NFP and Just Reason


#1

Discussions about NFP (for avoidance) of a "should we" or "shouldn't we" nature, tend to get very tangled in the meaning of "just reason". And while this term must mean something, the Church teaches that no one but the couple concerned may determine what is "Just" for them. I find the notion very muddy and it near impossible to reach an intellectual resolution. Perhaps I over think the matter?

But it leads me to pose the question: What if the Church had omitted that qualification? What if the Church had said, in the context of condemning contraception, that the proper and morally acceptable method of regulating births or limiting family size is by mutually agreed periodic abstinence? Full Stop.

Can we gain any insight into the reason for requiring "just reasons" by testing the "suitability" of the above, or examine how it would fall short of a teaching consistent with the important tenets of the faith?


#2

Here is the nice brief or *succinct *teaching of the Church -from the Compendium issued by Pope Benedict XVI

495. What are the goods of conjugal love to which sexuality is ordered?

2360-2361
2397-2398

The goods of conjugal love, which for those who are baptized is sanctified by the sacrament of Matrimony, are unity, fidelity, indissolubility, and an openness to the procreation of life.
**
496. What is the meaning of the conjugal act?**

2362-2367

The conjugal act has a twofold meaning: unitive (the mutual self-giving of the spouses) and procreative (an openness to the transmission of life). No one may break the inseparable connection which God has established between these two meanings of the conjugal act by excluding one or the other of them.

497. When is it moral to regulate births?

2368-2369
2399

The regulation of births, which is an aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood, is objectively morally acceptable when it is pursued by the spouses without external pressure; when it is practiced not out of selfishness but for serious reasons; and with methods that conform to the objective criteria of morality, that is, periodic continence and use of the infertile periods.

498. What are immoral means of birth control?

2370-2372

Every action - for example, direct sterilization or contraception - is intrinsically immoral which (either in anticipation of the conjugal act, in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences) proposes, as an end or as a means, to hinder procreation.

vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html


#3

[quote="Rau, post:1, topic:339643"]
...What if the Church had omitted that qualification [of "just reasons"]? What if the Church had said, in the context of condemning contraception, that the proper and morally acceptable method of regulating births or limiting family size is by mutually agreed periodic abstinence? Full Stop.

[/quote]

My guess is that you'd have a bunch of Catholic couples [presumably without any good reason] decide to try it out, only to find that, without any kind of just reason to abstain from sex in the fertile window, they are simply not going to volunteer to abstain from sex.

I don't know of any couple who has ever decided to not have sex for no good reason.

To your end point though..I'm not sure if excluding "just reasons" from the equation would matter or not, in regards to teh Church's decision to use that. I believe the Church wants to emphasize the importance of child-rearing and the 2-fold nature and purpose of the Marital Union. In that light, it's a given that procreation should not be avoided except where a "just reason" exists. But as to whether it's actually necessary to state "just reason"...I don't know.

ETA: reading what Bookcat provided: To me it boils down, then, to an "in theory" vs. "in practice" thing. In theory, periodic continence could be used for selfish reasons and the Church emphasizes that such is to be avoided. In practice, however, not so much.


#4

[quote="ahs, post:3, topic:339643"]
I don't know of any couple who has ever decided to not have sex for no good reason.

[/quote]

:rotfl::rotfl::rotfl:

As a woman that has practiced NFP for a number of years, I have to wholeheartedly agree.


#5

[quote="Rau, post:1, topic:339643"]
Discussions about NFP (for avoidance) of a "should we" or "shouldn't we" nature, tend to get very tangled in the meaning of "just reason". And while this term must mean something, the Church teaches that no one but the couple concerned may determine what is "Just" for them. I find the notion very muddy and it near impossible to reach an intellectual resolution. Perhaps I over think the matter?

[/quote]

Just a note:

The Church is leaving it open because She trusts our well formed conscience in the discernment of whether or not to have more children. Take that as a compliment and accept it. Not everything needs to be written out as a strict, specific step by step manual to follow.


#6

[quote="ahs, post:3, topic:339643"]
I don't know of any couple who has ever decided to not have sex for no good reason.

[/quote]

Yes, NFP can be essentially self correcting in this manner. If your reasons are not serious, they will not likely stand up when spousal attraction boils up.


