Can someone explain why Natural Family Planning is OK?

I’ve been watching a lot of threads about contraceptive use, and in general the answer from Catholics is that natural family planning is preferred by the church. My question is this: if the objective of sex within Catholic theology is twofold (unity and procreation), and those two aspects cannot be separated, why would NFP be any different theologically than using a condom or the Pill?

If you are choosing to only have intercourse on days that you cannot conceive, isn’t the intent of the act the same as if one were wearing a condom? i.e. in both situations, the physical, unitive aspect of sex is being separated from the procreative aspect?

Personally, I have no moral objection to contraception. But I am trying to learn about morality within the Roman Church and just looking for a little clarification. :slight_smile: Thanks!

Simply put, it is because there are no physical, or artificial barriers that would prevent the pregnancy fro occurring.

The couple is still open to the possibility of a pregnancy occuring. It doesn’t mean one will happen, but they are not preventing the possibility.

You have to remember. Just because a woman **is **in her fertile time doesn’t mean she will get pregnant, and just because she isn’t in her fertile time, doesn’t mean she won’t get pregnant.

In both cases, the couple needs to be open to God’s will, and not introduce anything artificial into the process.

The Church teaches that sexual intercourse is intended to be both procreative and unitive. Any deliberate disruption of the procreative function of sexual intercourse, even if done simply by completing the sexual act outside of the female, is a deliberate attempt to divorce the procreative aspect from the unitive aspect.

When contraception is used, even natural contraception such as coitus interruptus, there is an attempt to make the act unitive for the couple while denying the procreative functions of both the male and female bodies.

Therefore, the male and female body is denied its full expression as God intended, and the body is made a tool to fulfill the unitive desires of the couple. This leads to an objectification of the body.

With NFP, the procreative function is never divorced from the unitive function of sex. A woman is never forced to deny her fertility. A man is never forced to deny his fertility. The sexual act is not artificially hindered. It is always given full procreative expression.

This does not mean you cannot plan your pregnancies, or enjoy physical and emotional intimacy with sex. It just means that if you don’t wish to become pregnant you engage in the full sexual act at infertile times.

People become confused about NFP because they don’t realize the prohibition is in alterning the natural fertility of the body and divorcing it from physical and emotional pleasure, not in actually spacing pregnancies.

And the problem with NFP is its interpretation as to when it may be used. The Scott Hahns of the world believe NFP may only be used in really exceptional circumstances like when a person has been laid off from a job or there’s a mental health issue or when one’s health is seriously impaired, otherwise NFP is being used selfishly like birth control. Some hardcores in here think NFP should practically never be used and some say use it anytime you don’t wish to have kids. I have my own opinions about NFP for sure that I’ll keep quiet about but I do observe there are some drastically different views on when and in what circumstances it may be used.

Well, condoms and “the pill” don’t completely rule out pregnancy, either. They vastly reduce the chance, particularly when used together, but, again, the possibility is still there.

That misses the point. Barring those who add something to the Church teaching (mentioned in the post above) the point is to not divide the procreative act from the unitive act to avoid objectification of the body. It is not about preventing pregnancy.

The church teaching (Humanae Vitae-PPVI) Because the infertility was produced within god’s design while the condom is outside god’s

If you are choosing to only have intercourse on days that you cannot conceive, isn’t the intent of the act the same as if one were wearing a condom? i.e. in both situations, the physical, unitive aspect of sex is being separated from the procreative aspect?

yes

Personally, I have no moral objection to contraception. But I am trying to learn about morality within the Roman Church and just looking for a little clarification. :slight_smile: Thanks!

This is not accurate. Natural family planning is not “preferred” by the Church over contraception.

Contraception is intrinsicaly disordered. Abstaining from sexual relations periodically is not disordered.

The intent is not relevant, since the Church has no teaching that one must actively intend to conceive during intercourse. The couple who abstains from sexual relations on fertile days and engages in sexual relations on infertile days does nothing to alter the sex act. Each act they engage in is a completed act of intercourse. They take no action to alter it or render it infertile. It is naturally infertile.

With contraception this is not so.

No. An act of intercourse that is complete and unaltered is 100% unitive and 100% procreative, objectively. If this were not so, a couple would be unable to have intercourse when already pregnant, past menopause, etc. Naturally infertile times of a woman’s cycle or lifespan do not alter the procreative nature of a completed act of intercourse.

