“Contraception and NFP: What’s the Difference?”

For a refresher on the difference between contraception and NFP, click here to view the full text of this excellent document put together by my lovely, recently-married, hoping-to-be-a-mom, passionately-Catholic, darn smart friend. Thanks, Mrs. C., for keeping my brain sharp on this fundamental truth.

  • Molly

    Just wanted to say that this somehow makes the difference seem totally obvious, when I've been at a loss to explain it to others when asked. Now I'm totally going to whip out the charts. Thanks!

  • Mary Alice

    Really? because I couldn't understand this at all, even when I read the longer post, which might explain why math/science was not my strong area.

  • Just an opinion

    I'm with Mary Alice on this one. I think this may convince a very science minded or generally intellectual person, but a overwhelmed Mother on the fence about contraception may need something a little more down to earth to get her on board. Or maybe I'm not giving young mom's enough credit?

  • Mrs C

    Thanks Molly. Mary Alice – you are right that it might be a bit too academic depending on the audience. The person I originally wrote this for is also a lawyer with some background in theology/philosophy. In terms of a mum sitting on the fence, there might be more compelling arguments (health reasons etc.) in favor of NFP but these don't explain why contraception is morally wrong (only why NFP is better). And I think that one can only understand why it is wrong by considering how contraception fundamentally changes the conjugal act in terms of its end (and also intention). Hopefully the analogy I borrowed from Anscombe is more user friendly. I've tweaked it a little to make it more accessible and will post it in a comment after this one.

  • Mrs C

    TWEAKED ANALOGYSally works at a factory. On Wednesdays, the factory produces a particular gadget that, while not harmful in and of itself, will lead to other consequences – some of these consequences are desirable while others are not. There is a special machine that is essential to making this gadget but which is not used in the other productions carried out at the factory. Sally is the only person who works at the factory who is able to operate this machine. Sally knows about both the desirable and undesirable consequences that producing this gadget will lead to. Sally wants to avoid the negative consequences. This being the case, she has two options. OPTION ONE. Sally can quit her job entirely or simply fail to show up for work on Wednesdays when the factory produces these particular gadgets. This way she avoids participating in the process that will lead to the eventual occurrence of the negative consequences. The downside of this, however, is that she will have to forfeit her pay (either entirely if she quits her job or just on Wednesdays if she fails to show up on this day). OPTION TWO. Sally realizes that she can sabotage the particular machine responsible for making the gadget but in such a way that the rest of the factory will still function. Sally thinks this might be a good idea because she will be able to continue making a wage (since the rest of the factory will still be operational) while also avoiding the manufacture of the gadget. SALLY’S DECISION If Sally goes with option 1, she avoids manufacturing the gadget without also sabotaging the machine. She does, however, have to endure a sacrifice in terms of lost wages. This is analogous to a couple who uses NFP and temporarily forgoes pleasure and intimacy because they have a just reason not to have a child. This is the more honorable and morally better option. If Sally goes to work and sabotages the gadget-making machine, she overtly wills not only to prevent the manufacture of the gadget but also to damage the integrity of the machine and the production process. In other words, the means Sally uses to prevent the gadget from being produced are wrong. Not only has Sally changed the nature of the production process at the factory, she has also changed her behavior from that of an honest and productive employee to that of someone who commits industrial sabotage.This is analogous to contraception. Rather than accept a temporary sacrifice (the periodic and temporary forgoing of pleasure/intimacy with one’s spouse), the contracepting couple chooses the easy way out – by deliberately changing the natural end and operation of their fertility and sexual intimacy, they change the nature of the sexual act itself from being something conducive to live to something done solely for pleasure. If the sole object is pleasure, then they risk objectifying one another in the pursuit of this end.

  • Right Said Red

    I understood the diagram, but I'm more math oriented. Don't give me poetry, haha!Anyway, I think the best analogy is one of dieting. When you want to loose weight there are two ways to achieve that goal. 1) eat less and exercise or 2) eat and throw up. Both will achieve the same end–weight loss. One involves abstaining from food and is healthy. The other option involves indulging and vomiting. Morally speaking, there is a big difference between these two ways of losing weight. We teach NFP and use the weight loss example in our diocese pre-cana talks and our NFP classes.

  • Mrs C

    That's a great analogy Red – hadn't heard it before.

  • Joanne

    I think I understand the chart, I'm just not sure I understand the need for the chart. My husband and I use NFP because we cannot use artificial contraception because we are Catholic. I get a little weary about all the discussion as to WHY we should use NFP, when the fact is, we just should, the same as we should not violate any of the Ten Commandments. I just read an excellent article about the priest who appeared on "Catholic" Sean Hannity's show and was given a very hard time when he was defending Catholics not using artificial birth control, here it is: http://tinyurl.com/y9jppyrI think it is a great shame that all of our Priests don't speak up more about contraception.