NFP: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom?

Jay Boyd - NFP Book


This is the “Conclusion” of my book, Natural Family Planning: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom? The book is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Marriage is intended to be fruitful; God said so Himself! God\’s plan for the sanctification of the married couple includes their cooperation with God in procreating new souls destined for Heaven. NFP doesn\’t explicitly fly in the face of such an understanding, but it is dramatically not submissive to God. NFP is all about a degree of control that is objectionable in any traditional Catholic understanding of marriage or Catholic spirituality in general.

NFP promoters attempt to elevate non-abstinence (that is, the circumvention of the need to abstain from the marital embrace) to the level of a virtue, achieved by gaining knowledge of God\’s designs so as to frustrate them. In other words, NFP promoters see the marital act as having “unitive” value that trumps its procreative value; therefore, engaging in marital intimacy when there is no risk of pregnancy is considered good in and of itself.

But sex is not an end in itself. To long for sexual pleasure but seek to avoid its consequences is, objectively, concupiscence seeking a remedy. Certainly we would say this of an unmarried couple (it’s called “fornication”). The traditional understanding of marriage is threefold: 1) the procreation and education of children; 2) mutual care and support for the married couple in their journey to Heaven; and 3) a remedy for concupiscence. And once upon a time, people actually got married first and then realized those ends. Nowadays, people seek the “remedy for concupiscence” (i.e., sex) first, and only afterwards might consider the other two ends. In the past, some couples probably got married primarily as a remedy for concupiscence, knowing that indulging their sexual appetites might lead to pregnancy; today we have a Pill to take care of the anxiety about the possibility of pregnancy, and many consider that license to satisfy their sexual appetites outside of marriage.

Taking the traditional view of marriage, if a man and a woman long to engage in the marital act, but are not prepared to have children, they should postpone marriage until they are truly “open to life”. They should not be thinking of ways to have sex that allow them to avoid that “consequence.”

The same goes for a married couple, really. When a married couple thinks the time is not right for pregnancy, the first option is abstinence; but, if desire is too strong, then charity demands that they engage in the remedy for their concupiscence. This remedy may be NFP. NFP as a “remedy for concupiscence” sounds, to me, a lot more honest in its presentation than touting it as a “way of life” or a “virtue.” From a marketing standpoint, though, NFP as a “remedy for concupiscence” doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as “NFP as a way of life”, or “God’s plan for the family”.

It seems silly to claim that one is “open to children” when one is organizing one\’s life around having sex not likely to be fruitful! The NFP “way of life,” when not practiced to achieve pregnancy, is all about sterile sex – sex that is meant only to make the couple feel good, with no consequences attached to that pleasure. The “background music” of the NFP way of life is always about sexual intimacy: “when we can, when we should, when we can\’t, and when we shouldn\’t”.

Our culture has a lot to do with our understanding of human sexuality. In a recent article addressing this issue, an insightful author notes that “Teen Pregnancy is Not the Problem”. Instead, she says, the problem is how the world presents the topic of “sex”:

The world says sex is primarily for pleasure. That sex doesn’t have to be for unity or procreation. That everybody’s doing it. That there is something wrong with you if you aren’t.

…The world tells us to act on all our urges as soon as possible. To get what we want, when we want it, always. To control our fertility instead of ourselves if we aren’t prepared to become parents.

…It’s time to use our lives to tell the world sex is primarily for procreation and unity…

Couples marry today with certain expectations about both marriage and sex shaped by public media. Sex is supposed to be “good” with a “good partner” and “personally satisfying”; in other words, sex is “all about the couple” – a variation on the theme of “it’s all about me”. People enter marriage today with a culturally-conditioned expectation that “sex is like what I\’ve seen in the movies” – which is to say it looks really great, and fun, and exciting! The NFP ideology (and that is what it is) does little to teach the true meaning of marriage, sex, or chastity, but is an unwitting participant in the unchaste sexuality that is rampant in our culture. To teach engaged couples about “family planning” of any kind is conceding that “family planning” (a.k.a., birth control) is a presumed need and value in today\’s Catholic marriages.

