NFP is their fear that NFP spouses may be engaging in masturbation etc. during the fertile time. That is not just a bad dream. Just this Tuesday morning I received an email from a woman who said that she and her husband had been engaging in immoral acts during the fertile time. She noted that nothing was said about this at the NFP course they attended. Then she also read our book, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, where we DO teach about these things. That’s why she wrote. Readers might be interested to know that it is still a live question within the NFP movement whether to teach relevant morality in the NFP course. I hope I am wrong, but I am not aware of any other text that specifically teaches the immorality of masturbation and marital sodomy. I am led to believe by someone who is in a position to know that most NFP teachers do not teach these things because they feel uncomfortable teaching morality. The LMM folks certainly have a point. How extensive is it? That’s beyond my competence.

    • slainte

      “….the Latin Mass Magazine folks…”…are you referring to your fellow Roman Catholics?

    • Thomas Storck

      John,
      Some of the anti-NFP posters here would like to restrict marital relations to times when the wife is known to be fertile. In fact, following the logic of some of the posters, they would chart and then restrict the marital act to phase 2! They are putting temptation in the face of couples much more than those who recommend NFP. That said, of course you are correct, morality should be taught along with the techniques of NFP.

      • Fr. W. M. Gardner

        Mr. Storck,
        I think this is rather disingenuous and unfair. Has charting or measuring signs of fertility/infertility been used manifestly by Catholics at any time during the history of the Church prior to the 20th Century? There apparently is evidence that the Manicheans used periodic continence, which St. Augustine condemned.
        And your quote from St. Thomas above seems to affirm that it is precisely uncertainty (mystery, or “chance,” if you will) that protects the virtue of married couples. Since as long as the couple believes that procreation is possible, even if in fact it is not, they would be acting in accord with the virtue of marital continence as described by St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and I believe also St. Thomas. Yet these also affirm that marital relations when procreation is not possible is lawful.
        If you were to place periodic continence (of itself) in one of three
        categories, which would you choose: 1. promoting conception; 2. neutral with regard to conception; 3. against conception? Thank you.

        • Thomas Storck

          Fr. Gardner,

          I didn’t say that anyone had actually said that one should chart so as to abstain during the fertile period, I said it followed logically from their premises. Have you looked at the comment of one Matthew below? He seems to hold the opinion that engaging in the marital act anytime the wife is probably not fertile is a venial sin, e.g., during pregnancy, when another conception is impossible. As I said, that logic would lead to the notion that one should chart one’s cycles so as to engage in intercourse only during the fertile time. And, of course, if the wife gets pregnant then, abstain until after childbirth. And then repeat the process.
          St. Thomas in the quote did not refer to any uncertainty. “if it happens the woman is sterile” – he didn’t say if she might be sterile, i.e. if there were a doubt. In fact, the entire point of what he said was that the couple was not acting against nature or sinning if the act was completed in its integrity even if the woman was sterile.
          The logic that some are exhibiting here is that intercourse is forbidden (at least under pain of venial sin) during pregnancy,
          after a wife’s fertile years, if the wife or husband is known to be sterile – and of course during the normal infertile time of a cycle, except perhaps for the “grave reasons” they continue to insist on. This is not what the magisterium teaches.

          • redfish

            I think it depends on what you think the nature of morality is — whether its in the physical nature of the acts, or the spirit in which the acts are done. If I understand correctly, the point of view taken by those who disagree with natural family planning is that any act of sex should involve an openness to pregnancy. If a couple doesn’t make a chart of the wife’s cycle, but they know she’s not infertile, they are no less open to pregnancy as a result of an act of sex. They can still expect a pregnancy any time. In this case, more scrupulosity doesn’t make the acts more moral, and less scrupulosity doesn’t make the acts less moral. The morality in this case is in the spirit in which the acts are done, not the physical results.

            I’m a non-Catholic reader of this site, so I’m not primarily interested in what the official position of the Church really is. I am, however, an admirer of many Catholic moral thinkers, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and am in tune with many Catholic moral arguments. I don’t think, as it were, the use of natural family planning is some irredeemable, damnable act, or think those who use this method should be harshly judged for it. I do think the approach of many Catholics ends up sending mixed messages in a culture that’s saturated with a liberal view of sexuality.

            To begin with, the way lay Catholics often talk about this issue is by stressing that abstinence, whether in celibacy, or within a relationship, is something hard and painstaking to do. While they still encourage it as a noble act done for moral or spiritual good, its not really true at all, and has the opposite effect of scaring people off chastity. Young people are already encouraged to believe that having sex is something you need, something that’s important in life, and if you turn in any way from that — because of the difficulty in doing so — you’ll be repressive and will end up molesting children. The truth is, abstinence is actually very easy; its just a choice. That choice may run against your social influences and it may be a hard decision to run against those influences to make that choice; but once you decide to make the choice, its easy. This should be a point of moral leaders to make; not a repeat of “its so hard not to have sex.”

            Modern Americans also take for granted the idea that marriage is about sex — to the point that they don’t even imagine children entering the picture until as an afterthought — and the sex-centeredness of modern marriage, I think, is damaging a lot of marriages. Sex becomes the glue which holds them together during their early relationship, then when they’re raising children, and naturally stop having as much sex, the marriage starts falling apart. They bicker and argue, and can’t get along. Then, in old age, many couples turn to things like role-playing to stimulate their sex life and continue being a happily married couple. They think its necessary for their marriage. Its not, and its bad when thought necessary. Relationships should not depend on sex as a glue. Moral leaders should also make that point, and not focus unduly on the emotionally bonding nature of sex. There are bigger things a marriage should be dependent on, and other things couples can bond with.

            And, finally, a lot of people looking in from the outside are deeply confused why the Church treats it as morally okay for knowingly infertile couples to have sex, but its condemnable act for gay couples in a lifelong union to have sex. Yes, a social relationship oriented towards procreation still might be categorically different than one that isn’t. But the moral importance of the relationship isn’t primarily in its nature in respect to society, its in nature in respect to the two individuals involved. An act isn’t sinful because its done contrary to some useful social category or some natural order, but because its harmful to one’s soul. Ultimately, sins can’t be anything but personal, irrespective of the natural order of things. Consistency would either demand that either gay couples not be judged so harshly, or infertile couples be given equal judgment. Maybe both, in the same degree.

            I’m one of those people looking from the outside in, and the approach many Catholics take to this is frustrating, because of the mixed messages; because it makes it difficult to honestly address modern social issues. I think advocates for natural family planning are right in protecting Catholics who practice this from being damned for it. But it creates problems when you don’t start with a strong center. Which is that sex is primarily procreative. Then, allowances can be created around that center. Its just as if I were to say eating should center around feeding oneself, that straying from that ideal leads to gluttonous behavior, and then point out that not every person who has snacks once in a while is a heathen damned to hell. Nor are people who sometimes procrastinate, or have slept in late once in a while, rather than soldier on every day of their lives against acedia and take no time to breathe. Morality I think is a dialogue about ideals, and defending ideals, and then you go from ideals to reality, and try to accommodate reality.

            • Thomas Storck

              Well, obviously the Church needs to address misunderstandings about sex among the Faithful. But that has little to do with NFP. Bishops and priests might begin by preaching against contraception.

          • Matthew

            To clarify, I do not believe it is improper to engage in the marital act if the wife *may* not be fertile but only when it is impossible to be fertile. And even then there are some exceptions, not the least of which is a remedy for a grave temptation. This does not extend to cases where the wife is infertile either due to age or some defect.

            • Matthew

              *I.e., it is permissible to engage in the marital act when one of the spouses is unable to conceive or when the wife has passed child-bearing years.

          • Colby

            Also, in regards to the charge that NFP *controls births* or is *against conception*, I think the point (with all due respect to Fr. Gardner who raised the objection) is not so much that NFP “controls” births, but that it does so in a way that is fully in conformity with the natural law, when undertaken for just reasons. We should not lose sight of that fact. It has been affirmed by numerous popes, so we can take it as an unassailable truth.

            As quoted in the article: ““We affirmed the legitimacy and at the same time the limits—truly very wide—of that controlling of births which, UNlike the so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with God’s law.” (Pius XII)

            Also: “the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus
            controlling birth in a way which does NOT IN THE LEAST offend the moral principles which We have just explained.” (Paul VI) emphases mine

            to say nothing of all the times that Pope John Paul II affirmed the legitimacy of the practice.

            So instead of continuing to show how the two practices (one opposed to the natural law, the other unopposed to it) are supposedly similar, and blur the lines, we (and I speak to the providentialists) should be highlighting (as the Church has repeatedly done) the differences.

    • Colby

      As far as I can tell, what some providentialists regard as “mutually masturbatory” (in and of itself), is precisely the use of marriage during the infertile time, which they regard as sterile sex (even though the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved). That is a view that I’ve never heard repeated by any moral theologian. If this characterization were correct, then the Church could not have approved NFP, as the practice would be inherently immoral, whatever the reason. Their starting point seems to be that THE only purpose/end of the sexual act is procreation, and I think that this is causing some confusion in their understanding of NFP.

