Sunday, July 29, 2012
SheIsCatholic NFP Video: Missing an Important Piece
I’ve highlighted Leah Chen’s videos here on my blog; she is also known as “SheIsCatholic”, and she’s a great young spokesperson for the Church – for the traditional and orthodox Church. She’s the one with the videos on “the Latin Mass” and “how to wear a veil”, among others. And I'm delighted to read that she has discerned a vocation to religious life.
But then there’s her video on NFP…which has just won first place in two contests. Unfortunately, her video contains a serious error: she neglected to mention that a couple should only use NFP for serious reasons. There are some other problems as well. The temptation is to let it all slide, because she’s so darn entertaining and creative.
But really, cute should not trump truth.
First, let me say that Leah includes very good information about the dangers of using the Pill, including the myriad side effects that include an increased risk of cancer. And she tells her alter-ego in the video that, as a Catholic, she shouldn’t even be thinking about using contraception anyway, pointing out the potential abortifacient effects.
Still, she makes a couple of disconcerting comments:
Alter-ego: “I guess I’m just supposed to be a baby-making machine…”
Pause right there. This kind of comment, though used to make a point, denigrates the couples who do have large families. I wonder if the women I know who have 8 or 9 children see themselves as “baby-making machines”. The primary end of marriage is procreation. That’s been the teaching of the Church for 1,962 years. And before that, God’s command was to “be fruitful and multiply”.
Continuing with the dialog in the video:
Leah: “Dude, you can just use natural family planning.”
[Explaining further]: “Natural family planning is a way of achieving or avoiding pregnancy according to God’s plan.”
Folks, really, ask yourselves, and let’s be honest: Just how is this God’s plan? Is it God’s plan because the woman has a fertility cycle, and it is possible to discern when she is fertile and when she is not? That is God’s plan – his “blueprint” – for our bodies, but it is not necessarily God’s plan that we use that information to avoid pregnancy! Just because we are able to use that information does not mean that we should. For instance, science has given us knowledge about cloning, too, and in vitro fertilization; but there are serious moral problems with those processes. Though I wouldn’t put NFP on this level of immorality, there are still moral issues at stake.
Leah continues with her explanation, stating that the couple can
“…measure a woman’s fertile and infertile times and you do or do not engage at those points when she’s fertile depending on whether or not you can take care of children.”
This brings us back to “responsible” parenthood (the new teaching) vs. “generous” parenthood (the centuries-old teaching). A correspondent made this observation:
One might ask, “Can ‘Responsible Parenthood’ be so bad? We wouldn’t want ‘Irresponsible Parenthood’ would we?” Here’s what we do want: generous fruitfulness, abandonment to divine
the joyful holiness of large families living the traditional Catholic faith. Humanae Vitae and the rest of the
marriage theology since Vatican II recommend a different, a non-Catholic
And of course Leah mentions that final selling point for NFP:
“…and it’s 99% effective…”
It just seems to me that by focusing on how effective NFP is for avoiding pregnancy, we are taking a contraceptive approach and attitude toward the fruitfulness God intends for families.
Another problem: Leah explains that by using NFP, the couple will have a better, stronger relationship, and less chance of divorce. This is a common claim of NFP promoters; however, even if NFP-using couples do have a lower divorce rate, correlation does not imply causation. I suspect that the couples who decide to use NFP and who “stick with it” already have a strong relationship. It takes teamwork and commitment to use NFP, and if the couple doesn’t have a solid foundation in their relationship, one or the other is not likely to put forth the effort required to use NFP. (I don’t doubt that there have been couples with marital problems who have found some benefit in the communication required by NFP, but I’m not talking case studies here; I’m talking statistics.)
Leah also maintains that NFP “can only make your marriage better”. Well, that may be true for the couple who agrees to use it and who has that committed relationship. Otherwise, I can imagine that the frustration a husband feels when he cannot engage in the marital embrace with his wife at the time when she is most attractive to him, and he to her, can lead to problems if the couple is not truly in agreement about using the process.
That brings up another important caveat: the Church teaches that use of periodic continence is only licit if both partners agree to it. If one or the other does not agree, then she or he is entitled to have the “marriage debt” paid by the other. This, of course, is not a popular notion in today’s culture, but it is Church teaching.
The article noting Leah’s award-winning video also notes that the video has been available on-line as a “tool” to be used during the NFP Awareness Week promoted by the USCCB.
Sigh. Frankly, I think the USCCB has no business promoting NFP the way it does. The teaching is all about avoiding pregnancy and having great sex, because the bishops are quite aware that many, if not most, Catholic couples are using illicit contraception. A commenter on this blog made the very astute observation that
…the entire NFP industry is one big Potemkin Village. It is simply a salve to the conscience of those Catholic bishops, priests and lay leader who look out over their congregations and fail to see any large families. It is the misdirection of the stage magician who directs your attention over towards the non-existent NFP while the reality is that everyone is using artificial birth control. It is the "gateway drug" that allows one to say, "The Catholic Church says it's all right to use birth control," and then after a few "failures" with NFP, one decides, "Well as long as birth control is okay, I might as well use a method that actually works as well as NFP claims to work."
Finally, I did email Leah last June when I first saw her NFP video, and I addressed the fact that the need “serious reasons” was not included in the discussion. Leah noted that she had a time constraint, and that she had toyed with the idea of including the “serious reasons” part, but she told me:
It was also my assumption that anyone who was truly interested in NFP would attend a class and realize that part from their instructor.
I suppose that would be a reasonable assumption…but I doubt it’s happening. Instead, I see a focus on “responsible” parenthood – a focus that makes large families seem irresponsible, and gives couples a ready excuse to enter into the contraceptive mentality.
For more NFP posts on this blog, click on the "NFP Posts" tab at the top of the page.