Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Questioning NFP


Recently, a commenter on one of my NFP posts wrote (my emphases throughout this post):

Holy cow. I can't believe it. Someone is actually daring to question NFP, the "good and moral" Catholic birth control. It's about time!!!!

Yes, indeed; since I first started writing about NFP in a way that questioned the mainstream perspective, I noticed that NFP was something of a “sacred cow”.

The above commenter notes that she and her husband learned NFP in pre-Cana classes, and, before their marriage, she discovered problems with her cycles. An OB’s determination was that she would be unable to have children naturally.

I was crushed! We had originally planned to use NFP for a year or two to "get used" to being married and to get on our feet financially. However, since I didn't think we could have kids, we dropped the thought and just lived... Then we got pregnant two months after the wedding. We had a beautiful baby girl.

Shortly after she was born, I got pregnant again, then miscarried. It was at this time that my Protestant mother-in-law pleaded with me to use birth control because it would be unhealthy to get pregnant again so soon after a miscarriage. I told her we wouldn't do that, but were considering NFP. Her response? "Oh! So you have Catholic birth control? Great!"

This statement bothered me a lot and started my journey. I read every Church statement from the past that I could get my hands on regarding fertility and marriage and children. I read about prudence and God's Providence. I read all the NFP books that I had. I watched an episode of EWTN's "NFP: Embracing the Marital Gift."

My conclusion was that I could never, in good conscience, use NFP. I know the Church has approved it and encourages it- but it's not doctrine and those teachings can change. I am free to disagree... and I do. I refer to NFP as a current trend in the Church.

That’s right. The use of NFP is not “doctrine” and there is no Church document that requires couples to use it or even learn it. Unfortunately, there are NFP proponents who refuse to allow any questioning of the use of NFP. Our current commenter adds:

I mentioned my reading and thoughts and- WOW- people get VERY ANGRY when you start messing with their "approved" method of spacing children… It got pretty ugly and I lost almost every single college friend over this. They thought I had lost my mind. People – good people – who I had looked up to, hurt me pretty badly. All because I dared to question the morality of NFP.

I have heard a similar story from at least one other reader of this blog, and I have experienced it myself. Even medical professionals experience it. One doctor who specializes in fertility issues told me that in his speaking engagements

…I always come to a discussion of NFP. Then I sound like a politician (both for it and against it). That has developed to avoid the open warfare when I say that over-reliance on NFP as a means of preventing pregnancy is as bad as contraception itself.

Heck, I’ve been criticized even by people who have not read what I’ve written! For instance, when Steve Koob of One More Soul invited me to be on his radio show, he let some NFP professionals know that he was interviewing me. One of these professionals said:

My comment is that [Dr. Boyd] is heretical, i.e., contrary to Church teaching. But I have not read the book. Not sure it would be worth the time…

Way to be open-minded! He hadn’t read my book, but was pretty sure it was heretical, and wasn’t sure it would be worth the time to read it and find out for sure!

Another NFP professional said:

From the brief look at the blog, the protagonist appears to be partly a providentialist (God will provide, period) and partly has a residue of Janssenism (sex is basically sinful and has to be redeemed by procreation) couples are free to practice NFP or not, but they are not free not to practice responsible parenthood… Let’s not revive the controversy about grave vs. serious reasons for avoiding more children… that’s been done.

I’m not even going to attempt to dissect that one. A third professional opined:

What troubles me is that writings like hers get good coverage and play at conservative Catholic Web sites.

All righty, then.

Now, here’s the question that is gnawing away in my brain: why are these people so invested in NFP? It’s a dilemma. For instance, one of the NFP professionals even noted:

…It still irritates me that NFP teachers and the practice of NFP is called to question -- with only .1% of current couples using NFP and maybe .2% of Catholic couples - is NFP really the problem?

That estimate of NFP users is much lower than the 2-5% I’ve heard bandied about! And even if it were 5%, I have previously opined that NFP isn’t really the problem; in my post “The Saving Grace of NFP” I wrote:

Oh, I still believe there are problems with the over-use and justification of NFP, as well as problems with the way NFP is presented and promoted… But those problems are reflective of an underlying philosophy that is having a sad effect on our Church: the contraceptive mentality of society today. It’s that contraceptive mentality that leads many Catholics to use artificial contraception.

…There is a contraceptive mentality behind NFP, and that is a problem. That contraceptive mentality is there despite all the protestations to the contrary.

Now, the phrase “contraceptive mentality” generally throws NFP advocates into a fit. By this term I mean: a) society’s general acceptance of the necessity of limiting family size for a variety of reasons, generally through the use of artificial contraception; and b) the general acceptance – and even expectation – of the use of artificial contraception by young unmarried women in order to prevent pregnancy when these women engage in premarital sex (which also seems to be expected).  I do think that society’s general outlook on contraception has influenced the use and promotion of NFP; it’s just that NFP is not contraception per se.

So I have softened the blow in other posts by suggesting we just call it a “birth control” mentality. There can be no doubt that NFP is birth control. NFP promoters talk about “taking control of our fertility”; there is talk about “spacing” births; there is the option of using NFP to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. These are all about controlling the number of births that a couple might experience.

I believe the “birth control” mentality is a problem, because it perpetuates the myth of overpopulation and the need for “responsible” parenthood, and tends to overemphasize the importance of the marital act in the marriage relationship.

That still doesn’t answer the question of why NFP advocates and promoters become so angry and defensive when anyone disagrees with them, though. Perhaps the answer is that questioning the use of NFP means questioning the false sense of autonomy many Catholics have with regard to “forming one’s conscience”. Many Catholics talk about conscience, but few understand that one’s conscience must be properly formed according to the teachings of the Church. It’s the improper formation of conscience that has led many Catholics to accept artificial contraception, homosexual marriage, and even abortion with no qualms. And it is “conscience” on which NFP users rely when deciding whether or not they think God wants them to have another child.

Further, I suggest that the failure to correctly understand conscience flows from the personalist and existentialist notions that have crept into the minds of Catholics by way of some of the verbiage used in various Vatican II and post-Vatican II documents – verbiage that suggests that saying “I prayed about it, and I feel it’s right” is the only justification needed for one’s actions. That’s called moral relativism.

Questioning NFP means questioning a lot of things. It means questioning why we teach girls that having a career should come before having children; why gender roles are down-played so much these days; why sex is so over-valued in our society. And I’ll bet you can think of more “why’s”…

In other words, questioning NFP means questioning the whole middle-class lifestyle that has evolved in the US. That can be a bit threatening, I suppose.

77 comments:

  1. As usual, so well stated. You sure do have the ability to analyze and clearly explain an issue.

    I agree with everything said. I'd add to your paragraph regarding personalist and existentialist notions, none other than John Paul II. Apologies to those who see red when the former Holy Father is called into question in any way (much like when anyone attempts to question NFP), but there it is.

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  2. Thanks, Elizabeth - yes, it has certainly become politically incorrect to say ANYTHING even remotely negative about JPII...let alone Theology of the Body, on which NFP advocates rely heavily. There are some good points made in Theology of the Body, and then again there are some questionable things, and much of the ambiguity is to be found in that personalist and existentialist language that is so frequently used.

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    1. Dr. Boyd, Since you are against all forms of family planning, why do you have only 2 children? Short of an infertility problem, you seem not to practice what you preach.