  • N. Turner

    As an NFP teacher, I don’t agree with the various folks who admonish NFP users for their “sin” (venial or otherwise), but it occurred to me that it could be helpful for the “traditionalists” in this conversation to remember the words of St. Francis de Sales and relate them to this issue: “St. Augustine says very admirably that beginners in devotion are wont to commit certain faults which, while they are blameworthy according to the strict laws of perfection, are yet praiseworthy by reason of the promise they hold forth of a future excellent goodness, to which they actually tend. […] So, my child, we must think well of those whom we see practicing virtues, although imperfectly, since the Saints have done the like” (Francis de Sales, “Introduction to the Devout Life,” April 2002 English edition, Part 3, Chapter 2).

    All that to say, if you must insist that NFP is venially sinful, then praise its adherents for being closer to perfect virtue than those who use artificial contraceptives and the like, and turn your concerns to your own pursuit of virtue, trusting the spiritual advisers of others to lead them likewise.

    • James

      Excellent point.

      Sometimes Catholics in more conservative parishes or online can forget just how much contraception is part of secular culture. Contraception is seen as virtuous, with the side-effects and other problems seen as a matter of self-sacrifice. NFP is very countercultural. Even “secular NFP” is countercultural, as seen by a recent petition to ban a secular book criticizing the pill and promoting natural methods.

      This is why I would be careful to criticize not only couples who are using NFP, but couples who are even trying NFP, even if they aren’t practicing it “according to the strict laws of perfection”.

      Marital issues are complex and complicated and are best handled by appropriate spiritual advisers, not strangers in a combox.

  • Sancte_Alphonsus

    I think this article is one big straw man. Traditional Catholics are not opposed to NFP but the abuse of NFP; the NFP ‘lifestyle.’ The abuse of NFP has fostered a contraceptive mentality among Catholics who look for a ‘legitimate’ alternative to contraceptives. When my wife and I took NFP courses, as part of the Diocesan marriage requirements, we sat elbow to elbow w/ people who could care less about ‘just causes’ – people who were taking the class because they had to and the selling point of it all was that it was ‘all natural’ and ‘more effective’ than artificial contraception. This is the way NFP is still marketed today and quite successfully. The term ‘just cause’ has all but disappeared from the discussion in the mainstream Catholic media and now NFP is seen as a good – the practice of which builds virtue. This is what traditionalists are fighting against and rightly so!

    A much needed sermon on the practice of NFP by a Priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter can be listened to here:

    http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20120212-The-Sanctity-of-Marriage-The-Duty-of-Motherhood-Versus-the-Abuses-of-NFP.html

    • BrianKillian

      You’re overlooking an important psychological truth about the abuse of things. The things that have the most danger of abuse are things that are easy, pleasurable, comfortable, attractive, etc.

      But abstinence is hard, painful, difficult, and repugnant to the flesh. That makes it a very poor candidate for abuse. Worrying about people abusing NFP is like worrying that someone who has to take a bitter medicine might enjoy the taste too much.

      NFP as a bitter medicine that circumstances force people to take. So the whole idea of NFP abuse is irrational.

      • Sancte_Alphonsus

        So NFP is an absolute good in your eyes? That viewpoint is precisely why traditional Catholics are up in arms.

        You know the rosary is a good thing too… but if one is praying the rosary all day long to the neglect of their children it’s not that the rosary has become bad it’s that the use of it is improper and disordered and thus offensive to Our Lord.

        NFP used within it’s proper context of justice is permissible and is a good. Outside of that framework it is sinful which is why the Church has stated that there must be a just cause. When the case of necessity ends so does the NFP.

        • BrianKillian

          Still doesn’t make sense. If abstinence is almost universally hated by spouses because it’s difficult and painful, how does it follow that people would start viewing it as an “absolute good”?

          Your assumptions about NFP and the people that use it have no basis in reality.

          • Sancte_Alphonsus

            What are my assumptions that have no basis in reality? Please do a search of my name here and read my few comments. It’s all based on reality I assure you.

            You state that the abuse of NFP is irrational because it’s difficult to practice it. Ultimately what you’re saying is that if something is difficult it’s ‘irrational’ to believe that it can be abused?

            • Frank

              He’s saying that your characterization of his position, that either he or other couples refer to NFP as an “absolute good”, does not make sense. He didn’t say NFP is an “absolute good”, you did. People tend not to consider something that’s painful to be an “absolute good.” The fact that it is painful renders it an unlikely candidate for abuse, and hence your concern misplaced.

              I will add that another position you advocate does not make sense, or at least is not consistent with Catholic teaching. You are correct to highlight that couples can abstain during the fertile time for “just cause.” But then you went far beyond “just cause” by explaining “when the case of ‘necessity’ ends so does NFP.” The words “just” and “necessary” are not even synonyms. The Church does not define “just cause”, but as Pope Pius XII said about abstinence during the fertile time, “the limits [are]—truly very wide….”

              Above, you mention that praying the Rosary can be abused. That is true. But, I wonder, do you spend as much time warning Catholics about abusing the Rosary as you do warning them about abusing NFP? I respectfully suggest we should spend about the same amount of time on both problems because neither one is very likely. When Catholics can stop arguing with each other about non-issues, we can make some real progress converting the rest of the world to the beauty of our Faith. May God bless you.

              • Thomas Storck

                Frank, very well said. Thank you.

              • Sancte_Alphonsus

                You said that Brian is “saying that your characterization of his position, that either he or other couples refer to NFP as an ‘absolute good’, does not make sense.” Actually he was saying the abuse of NFP is irrational because it’s essentially a difficult thing to which I replied he must think it’s an absolute good if it can’t be abused. I was showing the irrationality of his own statement for only an absolute good cannot be abused.

                I reiterated what the Church has said that one must have a just cause and that NFP is prone to abuse when it’s presented without the just cause qualification and for that I’m told my position is irrational, I need to stand corrected etc.. Something is obviously amiss here.

                You mention that the Church has not defined ‘just cause’ and your are partially right as to specifics but Pope Pius XII did define some general applications such as medical, eugenic, economic, and social factors which shed some light on what could possibly be a sufficient reason.

                You also take me to task for saying that when the just cause for using NFP ceases to exist then so does the practice of NFP. How could this be otherwise? If you’re using NFP because you live under China’s one child policy and a pregnancy could mean a forced abortion, imprisonment, sterilization etc… and then you immigrate to America the reason you had for initially using NFP ceases to exist. Absent another just cause you would be making an immoral use of NFP. Similarly, if you miss Mass because you’re ill there is no sin – yet if you continue to miss Mass when you’re no longer ill you sin.

                The FSSP Priest in the sermon I linked to wraps all this up beautifully. Listen to it and see if you disagree with anything he says:

                http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20120212-The-Sanctity-of-Marriage-The-Duty-of-Motherhood-Versus-the-Abuses-of-NFP.html

                • BrianKillian

                  NFP critics aren’t arguing that NFP *can* be abused, they are claiming that NFP is *widely* abused. And I’m saying that doesn’t make sense. The way NFP abuse is talked about, you’d think abstinence was like crack cocaine or something. But of course it’s not.

                  It’s more like a bitter medicine that people only tolerate when circumstances require it. And then they move on when it’s not needed anymore. Does that sound like an absolute good to you? It’s sounds to me like a relative good.

                  I’m saying that the whole ‘traditionalist’ idea that NFP has become mainly a way of avoiding parental responsibilities is…

                  A) implausible on a psychological level, and…

                  B) refuted by the larger than usual family sizes of couple who have used NFP.

                  It’s both irrational and inconsistent with the facts. So it’s on your side that something is amiss. You are out of touch with the reality of NFP and how and why it’s used. You are criticizing a fantasy that only exists in your minds.

                  • Sancte_Alphonsus

                    And why do people think NFP is widely abused? The answer is quite simple; because those who teach it, and those who market it, conveniently leave out any moral requirements for using NFP. If it’s not being taught it’s not being learned and consequently not being put into practice.

                    Go to the USCCB website and click on NFP and tell me if you can find any mention of needing a ‘just cause’ for using NFP. Go to the couple to couple league and do the same. Go to your Diocesan website and search… let me know your results.

                    • Art Deco

                      Princess, why not devote your attention to the ‘widespread abuse’ of NFP to such times and places where there actually is widespread use of NFP (which is to say nowhere in the occidental world outside of Malta)?

                    • Margaret

                      Um it took me less than a minute to do so. Here is the quote from their document “Married Love and the Gift of Life”.

                      “The Church teaches that a couple may generously decide to have a large family, or may for serious reasons choose not to have more children for the time being or even for an indefinite period (Humanae Vitae, no. 10). In married life, serious circumstances—financial, physical, psychological, or those involving responsibilities to other family members—may arise to make an increase in family size untimely. The Church understands this, while encouraging couples to take a generous view of children.”

                      It’s the second document on this link: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/index.cfm

                      I teach for SymptoPro with Northwest Family Services and we absolutely discuss morality and what the church teaches on family planning. You saying that methods do not teach it is not based in my experience of reality having taught and also previously taken a CCL class. There is a whole section on it in our book and we give out copies of Humanae Vitae as part of the materials to every couple.

