Thanks for all the responses, people.
The impetus for my question was a conversation I had with a practicing Catholic friend of mine who said she needs to use birth control when she gets married because her anti-depressants (which I will stipulate are absolutely necessary for her, along with her other therapies) cause an incredibly high risk for severe birth defects if she becomes pregnant.
So what I was getting at, is that NFP is just as reliable as any pill, given perfect use. I assume someone with as much compassion on her potential children as to not want them to suffer from various diseases would be dedicated to the perfect use of an NFP method.
Anyway, I didn’t tell her my first reaction because I know how cold it sounds. It goes something like, “theologically or morally speaking, giving birth to a ‘defected’ child is certainly not evil. Knowing that a child will die very soon after birth may be painful for the parents, but will this child not go to heaven? It has comitted no personal sin, so just baptize him immediately and trust God. Contraception is still intrinsically evil. The Church is not ‘out of touch’ with your specific condition, you have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy and are therefore justified in delaying pregnancy indefinitely if need be, but only through the licit means of complete abstinence or natural family planning.”
Does anyone have a better way of saying this, or had to have this conversation before in real life?
Now, to respond to something else that came up:
Maybe that’s just because it’s statistically more likely, but it seems that there is an underlying assumption that if a couple was using NFP they’d wind up with more kids than 1-2 because NFP is just not that effective.
I think the assumption is not that NFP is ineffective, so therefore couples with few kids can’t have practiced it exclusively. The general assumption I make is that if a couple takes seriously the Church’s teaching on marriage and contraception, then they will practice NFP and also be open to life. That is, they will intentionally have at least as many children as they think they can handle, maybe more than that if they make it a point to trust in God’s providence.
However, I hope I would not make assumptions about the fertility of other couples just looking at their number of children. They could have had multiple miscarriages, one partner could have become permanently infertile, or the practice NFP because they’ve discerned they have a serious reason to do so, even if I can’t figure out what that reason is.
[/Now, I also understand that the effectiveness of NFP really doesn’t matter when discussing when it is moral to use it. I’ve seen some stats that indicate that condoms are less effective than NFP in avoiding, but I know that doesn’t make condom use more moral than NFP. Neither, really, do the purpoted “side benefits” such as couples becoming closer spiritually, very low divorce rates among NFP users, etc. So perhaps all this discussion doesn’t really matter. QUOTE]
It matters to me.