"what is the difference?"

Hi father, I was recently married. My husband and I attended marriage classes as per the request of the Church. We are both catholic and committed to our faith. My question to you is: During the marriage classes, a married couple came in and taught us about natural family planning. Explaining that the church does not support the use of contraceptives but does accept using natural family planning as a means of avoiding pregnancy. The problem that I had with this was that they basically taught us how NOT to get pregnant as opposed to HOW to get pregnant. So I raised the question, "Does the Church then support a married couples choice to have sex for the purpose of NON procreation? Because if the church then agrees that a married couple can have sex with the absolute intention of not conceiving, then what is the difference if they use natural family planning or a little pill or condom? They all result in the same thing... NO BABY!!!

I am a little confused perhaps you could clarify!



Dear Tammy,

Thanks for the question. I am glad to hear that the marriage preparation class did at least talk about the issue of contraceptive use vs. natural family planning. Did they mention this section from the Catechism:

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. 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. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.?

The wording is a bit dense, but this is obviously a very important issue that we need to think through carefully. It is the most important decision any married couple can make because it involves the whole meaning their relationship.

While NFP and contraception sometimes have the same goal, avoiding a pregnancy, they are very different. A man can have the goal of feeding his family and could either steal or work to acheive the goal. One of the means toward the same goal would be legitimate and the other would not.

I was asked about the difference between the two methods in an interview. Here was my response:

Once a doctor and his wife gave a presentation on NFP. A young woman, defending her use of the Pill, asked him, "Aren't natural and artificial methods really the same thing?"

The doctor replied, "If that is the case, why don't you try our method?"

She thought, and then said, "No, I couldn't do that. They are totally different."

At that point, a married couple jumped in. Having used the Pill before switching to NFP, they mentioned these differences:

-- NFP (when used to avoid pregnancy) involves some days of abstinence during each menstrual cycle. While this first seems negative, they discovered a positive value. It became a monthly renewal of engagement when they would express their affection by other means: holding hands, a hug, a walk together, a poem, a flower, etc. After that would come what was a sort of mini honeymoon. Thus NFP strengthened their affection.

-- It also gave them greater confidence in each other. She knew that if he could exercise self-control during her fertile times, he would be more likely to exercise that same self-control when he was away from her. Also, when the wife is on the Pill, she is "available" to him at any time - but he also knows in the back of his mind that she is potentially available to other men. Since the Pill was introduced in the 60's, infidelity has skyrocketed along with marital breakdown.

-- They are respecting the integrity of each other’s bodies. Do you know any prescription - besides birth control - which is meant to make the body function abnormally? Birth control is not medicine; it takes away a normal capacity. The Pill, Depo Provera, Norplant, IUD, tubal ligation have one purpose - to render a young woman infertile.

-- By focusing on pregnancy avoidance, birth control leads to a "contraceptive mentality,” If a "failure" occurs (only complete abstinence is 100% effective) the couple will be tempted to abortion. A Guttmacher study showed that most of the women who obtained abortions were using birth control the previous month.

-- Even more serious, birth control can involve not just preventing conception, but the destruction of tiny human lives. Chemical birth control weakens the endometrial lining of the uterus. If conception takes place, the new human life cannot implant. Thus it dies and is expelled at the next menstruation. Birth control not only makes a couple more open to abortion, it is abortion. (This mechanism mentioned is no secret, although doctors seldom explain it to their patients. For verification, check out the description of birth control methods on the Planned Parenthood website: “Both types of pill can also prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus.” PP does not elaborate what the “fertilized egg” is.)

-- The pill is expensive. NFP is free. (Something to keep in mind as people pressure health insurance plans to pay for contraceptives.)

--NFP empowers women. It gives her knowledge of her own body and a greater initiating role regarding sexual relations. Husbands appreciate that.

-- NFP teaches men to regard woman’s fertility. Birth control often reduces women to pleasure objects, who must always be available. NFP inculcates respect for woman as the bearer of life.

--Most important, NFP strengthens the relationship with God while birth control harms that relationship. (Why this is so will become clearer as we progress with this interview.) http://catholicvu.com/newpage30.htm

I hope this is of some help, Tammy. May God bless your marriage! Prayers,

Fr. Phil Bloom



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