                    • Margaret

                      Also I appreciate you saying that you aren’t accusing individuals of abuse, but when you talk about widespread abuse you SOUND as if you are accusing the vast majority of people using it of abusing it, which you would have no way of knowing anyway. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that you dislike the way it is promoted and think it is being promoted improperly? That would seem to more closely match your concerns and make those of us who have had need to use it feel less judged.

                    • Sancte_Alphonsus

                      I stand corrected on the USCCB site. Thanks,

          • Nathan

            Brian wrote “If abstinence is almost universally hated by spouses because it’s
            difficult and painful, how does it follow that people would start
            viewing it as an “absolute good”?”

            Because it allows them to forgo having children–a much more difficult and painful thing in their eyes–indefinitely. Is it really that hard to see how it could be abused?

            • WSquared

              …and you know that NFP-users are necessarily going to use it to not have children indefinitely how exactly? Someone switching from contraception to NFP might be scared in the beginning, but you neglect that NFP plus prayerful discernment plus the sacraments received worthily can change people’s hearts as they give God more of the “in” that He needs to operate in their lives.

              Have you so much time on your hands that you can spend it worrying about non-issues and presuming that you know God’s will for everyone (and who, therefore, is necessarily being disobedient)?

            • RV

              Total abstinence enables a couple to forgo having children. Personally, I think that traditionalists are abusing total abstinence. These chaste single people are only choosing that lifestyle because they don’t want to be burdened with children.

              😀

        • RV

          NFP is morally neutral. It’s a tool. The way in which it is employed has moral implications. When we refuse to teach NFP, we encourage recourse to contraception when the “serious” circumstances which require postponing a pregnancy arise. It often happens suddenly, after all.

    • Margaret

      Please re-read your post. You assume to know an awful lot about other people’s intentions and motives for using NFP. With all due respect, my husband and I do NOT owe our explanation our use of NFP to the people around us we meet. How do you know that abuse is rampant? Have you discerned it for the couples who use it? How have you detected this abuse and sin in couples who don’t even live near you?There are many reasons people end up using NFP to space or limit births and many of them are very private and sometimes painful. I would beg of you to please be careful of judging the intimate aspects of other marriages
      I teach NFP and my husband and I together discuss it at pre-Cana classes. My experience across several methods has been that just reasons are discussed, so this idea that it has been dropped from NFP promoting institutions is news to me.
      We absolutely need more witnesses to the beauty of children and sacrifice for having them. We need witnesses of generosity like you and your wife. I think we can positively encourage people to embrace children. Certainly large families are an encouragement to me. Why can’t all faithful Catholics focus on treating fertility and children as blessings and encouraging generosity in one another without accusing others of selfishness or contraception?

      • Sancte_Alphonsus

        Hi Margaret,

        Do a search for my name in these posts and you will see that I never judge an individual’s use of NFP since I do not know all the facts.

        How do I know abuse is rampant? Because of the mainstream “conservative” Catholic media which endorses and markets a version of NFP which is at odds or completely ignores the ‘just cause’ principle. Listen to the sermon I linked to – Greg Popcak is only one of many media figures pushing NFP as a lifestyle – a default marital life intentionally devoid of the primary reason for marriage (the begetting and education of offspring) until one decides to have children – with or without cause. Read the many comments here where one gentleman states that to say NFP can be abused is irrational. That statement itself is irrational.

        I’m glad you discuss ‘just cause’ in your NFP class. In mainstream Catholic media it doesn’t appear to be the norm and in my diocese (which is considered very orthodox) it is often ignored and the Gregory Popcak version is employed. EWTN has diminished the ‘just cause’ principle itself when on it’s Q&A years ago a Priest was telling people that because the Pope recently didn’t mention just causes when discussing NFP that therefore it’s not to be taken into consideration anymore. Really? Let’s apply that across the board and see what happens.

  • Chris

    Please don’t take this as ad hominem, but this article is embarrassingly bad — it as almost as if the author has taken no time to even read what the critics of NFP zealotry have written. Either that, or Mr. Storck is also opposed to NFP zealotry and has written this article so embarrassingly bad in mockery of the positions stated. Really, dreadful.

    • Thomas Storck

      Dear Chris,

      It’s true that I did not intend to engage the arguments of the anti-NFP people. In the
      face of the papal statements, I don’t believe they have a leg to stand on.

      I did address though their strange notion that – as someone put it in these comments – NFP users want to have 2.1 children, when in fact they usually have more than the Catholic average. But I’m afraid that I cannot overcome my amazement at those who would spend time attacking Catholics who use a perfectly legitimate method to space or limit their family size instead of working to get other Catholics to stop committing at least material mortal sins day in and day out.

      If you find that “embarrassingly bad” – well, I guess we disagree.

      • Chris

        Dear Mr. Storck,

        It’s embarrassing because if you had read the critique of reasoned critics of those who treat NFP as if it is an unqualified good, you might have offered a better treatment over the “curious” controversy over NFP. One might surmise that in an article that takes aim at supposed anti-NFP “types,” you would be literate in their points — and not straw men. That said, the fact that NFP has been so collectively unpopular with average Catholics — and, as such, a complete failure as a rejoinder to the contraception craze, one might argue that it is time to employ a different strategy beyond, “hey, we have family planning too.” Maybe it is time to call Catholics to heroic parenthood — not responsible parenthood.

        In all due respect.

        • Thomas Storck

          Maybe it’s time to listen to the voice of the Church and not condemn our fellow Catholics who are doing nothing wrong.

          • Chris

            Again, with all due charity, who is condemning anyone using NFP? If you want to write an article that has a take on the “curious” controversy over NFP, one might think you would have taken the time to understand the controversialists; correct? In any event, NFP has been a galactic failure and is, at least the way it is presented by “authorities” such as yourself, radically at odds with Catholic patrimony. It is a dispensation from the normative marital relationship for those with serious and just reasons — not a way of life, not a mystical wonder, and not an unqualified good. I would agree that most Catholics who bother to use NFP are well-minded, observant Catholics but NFP — as an ideology and contra-moral theology — has only diluted the traditional Catholic teaching. We need large families –God wants large families — thanks for doing your small part in subverting that message.

            • Colby

              Chris, here is an article on *heroic parenthood* that I found very helpful: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?id=251

            • Thomas Storck

              Christ wrote ” who is condemning anyone using NFP?”
              Maybe, just maybe, among others, the person who wrote, ” In any event, NFP has been a galactic failure and is, at least the way it is presented by “authorities” such as yourself, radically at odds with Catholic patrimony. It is a dispensation from the normative marital relationship for those with serious and just reasons — not a way of life, not a mystical wonder, and not an unqualified good…. NFP — as an ideology and contra-moral theology — has only diluted the traditional Catholic teaching.”
              And Chris wonders who is attacking NFP?

              • Thomas Storck

                Oophs – that should be “Chris wrote,” not “Christ wrote.”

              • Leila Miller

                I wonder if Chris will catch the irony?

              • Jenny

                Mr. Storck, I think it begs the question: Why are you defending NFP in such an extreme way? All that Chris wrote is true. Why are you upset by it?

              • Nathan

                Or, maybe you don’t understand English. When someone merely writes about the failure of NFP as a response to the culture’s contraceptive mentality, why do you have to accuse him of “teaching either that NFP is not legitimate or who are teaching that the conditions for its licit use are narrower than those proposed by the Church”? Why can’t you address the substance of what he said instead of attributing to him something he has not said?

          • Sancte_Alphonsus

            Thomas,

            Perhaps you should identify these ‘traditionalists’ who completely oppose NFP no matter what, lay out their argument, and then present your case against them. Who are these folks? Are these a few anonymous individuals on the internet? If so, why bother? On the other hand if you’re making reference to the likes of certain papers with a traditional bent … I’ve never read anything condemning NFP – only the abuses in which case I stand by the assertion that you’ve set up a nice straw man with this article.

            • Thomas Storck

              If you’re not aware of individuals who are teaching either that NFP is not legitimate or who are teaching that the conditions for its licit use
              are narrower than those proposed by the Church, you’re not aware of sources and people that I am. I have no idea how many they are, but I know of Catholic couples whose consciences have been disturbed by their propaganda. I have no intention of addressing the arguments that the anti-NFP people bring up because I don’t think they have any weight and I don’t even want to call attention to their websites. But if you’ve read many of the comments here, you’ll get some flavor or what they say. The Church’s stance is more than clear, and that should be enough for any Catholic.

            • Leila Miller

              Check Jenny’s recent comment. And please stand corrected.

              • Jenny

                I am not against NFP. I even said that my husband and I use it. Your comments really are getting out of hand, Leila.

  • Lynn

    I used NFP for a number of years for just causes which absolutely would not have been obvious to anyone, and were only know to those closest to me. I figure, if anybody is actually willing to not have sex in order to not have babies, that’s a sacrifice, and it’s none of my business what their reasoning is. I do understand that NFP can be used in a selfish way, but I can’t imagine that it’s very awfully selfish, since, again, it is a significant sacrifice. I would agree that our time is better spent promoting NFP to the contracepting folks, than it is sifting the “good” NFP users from the “selfish” ones.

