Investigating NFP: Preface

Recently, all hell broke loose (At least, that’s what I call 100+ comments on a small-time blog like mine!) when one of my contributors wrote a post questioning the Church’s position on NFP. Rather than taking the more common stance that NFP puts undue burden on couples and artificial contraception should be permitted, Lightwave seemed to be suggesting that NFP is on a moral plane with certain artificial methods of birth control. I found myself siding with Lightwave, if not with the same tone or delivery, at least with similar sentiment. Neither of us could not understand how NFP does not frustrate "the procreative potential of the marriage act". Furthermore, the arguments that NFP is somehow not a contraceptive because it is natural and involves the omission of an act, rather than the commission of one, seemed spurious. In order to alleviate my ignorance, I’ve decided to find out what the learned teachers and evangelizers of NFP had to say in defense of the practice. I began with Couple to Couple League International (CCLI). They seemed as competitent in this area as any organization I could find. They are well-known and well-respected.


"The Couple to Couple League (CCL) is an international, interfaith, non-profit organization dedicated to teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP) to married and engaged couples. It is essentially a volunteer organization because services are provided by professionally-trained volunteers who are supported by a relatively small staff at the international headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Local Chapters of the organization consist mainly of certified Teaching Couples and Promoters, along with other supportive members."

"When Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the traditional Christian teaching against unnatural forms of birth control in 1968 through the encyclical Humanae Vitae, he recommended that married couples help other married couples with Natural Family Planning. In response, John and Sheila Kippley founded the Couple to Couple League in 1971…"

CCLI, which publishes "The Art of Natural Family Planning" by John and Sheila Kippley, has the following on a page on their site called "Morality of Natural Family Planing".

"First, we believe that God is the Author of nature; He is the one who put together in the marriage act what we call ‘making love’ and ‘making babies.’ It is God who in His providence has allowed us to learn in the late 20th century about woman’s alternating fertility and infertility — and about Natural Family Planning — at the same time that other medical advances greatly increased the population survival rate. NFP allows couples to prudently regulate births without recourse to unnatural, immoral methods of birth control that interfere with the way God designed our fertility."

"As astonishing as this statement may seem, throughout history natural methods have never been less effective than the unnatural, non-surgical methods. (Moral methods may not be as convenient, and they do require self-control, but that is a wonderful and rewarding virtue to acquire, as many NFP couples will attest.) In the 1930s the Ogino-Knaus Rhythm Method of NFP was as effective as the most effective "new" contraceptive barrier methods. In the 1960s, when the Pill launched the Sexual Revolution, the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP (as taught by CCL today) was as effective as the Pill."

It is worth noting that the dialectic is not NFP vs birth control, but natural versus artificial birth control.  "Birth control" is just another way of saying "contraception".  This would seem to indicate that to at least CCLI, contraception is not objectively immoral, but artificial contraception is. They wiggle out of the notion of NFP being a method of contraception on their page "NFP vs. Contraception" by defining "contraceptive" narrowly.

"‘Isn’t NFP the same as contraception if a married couple is using it to postpone or avoid a pregnancy that they are not ready for?’"

"The short answer is ‘No.’ The reason is, contraception involves the deliberate frustration of the marriage act; NFP does not. In some ways, that may seem like a small difference, but in reality, the difference is huge and very important."

That’s not how I’d define contraception. Here’s how the American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, via Dictionary.com, defines contraception:

"Intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures."

This seems like a valid definition to me. NFP is clearly a contraceptive method that utilizes sexual practices to achieve its goal. I propose that if one wishes to meaningfully classify NFP separately from artificial methods, we need to speak of "contraception by omission" and "contraception by commission". In the former, conception is avoided by abstaining from intercourse during potentially fertile periods in women’s menstrual cycles. In the latter, the purpose of fertile periods is violated by putting barriers, chemicals, devices, or surgical procedures between gametes so that they cannot meet and/or join. More on this later. CCLI continues:

"Traditionally, the Catholic Church has always taught that married couples have the right to ‘plan’ their families, provided this is done in a responsible and just manner, and is done with the proper motivation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:"

"2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of births. 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. (emphasis in original text)"

"So, it is not ‘birth regulation’ that the Church opposes, but selfishness and any immoral means of accomplishing that."

What qualify as "just reasons"? I think this question accounts for much of the discussion in the comments on the previous NFP post. People need clear guidelines and the Church does not seem to be providing them. Under the Old Law, rabbis spoke of putting hedges around the law, that is, setting boundaries stricter than the law itself so that crossing the boundary does not necessarily mean one has transgressed against the Law. Clearly, this can be taken too far, and the Pharisees did just that (Matthew 23:4).  True, as Christians we are no longer under the Law.  However, as St. Paul pointed out, not being under the Law does not give one free license (Galatians 5).  We still need behavioral guidelines to follow.  In modern civil and criminal law, a concept analogous to setting up hedges is a "bright line rule". My wife and I, and other faithful Catholic couples, have found ourselves in a quandry as to where NFP’s bright line is. Are our reasons for avoiding conceiving just? CCLI continues:

"The Church teaches us that it was God who made us male and female, and therefore, it was by His design that the marriage act has the dual purposes of the procreation of offspring and the nurturing of love between the spouses. These purposes, designed into the marriage act, must always be respected in order to follow God’s will. When a couple deliberately frustrates the procreative potential of the marriage act through contraception, they are acting against God’s plan and design for marital love. On the other hand, when a couple who have a ‘just reason’ for avoiding pregnancy choose instead to abstain from the marriage act during the fertile time of the cycle, they are not acting in violation of God’s design."

I’m confused. How is NFP not deliberate frustration on the procreative potential of the marriage? By not having sex during fertile times, one gets the pleasures of intercourse with very low likelihood of major consequences, i.e. the responsibilities of parenthood. It’s the "free lunch" that isn’t supposed to exist. NFP is, by its evangelists’ own admission, a very effective means of avoiding conception. If marital sexual intercourse is to be both procreative and unitive, and one deliberately frustrates the procreative aspect, how is that not a desecration of the marital act? How is that "not acting in violation of God’s design"? CCLI attempts to explain:

"Abstaining from the marriage act does nothing to deliberately change the procreative potential of the marriage act because there is no act. Again, it is not a sin to postpone or avoid conception for a just reason, but how a couple postpones or avoids conception can be sinful or it can be virtuous."

True, the individual act is not violated, however, I fail to see how the act in toto is not violated. The pleasurable aspects are enjoyed with no strings attached. It seems to me there would have to be very grave mitigating circumstances indeed for that to not be selfish.

"Author Christopher West addresses the difference between contraception and NFP in his book, Good News About Sex & Marriage:"

"Suppose there were a religious person, a nonreligious person, and an antireligious person walking past a church. What might each do?"

"Let’s say the religious person goes inside and prays, the nonreligious person walks by and does nothing, and the antireligious person goes inside the church and desecrates it. (I’m framing an analogy, of course, but these are reasonable behaviors to expect.) Which of these three persons did something that is always, under every circumstance, wrong? The last, of course."

"Husbands and wives are called to be procreative. If they have a good reason to avoid pregnancy, they are free to be non-procreative. But it’s a contradiction of the deepest essence of the sacrament of marriage to be anti-procreative."

I think this analogy is deeply flawed. Here’s the analogy I’d give.

Suppose that there were three people who are called as witnesses in a criminal case. The first person tells "the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth". The second lies by omitting facts, thereby not telling the whole truth. The third lies by deliberately telling untruths. Which one of these persons did something that is always, under every circumstance, wrong? The last one, of course. I’m inclined to believe that the second person is also wrong always, and under every circumstance wrong, though.  However, lest someone should triumphantly wave an extreme example in my face in which omitting information under oath is objectively moral, I’ll not press that inclination.  I feel safe in saying that, at the very least, one ought to have very grave reasons for ommitting requested information under oath. Should not similar criteria be applied to contraception by omission?

"To put it another way, the Church calls spouses to love each other as they were created in the image and likeness of God. When a couple contracepts, they are deliberately acting to change the way one or both of them were created; i.e., their actions are saying to God, ‘We don’t like your design and have a better idea.’ When a couple uses NFP and abstains during the fertile time, they are respecting God’s design and honoring it by waiting for the infertile time."

I don’t see how NFP doesn’t reject God’s design. When you deliberately avoid having sex during fertile periods, you are, IMHO, effectively saying, "During fertile periods, the human body behaves in undesirable ways. Therefore, I will avoid employing the sexual aspects of that design during times when its natural functions might produce undesireable results." That’s like avoiding the use of your TV or radio during certain hours because there’s too much static. The TV and radio are only doing what they "naturally" do, receive signals in a manner compliant with FCC regulations, but we find that functionality irritating when static is received.

Before I get too worked up over how CCLI presents NFP, I should acknowledge that they are not the only source of information on this topic, and probably are not the best.  In order to better understand why the Church teaches what she teaches, I’ve decided go back to the relevant papal encyclicals and discover what they have to say. Then we shall see where the fault lies – the unversal Church, the Church in America, lay representatives (including CCLI), or me.