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    2. Anonymous, there are other reasons than infertility. I have been a Catholic for 11 years. Before that, I freely used various forms of contraception to prevent pregnancy. When my daughter was born, I was almost 40, and the doctor had exerted some pressure on me to have my tubes tied because of my age. At the time, I thought it was a good idea, because I "didn't want" more children. However, had anyone explained to me the Catholic teaching, I likely would not have gone through with the tubal ligation. In fact, I sincerely desired to cancel the procedure, but could not formulate what I thought would be a logical reason.

      I have always regretted my decision to have my tubes tied. I prayed for years that a pregnancy would result anyway, as I know tubals do "fail". We did not have the financial resources to attempt a reversal of the operation, and my fertile years were coming to an end anyway.

      People make mistakes. That doesn't mean that they can't come to see the truth, and even proclaim it.

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    3. Thank You for the explanation. Since you wanted more children I am sorry you could not have more. God bless in all you do, especially for the church.

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  3. Jay,
    While I agree with almost everything you say. I feel like you lose credibility when you dis TOB. We all know its not something to be read superficially and I don't think we shouldn't let TOB be hijacked by NFP promoters. It has become as an all purpose excuse for every kind of NFP abuse but if they refer to a quote it is usually ambiguous. People can't just parse papal documents the way protestants parse the Bible. Encyclicals need to be read in the light of previous documents.(meaning take it slow and refer to all the footnotes) Casti Conubii and Arcanum come to mind. If people read those first and then read Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, Evangelium Vitae and then the rest of TOB perhaps then they could speak authoritatively. In this busy world I think people are getting their info from a brochure from CCL or some silly book by Greg Popcak and they don't really know. Good luck with you book.

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  4. Thanks, Sue. With regard to TOB, I don't mean to "dis" it; I do have concerns, though - and I'm not the only one!I also agree that TOB may be mis-represented by some well-meaning interpreters, and that contributes to the confusion. But TOB is not "doctrine" and not infallible. It is not a heresy to express doubts about it.

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  5. The one statement that jumps out in all these discussions of NFP is this: "The Church approves it."

    That is not true and that is the bud that has to be nipped right away. When we use the term "the Church" we are referring to an organization that has been in existence for 2,000 years. That organization has never officially approved birth control, which is what NFP is. Think of a man like St Pius X or St Gregory the Great promoting NFP and you get my point. Such men would have looked in horror at such a thing.

    What muddies the waters here is the actions of weak, vacillating Popes who, for whatever reason, feel they have find a Catholic compromise with the worldly attitudes of their time. Pius XII was one such man, as were ALL of his successors. But they, even collectively, are not "the Church". They are not because on occasion (sadly) they have demonstrated a Modernist mindset on this or that issue. Yes, Popes can be Modernists and Catholics have to realize this. Catholics must not be papolators. They must be able to know the difference between infallibility and impeccability.

    NFP will, one day, be condemned by the Church in some manner as will, by the way, the rather idiotic Theology of the Body, an idea that emerged from a very troubled man and an idea that in no way can be called infallible. These are two sides of the same coin and each one feeds off the other. We must put our sentimental feelings aside and begin to look at the stark reality of what is happening. NFP is a curse upon the Church irrespective of what personages have allowed it. History is filled with poor judgments by certain Popes that have been disastrous. If these Popes of the past could make horrible mistakes, so can our current ones.

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  6. Aged Parent, you don't pull any punches. (I like that.)

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  7. Dear dr. Boyd,
    you wrote:

    "Now, here’s the question that is gnawing away in my brain: why are these people so invested in NFP? It’s a dilemma."

    It would be fine to know who the "NFP Professionals" are. It is a PRIVATE discussion group of persons involved in NFP research, teaching and promotion. Many of them are TOP scientists in the field, medical doctors, theologians, philosophers, counsellors etc. Many of them worked for years to develop better NFP methods, wrote theological books, helped hundreds of desperate couples to live their vocation in chastity and true love according to Gods plan.

    It is not a group of self-made amateurs. They love the Church, they relly know what the Magisterium teaches and WHY. They have to fight every day against contraception-propaganda, with virtually no money and support.

    Please, let them do what they do very well. TRY with patience to understand their motivation. I really appreciate your enthusiasm, but you can create also great evil. Please, study, study, study. There are MANY books your really need to read as a just-converted-Catholic. Humility is the key.

    This web-site can be a good start for your study:
    http://teologietela.paulinky.cz/Sexualita-Plodnost/text

    It is written in Czech, but there are many useful links in English.

    God bless you,

    Karel D. Skocovsky, Ph.D., psychologist and a Catholic seminarian, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome.

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  8. Our dear and estimable Dr J:

    Stumbled across this delightful Chesterton quote (I collect quotes) and thought of you:

    “Normal and real birth control is called self control.” (Social Reform vs. Birth Control)

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  9. NFP allows middle-class RC women in the US to be "good" RCs while simultaneously participating in the secular values. NFP is a facade to appear RC while actually practicing the values of materialism (and being "green" and "natural"). Because it is something of counter-culture it provided an elitist platform where a superior attitude can be preached.

    Conversely, the acceptance of NFP as "Catholic BC" validates to ignorant (willing and unwilling) RCs that BC is acceptable, esp if done "prayerfully" and for good reasons.

    During recent internet discussions I learned that my philosophy is called (derogatively) "Providentialism." I can't understand why wanting to trust God is seen as a negative unless one doesn't really believe in God. For me, I want more and more to be doing God's will and be in synch with Him. If you can't trust God with your life right now, what will happen after you die?

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  10. Dr. Skocovsky, I have no objection to medical doctors researching the female fertility cycle. I also have no doubt that NFP has been used for some good, particularly in the sense of allowing some seemingly infertile couples to conceive. However, I still question its use in the way it is generally promoted because NFP IS birth control, and as another commenter on this post noted, the Church has never approved of birth control.

    Just because NFP research furthers our knowledge of fertility and factors that might influence conception, miscarriage, and other problems does not mean that that knowledge may be used in any way one chooses. For example, IVF and cloning are possible, but not licit. The research that led to them may have been useful and licit in the sense of advancing our knowledge base, but IVF and cloning themselves, of course, are immoral.

    I would like to know exactly what “great evil” you think I can create simply by citing Church documents and tradition surrounding periodic abstinence, birth control, etc., and drawing the conclusion that the use of NFP without serious reasons is illicit. If couples do not practice NFP but instead allow God to truly manifest His plan in their lives, I don’t know how evil can come of that.

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  11. Dear dr. Boyd,
    I think you created a false dichotomy: to use "NFP" OR to "allow God to truly manifest His plan in their lives". This simply is not true. It is possible to live according to Gods will AND to use NFP. Every cycle you can sincerely ask God what is his will.

    NFP is virtuous practice, a self-control out of love as said Mother Theresa in her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

    "The poor people are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. The other day one of them came to thank and said: You people who have vowed chastity you are the best people to teach us family planning. Because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other."
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/social_justice/sj0004.html

    Of course, I agree with your objection against selfish NFP use. And I am sure EVERYONE from the NFP Professionals would agree with you that every couple have a moral duty to discern Gods will about their family. No one would promote a selfish/sinful NFP use.

    You wrote: "the Church has never approved of birth control". That is true if you undrestand "birth control" as "contraception" as defined in the Encyclical Humanae vitae etc. But the Church DO approve and even promote a "conscious parenthood", responsible procreation in front of God.