    • Leila Miller

      Lynn, amen! Thank you for saying it so well!

    • WSquared

      “I would agree that our time is better spent promoting NFP to the
      contracepting folks, than it is sifting the “good” NFP users from the
      “selfish” ones.”

      Agreed. And moreover, what makes any of those who are obsessed with abuses of NFP so sure that they can TELL who the “good” and “selfish” NFP users are?

      Some people have way too much time on their hands.

  • Guest

    Thank you so much for writing this article!! I am an instructor of The Ovulation Method (NFP) and it was the critics you refer to in your article that prompted me to write an article, “Defending Life Through MFP- Moral Family Planning”: http://familynfp.blogspot.com/2013/07/defending-life-through-mfp-moral-family.html
    I so appreciate you offering this solid perspective. Thanks!! KC

  • Schnitker Kimberly

    Thank you so much for writing this article!! I am an instructor of The Ovulation Method (NFP) and it was the critics you refer to in your article that prompted me to write an article, “Defending Life Through MFP- Moral Family Planning”: http://familynfp.blogspot.com/2013/07/defending-life-through-mfp-moral-family.html
    I so appreciate you offering this solid perspective. Thanks!! KC

  • Thomas Storck

    For those who have contended that I’ve set up a straw man, and that no one really takes the positions I argue against, the following comment just appeared far down in this thread. It illustrates well the mentality of those whom I refer to as “anti-NFP.”
    “Leila, your statement `We must be rejoicing every time we see couples turn from contraception and embrace morally licit forms of regulating births’ is disordered. Using NFP shouldn’t be a joyful or desirable thing to do. It should be seen as a burden and an undesirable action that, due to serious reasons, has to be used for the time being. This mindset that the couple should determine each month if they can welcome a child into the family is disordered and wrong, yet it is propagated like crazy. Many in the church push NFP like it is a good and necessary thing for all couples to use and that is a shame because it is leading to an abuse of NFP. A couple who understands the true meaning of marriage and of the sexual act will not feel like they are “jumping off of a cliff” because they would view children as a blessing and the `supreme gift of marriage’.”

    • Leila Miller

      Amen, Mr. Storck. That comment horrified me.

      • Jenny

        That was my comment. Why is it horrifying? NFP is sometimes necessary. My 6th child was born a year ago by c section and my husband and I have been using NFP since then to avoid another pregnancy in order to give my body time to heal. So, I have no problem with NFP and I’m certainly not “anti NFP” like Mr. Storck claims. Look, as Catholics we need to be pursuing heroic parenthood. We need to embrace the idea that the main purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. If it is absolutely necessary for serious reasons, then NFP can be used. But, it shouldn’t be considered the norm. And, it absolutely should not be taught to engaged couples. Period. It is nonsensical. “You’re about to enter into marriage, the primary purpose of which is to procreate and raise a family. So, let me teach you how to avoid having children.” It makes no sense.

        • Fr. W. M. Gardner

          If I may speak for Jenny, although she writes entirely well for herself, I think she means that the true Catholic alternative to contraceptive drugs, devices, and surgeries is babies. And, therefore, when couples need to resort to periodic continence even licitly it is an unfortunate situation. So you are correct, Leila, in comparison to using intrinsically evil means of birth regulation, the use of periodic continence is much better. But, as Christopher Gawley has written so well, it is not ideal when couples cannot be completely open to life; that is, when they cannot forego any form of birth regulation whatsoever.

          Thank you both for your generous approach to family life, which is truly heroic. I think part of the concern here is how to cultivate this virtue in others, especially in young people, even the children of large families. In other words, what is the message that is being sent when birth regulation is widely promoted?

          • Jenny

            Thank you, Father. You expressed my thoughts perfectly. What you wrote is exactly the point I was trying to convey.

          • Colby

            Father Gardner,

            It is indeed true that having a large family is consonant with Catholic idealism. It is an ideal, no question.

            However, when the ideal is presented as the necessity, it can leave some feeling like they don’t quite measure up, and it can leave them rather discouraged, and prone to giving up.

            We can attempt to live up to the ideal, and some will fall short, but I don’t think we need to let the perfect be the enemy of the good (didn’t St. Thomas Aquinas say that?)

            I have seen some people elsewhere say that our specific duty upon embarking on the sacrament of marriage is to have however many children God sends, and that to do anything to stand in the way (barring something catastrophic) is NOT adequately fulfilling our duty. (It would seem to be breaking our marriage vows in fact, if this is true.) The woman who said this is the youngest of 16, and thus sensitive to arguments for spacing.

            Nevertheless, my understanding is a little different. It is that being open to life means to be open to the possibility of new life, and to preserve the intrinsic nature of the marriage act. To act in this manner would seem to me to be faithful to the teaching of the Church, presupposing a well-grounded reason.

            Thus, having a larger than ordinary family would be going above and beyond the call of duty. And the Church certainly gives special mention to those couples. They have admirably answered the call to generosity (according to their means.) They are a witness to a world in darkness.

            (As are those legitimately practicing periodic continence. If this seems like a stretch, I am only repeating the words of Bl. JP II) ”
            A very valuable witness can and should be given by
            those husbands and wives who, through the joint exercise of periodic continence, have reached a more mature personal responsibility with regard to love and
            life. As Paul VI wrote: “To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to people the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the mutual love of husband and wife with their cooperation with the love of God the author of human life.”

            Perhaps one would argue that he is addressing those with the gravest of reasons to avoid pregnancy, or those who abstain for months at a time without regard to fertility, but I think the meaning is fairly straightforward.

            I guess the question becomes what constitutes “openness to life.” Not to nitpick, but it seems there are divergent thoughts on this point.

            My last point would be that it seems to me as though Mr. Gawley has pitted generous/heroic parenthood against responsible parenthood, when in fact it is only one aspect of responsible parenthood. Responsible parenthood does not preclude generous parenthood, as if the two are in opposition. Seen in that light, the Church has taught that there are TWO ways to exercise responsible parenthood.

            I am going by what the Church has stated, as a moral norm, or basis for action, not what the mind of the Church might have been prior to the science of fertility becoming known and promoted.

            For what it’s worth, I have *only* five children at this point, yet my daughter stood up to her doctor and indicated that she would like to have a large family when she grows up. I agree with Leila, that there needn’t be concern with our children being closed to life just because their parents practice NFP.

          • Thomas Storck

            Fr. Gardner,

            I am afraid that I cannot entirely agree. You wrote, “it is not ideal when couples cannot be completely open to life; that is, when they cannot forego any form of birth regulation whatsoever” and from the context, “any form of birth regulation” includes NFP.
            So, why do I object to this? If a couple marry in their early or mid 20s, and never use NFP, except perhaps breast feeding as a means of spacing, they could easily have 8, 10, 12 or more children by the time that the wife’s fertility ends. Not every couple has the emotional or financial means to handle such a family. Nor is it a requirement, nor has the Church ever said that it is. The Church does not insist on heroic virtue on the part of every Catholic. If she did we would all be members of the most strict sort of religious orders.
            In some cases it would be a sin against prudence for a couple to have so many children when they cannot properly manage such a large family, just as it would be a sin against prudence for a man to embrace the religious life if he was fairly sure that he could not live up to its obligations.

            • Jenny

              Mr. Storck,
              Every couple who marries should expect to have a large family. Not all will, of course, but that should be the expectation. Shockingly, young couples used to marry and have a lot of children. What a blessing to be blessed with 8, 10, 12 or more children during the course of their marriage! It is this mentality of “heaven forbid we should have so many children!” that is so prevalent within the church today that is so bothersome to me. If we truly viewed children as precious blessings from God and the supreme gift of marriage, then we would want many of them; we wouldn’t avoid them or limit them.
              NFP should never be the default; it is a dispensation from the normal marital duties. I say this as a wife and mother who went from being a contraceptive using non Catholic, to a contraceptive using Catholic, to an NFP (because I can’t handle any more children!) using Catholic, to currently moving into the stage of viewing- children- as- a- blessing- and -NFP- as- an -unfortunate -and -hopefully- unnecessary -tool Catholic.
              You obviously have a love for the church and her teachings. Why not use your writing ability to promote the authentic teaching of the Church with regards to marriage and children?

              • Art Deco

                Jenny, I think the total fertility rate in Quebec prior to 1960 was 4.0. People in non-agrarian societies are not nearly as fecund as you imagine.

                • Jenny

                  We need a 2.1 fertility rate in order to have population growth. 4.0 is outstanding!

              • Thomas Storck

                Jenny wrote, “Why not use your writing ability to promote the authentic teaching of the Church with regards to marriage and children?”

                Can you show us where in the teaching of the magisterium there is support for the assertions you make here, e.g., that “Every couple who marries should expect to have a large family”?

                • Jenny

                  The teaching of the Church is that the purpose of marriage is two fold: the primary reason being the procreation and education of children; secondary reasons being unity of the couple and a remedy for concupiscience.
                  In their wedding vows, a Catholic couple accepts the responsibility to accept children lovingly from God and to raise them in the Church. The Church teaches that if, for serious (or just; whatever term you’d like to use. They both refer to the same thing) a couple may use periodic continence to avoid conception.

