Natural Family Planning and the Catholic Clergy
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Ask any Catholic bishop, priest or deacon from a Western country who works with engaged couples about the incessant challenges he faces and he is likely to respond that the number one obstacle today is that these young men and women—many of whom are well-intentioned—come from a very secular environment that is not at all conducive to teaching longstanding Catholic values concerning the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
This reality coupled with the incontestable fact that few young Catholics have ever really been formed in the Church’s doctrines, marriage and otherwise, coalesce into a difficult hurdle indeed that must be overcome if Catholics preparing for marriage are to grasp—and live—the wisdom behind the Church’s unchangeable mandates.
An aspect of the Church’s teaching pertaining to marriage that has largely been studiously ignored and rejected is that of the grave, sacred responsibility to procreate. The Church unhesitatingly proclaims that each and every act of marital intercourse must be open to the possibility of the transmission of human life. While a few may dismiss this doctrine out-of-hand, most young Catholics have not been taught either this teaching or the reasonable rationale behind it.
In my experience as a parish priest, I have recommended Natural Family Planning (N.F.P.) to every engaged couple I counseled. I find that most are willing to consider using N.F.P. and are sincerely attracted to its benefits.
In presenting N.F.P., which married couples may use when a serious, just reason exists to postpone a pregnancy, I list four (of many) main advantages for using it.
1. N.F.P. is moral—it conforms to God’s plan by respecting the strong link between the life-giving and love-giving dimensions of marital intercourse. The Lord’s design for the marital act is that it would express deep, abiding love between husband and wife while being open to possible conception. When one sees a child, he sees the “enfleshed love” that exists between the child’s parents. N.F.P. allows for both love and life to be celebrated when engaging in the marital act.
2. N.F.P. is safe, as opposed to many contraceptives, some of which are truly abortifacient (abortion-inducing) in character. We know that various drugs and devices used to prevent pregnancy also cause multiple health problems in scores of women. It is no secret that Depo-Provera, an injection that is given to a woman every three months, has significantly raised the risk of heart disease and kidney failure in some women. Even more disconcerting: some methods of birth control may actually induce abortions. The Pill, the I.U.D., Depo-Provera, Norplant, the “morning-after pill,” the “emergency contraception” and RU-486 work in some cases after conception, therefore making these drugs abortifacients. An important distinction is that between “surgical abortion” and “chemical abortion.” Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., asserts that while there are about 1,400,000 surgical abortions (that are duly recorded) performed annually in the United States of America, the number of chemical abortions is probably between 7,000,000-9,000,000. N.F.P. completely skirts this disaster by being entirely natural—a woman’s fertility coming as it does from the hand of her benevolent Creator.
3. N.F.P. is effective in postponing conception. N.F.P. has continually been attacked as being “unreliable.” Research proves otherwise. When one learns the body signs that indicate whether conception is possible, then one may use N.F.P. with great trustworthiness. The recently beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta (+1997) taught N.F.P. to many poor women in India who could barely read. Yet, these young wives learn N.F.P. and enjoy as much certainty when practicing it as contraceptives provide.
4. N.F.P. increases communication between husband and wife. When a man, for example, is using a condom, all the woman needs to know is that he is “protected.” But when using N.F.P., the wife must share with her husband one of the most intimate secrets of her womanhood: the knowledge of when she can and cannot conceive a new human life. Even secularists who have no time for the Catholic Church argue as to the critical nature of communication in marriage. N.F.P. enhances this communication by encouraging husband and wife to share and embrace the God-given gift of fertility.
Father Marx, Jason Adams, Judie Brown, Germain Grisez, John Kippley, Stephen Koob, William May and Janet Smith among others have written persuasively about the beauty of marital love and the weighty obligation which married couples have to respect the life-giving facet of the marital act. Bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated religious and laity alike may be assisted in their own understanding of the nature of marital love and the value of N.F.P. by perusing the writings of orthodox Catholic theologians and philosophers.
The Church has much “good news” to promote about the dignity of Holy Matrimony and the marital act. The efforts of clergy and faithful must be redoubled so that young Catholics, especially the engaged, will come to appreciate what God has done in allowing husband and wife to cooperate with Himself in the inestimable act of procreation.
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Natural Family Planning; Contraception
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