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Discussion related to living as a Catholic in the single state of life. As long as a topic is being discussed from the perspective of a single Catholic then it will be on-topic.

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This is in response to the recent blog post from Lisa about Natural Family Planning.

Lisa was right when she listed Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a viable, Church-approved route to reduce the chances of a pregnancy, but she didn't give the whole picture. This is sady a topic that many Catholics of good faith do not understand correctly.

There are certain serious conditions that can make NFP lawful under Church law:

1. Medical- serious real and objective dangers to the physical or mental health of one or both partners.

2. Eugenic- real possibility of serious and incurable hereditary defects in the child. This can last for the duration of the marriage, or just for a period of time (like when the mother is taking perscription drugs that might cause birth defects)

3. Social- covering socal disturbances like famine, war, unjust laws limiting the number of children a family can have, etc.

4. Economic- In the case of TRUE SERIOUS financial hardship for supporting another child. This is perhaps the most common reason cited for NFP-practicing couples. But this reason requires brutal honesty before God. "The reason must be serious. Trifles are not enough. That the birth of other children might mean buying a less expensive car or sending the children to a less fashionable school would not justify the decision to have no more, for that would be making the ornaments of life more valuable than life itself. And not only could no Christian see things so, but only the devitalized could. Indeed, for one who has grasped what a human being is- made in God's image, immortal, redeemed by Christ- only the most serious reason would be strong enough to support such a decision." -Frank Sheehy

There are two purposes of marriage:

1. Allowing for the procreation and education of children.

2. The mutual comfort and support of the spouses and allowing a lawful outlet of concupisence (carnal desires) in the marital act between spouses.

#1 is the primary purpose, #2 is the secondary.

Natural Family Planning, if practiced simply because another child would be inconvenient, is essentially flipping the two purposes of marriage, making #2 the primary and #1 the secondary- the same spirit of those who practice artificial contraception. Regardless of whether the spouses are "open to life" despite their precautionary timing of the marital act, if Natural Family Planning is habitually practiced to take precautions against the likelihood of pregnancy, simply for its own sake, IT IS A MORTAL SIN. Please be aware of that.

Please don't think me a moral busybody. I've just recently learned about all the strings attached to NFP and want to clear the air. NFP is not instrinsically evil like artificial birth control. But it can be abused.

NFP can result in the loss of souls, and not just to Hell. Think of all the souls that could have been created if their parents were more generous in allowing God to bless them with as many children as He desires.

 

 

Mod Edit: Please post a link to articles when you are discussing. www.catholicmatch.com

Apr 16th 2013 new

Jim, when I see young people such as yourself standing up for the Faith, it warms my heart and makes me think that the Church will go on.

clap

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Jim-873983 said: This is in response to the recent blog post from Lisa about Natural Family Planning.Lisa wa...
(Quote) Jim-873983 said:

This is in response to the recent blog post from Lisa about Natural Family Planning.

Lisa was right when she listed Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a viable, Church-approved route to reduce the chances of a pregnancy, but she didn't give the whole picture. This is sady a topic that many Catholics of good faith do not understand correctly.

There are certain serious conditions that can make NFP lawful under Church law:

1. Medical- serious real and objective dangers to the physical or mental health of one or both partners.

2. Eugenic- real possibility of serious and incurable hereditary defects in the child. This can last for the duration of the marriage, or just for a period of time (like when the mother is taking perscription drugs that might cause birth defects)

3. Social- covering socal disturbances like famine, war, unjust laws limiting the number of children a family can have, etc.

4. Economic- In the case of TRUE SERIOUS financial hardship for supporting another child. This is perhaps the most common reason cited for NFP-practicing couples. But this reason requires brutal honesty before God. "The reason must be serious. Trifles are not enough. That the birth of other children might mean buying a less expensive car or sending the children to a less fashionable school would not justify the decision to have no more, for that would be making the ornaments of life more valuable than life itself. And not only could no Christian see things so, but only the devitalized could. Indeed, for one who has grasped what a human being is- made in God's image, immortal, redeemed by Christ- only the most serious reason would be strong enough to support such a decision." -Frank Sheehy

There are two purposes of marriage:

1. Allowing for the procreation and education of children.

2. The mutual comfort and support of the spouses and allowing a lawful outlet of concupisence (carnal desires) in the marital act between spouses.

