What Every Catholic Couple Should Know - Marital Sexuality and Family Planning
Wendy J. Cukierski
NOTE: I HAVE NOT COMPLETED THE FINAL "EDITS" TO THIS 3rd EDITION. Kindly, bear with me as I do so.
(put Fr. Phils endorsement here)
"Your booklet is the one and only resource American Life League will ever need. I plan to distribute your booklet, at once, to every medical doctor on our mailing list, and share it with every listener on every radio show on which I appear on the topics relating to human sexuality."
President of American Life League (ALL)
"I was given a copy of your book by a patient, It is quite impressive and I feel that it could do great good for the Church, Thank you for an outstanding effort."
-Dr. Kim Anthony Hardey
Obstetrics and Gynecology of Louisiana
"Three women changed their minds about contraception because of your booklet packed with Dr. Janet Smith's tape!"
- Dr. and Mrs. J. Burnham of Ohio
"I would like to recommend this final work to all couples who are not only married, but those engaged to be. May God bless you for the time and effort you put forth in this labor of love."
-Rev. Edwin T. Comesky, BA, STL
"Your booklet and responses to me personally, led us to joyfully accept the Church's teachings on marital sexuality. The way you presented the material made it easy to understand and share with my husband."
Mrs Michael Ragon, Jr.
Mother of four from Ohio
(Dedication goes here...)
(Warning about graphic content goes here)
Part One: Marital Sexuality
"The husband should fulfill his duty towards his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly, a husband does not have authority over his body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to another." (1 Corinthians, 7:3-5)
After much research we have learned that many Catholic couples do not know of the Church's clearly defined guidelines regarding marital sexuality. Many were shocked to find out what the Church actually teaches. Most
couples are uncomfortable discussing marital sexuality with their priests and confessors, and the resources available to them are limited. God does, indeed, have a Divine Plan designed to aid married couples in achieving purity and holiness in their conjugal life.
What was marriage like in Biblical times ?
Scripturally, there are three distinct states: unmarried, betrothed, and married. Although betrothed couples were not permitted to be physically intimate, they were considered married in the sense of "owning" one another. For example, if a man seduced or raped a virgin who was not yet betrothed. he was required to pay the bride-price to her father and, if the father so desired, marry her. ( Ex. 22: 16-17 Deut. 22: 28-29). However if he did the same with either a married or betrothed woman, he, and possibly she, was to be executed as an adulterer. (Deut. 22: 22-27), Although betrothed couples were not yet married, the woman was already referred to as the man's wife. (Luke 2:5) By Jewish custom, the betrothal period was one year. If the groom died during that year, his betrothed bride was still considered a widow even though the marriage was never consummated.
Is the scriptural marriage custom (betrothal then marriage) "out of date? "
No. It is much more than a curious tradition. The law is intended to serve intended to serve us and guide us in marriage preparation. Few realize the importance of the betrothal period.
Is engagement similar to betrothal?
It is similar, but quite different in some significant areas, In the Mosaic Law, God, Himself ordained betrothal and specified the rights and responsibilities involved. Today's engaged couples do not seem to feel that there are certain rights and responsibilities that come from being engaged. We have much to learn from Scripture.
What is an exact definition of the "marital act?"
The marital act can be defined as the act by which semen from the male is placed in the vagina of the female by the natural act of sexual intercourse.
Is one of the purposes of marriage to have children?
Yes. The answer to this question can be found right in the Holy Bible. "And God blessed them saying, increase and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1: 28)
If you are pregnant, should you cease relations since being open to new life has already been achieved?
No. The marriage act may also be considered as a special, unifying act of love between spouses. Through it, they become two in one flesh. As such, it represents the mutual sharing and giving of self, not primarily for the purpose of seeking personal pleasure, but because it is characteristic of lovers to desire to be united and to share what they have in order to please each other. For this reason, satisfactory marital relations have a stabilizing effect in marriage and especially during pregnancy. They represent an important area of intimate, shared experience, a broad area for the manifestation of tenderness, thoughtful courtesies and unselfishness between partners.