I think that you should post your questions regarding contraception on the Moral Theology board, not the Non-Catholic Religions board.

However, being “open to the possibility” of pregnancy is not what the Church teaches in this matter, nor is it relevant in determining what is moral and what is not. Although people frequently express this idea of “open to the possibility” as a reason NFP is moral versus contraception,it is absolutely not the basis of Church teaching.

What is relevant is that each act of intercourse must be unitive and procreative, per se.

Thanks for the great responses guys. :slight_smile: I didn’t realize there was such a wide variety of opinions on the issue. But I think I have a better understanding of it now.

Okay, didn’t know that.

The intent is not relevant, since the Church has no teaching that one must actively intend to conceive during intercourse. The couple who abstains from sexual relations on fertile days and engages in sexual relations on infertile days does nothing to alter the sex act. Each act they engage in is a completed act of intercourse. They take no action to alter it or render it infertile. It is naturally infertile.
With contraception this is not so.

Okay I see what you mean. In other words, God intended for women to only be fertile certain times of the month, so it isn’t our agency that is hindering the pregnancy. Makes sense.

No. An act of intercourse that is complete and unaltered is 100% unitive and 100% procreative, objectively. If this were not so, a couple would be unable to have intercourse when already pregnant, past menopause, etc. Naturally infertile times of a woman’s cycle or lifespan do not alter the procreative nature of a completed act of intercourse.

Good points.

I think that you should post your questions regarding contraception on the Moral Theology board, not the Non-Catholic Religions board.

Okay, will remember that next time. Thanks!

You are welcome.

Since you are not a Catholic, you might be interested in the book The Bible And Birth Control by Charles Provan.

Because the Bishops don’t want people to have sex.

A perfect example of why I suggested the Moral Theology forum versus the Non-Catholic Religions forum, since the question was regarding *what the Catholic Church teaches *on the matter not what everyone’s personal opinion is on the matter no matter how irrelevant and off-topic.

Sex is intended to be an act of procreation, not recreation…you are doing nothing unnatural to prevent the birth of a child

Glory to Jesus Christ!

I have often wondered the same thing. It appears that NFP can be and is frequently used as a form of contraception. I am much more comfortable with the Orthodox position, which says contraception of any kind (whether artificial or natural) is sinful. I was a little taken a back when I was investigating Orthodoxy and saw that they fasted for roughly half the year (not all at once of course). This included fasting from marital relations. :eek:

I think I can safely say that Catholics and Orthodox see contraception as sinful because it works against our salvation. Humans elevate their desires above God’s will when they contracept.

In Christ,
Andrew

That may or may not be true (your last statement). People who contracept often are driven by selfishness and greed. I can’t fathom sometimes how many people DAYCARE their kids. In my opinion, that is as sinful if not more sinful than contracepting. It is unnatural and sad to see a mother detach herself from a newborn and dump her into the arms of someone else. Sick. I’d rather a couple contracept and stay home with their kids and manage what they can than have kids year after year and take poor care of them or dump them into daycare as I see so often. NFP isn’t the happy-go-lucky joyful blessing to all couples that it is to many Catholics in here, trust me :eek: Not all couples see it as a grace and a wonderful experience or an effective one at that. I don’t happen to think all people who contracept are greedy and putting their “recreation” as one poster put it, above God. There are many good, charitable, kind, prayerful Christians (many of them Catholic, more than 85% statistics show) who contracept and have decent-sized families anyway and take good care of their kids. They’re not driven by $$$$ or a keep-God-out mentality.

As for fasting from sex for half the year, OMG, just throw me from a cliff! God bless you for your resolve! You’re a living saint! LOL :eek:

The concern here as so astutely formulated under Aquinian Ethic has to do with 2 things: the object of an action, and the end of an action. (1) In short, the action itself must be good, right, and proper, and so must the goal of the action.

In regards to contraception involving the introduction of foreign bodies and materials such as the altering of the female hormonal cycle (birth control) or the addition of synthetic materials (condoms, sponges, diaphragms) the result is a change in the action. It is akin to sodomy or fellatio in that regard though on the face of things much less offensive in casual conversation.