                  Catholic couples are called to be generous in their acceptance of children. In Genesis, we find the command “Be fruitful and multiply”. The catechism refers to children as the “supreme gift of marriage”. The church does not place any limitation on the number of children a couple has. With the exception of known sterility, a couple has no way of knowing how many children they will be blessed with. Since the purpose of marriage is to have and raise children, every couple should be prepared for and expect to have a large family. This will not be the case for every couple of course, but they need to be prepared for it.
                  NFP is not a good in and of itself. Anyone who promotes this is promoting a falsehood. The Church has never said that NFP is a good in and of itself. The idea that a couple FOR SERIOUS REASONS can utilize periodic continence is what the Church teaches. This should be rare and sorrowful. Many people have turned this teaching on it’s head and are now suggesting that NFP is a normal, necessary part of marriage. There are people on this thread who suggest that NFP should be taught to couples who have or are currently contracepting. This is also wrong. The ends don’t justify the means. What should be taught is the beauty and the authentic meaning of marriage and sex. To be sure, using NFP is less sinful than using contraception. But, if it is used in a casual manner, it is still sinful.

                  • Thomas Storck

                    Jenny,

                    None of the things you’ve said constitute a teaching of the Church that every couple should expect to have a large family. Of course, if a large number of pregnancies occur, the parents must welcome the children that God has given them. But insofar as you’re stated correct general principles, there is nothing in those that you’ve stated that require us to take the view of NFP that you do.

                    Secondly, I find it curious that you write, “The Church teaches that if, for serious (or just; whatever term you’d like to use” Wow, it’s not I that chose the term, it’s Paul VI in Humanae Vitae #16. But the term you’d like to use becomes very clear, since a minute later you write, “The idea that a couple FOR SERIOUS REASONS can utilize periodic continence is what the Church teaches.” I’m afraid you’re simply making this up since it appears nowhere except in the mistranslation of Humanae Vitae I mention in my article.
                    BTW, the argument about whether NFP is “good in and of itself” – I think this is a red herring and does not help to clarify the question at all.

                    • Jenny

                      Mr. Storck, are you saying that couples don’t have to have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy? Because you are absolutely wrong if that is the case. It appears nowhere? How about in Pius XII’s address to midwives? Which is cited on the USCCB website as well, which I will provide the link to here: http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/seriousq.shtml
                      This information in this link posted by the USCCB answers the question of “What the Church teaches on the moral spacing and limiting of births by spouses”.
                      Paul VI also refers to “serious and just reasons”.
                      A couple must absolutely need a serious reason to use NFP. I’m not making it up. Not only that, but Pius XII also says that if a couple is confining intercourse to the sterile days only then their conduct “needed to be examined”.
                      I’m beginning to question both your motives with regards to NFP and your knowledge of Church teaching.

                    • Colby

                      Jenny, this is the pertinent section.

                      “If therefore there are WELL-GROUNDED reasons for spacing births, arising
                      from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from
                      external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take
                      advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage
                      in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus
                      controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral
                      principles which We have just explained. (20) Humanae Vitae no. 16

                    • Thomas Storckq

                      Dear Jenny,

                      If you read my HPR article which is linked from the Crisis article, you’ll see that I address Pius XII’s Address to Midwives and point out that his talk about “serious reasons” was directed to those who propose not having any children at all or very few. He wrote, “Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called ‘indications,’ may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.”
                      Why do you think that the Catechism (2368) speaks of “just reasons”?

                    • Jenny

                      If a reason to avoid the gift of children is “just” it must also be “serious”. You can’t have a just reason without it being serious, otherwise remarks made by popes and the Church herself wouldn’t be applicable. I fear that you are misleading Catholics when you talk about a “misinterpretation of Humanae Vitae”. I’ve never heard of this before. The USCCB doesn’t refer to this either in the link that I shared with you above. Here is the link again. http://old.usccb.org/prolife/i… I really think you need to clarify.

                    • Thomas Storck

                      Jenny,
                      I’m assuming you read both my and Angela Bonilla’s HPR articles linked above – right? If you have, the whole matter should be clear to you. The phrase “justae causae” in Latin means “just causes.” Case closed. That’s why the Catechism speaks of just reasons.
                      Why do you think that a just reason must also be serious? “Serious” in English can have two different senses. E.g., serious meaning grave, important, weighty, as someone might say something like, “Without a serious [=grave, weighty] reason, you shouldn’t do that.” “Serious” can also mean “not frivolous,” as in “Are you being serious?” The senses are related but they are not the same. “Gravis” in Latin means serious in the sense of weighty, grave. It is NOT used in Humanae Vitae as a criterion for using periodic abstinence.
                      But again, if you actually read both articles linked above (including endnotes), this should be clear to you.

                    • Thomas Storck

                      Jenny,

                      Please see my previous reply immediately below. The link you gave to the USCCB did not work for me, but on the USCCB site they link to the Vatican’s site for the text of Humanae Vitae, which in the crucial passage from section 16 runs as follows:

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

                    • WSquared

                      None of the things you’ve said constitute a teaching of the Church that every couple should expect to have a large family.

                      Exactly, Mr. Storck. Well put. Might the apropos Latin words for what you’ve just pointed out be “Non Sequitur”?

              • WSquared

                Jenny, not every Catholic who marries marries young. A woman who for whatever reason marries at 40 cannot expect to have a family of 8-10 children.

        • Leila Miller

          I live in the Diocese of Phoenix, where we have one of the most heroic and humble and holy (and vilified by dissenters) bishops in the land: Bishop Thomas Olmsted. One of the best things he did to turn this diocese from a liberal hotbed into a thriving, grace-filled, amazing diocese was to require a full course of NFP for all engaged couples, most of whom are living together before marriage and fully plan to contracept. The couples are “forced” to learn Theology of the Body as well. It’s a recipe for success, as we are trying to reach a secular world (including “Catholics” who don’t know their faith at all).

          Father, I appreciate your gracious comment, but all I can hope for is that Jenny and you and everyone will read Simcha Fisher’s upcoming book, The Sinner’s Guide to NFP, which addresses so many of the issues that have been brought up here. She, by the way, has nine children. NFP has a funny way of working on the heart, softening it, opening it to new life… rather unlike the comments of well-meaning but extremely judgmental folks (like Jenny, sorry! But she is not alone) who in reality are just closing hearts to the truth, before they even have a chance to open. Again, look around at NFP users and promoters, and you will see folks with very large families.

          My daughter is getting married this month to a devout Catholic man. We are so thrilled that they are so faithful. They have been around all the NFP-users (and teachers) their whole lives and they themselves took the full course of NFP instruction. They have declared that they want ten kids, starting immediately. 🙂 So, Father, we needn’t worry about those children who grow up around NFP being “widely promoted”. They are the ones embracing big families.

          Bottom line, it is truly no one’s business to discern why any couple uses the information garnered from NFP. That is between a couple, God, and their spiritual director. And the Church says that is moral and licit. Anything can be used selfishly — anything. Goodness, marriage itself can be used selfishly, buying a home can be selfish, etc., but we don’t constantly give warnings about that to folks who get married, buy a house, etc.

          As I said in my article:

          [I}magine a couple, steeped in the values of a sexually confused culture, bravely doing what the Church asks of them, taking that leap of faith off a very scary cliff, only to be immediately lectured that even after giving up contraception there is every chance that they are still in the same gravely sinful place they were before, with only the tiniest sliver of hope that they are using NFP for the one or two reasons good enough to keep them out of hell!

          http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-nfp-plea-stop-giving-warnings-and.html

          People are fragile, and that is what they are hearing.

          • Jenny

            That is wonderful, Leila with regards to your diocese. Of course, we want to eradicate the use of contraception in Catholic and non Catholic couples alike. Like I said, NFP is sometimes necessary as I know from personal experience. And, I have 6 children like I mentioned. I don’t know how I come across as judgemental but say what you may. I’m only repeating the teaching of the church. As a side note, I will not recommend Simcha Fisher to anyone!! There are plenty of other devout, holy Catholics whom I’m sure offer a much more insightful, in line with Catholic teaching perspective on NFP.

        • BrianKillian

          Jenny, the people you imagine are abusing NFP are just like you, in similar circumstances. Are you abusing NFP? Then neither are they. Consider the circumstances you are in, and the reasons you have for using NFP. Do they seem rare to you?

          No, there are many, many people with circumstances and reasons just like you, and many other similar circumstances. Serious reasons are not uncommon today. We live in a culture that puts up all kinds of barriers to having children in additional to all the health issues.

          It’s only getting more difficult over time, which means those serious reasons for using NFP are becoming more and more common. They don’t become less serious because they are more common.

          Pope Pius XII said that the serious motives couple have for periodic continence arise “not rarely”. Well, that’s even more true today.

          Now combine that reality with the other reality that the default reaction to these kinds of difficult circumstances is to contracept, and you will see why NFP is so heavily promoted.

          Is it promoted because the mission of spouses has suddenly been replaced by its opposite? Is it promoted because abstinence has for some unknown, mysterious reason become an absolute good that people just can’t resist?