#7

[quote="underacloud, post:6, topic:339643"]
Yes, NFP can be essentially self correcting in this manner. If your reasons are not serious, they will not likely stand up when spousal attraction boils up.

[/quote]

Ding ding! We have a winner. Phony reasons tend to crumble like a sandcastle in a tsunami in practice. God built into us self regulation against this. It's only when we defeat this self regulation via contraception which divorces intimacy from baby-making altogether that people become no longer able to discern the difference between serious reasons and frivolous ones. We forget that sins are sins because the DAMAGE us. Contraception is sinful because it fundamentally damage the sexual union and the whole ecology of human sexuality. This is precisely why every nation on earth in which contraception is widely available and socially respectable has a BELOW replacement birth rate. They've short circuited God's design for human sexuality.


#8

just1 [juhst] Show IPA
adjective
1.
guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness: We hope to be just in our understanding of such difficult situations.
2.
done or made according to principle; equitable; proper: a just reply.
3.
based on right; rightful; lawful: a just claim.
4.
in keeping with truth or fact; true; correct: a just analysis.
5.
given or awarded rightly; deserved, as a sentence, punishment, or reward: a just penalty.

Honestly, I think few people think about the use of the term "Just"

Often while trying to point out that it is not "grave" as is often misquoted I think people forget that "just" reasons does not just mean just ANY reason. The reason must be Just and it must be just in relationship to God.

And the term "Just" is not a relative term. It should not mean different things to different people. It has a universal meaning because it deals with Truth. It must be Just in relationship with God and his Church. Sometimes I think the reasons are just "just" to one or both partners but may not be checked against God and his Holy Church.

I have been part of a couple and have known couples who do not use just reasons. My wife and I at one point postponed for a year and half because we were going to go to Italy for a vacation. Another couple I know postponed for a year so they could reach goal weights and go to Hawaii. I have a hard time reconciling either of those two scenarios with the definition of the term "Just"


#9

[quote="Hoosier_Daddy, post:8, topic:339643"]
Honestly, I think few people think about the use of the term "Just"

Often while trying to point out that it is not "grave" as is often misquoted I think people forget that "just" reasons does not just mean just ANY reason. The reason must be Just and it must be just in relationship to God.

And the term "Just" is not a relative term. It should not mean different things to different people. It has a universal meaning because it deals with Truth. It must be Just in relationship with God and his Church. Sometimes I think the reasons are just "just" to one or both partners but may not be checked against God and his Holy Church.

I have been part of a couple and have known couples who do not use just reasons. My wife and I at one point postponed for a year and half because we were going to go to Italy for a vacation. Another couple I know postponed for a year so they could reach goal weights and go to Hawaii. I have a hard time reconciling either of those two scenarios with the definition of the term "Just"

[/quote]

IF there is a need to have "just reasons", and the church teaches that there is, then I agree the meaning of "Just" should be commonly understood, though what is just or not will vary from couple to couple based on who they are, their circumstances, their talents and so on. Some couples seem to be "born" to have big families - they love it, they're good at it, and so on. Others can't imagine it for themselves. Just - in such varying contexts, clearly can't be codified in specifics, and so this would explain why only the couple can discern "just" for them.

The trade-offs you list are where I get a 'headache'. It does not follow (in my mind) that saving for a holiday is not a Just reason. And it makes me ask - would it be "less just" for a couple with no children than for that couple if/when they have 3 children? Does it mean that any discretionary spending, in lieu of having another child, is misguided? [Maybe it is - in the sense that a holiday is less noble than a donation to charity.] Have children to the maximum of your financial capability? Does it mean that building financial resources, for one's retirement, and ultimately to benefit one's children upon our demise, is to be eschewed in favour of inviting a seventh (insert whatever number you like) child?

The other interesting idea I read on this thread was the idea that NFP is self-regulating - in the sense that if your reason isn't good, you may well "fail to abstain". This was how it was explained.....


#10

[quote="manualman, post:7, topic:339643"]
Ding ding! We have a winner. Phony reasons tend to crumble like a sandcastle in a tsunami in practice. God built into us self regulation against this. It's only when we defeat this self regulation via contraception which divorces intimacy from baby-making altogether that people become no longer able to discern the difference between serious reasons and frivolous ones. We forget that sins are sins because the DAMAGE us. Contraception is sinful because it fundamentally damage the sexual union and the whole ecology of human sexuality. This is precisely why every nation on earth in which contraception is widely available and socially respectable has a BELOW replacement birth rate. They've short circuited God's design for human sexuality.