Certainly, today, the Church is failing badly in this area. Part of the reason for that stems from the 1960’s Church taking seriously the warnings from secular “experts” that the world was becoming overpopulated. Birth control was cautiously embraced because Church leaders didn’t recognize the errors in the overpopulation argument. The apparent needs of the temporal world loomed larger than the spiritual needs of parents that are met through generous parenthood providentially orchestrated by God. It seems as though, for a brief moment, Church leaders wondered if God maybe needed a little help in controlling population: hence, the concept of “responsible” parenthood, and the subtle movement from condoning periodic abstinence in certain serious situations to the idea that couples should rely on their own consciences to determine when to conceive a child.

I predict that, in the future, the Church will clarify what it teaches today, dramatically redefine the “serious reasons” necessary for use of NFP, and encourage it as a “remedy for concupiscence” rather than a positive, virtuous practice. My prediction stems in part from my belief that what is being taught today, and the verbiage being used to teach it, is, for the most part, wrong – at least on the very liberal end of the NFP spectrum.

There’s another, more pragmatic reason for my prediction: far from becoming overpopulated, the world is now beginning to suffer from the effects of decades of population control. We need more babies. People are now coming to an understanding of some principles of the economics of population growth which were previously unknown, unexplored, or ignored. I’m not an expert in this area, but even in the secular media we are beginning to see a growing awareness and concern about the need for more young people. And so if the Church wants to continue to meet the needs of the “modern world”, She will have to acknowledge that birth control should never be touted as a Catholic principle, and that now more than ever Catholic couples should be open to life, open to “generous parenthood” that puts the procreative end of marriage in its rightful place of primacy.

In the end, I think that might be called “virtuous parenthood”.

© 2013. Jay Boyd. All Rights Reserved.

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149 thoughts on “NFP: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom?”

  1. This was interesting. Still, sex should always have generation of children, which the married man and woman would raise with The Faith and as proper an education as one can afford, as its primary end. I don’t know where this so important renewing the marital act came from, but it is not going to be safe at some point in one’s life, if both live to such an old age, so how would it be necessary as a main function of marriage (apparently, Gaudium et spes, I believe, said it’s still about having kids as its primary purpose)? While you’re young enough, you have the sex to have kids. At some point or due to some misfortune, you can’t and God provides. I would think their loving God even more than the other brings such grace to continue in any period of a marriage.

  2. I would add too, that an important component I haven’t seen addressed here, and I’m not sure about the book, having not read it, is that the primary end of marriage is the procreation AND education of children.

    Pope Pius said that the education is the more important of the two. So if the procreation of children comes at the expense of education, I would say that it could be an injustice to them.

    Dr. Boyd, did you address this particular aspect of our duty as parents in your book?

  3. Mr. Tierny, thank you so much for affirming this point. Using NFP and trusting in providence are not mutually exclusive!

    The popes have talked about the fact that it is up to the couple to make decisions regarding family size:

    “in DECIDING (emphasis mine) whether or not to have a child, they must not be motivated by selfishness OR (emphasis mine) carelessness, but by a PRUDENT, CONSCIOUS (emphasis mine) generosity that WEIGHS THE POSSIBILITIES AND CIRCUMSTANCES…” Pope John Paul in a homily in 1994.

    (He begins by noting that “CATHOLIC THOUGHT IS OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD (emphasis in original) on this point, as if the Church supported an ideology of fertility at all costs. urging married couples to procreate indiscriminately and without thought for the future. One need only study the pronouncements of the Magisterium to see that THIS IS NOT SO.” (emphasis mine)

    Also in Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI says “It is for the parent to decide, with full knowledge of the matter, on the number of children, taking into account their responsibilities towards God, themselves, the children they have already brought into the world and the community in which they belong.”

    Dr. Boyd-how can you turn this into exercising “a degree of control?” I would say it’s using our God-given reason and intellect.

  4. St. Thomas and St. Augustine lived during a time in which the science of NFP (and the fact that there is an order to the female cycle, with fertile and non-fertile times) was discovered they didn’t speak about that one way or the other.