Should the marriage act be considered a privilege or a duty?
Actually, it should be considered an act of unifying love. When the marriage act is regarded as a personal privilege or a duty rather then a unifying act of love, husbands tend to seek intercourse chiefly for their own satisfaction, and wives tend to submit more or less passively because they feel it is their duty. Under these circumstances, the act of the husband becomes selfish exploitation and the act of wife is deprived of dignity. This is a perversion of the Catholic/Christian view.
Is it wrong to engage in the marriage act for personal satisfaction?
To be specific, the sexual act loses it significance as a unifying act of love when it is performed merely for one's personal satisfaction. In performing the marriage act, husband and wife must never seek primarily their own personal enjoyment, but they must seek to give pleasure to their partner. The act should never take place as a selfish pleasure or entertainment.
Is the husband entitled to sex whenever he desires?
Some husbands assume that the marriage contract gives them the right to seek sexual pleasure whenever they personally desire it. Unfortunately, some wives support this selfish attitude by their more or less passive cooperation based on the false assumption that "men are like that, " and feel obligated to administer to their needs. The marital act is a human act. By its very nature, it is a unifying act of intimate communion.
So, if the marriage act is not primarily for personal pleasure, what is it for?
God has endowed male and female with mutually complementary generative organs and a sensory system capable of producing pleasure in their use. Although self-centered pleasure maybe obtained egotistically through masturbation or selfish exploitation in intercourse, this is a perversion and attack on the dignity of the marital act. Since by their very nature they are complementary, and by their purpose they are meant for the good of the species, not even in the marital act are the procreative powers to be used primarily for the personal pleasure of one of the partners. In the marriage act, as in all acts of love, the more one seeks the good of the other, the greater satisfaction one receives in return.
Then the marriage act is a dignified act?
Yes, and must be treasured and protected as the priceless gift it is. It is because of false, worldly, attitudes that marital sex is considered otherwise. Some regard the reproductive organs as primarily a source of personal gratification. Others consider it something animalistic, nasty, or just a type of human weakness. Both these attitudes deprive the marriage act of its dignity and human quality. As a result, it is not treated as a manifestation of love. When we deprive an act of its dignity, we deprive it of its capacity to serve as an instrument of our perfection in the service of God.
Is it anyone's business what a married couple does in their bedroom?
Yes. it is God's business, as it is He who created you. In 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20, it says "Do you not see that your bodies are the members of Christ? You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within the Spirit you have received from God. You are not your own. You have been purchased, and at a price. So glorify God in your body." Through these verses we can see that God does, indeed, hold us accountable for the proper use of our bodies. It would appear that the "anything goes" mentality in regards to marital sexuality is false.
Are there different aspects to the marital act?
Yes, the marital act has a dual aspect. In theory, it is the normal expression of the reproductive drive; a generative act. On a human level, it is the manifestation of love between spouses. Both these aspects are closely related. To overlook either of them is to deviate from the divine purpose manifested in revelation, "Male and female he created them: and God blessed them saying, increase and multiply."
If I enjoy the marital act, aren't I being selfish because I am deriving personal satisfaction from it?
No. As a manifestation of love, the conjugal act is necessarily freed from selfishness. As the fulfillment of a divine command in the sacramental state, it becomes a holy act. Thus, in marriage, the expression of the sexual impulse is elevated by love and achieves its purpose as a means of personal perfection.
Should the husband or the wife have the final say in marital relations?
In marriage, each spouse has an equal right to marital relations and an equal obligation to grant them when the partner makes a reasonable request.
Is refusal of marital relations wrong?
