Hey Bishops:Offer to fund NFP for Mandate!

I usually write about the Divine Office:  encouraging reflections on the psalms and prayers of the liturgy. My lapses into punditry are so rare that people who notice such things remark on it the way birdwatchers will remark on spotting a California Condor. But the blue moon is here again.

I just returned from a short trip marking our wedding anniversary.  One doesn’t do much blog surfing on such an occasion. So…maybe someone else has said this already, and if so, just let me know. If it’s already been said, then call me a Johnny-come-lately, not a copycat.

Natural Family Planning is in the news these days as faithful Catholic writers,  bloggers, and so forth have seized on the teachable moment provided by the HHS contraception controversy.  Judging from long and often sizzling comments sections following many articles, they are certainly succeeding in raising awareness, if not acceptance. Anyway, seeds are being planted. Always a good thing, right?

So now  I’m wondering whether our dear, valiant bishops should re-engage the Obama  administration by stating willingness to fund all the NFP  instructions and equipment necessary for any female employee who wants them (in lieu of paying for artificial contraceptives). This could include the cost of the in-person, online, or self-teaching course of the employee’s choice, plus costs of both  one- time and recurring supplies. Which is not exactly cheap, if you include a  $130 Clear Blue fertility monitor and $33 a month for test strips. But surely less costly than the– what?– $10,000 a day fine that will be imposed on any institution that does not comply with the mandate.

Non-catholic employees (or disobedient  Catholics ) who have no conscience qualms about contraception might see some real pluses to knowing NFP. They would probably want to use barrier methods during the fertile time–which they would still have to purchase– but with fertile days pin-pointed, they wouldn’t have to use them as often, cutting down on costs  and/or what I imagine to be the ick factor of using them. And maybe, just maybe, some of them will become open to the idea of abstinence. And to finding out why exactly the Church finds NFP an acceptable alternative. And eventually  to understanding for themselves what it means to give oneself totally in marriage.

All of which is a fantasy on my part, because the Obama administration would never go for such an idea.

So why should the bishops propose paying for NFP at all?

The upside is that the bishops will continue to teach, in a public, sure-to-be-publicized- by- the- press manner about the Church’s teaching related to contraception. Something that they have not done for decades until this HHS business came up. Call it reparation.

Also, it will continue the mutual backing up of one  another’s efforts that is now nicely going on between the bishops and the faithful  laity. We’ve been writing the letters,attending the rallies, posting the posts, explaining to our friends,  and doing our best to defend the bishops in every way we can.   Faithful catholic women are talking about NFP these days, a discussion which has grown out of this same  desire to support our bishops on the mandate issue.  Now the bishops can support them back, saying, “Yes! NFP is great! It’s effective! In fact we are willing to cover it in our health plans! Your turn, Mr. President.”

To recap:1.  keeping the HHS fight in the news is a good thing. This would be one way to do it.

2. Giving a big, honkin’ episcopal  shout out to NFP is a very good thing. For many young catholic couples, this would be only the second time  they’ve heard about it. The first being a hurried, mumbled aside accompanied by an inadequate pamphlet, lost in a sea of goofy compatability questionaires during their pre-cana course.

So tell me. Has this been suggested yet by anyone else? And whether or not it has, what do you think?













Daria Sockey


Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at thesockeys@gmail.com

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  • Catherine

    I think this is great and would certainly be a step in the right direction, both for good PR for the Church and mostly for good evangelization.  Its a great opportunity for the Church to educate and show how strongly it does care about women and family planning.  Authentic feminism needs to be endorsed more strongly by the Church – simply rejecting radical feminism is not enough.  Alternatives needs to be offered and the Church has true alternatives and solutions.   

    But i think that the HHS mandate in and of itself, being bad law and bad politics, needs to be kept at the forefront of the debate.  Such a direct and shameless violation of our constitutional principles and the fight for religious freedom is what the debate is about and what the secular and especially the religious world needs to be aware of.  As much as NFP needs to be taught and endorsed better by the Church, it cannot be forgotten nor taken more lightly that the issue here is religious freedom, not contraception.  Still, i do think it would be a tremendously positive step for the bishops and the Church in America to take this opportunity to endorse NFP publicly and maybe offer subsidies for it – but only because it has decided to do this on its own terms and operating within its own freedom – not ever because the government is forcing compliance and contribution in some way.  The government needs to be called out for its radical and unjust actions and effectively stopped before more of our freedoms are taken away.  

  • Peter Nyikos

    The abortifacient properties of the pill and IUDs should also be stressed.  And the American public should be made aware of what “abortifacient” means to Catholics.

    The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG)arbitrarily decreed decades ago that “conception,” which up to that time meant “fertilization,” would henceforth be synonymous with “implantation”. And as a result, the destruction of a developing human being through prevention of implantation would henceforth be “contraception” rather than “abortion.”