  5. This thread just. won’t. die.

    There is no “traditional” position. There is no “post-Vatican II” position. There is only a Catholic position.

    What some people are calling a “traditionalist” position misses is just how much
    was “up in the air” before V2/HV and how much is still “up in the air”. It also leaves out the development of doctrine, a concept misunderstood by both traditionalists and modernists.

    To grossly oversimplify things, development of doctrine enriches prior teaching, but it cannot contradict it. More from a very conservative Bishop can be found here.

    In the case of NFP, Fr. John Hardon, S.J.’s commentary, while not infallible, reflects the teaching of the Church immediately before Vatican II.

    Fr. Hardon states contraception is wrong because couples want pleasure without the responsibilities of parenthood. He also states an alternative view is that it is false expression of love, that is, an act of unity without unity. (This latter view is more prevalent in modern sources, but was around before the council.)

    Fr. Hardon follows Pius XII on the issue. Rhythm is permitted for serious reason, but is generally inadvisable. He warns of difficulties of the abstinence with rhythm, but also notes complete abstinence may be a virtuous alternative.

    He does state that use of rhythm for long periods of time without serious reasons is sinful, but notes that there is no consensus on the gravity of the sin or the exact circumstances under which such use becomes sinful.

    A few things have happened since the article was written (c. 1961):

    1. The discovery of modern NFP in the mid-1960s, which allowed couples to accurately determine fertility instead of guessing with rhythm.

    2. An increased recognition of the importance of the unitive aspect. This in
    no way decreases the importance of the procreative aspect and is consistent with a proper understanding of the development of doctrine. The beginnings of this are seen in Humanae Vitae and it more fully develops in the work of John Paul II.

    So how does this play out?

    The proven health benefits from fertility charting would be sufficient
    to justify learning the method and charting, no matter how the couples
    used the days. Charting is virtuous in itself as it is prudent, healthy, and teaches men and women about how God designed the woman’s body.

    Accurate ways of determining fertility means that cases requiring complete abstinence would be very rare. The “traditional” recommendation of complete abstinence for some couples was not because abstinence in marriage is holier than sex, but because couples with very serious reasons did not have accurate ways of determining fertility and trying to use rhythm would have been risky and stressful.

    The increased recognition of the unitive aspect makes the duties of the partners toward each other more clear.

    John Paul II explicitly rejected the idea that marriage was a “legitimate outlet” for lust or concupiscence. For a husband to use his wife for sex (or vice-versa), even in marriage, would be treating her as an object and would be contrary to her human dignity. Some older “marriage debt” teaching is unclear on this issue, although the concept was not foreign to Catholic thought. Aquinas states that an “unlawful exaction” of the marriage debt—one that is not in the best interest of the spouse—is a sin.

    Instead, because it is a sacrament, marriage—including the marital act—cannot be an outlet for concupiscence, but must be a “cure” for it. The self-control required of periodic continence can be a part of this “cure” for concupiscence and is virtuous as such.

    Humanae Vitae recognizes the importance of the unitive aspect and of the duty to responsible parenthood in the decision to have children or to abstain. What is virtuous, then is prayerful discernment, not abandonment to divine Providence. With modern methods of NFP available, encouraging true abandonment to divine Providence would also mean encouraging deliberate ignorance of bodily functions—hardly a virtue. Instead, what is most virtuous in 1968 is to learn about the body and prayerfully make decisions based on this information—information that was not available in 1961. (Paul VI had access to the most recent studies on the method.)

    I also suspect much of the change is catechetical as older sources could (and often were) misread as pushing “quantity” of children over “quality”. (See Sirach 16:1-3, “Desire not a brood of worthless children” who do not fear the Lord.) This is not a change in teaching: HV is careful to state that “couples are not free to do as they choose”, but must follow the will of God as stated in the consistent teaching of the Church.