Refusing relations because you are sick is not out of order. But, frequent or continued refusal to have relations when the partner reasonably requests them is seriously wrong, since it is a violation of the a sacramental contract. On the other hand, unreasonable requests need not be met. For example if the husband is drunk, if he refuses to support the family, if the wife happens to be sick or highly fatigued, if she is in the final stages of pregnancy or has recently delivered, and so forth. The request may be judged unreasonable and may be refused.
Is Oral Stimulation forbidden?
Oral stimulation is sexual stimulation of the genitals with the mouth. When practiced by couples as a part of sexual foreplay with the intention of completing the marital act with intercourse, it is acceptable.
Do I have a right to insist on this type of foreplay?
The practice of oral stimulation should be acceptable to both spouses and must never be forced if a partner is unwilling. It can not be stressed enough that this action is always to end with genital to genital intercourse, thus, in keeping with the Divine Plan for the natural order intended by God.
Is it a sin if there is accidental orgasm during marital foreplay or when completed intercourse is not planned?
For those inexperienced couples who have not yet found their "limits" it is not a sin. But, these couples should learn from these experiences and not repeat them. Continued experiences of this nature especially when done intentionally, would be sinful.
What is anal sex?
It is a perversion of the marital act involving the penis and a woman/s rectum. Given the sacredness of conjugal relations, it is difficult to justify any circumstances under which this act could be deemed appropriate. Although it can be justified as foreplay and specifically condemned by the Church, it is unsanitary and poses potential medical risks.
What about "marital aids" or "sex toys"?
Again couples must always keep in mind the sacredness of the marital act and strive to achieve purity in their relations with one another. From a medical standpoint, the use of such gadgets can cause injury and infection in one or both partners.
Is the viewing and reading of erotic or pornographic materials condemned?
According the Catholic Catechism, "Offenses Against Chasity" p. 565, (Pornography) offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants since each becomes the object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world, It is a grave offense." If something is deemed so offensive by God, then it would certainly be wise to avoid it. Many mainstream "R" rated movies are, in fact, pornographic in nature and would fall into this category as well. A chaste, married couple is totally committed to each other, having exclusive rights over the other''s sexual attentions.
How does the Church view masturbation? Is it wrong?
Yes, masturbation is a grave sin. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Offenses against Chastity", p. 564. "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage (that is, the married, sexual relationship), is essentially contrary to its purpose.... demanded by the moral order." Masturbatory sex reduces sexual activity to a totally meaningless pursuit of pleasure and sexual satisfaction and does not lend itself to the self-giving pledged at marriage.
What about clitoral stimulation of the wife by the husband?
This kind of sexual stimulation, used to assist the wife in attaining orgasm is considered a normal part of marital relations.
Is marital chastity the same as pre-marital chastity?
No. A married couple can kiss and touch each other in such a way that would be sinful for the unmarried. It is this type of foreplay that usually leads to full sexual union. If passion should take over, the married couple not be committing a sin should they engage in full marital relations.
Is periodic abstinence from sexual relations good for a marriage?
Yes. This subject will be covered more extensively in the chapter on Natural Family Planning. Periodic abstinence as required by NFP, helps partners to avoid the feeling of sexual satiation, which is, basically, the feeling of having sex too often. When a couple resumes intercourse after having a brief period of abstinence, they will find heightened appreciation for it. Many couples who practice NFP report that they enjoy a "honeymoon" period each cycle, as abstaining is likened to the old cliche, "absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Prayer for Husband and Wife:
We as husband and wife, are called to love one another as Christ so loves his Church. Let us realize that the life of His Church and Mystical Body, is nourished by the welfare and holiness of our marriages. Let us further realize that our children are His tenderest branches and are likewise nourished by that holiness. Let us never fail to realize how important and vital our vocation is. We seek Thy help, pledged at the Marriage Feast of Cana and at our own nuptials. May our Sorrows, hardships, and daily encounters be transformed into a loving gift to one another and to God. May our marriage become a prayer, an oblation, a giving of our lives together as husband and wife, father and mother. May the splendor of Christ's love, mirrored in us draw other to this glorious and blessed vocation.