    In fact, the Church approved the periodic abstinence in 1853, see in Latin here:
    http://teologietela.paulinky.cz/dokumenty/dokument/Responsum-ad-dubium-ohledne-pouzivani-periodicke-abstinence-1.html

    This approval has bee repeated in 1880, in 1930 in Casti connubii, and in 1932 etc., see:

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt103.html

    The acceprance of NFP IS a part of papal ordinary Magisterium, and TOB, too. The Theology of the body is a papal catechesis, ordinary authentic Magisterium.

    You should know that the immorality of contraception has never been solemnly defined as dogma. It is taught by ordinary (I would say universal) Magisterium. The immorality of contraception and the morality of NFP is taught with the SAME authority.

    You simply cannot accept one Pope and refuse the other one (Paul VI, JPII), if you believe in the Holy Spirit who leads (in some way even) the ordinary Magisterium.

    Of course, you can disagree with how the NFP is sometimes presented. But another thing is to take a piece of non-public, non-formal discussion and to expose it with sarcasm (see your cartoons), which can hurt many good people. THIS is simply sinful, not to be worth of any Christian.

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  12. Two additional articles may be useful:

    NFP: The Myth of the “Contraceptive Mentality”:
    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/nfp-the-myth-of-the-%E2%80%9Ccontraceptive-mentality%E2%80%9D
    (On the importance of terminology.)

    Moral Use of Natural Family Planning
    http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/smith/smith_24moralusenfp.html
    (On grave/just reasons for NFP.)



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  13. @Karel Skocovsky: Respectfully, you should be made aware that your argument with Dr. Boyd has lost any credibility just by virtue of this astounding statement of yours:

    "The acceptance of NFP IS a part of papal ordinary Magisterium, and TOB, too. The Theology of the body is a papal catechesis, ordinary authentic Magisterium."

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    1. Im not sure you understand the term "ordinary magisterium". Every official teaching of any bishop "as a pastor and teacher" is "ordinary magisterium". When the pope teaches something in the encyclical letters, speeches, catecheses, it it the "papal ordinary magisterium".

      The periodic abstinence as a moral possibility has been taught by Casti connubii, Humanae vitae, Familiaris consortio, many speeches of the pope, etc. SO, it is the ordinary papal magisterium.

      Theology of the body is a collection of 129 catechese of blessed John Paul II. SO, it is the ordinary papal magisterium.

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    2. I think it is a little condescending to say "I'm not sure you understand" to Elizabeth. You could achieve the same transfer of information without that additional qualifier!

      At any rate, I think Elizabeth DOES understand, and I believe she and I both would suggest that in instances where a pope or bishop departs from the traditional teaching of the Church, one cannot say that the new teaching is part of the ordinary magisterium.

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    3. I am sorry for my English, it is not perfect. I wouldnt like to offend anyone.

      If you think that the TOB and the acceptance of NFP for just reasons (see the CCC) is not in accordance with true tradition of the Church, then there is no possibility of our agreement. There is no point we can discuss about.

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    4. I don't disagree that the Church permits NFP for serious reasons; and I don't disagree that there are parts of TOB that are in accord with traditional teachings of the Church. I don't think TOB has the same amount of magisterial weight you give it, though, and I think there have been some good arguments set forth by others in that regard.

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  14. Dear dr. Skočovský,

    I will have a longer rebuttal for you some time soon. For now, I would like to make these points:

    First, I have read the articles to which you refer, and cited Fr. Harrison in support of my position (which is NOT that NFP is a “heresy”); I have also addressed a few of Janet Smith’s statement. My blog posts are obviously not intended to be scholarly expositions, and so I have not cited every possible previous article.

    Second, I think I have made a good case for a “contraceptive mentality” - conscious or not – that underlies the promotion of NFP.

    Third, I disagree with your assessment of the magisterial weight of Theology of the Body for reasons that I have addressed elsewhere.

    Fourth, the use of the term “responsible parenthood” is a very recent development, and the implications of it are discontinuous with previous teaching of the Church.

    Fifth, if there are truly “serious reasons” for avoiding pregnancy, complete abstinence for a period of time is always an option. Most people cringe in horror at the thought, which speaks to the over-emphasis on sex that exists in our culture. But all birth control methods have a failure rate, and if pregnancy is something truly dangerous at a particular time, then the only sure way to avoid it is to abstain until the danger has passed.

    I will probably just have to do another post to address the points you’ve tried to make, but it will be in large part a summary of what I have already written.

    As for the “cartoons”…well, sometimes the truth hurts.

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  15. But the complete abstinence is a form of "responsible parenthood" isnt it?

    What is the difference between complete and periodic abstinence?

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  16. I think "responsible" as a descriptor has too much baggage behind it.

    I used the term "complete abstinence" because I wanted to make a distinction between "periodic abstinence" in the form of NFP and periodic abstinence in the form of abstaining from marital relations completely for a period of months, for instance. Such abstinence would be "periodic" in the sense used by popes prior to Vatican II. NFP utilizes periodic abstinence, but the "periods" are very short.

    An example of what I'm getting at: suppose a woman has had a miscarriage and is at a low ebb emotionally and physically, and the couple (and their doctor and their priest) feel that another pregnancy right away would be harmful to the woman's health and well-being. The couple could decide to abstain completely from marital relations for a period of time (months, maybe) to allow the woman to regain her health. That means they would abstain on all the days of the month, not on just the fertile days. That way the woman would have no possibility of becoming pregnant.

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  17. Dr. Skočovský wrote:
    “I think you created a false dichotomy: to use ‘NFP’ OR to ‘allow God to truly manifest His plan in their lives’. This simply is not true. It is possible to live according to Gods will AND to use NFP. Every cycle you can sincerely ask God what is his will.”

    Some defenders of NFP will word this point differently: “NFP is the via media between the use of contraceptive drugs, devices, or surgeries and having as many children as physically possible.” However, non-regulated birth in marriage does not necessarily mean having as many children as physically possible. It simply means accepting children as the blessings that they are. Why would anyone regularly (for example, monthly) regulate the reception of blessings (especially the miraculous blessing of existence to the child)? Perhaps some grave reason may arise whereby a child could not be welcomed by a particular family at a certain time. In this circumstance, the Church permits the use of NFP.

    Otherwise, let the blessings increase! Our mission is to populate heaven for the greater glory of God.

    Thank you, Dr. Jay!

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  18. "Our mission is to populate heaven for the greater glory of God." Amen, Fr. Gardner! So often now when I see the families of my own sons and daughters-in-law, I "see" the missing children, and I am sorrowful!

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  19. I want to be absolutely clear:

    1. I agree that children are blessing from God.
    2. I agree that couples have a moral duty to discern the will of God for their marriage.
    3. I see the NFP as the way how to cooperate with Gods will for our marriage.
    4. I see no moral problem with NFP accepted with generous opennes to a new life.
    5. I think that the Theology of the body is one of the most important papal teaching in the last century. I studied it. I read all the most important works of Karol Wojtyla about marriage, family and sexuality, and almost everything written on TOB in English and in Italian. I think it is an authentic development od Catholic teaching fully in accordance with true tradition.
    6. I see no reason why believe dr. Boyd in her interpretation of Catholic teaching on family planning and not the Popes John Paul II, Paul VI and Benedict XVI.
    7. I think that the interpretation of dr. Boyd is not in accordance with the authentic papal magisterium of the Church.
    8. I met this kind of insensitive irony and mockery versus NFP as presented in this blog only in very hard contraception promoters.
    9. The NFP couples I know, mostly NFP instructors, are the most generous and holy couples I met. They have many children.
    10. I am not interested in unendless discussions about "grave reasons etc." I dont want to provocate more hate, disunity etc. I have seen enought.