    Another difference is getting away from the idea that the procreative aspect of sex and marriage is primary and the unitive aspect secondary. The older sources seem to see unity (the good of the spouses) as a “side effect” of an act designed for making children. John Paul II notes that procreation was intended to result from the unity of the spouses. The unitive and the procreative are intertwined and inseparable. Furthermore, with modern methods of NFP, couples can deliberately come together knowing pregnancy is possible for the purpose of making new life. With this decision, they can become co-creators with God. The traditional ideas of “Primary” and “secondary” simply don’t make much sense in this context.

    Basically, the problem with the views of Dr. Boyd and of others is that they take an incomplete and anachronistic view of “traditional” teaching, leading them to see a contradiction where none exists. They also see doctrine as a zero-sum game where a new area of emphasis in current teaching means a denigration of old teaching.

    Most importantly, we must all remember the words of Pope Francis about the problem of how much damage is caused “chattering in Church”. The decision of a married couple about when to and when not to have sex (that’s what we’re talking about here) is between them and God. It is not our place to speculate and discuss what other couples do in the bedroom.

  6. If Mr. McCreary is going to quote Scripture, he might do well to actually interpret it correctly. The problem with Sarah was that she actively told her husband Abraham to consort with another woman to provide him offspring. Those who practice NFP aren’t doing that. and since they are doing nothing to deliberately deprive the marital act of its power, there is no distinction between “natural family planning” and “trusting in God”, per se. It all depends on the circumstances.
    Nobody is disparaging the doctors of the Church. If anything, several people have quoted Aquinas to show Dr. Boyd’s (and her defenders) views are incompatible with what the Angelic doctor taught, and stem from a fundamentally flawed understanding of Catholic theology.
    But even if we didn’t, doctors of the Church aren’t infallible. The Holy Roman Church is, and in her moral theology and in the direct pronouncements of 6 Roman Pontiffs have stated that Christian couples are permitted to use NFP for sufficient reasons. One can debate whether or not such statements have risen to the level of infallible teaching. (I would say Humanae Vitae is, but that’s debateable.) One cannot state that the teaching of the Church is not clear on this manner, or condemn catholics who do what the Church has permitted. Dr. Boyd does this, as do her defenders, and they have clearly placed themselves above the Magesterium in this case, even by their own admission.

    1. Well Mr Tierney, that’s your private interpretation. My reference for Gen xviii. 10, 12 comes from St Augustine (you know that Doctor of the Church that you disparaged as not qualified to speak on moral issues because he’s not a “moral theologian” — are you now also going to disparage him by accusing him of not interpreting Scripture correctly?). From City of God lib. xvi c.xxxi “… his [Isaac’s] mother, when he was again promised by those three men, had laughed, doubting for joy; yet she was blamed by the angel because that laughter, although it was for joy, yet was not full of faith.” Sara was blamed, not because she gave Agar, Sara’s handmaid, to Abraham, but because Sara doubted. And she doubted because she had not faith that God could overcome her barrenness. I’ve also support from the Haydock commentary on verse 12 which says, “ver. 12. Laughed, as if the promise were incredible.” So Sara laughed because she couldn’t believe that God could overcome her barrenness.

      Please, Mr Tierney, do go and find yourself a theologian before Vatican II who supports your private interpretation of Gen xviii. 10, that the problem with Sara’s laughter (in that verse and in verse 12) was “that she actively told her husband Abraham to consort with another woman to provide him offspring.” I’ve given you two that support the interpretation I gave that Sara was blamed for her lack of faith in God’s power to make fertile what man had presumed infertile. So I’ll issue a challenge for you to find three who support your private interpretation of Gen xviii 10, 12.

  7. Your interpretation of Aquinas is consistent with the writings of John Paul II.

    What Aquinas is talking about is someone selfishly having sex with their spouse selfishly in order to keep them from sinning sexually outside the marriage. Aquinas calls this venial sin.

    John Paul II would call this lust in marriage or using your spouse. To a certain degree JPII has a stricter view of it than Aquinas.

