Friday, October 27, 2006

Uh oh - here I go again!

When reading a comment left on Antonia's blog where a reader was defining the definition of “artificial” contraception as taught by the Catholic Church, I was struck again by how when someone expounds on the use of NFP as a means of fulfilling the teachings of the Catholic Church’s against the use of artificial contraception, the following teachings of the church are typically neglected.

John Paul II, 14 Dec. 1990: Humanae Vitae, n. 10
Through this sense of responsibility for love and life, God the Creator invites the spouses not to be passive operators, but rather "cooperators or almost interpreters" of His plan (Gaudium et Spes, no.50). In fact, they are called out of respect for the objective moral order established by God, to an obligatory discernment of the indications of God’s will concerning their family. Thus in relationship to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood will be able to be expressed "either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a large family, or by the decision, made for serious moral reasons and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, another birth"
(For more excerpts from Church documents regarding this teaching click HERE.)

While I agree with Antonia's reader's definition that NFP is not a contraceptive, as in it does not stop the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse at any time; I find the lack of children in the pews these days an indication that within the Catholic Church NFP can be, (and quite likely is being) used in an immoral fashion.. In other words, with a contraceptive mentality.

Not only does the Church forbide the artificial means of contraception BUT one is not suppose to frivolously limit the size of their family. I think too many Catholics today have fallen for the secular mentality of materialism. The “we can’t afford to raise a large family” belief. Or they succumb to the idea that each child must be perfectly provided for with a savings account for an expensive college education, summer camps, lots of sport activities, clothes that are brand name and allow their children to hang with ’The Best’ and how are we to do that if we have more than 2 or 3 children? These parents are (possibly) well intentioned BUT have they properly and seriously attempted to complete “an obligatory discernment of the indications of God’s will concerning their family.”

So some couples begin to use NFP as a means of limiting their family without having really educated themselves with what the church teaches about when and why it is appropriate to practice NFP as a means of limiting their family size. And sadly the very success of NFP (NFP has a 99% method effectiveness, click HERE to read more statistics) has become an evil in itself, with many Catholic families believing that by using NFP (as a natural contraceptive) they have met the 'law of the church’.

On a more personal note, while I myself have given birth to twelve beautiful blessings and have six in heaven besides, I do not believe it is the duty of every family to have a family of this size. Neither does the church.

John Paul II, 14 Dec. 1990: Humanae Vitae

In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth. (9)

Rather She is calling us to prayerfully to consider when it is right and necessary to limit the size of our family. To do this we must establish an ongoing relationship with God and the regular reception of the sacrament of confession and especially the receiving of the Eucharist will help us in that regard, as will an established prayer life. If we do not seek to know God, we cannot know His will for us, or for that of our family.

I will close with a famous quote of Mother Theresa.

It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.

To this I add, it is poverty to decide that a soul will never have had the opportunity to be conceived so that we may live as we wish.


:o) said...

Beautifully written. NFP is so misunderstood.

Ian said...

I don't think that the lack of children in the pews can be attributed to an improper use of NFP. I have heard that only 5% of Catholics use it and the large families I see could account for that 5%.

M. Alexander said...

Good post. I heard a story from a Catholic nun who was waiting at the dentist's office. She was talking w/ someone and showed the lady a picture of her sister and her 9 children and proudly mentioned that her sister was expecting a new baby soon. The woman expressed her delight and Sr. said, "she's happy because she knows she is doing what God wants her to do."

Beautifully put.

I think NFP is such a trap.

Anonymous said...

I have great admiration for those with big families, however I think that it is very unfair to lump everyone who does not have more than two children in the selfish and materialistic category .Today's society makes it quite hard for many in this respect. Now a days many households find it necessary for both parents to work outside the home in order to simply keep the utilities on and the rent paid. These people are not living extravagant lives . They are trying to support the basic needs of the family that they have. As you have acknowledged many times in your blog, good jobs in the US are almost gone.Also, with the cost of the medical attention for a simple pregnancy let alone high risk ending in a C section with Heaven forbid neonatal ICU. This could rack up bills that take a lifetime to pay. Also what about once these kids are born and sent to day care so that Mom and Dad can work and afford to put food on the table? Every day you see youth on the news who have no upbringing at all because Mom and Dad ,who mean well, are doing the best that they can. I understand your point and admire you for doing what you feel is the right thing, but you really do seem to come down hard on those with small families.Yes there are many, I am sure, that are selfish and materialistic but there are just as many who are not. I know many people who would love more children, but truly can't afford it. I think that before we blame the small family in the next pew, we should make our politicians accountable for sending all of our jobs over seas. We should demand fair wages , in this country,so that we can support the basic needs of our families . Voting day is just around the corner, maybe it is time for a change !

mum2twelve said...