#1 is the primary purpose, #2 is the secondary.

Natural Family Planning, if practiced simply because another child would be inconvenient, is essentially flipping the two purposes of marriage, making #2 the primary and #1 the secondary- the same spirit of those who practice artificial contraception. Regardless of whether the spouses are "open to life" despite their precautionary timing of the marital act, if Natural Family Planning is habitually practiced to take precautions against the likelihood of pregnancy, simply for its own sake, IT IS A MORTAL SIN. Please be aware of that.

Please don't think me a moral busybody. I've just recently learned about all the strings attached to NFP and want to clear the air. NFP is not instrinsically evil like artificial birth control. But it can be abused.

NFP can result in the loss of souls, and not just to Hell. Think of all the souls that could have been created if their parents were more generous in allowing God to bless them with as many children as He desires.

--hide--




I am glad to see your post. I created a post of NFP a couple days ago after I read that blog, but for some reason have gotten no responses. I made similar points in my post.


I wrote in my blog how fascinating I find NFP. A single man, it obviously doesn't affect me personally but someday it might, so I might as well be educated. I agree that many people forget about the "grave reasons" associated with NFP, and just think of it as some family planning loophole for married catholics since all contraception is seen as unacceptable in church teaching. Thus, many think catholic couples can just have their cake and eat it to, if you will, and likely not have to worry about having a little Johnny or Janie 9 months later.

One of the things about NFP that I don't understand is the reasons are truly "grave enough," is NFP worth the risk when complete abstinence is 100% effective. I mentioned in my post about a forum I was partcipating on facebook. The woman was promoting NFP over contraception in good conscience. Other thought barrier contraception methods were ok, while others thought all contraception was ok.


The debate became pretty heated so, in a futile attempt to make us all just get along, I suggested that if you don't want another kid, just don't have sex. I believe strongly in the be fruitful and mulitply teaching in the Bible, and long for the days when catholic families used to truly practice that and have large families. Although I realize large families aren't for everyone, it would be nice to see from time to time.


Ironically enough, the pro-contraception forces were largely silent to my suggestion. Perhaps they thought it was just crazy talk, I don't know, but the silence was interesting. But the pro NFP woman, mentioned me by name and seemed basically offended by what I said. I originally thought she was single so it confused me a bit but then learned she is actually married. I can only assume she has been using NFP for quite sometime - I have no idea whether or not her reasons were actually "grave," but my hunch is they probably were not. I assume she was gladly using the NFP, catholic married couple loophole and felt perfectly fine in doing so.


So, in conclusion, I want married couple to be very pro- procreation and pro- unitive in their marriages. So, I am not trying to be some 1700's Puritan or something. But, if a married couple doesn't want another kid for "grave reasons", why not abstinence? Or is a marriage lesser with less sexual relations? If you listened to a Christopher West NFP lecture, you would certainly get that idea. But, for married couples who have sexual relations hoping NOT to conceive a child, am I the only one who finds that somewhat contradictory?

Apr 17th 2013 new

Patrick - regarding your final question, NO, you are most certainly not the only one who finds that contradictory! I found it so contradictory that it was a big part of ending my marriage.

My fourth and fifth children certainly did not come at convenient times - either financially or psychologically. Yet I could never in good conscience say that we were truly ever in such financial straits that another child would cause us to bankrupt or foreclose on the house or put us all on the street. My ex was only really interested in NFP to avoid pregnancy and still be "legally Catholic." He never understood the charting, never assisted with it, never supported the process. His usual question was, "Are we safe?"....from another human life that might cause me to sacrifice more than I want to, that is.