    Sometimes is better to lose.

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  20. I'm sorry you see it as a matter of winning or losing. I see it as a matter of discerning the Truth.

    I am not trying to mock NFP-using couples. I know most if not all are trying to follow Church teaching. I have a problem with people who criticize what I have written without having first read it, though, and some critics have admitted that they have not read the book.

    I don't see this point of view as my "interpretation", either. I draw my ideas largely from the traditional teachings of the Church and have tried to examine the promotion and use of NFP in light of those teachings.

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  21. Karel,
    I agree that the Theology of the Body is one of the most important( group of) papal teachings in the last century. But I fear that you are the one who is misinterpreting Paul VI and JPII.
    The church has always taught that the ordinary duty of married couples is to be open to life and that it is God’s will for married couples to have children unless a serious reason presents itself. In fact married couples don’t have to prayerfully consider whether they should have another child unless they are practicing NFP to avoid a child in which case they have a moral obligation to prayerfully discern each month if they still have a serious reason.
    TOB is a collection of reflections by JPII on marital love. His writings develop doctrine regarding this. Just because he is writing about one thing doesn’t negate the Church’s teachings on other things. I think it matters how you read it. If you read it in the light of all previous teaching on marriage then there is no problem. I think the passages in TOB regarding “responsible parenthood” refer to taking on one’s responsibility and facing your responsibilities with love and trust in God and using your intelligence and free will to say yes to God. Not acting like a victim. The problem is that there can be multiple definitions of “responsible parenthood.” But the only acceptable one is the one that is in keeping with the doctrinal history of the Church.
    I also wonder if you are married. Do you understand how insane it makes people to be praying monthly to discern if they should have another baby? Parenthood is hard and the society we live in is completely and utterly against having children. So why not encourage couples not to worry, instead of laying this heavy burden on them?

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  22. Here is some food for thought. A liberal priest I used to know thought the Church needed to overrule Humanae vitae and allow contraceptives, on the basis that the Church permits NFP. He thought it stupid for the Church to permit NFP and forbid contraceptives, when the intention behind them both was exactly the same. Many will say that the intent is not the same, but frankly, I can see (a) why many people would think it is, and (b) that it could in fact be the same in given cases.

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  23. Dear Sue et al.,
    I think there is no substantial diagreement between us. There is no possibility to write everything in such a small space... So, it always leads to misunderstanding. From my reactions you simply cannot deduce my (mis)representation of JPI or Paul VI. simply because you have no information about my attitudes, writings and publications on this topic.

    I agree that opennes to a new life should be a basic/normal attitude of every couple.

    What is bothering me is the interpretation of NFP as the Trojan Horse, that is, something suspicious, something "tollerated only" as "something not so good", and potentially dangerous etc.

    I think we neglect our (your) situation in the United States and in other developed countries. Acccordind to recent data, the NFP is used only by 0.2% of Catholic couples. SO, NFP is not the problem, the problem is contraception.

    The acceptance of NFP, even with non-perfect, sometimes selfish reasons is blessing, not the curse. Because NFP is a virtuous activity, self-control out of (no-yet-perfect) love. Contraception is NEVER virtuous. NFP is very demanding. It is extremely difficult to use it for selfish reasons only, because it requires a lot of sacrifice.

    NFP can change the hearts of men and women. It can change their attitudes toward children, even be the cause of their greater opennes to children.

    The use of NFP and periodic abstinence in general, can be deeply spiritual life-style. I have seen that many times. I wrote my doctoral thesis (Ph.D.) on psychology of NFP.

    I think that the promotion of the TOB (as THE vision of marriage according to design of God) and the NFP (as possibility for couples in need) are of the most efficient means for new evangelization of families.

    The NFP is relatively recent origin. First pre-scientific "methods" were developed in 1850-. And the Church accepted it immediately (1853). John Smulders published the first version of NFP (calendar/rhythm) method as a book in 1930, followed by Ogino (1930) and Latz (1932). The Church accepted it immediately (1932). Josef Roetzer developed first version of the sympto-thermal method of NFP in 1951. And the Pope Pius XII accepted it immeddiately in this year, as he mentioned in one of his speeches. In late 1950s John and Evely Billings developed the Ovulation method. In 1965 Roetzer publisher first formal description of the sympto-thermal method. An the Church accepted it immediately in Humane vitae in 1968.

    Yes, the is no reference on "NFP" or "responsible parenthood" in Church fathers and Magisterium until 1853. But the reason is that there was no method of NFP available. Only wide scale of contraceptive method since antiquity (coitus interruptus, herbal means, etc.). The Church always teached the immorality of contraception, but she accepted the NFP very quickly as great help for couples in need.

    Last thing: yes, NFP and contraception may have the same intention, but the difference is in the "object of moral act", see CCC 1757-1759). The intention "not to have another child" may be just. You can use contraception (wrong/evil mean) with just intention. Or you can youse NFP (good mean) with just intention. The first possiblity is evil, the second good.

    Of course, you can use NFP (good mean) with wrong intention. But this situation is probably very rare. And, it is NEVER "contraception" from moral point of view.

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  24. I think the description of NFP as a "trojan horse" is apt because it appears initially as something beneficial and good but contains a threatening ingredient. [I have not purchased nor read Jay's book-yet].

    It is the widespread marketing/promotion in the USA of NFP as a church approved "(Catholic) birth control" that makes NFP such a danger. Such an acceptance by the local, institutional churches has resulted in much confusion about the Church's position on BC with many errantly believing that the Church accepts (or at least tolerates) BC. This occurs in the context of society's widespread promotion of BC for women as well as the devious denigration of the serious vocation of motherhood. The family in the US has been under attack for a long time via the use of seemingly admirable topics (e.g., equal rights for women, BC, domestic violence [a subtle attack on men/husbands], gay rights, and most recently "marriage equality").

    The attack on the family over the years has been a boiling frog scenario. The heat has been turned up slowly over the past few decades so that few are aware of what has been happening. It is virtually almost unthinkable to raise a daughter in the US today to be a homemaker (wife and mother). Such an act would be considered by much of society to be "abuse."

    It seems like a lot of the "discussion" about BC and NFP is about how the techniques are implemented. However, what is really important is the result of wide spread use of BC techniques: selfishness and a gravitation towards materialism; also, a tendency to rely on oneself rather than trust in God. For example, in the Book of Joshua, everytime the Israelites relied on God (e.g., Jericho), they met with success. When the acted without God (e.g., first attack on Ai, treaty with Gibeon)unfortunate complications arose.

    It is the 'birth control mentality" that is the significant issue, and NFP contributes to the development of that attitude despite NFP's best intentions.

    One may argue for NFP by citing its many benefits but those are not in question. Rather, it is the social impact of widespread use of BC that is significant. Unfortunately, despite Humanae Vitae, the Church has missed the point and focused on artificial BC instead of the larger battle against materialism, etc.

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  25. Amen, fRED. Even the NFP promoters are saying that NFP isn't the problem because so few couples actually use it. But then, why does the USCCB promote it so much? Why do many parishes and diocese require NFP training for pre-marriage classes? By so doing, they are perpetuating the birth control mentality, and, as you say, the insidious culprit of materialism.

