Saturday, April 14, 2007

NFP and its use in Catholic family

IS NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING A 'HERESY'?I have become somewhat awakened to the down side of NFP in the last year. We have used it our entire married life but I agree with some of the criticism of this practise recently. We have used NaProTeachnology and not the method taught by CCL. When we were taught, many many years ago, emphasis was not put on the term "serious reason". From a Catholic perspective, this is a very important part of NFP. I saw CCL on EWTN Live last year and afterwards, felt odd about how they handled some of the questions. While I agree that if you are truly practising NFP the way it was intended, you always desire more children. Even my children desire more children. Abstinence(or avoiding pregnancy) should only occur for "serious reason". This is too vague and needs to be clarified by Rome for NFP not to be abused. "Serious reason" should not be "we don't have a savings account yet", "need to take a family vacation first", etc.
So while I am a big advocate of NFP, I have seen its abuse and wonder if part of the incomplete teaching is because it is sought out by denominationals and LDS now, not just Catholics. The article linked above touches on some of these issues but it truly is an odd aspect of what should be a wonderful tool for married life in the faith.


Sheila Kippley said...

"Thorn," you raise some good points and ask some good questions. If more emphasis is being given today to the need for "serious reasons" to practice NFP, I doubt it is because Evangelicals and Mormons are now more interested in NFP. The reason for more attention being given to the teaching of Humanae Vitae that we need sufficiently serious reasons to use NFP to postpone or avoid pregnancy may be as simple as the fact that more Catholics are becoming aware of the encyclical and finding that teaching. Or it may be that users know in their hearts they are called to generosity but are conflicted about their own circumstances.

You were correct to note the inadequacy of the responses by CCL reps to the questions about serious reasons in that September 13 EWTN show. I think the question was rasied three times. The third time, Father Hogan replied that he was on a "campaign" to get away from the "serious reason" terminology. In a December blog he clarified his stand saying that he did not think couples starting their marriages should be burdened with that sort of talk.

It needs to be said that Humanae Vitae does not make an exception for newlyweds. While I would agree that many newlyweds with huge school debts may have sufficiently serious reasons to postpone pregnancy for a while, they still should be taught in pre-marriage and NFP instruction that they need to have sufficiently serious, very good and not just trivial, reasons for postponing pregnancy.

You learned NFP through a "medical model." it may be that some such models fail to integrate the big picture into their instruction.

Another significant omission in many NFP programs is the lack of instruction about the Seven Standards ecological breastfeeding, God's own plan for spacing babies.

For an example of an integrated approach, go to and click on the free, short, downloadable How-to NFP manual. I agree with you that NFP is not "Catholic birth control" and you will find that conviction reflected at our website.

Sheila Kippley
Author, "Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood"
Co-author, "Natural family planning: the Question-Answer Book"

a thorn in the pew said...

Thank you so much for your insight. We were taught at a Catholic hospital in Buffalo, NY and the S.P.I.C.E. aspect of the Creighton Model was wonderful and has helped our marriage over the years. The missing link was the "serious reason" and the ecological breastfeeding. I was faced with infertility issues after a misscariage in 2005 and have not been able to conceive since. I have been temp charting and had an HSG done as well. I started Clomid this cycle and had severe right side cramping Monday and what felt like "uterine bee stings" last evening. So I will wait a few days and see. I have been interested in solving my fertility issues through diet and supplements but I am worried at my age, they may take too long to have an effect. I will check out your site. I'm glad to see someone else thought that EWTN Live was "off" too.

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

I don't understand.

It is illicit for Catholics to pratice NFP except for sufficient grave reasons, such as life of the mother or very serious health risk, or the family would *actually* become bankrupt / be unable to feed itself.

Now, if Catholics are, in fact, just using it as a form of birth control, they need to a. stop and b. get off to the confessional.

If you do not fall with in the fair use provisions of NFP you have but one choice - abstinence!

I wonder how many Catholics have managed to preserve their ignorance by a studied, a deliberate indifference? Suspecting the truth they choose not to look into it.

When engaged and newly married couples are going to NFP classes something is wrong. When married couples with two children and big SUVs are going to NFP classes (not ALL the women can have a health-risk) something is wrong.

They don't just want the information...

We know what's goiing on: missuse of NFP = contraception, period. I'd have more respect if they'd just be honest and use a condom.

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

Look...I'm sorry, but this newly-wed business is a cop-out. Generations of REAL people had children when they were newly-wed on net incomes...what, GREATER than newly-weds of today?

Let us analyze each and every newly-wed couple shall we:

how much on take-out food? Beer and skittles? Car payments...base model or fancy? Sports? Clothing? Vacations? Loan repayments. Computer and music stuff...

I do not buy it for a second.

NFP is what it is being misused as: catholic contraception. It is certainly reminscent of Christ's condemnation of the practice of Corban. Mark 7: 11-12.

John K said...

I think we have to be careful in criticizing those who use NFP for reasons that may not appear to be overwhelming. Janet Smith wrote a fine article some years ago on "The Moral Use of NFP," and she concluded that the reasons for the morally good use of NFP are not limited to having one foot in the grave, so to speak, whether such difficulties be health, economics or whatever.
Full disclosure: In our case, our fifth and last child was born when I was just days short of turning 49. The thought of raising a teenager when I was in my mid-Sixties had been daunting enough at early-48. As Sheila's fertility returned sometime in my 50th year, the prospect of raising another teenager in my mid to late sixties was even more daunting. Also, we didn't have quite the energy we once had, and I wasn't as much of a help as I should have been. So for some combination of age and energy, we made a decision not to seek further pregnancy. Life or death? Certainly not. A decision of Christian prudence? We hope so. God is the judge.

Before adversely judging those who may not be as generous as they should be or might be in having children, we need to keep in mind that for most couples chaste abstinence is not easy. There is a huge difference between practicing chaste abstinence and using unnatural methods of birth control. We can assume that those who practice chaste abstinence must THINK they have sufficiently serious reasons for it or they wouldn't be trodding that difficult path. True, their judgment may not be prudent, but at least part of that may be the fault of responsible parties such as pastors and bishops who never say anything about the obligation to have more than the currently politically correct number of children.

Many of us need to be encouraged by our pastors to do more than the minimum.

For more, please check Part One of the NFP How-to manual at our website. Please note also that we have just initiated a blog from that site.

John F Kippley
Author, Sex and the Marriage Covenant (Ignatius, 2005)
Co-author, NFP:The Question-Answer Book, an e-book available at

a thorn in the pew said...

While I agree that using NFP for base contraception is not what it was intended for, it is often hard to judge what is hard for one couple and not for another. It almost falls under the "to those who have been given much, much is expected". We used it to avoid when my boys were going through the diognosis process of autism because I didn't know how bad it was going to get and my boys both horse kicked me in my pregnant belly at one time or another. Even when my husband was out of work we were trying after I miscarried(I still had my company, was my logic there). I have to say that NFP in my local area is not being taught enough on the spiritual level that it should be. I think the priest's need to be better informed in the pre-Cana to help with any questions on the matter and they simply don't know enough about it to help.