[/quote]

I dont know. Moral decisions are tough enough when just one person is involved but where there are 3!? (Husband, wife, and God.) then it is less likely that they will "agree" at the same time on the same things. In my marriage, NFP is rarely agreed upon as "Just" by all parties involved. It has led to resentment by me of my wife because she has to be the Sex police. ( I tend to want children at a higher rate than she does.) And it has led to a "breaking of the rules" with regards to what is permissible. ( I know this is graphic but I think it is enough of an elephant in the room that we can bring it up.) But sometimes we might not "finish" correctly or even have intercourse at all. This not only leads to a sin that needs to be confessed but even leads to further resentment in the marriage.

And it leads to resentment of me by her because I may be "pushing" her too hard to fulfill the marital embrace.
NFP is better than ABC because it does foster communication each month, but honestly, so do certain forms of ABC that have to be renewed or put on each time.
This is why it is so frustrating when the Church gives vague direction in such a volatile issue.
In our NFP experience I have never met another practicing couple who did not have these stresses and rule breakings.

Our marriage and faith is not stronger because we use NFP but rather we use NFP because our marriage and faith is strong. And that is NFP's failure in the public marketing square. It is billed by it's teachers, companies and proponents as beneficial. It is not.


#11

I cannot imagine what “less vague” direction would say. If “Just Reasons” are required, there cannot be any further spelling out of them (IMHO) for the reasons expressed earlier. The matter is simply not “objective” and no 2 couples are the same. But this isn’t unique to this area of Church teaching is it - eg. we are urged to be generous and help the poor, but we are not told more specifically how, or by what extent we “must” forego our own pleasures to help another.

The “problem” - at least in the case where both spouses are inclined to defer or limit their family - arises because reasons are required at all, beyond the ‘mutual agreement of the spouses’.


#12

You know, that is interesting. It is hard enough for a married couple to be lock-step on any issue. Just go to a dinner party and ask about sports or politics. But this issue is one that is especially volatile and personal. It touches on our very being and purpose on earth. I touches on our physical bodies and spiritual ones. Perhaps that is why the Church directs us with the term “just”, perhaps that is why the Church does go that extra step to direct us. Mutual agreement of the spouses is hard enough when deciding what movie to see on a date night much less if they should create a new soul at a certain hormone charged moment. Perhaps the Church offers both partners a reference point and an authority higher than their own libidos or selfishness or greed or fear


#13

I say this with all due respect and NOT to judge or point fingers…but I feel like this needs to be pointed out. Hoosier Daddy, help me understand your point more succinctly:

You believe you and your spouse have used NFP for unjust reasons. Yet you and your spouse have a hard time agreeing on even the most basic and simple issues. You don’t respect her lack of readiness [for a child] to a point where she has to be the “sex police”, and then when you fail to control yourself, you blame her because you chose to break the rules. You see God, not as a unifying Person in the Marriage, but as another opportunity for a disagreement in a moral decision. And you don’t think any of that is a just reason to avoid a pregnancy right now??

None of that looks like “NFP’s failure” to me. It looks like you are having a difficult time being responsible for your decisions and respecting your spouse’s position, and NFP is the only thing holding your Marriage together. IMHO.


#14

[quote="ahs, post:13, topic:339643"]
I say this with all due respect and NOT to judge or point fingers...but I feel like this needs to be pointed out. Hoosier Daddy, help me understand your point more succinctly:

You believe you and your spouse have used NFP for unjust reasons. Yet you and your spouse have a hard time agreeing on even the most basic and simple issues. You don't respect her lack of readiness [for a child] to a point where she has to be the "sex police", and then when you fail to control yourself, you blame her because you chose to break the rules. You see God, not as a unifying Person in the Marriage, but as another opportunity for a disagreement in a moral decision. And you don't think any of that is a just reason to avoid a pregnancy right now??

None of that looks like "NFP's failure" to me. It looks like you are having a difficult time being responsible for your decisions and respecting your spouse's position, and NFP is the only thing holding your Marriage together. IMHO.