Makes my stomach turn to think about it now.

I too am very encouraged to see young men speaking out on this and standing their ground. Perhaps the TOB tide is beginning to gain ground in the culture of death that surrounds us. Blessings to you.

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Caroline-930073 said: Patrick - regarding your final question, NO, you are most certainly not the only one who finds...
(Quote) Caroline-930073 said:

Patrick - regarding your final question, NO, you are most certainly not the only one who finds that contradictory! I found it so contradictory that it was a big part of ending my marriage.

My fourth and fifth children certainly did not come at convenient times - either financially or psychologically. Yet I could never in good conscience say that we were truly ever in such financial straits that another child would cause us to bankrupt or foreclose on the house or put us all on the street. My ex was only really interested in NFP to avoid pregnancy and still be "legally Catholic." He never understood the charting, never assisted with it, never supported the process. His usual question was, "Are we safe?"....from another human life that might cause me to sacrifice more than I want to, that is.

Makes my stomach turn to think about it now.

I too am very encouraged to see young men speaking out on this and standing their ground. Perhaps the TOB tide is beginning to gain ground in the culture of death that surrounds us. Blessings to you.

--hide--


Well, I would never want NFP to be the reason someone would end their marriage. I suppose I am more ambivalent about NFP then really against it, as I know there are catholic couples that use it for the wrong reasons. I have always just wondered given that NFP exists, is abstinence among married couples somehow wrong or so frowned upon, that NFP it the only acceptable alternative if the reasons are "grave" enough? I mean, for example, if the woman was such bad physical condition that geting pregnant could cause serious harm or even death, that would obviously be an acceptable "grave" reason to practice NFP.

Yet, would it be wrong to just practice complete abstinence in that situation so you are 100% sure no preganancy would occur? Or would complete abstinence be a violation of the "unitive" element of a marriage? I have always been confused by that and have never gotten a real answer.


If the reasons are not grave enough - and I suppose only that can be only truly answered in one's heart, why not just try to keep having kids? Be fruitful and multiply. Although, I am sad to hear that it lead to the end of your marriage. I hope it would never come to that.

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Patrick-341178 said: Well, I would never want NFP to be the reason someone would end their marriage. I suppo...
(Quote) Patrick-341178 said:



Well, I would never want NFP to be the reason someone would end their marriage. I suppose I am more ambivalent about NFP then really against it, as I know there are catholic couples that use it for the wrong reasons. I have always just wondered given that NFP exists, is abstinence among married couples somehow wrong or so frowned upon, that NFP it the only acceptable alternative if the reasons are "grave" enough? I mean, for example, if the woman was such bad physical condition that geting pregnant could cause serious harm or even death, that would obviously be an acceptable "grave" reason to practice NFP.

Yet, would it be wrong to just practice complete abstinence in that situation so you are 100% sure no preganancy would occur? Or would complete abstinence be a violation of the "unitive" element of a marriage? I have always been confused by that and have never gotten a real answer.


If the reasons are not grave enough - and I suppose only that can be only truly answered in one's heart, why not just try to keep having kids? Be fruitful and multiply. Although, I am sad to hear that it lead to the end of your marriage. I hope it would never come to that.

--hide--

Patrick, one of the problems is that the unitive function was never specifically addressed or minimally addressed, in earlier teachings and was always given a backseat so to speak to the procreative. They are not primary and secondary they are both connected and primary purposes of marriage. Both are considered essential. In the Catechism in regard to regulation of births, it states that there should be just reasons to space births and that it is a right and duty of responsible parenthood. Each and every conjugal act must "remain ordered, per se to the procreation of human life" 2366 --- this is why sterilization and other forms of contraception including barrier methods are not acceptable, they remove that, act to deliberately impede possible conception. I would add that this also includes marital acts that deliberately culminate in a manner that would make conception impossible. NFP does not posit any physical or hormonal impediment to conception and requires continence on the part of both spouses during fertile periods (which I know you know :-). It is true that even NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality. It is also true that some people can find any number of reasons to justify not having another child, but very few are really legitimate. Having a large number of children can make things tight, but having one child can do so. Prayerful and faithful consideration of the spouses together is integral to faithful adherence to the teachings. Below I've included some of the pertinent passages from the Catechism just for your information. And, the link to the online searchable version of the Catechism for those interested in having it.

