Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Truth About NFP

Below is a great outline of why the Church teaches what She does on Natural Family Planning. It is amazing how the modern world is looking for an effective way to abstain from pregnancy, but when NFP has the stats to prove its own effectiveness, it is by-and-large igored. If others only knew that NFP (if used for correct reasons) could enhance marital relations and sexual pleasure, they would be jumping on board!

In addition, check out the comments at the end. We are a psychotic society, in that we are very pornified, oogling at a woman's breasts, but then when a woman is breast feeding her child in public (of which is the primary purpose of a woman's breasts), we think that this is absolutely disgusting and should not be seen in the light of day. God help us! It is only through a transformation of our hearts, in in recovering the Divine Vision, are we going to be able to see the truth and goodness of women and their bodies.

John F. Kippley

Natural Family Planning: The Purpose of NFP Instruction

February 7, 2008

What is the primary reason for Catholic Church interest in Natural Family Planning?
Is it health? Certainly NFP in all its forms is health-promoting in several different ways. Ecological breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for the baby for a longer time than any other form of breastfeeding, and its resulting extended amenorrhea, 14 to 15 months on the average, offers several health advantages to mothers as well. Monitoring their fertility can help women become aware of potential health problems well before they become acute. Further, the use of NFP spares couples the unhealthy side effects of many unnatural forms of birth control. For these reasons alone, the basics of ecological breastfeeding and systematic fertility awareness should be taught in the appropriate health classes at every level of education. For example, my wife Sheila taught ecological breastfeeding to a group of seventh grade girls in the parish where we started the Couple to Couple League. Health, however, while a great human value, is also a secular value, and the negative reaction to the promulgation of Humanae Vitae in 1968 certainly was not concerned about health issues. Further, the absence of NFP instruction in the health courses of Catholic colleges, high schools, and parishes is a pretty good indication that the promotion of good health is not the primary reason for the Catholic Church's interest in natural family planning.

How about effectiveness? In February 2007, a German study demonstrated a 99.6% effectiveness of the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP. Again, effectiveness is a human and secular value, and only a few have criticized the Church's promotion of NFP because it is so highly effective in avoiding pregnancy. On the other hand, not a few have complained that some forms of NFP have not been as effective as that German study indicates. Lastly, in Humanae Vitae the practice of NFP is not promoted on the grounds of high effectiveness even though prior to its publication there were European studies showing a 99% level of effectiveness.
How about morality? Certainly this is the reason that jumps out at us as we look at the teaching documents of the Church. Pope Pius XI taught us in his 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii (On Chaste Marriage) that contraception "is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin" (par. 56). Pope Paul VI reminded us in Humanae Vitae that contraceptive behaviors are "intrinsically dishonest" (n. 14). Pope John Paul II placed the issue squarely as a matter of truth. "The moral norm, constantly taught by the Church in this sphere, and recalled and reconfirmed by Paul VI in his encyclical, arises from the reading of the language of the body in truth" (July 11, 1984). Nor did he stop with the last of the Theology of the Body lectures in September 1984. In April 1986, he told the participants in a conference on moral theology that denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is "equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation." In March 1988, he reminded the participants in a conference on responsible procreation that the teaching of Humanae Vitae "belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church's moral doctrine."
There can be no doubt that the Church promotes NFP as a way of providing practical help to live out the demands of chaste love in marriage.

And yet I think there is more. In the publication of The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, we get a clue from the title of Part Two: "Life according to the Spirit." As Christians, we are called to live according to the Spirit of God. To put it briefly, the primary mission of the teaching Church is to evangelize the world, and that includes its own members.
Evangelization, then, is what I think is or should be the prime impetus behind the conscious efforts of the Church to promote and teach natural family planning. The Gospel of Mark shows us that Jesus began his public teaching with a great summary of all that would follow. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the Gospel." The fuller translation of "repent" is "have a change of heart," and believing in the Gospel is more than a purely intellectual acceptance of the teachings of Christ. It is also a trusting faith. To paraphrase a part of the Sermon on the Mount, "Don't be anxious about the material things of life. God knows you need these things. Sure, you need to work, but seek first the kingdom of God and do His will and trust Him to take care of the rest of these things."