  8. TexasCurmudgeon

    Suppose that my wife were infertile or that I were sterile. By your reasoning, we should always refrain from the marital embrace because all times would be times of infertility. This in turn implies that marital intercourse has no value beyond the procreative. Do you really want to argue that the Church’s teaching that the pleasure and unity a married couple receive during intercourse are not gifts from God Himself, but sins?

    1. Suppose that you, with you’re supposed sterility, and your wife, with her supposed infertility, put your faith in God rather than laughing like Abraham’s wife Sara (Gen xviii. 10), who thought her barrenness was beyond the power of God, just as you (supposedly) value the diagnosis of medical doctors above the power of God. Given the Biblical account of Isaac’s birth by Abraham and Sara, supposedly, no one can actually be certain that they are infertile/sterile.

      But you’re wrong to assess that what I presented was my reasoning, or that what I presented could reasonably lead to your idiotic conclusion that a supposed couple’s marital act would be infertile every time. What I presented were the reasonings of St Augustine (Doctor of the Church), St Thomas Aquinas (Doctor of the Church), and the Holy Office.

      Do you really want to argue against such holy men, whom the Church has declared that whole Church has derived great advantage from their doctrine … especially St Thomas Aquinas, of whom Pope Leo XIII said, “But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the ‘Summa’ of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.” Really? You want to argue against such a holy man, praised by Popes as a source of counsel, reason, and inspiration?

      When you disparage the two greatest Doctors of the Church, by saying that their reasoning is against the Church’s teaching, you’ve already lost the argument.

    2. TexasCurmudgeon

      Brian McCreary, why assume that in the hypothetical situation I set up, my wife and I would b

    3. My husband is a Thomist- professor of philosophy. He has studied the great angelic doctor, as well as St. Augustine, and the magisterium of the Church. He and I have been practicing NFP for the past 3 years following the birth of our fifth baby. I’m not going to discuss our reasons here. I only want to say that I consider him very UNselfish for considering my good and that of our family. Has anyone here actually practiced NFP? Learning the method, and particularly applying it was the hardest thing we’ve done. Learning about it theoretically is one thing; putting it into practice is another story!

      We take the moral life very seriously, and would not avail ourselves of NFP if we thought it would endanger our souls. In our experience the drive to reproduce/procreate is so strong that you can often gauge the seriousness of a couple’s reason by the will and motivation to abstain. I think that using NFP to limit a family to one or two, or none would be very rare. It would indeed, in the words of Pope John Paul-amount to using the natural method against nature. But no one’s arguing for that, but rather as a way to regulate conceptions, not avoid having a family

      The Church, in her wisdom, permits periodic continence! Since only 2 % of Catholics are periodically abstaining in order to avoid or postpone pregnancy, it’s rather an insult to them (us) to suggest that they (we) are in the same category as those 90% who entirely disregard Church teaching and contracept.

    4. I wanted to clarify that situations do exist which would warrant using NFP to severely restrict family size. Couples who have such limiting conditions are permitted to marry precisely because there are other goods of marriage beyond procreation. The Blessed Mother’s and St. Joseph’s marriage was no less a marriage for not having upheld the end of procreation.

  9. TexasCurmudgeon

    Agreed. With due respect to Dr. Boyd and her supporters here, I perceive a faint trace of dualism running through their arguments.

  10. Siegfried Paul

    I’m sorry to have to answer that “Mary” is called a slut – “Schlunze” – on (“28. April 2013”). I took measures against that: but these measures depend at the moment on a “FATHER” – “Fr.” – who is calling himself “BROTHER”, because Jesus says that we should call no man a father and because Mary calls Jesus “Rabbi” when she realizes that he is not the gardener, reminding us of the WORDS OF JESUS on the hebrew “Rabbi”, I opened the “Holy Bible” on tables . I have to answer, because the Phone 815-223-0315, , is publishing a “consecration” to “Mary”. [You cannot answer by email, but I do have a “SKYPE”-NAME; Dr. Siegfried Paul Posch, Carneri-Gasse 10/E/2, A-8010 Graz, Styria, Ortsteil Geidorf, Austria, Tel. 0043 664 913 5616.]