www.usccb.org

2363 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is “on the side of life,”151 teaches that “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.”152 “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”153

1654 Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156

2369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”157

2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. (2528)

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Lauren-927923 said: Patrick, one of the problems is that the unitive function was never specifically addres...
(Quote) Lauren-927923 said:

Patrick, one of the problems is that the unitive function was never specifically addressed or minimally addressed, in earlier teachings and was always given a backseat so to speak to the procreative. They are not primary and secondary they are both connected and primary purposes of marriage. Both are considered essential. In the Catechism in regard to regulation of births, it states that there should be just reasons to space births and that it is a right and duty of responsible parenthood. Each and every conjugal act must "remain ordered, per se to the procreation of human life" 2366 --- this is why sterilization and other forms of contraception including barrier methods are not acceptable, they remove that, act to deliberately impede possible conception. I would add that this also includes marital acts that deliberately culminate in a manner that would make conception impossible. NFP does not posit any physical or hormonal impediment to conception and requires continence on the part of both spouses during fertile periods (which I know you know :-). It is true that even NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality. It is also true that some people can find any number of reasons to justify not having another child, but very few are really legitimate. Having a large number of children can make things tight, but having one child can do so. Prayerful and faithful consideration of the spouses together is integral to faithful adherence to the teachings. Below I've included some of the pertinent passages from the Catechism just for your information. And, the link to the online searchable version of the Catechism for those interested in having it.

www.usccb.org

2363 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is “on the side of life,”151 teaches that “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.”152 “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”153

1654 Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156

2369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”157

2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. (2528)

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

--hide--



I wasn't the one who said the unitive and the procreative were secondary and primary. The unitive plays an active role. My question is if couples are practicing complete abstinence in order to avoid pregnancy, are they violating the unitive? So, is only NFP acceptable if the reasons are "grave"?

Like you said, most of time the reasons probably aren't grave, but I imagine many NFP practicing couples are gladly ignorant of the "grave" requirement, or convince themselves that economic reasons are probably "grave" enough.

Of course, as a single man it is easy to judge so I try not to. Large families may not be for everyone from a pyschological perspective so that may qualify as "grave", but I suppose that is only in each respective couple's hearts and difficult for us singles to judge.

Apr 17th 2013 new

Awesome post, Jim. I tried to get a conversation started by posting Lisa's blog but no one responded. I too struggled with a former spouse who did not fully accept the Church's teaching on NFP, though he did respect my efforts. Eventually (after 6 pregnancies) he took himself to a urologist and had a vasectomy. I can honestly say it was the lowest point in my married life, even lower than when he filed for divorce. I refused to pick him up from the Dr's office that day and refused to have anything to do with his decision or his care. I was devastated; my fertility had been taken from me. Years later, when our marriage was really struggling, he considered having his vasectomy reversed, even spoke with a urologist about it but did not follow through.


Contraception destroys marriages, there is no doubt. Again, thanks Jim for your posting and thanks for everyone who responded in support of NFP.

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Patrick-341178 said: But, for married couples who have sexual relations hoping NOT to conceive a child, am I the onl...
(Quote) Patrick-341178 said:

But, for married couples who have sexual relations hoping NOT to conceive a child, am I the only one who finds that somewhat contradictory?

--hide--


I think you need to look at that question in the broader context, and the specifics of the marriage at that time. Obviously couples are called to have children, but the Church is very clear that couples are called to "responsible parenthood", and there can be a number of reasons why couples don't feel that having a child at this specific time is the right decisssion. The reality is, that is something that the couple has to descern amongst themselves, and with God, and it's not fair that we should look at a situation and say "well if I had that much money I'd have another", etc..