The teaching of Christ as it comes to us through the Church calls married couples to authentic love. We all know that. And we have heard many times from the First Letter of St. John that "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." What about the opposite? Can something close to perfect fear cast out love? Why do some couples refuse to accept the teaching of the Church regarding marital love? Isn't it fear? Specifically, isn't it fear that another child in the family might bring anything from inconvenience to real hardship? And isn't there a fear either to accept the discipline and self-control involved in systematic NFP or a fear of an unplanned pregnancy? In short, isn't it a fear to have that change of heart that Jesus calls for, a change of heart that involves carrying the daily cross of self-control and trusting God and not just ourselves? And isn't a prime task of the Church to help its members to undergo that change of heart that allows real trust and casts out fear?

Call me crazy if you will, but I think the teaching Church should welcome the task of promoting and teaching NFP as a way to carry out its mission of evangelization in a very practical way. After all, what other moral teachings of the Church affect so closely the lives of its adult members on a day-to-day basis? As such, the Church should make sure that the NFP programs that operate under its umbrella are not just teaching anatomy but are consciously helping to carry out this mission. That means that we who teach NFP have to learn and use the biblical language of evangelization — conversion and discipleship, faith and trust, hope and love, sin and repentance, prayer and fasting, Jesus as the Lord of lords and the King of kings. We who teach natural family planning are blessed with the opportunity to share in the evangelization mission of the Church. We need to thank God for this opportunity and do what we can to fulfill this responsibility.

John F. Kippley and his wife, Sheila, have raised five children. Since 1969 they have been active in promoting and teaching natural family planning and Catholic doctrine related to sexuality and NFP. John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius) and Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book, online at
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teaching children / young girls about their cycles is one thing, teaching them ecological breastfeeding is outrageous
parents should not put up with you doing that, it is the parents duty to teach their girls if they want to - NOT YOURS
i do think the Church has an obligation to make this information more known to people, esp because many women have endometriosis and other health issues which can be helped by the use of natural progesterone - but as far as children go, it should be hands off
Submitted by deirdrew on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 2:20am.
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I am truly confused about why teaching about ecological breastfeeding would be problematic. If you can teach them about their cycles (including I assume when and why ovulation takes place and the symptoms of ovulation) why would teaching about breastfeeding be a problem. The only thing one would teach would be that extended breastfeeding, and using no bottles or pacifiers along with no solid foods for the first 6 months tends to delay the return of fertility. It shouldn't scandalize any teenager to learn those facts. It certainly isn't going to encourage them to go out and fornicate in order to test the theory out. It would seem to me that providing even the most basic information about cycles would be just as likely to encourage them to do that.
Breastfeeding is the natural means of feeding a human infant. There is nothing scandalous about it. To explain that exclusive breastfeeding frequently has the additional impact of spacing babies further apart doesn't seem like it is endangering anyone's innocence, any more than explaining that the reason that one has cycles in the first place is because the body is preparing for a possible pregnancy.
Of course my kids learned about lactation, pregnancy, ovulation etc. very early because of raising cats, sheep, and horses. Biological facts did not cause a loss of innocence nor encourage fornication.
I truly wish I'd known more basic facts as a teenager, I would have worried a whole lot less about some perfectly normal symptoms of ovulation.
I just don't understand the objections.
Submitted by merrylamb2001 on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 7:09am.
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teaching children / young girls about their cycles is one thing, teaching them ecological breastfeeding is outrageous
Again I am reminded of a comment in these fora from not too long ago, pertaining to a certain Padre Pio, who seems to have been a well-respected confessor and of whom it is said he was both chaste and morally upright. One day, upon leaving the confessional, he spied a mother feeding her child at the breast. Seeing this outrageous behavior, he walked up to the child and remarked, "Eat well, little one."
Let us not fall into the singularly puritanical error of equating feeding at the breast with sexually charged license. Indeed, the larger shame is that more mothers do not feed their children in public - and especially in Church. Such should, of course, be modestly done, but both outrage and shame at this behavior is nothing less than a scandal.
To which I must append: thank you Mr. Kippley for your insights. A woman's breasts are not sex-toys. They are holy matter from which babies receive, as if manna, their holy food.
Submitted by HomeschoolNfpDad on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 7:26am.
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NFPdad, please email me,
Submitted by mkochan on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 7:48am.
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