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Kevin Nguyen wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am confused about the purpose of (NFP) Natural Family Planning. I have read that it's purpose is to help or prevent pregnancy. I have also read that it is used for serious reasons relating to pregnancy.

  • Nevertheless, if couples just want to prevent pregnancy or avoid health reasons relating to sex and pregnancy, then why don't they just abstain?
  • Doesn't NFP involve intentionally reducing the chance of pregnancy?

Even though it doesn't "render procreation impossible", it still is a means and possibly an end to preventing pregnancy. That doesn't sound very procreative to me. I thought sex was supposed to be both unifying and procreative. I have also read that NFP is used to space out the birth of children and for other economical purposes. However, that still brings me back to the question:

  • Why not just abstain?

I cannot deny the fact that if a couple is trying to reduce the chance of a pregnancy then they have the intent or hope that a child would not be born.

  • If they have some serious reason for why they would not want a child, then why don't they just abstain?

It seems to me that what the Church teaches about sex and NFP contradict each other but the reason I am asking questions is because I do not know for sure, and so I would appreciate a thorough answer.

Thank you for reading my question.

Kevin

  { It seems to me that what the Church teaches about sex and NFP contradict each other. }

Mary Ann replied:

Kevin,

Married people are supposed to engage in intercourse. They need it. God uses it to build them up in grace. It would be wrong to abstain totally, unless sickness or absence required it. It is the sign of marriage.

NFP involves abstinence for short periods, the time of fertility. One can use it only if one has serious reasons to avoid procreating a child. It is as effective as any artificial contraception.

You are right that marriage must be procreative, and that every marital act must not be closed to procreation, but God is allowed to close the marital act to procreation.  He does this by making procreation unlikely during most of the cycle and during most of a couple's life. From age fifty on up, couples are still allowed to have marital intercourse.

Hope this helps.

Mary Ann

Paul replied:

Kevin,

By the way you worded your question I'm not sure you understand what NFP is. It is abstaining from sex. Not permanently, but periodically when the wife is naturally fertile, as Mary Ann stated.

This kind of marital abstaining for serious and responsible reasons is morally justified.

Paul

Kevin replied:

Thank you for giving me a bit more information, but I am still a little unsure.

I know that NFP involves abstaining periodically, but it also involves purposefully choosing a time that lessens fertility.

  • Shouldn't it be the case that if there is a serious reason to not have a child, then abstain, and if you want a child, then have sex at that time?
  • Why is NFP needed when we already have both abstinence and sex; both an on and off switch?
  • Furthermore, what exactly are these “serious and responsible” reasons?
  • Are they just health and economically-related reasons, or is there more to it?

I would like to clear up my confusion; thank you all for helping me do so.

Kevin

Paul replied:

Kevin,

You stated:
Shouldn't it be the case that if there is a serious reason to not have a child, then abstain, and if you want a child, then have sex at that time?

But that's exactly what NFP does. The married couple abstains from intercourse during the fertile times of the month. If you are suggesting they abstain the entire time of their hardship, that is an option but not a necessary one.

God has designed it so that human fertility is possible only during certain periods of each month, so coming together as one-flesh at other times while abstaining from the fertile times cooperates with God and our nature rather than contradicting it as contraception would.

The Church has never created a list of justifiable reasons for the temporary utilization of NFP, but the general consensus is that it can not be utilized selfishly. That is judged by the reasonable assessment of the couple.

Paul

Kevin replied:

Hi, Paul —

You said:
The Church has never created a list of justifiable reasons for the temporary utilization of NFP, but the general consensus is that it can not be utilized selfishly.

  • but what exactly would be selfish and what would not be selfish?

On one hand, I cannot see that it is selfish if both husband and wife have to work together to use the method. On the other hand, the only way I can see it being selfish, is if the couple wants to have sex without having a baby.

I just don't know which is right, or whether one of them is right at all.

  • Please elaborate in detail on what reasons are “selfish” and what reasons are acceptable for using NFP.

Kevin

Paul replied:

Kevin,

You want me to elaborate on details of what is defined as selfish when the Church herself has not come up with a detailed list. It wouldn't be right for me to make one up.

It is not always selfish to want to space children, but doing so:

  • out of laziness
  • for hedonistic reasons, or
  • excessive material pursuits

might be a good start in looking at, what is a selfish attitude.

Paul

Kevin replied:

Thank you.

Mary Ann replied:

Yes,

It is the right and duty of the couple to decide in conscience, with a generous and trusting spirit, how many children they can procreate and educate.

Mary Ann

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