[/quote]

You believe you and your spouse have used NFP for unjust reasons.

Yes. And most couples we know have also used it for unjust reasons. In fact we often discuss it.

Yet you and your spouse have a hard time agreeing on even the most basic and simple issues.

No. And this was the risk I ran by typing that. It has nothing to do with if I have a good or bad marriage. We have an excellent marriage and we settle on all the important things. But a marriage is about compromise. And compromise is about one or both parties sacrificing a little. There is no such thing as a marriage where both partners agree on even the little things. I was trying to point out that marriages involves two people with two free wills and two wants and needs. I was trying to be honest about what marriage entails and in trying to speak frankly and honestly, I was misunderstood. The fact of the matter is that with NFP if BOTH couples agree that there is no reason to avoid and both desire children then they may not abstain. But the level of agreement or want of children is different because there are two different people in the equation. That is all. My wife and I do not disagree about movies or anything else. I was trying to illustrate a point. She may want to see a chick flick, I may want to see an action flick and we either find something in between or we indulge the other person. We do not bicker about it but we do not desire the exact same things.

You don't respect her lack of readiness [for a child] to a point where she has to be the "sex police", and then when you fail to control yourself, you blame her because you chose to break the rules

No, again I must not have been clear. Her reasons may not appear "Just" to me. If she wanted to abstain because she wants a red Ferrari or because she wants to fit in a black cocktail dress for a friends wedding in 2 months then that might not be "Just" to me.
(neither of those are true) And I am concerned that the jump you made was that I lack self control and force her to do something and then blame her!!! Let me be clear that WE lack self control. Together. We agree to sin. As do the other NFP couples we know. It is nice to have couples who know the struggles and are not ignorant of the mechanics or moral decisions. We could never go back to ABC but there was a time where my wife wanted me to have a vasectomy or wear condoms. There was a time in our marriage where sex was free and worry-less because we used ABC. As we matured and grew in faith we realized different things at different times. We have recently moved, Our littlest is 9 months and I already am feeling the pull to have another. Our situation is unique in that I care for and homeschool the children. So I have more of an idea of when we are ready to have another than most husbands. (Except about her body and mental fitness) That is all hers.

Another thing that makes it hard is that fertile time is always the best time if you know what I mean!!!

The woman is almost exclusively the sex police in NFP simply because of the physicality of it. Before and after the act!


#15

A question comes to mind that I don't begin to have an answer for:

How much of the authority and competence to make these decisions is rooted in the fact that the couple themselves administer the sacrament of marriage?

What does that fact say about the sacrament, and the couple's ability to make these judgments about seriousness "without external pressure" as the Catechism says?


#16

I appreciate you clarifying your words. But you are still putting your wife in the “responsible” chair, so to speak. The woman is NOT the sex police unless her husband forces her to be. As a husband, I share in this burden with my wife, because it’s not fair to make her responsible for my choices and emotions.

By the way, you are trying to make NFP responsible for something it’s not. You said, "*And it has led to a “breaking of the rules” with regards to what is permissible. ( I know this is graphic but I think it is enough of an elephant in the room that we can bring it up.) But sometimes we might not “finish” correctly or even have intercourse at all. This not only **leads to a sin that needs to be confessed *but even leads to further resentment in the marriage. "

It’s not NFP that leads to any of this. It’s lack of self-control and lack of taking responsibility for ourselves. You are not practicing NFP when you do these things…you are practicing contraception or masturbation [implied?] and neither of those are aspects of NFP. They also do not result from NFP…they are the result of poor choices and lack of self-control.

And if you are agreeing to do these sins, even though you also know they are wrong, how is that not a just reason to avoid conception by abstinence until you and your spouse have worked on these issues? And if there really is NOT a just reason in your mind to avoid, then why is it worth it to both of you to endanger your souls via mortal sin in an effort to not conceive?


#17

But you have gone back to artificial birth control. Maybe not in the sense of going back to birth control pills, but you are using means other than NFP to avoid pregnancy. :shrug:


#18

When we struggled with NFP yes, that was the case. We used NFP for contraceptive purposes. We were in the “we just want 2 kids” mentality. We had our lives planned and NFP was just a way to implement that plan following the rules of the Church. That was what we were taught and ultimately what we taught others through NFP classes. When we grew in our faith and our marriage we moved away from NFP and now don’t really practice it at all. We still have slightly different ideas of the size of house we want etc etc, but we both have come to the realization that we will probably have a large family. Once avoidance was not the main goal for our marriage then things got easier and smoother real fast.


