Thursday, July 31, 2003

For your consideration, and email I received today - a good discussion-starter, and perhaps an opportunity to help.

I was searching around town for the book the Art of Family Planning. Because I leave next week and my fiancee will be sticking around here, I thought it would be good to read that and get a working knowledge of NFP before our marriage. We are praying and reflecting upon our situation and believe because of our monetary situation and because we believe it would be prudent to build a solid foundation of love in the first year or two of our marriage that we should initially space children. Put a different way we believe that the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood is guiding us to space children at the beginning of our marriage. Of course we would welcome any child God gave to us. However, we are going to try to use NFP to know when my future bride is fertile and avoid marital relations in those times.

Well, I was at a local Catholic bookstore looking for the book and I explained to the woman working there that I wanted to learn NFP. I explained my situation (i.e. I am moving, engaged, getting married in November, want to learn some NFP stuff with my finance before I head out). She then said, "Oh, you aren't married yet?" "No," I said. She said, "Well, NFP is not birth control and it shouldn't be used for that. It's only supposed to be used for extreme, serious reasons. So it really isn't supposed to be used right when you get married. It would be a real shame if you guys started going down that road." I am not getting her words exactly right but I am closely approximating them. Basically, she seemed to be saying three things:

First, NFP is only supposed to be used in dire circumstances.

Two, dire circumstances are not present when you are newly married.

Three, you in particular don't have such circumstances.

I didn't know what to say. I basically shut down. In my mind she was starting from a fundamentally flawed view of the Church's teaching. And I don't think she is atypical. I have seen, read, and heard this type of approach before.

Let's be perfectly clear, I and my fiancee believe that artificial birth control is absolutely immoral. NFP offers a couple a morally licit way of spacing children. We believe that children should not be avoided because of selfish or unimportant reasons. We believe prayer and reflection need to guide the couple in discerning serious reasons for spacing children. But we also know that the Church calls us to responsible parenthood and that she does not delineate all the reasons you might licitly space children. She leaves this to the prayerful reflection of the married couple. In addition, it can be irresponsible to bring more children in the world or at least not to abstain from relations during the fertile times. The Church does not call us to have as many children as physically possible. However, listening to some it would seem that that is the case.

Also, I am not totally convinced by those who argue that NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality. If by this they mean a mentality seeks to avoid children because the couple desires a nicer home or faster car, etc. then maybe I can buy it. But, I would have to believe that those using NFP are not people who really are using those sorts of reasons to space children. Maybe I am wrong. In addition, the self-control, communication, and tenderness that NFP seems to foster all would seem to mitigate the potential dangers.

As I've been thinking of the interaction which occurred earlier today, I have to think, it is no wonder that no one accepts the Church's teaching. We have people giving them a partial truth that is not compelling. I have a feeling that many of our NFP programs in pre-Cana classes are dominated by people like this woman and I think that is a very, very bad thing for the Church. Certainly, we need to always examine our motives for spacing children but where the heck was the idea of responsible parenthood.

A related link the correspondent sent along