Circular NFP reasoning

Here I am playing the skeptic again. I have watched a 90 minute lecture on EWTN, and read many articles, on NFP. Obviously NFP has a lot going for it.

Here’s the part I have a problem with. There are two fact/opinions that seem to contradict each other that are prevalent throughout these teachings, often in the same article.

First, we are told by NFP articles and by the Catechism that “artificial” birth contraceptive methods are immoral because they strive to make procreation impossible. NFP, on the other hand, is “open” to life and therefore is submissive to God’s will, while servings its purpose as family planning by taking advantage of knowledge of the natural fertility cycles.

On the other hand, NFP articles often talk about how NFP methods are “scientifically proven” and how they are statistically more effective than artificial means at preventing pregnancy.

What I want to know is, if NFP is more effective at preventing pregnancy than artificial means, and artificial means are immoral because they strive to make conception impossible and therefore are not open to life, then couldn’t one logically conclude that NFP, being more effective at preventing pregnancy than artificial means, would actually be more immoral? Someone please help me out here.

Please note that I am only talking about methods that prevent conception such as condoms and sterilization, not abortive methods such as IUD and most pills.

Alan

I see your point, but I don’t think the reasoning is circular. The rationale is not based on effectiveness of the method (i.e. NFP vs. artificial means of contraception), but on the type of method itself.

I think you’re really stuck on why NFP, itself, is approved at all, for any reason. If you are seriously using it, you would be using it for exactly the same reason that someone would use some form of technology to prevent conception. It’s really splitting hairs to assert that you’re “really” open to conception in the midst of NFP.

NFP doesn’t prevent conception. It provides the couple information regarding fertility. If the woman is fertile and they choose to have relations there is a good chance she will conceive. If they choose not to have relations they won’t conceive.

The purpose of contraception is to prevent conception. It’s purpose is not to provide information about the woman’s fertility. Conceptions happen because the contraception “failed”.

Compairing “failure” rates between NFP and contraceptions seems silly to me. NFP helps the couple judge their fertility. The couple chooses what to do with the information. The only possible failure would be for the couple to “change” their minds with regards to abstaining if they had decided they needed to to avoid a pregnancy that month. NFP didn’t fail. The couple “failed” to stay committed to their decision for the month. Even then, it is hardly a failure.

Ms. Cilantro

Janet Smith says comparing NFP to contraception is like comparing dieting to bulemia. One is just restricting when you use a human function that God has attached pleasure to. The other is seeking the pleasure of the function without the effects.

my two cents.
when it comes to a married couples intimacy, nothing beats NFP.
nothing is more nurturing, nothing is better at fostering a deep spiritual bond than NFP in my humble opinion.

This very question was bothering me when I approached the contraception teaching. After much deliberation I thought to myself, ‘AHA!!! I have found a mistake in Church teaching!’

After all, how could the Church condemn contraception yet praise NFP when the intent is the same, i.e. to prevent children. But then I did something I had never done before, I went straight to the source. In the Church document, Humanae Vitae the Magisterium specifically states that the intent is the same!!! I thought, ‘WHAT!!!’

Apparently they beat me to it! Your question is not new, nor was mine when I uttered it.

So, hopefully at this point, your mouth is watering, mine sure was, but for sake of dramatics that’s all I’ll say, except for GO FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF!! (You’ll be happy you did :slight_smile: )

[quote=pittsburghjeff]Janet Smith says comparing NFP to contraception is like comparing dieting to bulemia. One is just restricting when you use a human function that God has attached pleasure to. The other is seeking the pleasure of the function without the effects.
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Yes, but neither dieting or bulemia is “open to gaining weight”. Similarly, using NFP to avoid conception is extremely effective, and can’t really be said to be “open to life”.

However, we are not required to be open to life in every marital embrace; if this were so, then God would have designed women to become pregnant every time they have marital relations. Instead, we are called to be open to life over the course of the marriage. So using NFP is not a problem.

Artificial birth control does not make procreation impossible. It makes the womb uninhabitable. If one was to conceive, the overly hostile environment of the womb due to the pill would make attachment impossible, thus, an abortion would occur.

NFP does not make these changes to the womb. If conception were to occur, the child would have a natural environment in which he or she can grow and thrive.

I know the percentages of conception actually occurring and then the additional chances of successful pregnancies. However, for the sake of this discussion, I have not included them, since the topic is NFP.

We are given a great responsibility at every union. We are called to be open to life at every martial embrace. God does not give us a gestation period of a day or two. It’s 40 weeks. He has also given us a cycle and the knowledge from which we can determine fertility days and live responsibly in our actions.