    1. I imagine you in a tight black leotard, leering at the landscaper through lavender sheers, while musing over the insight of humping turtles in your dark aquarium..

      The Saints teach that it is easy to know the damned on earth. If you know a soul who does not pray, or has no natural love for Our Lady, you’re speaking of a damned person should he die this way.

      Our Lady at Fatima has asked, on First Saturdays, we make reparation to her Immaculate Heart for all the blasphemies against Marian Doctrine.

      I always imagined this was asked to address the black masses/worship of covens, secret societies, and alike, but to think Austria, which is to say, Germany, has seen fit to award a a doctorate to an intellect so debased is.. perfectly in keeping with the rest of the post-post Christian theology that has been seeping out of Germanic seminaries like sewer water from Kant to Von Balthasar.

      Our Lady at Fatima also showed the three children Hell…FILLED with souls who go there daily, like snowflakes fall from the sky.

      Repent, reform, renounce all leotards, lavender, and licentiousness, and make reparation..


  11. Excellent point, Fr. Gardner. Thank you! And Kevin, for heaven’s sake, read Fr. Gardner’s comment again. He didn’t say “exegesis of latin and interpreting texts in light of sound theology isn’t masculine”. He referred to “an approach to marriage and sexuality”. Go back and try again, and please try to keep your sarcasm toned down, at least with Fr. Gardner.

    1. He was given the precise meaning of the term, and his only ansdwer was “that’s not a masculine approach.” He was clearly going for the ad hominem, and he got called on it. He is a priest, and hence worthy of respect. Yet he is also even more culpable than laymen for saying erroneous things because unlike you or me, he (should) have had real theological training, so he has even less an excuse when he strays from Church teaching, or tries to set himself up as binding when the Chgurch clearly has not bound. He cannot cite any moral theologian or Church document which states that the marital embrace outside of the few days a month is “sterile sex.” In the end, what I, you, the good reverend, James, or any other irrelevant blogger states about Church teaching is 100% irrelevant. That’s why we reference actual Church teaching.

  12. @James

    “Sexual relations during the infertile times are procreative because they follow the procreative process.”

    With all due respect, this does not seem like a very masculine approach to marriage and sexuality. Our Lord wants an abundance of life. He demanded fruit from the fig tree and a return on investment. He does want results. He wants the children to come to Him!

    Every change involves a movement from potency to act. Therefore, movement from potency to act does not distinguish procreation. Rather, it is the fact that God directly intervenes in the conception of each human life that distinguishes procreation from all other human acts. But God will not intervene unless a man causes a woman to become pregnant. And the only thing that will prevent a healthy man from causing a woman to be pregnant upon having (integral) sexual relations is infertility on the part of the woman.

    Periodic continence effectively neuters the man by restricting his causal contribution to the infertile times. Some have called this a female form of coitus interuptus. This is somewhat exaggerated, but it is an objection that needs to be dealt with seriously. Periodic continence is not a virtuous practice of itself, which is why it is permitted only for serious reasons. On the contrary, pure love always includes at least an implicit desire for fruitfulness.

    One clear abuse of NFP is when otherwise logical people use the Church’s conditional permission for periodic continence in order to defy the principle of non-contradiction. Rather, let’s stop promoting sterile sex and start promoting having more babies. If we raise these supreme gifts of marriage (more children) to be God-fearing and family-loving Catholics, we might actually be able to restore a somewhat Christian culture. But, regardless of how the world trends, those souls will be eternally grateful… and the parents… and the Lord will be grateful too!

    1. So exegesis of latin and inteperting texts in light of sound theology isn’t masculine…. got it. If we needed any evidence of how rotten the seminaries have been since the council with ignorance of latin the good reverend has supplied it.

    2. Since The Lord revealed to me His Divine Mercy devotion, I feel I have been called to pray especially for the souls of all children and the souls of all priests, so responding to such a passionate priestly eloquence in defense of children, is an opportunity I could not so easily let slip by. Thank you for your Priesthood!

      With that said, I have a few questions..

      Is The Sacrament of Matrimony pregnancy?

