In the post “French Bishop Urges Vatican to Reopen Debate on Whether 1+1=2”, Funky mentions that:
“Pope Paul VI banned contraception in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, arguing that sexual intercourse was meant for procreation and any artificial method to block a pregnancy went against the nature of the act.”
I was inclined by this to comment on that post, but its my hope that others might have input on my thoughts about Humanae Vitae and NFP.
The Church advocates NFP (Natural Family Planning) as a form of contraception (though they don’t call it that). Using this method, couples track the fertility of the female through various methods of empirical measurement (timing, body temperature, the consistency of saliva and other bodily fluids). When the female is in her non-fertile period, only then do they engage in sexual intercourse.
It seems to me that this is a rather unnatural (or artificial) act. I don’t see anything natural about having sex by a stopwatch. One might argue that the unnatural act of the measurements and timing happens before sex, so it is not really related. I find that, however, to be a slippery slope. Just as slippery as “when does human life begin?” is for pro -or anti-abortion arguments.
Others will offer caveats that there is still a possibility of pregnancy with NFP. On the other hand, catholic NFP advocates will also tell you that NFP is more effective than condoms or The Pill. If they make this argument, then they must condone both condoms and The Pill as okay, since they offer a higher possibility of conception.
A few might argue that The Pill is bad just because it’s a bunch of unhealthy chemicals that do mean things to the person taking it. I typically disregard this argument. If the Church is disallowing it on these grounds, then most weight loss drugs should be disallowed, but all this should occur under some other grounds than contraception.
Still others might argue the barrier argument against condoms. This argument states that a physical barrier (a condom, empty space, etc.) is the problem. By this argument, The Pill must be okay, since it posses no barrier, but simply controls ovulation.
Finally, some would argue what I call “The Every Sperm is Sacred Rule” (kudos to Monty Python). By this argument, it’s the frustration and waste of sperm that becomes the issue. However, is this not the case with NFP, where there is little or no possibility of anything but death for the little swimmers? Indeed, the little guys suffer the same fate in any infertile scenario, whether with NFP, The Pill, or natural sex that doesn’t result in pregnancy.
Here the “Every Sperm is Scared Rule” proponents may also site the Old Testament in regard to an individual being struck down for “spilling his seed”. This, however, is generally taken out of context. Onan was ordered by God to have a child with his brother’s widow. Onan started “doing his thing” and then withdrew. The offence was not that he spilled his seed, the offence was disobeying a direct order! If God told Bob to shake hands with Larry, and Bob only bowed, I’d expect Bob to get struck down too!
From my humble perspective, I can’t see how NFP is any better than any contraception method. I use NFP. I support NFP, because I’m following that 2000 years of accumulated wisdom. But I still think NFP IS contraception and is no different than methods such as a condom, diaphragm, or The Pill.