[quote=Emily Watson]We are called to be open to life at every martial embrace.
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I think we must be using the same words to mean different things. If I took this statement at face value, it would mean that women who have had a hysterectomy could never have (non-sinful) martial relations ever again. However, this is not what the Church teaches.

Also, condoms do not affect the womb in any way. However, their use is still very sinful.

I always though “open to life” meant if you did happen to get pregnant, you wouldn’t be upset about. There is a different attitude when it comes to NFP compares to other forms of birth control. When you fail at NFP, you know what you are doing when you are fooling around during your fertile period. It is your responsibility to abstain, when you are on the pill or using the condom it isn’t “you” that failed but an artificial factor. So instead of taking responsibility, you blame the birth control.

With NFP all pregnancies are planned pregnancies, because you are very well aware when you are fertile and when you are not or you are aware of the chance of pregnancy if you do not chart. With non-NFP practices pregnancies are unplanned, because you took the responsibilty off of yourselves and placed it with the risk at the failure of artificial means.

The immorality of artificial contraception is in it’s artificial nature.
It is separate from, but often in conjunction with, the sin of not being open to children.

This means that a couple will freely accept, welcome and love any children brought forth. It is possible that this welcoming nature exists in couples who use artificial birth control.
A couple who practice NFP, but are not open to children still sin

There is another sin involved as well.

The sin of Artificial Birth Control (ABC’s) lies in it’s rejection of God plan for matrimony.

The marital act is an act of union (the two shall be come as one). It is a Sacramental act where each spouse fully accepts themselves and each other.

Using ABC’s is telling God, “I reject the way you created me, I reject my fertility, and I reject my spouses fertility”

NFP is a recognition of God’s Plan for the marital act. We can see that God did not intend for each operation of the marital act end in conception, as he created fertile and infertile times in a woman’s cycle.

God, through His Church has also taught that the marital act is beautiful and Sacramental even when one of both spouses are infertile.

NFP allows a couple to use those times when God designed the marital act without conception, and thus retain the Sacramental nature of the marital act. ABC is a denial of that same fertility cycle and that same acceptance of how God created our spouse.

[quote=Catholic2003]I think we must be using the same words to mean different things. If I took this statement at face value, it would mean that women who have had a hysterectomy could never have (non-sinful) martial relations ever again. However, this is not what the Church teaches.

Also, condoms do not affect the womb in any way. However, their use is still very sinful.
[/quote]

All things being equal, we are called to be open to life. Just because a woman has a hysterectomy, or for that matter is infertile, does not mean that she is not open to life. It means that there is a different calling for her and her spouse. In these cases NFP is moot.

Again, since the topic is NFP, I assume that all things are equal.

Condoms do not “protect” against pregnancy 100%. You are right in that their use is 100% sinful. However, the topic is NFP.

well… when you get right down to it NFP is really just cyclical abstience well timed. It is not a sin to abstain from sex within marriage within certain parameters which NFP – when used with a good conscience – meets.

ABC on the other hand separates sex from its natural functions. Within the same act you are saying “I want my cake and I want to eat it too”

The fact that abstinence is such a great preventer for conception should come as no surprise to anyone.

-D

Even articulate Catholics often fail to discern why abstinence from intercourse during a woman’s fertile period is not the ethical equivalent of contraception. It is a common assumption that choosing to come together conjugally during a time of infertility while abstaining from marital privileges during a time of fertility is morally the same as using any other means to prevent conception. The two things may at first blush appear to be equivalent but the difference is substantial. For one thing, though people can and do use the timing of fertile/infertile periods with a contraceptive intent, the practice is not **in itself **contraceptive: that is, it does not interrupt, subvert, block or distort a natural act of intercourse. Recognizing the pastoral need, Humanae Vitae urged medical science to find acceptable methods that may be employed during times when couples must, for good reason, avoid pregnancy. Without such knowledge, the only option would be total abstinence.

Leaving aside St. Paul’s permission for couples to abstain temporarily from marital relations in order to pray (I Cor. 7:5), our bodies state a ‘theology of the flesh,’ so to speak. The theology of contraception is that we are in charge rather than God. NFP, working in harmony with, not against, natural law, uses God’s own design to help us when we believe that we must avoid a pregnancy for well grounded reasons: i.e., for compelling physical or psychological considerations or because of some external circumstance (as stated in HV 16). We play by God’s rules.1

Refraining from the pleasure of our sexuality because we choose to forego the consequences of our fertility, reveals to us in a deep and poignant way that the pleasure and the life are intrinsically united.

