Thursday, August 9, 2012

NFP and Teens, and An NFP Limerick


A week or so ago, on LifeSiteNews, there was an article by Jill Stanek entitled “Beyond Creepy: Obama Uses Daughters to Push Abortion”. She mentions Obama’s 2008 promotion of comprehensive sex education, where he said:

I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.

I certainly agree that it’s “creepy” (like a lot of things about Obama), but here’s the statement that caught my attention. Jill Stanek commented:

It is just weird for Obama to discuss his daughters’ future sex lives, period.

I agree with her completely on that point, as well.

But it made me think about something completely different: NFP, and the promoters thereof, who think NFP should be taught not just to couples in pre-marriage classes, but to high school students as well.

Isn’t it a little creepy for NFP promoters to be talking about these young people’s future sex lives?!

Oh, I know. It’s not all about sex; it’s about their health. It will help the girls to better understand their bodies, to become better able to predict their physical and emotional cycles; and boys can learn how to better understand girls’ hormonal and mood fluctuations. Sure, I get that, and there can definitely be some benefits to it…I guess…

But let me play “here’s my story” for a minute: gaining knowledge about my body and my fertility cycle when I was in high school would have been put to the service of pre-marital sex. Learning NFP may have served to slightly allay my fears of getting pregnant out of wedlock. But it would not have prevented me from using birth control pills, because I would have been scared to death that I’d make a mistake in the charting, or misread my temperature, or some such thing. I would still have seen the Pill as more reliable than NFP. So I would still have used the Pill while I engaged in pre-marital sex with my boyfriend.

Now, I do understand that the good Catholic folks promoting NFP for teens are not suggesting that these young people should, could, or would be engaging in premarital sex. Not at all. I know they have good intentions.

But I am suggesting that society already has kids thinking about sex, sex, sex, sex way more than is healthy, and teaching Catholic teens NFP in high school just compounds the problem by implying that the Church also wants them to focus on the sexual aspect of their relationships.

Not only that, but teaching them NFP in conjunction with teaching the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception simply condones and encourages the contraceptive mentality that runs rampant in our culture today (and this is fatal flaw in SheIsCatholic’s NFP video).  And if you don’t like the word “contraceptive”, just substitute “birth control”. The outcome is the same: fewer children; fewer Catholics; fewer vocations.

And finally, the Church teaches that parents should be the first teachers of their children. Sensitive matters like “sex education” are to be dealt with in the family, not in the classroom. Back in the days when I was still under the illusion that Christopher West and Theology of the Body were appropriate ways of teaching my daughter about sexuality in marriage, I bought Theology of the Body for Teens. But I never used it with her. Why? Interestingly, it was because her own sense of modesty about the topic would not allow it – she resisted me at every turn. Looking back on it, I thank God for that. And I thank God she wasn’t going to a religious ed class that was pushing it.

And now, a limerick:

There are those who think NFP
Is God’s plan for their family.
Mucus and charts
All play a part
In managing fertility.

NFP takes the place of the Pill
When families just can’t pay the bill
For more mouths to feed
And more kids who need
A life that’s not “run of the mill”.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight:
Be prudent - both you and your mate!
Responsible parents
Must sometimes be barren
And tell God to NOT procreate.

For more NFP posts on this blog, click on the "NFP Posts" tab at the top of the page.

15 comments:

  1. You need to stop this obsession with NFP. You need to stop projecting your own guilt over contraception and sterilization on those of us who use NFP. My NFP using friends and I are all in our early 30s and none of us have less than five children.
    I'm very sorry you did not find the faith while you were young, and I'm sorry your daughter is an only child, but just because YOU committed a grave sin, and were not generous does not mean that us NFP users are committing a sin and not being generous.

    Some of us are uninsured, and could lose our homes if we have another child. Some of us have children with severe illnesses that require round the clock care. Some of us just want to be able to nurse our babies and give them the nutrition they need and deserve, instead of putting them on baby formula because we're pregnant.

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  2. So, Anonymous, you read my blog because...??!!? By the way, my daughter is not an only child.

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  3. Many NFP using women are following your blog. We feel that it is important to be prepared for people like you.

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  4. I am sincerely glad to hear that many NFP-using women are reading my posts. Thank you.

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  5. Hope Springs EternalAugust 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Anonymous: You have exposed one of the many unfounded reasons people use NFP. Your idea that another pregnancy would prevent you from giving your child proper nutrients is a perfect example of the misuse of NFP. What are the evils of baby formula? I’m not ashamed to say that I gave it to my children (Actually, I breast fed and used formula. I had a hungry bunch!) In addition, I appreciated a good night’s sleep, so my husband would take some of the night feedings. Did that make me a bad mother? I prefer to think that it made for a great daddy and well-rested mommy! NFP should be used cautiously and ONLY with sufficient reason.

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    1. This is going off on a weird tangent somehow. How did this conversation turn into a defense of bottle feeding?
      It is proper for an infant to be nursed if at all possible and that naturally (in most cases) spaces births. This is obviously part of God's design. NFP is an intervention. The one really has nothing to do with the other except that they both space a birth.