Part Two : Birth Control
"Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather then the Creator... Therefore, God handed them over to the degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning minds to do what is improper. (Rom 1:24-28)
Each year, artificial birth control kills more unborn children than surgical abortions. For this reason, it is extremely important that we illustrate the dangers. In addition artificial contraception takes the baby-making element out of sexual intercourse; as humans place a barrier for God to create life if he chooses. It is one of the greatest evils of our time. With contraception comes a natural progression to promiscuity, divorce, pornography, and so on. Its greatest offense is that it denies God the opportunity to create life, which is by right His alone.
What does the Bible have to say about birth control?
The Bible has plenty to say about this and demonstrates quite clearly how God views "wasting the seed of life." Genesis 38: 8-10 tells the story of Onan, the son of Judah, who was obliged to have relations with Tamar, the childless widow of his deceased brother. Onan didn't want to father a child that would be raised as the offspring of Tamar and his deceased brother. In order to avoid conception of a child, Onan goes into Tamar,
and has incomplete relations with her by withdrawing before ejaculation; thus, spilling the seed of life and frustrating the natural order. Verse 10 tells us, "What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life too." There can be no question of by this verse how abhorrent God views contraceptive acts as coitus interruptus. From this, we learn of the seriousness of this offense, and, therefore, must learn what is acceptable and not acceptable in regards to family planning.
What does the Catholic Church have to say about birth control?
Taken directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, page 569-570 par 2370. The fecundity of marriage, reads, "Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods (otherwise known as Natural Family Planning), is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil."
Why is birth control considered a moral evil?
The use of contraceptives is sinful not only because the Pope or Church says so, the use of contraceptives is evil for many reasons. They hinder a possible conception; they cause deviation from the Divine Plan, and many of them are abortifacient ( causing the death of a tiny embryo). God has endowed men and women with the unique and noble faculty of procreation; not primarily for their own pleasure, but for the good of all society. Since the generative faculties deal with life, and God alone has dominion over life, marriage partners usurp dominion which they do not possess when they frustrate the natural process of procreation by the use of contraceptives.
Is there a correlation between the increased use of contraceptives and the divorce ratio?
Yes, In 1910, there was only one divorce for every eleven marriages. In 1925, the philosophy of birth control made its emergence and the divorce rate simultaneously rose to one out of every seven marriages. In 1965, only a few years after "the Pill" was introduced, the ratio was one divorce in every four marriages. The early seventies with the legalization of abortion and the re to be rampant quest for more effective birth control, the ration rose to one in three marriages ending in divorce. By 1977 as sterilizations were becoming commonplace and new methods were being introduced, the divorce rate climbed to a chilling rate in one of every two marriages. This could hardly be called a coincidence.
Can't we justify the use of birth control because of over population>
Overpopulation is a myth that has been propagated by those with various sinister agendas. In reality, some countries, especially in the West, are facing problems of population replacement. Missionaries sent to third world countries have found women there to be quite receptive and willing to learn the Church approved methods of Natural Family Planning. There are really no indications for the use of birth control other then the natural ones (eg. abstinence, rhythm, sympto- thermal etc.). It simply is not necessary. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has this to say about birth control and abortion, "Let us not kill the children of the poor and then tell them how we've helped them. "
Are all forms of artificial birth control the same?
No, there are three types of artificial birth control. There are barrier methods (known as contraceptives) that aim to prevent the conception of a baby. These methods have proven to be highly ineffective, as well as unpleasant to use. The more dangerous kind of birth control are abortifacient methods that allow conception but kill an already growing baby These methods also have many unpleasant (and sometimes life threatening) side effects. Last, there is sterilization which permanently destroys a person's fertility. It occasionally causes serious complications.
Are contraceptives and abortifacients the same thing?