    Just this past Friday, USA Today printed a letter to the editor by the President of the ACOG which made no mention of this arbitrary decree, but was full of manufactured outrage at the use of the word “abortifacient” for the prevention of implantation of a developing human being [of course, he did not use the accepted embryological term, “developing human”].

  • John

    I think this simply genius and I can’t believe it wouldn’t have been already considered. But that may be the very reason it hasn’t. I won’t waste your time, but I think we should start a mail in or email in campaign to every diocese Bishop’s office, in the whole U.S.! How can we package this for that sort of campaign to create this monumentally important paradign shift.

  • drea916

    I agree with your points. However, we should not shy away from the fact that ALL birth control is evil, not just those that act as an abortifaciant. There seems to be a focus on those forms that “just” take life (which needs to be stopped) but we shouldn’t shy away from pointing out that ALL birth control harms society/women/families. I think we don’t have that much practice explaining why even barrier methods are wrong and that is why we emphazie the abortificant methods. We should be handing out the cd “Contraception, why not?” like candy. We need to be hearing it from every priest/bishop/nun.

  • Lisa Krekelberg

    I really like it, but do you think they would actually go for it? I seriously doubt it, considering the scoffing most people get when they bring up NFP as an alternative to someone who is vehemently pro-contraception use/availability. But it would definitely be worth a try!

  • Martin Corts

    I’m passing this article on to our Chancery.  Excellent article…..and I love the way you write!!

  • Fr. W. M. Gardner

    Actually, the truly Catholic alternative to promoting contaception is to promote… children!   President Obama and his minions are working to prevent the conception and/or birth of children.  Instead, all those with a priestly heart should be praying for and encouraging large Catholic families.  How can this be done practically?  Social security tax credits?  Discounted or free tuition for Catholic grade schools?  Novenas and prayer intentions for generosity in welcoming children in marriage?  Catholics need a mssion and purpose: Fill the earth and our homes with God-fearing and family-loving Catholic disciples of the Lord Jesus… so as to populate heaven!  All for the greater glory and honor of God and the salvation of souls.

  • That’s a rather clever idea, though I don’t think they’d adopt it. NFP has such a slandered reputation among lukewarm Catholics that it might not even do us much good to put it on the table (I myself was raised thinking it was an antiquated joke), but the publicity generated might be cause for a more widespread public discourse about NFP.

  • gregoryvii

    Perhaps we could first try to get Catholic bishops to at least acknowledge the existance of the Hypostatic Union? Not so sure that many bishops believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

  • Daria Sockey

    I think far more of them believe it today than twenty or thirty years ago, and in fact have said things Try to be optimistic, gregoryvii: a lot of the most liberal bishops  have retired or gone to their eternal, um, to  eternity.

  • Daria Sockey

    Thanks, Martin!

  • Elizabeth

    At first, I thought this article was a joke, a tongue-in-cheek response to Obama.  But this isn’t a joke, is it?  Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t our Roman Catholic Faith teach that Natural Family Planning is only to be practiced in extreme situations, i.e., not as an acceptable form of birth control for Catholics? 
    “If there are serious reasons to space out births, reasons which derivefrom the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or fromexternal conditions, the Church teaches that it is morally permissible totake into account the natural rhythms of human fertility and to havecoitus only during the infertile times in order to regulate conceptionwithout offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier”(Humanae Vitae, 16).

  • Elizabeth

    Yes, Father.  Wonderful statement! 

  • Bob

    A friend of mine who moved to Pennsylvania has had numerous people ask her to teach them NFP.  She cannot believe the growing interest so she had started charging a small fee to curtail the requests so that she can spend time with her husband and kids.  She said that has not slowed things a bit and that about 70% of the requests are coming from Protestant women.

  • Diane

    In order for Natural Family Planning to get any traction in this country we HAVE TO START shifting our conceptualization of it as a “Woman’s” issue.  No woman gets pregnant on her own. “…necessary for any female employee who wants them…”  “…faithful Catholic women are talking about NFP these days…”

    Until men are invited and expected to take equal ownership, participation and responsibility in the planning of their families ( Mark 10:8, Genesis 2:24) all the “natural” family planning in the world will not change the culture of contraception, objectification and death.

  • Ruthangels

    I think this is an awesome idea!

  • Terri K

    I wouldn’t object to private citizen’s setting up a fund to offer grants to help individual couples with costs for NFP. If a couple uses the sympto-thermal method, the cost is training and a thermometer–not much. I use Marquette because it works better right now for me, as I am breastfeeding and will have my return of fertility any time. It does cost more, but we pay for it ourselves. This issue, subsidiarity, is at the heart of the debate over the mandate. The only bigger issue is religious liberty. What foolish liberals don’t understand is that if the government provides birth control, the government will budget and regulate how many condoms (for example) each couple gets per funding term. What if they exceed that number? Sorry, no more rubbers for you. Or if they exceed that number and conceive anyway (it happens, regardless of the method!), will the government require them to have an abortion and/or get sterilized? Eventually, yes. For these blockheads that shout “Keep the government out of my bedroom!” to be demanding government-funded contraception is the height of stupidity. I highly recommend that the author of this column (and everyone else reading this) go to the Vatican website and spend fifteen minutes reading Humane Vitae. Keep in mind it was written in 1968. Think about what’s already happening in other parts of the world, like China. There are forced abortions there. PEOPLE, DO NOT LET ANY OUTSIDE ENTITY REGULATE YOUR SEXUALITY IN ANY WAY, NOT EVEN THE BISHOPS. IT’S INHERENTLY DANGEROUS. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