          No, it’s promoted because in the very common need today to space children, the Church has a hard sell of communicating a moral way to fulfill this legitimate need.

          • Jenny

            Brian, I don’t seek to judge anyone else’s motives at all. We live in a culture that is very secular and Catholic couples are faced with pressures and temptations to live a worldly lifestyle that they were not faced with in past generations, yet this isn’t an excuse to use NFP. Married couples are still called to be open to life and to be generous in their acceptance of children from God. The world has changed but the church, and her teachings, have not.

        • Colby

          But Jenny, did you know that the Holy Father (JPII) said the following:

          In
          this matter, [lawful birth regulation] while the church notes with
          satisfaction the results achieved by scientific research aimed at a
          more precise knowledge of the
          rhythms of women’s fertility, and
          while it encourages a more decisive and wide-ranging extension of that
          research, it cannot fail to call with renewed vigor on the
          responsibility of all–doctors, experts, marriage counselors, teachers
          and married couples–who can actually help married
          people to
          live their love with respect for the structure and finalities of the
          conjugal act which expresses that love. This implies a BROADER, MORE
          DECISIVE, and more systematic effort to make the natural methods of
          regulating fertility known, respected and applied.[97] Familiaris
          Consortio emphasis mine

          It would seem that many people would have
          this information suppressed, so as to preserve the “mystery” of
          fertility. So that people would be in the dark about this. As I see it,
          faith and reason are not opposed, and there are many times that people
          would take action that is in accord with right reason, as you have
          illustrated. But this is often frowned on when it involves the
          postponement of pregnancy.

          So when people (bishops for example)
          aim at making NFP better known they are criticized, instead of regarded
          as doing what the Pope charged.

          I think this is the curious thing
          the article is getting at. Why is this? You’ll notice that the author
          does not “push” NFP or suggest that one must practice it, not at all.
          Rather, the article is a defense of a legitimate practice against
          unreasonable opposition.

          Furthermore, knowledge of fertility is
          only half the battle! Systematic continence also is predicated on
          virtues of temperance and fortitude. I always thought this was a good
          thing (for a well-grounded reason), something to offer up for souls, but
          some people are saying instead that it’s a sin.

          (Jenny, this is
          addressed to you only indirectly, insofar as I wanted to share the
          quote from the encyclical that some people are at odds with.)

          • Jenny

            Colby, yes I am aware of JPII’s teachings! However, he (nor has any pope) ever suggested that NFP should be a normal part of every couple’s life. It is a tool that, when necessary, can be utilized by the married couple.

            • Colby

              Jenny, with all due respect, there are *some* couples for whom NFP would be a norm in their marriage, ‘required’ in their particular circumstances to limit their families. The popes say that for this, a very serious reason is needed, to excuse them from their positive duty to procreate. The Church permits such couples to contract marriage (even though they know they will not be able to bear children as freely as otherwise), because there are secondary ends. No one here is claiming that NFP should be a normal part of *every* couple’s marriage.

    • Jenny

      I’m not “anti NFP”. I’ve used/use NFP myself. What I am against is the abuse of NFP. Why is that so difficult for you and others to understand? I’ve seen you go after those commenters who eloquently defend marriage and the begetting of children, yet you are silent with those who oppose church teachings. Why? Incidentally, my husband was surprised to hear that a piece like this was published in Crisis magazine. It isn’t what he is accustomed to reading in Crisis.

      • Thomas Storck

        ” I’ve seen you go after those commenters who eloquently defend marriage and the begetting of children, yet you are silent with those who oppose church teachings. Why?”
        You mean, I suppose silent with those who use or accept contraception? Well, this article was about people who oppose NFP – a writer can hardly deal with every subject in one article. Have you read anything else that I’ve written? I frequently mention contraception and I have always insisted on a Catholic’s obligation to adhere to all the teaching of the Church without exception.

  • Schnitker Kimberly

    Even if couples start out using NFP to postpone pregnancy for less than grave reasons, they soon experience a conversion- the way they see each other is reoriented towards real love, they way they see children changes and so much more- because the child is reconnected to that ultimate act of love they share (the physical renewal of their wedding vows) either through, ‘we are willing to receive and parent a child if we conceive OR ‘because the child is potentially and intrinsically connected to this act and we do not think we are ready, we are willing to abstain until the fertile time passes’. As a result of this connection the couple begins to see children through the lens of that marital embrace and as the ‘fruit of their love’ and so as a result very quickly begin to be open to new life. I have seen this happen over and over again.
    Also- I want to know where people are getting the idea that NFP teachers are not doing enough to teach that we need a grave reason to postpone pregnancy??? Did someone do a poll or something? Did they sit in on every NFP class in the country?
    I teach NFP and have always taught that you need a grave reason.
    In order to teach NFP ya gotta be a committed Catholic, cuz it’s like being on the FRONT!

    • Robin

      If only. I have tried to stay out of these discussions, because I do think the NFP teachers and promoters have nothing but good intentions and are mostly right. As for the users of NFP, I have absolutely no doubt that the vast, vast majority are entirely right in every way with regard to their use of it in their own marriages. And I have zero interest in ever getting into anybody’s marital business and judging. I am upset, however, that it seems there is no tolerance for those concerned about the possibility of abuses , and the ins and outs of what should make for a fair and proper – a just – discernment process. Why do I care about this? Because it has been a serious and long-term problem in my own marriage. And I so wish someone would take me, and others in the same boat, seriously on this. I really want help, and no, I cannot go to a priest I trust because I don’t have any idea where I could possibly find one. I am not a traditionalis, just a regular orthodox Catholic who loves JP2, B16, and Pope Francis all equally. I have never even been to a Latin mass, and I am skeptical about the modesty obsession that seems to pervade the Catholic blogosphere. But I am concerned about NFP, because it has made my life and my marriage a living hell. Surely there are others out there lke me. But maybe they’re afraid to say so, because it seems this is such a touchy topic of late. I don’t know.
      Fwiw, I have scoured the internet for ages and have read virtually everything anyone has ever said about this topic online, and I have never seen anyone claim that NFP is not allowed by the magesterium. This is a straw man. All sides admit it is allowed. The main question is what constitutes jus cause, and dammit, I think it’s a good question, and I’m sick to death of people mocking that very legitimate concern. And hey, I am not scrupulous either. I just love children, love being a mom, love what haing a large family has done for my family. But my husband has required me to accept nearly constant avoidance of conception for practically all of our married life. Why? Because he wants to fit in. He doesn’t want the hazing from his family, and from fellow attorneys and whoever. Oh, and our house is messy. Not horrible, but just you know, like a family with several kids. And he doesn’t like that. He also wants to be able to go have fun more often. So I am
      forced to take on this responsibilty of telling him when I am “safe” for him to approach. And when I’m not, well, we can just bend the rules a little, right? I hate i this, and I just want a little freedom, and not all this abstinence and far of babies, and fear of being labelled, and fear of my fertility. I have cried buckets over this. We have fought bitterly over this. I don’t feel his reasons are “just” to deprive me of just one more baby in the ladt years of my fertility. No- of even the possibility. And of the peace and freedom that would come along with that. I feel used. I feel like I’m viewed as a dangerous baby machine (ironic, no?). I feel unloved in that supposedly sacrificial way NFP is supposed to magically make happen. Sorry for the rant. Maybe someone can charitably tell me why I’m wrong. Maybe those of you fortunate enough to have a great expeience with NFP can charitably allow those of us who have had horrible experiences with it to hash out some of this without caricature and without judgment. Maybe you can explain why one spouse can impoe this on the other, but I’m not allowed to impose the possibility of a baby. It just reeks to me of being punished with a baby….at least when its said to my face. Tell me why this went from being viewed as a dispensation to being viewed as the default. Because that’s how my husband and the priests I’ve gone to understand it. That the decision to have a child should never be undertaken lightly, yda, yada. Why is the serious reason required to have a child, but not to avoid?

      • Schnitker Kimberly

        Robin, I really love to talk with you more about this. You are under no obligation to chart when you do not have serious reasons to postpone. Your husband cannot just arbitrarily, unilaterally decide to be ‘done’. That kind of decision should be discerned together.
        If you do not agree that you have serious reasons and want a baby- then stop charting and tell him you refuse to use NFP with a contraceptive mentality.
        Again you are under absolutely NO moral obligation to use NFP to postpone pregnancy. If he is that adamant, then abstain totally so you can both pray, discern and come to a mutual agreement.

  • MMC

    The reason Trads i.e. the remnant/sane Catholics are calling out NFP is b/c they demand (and rightly so) truth and purification in our post-V2 nightmare of a Church and thus world. They are sick of children being called “burdens”, sick of people thinking that they have a “say” in “planning” God’s will…what an oxymoron. *shakes head* NFP is perfectly fine if the situation is serious…but it should be a tragedy not a norm. God already gave us “spacing” tools…breastfeeding…so no need to practice NFP there. We are all called to fully surrender to God’s will…to HIS way, not ours. That is not blind faith, it is trusting faith, faith informed by His Word and Tradition. And prudence comes to bear only in circumstances that are serious and demand it. We are called to be light and salt to this world…a radical departure from the “I’ll do it MY way” /controlling ethic. The only way this can happen is letting God drive the bus of your life…and His rule from the very beginning for married couples was to multiply. Thank you Trads, for freeing me from the psuedo-contraceptive lie that NFP is allowable all the time. If we are to clean house, we need to do it right. And it begins by righting the wrong that children are a burden in any way, shape or form. They are a gift. Period. God bless~

    • Jenny

      Colby–are you the same poster who quoted JPII to me? I absolutely agree with what you posted here and there.