    NFP is still birth control, and the Church has never accepted birth control per se. Avoidance of pregnancy for serious reasons, yes; but ONLY for serious/grave reasons. Materialistic thinking, ingrained in our society, has tended to dilute the "serious reasons".

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  26. Anita, interesting observation about the liberal priest. And I think non-Catholics looking at the situation see it the same way: "what's the difference?" I have had two non-Catholic women ask me that. It's hard to make a valid point about it without feeling like one is splitting hairs and manipulating language to paint NFP in a postive light and justify Church "acceptance" of it. I still think the Church really only tolerates NFP, and promotion of it is a disservice to the faithful.

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  27. Dr. S, I would like to read your dissertation. Is it available in English?

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  28. Great post.

    1. Regarding the publication of your book: Congratulations! I will take a look on Amazon.

    2. Regarding the angry reactions to criticism of NFP, I can say that the experience of losing all your former friends and experiencing dramatic attacks seems to be the inevitable result. After my article on "Humanae Vitae" when "The Wanderer" published a special edition just to attack me as "Pope John Galvin I," I was pleased that my article received so much attention. But that was only the beginning and the least of the assaults by the devil. My entire life was completely turned upside down.

    It's like poking around in your backyard to find the nest of yellowjackets. When you poke this particular hole, the devils all come swarming out. Which shows, I believe, how important it is for the spiritual life. If the devil can keep people living a lifestyle of "Catholic birth control," then he knows he has nothing to fear.

    On the other hand, if you can get past this issue, then the possibility of a real spiritual life opens up for you, and the devil becomes very concerned. It's like the story of the one devil sitting on the wall of a great city kicking his heels because he had nothing to do. There was no one left to tempt. But in a tiny village there was a holy man surrounded by hundreds of demons.

    All those people who are practicing birth control, whether it is "natural" or unnatural, are citizens of that great city. But one person practicing true generosity with God and giving God everything and allowing everything from God that He wants to send us, that one person is more of a threat to the devil than the millions of others.

    3. Regarding the NFP statistics, you are correct that the whole NFP enterprise is simply a Potemkin Village designed to soothe consciences and allow people to fool themselves. There is no there there, as Gertrude Stein would say. The reality is that virtually no one at all is using NFP. And so all those millions of families attending the New Mass with their 1, 2, or 3 children did not get that way "naturally" for the most part. But does the pastor want to tell himself, "All my parishioners are going to hell"? Instead he salves his conscience with the false nostrum of NFP.

    4. Lastly, let me commend you for hitting the nail on the head when you identify the "personalist and existentialist language of Vatican II and post-Vatican II documents" as one of the main sources of the evil. This philosophy is simply not compatible with the Catholic Faith, and it is impossible to build a solid moral practice and/or a solid spiritual life on such a foundation of sand.

    Just like the "Planned Parenthood" of Margaret Sanger was repackaged for Catholics as "Responsible Parenthood," so in a similar way the "Humanism" of modern secular society was repackaged for Catholics as "Personalism." It's about Man, not about God. God is the rock upon which we can build a spiritual house that will not wash away in the flood, while Man is the sand upon which we can build only a pretend house that cannot stand in the day of tribulation.
    -John Galvin

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  29. Well written dr. Boyd! I just wish you wouldn't stop at condemning nfp. Surely you agree that no marital embrace outside of the ovulation period should be allowed? This means of course that it also should be completely forbidden after menopause, since it isn't procreative. The ovulation period must be determined by a physician and not the couple themselves, to avoid fraud. I haven't read your book yet, but I am sure you think like I do.

    Best wishes and keep fighting nfp like only you can!

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  30. Wow, lots of great comments, and very stimulating discussion!

    I would like to agree in particular with the comment where fRed said "NFP allows middle-class RC women in the US to be "good" RCs while simultaneously participating in the secular values. NFP is a facade to appear RC while actually practicing the values of materialism."

    This is the crux of the matter. The first step in the spiritual life is to choose between God and the world. One cannot choose both. "A man cannot serve two masters." St. Louis de Montfort said that if we follow the fashions and practices and maxims of the world, then we ARE of the world, and we cannot expect God to recognize us when we come to our judgment.

    First we choose between God and the world, and once we have chosen God, then next we must reject all the compromises with the world. NFP is the epitome of trying to have one's cake and eat it too. We want to enjoy all the pleasures of the world while still preserving our chance for heaven.
    -John Galvin

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  31. The comment by Samantha, while intended to be derisive and sarcastic, hides a legitimate question about the validity of continuing marital relations when it's not likely to be procreative. By asking this, I believe she points out one of the significant problems with NFP.

    A couple who do not practice NFP make a commitment on their wedding day to accept children lovingly from God, and so every one of their instances of marital relations participates in a procreative intention. Just as Pope Pius XII said that the "marital right" is "permanent, continuous, and uninterrupted," so also their procreative intention is "permanent, continuous and uninterrupted." Therefore they never need to have any qualms of conscience.

    Later on when they have passed the usual years of fertility, they can continue to enjoy their marital rights with a perfectly clear conscience because they know that their intention of procreation has always been "permanent, continuous and uninterrupted" whether or not conception was likely in any particular instance or at any particular time period.

    But such is not the case for those who have practiced "periodic abstinence." During their years of fertility they were picking and choosing when they thought that conception might be appropriate according to their own ideas and desires. So when the time comes in their lives that conception is unlikely, they cannot honestly tell themselves that their marital acts share in a "continuous, permanent and uninterrupted" sequence of intentions which were always oriented towards the will of God.
    -John Galvin

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  32. John, thanks for joining the discussion! You've made your usual excellent points. You know the dangers of treading in these waters; I'd appreciate your prayers!

    Samantha Sarcasm, wow. I'll answer you seriously, though. I think a married couple should, in general, just love each other and let "nature take its course"; no need to be overly concerned about when ovulation is occurring. As for post-menopausal marital embrace, wouldn't you think that by that time the couple might have figured out other, deeper ways to share and show their love than the marital act itself? I would hope so. And if they have been truly open to life in every marital act prior to that, then they have nothing to worry about in terms of continuing to engage in that act. Their intention has always been to be open to God's will regarding children in their life, and that intention doesn't disappear when menopause kicks in. (I know there are lots of stories about "post-menopausal" women who became pregnant! Sarah being a prime example...). (And thanks, John, for sharing this perspective with me! ;-)

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  33. "I know there are lots of stories about "post-menopausal" women who became pregnant! Sarah being a prime example..."

    A woman in our parish who is 48 just had another child. In general, such events are examples of "to those who have, more will be given, while to those who have not, what little they have will be taken away."

    There are obvious physical reasons why a woman who is already the mother of a large family is much more likely to conceive again in her forties than a woman with no children who suddenly wants to start a family when it's too late. A woman in her forties who has been either pregnant or breastfeeding for most of the past 20 years has not ovulated very often. But a woman in her forties who has been ovulating every month has already exhausted her fertility before she even had a child.

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  34. HA! John, I believe we posted our comments about Samantha at the same time - and I was quoting you anyway!

    Anonymous - I never even thought of it that way - about a woman who has had multiple pregnancies having ovulated much less than a woman of the same age with no children. Makes perfect sense.

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  35. Who is being sarcastic? I can assure you that I'm not. I'm sorry that I obviously misjudged you. Thanks anyway.

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  36. To dr. Boyd:

    1. If you think that “the most if not all [NFP-using couples] are trying to follow Church teaching", WHY you wrote the book: „NFP: Trojan Horse...?“

    2. If you think “if there are truly “serious reasons” for avoiding pregnancy, complete abstinence for a period of time is always an option“, why you wrote that you admit the use of NFP in such a case?
    Could you indicate 3 examples of moral use of NFP in marriage?