No, but they are marketed and handed out to women without proper distinction being made. Contraceptives aim to prevent conception before it occurs; abortifacients aim to destroy a conception that has already occurred. Both obstruct God's Plan be interfering with a natural process; and thus, are equally forbidden by the Catholic Church.
What are some barrier methods?
Condoms, spermicide creams and foams, "the sponge," diaphragms, and cervical caps are the most frequently used barrier methods of contraception. These methods aim to prevent a pregnancy by using both chemicals and man-made barriers that kill the husband's sperm and render the woman's vagina impenetrable to the seed life. Couples who use these artificial barriers frustrate God's Plan by tampering with the delicate, perfectly orchestrated, natural process of intercourse as designed by God. These methods are highly unreliable and oftentimes lead to abortion when an unwanted conception does occur.
What are some abortifacient methods?
Many people will be surprised to learn that the very popular birth control "pill" used widely since the 1970's is such a method. Other's are IUD's, Norplant and Depo Provera injections.
I was never told "the Pill" is abortificient, are you sure?
Absolutely! It works in three different ways : 1) It suppresses the part of the brain which signals for ovulation to begin; 2) It alters the lining of the cervix to make it hostile towards sperm which through intercourse, tries to pass through and fertilize a ripe egg; 3) If the prior two components fail, the implantation of the newly conceived human life is prevented, thus an early abortion occurs. The developers of "the pill" realized that the first two methods (which are contraceptive in nature) would allow too many women to become pregnant. So they added a chemical which stops the already developing child from implanting in the lining of the womb. Denied the ability to implant, the newly formed life is literally starved to death and passes from the mother's body without even a delay in a menstrual period and without her ever having known she had conceived a child.
But how often does this actually happen?
It is conservatively estimated the "the pill" actually kills a newly conceived life up to ten percent of the time. (Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives, 2nd ed., (1994), p.1, Eternal Life, Bardstown, KY). This estimate doesn't even begin to take into account two other very important factors, 1) Many medicines, such as antibiotics, increase the abortion-causing nature of "the pill" (Ibid., p.2)
2) Since 1988, the amount of of the contraceptive compound of "the pill" has been lowered due to dangerous side-effects which allows for the abortion-component to come into play more often. This results in an extremely abortificient Pill. The Pill is now said to cause early abortion up to fifty percent of the time, ( The Birth Control Game: Gambling With Life, (1990), p.2, A.L.L. / Pharmacists for Life, Stafford, VA.) Because no one truly knows how often this occurs, it should be avoided by all women. Even one death is unacceptable!
What exactly happens with IUD?
The IUD (intra-uterine device) does nothing except cause early abortions. It is inserted past the cervix and inflames the lining of the womb which stops implantation of a developing child. They can do absolutely nothing to prevent conception. Their one and only function is to kill the newly formed life.
What is Norplant?
Norplant is a series of capsules implanted under a woman's skin and is effective for up to five years. It acts both as a contraceptive and abortifacient. It has been shown to cause abortions fifty to sixty-five percent of the time (Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives, pp. 11-12).
What is Depo-Provera?
Depo- Provera acts as an abortifacient and as a contraceptive. It is an injection that a woman receives every three months. It has the same components of "the pill." Depo-Provera may actually cause abortions forty to sixty percent of the time (Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives, p 28).
Is a tubal ligation a condemned form of birth control?
Absolutely. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Page S76 par 2399, "Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means ( for example direct sterilization or contraception)."
What exactly is a tubal ligation?
A tubal ligation is a surgical operation performed to render a woman sterile. There are two ways of performing this operation minilaparotomy, or a laparoscopy. When a minilaparotomy is performed a small incision in the abdomen is made. The fallopian tubes are then located. These tubes conduct the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. The tubes are then drawn outside the body through the incision and a portion of each tube is removed and the ends are tied. In a larparoscopy the woman's abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide gas which creates a gap between the bowel and the abdomen. A fiberoptic light is then inserted by puncturing the abdominal wall and an instrument that either coagulates the tubes with an electric current or places a band or clip on the tubes. Many couples turn to this type of surgical sterilization out of desperation. They soon realize that this action was drastic and unwise. There are health risks as well as psychological side effects associated with this procedure.