Oh Dear!I am sorry that I keep giving the impression that I believe every family that has only two or three children are doing this for selfish reasons. I personally do not sit in my parish judging the family next to me with only two children. But when I look at the church as a whole, and I see so many families who are sending thier Senior students to Europe for their graduation gift and buying their teens their own vehicles, or those with younger children dressed to the nines as the parents drive up to Mass in a current year for thier choice of vehicle, I have to wonder how many of us have subscribed to this lifestyle at the expence, not of aborted babies, but babies not even given the opportunity to be concieved.

Anonymous is describing grave reasons for not having more children. Again I quote John Paul II "In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth."

AS I pointed out in my post, our church asks us to prayerfully dialogue with God, what is His plan for our family. When we include God in these decisions, He leads us in the right direction. For some of us - it will mean stopping at three, for others it will mean stepping out in faith and having the fourth - believing that we are called to do so, and in answering God's call, we believe that He will provide. But all of this is contingent on including GOD in our life and our life decisions.

Elena said...

Oh Dear!I am sorry that I keep giving the impression that I believe every family that has only two or three children are doing this for selfish reasons.

You don't. It's a knee jerk reaction that's going to pop up whenever this topic appears and apparently there is no amount of careful wording that will keep it at bay.

Wonderful post. I totally agree.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, I have been enjoying your blog so much!


mum2twelve said...


I just read your story of Raphael. Thank you for sharing. I am so happy that you have had one more baby!!

Thank you for stoping by and for the support! We have lost six babies but never had we had to go more than just under four months. That is such a HUGE blessing, at least for me.


Anonymous said...

When the "Pill" was introduced in the early 1960s, American society began to suffer the tsunami-like rise of adultery, divorce, cohabitation. And, unfortunately, most Catholic parents, sooner or later, were prescribed the Pill, along with everyone else. Pope Paul VI predicted that if you allow the Pill, all these things will follow, including abortion and euthanasia. These days, most Catholics are no different from the general population in terms of birth control, cohabitation, divorce, et cetera. It's a huge stretch, however, to blame this on NFP. Really, that gives me a chuckle. How many Catholics have even HEARD of NFP, much less practice it throughout their married life. Well under 10%--Ian says around 5%--of Catholic couples have learned and practice NFP. We regularly talk to groups of engaged couples (probably majority are cohabitating) at our diocesian PreCana, and the vast majority of them have never heard of NFP, nor to the vast majority of them ever show up to sign up for NFP classes. The few married couples that we know who are familiar with NFP have larger-than-normal families, so I don't see ANY evidence of a "birth-control" mentality attributable to NFP among them. About 10 or 11% of mothers in America have four or more children. This is an anti-child society. Pope Paul VI blamed that on the birth control Pill, which--permanently it seems--separated (spiritually, intellectually, medically, and physically) sex from reproduction. He didn't blame NFP, nor JPII, because in NFP you can't separate sex from reproduction. If you insist on separating them, then why not simply use artificial birth control, like MOST Catholics do! And apparently priests will tell you it's okay. So I fear that blaming NFPers (who are a miniscule minority to begin with) for our society's declining population is really barking up the wrong tree. God bless you all!

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would have to 'come clean' about using NFP. :) I belong to a parish where I have yet to meet more than a very small handful of people out of thousands of parishoners who use NFP. We are the the 'saints' in the church...well, actually probably the freaks. I don't know.
It's interesting to come here and to other Catholic blogs and get a different perspective.
I have to say- I like it. I definately do not have a contraceptive mentality when using NFP. My husband and I have three kids so far, plus two in heaven. We hope to be blessed with many more. But, we have had serious reasons to use NFP. One reason was the health of our first child. She was born with a life-threatening tumor and heart condi.
tion that required considerable time and attention. We felt we could not have another child until we were able to find help. We found help, and ultimately a miracle worker who removed my daughter's tumor and saved her life. We used NFP during this time. The month we got back from her surgery in New York City we conceived our next baby.
Anyway, God bless all who seek His will. Thank you for keeping us mindful of this.

Kate said...

Everytime I run across this 'NFP is being used with a contraceptive mentality!' panic button I can't help but sigh. As was mentioned above, the use of contraceptives more than explains the lack of kids in the pews. Among those who care enough about Church teaching to use NFP I think we can expect that they care enough about Church teaching to discern sincerely. I won't say its impossible that someone out there is being less than open to life in their use of NFP, but that isn't likely to change until God taps them on the shoulder and changes their hearts.

In the meantime the world has no need to persecute Catholics so long as we are so willing to pick on each other.

(Feeling sensitive on behalf of all of us NFP using couples who get tired of defending our grave reasons or sharing our grave reasons with every concerned Catholic know-it-all. Yeesh.)