The second problem is the alteration of the end of the act. While this sounds like intention, and in truth is not entirely unrelated, it is not as simple as “are we or are we not attempting to undermine God’s will?” For the end of contraception is and always is separation of husband and wife. I do not mean to refer here to divorce, but the very physical union revealed by scripture, “and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:8) Whether this be in the form of a physical barrier or the form of hormonal manipulation which prevents the woman from being present as God would have her be the end is still that separation. (With respect to b.c. altering her hormonal state it is comparative to getting her drunk to alter her mental state, the goal is to remove the woman from sex)

The Natural Family Planning does not do either of these. It introduces nothing into the act of intimacy which is unnatural and does not alter the natural hormonal state of the woman allowing her to be fully present. The end of Natural Family Planning is not the separation of Husband and Wife, but rather the union of Husband and Wife. Natural Family Planning takes advantage of God’s mercy and grace in the female’s natural cycle. God has granted much time during the month for allowing those who are not able or ready to care for a child to still be fully together in the estate of marriage. It is not a burden or law; it is an opportunity for human beings to enjoy the fruits of God’s grace of marriage in spite of a sinful and fallen world which sees poverty and circumstance hindering the prudence in procreation. The alternative would be a marriage which sees a fallen world the victor and the devil successful in his pursuit of separation. Separation of man from his brother, man from God and Husband from Wife.

:eek: and he’s Lutheran!

The below is completely irrelevant to the question, but not the topic.

It seems incredibly odd to me that Aquinas using the model of Aristotle has to come up with a gigantic system of “sin ranking.” Then again, perhaps it is not so odd since your primary use of the law is not to reveal the depth of one’s sin, his total depravity and reliance on a savior, the savior, Jesus Christ. You use the law as a ladder by which one may attempting to stand upright in the face of a truly Holy God. Yet all your good deeds will be as filthy rags before the Lord and the law will not make you righteous. If you were truly concerned about convicting people in their sins and showing them the blackness in their hearts you could do much better:

The husband is the Glory of a woman. It is he who provides her children, her redemption. The woman who does not want children is either one of two things: untrusting of her God and husband whom God has provided her to provide for her, or ungrateful and despising of her place in creation, and in truth God’s creation. Even you who practice NFP do so because of your untrusting hearts as a consolation which God has provided for He knows how much you love to break His first commandment and elevate the circumstance of the world above your trust in Him. Yet let it also be known that either you have sex and enjoy it, thinking nothing of children and are dismissive of God’s gift, or you have sex thinking only of children and you are certainly not their to please your husband save for anything but your own ends and not in service to him. In the heart of woman there is not one who is intimate with her husband and does not even for a moment fall into one of these two categories upholding both perfectly, while giving thanks to God.

Men you are to love your wife as Christ does the Church. This will be significantly shorter as it needs little proof of explanation. There is not a man alive who does not in the moment of climax become completely turned inwards using his wife for that moment like a “love rag” or blow-up doll. You who have been entrusted with the care of one of God’s most precious and fragile beings in the most vile and violent of ways are no different than the stranger who would use her and throw her away, the difference is you save her for further use.

It is not the addition of a small rubber tube or a little pill which separates Husband and Wife, but the sin and old Adam which must be drowned daily. We are by nature sinful and unclean, not as God creates us, but as the Fall has left us and infects every aspect of our being. Seeing as how it is my heart, my rejection of God and my neighbor (wife), which puts me in need of the grace of my savior which I receive through faith. The presence or absence of contraception changes…nothing.

:thumbsup:

Oh no! I’m certainly no Saint. I’m not married yet, so I cannot attest to how much of a struggle it is.

I agree with much of your post for the most part. Tossing kids in daycare horrifies me!:eek:

In Christ,
Andrew

The intent is not relevant, since the Church has no teaching that one must actively intend to conceive during intercourse. …

Nominefili
You need to understand intent is in fact relevent, for 40 years we were taught “grave reasons” were needed to use NFP to “space children”. Now we are taught serious reasons are needed. The teachings are deep and not easily understood on the first couple of reviews of this subject. The key is understanding the commitment to the marriage* needed for sex. The understanding of (*)marriage is also needed.

hope that helps

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.