No faithful Catholic should fail to realize the damage contraception has inflicted on our society. Sadly, however, most Catholics (80-90%) practice this intrinsic evil. But there is a solution: We need to promote Natural Family Planning (NFP); and in doing so, we need to explain what NFP is and dispel the notion that NFP is tantamount to using contraception.
There are four types, or methods, of NFP: the “rhythm” or calendar method (also known as the Ogino-Knaus method); the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) method; the ovulation method, which includes the Billings Ovulation Method and the Creighton Model; and the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM).
Each method takes into account sperm viability in the female reproductive tract, which averages three days (with a range from two to seven days) and the fertile period of the ovum, which is about 24 hours.
NFP is morally licit because, unlike contraception, it allows every marital act to be open to the transmission of life. And the Church has always allowed the use of periodic abstinence to space children for serious reasons. As Pope Paul VI said in Humanae Vitae:,
“In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decisions to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth…. If then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier.”
Paul VI goes on to explain the essential difference between NFP and contraception:
“The Church is coherent with herself when she considers recourse to the infecund periods to be licit, while at the same time condemning, as being always illicit, the use of means directly contrary to fecundation, even if such use is inspired by reasons which may appear honest and serious. In reality, there are essential differences between the two cases; in the former, the married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the latter, they impede the development of natural processes. It is true that, in the one and the other case, the married couple are concordant in the positive will of avoiding children for plausible reasons, seeking the certainty that offspring will not arrive; but it is also true that only in the former case are they able to renounce the use of marriage in the fecund periods when, for just motives, procreation is not desirable, while making use of it during infecund periods to manifest their affection and to safeguard their mutual fidelity. By doing so, they give proof of a truly and integrally honest love.”
The benefits of NFP are many: it is morally acceptable to all religions and cultures; it avoids the use of devices and chemicals that can be hazardous to one’s health and well-being; and it strengthens marriage by fostering sexual self-control and improving intimate communication. (Consider that while half of all marriages end in divorce, the divorce/separation rate among married couples who practice NFP is less than one in eight.)
Dare I say if all married couples who currently practice contraception would instead utilize NFP, we would not be living in such a vast culture of death?
© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange
Matt C. Abbott is the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee and the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-life Action League, respectively. He is also a contributor to The Wanderer Catholic newspaper.