What about a vasectomy for a man?
A vasectomy definitely falls under the same category as sterilization. It is a surgical procedure performed solely for the purpose of rendering a man reproductively sterile. A portion of both ducts ( vas deferens) through which sperm pass from the testes is cut out. The doctor then ties or coagulates the ends and sutures the cut made in the scrotum. There are health risks involved as well as psychological effects associated with this procedure.
Why are permanent forms of birth control so bad?
These acts are "intrinsically evil" because they deprive God of all creative power for the duration of the couple's marriage. Due to the permanent nature of these acts, they are especially grievous in the eyes of God. Such surgeries are seen by couples as the permanent "solution" to the "burden" of children. This is not how God wants us to view procreation.
Is "withdrawal" an approved form of birth control?
No, withdrawal or coitus interruptus, in addition to being a forbidden contraceptive act, is also a highly ineffective means of birth control. The small amount of preejaculatory fluid which commonly passes from husband to wife before withdrawal is sufficient to fertilize a ripe egg. It is condemned because it does not permit the full act of intercourse as intended by God and results in the seed of life being deposited in outside the woman's vagina (where God intended it to be placed).
"Not only abortion, but also contraception, are ultimately bound up with the truth about man. Moving away from this truth does not represent a step forward and cannot be considered a measure of "ethical progress."
Pope John Paul 11 in Crossing The Threshold of Hope.
Part Three: Natural Family Planning
"This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion.... For God did not call us to impurity, but to holiness, Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." (Thes 4: 3-8)
Faced with the Church's long-held ban on artificial birth control, many Catholic couples fail to realize that the Church has not abandoned them in dealing with this compelling issue of marital fertility. The Wisdom of the Holy Spirit has guided the teaching Magisterium of the Church to offer a natural, dignified way of spacing or postponing births, when needed, which is called "Natural Family Planning." Natural Family Planning offers the Catholic couple the "clear conscience" approach of being able to manage their fertility if needed without violating the natural order intended by God. This chapter is not meant to serve as an instruction manual, but rather is a brief introduction to the method and an overview into the philosophy of Natural Family Planning.
We would like to point out that Natural Family Planning is fertility awareness that can be used morally to space or postpone pregnancies for good and serious reasons (Humanae Vitae, #16)
The point of postponing a pregnancy for good and serious reasons is critical. A couple should never employ motives that are for serious or personal control.
How come I have never heard of Natural Family Planning before?
For many reasons, mostly economic in nature, NFP is the nemesis of large pharmaceutical companies that have made huge profits by enslaving women with their gadgets and chemicals. They know once a woman learns the natural methods of family planning, she has no need for their deadly wares.
How long has Natural Family Planning been around?
Natural Family Planning has been around since the early 1970's. Pope Paul VI commissioned a Catholic couple, Drs. John and Evelyn Billings to research a natural method of birth spacing that couples could use in conformity with Church teaching. They were successful in their efforts, and the first method of NFP was "born"
Isn't Natural Family Planning the as the old rhythm method my mother used?
No. This is a common myth that has no substance. Even pamphlets you find in doctors' offices are spreading this fallacy. The rhythm method of earlier generations was based simply on odds and predictions inherent in a woman's monthly cycle. This method is still used by some but, is not as precise as NFP. Natural Family Planning is based on biological facts and has become a highly effective, respected method in pro-life medical communities.
Part 2: of What every Catholic Couple should know
How exactly does Natural Family Planning work?
A couple learns, through one of the various methods, how to determine the woman's fertile time of the month and then they abstain during that time so that no conception occurs during that menstrual cycle. A couple desiring a baby can use the same method to achieve a conception.,
Isn't using NFP to avoid a pregnancy just another form of birth control?