Clearly couples should not be using "responsible parenthood" to avoid having children.

I think we also need to be very careful when we look at a couple, and the number of children they have, because often times we don't understand the circumstances that they are going through. I know a couple that is well off, and has one daughter, is that responsible when they could have aforded more? YES, in the case of this couple she suffered with SEVEN miscarages before they were able to bring their daugther to term. That's what I call determination! I'm not sure I would have been able to deal with the heartbreak of loosing seven children, and still be willing to try again.

You could look at another couple, who jokingly said that their biggest challange in life was how to spend the money they were making. They had a very solid relationship, they had a beautiful house, and they didn't have any kids. Is that responsible parenthood? Is this being open to life? Is this taking the marriage vows serisouly? Well, that's for God to answer because it was HIS choice that the couple didn't have children. The wife was rendered infertile very early on in the marriage in an effort to save her own life. A decission that was made in the full context of Humane Vitae and understanding that saving ones life may result in infertility.

In some cases it's God's will that a couple of a small family, or any family at all. Of course there are those who misuse "responsible parenthood" as an excuse for "1 or 2 is enough". That said, so many times couples are faced with heavy burdens on their marriage, burdens that aren't broadcast because they are heart-wrenching, and they prefer to suffer in silence because they feel (often rightly) that they just won't be understood by socieity because they are not "normal".

OK time for me to get off my soapbox

Apr 17th 2013 new

(Quote) Patrick-341178 said: I wasn't the one who said the unitive and the procreative were secondary and pr...
(Quote) Patrick-341178 said:




I wasn't the one who said the unitive and the procreative were secondary and primary. The unitive plays an active role. My question is if couples are practicing complete abstinence in order to avoid pregnancy, are they violating the unitive? So, is only NFP acceptable if the reasons are "grave"?

Like you said, most of time the reasons probably aren't grave, but I imagine many NFP practicing couples are gladly ignorant of the "grave" requirement, or convince themselves that economic reasons are probably "grave" enough.

Of course, as a single man it is easy to judge so I try not to. Large families may not be for everyone from a pyschological perspective so that may qualify as "grave", but I suppose that is only in each respective couple's hearts and difficult for us singles to judge.

--hide--

Hi Patrick, I know you weren't the one who said they were secondary and primary, I was just trying to keep the train of thought consistent as I wrote. I also thought it might be good to point out that the Catechism says "just reasons" instead of "grave reasons".

I think in direct answer to your question that yes it is possible that the unitive function of marriage is being neglected if complete abstinence is being practiced, especially if this includes such intimacies as touching, being physically close to another person and I am speaking of non-sexual but loving touches or engagements. Having said that, there are cases of vows to maintain virginity that have been carried over into marriage: Of course the marriage of Mary and Joseph, Old Testament precedence for the possibility -- Numbers Chapter 30 addresses these, additionally, a number of Saints either maintained a virgin state upon entering marriage or moved to a state of permanent abstinence after some point in their marriage, often as the stories go, attending to God's work instead often together as a couple. While these are noble actions, I think most of us are probably more likely to be as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7. This is an interesting chapter, in this we see Paul say in verse five:

5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

(Paul appears to have an aversion to sexual expression not unlike some of St. Augustine's statements, but for different reasons I think.) Paul also notes that there are different gifts, implying that for him celibacy is a gift, for others sexual desire and marriage is a gift.

He likewise states in verse six that this is not a command but a concession. What's interesting here and in most of Paul's writing on the subject is the total surrender of one spouse to the other, the duty of one spouse to the other and vice versa -- which we see reflected in other Church teaching on the matter. Paul also suggests the acceptability of mutual consent for periods of abstinence for prayer and then coming together again -- these passages don't address procreation they address sexual desire and its proper place within marriage -- the unitive function of marriage.

I think it is important to remember not to decouple the procreative from the unitive and I think it is possible to sin against one or both in how we approach conjugal relations within marriage.

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