To that end, I will be posting a series of analyses. The first will focus on the thoughts of Popes Pius XI, and second on Pius XII. The third will be dedicated to Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humane Vitae. The fourth will look at the teachings of Pope John Paul II. The fifth and final installment will examine the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the USCCB, and various lay organizations, and reexamine CCLI’s statements. This post will serve as a clearinghouse for the others. It will be updated with a link to each post as it is completed. Feel free to comment on what I’ve already said, but please bear in mind that my investigation of the matter is incomplete and that I’m in the midst of "thinking out loud".

    Investigating NFP

  1. Pius XI
  2. Pius XII
  3. Paul VI
  4. John Paul II
  5. Current Presentations

Comments 78

  1. Sean wrote:

    I have always heard NFP described as being for use in grave circumstances to space out the possibility of children in a way that is not immoral. If its used to prevent children completely or for non-grave situations, then even NFP would be immoral.

    But I have never seen a definitive statement by a high Church authority on any of this. So what I heard is of no greater weight than what you quote from CCL. I have seen the CCL recommended by various people and groups that I do trust, however.

    I’ve never gone into it any further than that because I am not married and am in no danger of suddenly coming down all married. So it hasn’t been something I’ve had to worry about.

    Posted 06 Mar 2006 at 7:49 am
  2. Catholic Writer wrote:

    I think that your analogy of the criminal case is flawed as well. Your analogy can be used for a couple who is already having sexual intercourse during the fertile period. The one who omits facts would be analogous to a man who withdraws his penis just before ejaculation, while the one who tells untruths would be analogous to a woman who take a Pill or has an abortion after conception of the child.

    Let me propose a different way of looking at it. NFP or contraception, both have a chance of failing and a child could conceive. The question I want to ask is:

    What will happen to the child?

    For a contracepting couple, the child is an accident and never intended. Abortion is a likely response, because the child messes up plans for their lives. Even if the child is not aborted, he or she was and is never wanted.

    For a couple practising NFP, the child is an accident, but NFP is more than just sexual practices. It is also an attitude that is open to life. The child may be an accident, but it is never unwanted, because the couple is open to life.

    On the other hand, to use NFP solely for the purpose of not having children, you are right in saying that it can still be morally wrong, because its sole purpose is not the prevention of conception. When learning NFP, couples are warned against using it for frivolous, selfish or materialistic reasons.

    Another way of looking at it is to judge by the fruits. Couples who practise NFP are far less likely to divorce than those who use contraceptives.

    Now the question to ask is what Christopher West asks just before that quote in your post: Do you WANT to see the difference (between NFP and contraception)? Many people don’t, because somewhere they intuit that it would demand not just a change of behaviour in the bedroom but the transformation of their entire worldview. If that’s what you’re sensing – you’re right.

    :)

    P.S.: I like your blog. I shall start reading it more from now on.

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 6:06 pm
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think that your analogy of the criminal case is flawed as well. Your analogy can be used for a couple who is already having sexual intercourse during the fertile period. The one who omits facts would be analogous to a man who withdraws his penis just before ejaculation, while the one who tells untruths would be analogous to a woman who take a Pill or has an abortion after conception of the child.

    Well, any analogy has its breaking point. My intention was merely to present one that didn’t let the “middle option” off scot free.

    “For a couple practising NFP, the child is an accident, but NFP is more than just sexual practices. It is also an attitude that is open to life. The child may be an accident, but it is never unwanted, because the couple is open to life.”

    How is that to be guaranteed? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those couples practicing NFP are only doing so to be faithful and obedient to the Church (which is a good thing), but really have the same contraceptive mentality as a couple using condoms (which is a bad thing).

    “On the other hand, to use NFP solely for the purpose of not having children, you are right in saying that it can still be morally wrong, because its sole purpose is not the prevention of conception. When learning NFP, couples are warned against using it for frivolous, selfish or materialistic reasons.”

    The question I’ve been trying hard to answer is what reasons qualify as “frivolous, selfish or materialistic”? There seems to be a lot of wiggle room and I’m not comfortable with that.

    “Another way of looking at it is to judge by the fruits. Couples who practise NFP are far less likely to divorce than those who use contraceptives.”

    Actually, there haven’t been any credible studies to proves that. I’ll be going into abused statistics like that in the last part of the series. However, even if there was a demonstrable statistical correlation between NFP practice and low divorce rate, correlation does not imply causation. Statistics show that people who own running shoes have a lower incidence rate of heart disease. However, it’s not the ownership of shoes that makes people healthier, but using them while running. It may well be that there is some hidden cause that results in both NFP use and low divorce rate.

    “Do you WANT to see the difference (between NFP and contraception)? Many people donít, because somewhere they intuit that it would demand not just a change of behaviour in the bedroom but the transformation of their entire worldview. If thatís what youíre sensing – youíre right.”

    Well, you can blame CCLI for not including that bit. ūüėČ I’ve read that book, btw, and enjoyed it very much. Part of what bugs me is that I think NFP is contraception, albeit the only morally permissable form. I think the dichotmy should be between natural and artificial, not between NFP and contraception. I think false dichotomies like that only serve to confuse people, faithful and unfaithful alike. Also, I think one can quite easily use the methods of NFP without changing one’s worldview. That’s exactly what’s done when secular folks use it and call it Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

    “P.S.: I like your blog. I shall start reading it more from now on.”

    I’m glad you like it. Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. :)

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 8:22 pm
  4. Catholic Writer wrote:

    Okay. I guess that is a problem, if you consider NFP contraception. Let’s try using that definition of contraception from dictionary.com:

    “Intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures.”

    I think you’re saying that NFP falls under sexual practices? How about abstinence? Do you consider abstinence as a form of contraception? If so, why? If not, why?

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 8:48 pm
  5. Jerry wrote:

    Better than the legal analogy of lying under oath, we should look to the biomedical world, which is after all, what encompasses reproduction and contraception.

    In medicine, there is a well-respected (in both Jewish and Christian ethical traditions, at least) tradition of distinguishing between letting nature take its course and actively intervening in a natural process. The former may involve forgoing certain procedures on a patient who is about to die when said procedures would not materially change the final outcome and thus not be worth the pain and effort; active intervention would be something on the lines of (assisted) suicide or euthanasia.

    Likewise we can talk about working with the natural course of things(abstaining strategically, and using what comes around in the woman’s cycle as a matter of course) or with actively intervention. Is this a better analogy to hang one’s hat upon?

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 9:23 pm
  6. Dr. Gregory Popcak wrote:

    Hello All,

    I just thought I would help to illuminate the discussion a wee bit.

    What make contraception immoral is not so much that it enables a couple to postpone pregnancy. it is that…

    1) artificial contraception is the UNNATURAL and WILLFUL separation of the natural unity that God created betweeen fertility and unity. It is, chemically or through other means, the sin of ripping apart the natural order God created.

    2) In the case of the Pill, contraception is actually abortifacient and results in the destrution of an embryo.

    Couples ARE permitted to postpone pregancy, for just reasons (even, as Paul VI noted, for the duration of the married life (c.f., Pope Paul VI, Address to Midwives, 10/29/51). In fact, couples have an obligation to be “deliberate and responsble” about procreation, and avoid the perception that the Church, “supports fertility at all costs, urging couples to procreate indiscriminately and without thought for the future (John Paul II, Angelus Address 7/17/94).

    However, in spacing children couples must always be mindful of two things.

    1) They must be make whatever decision they make prayerfully, “in the sight of God” and as part of an overall desire to seek God’s will and live a holy life (Gaudium et spes #50.

    2) They must use only those methods approved by the Church which DO NOT ARTIFICIALLY separate the natural unity between fertility and unity, but rather take advantage of the natural separation GOD BUILT INTO the woman’s cycle.

    That’s it.

    Now, that said, it is possible for a couple to use NFP selfishly, but that is NOT the sin of contraception. Using NFP selfishly may be a sin against the marriage, and/or against the generosity required of a couple, but it is not, repeat, NOT the MORTAL sin of contraception, which is the willful and artificial separation of the natural order God created in fertility.

    If you would like more information about the Church’s actual teaching on these matters, may I suggest, Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation and Defense, by Lawler, May, et. al.

    Thanks for reading.

    Dr. P.

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 10:38 pm
  7. BV wrote:

    “Birth control” is just another way of saying “contraception”.

    This seems to be a bit of a leap to me. You seem to be reasoning that the end result (regulation of births) automatically makes the methods that got you there (contraceptive drugs/barriers or abstinence) equivalent. What happened to the “ends don’t justify the means”?

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 11:43 pm
  8. Anonymous Teacher Person wrote:

    Has anyone invited you over to the Delphi Forums Natural Family Planning board? You might be interested in doing a search over there for “contraceptive mentality” and seeing how that topic has been hashed out in the past.

    Plus, we are talking about you. Heh.

    http://forums.delphiforums.com/nfptalk/start

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 11:58 pm
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I think youíre saying that NFP falls under sexual practices? How about abstinence? Do you consider [total] abstinence as a form of contraception? If so, why? If not, why?”