    3. How do you define the term „contraception“? And „birth control“? And „contraceptive mentality“?

    4. According your definition, the NFP for pregnancy avoidance is necessarily a „contraception“? If YES, what is the moral difference between NFP and other kinds of „contraception“? If not, what „contraceptive“ is on „non-contraception“ (the NFP used with contraceptive intention is contradiction of terms?).

    4. You criticize the use of NFP for non-grave reasons. Thus, you criticize the sexual abstinence in fertile period for non-grave reasons?

    5. The complete sexual abstinence may be abused, that is used with contraceptive mentality?

    6. Is there a moral obligation to try to procreate (to have sexual intercourse in fertile period) in absence of grave reasons?

    7. How strong this obligation is? (What is the valid reason NOT to have sexual intercourse in fertile period in absence of grave reasons? Headache? Business trip? Lack of privacy?

    8. During the menstrual cycle there is only a short period of fertility, “fertile window” (max. 6 days), in sub-fertile couples (not so rare case) even shorter. So, without fertility observation there is always a risk to “skip” those most fertile days of the cycle. With knowing this, is there a moral obligation to observe fertility (to use NFP for better chance of conception)?

    Because without NFP use, you simply risk that the whole cycle will be without possibility to conceive.

    IF there is strong moral obligation to try to procreate in absence of grave reasons,
    THEN there is moral obligation to use NFP for pregnancy achievement, because without it, it could be a sin of omission. OR?

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  37. Dr. S:

    1. Because while those couples are trying to follow the teachings of the Church, NFP has misrepresented those teachings, and the couples are being led away from God’s will.
    2. I admit the use of NFP for serious reasons because recent teachings of the Church allow it, and periodic abstinence has been a longstanding licit means of avoiding pregnancy when serious needs exist.
    3. and 4.a (you have two points labeled “4”) This would be a long answer. Suffice to say that I do not think NFP is contraception per se. It is, however, a means of controlling the number of births, therefore it is birth control. Even though NFP is not contraception, I do not believe the term “contraceptive mentality” is a “contradiction of terms”. But to satisfy NFP-ers who object to the term, I suggest we use “birth control mentality”.
    4. (your second #4) Yes. I “criticize” such abstinence when it is orchestrated, intentional, and is used for the avoidance of pregnancy when serious reasons are NOT present.
    5. Yes, complete abstinence COULD be abused.
    6. There is a moral duty for a married couple to be willing to procreate. That does not imply that they must try to achieve pregnancy in every fertile period. It means allowing God to decide how many children they produce.
    7. This kind of question borders on silly. Married couples are not obligated to engage in the marital act. Nature has a way of making sure it takes place at certain times. If one spouse desires the marital embrace, the other should attempt to accommodate him/her out of justice; that’s my understanding of the duty of spouses to each other. On the other hand, if one spouse does NOT want to engage in the marital embrace (due to headache or whatever), it would seem virtuous for the other spouse to take that into consideration and perhaps forego the marital embrace at that time.
    8. No. There’s no obligation on a married couple to make sure they engage in the marital embrace at each and every fertile moment! The obligation is that the intent in every marital act is open to the possibility of conception. That doesn’t mean there is an obligation to know when the woman is fertile. It means that with God, all things are possible, and a woman could become pregnant even if she thinks it’s not the fertile time (she could be mistaken for example, or the doctor who told her she – or her husband – was infertile could be mistaken).
    About your final comment: Not using NFP could not be a sin of omission. There is no obligation to attempt to achieve pregnancy in every cycle. God is in control! He made men and women to be attractive to each other; he instituted the sacrament of matrimony to accommodate and sanctify that attraction and the resultant procreative act. Married couples can just love each other, let their emotions and libidos direct their use of the marital embrace, and allow God to manage the conception of new lives.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. Thank you. It is much clearer.

    The only thing we have to determine are the "serious reasons". There is no "objective" definition of it. Every couple could have very different potential to cope with difficulties of their relational, economic, health etc. situation. There could be even difference between husband and wife, how they perceive the situation.

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  40. There have been some more stringent guidelines spoken of by popes prior to Vatican II, and our current selfish culture will condone much more than those popes had in mind, I'm afraid. "How they perceive the situation" brings it down to the level of moral relativism.

    I also think we disagree on more than "serious reasons"!

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  41. You wrote:

    "... if one spouse does NOT want to engage in the marital embrace (due to headache or whatever), it would seem virtuous for the other spouse to take that into consideration and perhaps forego the marital embrace at that time."

    I think you could apply this "logic of love" or "logic of virtue" on moral NFP use.

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  42. Dr. Boyd. It wouldn't hurt with an apology on your part. I took offence when you called me Samantha Sarcasm.

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  43. Samantha, I certainly apologize if I misjudged the intent of your comment! Obviously I was not the only one who took it as sarcasm, but if you say it was not, I will take you at your word.

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  44. Apology accepted. I will continue my struggle elsewhere.

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  45. Karel wrote: " if one spouse does NOT want to engage in the marital embrace (due to headache or whatever), it would seem virtuous for the other spouse to take that into consideration and perhaps forego the marital embrace at that time."

    I think you could apply this "logic of love" or "logic of virtue" on moral NFP use."

    No, there is a crucial difference between the two situations. One is a temporary inconvenience. The other is a denial of a fundamental right which results in the frustration of the primary purpose of marriage.

    You could compare it to a bank, a small bank with only one teller, and when you come to get your money, the teller is out eating lunch. Then you come back a few minutes later and get your money. This was not a denial of your rights nor did it frustrate the purpose of having a bank in the first place.

    But if you come to the bank and they refuse to give you your money, then this is theft. This is a denial of your right to your money. This frustrates the primary purpose for having a bank.

    But let's say that there is a bank (again a very small bank) which has money available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, So you say to yourself, "Okay, I will just plan ahead to make sure I am ready to go to the bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But when you go to the bank, they tell you that they are closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they are only open on Mondays and Wednesdays.

    "This is crazy," you say. "The bank is only open on Mondays and Wednesdays, but it only has money on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so the bank is never open when it has money. You are denying me the right to access my money."

    "On no we're not," says the bank. You can come in any Monday or Wednesday and we will be happy to talk to you. And we would be happy to give you your money on any Tuesday or Thursday if only the bank weren't closed on those days."

    As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "That's some catch, that Catch-22."

    Pope Pius XII said that such a denial of marital rights by one party to the marriage could even invalidate the marriage:

    "If one of the parties contracted marriage with the intention of limiting the matrimonial right itself to the periods of sterility, and not only its use, in such a manner that during the other days the other party would not even have the right to ask for the debt, than this would imply an essential defect in the marriage consent, which would result in the marriage being invalid, because the right deriving from the marriage contract is a permanent, uninterrupted and continuous right of husband and wife with respect to each other."

    -John Galvin

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    1. "such a denial of marital rights". This is NOT the case of NFP use for morally just reasons. Read the other part of the papal alocution.

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    2. I know that English is not your first language, and so I thank you for the extra effort you are making to engage in a constructive discussion. I might point out, however, that your reply is dismissive, rude and misses the point of the original post.

