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Fertility Regulation, Naturally

Interview With Westminster Diocesan Aide

LONDON, APRIL 20, 2007 (Zenit) - Natural fertility awareness is not just a method to avoid pregnancy, it's about gaining a new understanding of the power of procreation, says a promoter of a new diocesan resource in Britain.

Edmund Adamus, director for pastoral affairs of the Archdiocese of Westminster, has helped to launch an educational resource entitled "Natural Fertility Awareness: The Joy of God's Plan."

The resource includes a DVD and booklet produced by the Catholic Truth Society, in conjunction with Luton Good Counsel, a pro-life counseling service.

In this interview with us, Adamus comments on the new resource and the reasons behind its production.

Q: Your new resource says that it is a guide to natural fertility awareness. Isn't this just natural family planning?

Adamus: Natural fertility awareness is not simply about natural family planning, but about creating within people, especially couples, a deeper sense of appreciation for the gift that is fertility. And, like all gifts from God, we are called to use it wisely and cherish it as we promise to cherish our spouse in the marriage ceremony.

Fertility awareness means so much more than just being able to know how to avoid getting pregnant in conformity with the Church's teaching on artificial contraception; it's also about empowering couples, particularly women, with the God-given knowledge about their bodies so that they might also achieve pregnancy as co-creators with God.

When one in five couples these days are experiencing serious problems of either subfertility or chronic infertility, then assisting couples to achieve pregnancy naturally, avoiding the injustice of in vitro fertilization, has to be seen as a pastoral priority.

Q: Why is this new resource needed? Aren't there already myriads of resources available to Catholic couples looking to use natural methods of birth control?

Adamus: There may be "myriads of resources available," but couples who practice natural family planning will almost always say that they had to strive very hard to be instructed, trained and supported in their locality.

That's not to say that there haven't been some amazingly gifted and generous natural family planning trainers out there who have tried very hard to make their presence felt and their services more widely available. However, without adequate support, the message has, at best, been paid lip service to -- and in most cases ignored.

This resource aims to overcome the problem of access. It is designed to make the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality and the wisdom underlying it easy to present in clear and simple terms. It makes no demands on local clergy, but rather puts into their hands a resource to enable them to impart objectively and consistently a teaching they may find difficult to present otherwise.

Q: There are various different schools of thought within natural family planning, such as the Billings Method and the Creighton Method. Is this resource a new method? Aren't all methods more or less the same?

Adamus: This resource is not announcing, promoting or defending any particular method of fertility awareness. It is primarily about acquainting people -- including the clergy -- with a sharper sensitivity to the dangers of the contraceptive mentality -- so often announced by Pope John Paul II.

Basically, the resource simply points to fertility awareness as a concept, and although some of the various methods are showcased, it is ultimately up to each couple to decide which method seems most appropriate for them.

John Paul II exhorted experts working in this field to "appreciate their respective work and mutually exchange experience and results, firmly avoiding tensions and disagreements, which could threaten this important and difficult work."

Q: Natural family planning or fertility awareness has been described as the Catholic Church's best kept secret. Why do you think so little attention has been paid to it by Catholics, and society at large?

Adamus: In essence, the issue of ignorance and lack of engagement with natural family planning and fertility awareness is the problem of the contraceptive culture and mentality.

Commentators -- especially Catholics -- who disagree with the Church's teaching on artificial contraception like to think that the problems regarding this issue are due to the promulgation of the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" in 1968.

Clearly this isn't so, and one would have to be morally blind not to see all the effects of widespread contraception which Pope Paul VI prophesied -- and even those he could never have predicted, such as embryonic research, cloning and in vitro fertilization.

The theological and pastoral divisions ...

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