    I think there’s a real difference there because you are not experiencing the pleasurable aspect of sex stripped of its procreative aspect. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

    “In medicine, there is a well-respected (in both Jewish and Christian ethical traditions, at least) tradition of distinguishing between letting nature take its course and actively intervening in a natural process. The former may involve forgoing certain procedures on a patient who is about to die when said procedures would not materially change the final outcome and thus not be worth the pain and effort; active intervention would be something on the lines of (assisted) suicide or euthanasia.”

    “Likewise we can talk about working with the natural course of things(abstaining strategically, and using what comes around in the womanís cycle as a matter of course) or with actively intervention. Is this a better analogy to hang oneís hat upon?”

    It’s certainly intriguing and I’ll have to think about it some more. I’m inclined to say it’s not helpful here because it doesn’t address the “something for nothing”, that is, pleasure without responsibility, point.

    “I just thought I would help to illuminate the discussion a wee bit.”

    I’m honored that you stopped by. :) My wife and I very much enjoyed reading “For Better Forever” during our engagement.

    “What make contraception immoral is not so much that it enables a couple to postpone pregnancy. it is thatÖ”

    “1) artificial contraception is the UNNATURAL and WILLFUL separation of the natural unity that God created betweeen fertility and unity. It is, chemically or through other means, the sin of ripping apart the natural order God created.”

    This is the kind of sloppy (no offense) use of language that frustrates me: using “contraception” to exclusively mean “artificial contraception”. I have not seen a satisfactory explanation of why NFP doesn’t involve contraception. Nor do I think we need one. I’d be quite content to say that the Church permits contraception by limited means and for limited ends. I do think we need to stop pretending NFP’s not contraceptive at all, though.

    “2) In the case of the Pill, contraception is actually abortifacient and results in the destrution of an embryo.”

    As we’ve discussed here before, the abortifacient capabilities of the Pill are disputed. Still, I think erring on the side of caution is wise.

    “Couples ARE permitted to postpone pregancy, for just reasons (even, as Paul VI noted, for the duration of the married life (c.f., Pope Paul VI, Address to Midwives, 10/29/51). In fact, couples have an obligation to be ‘deliberate and responsble’ about procreation, and avoid the perception that the Church, ‘supports fertility at all costs, urging couples to procreate indiscriminately and without thought for the future’ (John Paul II, Angelus Address 7/17/94).”

    Actually, that address to midwives was by Pius XII. I’ll be addressing that two posts (in this series) from now. The next post will cover Pius XI.

    “1) They must be make whatever decision they make prayerfully, ‘in the sight of God’ and as part of an overall desire to seek Godís will and live a holy life (Gaudium et spes #50.”

    Something I’ve heard in conversations about NFP but do recall reading in official literature is the notion that the contraceptive aspects of NFP should always be used with regret. We should always regret not bringing new life into the world. I’d like to hear that point made more often. It might go a long way to clarifying “serious/grave reasons”.

    “2) They must use only those methods approved by the Church which DO NOT ARTIFICIALLY separate the natural unity between fertility and unity, but rather take advantage of the natural separation GOD BUILT INTO the womanís cycle.”

    It’s the “take advatage of” part that gives me pause. If couples had sex whenever the mood struck and didn’t worry about fertility, their children would still be spaced out somewhat by the varying probabilities of conception. I’ve also heard (but cannot verify) that even under the best (unaided) conditions, there’s only about a 1 in 4 chance of conceiving anyhow. It just seems to me that the natural and intended use of married sexuality is to let the probabilities determine your rate of conception for you and deliberately using only certain times of the cycle is like loading dice; it’s cheating. There’s so much talk of NFP being natural and created by God, but wouldn’t God prefer unmolested fecundity?

    “Now, that said, it is possible for a couple to use NFP selfishly, but that is NOT the sin of contraception. Using NFP selfishly may be a sin against the marriage, and/or against the generosity required of a couple, but it is not, repeat, NOT the MORTAL sin of contraception, which is the willful and artificial separation of the natural order God created in fertility.”

    I belive it will become clear as I go through papal writings that NFP is indeed contraception and that the sin is with artificial contraception or NFP used frivolously. Speaking of which, that’s the main driving force of this series. I wish to know what constitute selfish vs serious reasons to contracept via NFP.

    “If you would like more information about the Churchís actual teaching on these matters, may I suggest, Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation and Defense, by Lawler, May, et. al.”

    That’s been on my Amazon wishlist for eons. ūüėČ

    “Thanks for reading.”

    Thanks for commenting. :)

    “You seem to be reasoning that the end result (regulation of births) automatically makes the methods that got you there (contraceptive drugs/barriers or abstinence) equivalent. What happened to the ‘ends donít justify the means’?

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. I did not say that because the ends are the same, the moral values are the same. All I have done is equate the ends. THe means are a separate question and I think I’ve been clear about regarding artificial contraception as sinful.

    “Has anyone invited you over to the Delphi Forums Natural Family Planning board? You might be interested in doing a search over there for ‘contraceptive mentality’ and seeing how that topic has been hashed out in the past. Plus, we are talking about you. Heh.”

    you’re the first. :) I’ll take a look over there when I have some free time. I hope you’re saying nice things about me. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 7:24 am
  10. Elena wrote:

    The question Iíve been trying hard to answer is what reasons qualify as ďfrivolous, selfish or materialisticĒ? There seems to be a lot of wiggle room and Iím not comfortable with that.

    I offered my thoughts on that in the last thread. For my own conscience it seemed to me that a “frivolous, selfish or materialistic” reason would be one that I would feel ashamed to speak to Jesus and the Blessed Mother right to their face. If I couldn’t speak it without shame, then it’s probably one of the above.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 8:33 am
  11. Funky Dung wrote:

    “If I couldnít speak it without shame, then itís probably one of the above.”

    That presumes that you have a properly formed conscience which will feel shame when it ought. I’m not saying you don’t, but I’m having a hard time determining if I do and how many other NFP practitioners do. If you don’t know to be ashamed, you won’t be. Know what I mean?

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 8:37 am
  12. Fred K. wrote:

    It will be good to see an examination of this issue based on the actual documents rather than just one’s own opinions.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 9:35 am
  13. Elena wrote:

    Oh, I don’t know. Try saying it outloud as if you were saying it to Jesus and the Blessed Mother’s face. See how it makes you feel to say the actual words knowing full well that the rationalities we can use to justify ourselves, He can truly see through. If it makes you feel icky to say it out loud, I think that’s a good indicator. Anyone who is capable of finding and understanding this blog is probably formed enough to be familiar with the “ick” factor.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 9:39 am
  14. Funky Dung wrote:

    “It will be good to see an examination of this issue based on the actual documents rather than just oneís own opinions.”

    I hope you don’t mind getting the documents and my opinions. ūüėČ

    “Anyone who is capable of finding and understanding this blog is probably formed enough to be familiar with the ďickĒ factor.”

    They’re not the only ones I’m worried about, though. I’m thinking of the average poorly-catechized Catholics Joe and Sally Schmoo needing a bright line rule.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 10:01 am
  15. Elena wrote:

    Poor catechisis is definitely a problem, but Ithink that’s an entirely different topic!

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 10:19 am
  16. Misty wrote:

    I am a non-Catholic who recently (November 05) started using NFP. I, too, had been struggling with how Catholics can say it is not contracepting to use NFP. One of the ladies on the Delphi Forums gave an analogy that I thought was helpful. NFP vs contraceptions is the difference between not eating a whole pie because you might get fat, and eating the pie then vomiting it up.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 10:28 am
  17. Clattercote wrote:

    You may be right that there NFP involves a conception of “contraception” as suggest – we do use our bodies’ natural cycles in an effort to limit/space children, and that is technically “against conception”.

    But the issue is much larger than the secondary ends of whether to contracept or not(as opposed to the ultimate end – God) – the means, here, are far more important. Humanae vitae recognises this in the way it talks about promoting a life of virtue (aka chastity and abstinence) – we excell in virtues via our practices, as the way we are habitually forming ourselves. ABC forms us habitually into a culture where sex any time and all the time and on demand is ok; Paul VI speaks about the detriments of this mentality on women and men and children – for instance, that children become commodities that must be perfect, because after all we can regulate them and their spacing. We too can have the picture perfect families shown in commercials and films – with one girl and one boy.

    NFP cultivates different habits leading to a different way of life and different virtues – its promotion of abstinence, as part of the virtue of chastity, is one of the many habits.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:00 am
  18. Spacemouse wrote:

    The question of whether NFP should be called contraception is, in my opinion, beside the point. I don’t think it matters whether you call it contraception or birth control or family planning- though you might do well to use the terminology consistent with the official documents.

    Whatever you call NFP, it is still fundamentally different from every other kind of birth control (except LAM and total abstinence), in that the couple in question only engage in sexual acts which are oriented towards life. Other forms of contraception are either mutilation of the body, such that a normally fertile body is itself orientated away from the natural processes, or mutilation of the sexual act, such that each act is oriented away from conception. Those two things -not the mere avoidance of birth- are what constitute the sin of contraception. NFP does not do either of those things.

    Honestly, though, I’m confused by what you’re doing here in this series of Investigations. If all you’re saying is that we should refer to “artificial contraception” versus “natural contraception” instead of talking about “contraception” and “natural family planning,” then I think you should be more concerned with the logistics of getting everyone to change the bioethics textbooks.