  • Jdknits

    I have to mention it is irresponsible to suggest barrier methods during the fertile period. Barrier methods fail 15% of the time and if it fails during the fertile time, you will have a baby. People may not like abstinence, but it’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise with NFP.

  • Liz

    Providing something healthy is a first step, then the recipient will see other benefits…in due time.  One benefit is increased communication between spouses.  That is definitely something women want!

  • Liz

     Well said!  Solely promoting NFP can keep us in charge and in a “just in case” mode.  Our society’s outlook toward marriage is also stuck in that mentality. Planning “just in case” we get divorced.  Neither is the positive and joyful outlook toward life and living that the Church professes for both our time on earth and in life after death.  If we trusted in God, and authentically believed in Christ, we would enthusiastically promote Christ by providing free Catholic schools.  If we want someone to have what we have, don’t we gift them with it no matter what the circumstances?  Do we really believe??

  •  NFP can help women get diagnose for female health problems that can be deadly to a woman and her unborn children not just avoid pregnancy~

    Spirit Catholic Radio “Your Fertility Care
    Consult” with Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute

    4 The Study of Human Reproduction

    23 Shows covering Naprotechnology, Disturbing Trends in the
    Health Care 4 Women, Children & Families, Contraception, abortion, Women
    Healed (WH) of Infertility, (WH) Recurrent Spontaneous Abortion (miscarriages),
    (WH) Endometriosis, (WH) Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), (WH) Premenstrual
    Syndrome, Postpartum Depression, Prematurity & one show Calling Young
    Doctors & Physicians http://bit.ly/wevEZW  
    Dr Hilgers on World Over talks about overcoming infertility, causes of infertility etc starting about 23:00 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPgZeYOlo_4
    Dr Hilgers has a book called “The NaProTechnlogy Revolution: Unleashing
    the Power in a Woman’s Cycle” is a book about finding real solutions to
    real problems–problems such as infertility, menstrual cramps, PMS, ovarian
    cysts, irregular/abnormal bleeding, polycystic ovarian disease, repetitive
    miscarriage, postpartum depression, prematurity prevention, hormonal
    abnormalities, chronic discharges, and family planning.

    The new women’s health science of NaProTechnology is based
    on the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System, which is a natural fertility
    tracking that generates standardized information about women’s reproductive
    health and enables couples to achieve or avoid pregnancy effectively. It is the
    only system that can be used with NaProTechnology to help diagnose and treat
    reproductive health problems…. http://www.unleashingthepower.info/

    What are the Medical Risks of Infertility? Infertility is
    associated with a group of diseases that affect not only the reproductive
    status of women but also their very health…..In women, one of the main
    difficulties with infertility and the organic diseases and hormonal
    dysfunctions that are associated with it is that these same diseases can also
    cause both short- and long-term disability, impairment of one’s quality of life
    and even potentially the shortening of one’s life……. http://bit.ly/zPfck2

    PCOD …Successful Surgical NaProTechnology

    NaProTECHNOLOGY-trained physicians can be found at
    “Find a Medical Consultant Section


  • Daria Sockey

    I was not suggesting it. I was stating what many people who use NFP for other than religious reasons will often do. What is irresponsible is to put words in the authors mouth that were not there to begin with.

  • Ann

    Health Care act offends all sorts of Catholic teachings. Rationing, end of life philosophy, Subsidiarity and on and on.

    Don’t buy in to it.

  • JD

    The health effects of the pill and IUD should be stressed. (Even with your definition, the abortifacient potential of these methods is fairly low.) The purpose of the birth control pill (and the patch, shot, implant, ring, and Mirena IUD) is to throw a woman’s hormones out of balance so that she cannot become pregnant. That is how they work. Even the non-hormonal IUD indirectly impacts hormone levels by causing a foreign body reaction inside the woman’s uterus.

    When your hormones are out of balance, you CANNOT be healthy. Contraception assaults the body and damages health. Fertility Awareness* works with the body and promotes health. It’s “hormone free” “organic” sex.

    *I hate the term NFP. It isn’t terribly natural and it isn’t very good family planning, given the number of  “oh, what the heck” babies NFP users have. Furthermore, using the term “family planning” affirms the contraceptive mentality as this is a common euphemism for contraception. Fertility awareness accurately describes what all these methods do. The methods only tell the couple how fertile they are and the couple has the responsibility to use this information wisely.