Friday, August 6, 2010

To "Charisms on Campus" on Contraception and Natural Family Planning

In a reply-turned-post, I would like to address some of the concerns brought up by "RA" of Charisms on Campus and some of her readers.

RA writes,
I need to use birth control for medical reasons and I cannot help but feel guilty and fearful for the future. ...  I find it hard to trust NFP because many women don't have regular cycles (myself included) so there could be a huge chance for error there
We are lucky to live in an age when natural methods of postponing pregnancy are no longer purely the "rhythm method," which requires regular cycles to work effectively. On the contrary, NFP science has advanced to the point where it can be used very effectively even in the post-partum period, when it's not clear for months when a woman's cycle will return. There are plenty of NFP instruction programs available for when you're ready to learn more about it.

On the other hand, charting your cycle can be extremely useful in helping determine the cause of the cycle issues. Such knowledge is not common among medical professionals, but a small minority of physicians have been trained in NaProTechnology, which aims to address these kinds of problems without resorting to oral contraceptives. I know countless women whose cycle and fertility issues have been resolved by addressing the underlying causes. 

A commenter, Deltaflute, writes,
To me to NFP for birth control, it's like using a barrier method or pull out method.
This is a legitimate concern, to be sure. Why is NFP be acceptable to postpone a pregnancy whereas artificial birth control isn't? The end is the same, right? Yes, the end is the same. However, we are called to love each other in imitation of God's love for us. What is God's love like? Completely self-giving. Christ gave Himself for us to the point of torture and death, and continues to give Himself to us completely in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity every time He enters our bodies in Holy Communion. In like manner, the spouses are to give themselves to each other completely, without holding anything back--not even their fertility. With NFP, each and every marriage act allows for the full self-giving of the spouses; their fertility is not wilfully hindered as it is with contraception. If the spouses have discerned a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy, rather than have contracepted sex they abstain during the fertile time altogether, so that they don't frustrate the marriage act by intentionally separating its unitive and procreative purposes.

Caraboska writes,
Some time ago, I was on a medication that could cause even lethal birth defects in a fetus, and unfortunately it takes 6 weeks to get it out of your system, so even stopping the minute you find out you're pregnant would not really help. Thankfully, I was and still am unmarried and celibate, so I didn't have to worry, but I admit I did wonder what I would do if I were married. I think it would be unconscionable not to use contraceptives in such a situation.
The Church proclaims the marital act as a sacred act with two purposes, unitive and procreative, which are not to be separated by our own will. This is an absolute truth which the Church has taught infallibly throughout the centuries. This means that contraception is not acceptable even when you have serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, such as a medical condition that would make pregnancy dangerous or a medication that would pose a risk to newly conceived life. The willful separation of the unitive and procreative purposes of the marital act is intrinsically evil. Periodic abstinence, on the other hand, leaves the marital act intact and may be used when a couple has serious reasons to postpone pregnancy, even indefinitely.

I do recommend reading Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae for deeper insight into the why's of the Church's teaching on contraception. You will find the full text of the encyclical here

Finally, on abortion, RA writes,
I still don't know where I stand when it comes to rape and incest...the trauma involved is so intense, I'm sure anyone would consider aborting
RA: like your first commenter, I also know someone who was conceived from a rape. Her mother rejected abortion and opted for adoption instead. This woman has done so much good for so many people that, after struggling with the reality of her conception, she has realized that God has the ability to turn something as evil as rape into something as sacred as a human life. She is eternally grateful for her life, which is a testament to God's ability to turn even the worst suffering into goodness.

Longing for God,

The Catholic Wife


  1. wow this was very informative! Thank you for taking the time to post it :) I have to do more research & mull it over, but God willing I'll understand His will soon!

    Blessings always,

  2. To add to your post in response to Caraboska: There have been times in my relationship that I have had to abstain for weeks going into months--not because I wanted to. I spent that time of longing in preparing my heart for my husband, offering it up for my children's purity and chastity, for my husband, and for those in need.

    Chastity in marriage is a good thing. Difficult at times, but when offered up with love, used by God. God gives us only what we can handle, and I can say that it helped me grow in faith.

    I choose to remain anonymous because of the nature of this post. I hope you understand!

  3. Thank you, Anonymous, for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree. We live in an age where periodic abstinence is seen as a terrible injustice, but it doesn't have to be. There are certainly spiritual fruits to be reaped when it is approached with love--love for God and love for our husbands.

    I do wish there were more support out there for couples who struggle with chastity in marriage. When we know that others have been there, done that and gotten through difficult times with their eyes on God, it can be a source of encouragement for those who have yet to navigate the waters.

  4. To Caraboska I'd also add that there is no form of contraception that is 100% effective except abstinence. Why would you take even the smallest risk of conception when there is a possibility of such side effects? Waiting the six weeks for it to clear from your system would seem to be the prudent thing to do.

  5. Umm, I don't think you guys understood what I was talking about. I am talking about having to abstain continuously for a period of five YEARS plus six weeks - because the medication had to be taken for five years continuously. You seriously think that a married couple should abstain continuously for over five YEARS?

    I am well aware that most posters here acknowledge tradition. Let me tell you something very plainly: there are many matters that if you read the Bible with tradition, you will come to the exact opposite conclusion to what you would come to if you read only the Bible.

    Jesus taught clearly in the gospels that Scripture has to come first. So I find it deeply disturbing that anyone would accept any tradition that would cause one to come to a different interpretation from that which would be arrived at by reading only the Bible.

    That is why I adhere to sola Scriptura.

  6. PS Actually, for a person with the kind of health issues that require this type of medication, and especially if the person is over 35, over 40... I would seriously consider sterilization. It's not something I would do without consulting my (future) husband - if I ever get married - but I will probably start the discussion from the standpoint that I personally think it is the best option.

  7. Caraboska, for people who need to postpone pregnancy indefinitely, using natural family planning methods to do so does not mean continuous abstinence. It simply means that the couple would abstain during the most fertile days of the woman's cycle, usually 10, maybe 14 days out of an average 28. With proper instruction, this would give effectiveness rates comparable to contraception and sterilization. Beyond that, it really is a matter of trust in God.

    "Jesus taught clearly in the gospels that Scripture has to come first."

    Really? Did he send his apostles out to *write* his teachings or to *preach* his teachings? What did the early Christians do without New Testament? And, if people interpret scripture without tradition and come to different conclusions (they do), how can they know who is right?

  8. My response got a bit lengthy, so I invite you to view my blog here:

  9. As a mixed family (I am he's not) who are nevertheless committed to Catholic teaching and principles we often feel alone.

    Ww don't use BC (unlike the majority of Catholics) and although we only have 7-10 safe days a month we don't "do other stuff" - for us and especially for my long sufferring husband abstinance means abstinance - totally.

    No- one ever talks about this ! Really are we the only ones - if not how do other couples deal with it ?