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    2. s, I think the point is that a desire to breast feed is perhaps not a "serious" reason to avoid pregnancy. Breast feeding is a good thing that imparts necessary nutrients and important immunities to an infant, but an infant can develop in a healthy way without breast feeding, too. I believe Hope Springs Eternal is saying that breast feeding is a personal preference, and does not constitute a "serious" reason.

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    3. Yes of course it is a personal choice not to breastfeed but it is a little disordered. In God's design a woman usually has a period of infertility while she is nursing. This is how God designed it. Convenience is not a reason not to nurse anymore than it is to use NFP. Its about Gods will for us, not ours.
      Pope Pius XII Encourages Mothers to Breastfeed

      On October 26, 1941 Pope Pius XII addressed a group of Italian mothers. He stressed the importance of the mother’s influence upon the soul and body of her infant. He urged all mothers to breastfeed their babies, if at all possible. Pius XII on that occasion:

      We see in mothers those who exert the earliest and the most
      intimate influence upon the souls of the little ones and upon
      their growth in piety and virtue.

      Surely there is no art more difficult and strenuous than that
      of fashioning the souls of children; for those souls are so very
      tender, so easily disfigured through some thoughtless influence
      or wrong advice, so difficult to guide aright and so lightly led
      astray.

      This is the reason why, except where it is quite impossible,
      it is more desirable that the mother should feed her child at her
      own breast. Who shall say what mysterious influences are
      exerted upon the growth of that little creature by the mother
      upon whom it depends entirely for its development.1

      1. Pius XII. The Major Addresses of Pope Pius XII: Vol. 1 Selected Addresses, Vincent A. Yzermans, ed., North Central Publishing, St. Paul, 1961, 44.

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  6. Dr. Boyd,
    Your limerick makes a lot of sense and helps to clarify what is at stake in the widespread promotion of child-birth limitation.
    Thank you.

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  7. Thank you, Fr. Gardner!

    Hope Springs Eternal: good point. This is a good illustration of the fact that we could benefit from "serious" discussion about "serious" reasons for using NFP. Of course, the words of Pope Pius XII to give us some categories as a start for the discerning process. Part of the problem with the "personalistic" approach of TOB, which many NFP proponents seem to rely on, is that it gets diluted into a philosophy that more closely resembles "individualism" which goes hand in hand with "relativism".

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  8. Even when used for a grave reason(s), the decision to use NFP should be kept between the couple. Otherwise, it becomes bedroom-talk among NFP using friends. It should be considered a private and serious matter.

    Couples who use NFP should carefully review (often) their reason(s) for the abstinence so they can resume a natural, married relationship as soon as possible. Daily prayer together is essential.

    Postponing an intimate union (based on a calendar) between the "two that became one flesh" should never be considered natural.

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  9. Dr Boyd, on the topic of serious reasons for using NFP, I've made comment before. But I've rediscovered some of the basis for my line of thinking on that topic.

    From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal by Rev Thomas J. Gerrard:

    "For such a sacred purpose [i.e. the first and chief purpose of marriage; the begetting of children] either partner should be willing to undergo serious inconvenience. Indeed, marriage is supposed to be fraught with serious inconveniences. These are love's opportunities, and love is given to overcome them. The cares of child-bearing are no excuse for the wife [...] nor yet is the expense of the child's education an excuse for the husband [...] Not even a difficult childbirth is a sufficient reason [...] The only justification for refusing is something so serious as to involve danger of death, or long painful illness."

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  10. Creary, that sounds like an outstanding source. And the quote makes one think twice, doesn't it? Thanks.

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  11. Looks like I missed this post when it was being discussed a couple weeks ago, but I wanted to mention that I had the exact same experience that you had. My teenage daughters were the ones who brought to my attention the inappropriate lack of modesty and shame that accompanies NFP indoctrination.

    Some years ago we were living in Cincinnati where the Couple-to-Couple League is headquartered. We became friends with many of the people associated with CCL through attendance at the same Mass and schools, etc. CCL was hosting a national NFP conference that sounded like a good chance to participate in a family-oriented Catholic event surrounded by like-minded Catholics.

    When I picked up my teen daughter after she attended a conference by Christopher West, she told me how scandalized she was by the content of the presentation. She was 13 at the time but she immediately recognized what I had failed to see -- this stuff was not Catholic, in fact it bordered on demonic.

    This, BTW, was just about the same time that another teen daughter attended "Youth 2000" in Steubenville, and came home very scandalized by what she experienced.

    In both cases I was too ignorant and naive to perceive what was obvious and apparent to my daughters.

    I might add that after these failures in my attempts to have my teens participate in Catholic events that turned out to be not Catholic, we finally found what we were looking for in the "Pilgrimage of Restoration" in Auriesville NY. That turned out to be a wonderful experience that deepened the spiritual life of our family.

    You can find more information about it here:
    http://national-coalition.org/pilgrim/

    Here is a detailed article with photos of a past pilgrimage:
    http://www.seattlecatholic.com/article_20030825.html

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  12. Anonymous: interesting, isn't it, that young people's sensibilities (and moral sense) are not automatically corrupted by our culture. I have heard some things about Steubenville that have made me think twice, too...
    The pilgrimage website is great!

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