    At times, though, it sounds like your concern is not with the terminology (minor point- as long as you establish operational definitions it doesn’t matter what you call something) so much as with the distinction between NFP and the immoral methods of birth control. Which is it? Are you really just trying to change terminology? Or are you actually saying that NFP is contraception and contraception is sin, therefore NFP is sin? (I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but at times it sounds like it.)

    But then you say that you want to know what constitute grave reasons- but that is a completely different question from the terminology issue of whether you call NFP contraception, and even a different question from the question of whether there is a real disctinction between NFP use and contraception.
    If that’s really what you want to discuss, why not start with what we’re given from the church -that NFP, unlike other methods, is licit for couples with serious reason to avoid conception- and just focus on what the “Address to Midwives” says about the financial, pyschological, and social reasons for avoiding? I guess I just see “what constitutes grave reasons” as a totally different question from “how is NFP different from contraception?” But perhaps the two are intertwined in your mind.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:02 am
  19. Catholic Writer wrote:

    “I think thereís a real difference there because you are not experiencing the pleasurable aspect of sex stripped of its procreative aspect. If you canít do the time, donít do the crime.”

    You’re right there, Funky Dung. Abstinence is not contraception because there is no chance for conception (or procreation) to occur.

    The word ‘contraception’ is made up of ‘contra’, which means ‘in opposition to’ or ‘against'; and ‘(con)ception’. If there is no chance for conception to occur, as in the case of abstinence, it cannot be considered contraception.

    Suppose a couple abstain from sexual intercourse during the period when the woman is fertile. Is there a chance for conception to occur?

    Again, suppose a couple have sexual intercourse when the woman is infertile. Is there a chance for conception to occur?

    Answering both questions, you have your answer why NFP is not contraceptive – because there is no chance for conception to occur when NFP is used.

    On the other hand, artificial contraception is used where conception could take place, but has been artificially prevented. This ‘goes against’ or is ‘in opposition’ to conception, hence contra-ception.

    Hope this helps.

    Something to leave you thinking: if an elderly woman has reached menopause, but continues to have sexual intercourse with her husband, are they contracepting? I ask, because they are continuing to have the “pleasurable aspect of sex stripped of its procreative aspect”.

    :)

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:06 am
  20. Funky Dung wrote:

    “NFP vs contraceptions is the difference between not eating a whole pie because you might get fat, and eating the pie then vomiting it up.”

    I don’t want to get stuck playing musical analogies, but that sounds more like abortion to me. Artificial contraception could be likened to diet pills and stomach staples.

    “But the issue is much larger than the secondary ends of whether to contracept or not(as opposed to the ultimate end – God) – the means, here, are far more important. Humanae vitae recognises this in the way it talks about promoting a life of virtue (aka chastity and abstinence) – we excell in virtues via our practices, as the way we are habitually forming ourselves. ABC forms us habitually into a culture where sex any time and all the time and on demand is ok; Paul VI speaks about the detriments of this mentality on women and men and children – for instance, that children become commodities that must be perfect, because after all we can regulate them and their spacing. We too can have the picture perfect families shown in commercials and films – with one girl and one boy.”

    I’ll get to Paul VI after I cover Pius Xi and XII. Patience, young Skywalker. ūüėČ

    “NFP cultivates different habits leading to a different way of life and different virtues – its promotion of abstinence, as part of the virtue of chastity, is one of the many habits.”

    I must be doing something wrong because I haven’t experienced a different way of life in practicing NFP.

    “At times, though, it sounds like your concern is not with the terminology (minor point- as long as you establish operational definitions it doesnít matter what you call something) so much as with the distinction between NFP and the immoral methods of birth control. Which is it? Are you really just trying to change terminology? Or are you actually saying that NFP is contraception and contraception is sin, therefore NFP is sin? (I donít think thatís what youíre saying, but at times it sounds like it.)”

    I’m trying (and evidently failing) to say that in order to discuss the topic objectively, we have to make sure we’re using clear and consistent language. I think the definition issue is a red herring, as you’ve rightly pointed out, but one that needs to be addressed before continuing. Birth control is contraception. NFP is birth control. Therefore, NFP is contraception. Once the linguistic issue is dealt with, the issue at hand is no longer “contraception is objectively immoral and NFP is not” and becomes “artifcial contraception is objectively immoral and natural contraception is not”.

    Why is that point so important to me? Because I think it’s crucial to the discussion of why NFP can be morally used at all. I’m just not totally convinced. As a practitioner of NFP, I worry about the morality of it.

    “But then you say that you want to know what constitute grave reasons- but that is a completely different question from the terminology issue of whether you call NFP contraception, and even a different question from the question of whether there is a real disctinction between NFP use and contraception.
    If thatís really what you want to discuss, why not start with what weíre given from the church -that NFP, unlike other methods, is licit for couples with serious reason to avoid conception- and just focus on what the ‘Address to Midwives’ says about the financial, pyschological, and social reasons for avoiding? I guess I just see ‘what constitutes grave reasons’ as a totally different question from ‘how is NFP different from contraception?’ But perhaps the two are intertwined in your mind.”

    They are. I’m beginning to believe that NFP should not be used to contracept except under very rare circumstances. This don’t square with what I’ve been taught, though. From Pius XI to John Paul II, there seems to have been a softening of the criteria for “serious reasons”. I don’t understand why and that bothers me. I want to understand what I’m obeying. As JP2 said, we are given by God by faith and reason, fides et ratio. I’m already acting in faith by obeying the Church. Now I want to engage my reason to understand why I’m asked to obey these certain things.

    Have you read the address to midwives? All Pius XII gave were classes of “indication” that might warrant natural birth control. He gives no details whatsover as to whicj instantiations of those classes are licit and under what circumstances. That’s a discussion for another day on another post, though. ūüėČ

    “I think thereís a real difference there because you are not experiencing the pleasurable aspect of sex stripped of its procreative aspect. If you canít do the time, donít do the crime.”

    “Youíre right there, Funky Dung. Abstinence is not contraception because there is no chance for conception (or procreation) to occur.”

    Just to make myself super clear, (in case I wasn’t), I was referring to total abstinence, not periodic.

    “The word Ďcontraceptioní is made up of Ďcontraí, which means Ďin opposition toí or Ďagainstí; and Ď(con)ceptioní. If there is no chance for conception to occur, as in the case of abstinence, it cannot be considered contraception.”

    If a couple abstains from sex during fertile because they don’t want to conceive (for good or ill reasons), they are acting contraceptively.

    “Something to leave you thinking: if an elderly woman has reached menopause, but continues to have sexual intercourse with her husband, are they contracepting? I ask, because they are continuing to have the ‘pleasurable aspect of sex stripped of its procreative aspect’.”

    I think I address that in my Pius XI or Pius XII post. I’m almost ready to publish Pius XI. It’ll be up no later than Monday. In brief, though, I’d say that their infertility is beyond their control. There is no fertile period in which to conceive. You can’t abuse what you don’t have.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:36 am
  21. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Has anyone invited you over to the Delphi Forums Natural Family Planning board? You might be interested in doing a search over there for ‘contraceptive mentality’ and seeing how that topic has been hashed out in the past.”

    Apparently, I have to wait 24 hours before posting there.

    On an unrelated note, I want to tahnk all of the commenters. I want you to know that I am sincere in my investigations and truly seeking to learn. I’m not just being ornary or deliberately contrary to cause controversy. I apologize if I have been or will be thick-headed, stubborn, and/or obtuse. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:43 am
  22. Elena wrote:

    I must be doing something wrong because I havenít experienced a different way of life in practicing NFP.

    Well…I guess you must be because I don’t see how it is possible!!

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:36 pm
  23. Funky Dung wrote:

    “WellÖI guess you must be because I donít see how it is possible!!”

    What I mean is that as faithful Catholics neither my wife nor I would have even considered any artificial birth control methods. We’ve been using NFP from the beginning, and far from producing any noticable benefits, it’s been a source of stress for us.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:38 pm
  24. Elena wrote:

    Birth control is contraception. NFP is birth control. Therefore, NFP is contraception.

    Sounds like an inductive fallacy to me.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:46 pm
  25. Funky Dung wrote:

    It’s only a fallacy if one of the premises isn’t universal. If birth control is denotatively identical to contraception, and NFP is a form of birth control, NFP must be contraceptive.

    It seems, though, that I’ve mangled language much in the way that I complained about. From now on, instead of saying NFP, I’ll try to say periodic abstinence.

    For every x in the set of birth control methods, x is in the set of contraceptive methods. Periodic abstinence is in the set of birth control methods. Therefore, it is also in the set of contraceptive methods.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:49 pm
  26. Elena wrote:

    What I mean is that as faithful Catholics neither my wife nor I would have even considered any artificial birth control methods. Weíve been using NFP from the beginning, and far from producing any noticable benefits, itís been a source of stress for us.

    OK but that’s a different issue. Your commenter said:
    ďNFP cultivates different habits leading to a different way of life and different virtues – its promotion of abstinence, as part of the virtue of chastity, is one of the many habits.Ē

    You are currently in the midst of cultivating those habits and developing those different virtues. No one said it wouldn’t be a struggle!