      • Colby

        Jenny, I did quote JPII, but the comment above by MMC is not written by me.

    • BrianKillian

      If you have a serious reason to use NFP, are you still planning God’s will? Or only when you don’t have a serious reason?

    • WSquared

      While I appreciate the concerns of Trads, I think your referring to yourself and others like you as the only sane or real Catholics or as “the remnant” is more than a bit presumptuous.

      people thinking that they have a “say” in “planning” God’s will…what an oxymoron.

      No, it is use of the gift of reason in cooperation with God, and purified through prayer.

      And prudence comes to bear only in circumstances that are serious and demand it.

      Really? I thought that prudence was one of the virtues. It is, for one thing, crucial for good stewardship.

      His rule from the very beginning for married couples was to multiply.

      …and you understand this only as a matter of family head-count how, exactly?

    • RV

      I’m curious how you would define “tragedy”. Also, many women never really achieve any kind of spacing with just breastfeeding, even employing all the standards for eco breastfeeding. What about them? And why would systematic use of ecological breastfeeding to space a baby be any different than interpreting other signs of fertility for use in spacing babies? It’s not consistent.

      That said, I agree with what you said, sans the many ambiguities.

    • Desideriusbenevantensis

      NFP is never alloweable and is always sinful. By accepting that NFP is alloweable at all, your entire argument becomes a house of cards ready to tumble.

      It is clearly stated by Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, Dean of Holy Cross Theological College, in his book “Parents and Priests as Servants of Redemption,” (1958). On p. 56 he says: “The Church rejects any proposal of toleration of all unnatural practices like birth control and birth prevention. That this practice violates the sacred purpose of matrimony is beyond doubt.” He quotes a joint Encyclical Letter issued on October 14, 1937, by Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens, together with fifty-five other Bishops, in which they said contraceptive birth control is to be condemned, and also any lax teaching on the subject by individual Greek Orthodox priests. Of such false teaching they wrote: “The laxity of the confessor on the question of birth control, opposing his personal opinions to the official and true doctrine of the Orthodox Church and endorsing such a practice creates great and criminal scandals for which the responsibility of such a priest is tremendous. To him the words of the Lord are directed: ‘They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch’.” The official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Churches is that married people have only two choices morally permissible for them; either to abstain by mutual agreement from marital relations, or to accept such children as God sends.

  • Thomas Storck

    In thinking about the comments here and trying to understand what’s behind them, it strikes me that one of the differences between me and my critics is that when I say NFP I am thinking of a moral method for spacing or limiting conception, a method approved over and over again by the Church, and one that the popes have not looked upon as limited to a few narrow circumstances, as a “necessary” evil. I think that some, at least, of my critics, when they see the term NFP think of real or imagined abuses in its use or promotion. As far as abuses in use are concerned, I think they are rare, since it’s not easy for most couples to abstain for 7 to 12 days a month. As for abuses in its promotion, these may exist. In fact, just yesterday I saw in the CCL magazine a copy of their new ad which is about to go out. It features a picture of a pair of woman’s red shoes with the words: NFP is not just romantic, it’s sexy. If this is the sort of thing my critics are objecting too, then fine. I myself think the ad is stupid, though I well understand the kind of marketing mentality which is behind it. As good Americans, they think in terms of marketing, not of proclaiming the truth.

    Some have said here that I’m either creating a straw man or not responding to my critics’ comments. But if someone really thinks there have been no comments posted here by anyone that could be characterized as “anti-NFP” then I am quite amazed.
    Perhaps it would help if I lay out what I think of NFP in a series of propositions.
    1. There are more than one legitimate motive for both marriage and the use of marriage.
    2. Procreation is the primary inherent motive.
    3. But the secondary motives are legitimate so long as nothing positive is done to impede the primary motive.
    4. To restrict the use of marriage to times when fertility is impossible or unlikely requires a just cause.
    5. This just cause can be economic, psychological, physical and perhaps others.
    6. No one is required to embrace heroic parenthood or to have as many children as possible.
    7. In my opinion, abuse of NFP is rare, though obviously neither I nor my critics can say
    this with certainty since we lack adequate information.
    8. Use of contraceptives is matter for mortal sin.
    9. Most Catholics in the U.S. (according to polls) use such contraceptives.
    10. This has got to be a serious wound to the spiritual health of Catholics, even if most of those using contraceptives do so in good faith.
    11. We should attempt to get Catholics to stop using contraceptives and not bother
    those few who are using NFP, especially since we have no data that would cause us to think they are using it wrongly – in fact, the relatively larger size of most NFP families would lead one to think they are not misusing it.
    If my critics would say which of these proposition they object to, perhaps we could have a more fruitful conversation. Or if they would like to lay out a similar list, that might be
    helpful.

  • Jenny

    I know many do not like Michael Voris, but he expresses my thoughts perfectly. NFP can be scandalous. It should be the rare exception in marriage, not the norm.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxbj73PmbY8&feature=player_embedded

    • Colby

      I read the transcript of this, as well as listened to the segment on NFP on his Mic-ed Up show. And in it he volunteers that his own mom had conditions whereby she thought having more than two children (spaced 7 years apart) was unwise. So I have no idea why he rails against NFP! Maybe his cohorts (those who have his ear, i.e the owner of Church Militant TV, who’s engaged me in discussion) were egging him on.

      • Colby

        actually, the executive producer, rather.

    • BrianKillian

      If only it were just a matter of marketing. But it’s so much more. Why don’t the critics just come out and openly say what they are thinking? Like…

      The real sin here is control. Man shouldn’t have any, at least not in in sexual matters.

      Be completely passive in sexual matters, because God’s providence is very fragile and you might break it by practising periodic continence.

      Although just reasons are a theoretical possibility, there are practically no good reasons to mess with God’s providence – remember we don’t want to mess God up.

      The purpose of marriage is procreation. Nothing else. Just. Procreation.

      Avoiding birth for whatever reason is ‘birth control’, and birth control is bad. St. Paul was bad for advocating birth control when he recommended couples abstain for a time for prayer.

      Etc. etc.

    • Margaret

      Jenny the picture alone looks like a slap in the face. Not very motivated to watch as a result.

  • Jenny
    • Colby

      Jenny, this article sums up where I’m coming from. http://www.catholicsistas.com/2012/02/02/why-size-doesnt-matter/

      I don’t know how many people realize that Pope Benedict XVI said it’s an inalienable right of parents to decide the number of their children. (I didn’t hear it until recently.) He was echoing his predecessor Paul VI, who said that in Populorum Progressio.

      If it were the case that the right to determine the number of children is God’s and God’s alone, then a) the Church wouldn’t have approved NFP for any reason since it would interfere with God’s right and b) the Church would not have specifically stated the existence of this right. Certainly some people choose not to exercise their right, just as some choose not to exercise their marriage rights (i.e. a Josephite marriage.) But no one may take it away. Which is why I can’t understand why providentialists would foist their beliefs on every Catholic.

      • Colby

        I mean insofar as providentialists deny the existence of this right (Church teaching notwithstanding.)

        • Jenny

          Colby, I’m sorry but you (and the author of the piece that you linked to) are incorrect. Couples do not have an “inalienable right…to decide the number of their children.” That is absolutely not true. A couple, after discerning their situation, must have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy.
          We are told not to tempt God. Just as one shouldn’t jump off of a 2 story building with the idea that God will save them if it is His will, a couple should refrain from having sex if serious moral, physical, economic or eugenic reasons are present. To have sex with the idea that “God will take care of me even though I’m taking birth defect-causing medication (just one example of a serious reason) would be tempting God and that would be wrong. A couple who doesn’t have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy and let the children come as God blesses them aren’t providentialists; they are Catholics. See the link to the USCCB’s website that refers to the Church’s teaching on NFP. http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/seriousq.shtml

          • Colby

            Jenny, it would take me a little while to find the citation for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s statement (which was spoken in a Thursday Address.) However, the encyclical letter, Populorum Progressio, that I referred to has weight. It says:

            “Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide
            upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon
            themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to
            which they belong—following the dictates of their own consciences informed
            by God’s law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him.
            (39)”

  • pcrtx

    As an NFP teaching couple my role is to educate couples of what NFP is and how to use it to monitor the female cycle. Point them to Humanae Vitae, stress serious reason for abstaining and let God work wonders in their life and marriage. The hardest battle is getting people to trust that it works and that they do not need contraception even if it is now free under their health plan. There are way too many comments here regarding mis-using NFP with a contraception mindset. The true battle is getting people to use it, to trust that it works and open the door to their hearts. Look more carefully and pick your battle.

