I have been having a discussion on my own blog regarding the differences between NFP and Contraception and I thought Vox Nova readers may be interested in it.
Thanks to Melanie for telling me about this outstanding discussion on the struggles of NFP from a guy’s perspective. My husband read it and laughed.
One reader, Maria from the discussion wrote this and it is the best explanation I have found to date to explain WHY Catholics are against Contraception but NOT against NFP.
I have begun to find the use of the term “contraceptive mentality” with NFP rather annoying. It tends to betray a real lack of understanding of exactly WHY contraception is evil among even faithful Catholics. Catholics using this terminology seem to imply that contraception is wrong simply because it prevents conception. Contraception is an intrinsically evil act NOT because it prevents conception, but because it fundamentally alters the sexual act.
Obviously, the sexual act can be completely moral even if there is NO chance of conception, i.e. after menopause, within a couple which suffers from infertility, or during pregnancy. In these instances a woman cannot get conceive. Still, it would be intrinsically evil to use contraception, like a condom to prevent an STD, because it fundamentally alters the gift of self that occurs in the sexual act.
Both a contracepting couple and an NFP couple can have grave reasons for preventing pregnancy; both can not. Their motivations is a separate issue from the use of contraception. An NFP couple NEVER contracepts, no matter how selfish they may be behaving in avoiding pregnancy, because the couple does not alter the sexual act. They may be guilty of other sins, such as selfishness, but not of the sin of contraception. This can be a difficult issue for non-Catholics (and even many Catholics) to understand, and I think Catholics who talk about couples who use NFP with a “contraceptive mentality” just create more confusion.
For Catholics, we believe marriage is a gift of one person to another. And EVERY sexual act within that marriage is a RENEWAL of the marriage vows. Now, for a Catholic, a person’s sexuality is NOT separate from that person, but rather sexuality is part of the very BEING of that person. Our language even expresses this fact “I AM” a woman, “I AM” a man. We don’t say “I am a person who happens to be a woman.” Nope. We say, my being is female, my being is male.
Catholics also believe that ACTIONS express what is being said in the deepest resources of a person’s heart. For instance, I can tell my husband that I love him, but if I am abusive towards him or hit him, my actions tell a completely different story. The same is true in the bedroom. I can say “I love you” to my spouse and that “I give you my WHOLE self” but if I am NOT truthfully giving him my entire self INCLUDING my fertility and my body, my mouth says one thing BUT my body tells an entirely different story. In reality I am telling him “I give this to you, EXCEPT ___” Fill in the blank. The act becomes a lie to its core, which is WHY Catholics believe it is an act of Blasphemy to contracept marital LOVE. A contracepted act of “lovemaking” does NOT fulfill the Marriage Vows EVEN if both people remain exclusive and faithful to each other, their lovemaking says “I love you ,but not enough to give you my whole self unreservedly.”
It is a holistic approach to sex. We believe that when a husband and wife make love holistically they bring God into their marriage thereby making it Sacramental and Divine. It is the ultimate spiritual experience that can only be trumped so to speak by the Eucharist. Interestingly enough, the Catholic marriage vows are said RIGHT before the Eucharistic prayer. Just as Jesus gives Himself 100% and unreservedly to His Church in Communion, so does Husband and Wife give themselves to each other 100% unreservedly.
This approach is SOOO entirely different than our culture’s understanding and our Society’s way of doing things. I would just remind everyone that when the Early Church began, they were very tiny in numbers and had to celebrate Mass in the Catacombs. At one time a good majority of the Church did NOT believe in the divinity of Christ IN the Early Church yet the small numbers of Faithful were responsible for holding onto their Truths and keeping alive the Church. Numbers are irrelevant. I believe people in today’s world WANT AND YEARN for Holistic Sex and Holistic Intimacy. They want a total surrender and Love to each other that cannot be found in many places. We have the responsibility to live it out and bear Witness to such a Love.