      As for "the other part of the papal allocution," we should remember that it is not the case that the "marital rights" are possessed simply between the two partners. Pope Pius XII said rather "The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages," and therefore they have a right to expect that they not be defrauded. The number of people coming to the window of the bank and being turned away and denied their rights are much greater than just two. Society, the Church, even God Himself are coming up to the window of the bank and are being told "the bank is only open when there isn't any money and there is only any money whenever the bank is not open." What Pope Pius XII called "a sin against the very nature of married life" has resulted in population collapse in every formerly Christian nation. We are just beginning to witness the catastrophic consequences of the failure to fulfill the primary purpose of marriage.

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  46. To simplify things even further, when we examine the several long lists of numbered questions submitted by Karel, they appear to be questions about the feasibility of questioning the NFP project. However, a closer look reveals that every one of these casuistic issues is created by the "contraceptive mentality" embedded in NFP. There are no such questions for the "providentialist" couple.

    Two young Catholics get married. On the day of their wedding they agree to accept whatever children God sends them. Then they don't think about it again. They don't worry about fertility cycles, either pro or con. They don't make any temperature charts or measure their mucus or try to count to 14. They are relieved from the entire burden of stress. They don't have an obligation to have as many children as possible any more than they have an option to exclude children while still enjoying the privileges of the matrimonial state. These questions never come up. They just do what comes naturally and accept the consequences.

    To modern man who wants to control every aspect of his own life, this approach might seem unthinkable. The reality, however, is that this is the way that most people have lived throughout history, and it continues to be the only way in which married men and women can enjoy God's blessings and free themselves from the needless anxiety that destroys peace of soul.

    -John Galvin

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  47. All of the many casuistic questions raised by NFP proponents can be compared to a man who is engaged in financial speculation when someone comes along and tells him, "Usury is a mortal sin."

    The man's mindset is so completely imbued with the spirit of making money from money that he says,

    "If you tell me that usury is wrong, that means that you must have another, even more complicated system of making money from money which you call something other than 'usury.' Tell me how your system works and what are all the complications and in what way you manage to make a profit without falling under the sin of usury."

    But the other man answers, "No, I have no other complicated system that makes money from money without calling it usury. I simply earn my bread by the sweat of my brow and I live a simple, frugal life without any of the luxuries that I could buy if I were to make money from money."

    The first man says, "I borrow money at 5% and lend it out at 10% and so the more money I can borrow, the more profit I can make. You must have some sort of system which involves some even more brilliant scheme which might even make me happier if I could make money without the stress and headaches of my current usury business."

    But the other man answers, "No, I don't borrow at either 5% or 10% nor do I lend any money at interest. I don't make any profits in this world, but only in the next. I don't know of any brilliant way to make your own system work even better, I simply live a completely different kind of life."

    -John Galvin

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  48. Dr. Boyd: you are inconsistent: you simply cannot accept "the NFP for morally just reasons" AND the "absolute providentialism for all" of John Galvin.

    You have to choose: Pope or Galvin? :)

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    1. The true choice we must make is the choice presented by Moses: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

      Today's Catholics are choosing death -- spiritual death by committing mortal sins, physical death by failing to fulfill the primary purpose of marriage.

      Will you join them in death, or will you be like Joshua and say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the lord."?

      Why are you afraid? Trust in God. As Pope Pius XII said in his "Address to Large Families":

      "But God also visits large families with His Providence, and parents, especially those who are poor, give clear testimony to this by resting all their trust in Him when human efforts are not enough. A trust that has a solid foundation and is not in vain! Providence — to put it in human words and ideas — is not a sum total of exceptional acts of divine pity; it is the ordinary result of harmonious activity on the part of the infinite wisdom, goodness and omnipotence of the Creator. God will never refuse a means of living to those He calls into being."

      -John Galvin

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  49. False dichotomy, Fr. Skocovsky! I can accept that the Church CURRENTLY permits periodic continence in the form of NFP; I hope and believe that this will be clarified somewhere down the line, and "grave reasons" will be defined more closely. I also hope that the immodesty and un-chastity encouraged by some promoters of NFP will be corrected, and that NFP will be seen as an emergency provision, not as a "life-style". NFP is NOT required of couples, and not every word every said or written by JPII is to be considered "infallible". I think John Galvin makes very good points, and if one considers those analogies, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that NFP is a Trojan horse in the Catholic bedroom that encourages a contraceptive (birth control) mentality, and neglects to foster an appreciation of the value of the little lives and souls that a couple denies existence by intentionally orchestrating their marital embrace to exclude the fertile times.

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  50. Heh heh...DR, I meant! I've ordained you before your time!

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  51. Well, "NFP is NOT required of couples, and not every word every said or written by JPII is to be considered "infallible".

    I agree. I never wrote that.

    What I see from my limited experience is that the so called "providentialiam" sometimes (not alwas) is a lack of self-control (inability to control libido) on side of a husband, masked as "marital debt", and permanent fear of pregnancy and impossibility to relax during marital embrace on side of a wife.

    As I wrote, I strongly oppose the use of NFP for selfish reasons, I never met anyone in NFP-professionals group who would promote this approach. The NFP-instructors I know are the most faithful and generous couples with over-everage number of children and opennes to a new life. All of them are "funs" for large families. They welcome children as blessing. They love the Church.

    Of course I agree with the possibility of "non-planning providentialism", if accepted with liberty, love, and virtue of prudence on both sides. It CAN be a vocation for selected couples. But not every couple is able to educate and take care of 6, 7 or 12 children. There are periods of exhaustion, bad health, financial insecurity. In such a case, the NFP chosen after solid moral discernment, may be extremely helpful.

    This is my experience. To find a "traditional" Catholic who is able co communicate with patience, understanding, sense of humour, without demeaning jokes is very rare experience.

    Of course, both sides are sinners... But we have to learn how to live together and not to combat one against other as do pagans.

    Dear Jay, if I may ask you to delete the "holy cow" joke - which I find extremely demeaning - I would be very happy.

    This discussion was very interesting for me. I strongly disagree with your interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage, NFP, TOB etc. But it is, I hope, a friendly disagreement.

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  52. Karel wrote: "What I see from my limited experience is that the so called "providentialiam" sometimes (not always) is a lack of self-control (inability to control libido) on side of a husband, masked as "marital debt", and permanent fear of pregnancy and impossibility to relax during marital embrace on side of a wife."

    At last the real agenda is revealed -- Those Catholics who pretend to follow true Catholic tradition and accept children lovingly from God and who pretend to embrace the joyful spirit of Pope Pius XII's "Address to Large Familes" rather than searching for loopholes are in reality just hypocrites who actually are sex-crazed brutes enslaving their wives.

    Believe me, anyone who actually has a family of 12 children faces this kind of prejudice on a daily basis and the worst of it comes from the modern Catholics who have accepted family planning. Secular people just think of you as an oddity like the Duggars or the Amish, but modern Catholic priests who have justified birth control in their hearts and in their advice to their parishioners have a personal animosity and an active agenda to discredit you.

    I'm not sure how a seminarian could have seen from his experience the "impossibility to relax during marital embrace on side of a wife," but I assure you that precisely the opposite is the case, and that it is NFP that causes "permanent fear of pregnancy" and makes it "impossible to relax," and that there are no such inhibitions for "providentialists."

    Karel has revealed what is obvious to anyone who studies the matter that at the root of the NFP project are anti-Catholic stereotypes which present the Catholic father as a sex maniac and the mother as an oppressed drudge. In a movie like "My Left Foot" which is set in Ireland, you see these prejudices used against Catholics by Protestants, but since "Humanae Vitae" these same prejudices have become institutionalized in the modern Catholic Church against all those who still believe and practice what was taught by Pope Pius XII in 1958, the last year of his reign and only 4 years before Vatican II.