    • Thomas Storck

      PCRTX,
      What Church document do you get the necessity for a “serious reason” from, except the mistranslation of Humanae Vitae referred to in the article above? I can hardly stress enough that it’s “just reasons,” not “serious.”

  • James

    What I have found is many of the anti-NFP Catholics often interpret older statements on the subject anachronistically. They know Pius XI said nothing about NFP, but forget that it hadn’t been discovered in 1930. They mistake later warnings about the unreliability of rhythm as the Church discouraging couples from using it.

    The discovery of the Symptothermal Method (independently by both Rötzer and Billings) in the mid-1960s was the breakthrough that promised to make NFP reliable. Pope Paul VI had access to the early studies, which is why he crafted HV in the way he did, with the discussion of NFP as a discernment tool. (The Billings’ research continued and eventually they dropped the temperature sign.)

    Culturally, I think hyper-orthodox would be an apt description NFP practicing Catholics post-Vatican II, especially Kippleys and (pre-2007) Couple-to-Couple League. The material we received from CCL was very pro-large family, almost to the point of being pushy. When we learned the method in the early 2000s, the CCL couple had 7 children and the Billings couple were on their way to having 10.

    Ironically, I believe some of this hyper-orthodoxy made some Catholics hesitant to associate with these groups. Plus, many Catholics saw the large families among NFP couples not as a sign of generosity and openness to life, but as a sign that the methods were unreliable.

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  • Gabriella

    Would everyone, please, stop fighting over the NFP! Marriage is an institution established by the Lord for the benefit of the society. Families need to be open to new life. Bigger families there are, better economy we have. More of everything needs to be produced…and so on.
    Generosity and trust, that is what is in the center of it all. We can discuss the NFP till we are blue in the face but the fact remains that willful limiting of the number of children leaves us wanting in all areas of progress as people and as a society. We need to ‘import’ people from other countries because we do not have enough of our own – and then we resent that. Someone needs to work and pay taxes! Our own children are unable to support us in our old age because 2 children per family does not cut it. Minimum is 4, to sustain the country’s economy.
    We have not been generous in the way of giving our children a chance of life among us and now we pay a high price for it, don’t we?

    • Thomas Storck

      Gabriella,
      Seldom do NFP using Catholics have only 1 or 2 children. You would do better
      to direct your efforts toward Catholics – and others – who contracept.

      • Fr. W. M. Gardner

        Mr. Storck,
        Do you have any data on the average fertility rate for women who use NFP, beyond your own anecdotal evidence?
        Thank you,
        Fr. W. M. Gardner

        • Thomas Storck

          Dear Father,
          No I do not, just observation, but not merely my own personal, but
          of others also. I’m not aware of any studies that have been done. I just now did a bit of Google searching but didn’t find any studies,
          simply people’s similar observations from their experience, etc.
          Of course, even if it were the case that NFP users were limiting themselves to 1 or 2 children, it would still be a widely different
          situation from those using contraceptives, in the one case probably
          some selfishness (I say “probably” because we seldom know all the circumstances involved), in the other clear grave matter for mortal
          sin.

  • Clare

    Here’s a 1948 (i.e. pre-Vatican II) critique of NFP: http://archives.sspx.org/against_sound_bites/rhythm_unhappy_compromise.htm

    • Thomas Storck

      The author is certainly more nuanced than most of the NFP critics of today. Nevertheless, he was writing before some of the important statements of Pius XII,
      not to mention Paul VI and John Paul II. We should form our consciences
      according to the teaching of the magisterium, not according to what one priest
      wrote before the magisterium had fully considered the question.

  • rodlarocque1931

    Tradition teaches that NFP is to be used only for grave reasons. What constitutes grave reasons was articulated by Pius XII in his address to midwives in 1951.
    Does getting a boat, a larger house, going back to work all constitute grave reason for avoiding having another baby? I doubt it.
    This article seems to simply wish contracepting couples go from artificial means to natural means. If this would happen, nothing would change morally, they are still avoiding using the gift of sexuality for the purpose for which it was given, to have children and bind spouses together for the purposes of caring for the children.

  • Lukas

    Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a form natural contraception when used to circumvent fertility and, therefore, clearly upends God’s call, in Genesis 9:7, for married men and women to “be fruitful and multiply.” Further, God, in Genesis 38:9, warned married (and indirectly unmarried) men and women throughout history that they should expect judgement from God if they attempt to prevent fertility — in this bible account, Onan was put death by God for spilling his seed during the marital embrace with his wife.

    There have only been two pronouncements of popes that have been officially issued “ex cathedra” — infallibly. They are the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. While Catholics normally except all teachings with respect to faith and morals as morally valid and truthful, no other teachings of the Church have been ever been issued infallibly — including Humanae Vitae. Hence, there is possibility of error in all other teachings/pronouncements made by especially modern popes.

    NFP is clearly analogous to an old sexual heresy which supports contracepting of children away in favor of solely sexual gratification. Pure continence (abstinence for married couples) of course when both couples agree in exceptional circumstances — health of mother; sickness; financial issues, is of course always licit (per Council of Trent). In this respect, Saint Augustine, in the year 388, wrote — “Is it not you who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time…? From this it follows that you consider marriage is not to procreate children, but to satiate lust.”

    See Saint, Bishop of Hippo Augustine; Philip Schaff (Editor) (1887). A Selected Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume IV. Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. pp. On the Morals of the Manichaeans, Chapter 18.

    • Lukas

      Further, it is believed Natural Family Planning (NFP) has the potential to cause embryonic abortions and birth defects, and NFP studies have found NFP has a strong likelihood of causing miscarriages (spontaneous abortions) when women have suffered from previous miscarriages — the problem, here, is that there is a very high miscarriage rate to begin with in the world (in the US some studies show 1 and 4 of all babies are miscarried — see citation below).

      If couples are warned of the dangers of Natural Family Planning and continue with this immoral and illicit practice (in the eyes of God), they are guilty of causing abortions in an attempt to prevent fertilization (i.e., human life). This is murder. The Church should, instead of promoting unhealthy fertility, be promoting healthy fertilization which occurs near to (or at) ovulation — it is believed the marital sexual embrace which occurs one day before ovulation (when a new egg is produced) results in the healthiest and most robust babies. Reverse NFP can be used to determine when ovulation is near (especially if fertility problems); however, women can just use common sense as they will naturally (assuming cycle is normal) sense an urge to procreate around ovulation.

      Also, be aware that there is no scientific study indicating, scientifically (as far as I am aware), how long the female egg can survive — some experts say 24 hours; others say 48; some midwives have said up to 72 hours — however, since a women can become potentially pregnant at any point in her cycle (although very rare), it is likely that the female egg, like the male gamete (which can survive up to seven days), may survive much longer than many think and could result in many unknown spontaneous abortions since the womb may reject the embryo because originally fertilized in weakened state (due to aged male gamete and/or aged female gamete).

      • Lukas

        SCIENTIFIC CITATIONS WARNING OF THE DANGERS OF NFP, INCLUDING ITS ABILITY TO CAUSE ABORTIONS:

        (I) Hum Reprod, 1988 Jul;3(5):693-8. “Epidemiological studies of natural family planning.” Gray RH, Kambic RT.

        Study reports — “The major safety issue concerning NFP is the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with aged gametes. There are a suggestion of a number of investigations that conceptions distant from ovulation have a higher risk of spontaneous abortion and a higher proportion of male births. The findings with respect to birth defects or multiple pregnancies are less consistent, although some studies have reported an increased risk of chromosomal anomalies.”

        (II) Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 May;172(5):1567-72. “Timing of conception and the risk of spontaneous abortion among pregnancies occurring during the use of natural family planning.” Gray RH1, Simpson JL, Kambic RT, Queenan JT, Mena P, Perez A, Barbato M.

        In conclusion, study states — “However, among women with a history of pregnancy loss, there is an increased risk of spontaneous abortion associated with preovulatory or postovulatory delayed conceptions.”

        (III) Contraception. 1984 Oct;30(4):297-309. “Aged gametes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and natural family planning. An epidemiologic review.” Gray RH.

        (IV) Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, Baird DD. “Timing of sexual intercourse in

        relation to ovulation. Effects on the probability of conception, survival of

        the pregnancy, and sex of the baby.” N Engl J Med. 1995;333:1517–21. [PubMed]

        (V) “Time of Implantation of the Conceptus and Loss of Pregnancy”. Allen J. Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., Donna Day Baird, Ph.D., and Clarice R. Weinberg, Ph.D.; N Engl J Med 1999; 340:1796-1799June 10, 1999DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199906103402304.

        (VI) Patient information: Miscarriage (Beyond the Basics). Author Togas Tulandi, MD, MHCM Section Editor Robert L Barbieri, MD Deputy Editor Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG.

        States — “Miscarriage in early pregnancy is common. Studies show that about 10% to 20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage some time before 20 weeks of pregnancy; 80% of these occur in the first 12 weeks. But the actual rate of miscarriage is even higher since many women have very early miscarriages without ever realizing that they are pregnant. One study that followed women’s hormone levels every day to detect very early pregnancy found a total miscarriage rate of 31%.”

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