Natural Family Planning (NFP) & Contraceptive Intent

Natural Family Planning (NFP) & Contraceptive Intent January 17, 2017


Image by Hea Poh Lin (9-29-16) [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license]




I agree with what seems to be a Catholic traditionalist emphasis in pointing out that NFP (Natural Family Planning) is widely, wrongly used; in effect as a contraceptive tool. Any good NFP instructor will point this out (since morality begins in the heart and intent: Sermon on the Mount). It’s nothing unheard of.

Such a critique of suspicious and morally suspect practice is fine, as long as one doesn’t attack NFP in its essence, or Humanae Vitae (as some radical Catholic reactionaries have done). Are there lots of abuses of NFP? Sure: just like Vatican II and the Mass are often abused. People are people (what can we say?); they fall short.

But an abuse is not the thing that has been abused or corrupted. Baby, bathwater . . . Here’s a more “magisterially balanced” (but hard-hitting) treatment of the topic by traditionalist Christopher Gawley.

When that line is crossed (attacking magisterial Church teaching itself), it is radical Catholic reactionaryism, but strong criticisms of an alarming societal and Catholic trend towards small families (i.e., when for wholly inadequate reasons: boats and luxury cars and mansions and what not, rather than children), is simply historic Catholicism.

Full disclosure: I’m all for large families. We have four children, but my wife Judy and I, sadly, have also suffered the loss and grief of six miscarriages, and she had serious post-partum depression at one point, that took many years to fully resolve, as well as very difficult pregnancies (last two children).

Blessed Pope Paul VI knew what he was talking about, when he referred to permissible reasons to space children. While criticism of tiny families has general validity, there are lots of perfectly legitimate reasons why some families are small or smaller, and we mustn’t overgeneralize. Contraception and mere legitimate spacing of births (with sufficient reason) are two different things, with an entirely different morality involved.

The “anti-child” mentality is causing our culture to slowly die and become decrepit (and allows abortion and now even non-procreative same-sex “marriage”). If a couple deliberately decides to have no children, that violates the very nature of marriage. Decreasing numbers of children indicate a prevalence of the contraceptive and anti-child mentalities.

Again, there are legitimate reasons to space or limit children, per Humanae Vitae, and we mustn’t condemn anyone who exercises those prerogatives. Lacking those, however, it is a contraceptive mentality, which is grave sin.

Like all grave sins, there is no justification for contraception in any circumstance. People’s motivations or subjective state of mind are something else. But they don’t change the intrinsic evil of contraception. Whoever states otherwise is not in line with Church teaching (which I didn’t invent; I’m merely reporting it).

Endnote: Readers may want to read the book that explains in great detail the essential ethical distinction between NFP and artificial contraception, with an anti-child intent. It caused me to turn against contraception altogether, which was the first change of mind that eventually led me to the Catholic Church.

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