Look, I hate NFP.
And I know I am not alone.
In fact, my own wife shares this sentiment, thanks be to God.
My wife and I have had to use NFP in the past for a while due to health concerns, but we did so begrudgingly.
I know there are others out there who are not head-over-heels in-love with NFP, as well. I have heard from some of you in my inbox, in the comment boxes on this blog, or elsewhere.
For the record, I am speaking here of Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP remains a method to observe the natural signs of a wife’s fertility to know when she is likely ovulating. Thus, once a couple knows when the wife if likely fertile, they can have sex so as to try to achieve pregnancy or avoid it so as not to.
For the purposes of this blog post, I am speaking about the latter use of NFP. This purpose for using NFP to avoid babies also remains the much more common intention for NFP users.
So why do I hate NFP?
NFP, BY ITS VERY NATURE, RUNS CONTRARY TO THE MARITAL UNION
I hate NFP because it rubs against the grain of the marital relationship I enjoy with my wife. Here are three instances this is the case.
First, the primary purpose of marriage remains the procreation and education of children. (Yes, I know it is not the only purpose for marriage.) Still, NFP seeks to avoid children.
Second, God created us human beings as rational animals. As animals, we are subject to the nature God created for us. It remains a natural part of our human nature to be physically attracted to the opposite sex. Therefore, it is natural for me to desire the conjugal act with the person to whom I am married. NFP asks me to go against my nature.
And third, I hate NFP because it puts up barriers, such as charts, mucus measurements, and thermometers, between my wife and myself. Rather than “letting nature take its course,” or having any spontaneity, NFP requires consulting charts to see if the NFP-powers-that-be say it is okay to have relations.
NOW, DON’T ACCUSE ME OF SAYING NFP SHOULD NEVER BE USED
Don’t put words in my mouth, folks. Be careful to notice what I am not saying.
I concede that NFP can be used and sometimes should be used by married couples. I will even point out there is a Biblical precedent allowing (not commanding) married couples to forego the conjugal act, if necessary (1 Cor 7:5).
As I have written about in the past, however, NFP can used immorally. As the Church teaches, each and every couple using it needs to have a grave (or serious) reason to practice it. Too often this requirement seems to get forgotten.
I hate NFP because it has been billed in conservative Catholic circles as a moral good. NFP is not only taught to virtually every engaged couple prepping for marriage, but it is pretty much expected every couple will and must practice it from the moment they say “I do.”
HUSBANDS ARE OFTEN GIVEN TOO MUCH CREDIT
Recently I read an article putting to words a sentiment I have heard all too often. Namely that the husband ought to feel guilty for desiring his wife.
And thank God for NFP, because husbands “need it and the self-denial it represents.” And NFP alone can root out “selfishness and immaturity and greediness.” This is literally the argument being made by many these days.
What’s wrong with this mentality to NFP? Plenty.
A BIBLICAL PRECEDENT
First, as I have written in the past on this blog, St. Paul lays out a Biblical command that spouses owe each other the conjugal act, whenever it is reasonably requested. This goes over like a lead balloon these days, but it doesn’t change the fact that traditionally in the Church, this is called “the marital duty.”
Instead of the wife being called to surrender to her husband, she becomes the arbiter. What is difficult for her to let loose of now becomes something by which she can control her husband.
No, not every couple needs to be getting it on every night of the week. Men are not sex-starved savages. I am not claiming that. What I am claiming is that husbands need not feel guilty for asking for the conjugal act from their wife.
NFP OUGHT TO BE THE EXCEPTION, NOT THE NORM
Second, practicing NFP ought to be the exception—not the norm. The normal thing for a married couple to do is to engage in the marital embrace. This is how God designed marriage. The normal thing is for couples to be healthy and stable enough to introduce new human life into the family.
The exceptions to the normal course of action are health concerns, severe poverty, and so forth. Obviously, we wouldn’t wish any of those crosses on ourselves or anyone we care about.
So, if we have to practice NFP or know someone who does, we should feel bad. Not in a sense of being guilty of a moral failure, by any means. But rather that something is amiss and NFP is sought as a means to help cope.
After all, using NFP during the fertile periods means postponing the unifying act unique to the marital relationship. It means postponing or foregoing altogether the chance to welcome new family members. These are causes for concern, not celebration.
There are plenty of couples who have perfectly legitimate reasons to practice NFP. I am not speaking ill of such folks, as I was there once. I am saying that couples who need to use NFP should be compassionated for having to bear a cross, not envied.
Otherwise, are we really going to celebrate married couples who cannot fulfill the primary purpose of their marriage? Really?
NOT EVERYONE “NEEDS” NFP
That same article linked to above concludes by stating I, you, and everyone “needs” NFP.
This is categorically incorrect.
The Church has laid out time and again that couples ought to practice a period of abstinence within marriage, only if they have a grave (or serious) reason. The Church does not teach that every married couple ought to use NFP. The Church has never taught every couple “needs” NFP.
This is easily proven, as well. Not every couple has health concerns precluding pregnancy. Not every Catholic couple is destitute—many, if not most, are financially stable. And on we go. Thus, to argue every couple has a grave or serious reason to do something that runs against the nature of their marriage is naïve, if not dangerous.
I hate NFP because it seems to have caused so many well-meaning folks to buy into this mindset akin to the contraceptive mentality. Let’s stop with our baptized version of the contraceptive mentality, please.
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