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?













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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 [email protected]

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