It would be beggarly to confuse permission to use NFP with endorsement of it for purely self-centered motives. The sometimes terrifying ideal of complete openness to life (to which few of us aspire, and even fewer achieve) is to yield our lives wholly to God, to trust him with our fertility, and to trust that he will provide for the children he brings into the world through our obedience. Yet even obedience must accord with stewardship and prudence, hence Humanae Vitae’s pastoral offering of a godly way to achieve this end.

NFP allows total mutual self giving between the couple. Contraception rejects the totality of the mutual gift of trust and of self. NFP requires a mutual decision and mutual discipline and cannot be practiced solo – another feature that is more consonant with the union of the couple than many contraceptive methods.

Janet E. Smith, Professor and Chair of Life Issues at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, says that, if you ask a couple who think NFP is nothing more than a “Catholic contraceptive” why they don’t use it, since it is safe and effective, the answer is likely to be: “Oh, but that would be completely different!”

You would think that the statistics regarding marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, sense of personal well-being, and the almost non-existent divorce rate among practitioners of NFP would capture the attention of a world of broken homes and rampant single-parenthood.

the one thing that bothers me is the assumption that since our bodies function in a particular way, this is exactly how God wanted it to be, and we can’t artificially alter it. First of all, how do we know that the human fertility system is exactly how God intended it to be? Isn’t this also a fallen and imperfect world? It seems rather presumptious to conclude that because something is a certain way, then it ought to be that way. Is doesn’t entail ought.

Second of all, there are plenty of other natural processes of our bodies that we take artificial means to stop. A tumor is a natural occurence, and if God is in charge of everything, who are we to interfere with his plan by using chemo therapy?

The fertility cycle is a natural process. Altering it carries grave consequences.

Excising a tumor is not comparable to the abordificant properties of taking the pill. A cold is naturally occurring too, but we take relief medications for that as well. When doing so, we are killing the bad little bacteria within ourselves which has made us stuffy. Artificial birth control carries the possibly of a child’s death.

[quote=Emily Watson]Artificial birth control does not make procreation impossible. It makes the womb uninhabitable.
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Barrier methods do not make the womb uninhabitable.

In my opinion NFP is in fact birth control… but the issue ultimately relates not to procreation per se, but rather to treating sex as simple recreation.

It’s pretty clear to me that The Church sees recreational sex as a threat to the married life and I agree completely. It has the effect of distorting the deep practical and emotional committments that must be present for a healthy sexual relationship.

I think that focusing primarily on the baby/no baby issue misses the point. However, I admit that you have to presume that sex is more than just ‘fun’ to see it this way.

Clint

[quote=Emily Watson]The fertility cycle is a natural process. Altering it carries grave consequences.

Excising a tumor is not comparable to the abordificant properties of taking the pill. A cold is naturally occurring too, but we take relief medications for that as well. When doing so, we are killing the bad little bacteria within ourselves which has made us stuffy. Artificial birth control carries the possibly of a child’s death.
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not all ABC is abortafacient. Condoms aren’t, diaphrams aren’t, vasectomies aren’t, etc.

you just proved my point by saying a cold and a tumor are naturally occuring processes too. If God is in charge of everything, then why isn’t it just as sinful to interfere with His will for our bodies when we get a cold? Nature is nature, after all.

Excising a tumor or taking extra zinc for a cold is not comparable with the harming and killing of a child. The topic is NFP!!! Come on!!

[quote=Minerva]the one thing that bothers me is the assumption that since our bodies function in a particular way, this is exactly how God wanted it to be, and we can’t artificially alter it. First of all, how do we know that the human fertility system is exactly how God intended it to be? Isn’t this also a fallen and imperfect world? It seems rather presumptious to conclude that because something is a certain way, then it ought to be that way. Is doesn’t entail ought.

Second of all, there are plenty of other natural processes of our bodies that we take artificial means to stop. A tumor is a natural occurence, and if God is in charge of everything, who are we to interfere with his plan by using chemo therapy?
[/quote]

Cancer is a disease, breathing, you pulse and ovulation isn’t. Ovulation and sperm are normal biological functions, that your reproductive system designed to do. You body isn’t designed to handle cancer. You die from cancer, but you don’t die from breathing or your heart beating.

Yes I do believe God wanted us to breath, pump blood through our bodies, eat, and dispose of bodily waste.

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