The family is the heart of parish life and parents are guardians of life. But parental “superhero” powers are helpful–at 2 a.m. in the morning when darting from room to room to sick children, or changing diapers lightening fast, or driving all afternoon and dodging traffic jams to get kids to events at the opposite ends of town, or staying awake all night in the hospital with an ill child. Parenting is indeed a valiant effort to cooperate with God’s love.
Married Love, a Valiant Effort
Accordingly, 1652 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms children as a supreme gift of marriage:
Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: “It is not good that man should be alone,” and “from the beginning [he] made them male and female”; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.
The Church offers healing and support to married couples. It affirms the fruitfulness of married love. Some couples suffer miscarriages, or serious medical and financial struggles. Other couples would like more children, but they are overwhelmed with fear, anxiety or ambivalence. The Church offers resources that respect the intimacy and love of marital union.
NFP offers Catholics and non-Catholic women holistic health benefits. Married couples are empowered by NFP. Every parish has at least one family with a large passenger van in the parking lot on Sundays. Praise God. Hopefully, there will be more of them in the years to come. There are couples, however, who desire children but endure fertility struggles. Many have been helped by NaProTechnology and FertilityCare.
Maternity and Infertility
Some couples struggle with infertility or numerous miscarriages, in a hope and loss cycle. These couples deserve the sensitivity and pastoral care which offers encouragement and resources that are both clinically effective and compatible with Church teaching. Many women have experienced healing after working with experienced medical practitioners.
However, married couples who suffer infertility can still know the fruitfulness of conjugal love in “radiating charity, hospitality, and sacrifice” (CCC 1653). Conjugal love is ordered to the “service of life”. When Catholic women recognize the fullness of maternal expression in the Church, as both spiritual and physical motherhood, women are strengthened in their feminine identity. The maternal gifts women offer to a world longing for encounter are imbued with generosity and hope in witness to love.
Witness to Love
Catholic families witness to the goodness and love of God. There are times when a married couple may discern postponement of pregnancy, however. If there is a serious medical reason or other circumstance which might require a period of chastity or prolonged abstinence in the marriage. This time can be spiritually fruitful. Prayer and frequent sacramental recourse to God sustain marital fidelity, fruitfulness and harmony during these times.
Get the FACTS – Advocate for Other Women
The harmonious relationship of husband and wife are a fruit of (NFP). These methods are effective in helping women to space child births and to achieve optimal health and fertility. Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS) is a collaborative effort of physicians and educators who recognize a healthy physiology that does not require treatment.
Respect for a woman’s healthy physiology is rarely affirmed in global family planning agendas or in media narratives. International funding is often tied to global initiatives which impose contraceptive practices on countries that are traditionally pro-life and pro-family.
Natural Family Planning is ‘Humanizing’
The scientific validity of the methods and their educational effectiveness makes them increasingly appreciated for the human values that they presuppose and strengthen, when they are taught and presented in a suitable anthropological and ethical context, according to the wise directive expressed in Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae vitae and so many times explained in subsequent documents of the Magisterium– (Address of His Holiness John Paul II to Teachers of Natural Family Planning, December 7, 1996).
The pill and other hormonal contraceptive devices represent dehumanizing values. The team who invented the pill conducted tests in insane asylums and in the slums of Puerto Rico and Haiti. Today, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) use is prevalent in the international family planning agenda. One woman, a biomedical scientist and hematologist who founded Culture of Life Africa, stated that they are “some of the most dangerous contraceptives that we have now on the market — some of the injectables.” Also, one toxicologist recently presented a paper that links hormonal contraception and other pollution to the changes in one-fifth of the freshwater male fish who showed ‘feminised traits’.
Love of Neighbor, In the Service of Life
The beauty of the Church’s teaching is to prevent offense to spousal dignity and to “foster more completely that human ecology which is the harmony between the demands of nature and personal behaviour.”
A married couple in the “service of life” promotes an authentic method of spacing births that affirms the marital bond and social bonds—the love of neighbor. The NFP discussion among Catholics should include a broad understanding of the values of NFP for all married couples.
Responsible Parenting and Marital Harmony
NFP is beneficial to promote health and awareness of a woman’s fertility, to enrich the marital bond of husband and wife. NFP harmonizes the marital relationship in accord with God’s design for marriage. Making decisions, therefore, about when and how many children to have in marriage is a sacred responsibility that God has entrusted to husband and wife.
A reading of the Church’s teaching reveals its care and concern for spouses. Catholic teaching on the spacing of children and responsible parenthood offers married couples a reflection on postponement of a pregnancy:
With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time– (Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI, Humanae vitae (10) July 25, 1968).
Pastoral care and sound medical advice from Catholic practitioners can be a great support to families struggling to conceive or to those pondering “serious reasons” for postponing a pregnancy. Ultimately, NFP discussions present an opportunity for Catholics to share the truth about God’s plan for marriage. Here are five reasons it’s not just for Catholics.
Five Reasons Natural Family Planning is Not Just For Catholics:
- NFP methods are good for a woman’s health. They exclude the use of artificial barriers or chemicals to prevent pregnancy. A woman can be encouraged to embrace her fertility and to acquire knowledge about her body in a health care model which respects her physiology, the design of God’s plan for marriage, and the dignity of the human person.
- It’s time to dispel certain prejudices about NFP and the myths that have informed global contraceptive family planning initiatives. (FABMs) are estimated to be 95-99.5% with correct use, depending upon the method. Sign the FACTS petition.
- NFP promotes happy marriages, strengthens marital bonds, and is correlated with a lower divorce rate among Catholic woman (as compared to other Catholic women) who never used NFP.
- We are called to love our neighbor. The Church called for a rejection of the “contraceptive imperialism” that proposes the “technologically effective contraceptive” must be socially or personally ‘effective’; and that “lower population leads to better economy”.
- NFP is ecologically beneficial and ethical. The Church also called for “recognition of natural family planning methods as the only way forward to a truly ethical and personalist family planning.”
The mischaracterization of NFP as Catholic “birth control” is a false premise that should be challenged. Every married couple can foster the joy of being open to life and great blessing. NFP honors the dignity of marriage in an ethical framework that affirms natural womanhood and the sacred responsibility of husband and wife, in an authentic approach to family planning.
As Catholics prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15th, let us pray for the courage to say “yes” to life and to God’s beautiful plan for marriage.