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:53 pm
  27. Funky Dung wrote:

    The repeated mention of “virtues” led me to believe that the commenter felt that NFP engenders positive effects apart from its use as a contraceptive.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:56 pm
  28. Funky Dung wrote:

    Frankly, I don’t really think the struggle will ease until we decide we’re ready to conceive.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:57 pm
  29. Elena wrote:

    Itís only a fallacy if one of the premises isnít universal. If birth control is denotatively identical to contraception, and NFP is a form of birth control, NFP must be contraceptive.

    well there’s your flaw! Birth control is not always denotatively identical to contraception.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 12:57 pm
  30. Funky Dung wrote:

    The rest of the world would seem to disagree, as demonstrated by definitions in dictionaries. If the Church means something different than the rest of the world when defining contracetion, that’s a problem. You can’t reach people and change their minds until you can speak their language. This is why I spend so much time in the post and the commetns talking about the linguistic red herring. The Church can still defend NFP as a moral practice without insisting that it isn’t a form of contraception. I don’t understand why so many people are stuck on insisting that it isn’t, when anyone can look at a dictionary and see that it is.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 1:02 pm
  31. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the section in a drug for items of a sexual nature is usually labeled “family planning”. The meaningful distinction is between natural and artificial family planning.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 1:10 pm
  32. Elena wrote:

    I donít understand why so many people are stuck on insisting that it isnít, when anyone can look at a dictionary and see that it is.

    A commenter already did this but if one actually look at the word contra and conception there is no way that periodic abstinence can be contraceptive. Sure modern dictionaries may have muddled the whole thing up and that may reflect the incorrect way the language has encompassed any manner of limiting births as being “contraceptive.” However, that doesn’t mean the definition is precise or correct.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 1:24 pm
  33. Funky Dung wrote:

    For time being (until more of the series is up), I propose to agree to disagree on this point. Would you be willing to accept, though, the notion that sometimes the Church has to use the world’s muddled definitions in order to educate people? If most folks would include periodic abstinence as a contraceptive method, would you be willing to accept that definition for educational purposes?

    BTW, thank you for being patient with me. I’m very glad that this thread has not gotten as tempermental as the previous one.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 1:30 pm
  34. Squat wrote:

    You just wait funky. I’m saving up for something good. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 1:59 pm
  35. Elena wrote:

    Would you be willing to accept, though, the notion that sometimes the Church has to use the worldís muddled definitions in order to educate people?

    Off hand I can’t think of another situation where that was true!

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 2:24 pm
  36. Stuff wrote:

    “Weíve been using NFP from the beginning, and far from producing any noticable benefits, itís been a source of stress for us.”

    You are not alone in this! Going back to something posted in the previous thread, while periodic abstinence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t universally a good thing, either. I think this point in particular is why your investigation of what constitutes a grave/serious reason is so very important: when a valid reason is present, your abstinence says to your spouse, “I love you and our family enough to subdue my personal desires for everyone’s greater good.” Love always involves a sacrifice. Sacrifice is never easy. But if the sacrifice of abstinence is necessary and mutually agreed upon, it will, as an act of love, bear fruit. In your own words, “patience, young Skywalker!”

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 2:26 pm
  37. Catholic Writer wrote:

    “In brief, though, Iíd say that their infertility is beyond their control. There is no fertile period in which to conceive. You canít abuse what you donít have.”

    Okay, I take it that we’re okay with the sexual intercourse during the infertile period, because like you say, you can’t abuse what you don’t have, namely fertility. So that just leaves the issue abstinence during the fertile period, correct me if I’m wrong.

    “If a couple abstains from sex during fertile because they donít want to conceive (for good or ill reasons), they are acting contraceptively.”

    No doubt a couple that abstains from sex during the fertile period and a couple that sterilises the act during the fertile period achieve the same goal. But the means of achieving that goal is different, and that means is what makes the difference between NFP and contraception….

    …ummm…

    Going back to re-read the comments, I realise that you already know that. ^_^

    One of the issues you brought up, that seems to be the core issue, is that you “don’t see how NFP doesn’t reject God’s design.”

    Let me try to answer that: God designed the human body, in particular the fertility cycle. That is to say, God’s design is more than just man and woman have sex and this leads to new life. God’s design also includes the fertility cycle, which means man and woman have sex during the fertile period, which leads to new life.

    NFP discovers God’s design of that fertility cycle and makes the human will to subject to God’s will. Contraception, on the other hand, attempts to subject God’s design of sex (regardless of the fertility cycle) to the human will.

    In other words, NFP places God’s will above Man’s. Man is subject to God’s will as Man follows God’s design. Contraception, however, disregards God’s will, completely ignoring the fertility cycle, and places Man’s will above God’s.

    “On an unrelated note, I want to tahnk all of the commenters. I want you to know that I am sincere in my investigations and truly seeking to learn. Iím not just being ornary or deliberately contrary to cause controversy. I apologize if I have been or will be thick-headed, stubborn, and/or obtuse. ”

    I’m going through a similar phase in the use of Latin during Masses, but that’s totally unrelated as well. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 3:12 pm
  38. Clattercote wrote:

    “The repeated mention of ďvirtuesĒ led me to believe that the commenter felt that NFP engenders positive effects apart from its use as a contraceptive.”

    Well, we need to think about what virtue means – virtue is a positive thing because it leads a person toward God. But being virtuous isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t necessarily feel good in the short term (another form of abstinence, fasting, might make the point there). For children, practicing the virtue of love (toward neighbor) in the form of sharing isn’t very easy at the time – but it does help the person become more in line with God’s will.

    So – yes, I am saying that NFP engenders positive things beyond any limiting/spacing effects it might have – and that, I think, is evident throughout Humanae vitae and other documents that mention bc. Practicing NFP, as you have since you’ve been married, DOES mean you are living a different way of life than the majority of Americans – and it is forming you to be a different kind of person – regardless of whether you see it on a day-to-day basis or not – and regardless of whether you feel like it’s easy, or a horrendous struggle, or somewhere in between.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 3:14 pm
  39. Jen P wrote:

    Of course it’s a struggle! I think that’s one of the things that demonstrates that it is decidedly different — we WANT to make love to our spouses and we are deciding not to. We are willing to make the sacrifice of marital union in order to respect God’s plan.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 3:15 pm
  40. Lightwave wrote:

    Though I haven’t had occasion to comment yet (okay, I’ve had lots of occasion to comment, but have been biting my virtual tongue), I must say that I am enjoying this thread and am hopeful that it, along with the article series, shed some light on my own NFP quandaries. I have struggled for some time with the very questions that Funky poses in his article.

    I find I must agree with Funky (and to some degree, Stuff’s analysis) in regard to the challenge, stress, and unexperienced virtue he speaks of. I’ve had a similar experience, though it is at least relieving to be assured that my practice is aligned with doctrine, regardless of my questions.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 3:32 pm
  41. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Okay, I take it that weíre okay with the sexual intercourse during the infertile period, because like you say, you canít abuse what you donít have, namely fertility. So that just leaves the issue abstinence during the fertile period, correct me if Iím wrong.”

    Total abstinence and periodic abstinence are not the same. With the former, you have no fertility to avoid. With the latter, you do. An infertile couple is not abusing their sexual capacities by having sex during infertile times because every time is an infertile time*. A fertile couple, on the other hand, might be abusing their sexual capacities by having sex during infertile times because they do have the capacity to be fertile.

    * I would argue that infertile couples ought to adopt or be foster parents in order to fulfill the duty to be open to life.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 4:22 pm
  42. Spacemouse wrote:

    Frankly, I donít really think the struggle will ease until we decide weíre ready to conceive.

    And that is exactly why using NFP is NOT a case of having all the pleasure of sex without responsibility. Using NFP to try to avoid is itself a responsible act, prone to frustration. NFP users do have to sacrifice, though not in the same way that parents do.

    (I’m “Selkie2004″ over at Delphi, by the way.)

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 7:03 pm
  43. Mckarnin wrote:

    I come in peace and from the NFP Board on Delphi. Like a previous poster, I am interested in your goals in ďInvestigating NFPĒ. Are you seeking to avoid sin or help others do so by using the ďcorrectĒ method of family planning, or perhaps none at all? Are you playing a mental game? Are you trying to see if more convenient options should be available to Catholics without their being considered in grave sin? In debating topics regarding the Catholic faith I think it is important to state more clearly to what end the inquiries are being made than you have yet done. One thing that is going to be difficult in particular is to pinpoint the exact location on the spectrum of culpability and conscience formation of every couple who may potentially use NFP or artificial birth control for that matter. I think one of the reasons why a dark line has not been painted on the issue of NFP is that the number of things that can constitute grave reasons for some Catholics encompasses almost every reason. My thought is that the Church has realized that even the most selfish users of NFP are not in danger of losing their souls by that act alone so she has dedicated herself to matters that are more urgent; particularly that of weaning Catholics off artificial birth control. That is just my opinion though and I am certainly open to that opinion being proven otherwise.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 8:13 pm
  44. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I come in peace…”

    Shoot to kill! Shoot to kill! ūüėČ

    “Like a previous poster, I am interested in your goals in ‘Investigating NFP’. Are you seeking to avoid sin or help others do so by using the ‘correct’ method of family planning, or perhaps none at all?