      How might we have viewed St. Elizabeth and St. Zechariah with such thinking (Even tradition has that St. Anne and St Jochim did not have Our Lady till very late in life)? Was God not acting in their lives until they were pregnant?

      If periodic continence is never virtuous in itself, what are we to make of Saints, and their spouses, who made vows to live as brother and sister? When a woman’s fertility stops, either naturally, or due to some unforeseen medical emergency, should her husband no longer approach her? Should she be viewed as a cursed fig tree?

      We know the source and summit of Our Faith is The most Blessed Sacrament. Thank you again for your Priesthood. We know, no matter if Heaven was emptied of ever Saint, around your altar, at the moment of the Words of Consecration, with the prayers of all the greatest priests that have ever existed, joined with yours, at that moment, that NOTHING happens if instead of wheat and wine you’re using marshmallows and milk.

      The point is without proper matter there can be no expected form.

      Is the proper matter, in preparation for the most important work on earth, properly raising children, is that merely functional plumbing and desire?

      The instinct to be one flesh, or bring forth life, could seem to be merely animal, unless we use the powers of the intellect, which separate us from the animals, and reflect the image of God, to reflect and abstract about the spiritual, emotional, or psychological matter required to live out this most vital of vocations.

      I’ve worked with troubled youth a long time. I’ve seen my kids die, or be imprisoned, and it was as clear as day a decade before. Their parents thought being a parent was agreeing to the effects of their animal lusts.

      Making children is easy and rather fun. It seems to me being a parent is the love you show that child before or after he’s conceived.

      You went to seminary and were prepared for your vocation by scrutiny and ordeal, of a sort. Are we to entrust the inherited, ever- worsening, generational moral poverty, enveloping every facet of society, as the bona fides for parenting?

      If a young couple lived in a log-cabin in Montana, surrounded by cougars and grizzlies, is there not some love in souls not submitting a child to the inherent dangers of that environment?

      Today, comparing today’s spiritual beasts to natural beasts, is an insult to natural predators everywhere.

      Our Lord told The Apostles it would be better if Judas had never lived. We can imagine why. Is it unloving to wish a child not to be lost by first considering what serious or grave reasons there may be to use Church-approved technologies to officiate that decision?

      I find myself defending matrimony like I would The Eucharist in a land rocked by famine, devoid of even a trace of the wheat and wine, needed initially, to nourish souls.

      Any energy you might spend on these matters would be much appreciated.

      God Bless you and your Priesthood!


    3. Interesting theology, Father, but that’s NOT the teaching of the Catholic Church.

      Where does St. Joseph fit in your “masculine sexuality”? Where do you, a celibate priest, fit in?

      Furthermore, marital sexuality is not “masculine”, but the unity of the masculine and the feminine. You seem to imply that the decision is the husband’s alone, and that the wife is a passive receptacle, not a spouse with equal dignity in the marriage. But such an attitude is not one of a healthy marriage or the teaching of the Church.

      Yes, fruitfulness in marriage is good. This is the consistent, unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church.

      Yes, children are a part of marriage and couples should not avoid parenthood without serious reasons. This is the consistent unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church.

      But the idea that infertile sex is sterile is not. The Church would not marry infertile/older couples if it were. The marital act maintains its nature when the woman is fertile, infertile, pregnant, or post-menopausal. It maintains its goodness at all these times.

      As for periodic continence being virtuous, Pius XI contrasts “virtuous continence” with “frustrating the marital act” in Casti Connubii. There is no reason why periodic continence cannot be virtuous.

      So how could avoiding pregnancy be virtuous? Most of the time “serious reasons” involve the wife’s physical or mental health. It is quite masculine for a husband to not selfishly request the marriage debt for the sake of his wife’s health. Likewise, it may be virtuous for a wife not to request the debt due to concerns of her husband.

      Self-denial and self-control can be virtuous. I’m sure you were taught this in seminary.

      Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II have all warned about abusing NFP. But as John Paul II mentioned, this is a separate issue. NFP remains morally licit and is never contraception. Instead, the problem is how the couple is living out their marriage vocation. A marriage that isn’t fruitful is going against the purpose of marriage.