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  53. I forgot to post my name at the end. -John Galvin

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  54. No, John, it is not my prejudice. When the wife tells you that she has permament fear of pregnancy, it is not my prejudice.

    I have no prejudice against large familes. I ALWAYS supported them, defended them. And, I always will.

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    1. "When the wife tells you that she has permament fear of pregnancy, it is not my prejudice."

      You are not talking to "providentialist" women. By your own description you live and work in a different milieu. Your description is accurate for NFP-using women but it is not accurate for women who "accept children lovingly from God." You are confusing two totally different kinds of people -- those who accept what comes from God's divine providence and those who do not.

      In our parish of traditional Catholics all the women who already have large families are trying hard to have more children before their time runs out. It is exactly the opposite of your prejudice which you get from talking to NFP-using women combined with anti-Catholic stereotypes.

      To compare it to a non-Catholic example, think of Orthodox Jewish women such as the Hasidim. Do they live in "permanent fear of preganancy"? No, they very much desire more children from God, even when they already have a large family. There are other non-Orthodox Jewish women who have only 2 or 3 children but live in "permanent fear of pregnancy" because they don't want any more. It is a serious error to confuse these two groups.

      "I have no prejudice against large familes. I ALWAYS supported them, defended them. And, I always will."

      Even when you put "always" in ALL CAPS it doesn't make it true. Just yesterday right here on this blog you repeated slanders against large traditional Catholic families. That does not equal "supported and defended them."

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  55. Karel wrote: "Of course I agree with the possibility of "non-planning providentialism", if accepted with liberty, love, and virtue of prudence on both sides. It CAN be a vocation for selected couples."

    I believe this attitude is completely wrong. Accepting children lovingly from God is the essence of marriage; it is not an option that MAY be approved after you have pronounced judgment upon the virtue of the couple.

    Procreation and education of children is the primary purpose of marriage. All other purposes must remain secondary to this primary purpose. To interfere with this primary purpose is something that can only be justified in extreme circumstances.

    But you have reversed the situation. You have placed interference with the primary purpose of marriage as the default, and you have made God's plan for mankind to be fruitful and multiply into a possible option which you might allow only under certain conditions.

    When Pope Pius XII delivered his "Allocution to Midwives" there were at that time still millions of people displaced by WWII living in camps and places of transit. During the next few decades there were millions of Catholics living behind the Iron Curtain. Even today there are many Catholics living in Communist China who may face life-threatening persecution if they have another child.

    These people have "grave reasons" to practice periodic continence. Catholics living in affluent Western countries generally do not. Making the right judgment on this question is not a small matter. Pope Pius XII said that it is "a sin against the very nature of married life" to avoid the primary duty of marriage without sufficiently grave reasons.

    -John Galvin

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  56. As I was writing the above message, it occurred to me that often it is difficult to communicate across the divide between providentialists and NFP supporters because we start from different first principles. Our generosity in accepting children from God (or lack thereof) is primarily a symptom of our larger view of God and of life. One point of view makes sense to the person living in one world, and the other point of view makes sense to the person living in the other world, and only with great difficulty can they communicate with each other because for each of them their own view is apodictic.

    About 10 years ago I wrote an essay for a newsletter of "Simple Living for Catholics" which explains some of my own mindset, and perhaps that of other providentialists as well. It is available on the internet at this link:

    http://www.seattlecatholic.com/article_20031118.html

    This is the conclusion of the article:

    "Religious live out vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and Catholic families likewise live out these same virtues in a way appropriate for our own state in life. Simple living for Catholic families can be a protest against the materialist values of modern consumer society. It can be a way to afford to live a life of grace, since material concerns too often crowd out any attempt at a spiritual life. It can be a way to live out the virtue of generosity in accepting children, since those who chase after material success generally find themselves unable to "afford" more children. It can be a way to live out a spirit of self-sacrifice and mortification.
    But it can only be these things if we put grace first, if we are Catholic first, if we make prayer and the sacraments our first priorities, if we make the effort every day to discern the will of God in our lives and to live out whatever He wants for us, not what we want for ourselves."

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  57. John Said, "I believe this attitude is completely wrong. Accepting children lovingly from God is the essence of marriage; it is not an option that MAY be approved after you have pronounced judgment upon the virtue of the couple."

    Exactly right. And of course, the growth in virtue comes with the acceptance of children. Couples need to dig in their heels and say. We're just going to have children come what may. With that attitude it would easy to discern real "serious reasons" should they occur.

    "Believe me, anyone who actually has a family of 12 children faces this kind of prejudice on a daily basis and the worst of it comes from the modern Catholics who have accepted family planning"

    This is so absolutely true. At least in my case. Not from the secular world, from other "Orthodox" Catholics.

    "What I see from my limited experience is that the so called "providentialiam" sometimes (not alwas) is a lack of self-control (inability to control libido) on side of a husband, masked as "marital debt", and permanent fear of pregnancy and impossibility to relax during marital embrace on side of a wife."

    READS LIKE: a line out of Margaret Sanger's Eugenics playbook.

    But granting that there is such a woman.
    Then this couple has serious problems and her fear of children is a symptom of something far deeper. NFP is not the panacea for marital problems. It will only mask the symptoms for a while. They need a good priest and a good marriage counselor.
    I sort have to laugh about this characterization of providentialism as an excuse for a lack of self control on the part of the husband...
    Do you have any idea what it is like to live in a house with a bunch of small children? When you do actually get a some privacy from them all when no one is sick or having a nightmare or colic, you find you are both just too exhausted.
    The truth is quite the opposite, the father of a large family must have a lot self control.

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  58. I read over what I wrote. I wasn't intending to be be mean referring to Margaret Sanger but this argument about men without self-control and women fearing children is exactly the argument she puts forth in her autobiography.

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  59. Thank you all for your comments. I think this is a fruitful discussion...for me at least!

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  60. Dear John (Galvin), if I wrote something insensitive against your family, I want to apologize for it.

    I had no idea of your "backgroud". Let me tell you again: I really apprecitare big families. I love them. I wanded to have such a big family. Fortunately, God called me to Catholic priesthood to have much bigger family. :)

    And, I would like to ask you: at least try to understand my background: I come form the Czech Republic, we had to face 40 years of communism. The Catholic Church in our country is in minority.

    At least try to presume my good will. I invested my last 15 years into study of theology of marriage, NFP, TOB, family promotion etc.

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  61. Dear Dr. Skocovsky:
    Thank you for your kind comments. They are appreciated very much. I do recognize your good will and good intentions. That's why I invested the effort to discuss these issues with you. I apologize that I got too heated.

    In your role in the priesthood you will be able to influence a very large number of people. This is a great privilege but also a great responsibility for which God will hold you accountable. You need to be sure that you are truly communicating to people the will of God and not just "tickling their ears" with words they want to hear.

    I do presume your good will, and I can see that it is evident in your words. I would also like to warn you, however, that "15 years of study" may or may not have led you to the truth. Someone can be a miner for 15 years and never strike gold. In God's eyes, 15 years of study might be a precious treasure, or it might be worthless in His eyes, "fool's gold" as they say. I am not directing this at you personally, any more than at anyone else, and I need to remind myself of the same thing all the time.

    -John Galvin

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