    I faithfully obey the Church in this matter, which is an exercise in faith. I’d to also like to engage my reasoning abilities to understand why the Church teaches what she teaches. This is partly for my benefit and partly for others (including close friends). I, and a few other fools like me, find the Church’s lack of clarity on this issue to be frustrating. It is my intention (as my post states) to, read the relevant Church documents and other materials to determine where the weakness truly lies, universal teaching, local teaching, popularization, or me.

    “Are you playing a mental game? Are you trying to see if more convenient options should be available to Catholics without their being considered in grave sin?”

    Those are lovely questions to ask after saying “I come in peace”. ūüėČ If, after reading my post and my comments, you think that I am playing a mental game, I am very sorry indeed. Apparently I have utterly failed to communicate my thoughts in any semblance of a comprehensible manner. As for seeking more convenient options, I am most certainly not interested in that. I do not dispute the immorality of artificial contraception. Nor am I looking to be legalistic and find the minimum level of obedience. In case I haven’t made it clear, my wife and I struggle mightily with this issue (i.e. do we have grave reasons?), so I am seeking to educate myself. I chose to do this education publicly so as to tap into the collective intellect of the blogosphere. Coming back to the beginning of your comment, as I learn more about NFP, the more I fear that the only truly licit birth control, except in VERY grave circumstances, is “none at all”. Like Stuff said in a comment in the last thread, perhaps the only grave situations ought to involve something like being “living in a van down by the river”. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 8:37 pm
  45. Elena wrote:

    In case I havenít made it clear, my wife and I struggle mightily with this issue (i.e. do we have grave reasons?),

    Once you have that baby in your arms you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about! Maybe even wonder why you waited so long. I know we did.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 8:59 pm
  46. BV wrote:

    Funky,

    “For time being (until more of the series is up), I propose to agree to disagree on this point. [birth control is/is not contraception].” [Funky comment 33]

    Whether or not all methods of birth control are contraceptive *IS* the issue. If we cannot see that the birth control methods of contraceptive drugs/barriers and periodic abstinence are different, the rest is moot.

    “Birth control is contraception. NFP is birth control. Therefore, NFP is contraception.” [Funky comment 20]

    No, birth control is not contraception. Yes, NFP is a method of birth control. Your presumption is that if a sexual act which may result in a child is either thwarted or avoided for that reason, conception has been violated. But I ask: if you can’t have conception without sex, how can you have contraception without sex?

    “NFP is contraception, albeit the only morally permissable form. I think the dichotomy should be between natural and artificial, not between NFP and contraception. I think false dichotomies like that only serve to confuse people, faithful and unfaithful alike.” [Funky comment 3]

    The difference between periodic abstinence and contraceptive drugs/barriers is not one of “natural” versus “artificial” in the sense of “paper” versus “plastic”. What makes periodic abstinence natural is that it doesn’t toy with God’s design of the reproductive act. We’re talking “natural” in the sense of “natural law”, not “organic wheat”. It’s “natural contraception” and “artificial contraception” that is the false dichotomy.

    I submit that it is the profaning of the sexual act, not the issue of conception that separates NFP from contraceptive drugs/barriers. Whether or not you call abstinence contraception doesn’t change the fact that one of them profanes the sexual act and the other doesn’t.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 10:33 pm
  47. Funky Dung wrote:

    Suppose you are given a gift. Suppose that during certain phases of the moon, that gift does undesirable things. These undesirable behaviors might be OK under different circumstances, but right now they’re not. To avoid encountering these behaviors, you don’t make use of the gift during certain phases of the moon.

    Aren’t you demonstrating dissatisfaction with the gift by not using it when it does undesirable things? Granted, it’s not as strong a dissatisfication as modifying the gift yourself would indicate, but it still seems like dissatisfaction with the design to me.

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:02 pm
  48. Funky Dung wrote:

    Lying is offense to truth. One can lie by commission or lie by omission. Either way you’re lying. Contraception profanes the sexual act. One can contracept by commission or contracept by omission.

    That’s how I currently feel about the matter. I freely submit that I might not feel that way by the time I finish this series. Cut me some slack until then. ūüėČ

    Posted 08 Mar 2006 at 11:07 pm
  49. Sain't wrote:

    Hmm.. I notice in one of ur comments u mention that this issue is causing u & ur wife stress. If u’ve not already done it, perhaps u may wanna explore why u’re feeling stressed, or what u’re feeling stressed over.

    I also get the impression that u are for the view that God’s plan for marriage is parenthood. Based on this, perhaps ur arguments may make a lot of sense. However, I will beg to disagree here.

    Marriage & family life isn’t just about children. A couple gives to each other the gift of themselves, & are thus, also for each other. In this light, sexual intercourse is as much a pleasurable sharing of intimacy as a means of procreation. Sometimes, it is perhaps out of love that a couple discerns that the conditions are not right for a/another child, how then can the couple give to each other in the most intimate way? Perhaps, as one commentator mentioned, God has allowed for that in the fertility cycle. I’d imagine that if total abstinence is to be observed if a couple doesn’t want a child, it makes no difference if a woman is fertile in cycles or all year round. Perhaps it is God’s gift to couples to enjoy the pleasure of sharing each other, at the same time still allowing us free will over how we want to organise our family. Can it be possible that God’s will be for this is a gift to be enjoyed?

    On the flip side, how about looking at NFP from this perspective – it also allows couples who want to conceive to try during the period of fertility.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 9:43 am
  50. Spacemouse wrote:

    One can lie by commission or lie by omission. Either way youíre lying. Contraception profanes the sexual act. One can contracept by commission or contracept by omission.

    Off topic, but if this is how you think morality works with regard to lying, you need to go back and read a Ligourian ethics text on the subject of “mental reservations.” Concealing the truth by “omission” is a strict mental reservation, not a lie, and mental reservations ARE permissable under some conditions.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 11:15 am
  51. Funky Dung wrote:

    Out of curiosity, how many and how common are these permissable conditions? From the post:

    “Suppose that there were three people who are called as witnesses in a criminal case. The first person tells “the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. The second lies by omitting facts, thereby not telling the whole truth. The third lies by deliberately telling untruths. Which one of these persons did something that is always, under every circumstance, wrong? The last one, of course. Iím inclined to believe that the second person is also wrong always, and under every circumstance wrong, though. However, lest someone should triumphantly wave an extreme example in my face in which omitting information under oath is objectively moral, Iíll not press that inclination. I feel safe in saying that, at the very least, one ought to have very grave reasons for ommitting requested information under oath. Should not similar criteria be applied to contraception by omission?”

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 11:20 am
  52. Catholic Writer wrote:

    “Suppose you are given a gift. Suppose that during certain phases of the moon, that gift does undesirable things. These undesirable behaviors might be OK under different circumstances, but right now theyíre not. To avoid encountering these behaviors, you donít make use of the gift during certain phases of the moon.

    Arenít you demonstrating dissatisfaction with the gift by not using it when it does undesirable things? Granted, itís not as strong a dissatisfication as modifying the gift yourself would indicate, but it still seems like dissatisfaction with the design to me.”

    That’s not demonstrating dissatisfaction with the gift. On the contrary, it is respecting the fact that these undesirable periods come with the gift. And perhaps, there’s a reason why these undesirable periods come with the gift – perhaps to serve another purpose.

    I can’t think of a real example of a gift that varies from different moon phases, so unless you can provide a concrete example, I shall use the gift of Holy Communion.

    Under normal circumstances, a Catholic can and should receive Holy Communion as frequently as possible.

    But any Catholic commits serious sins from time to time. Of course a Catholic who receives Holy Communion while in a state of grave sin causes undesirable effects as well. At such periods, is it not better for him to abstain from receiving Holy Communion?

    In saying so, a Catholic demonstrates great respect and reverence for Holy Communion when he abstains from it when in the state of grave sin. Likewise, a Catholic demonstrates great respect and reverence for sex (that sacred gift) when s/he abstains from it in periods where the consequences are undesirable.

    P.S.: I wouldn’t normally use this analogy, but I am trying to go along with your understanding rather than imposing mine on you. Please suggest a concrete example that we can use to illustrate your point. Thanks!

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 11:22 am
  53. BV wrote:

    Arenít you demonstrating dissatisfaction with the gift by not using it when it does undesirable things? [Funky comment 48]

    Lying is offense to truth. One can lie by commission or lie by omission. Either way youíre lying. Contraception profanes the sexual act. One can contracept by commission or contracept by omission. [Funky comment 49]

    Both of these comments seem to imply that there’s a requirement to have sex at every “conceivable moment”. (pun intended) :-) And that somehow anything less would be showing “dissatisfaction with a gift” or “lying by omission”.

    I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem to make sense. We show appreciation for a gift by using it wisely, not by using it unceasingly. And when we abstain from a good thing for a good reason, we are not profaning anything.

    Your “lying by omission” anlaogy doesn’t quite work. Lying by omission is abtaining from speaking for a bad reason. It’s not lying to abstain from speaking for a good reason (for example, refraining from telling a damaging story about someone without just cause). It’s the intent that makes the abstinence lying, not the abstinence itself.