#19

[quote="ahs, post:16, topic:339643"]
I appreciate you clarifying your words. But you are still putting your wife in the "responsible..............?

[/quote]

No, you are wrong. It was NFP's fault. It was not until we stopped using NFP selfishly and anti life that we realized the poisons that you describe. I am only speaking of our personal experience here. I am not condemning NFP as an acceptable Catholic practice. But here is the thing.
When we were on ABC, you never had any boundaries. You could do whatever whenever. AND you never really had to confront the issues of what sex is for and why we do it as married people.

When she was PP and not cycling, same thing. You had no worries.
But with NFP you have to confront the issue every time. So, if you are using sex in a different way than intended NFP makes you confront that. I have always been open to life. My wife was not. Getting her off ABC was a lengthy process that was frustrating to all involved. Then, that time after depo, and waiting for her cycle to start was the most confusing time in our lives. A woman's cycle and hormones are so messed up coming off that that it is almost impossible to do anything but the most conservative rules in any method of NFP. Then we used Ladycomp and our sex was dictated to us by a computer. Green light days and red light days. This whole time, I am trying to sell my wife on NFP, on letting go of the control all the while NFP is touting how it is even MORE effective at avoiding pregnancies than ABC. So I am trying get her to be more open to life while selling something to her that is saying it is actually better at not bringing life to bear. Our first THREE babies were NFP babies. Not that NFP failed us but they were not "planned" by us. The 4th we used NFP to try to conceive. In our lives we have had "Just" reasons to avoid. We had a special needs child, stressful finances and job and after one of the pregnancies my wife had PPD pretty bad. All of those are things we used NFP for. We no longer have "Just" reasons to avoid so NFP is followed rather loosely if at all.

There was a time where it went like this
Me: I think we should have another baby.
Her: No, maybe someday but not now.
Me: Why?

Her: Well, I want to go to Italy.
Me: Ok we will save up, go to Italy in one year and then after that can we try?
Her: Yes.
(A year goes by with the "just" reason being we want to take an extravagant vacation.)
Me: Ok we went to Italy, it is baby making time!!
Her: How about after Christmas,
Me: Hey wait, that is 8 months away? What will be different in 8 months?
Her: I just am not ready.
Me: Ok.
(Christmas comes and goes and Easter is on it's way) Finally I have to have the old heart to heart with her about how we need to be more open to Gods plan and not just our plan.

Now it is much different. We are open to children at any time. (some more than others) My wife used to confide that she would be devastated if she got pregnant, now, she is a little sad every month when she is not.
NFP was a step in our journey. But it is one that we are moving away from. It was packaged and sold to us by CCL and other companies as something that made your marriage better. (The low divorce rate of NFPrs) and how it was easier than pie. "why you will only have to abstain for 5 maybe 6 days once you get your cycle down." LOL!
Yes, part of it was that we used it wrong but we were using it how it was sold to us. If we pushed the rules a little, my wife would worry for the rest of the month that she might be pregnant. And why? What was so bad about having a child? It did not fit into our little "plan" how silly!

We were NFP instructors for literally 2 weeks. We just could not teach the materials because we knew that they were being presented falsely. The couple who taught before us. Divorced.

NFP was a step in weaning us from the false lies of ABC. But it lied in its own way too.

We are much better off now than when we were charting, ladycomping, and debating the issue. Now, without NFP, the sex, the marriage and even our parenting is better.
The mistake of NFP's marketing now is that it still is trying to sell itself as "birth control" and honestly, it is failing at its purpose.

Most of the people we know use ABC. They never even think twice about it never have to confront it.
Most of the NFPrs we know struggle at times with it and with each other having different goals. (These are those that are our closest friends) And then there are those who have determined they have no "just" reason and these are the most drama free couples we know.

Perhaps, getting back to the topic, that is why the Church adds the phrase "Just reasons" because they are intending NFP to be what it is supposed to be, not what it has become.


#20

No, you did NOT use NFP for contraceptive purposes…you used contraception and did not stick with NFP. NFP does not involve the actions you described taking.


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