In natural family planning a couple will refrain from sexual relations during certain times of the month in which the woman is more fertile. This is endorsed by the CC but I’m concerned with how this is in line with St. Paul’s instructions in I Cor. 7:5 “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” St. Paul seems to say that it is fine for a couple to abstain from sexual relations for a time but that the purpose should be for prayer. He does not mention birth control, only prayer. The NFP literature I’ve seen doesn’t seem to emphasize prayer as a component of abstinence. Can someone enlighten me on this? Thanks!
Since children and fertility are a GIFT, avoiding conception, for whatever reason, is something that should be taken to prayer.
NFP is not used for “good” reasons… it’s used for reasons that are troubling, challenging, or painful… reasons that would need to be taken to prayer no matter what.
From the CCC:
2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156
Think about it some more. Do you really think St. Paul is ordering couples to ‘do it nonstop like bunnies?’
Sounds to me like his is addressing a longer period of abstinance than the week or two that NFP requires.
Also remember, from the beginning, the purification laws that God set up for the Jewish people did not permit marital relations just any old time. Roughly 2 weeks out of every month a woman was ritually unclean. God build in a time to have relations and a time to abstain from relations.
EXCEPT in mutual consent is the important part. So as long as both people agree to avoiding during the fertile time, then it’s fine, as far as that verse is concerned.
well as I recall when we practice NFP (or rhythm method as it was called in my day) there was always mutual consent (however grudging) but definitely ALWAYS accompanied by prayer!
My understanding the prayer part is two fold. One to help the couple listen to God about the timing and size of their family and the other is, well, now that you have some spare time you’d like to devote to someone else, it’s a great time to thank God for what you have.
I suppose mostly NFP teachers are talking the mechanics, not the whole picture, so prayer probably was assumed. I’ll have to ask the one I know. I don’t recall it way back when, when we took the class, either.
THERE IS NO SIN IN PRACTICING NFP! If there were, the church would not allow it. There is sin in abusing it to selfishly avoid having children. See also “grave and just consideration” in your CCC. See prayer reference above. How else do you give proper serious consideration?
Definition of “practicing NFP”: A couple that uses one of several methods to understand and track the woman’s cycle. And with such knowledge, understands when conception is most likely possible.
With that understanding, a couple is allowed to abstain if they have prayerfully considered to do so. See. it all ties in.