    Likewise, abstaining from sex for a good reason is not immoral. Abstaining from sex for a bad reason is immoral. And it’s immoral not because it’s an offense against sex (as contraceptive drugs/barriers are), but because it’s an offense against the procreative end of marriage.

    Bottom line: if you remove the requirement that sex must be had at every “conceivable moment”, your objections go away. That’s an absolute law which isn’t true. The truth is, if you have sex, you better not profane it. But if you don’t have sex, you better not be doing it for selfish reasons.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 2:13 pm
  54. BV wrote:

    Elaboration of the last paragraph for clarification:

    The truth is, if you have sex, you better not profane it (and thus contradict the act). But if you don’t have sex, you better not be doing it for selfish reasons (and thus contradict your marriage).

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 2:16 pm
  55. Funky Dung wrote:

    There’s a different between not having sex every conceivable moment and deliberately not having sex when it would be fertile. The latter is a subset of the situations represented by the former, for which, as you’ve pointed out, you’d better have a good reason.

    As for my lying by omission analogy being weak, I chose a courtroom scene quite deliberately. In such a scenario, a lie of omission would be the violation of an oath. Vows (including wedding vows) are a form of oats. Outside of an obligatory scenario like a courtroom, there are indeed many good reasons to not volunteer a truth.

    On a side note, I proabably could have avoided a lot of this subtopic conversation by not being so hard on Christopher West’s analogy. ūüėČ

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 2:22 pm
  56. BV wrote:

    Thereís a difference between not having sex at every conceivable moment and deliberately not having sex when it would be fertile. [Funky comment 55]

    I should have been clearer here: I’m using the phrase “conceivable moment” to mean exactly that–those times when it would be fertile. There is no requirement to have sex at those times when it would be fertile.

    As for my lying by omission analogy being weak, I chose a courtroom scene quite deliberately. In such a scenario, a lie of omission would be the violation of an oath. Vows (including wedding vows) are a form of oaths. [Funky comment 55]

    And that’s my point–the oath in a courtroom compels you to speak the truth. The marriage vows do not establish a compulsion to have sex at every “conceivable moment” (i.e. those times when it would be fertile). This is an incorrect understanding of the procreative end of marriage.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 3:05 pm
  57. Funky Dung wrote:

    A clarification: I am proposing that it may be that while there is no moral imperative to have sex every time the wife is fertile, one may have a moral imperitive to not avoid sex because she is fertile. That’s one of the big points that I’m hoping my investigations will clear up. Just how serious/grave do the serious/grace reasons have to be to eleviate that moral imperative?

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 3:25 pm
  58. BV wrote:

    Huh? Did we change gears? I thought we were examining whether NFP is contraception. Are we now focusing on what constitutes a just reason for NFP?

    In response to your comment 57:

    Whether or not your wife is fertile has no bearing on the morality of contraceptive drugs/barriers or NFP.

    It’s equally immoral to use a condom whether or not your wife is fertile or infertile. That’s because condoms (and other contraceptive drugs/barriers) are objectively immoral. (I think you’ve agreed to this point before, though I’m not certain.)

    Likewise it’s equally moral to abstain whether or not your wife is infertile. That’s because the morality of abstinence is determined by your intent (is it selfish or just?).

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 6:27 pm
  59. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Huh? Did we change gears? I thought we were examining whether NFP is contraception. Are we now focusing on what constitutes a just reason for NFP?”

    I’m interested in both because I think they’re intertwined issues.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 6:37 pm
  60. Anonimoos wrote:

    http://www.geocities.com/nfpboard

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 7:36 pm
  61. BV wrote:

    Dear Funky,

    I guess I have not been of much help to you. :-( My apologies. God speed in your search.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 11:03 pm
  62. Catholic Writer wrote:

    From Christopher West’s “Good News About Sex & Marriage”, pg 118.

    12. So what would be just reasons for a married couple to use NFP to avoid pregnancy?

    First we need to look at the general disposition a couple has toward children. A contracepting culture tends to see children as a burden to be resisted, rather than a gift to be welcomed; an obstacle to material wealth, rather than a contribution to family health; a drain on the world’s resources, rather than a benefit to society. Within this mulieu, couples often often enter marriage with an approach tochildren that ssumes they won’t have them unless or until they wanted them. After the alloted two, it seems a couple would have to find justification for having any more.

    Without thinking anything of it, couples who take this approach simply look for the most expedient way to carry out their plan. From this perspective, NFP is just seen as another choice on the long list of methods of avoiding “unwanted” children, and a very undesirable method at that. While it’s just as effective at avoiding pregnancy as any contraceptive method, it takes far too much sacrifice to practice.

    But suppose a couple did use NFP. Their negative mentality toward children is already contrary to what they pledged at the altar. Regardless of the fact that they’re not intentionally sterilizing their acts of intercourse, they would be guilty of violating their vows “in their hearts”.

    [The next two paragraphs use the wedding invitation analogy. If you’ve not heard of it or read it before, let me know.]

    To return to the wedding invitation analogy, it’s not that such a couple is sending a “dis-invitation” but that their withholding an invitation is not based on a just reason. It’s based on an attitude that God’s presence in their union would not be welcome.

    This is still an obvious breach of relationship. (How would you feel if a close friend didn’t invite you to his wedding without good reason?) So before all else, we need a deep conversion of our hearts to the meaning of sex and the true blessing of children in order to understnad the just use of NFP in a marriage.

    Every married couple is called to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gn 1:28). This is the starting point. Children are not something tacked on to married love, but are the crowing glory of married love. Thus, insead of avoiding children, the general disposition should be one of receiving children as they come, unless a couple has good reason not to.

    [Now here’s the part that you’re most interested in, but the parts above are not irrelevant, otherwise I wouldn’t have typed them out. ^_^]

    The Church readily recognizes, especially in our day and age, that many couples do have good reason not to receive children as they come at certain times of their married life. The Second Vatican Council offers the following guidelines for spouses in planning their family size: “[Spouses should] thoughtfully take into account both theri own welfare and that of children, those already born, and those that the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born, and those that the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and spiritual conditions fo the times as well as their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgement in the sight of God.”

    The Cathecism states that it’s the duty of parents to “make certain that their desire [to space births] is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.”

    Let’s return, once again, to the couple who truly understands the meaning of sex. They have a proper attitude towards children. God is always welcome in their sexual union. Yet, they have discerned before God, based on the above principles, that they should avoid another pregnancy, at least for the time being.

    Such a couple is not concerned with the amount of sacrifice necessary to be faithful to their vows, so they learn how to use NFP and abstain from sexual activity during the fertile time of the cycle. That is, with good reasons, they refrain from inviting God to create a new life. Such a couple acts justly, responsibly, and in full accord with the commitment they made at the altar.

    [So after reading this, what are your thoughts?]

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 5:41 am
  63. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I guess I have not been of much help to you. :-( My apologies. God speed in your search.”

    Why do you say that? Am I that much thicker than Lightwave that you’d give up on me more quickly? ūüėČ

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 7:50 am
  64. Funky Dung wrote:

    What are my thoughts? Well, the principles are still incredibly vague, but there is good material there that I’ll use in the last post of the series. The thing that continues to frustrate me is just how much latitude seems to be given. I’m still in the process of reading papal writings for this series, but so far the latitude given by Pius XI and XII seems to be pretty narrow, much narrower than West implies.

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 8:06 am
  65. Funky Dung wrote:

    BV, you should come over to the discussion at my “sidebar on definitions” post.

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 8:45 am
  66. Spacemouse wrote:

    Out of curiosity, how many and how common are these permissable conditions?

    To be honest, I think theologians differed on this. Ligouri was more permissive than many. The Church (i.e. the Magisterium) never, so far as I know, offered its own clear “bright line” on the subject, because that’s not the Church’s business. That’s the business of moral theologians.

    But if you’re trying to suggest that because the valid reasons for abstaining from telling the truth under oath are very rare, it must follow that the valid reasons for abstaining from sex during a woman’s fertile time are correspondingly rare, then I’d just have to say that you’re pushing the analogy too far.

    But since you’ve started a new installment, I’ll stop commenting here.

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 11:27 am
  67. BV wrote:

    Why do you say that? Am I that much thicker than Lightwave that youíd give up on me more quickly? [Funky comment 65]

    I just got the impression you weren’t interested in continuing our dialogue. I posted comment 57, which you didn’t address and moved to a different topic in comment 58. I then tried to respond to your new topic in comment 59, and you didn’t address my observations in your comment 60 either. It seemed like the points I was raising weren’t helping.

    Thank you for your invitation to the “definition” post, but I think I’ll just read.

    Posted 10 Mar 2006 at 11:29 pm
  68. Funky Dung wrote:

    [Comment 57] “And thatís my pointĖthe oath in a courtroom compels you to speak the truth. The marriage vows do not establish a compulsion to have sex at every ‘conceivable moment’ (i.e. those times when it would be fertile). This is an incorrect understanding of the procreative end of marriage.”