      In order for a couple to abuse NFP, they would have to deprive each other without good reason. A couple who is depriving each other without good reason probably has serious marital and/or spiritual problems, of which the abuse of NFP is only a symptom. Put another way, the abuse of NFP is more like a “sexless/sex-starved marriage” than it is like contraception.

    4. Brian Killian

      If you deny the reality of ‘virtuous continence’ you are a heretic.

      ‘Periodic continence’ is just virtuous continence applied to the new discovery that women also play a role in fertility and that fertility in the woman is cyclical.

      It follows that since fertility is cyclical, then what you call ‘sterile’ sex is actually part of the nature of sex. This means that a couple having sex during an infertile time are still within the bounds of the nature of sex, they have not trespassed the natural boundaries of sex.

      And if their continence is virtuous then their intercourse is also virtuous.

      You seem to be resentful that God the creator has included an infertile period into the nature of sexuality. How could God be so un-traditional? You want to continue living in a time when the biological understanding of sex was that the man was the ‘prime mover’ in fertility and the woman was nothing but a passive receptacle, and where each and every sex act was potentially pregnancy inducing.

      You may hate knowledge and facts and reality, but the Church doesn’t and never has. The discovery of cyclical fertility was not known to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. So how logical is it to appeal to men who were ignorant of important material facts as your authorities in this matter?

      Do you think we’re all just going to play along in your ‘traditionalist’ fantasy that this is still 1213 and not 2013?

      The Church has evaluated and is evaluating the new facts. And it’s conclusion is and has been that provided one’s reasons for continence are good, then it is not bad to take advantage of the infertile times. Why is not bad? Because, says the Church, there are other ‘ends’ to sex for the spouses.

      I know it’s shocking, but what that means is that a Christian couple need not be motivated strictly by the intention to procreate when they come together. They may intend any end which is part of the sacrament.

      Yes, Catholic marriage is a sacrament, not a baby-making factory. Your obsession with the ‘primary end’ of sex cannot distinguish the sacrament of marriage from Islamic marriage or any other form of marriage which recognizes the fact that sex makes babies – and that ALONE.

      You just can’t bring yourselves to admit that sex has a role to play that goes beyond it’s purely natural function. That’s why you can’t imagine anyone virtuously having sex during pregnancy or menopause.

      Female coitus interuptus? No, you are accusing the Creator of coitus interuptus. You are accusing the Creator of being immoral, of making something base and evil.

      Loving procreative acts for legit reasons during infertile times are never fruitless. They are never sterile. Because there is a spiritual side to sex, not just a natural one.

      Just as God is eternally begetting within the mystery of his own being, even if there never was any creation ex nihilo, so can the loving procreative acts of a Christian couple during an infertile time be spiritually fruitful even if no physical, biological begetting occurs.

  13. Furthermore, I don’t think the exact problems of “abusing NFP” are well understood by many.

    Reliable methods of Natural Family Planning were not discovered until the mid-1960s. Rhythm was infamously unreliable and required a significant amount of abstinence. This abstinence and unreliability put a tremendous amount of strain on couples who relied on it.

    The older writings on the subject can be read as a concern that couples should not put such a strain on their marriage unless they have serious reasons to do so. Even with modern NFP, there is still a risk.

    Most NFP couples like sex and like children and really do need serious reasons to avoid both. The world tells couples they need iron control over reproduction, the Church simply tells couples to enjoy each other as they naturally would, with both prudence and generosity.

    The idea that couples are living it up by avoiding pregnancy with NFP is simply not true. Those who seem to be may not be avoiding, but may be having trouble getting pregnant. Those who really are “abusing NFP” probably have a series of spiritual and/or marital problems that are the real issue and will manifest themselves in other ways. If an NFP couple is happily married and has a strong faith life, then they are almost certainly NOT abusing anything, no matter how many children they have.

    And finally, we are not in a position to judge “generosity” or “serious reasons” for anyone else. To do so would be the sin of Rash Judgment.

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