    I wasnít aiming for that extreme. My proposition (which I suppose I should display in a post), is that perhaps one should look at the menstrual cycle in probabilistic terms (binomial distributions, for instance). On any given cycle day, there is a probability, p, of conceiving. Letís call p[i] the probability of conceiving on cycle day i. Based on previous cycles, we can estimate p[i] for each day of a new cycle. Letís also assign a probability of 0.0 for having sex during menstruation and a probability s[i] that a couple will have sex on a non-menstrual day based on either a uniform distribution (not ideal) or a distribution based on prior cycles (ideal). The prior probability of conceiving on any particular day is then p[i]*s[i]. I wonít go into the math, but one could calculate the estimated prior probability that one will conceive a child during a particular cycle. That probability will be significantly smaller than 1.0 (100% chance of conception).

    Why am I making peopleís heads spin with probabilities? Well, what if itís Godís intention that the infertile periods not be used to deliberately avoid conception, but used implicitly through random sexual activity? Much is made of the naturalness of periodic abstinence. Iím not convinced that itís natural at all. The only truely natural spacing of births is that that which occurs due to random processes. Contrary to Albert Einstein, Iím proposing that God does indeed play dice, or at the very least, He lets us play with them. ūüėČ

    [Comment 59] “Likewise itís equally moral to abstain whether or not your wife is infertile. Thatís because the morality of abstinence is determined by your intent (is it selfish or just?).”

    I mostly agree without that. However, refer to my above response to #57 to see why I wonder if the means might be immoral as well (except under extreme conditions). IOW, what’s so natural about natural family planning? To me truly natural family planning would not require any knowledge of the menstrual cycle, though such knowledge may serve other purposes (medical, etc).

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 8:50 am
  69. Tom Smith wrote:

    I don’t feel like reading all the comments now. But I have a few questions; forgive me if they’ve already been answered.

    “NFP is clearly a contraceptive method that utilizes sexual practices to achieve its goal.”

    I don’t know the gory details of natural family planning, but I understand that it works by *avoiding* sexual practices at certain periods. How is that utilizing “sexual practices to achieve its goal?”

    “Neither of us could not understand how NFP does not frustrate ‘the procreative potential of the marriage act’.

    Marriage act = sex, right? If the sex isn’t there, then the accidental features of the sex, particularly procreative potential, cannot be present, because there is no essence for them to indwell. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that anything can be done to the procreative potential of sex that isn’t occurring. Non-existent things cannot be altered.

    “Furthermore, the arguments that NFP is somehow not a contraceptive because it is natural and involves the omission of an act, rather than the commission of one, seemed spurious.”

    What about them seemed spurious? Can you point out a flaw?

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 10:28 pm
  70. Tom Smith wrote:

    I think a halfway-decent analogy of one of the points I just made is this:

    Imagine sex as a large boulder atop a cliff. That’s potential energy. Sex is engaged in when the boulder is pushed off the cliff, resulting in kinetic energy. Contraception is a huge net that shoots out and catches the boulder, preventing it from hitting the ground of procreative potential, which is what it would do unimpeded. Now, if you don’t push the boulder from the precipice in the first place, all you have is potential sex, a far cry from the boulder hitting the ground/real procreative potential, which is a result of the kinetic energy/actual intercourse. So, again I ask, how does one go about frustrating the procreative potential of sex without the presence of sex?

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 10:43 pm
  71. Tom Smith wrote:

    One last thing.

    “I propose that if one wishes to meaningfully classify NFP separately from artificial methods, we need to speak of “contraception by omission” and “contraception by commission”. In the former, conception is avoided by abstaining from intercourse during potentially fertile periods in womenís menstrual cycles.”

    That’s kinda goofy, because by your standards, I’m practicing contraception by omission right now.

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 10:50 pm
  72. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Thatís kinda goofy, because by your standards, Iím practicing contraception by omission right now.”

    Tom, that’s like saying that by taking a vow of silence one is lying by omission. A speech act has to be expected in order to be omitted. Likewise, a sex act has to be expected in order to be omitted.

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 11:41 pm
  73. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I donít know the gory details of natural family planning, but I understand that it works by *avoiding* sexual practices at certain periods. How is that utilizing ‘sexual practices to achieve its goal?'”

    Deciding in advance that certain days are undesirable for sex is itself a sexual practice, at least that’s how I see it.

    “Marriage act = sex, right? If the sex isnít there, then the accidental features of the sex, particularly procreative potential, cannot be present, because there is no essence for them to indwell. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that anything can be done to the procreative potential of sex that isnít occurring. Non-existent things cannot be altered.”

    *Buzzz* Wrong. Once can profane an act by performing it at inappropraite times or failing to perform it at expected times.

    Posted 11 Mar 2006 at 11:47 pm
  74. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Imagine sex as a large boulder atop a cliff. Thatís potential energy. Sex is engaged in when the boulder is pushed off the cliff, resulting in kinetic energy. Contraception is a huge net that shoots out and catches the boulder, preventing it from hitting the ground of procreative potential, which is what it would do unimpeded. Now, if you donít push the boulder from the precipice in the first place, all you have is potential sex, a far cry from the boulder hitting the ground/real procreative potential, which is a result of the kinetic energy/actual intercourse. So, again I ask, how does one go about frustrating the procreative potential of sex without the presence of sex?”

    Now imagine that you were expected to push the rock off the cliff at a certain time and did not. Or, more appropriately, you are instructed to not worry too much about how often you push boulders off the cliff. Sure, you need to watch out for people below who might get squished, but that’s a pretty rare scenario. Thus, you are expected (by the fella that asked you to push boulders) to be pretty free with boulder-pushing. However, contrary to his command to “be fruitful and produce lots of rubble”, you make your boulder-pushing periodic so that you only push one if it won’t shatter when it lands (however that might happen).

    The point I’m trying to make with my silly adaptation of your analogy is that if the probability of intercourse is expected to be independent of fertility, i.e. you do it whenever you want (in a mutually-loving, personhood-respecting manner, of course), restricting intercourse would be a violation of expected behavior.

    NOTA BENE: 1) I do not know that God intended sex to be independent of fertile phases. I’m just wonder if that’s the case. 2) Even if that is the case, there may still be room for periodic continence in extreme cases. 3) From what I have read thus far of Pius XI and Pius XII (the latter’s post is in the works), the conditions would need to be far more extreme than most NFP evangelists seem to indicate.

    Posted 12 Mar 2006 at 12:05 am
  75. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom, thatís like saying that by taking a vow of silence one is lying by omission. A speech act has to be expected in order to be omitted.”

    Yes, it is, which is why your definition of “contraception by omission” should be changed.

    “*Buzzz* Wrong. Once can profane an act by performing it at inappropraite times…”

    still with you…

    “…or failing to perform it at expected times.”

    What is your reasoning here?

    (Again, if you’ve already answered these questions, I’m sorry.)

    Posted 12 Mar 2006 at 2:05 am
  76. Tom Smith wrote:

    “The point Iím trying to make with my silly adaptation of your analogy is that if the probability of intercourse is expected to be independent of fertility, i.e. you do it whenever you want (in a mutually-loving, personhood-respecting manner, of course), restricting intercourse would be a violation of expected behavior.”

    I agree. So I guess the debate really isn’t about procreative potential or the deformation of sex itself, so much as the morality of periodic marital abstinence.

    I still maintain that the sex act is itself not profaned by abstinence, as it is when contraceptives are employed. This does not mean that I think marital abstinence is a-okay, however, only that sex

    Posted 12 Mar 2006 at 2:21 am
  77. Spacemouse wrote:

    1) I do not know that God intended sex to be independent of fertile phases. Iím just wonder if thatís the case.

    Rereading the Old Testament should clear this up: whatever marital sex is intended to be, it doesn’t have to be random or evenly distributed throughout a month. God, after all, commanded the Israelites to abstain from intercourse at some times of their cycle. This abstinence wasn’t a method of birth control, of course, but the opposite: waiting until seven days after the end of a woman’s perioud would often (but not always) have meant that sexual relations tended to occur more most frequently during the fertile time. While for some women, mid-cycle bleeding or early ovulation would mean that they missed their most fertile time each month, marital sex would certainly NOT have occured independantly of the fertility cycle, but rather in sync with it.

    Based on this, I could see why someone might argue that NFP is unbiblical in that it inverts the pattern of intercourse the Israelites were commanded to follow, but I don’t see how you can reasonably see periodic abstinence itself -choosing to abstain for a considerable length of time the same part of the cycle each month- as unbiblical, since God Himself wanted His chosen people to abstain for what could be as much as 2 weeks every month. It should be clear from the Levitical Law that there was no implicit command to push the boulder at frequent intervals throughout the month without regard to the calendar.

    Posted 14 Mar 2006 at 12:18 pm
  78. ginamonster wrote:

    I really appreciate how objective you are when looking at this issue. How you site references and give both sides of this issue as well as your own commentary into the matter without allowing it to look like an arguement or accusation. I will continue to read the article as you write it, as many of the points you bring up are also points that have occurred to me. Although I do believe in artificial birth control, I also understand that for some people the idea is morally reprehensible.

    I will also post a link to it on my site. It really is interesting, I loko forward to reading more.

    Posted 23 Feb 2007 at 2:07 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 9

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