NFP is fertility awareness that can be used morally to space or postpone pregnancies for good and serious reasons. When a couple chooses to use artificial means to stop a conception, they are depending on a device/surgery/ chemical to avoid the pregnancy. The act of intercourse occurs in such a way that the marital act is perverted from what God naturally intended. The marital act is reduced to something unnatural and is, therefore, stripped of its dignity. Using NFP is simply choosing to abstain during a certain time of the month; postponing relations for a later time. No perversion of the act takes place. When the marital act is resumed, it is done with respect for the bodies of both spouses.
Can you explain that further?
When a couple uses NFP to avoid a pregnancy, there is nothing artificial used to prevent new life from occurring. The couple leaves this life-giving decision totally up to God, the Author of all life. When a couple gets married in the Catholic Church, a part of their weeding vows involves being open to children. If the couple uses artificial birth control, they are, in effect, departing from their wedding vows, because they take all creative power away from God and selfishly place it into their own hands. The right handed over to a sex act open to life, A couple married through the holy sacrament of Matrimony is really a threesome: husband, wife, and God. When the couple uses birth control they take God out of the equation and choose to rely only upon themselves. When the Bible speaks of "two in one flesh," it commands that "what God has joined, let no man tear asunder." Artificial Birth Control is, in effect, a forbidden fruit placed between the holy union of husband and wife.
Is Natural Family Planning really effective?
The Johns Hopkins Institute called Natural Family Planning the best method of "birth control," saying it is 99% effective (as effective as Oral Contraceptives), and is 100% safe.
What are the benefits of NFP?
There are many. One is that it is 100% safe and that it has no unpleasant side effects like most, if not all other methods of birth control. Another case for NFP is that it involves the active participation of both spouses rather than having just one partner shouldering the burden of their combined fertility. NFP requires both partners to be actively involved in learning and using the method. Catholics receive the additional benefits from the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are keeping with Church teaching in regards to family planning. Unlike artificial birth control, NFP is a true method of family planning as it can be used to either achieve or avoid a pregnancy. We must point out, once again, that NFP should be employed for good and serious reasons only. (Humanae Vitae, # 16)
How difficult is it to learn NFP?
Missionaries sent to third world countries have been able to teach illiterate, uneducated women this method with great success. For the average couple, NFP can be mastered quite effectively in just a few menstrual cycles. In fact, as the months and years go on, couples find that the method becomes second nature and can be done with little or no effort.
What exactly is involved in using NFP?
God created the woman's body to function in a specific way. Each month, a cycle of fertility begins anew and follows a similar pattern. There are certain changes in the cervix, vaginal secretions and basal body temperature which are observed and noted by the woman. Other signs, such as abdominal discomfort, breast tenderness, and "increased libido" occur which all coincide significantly. These occurrences are written down in a monthly menstrual chart which allows the couple to pinpoint, with great accuracy, the days of highest fertility. If pregnancy is not desired that month, the couple will abstain until the woman's "signs" indicate that her fertility is over for that menstrual cycle.
Is there more than one method of Natural Family Planning?
Yes. There are several methods of NFP that couples use. There is the Billings Method, the Creighton Method, and the Sympto- Thermal Method, to name a few. Each method is basically the same, with slight variations. Some couples find they prefer one method over another. There is some debate in NFP circles as which method is the most effective. Each couple will ultimately determine which method is best for them.
Is the divorce rate lower among couples who practice NFP?
Yes. The Couple to Couple League took an informal survey and that the divorce rate among couples using NFP was less than 1%. That is less than one couple per one hundred. This makes sense for several reasons. First, couples who choose NFP are working in a true partnership as they share responsibility for their combined fertility. This fosters an overall respect for each other's bodies and the procreative power they share together. Also, the required periods of brief abstaining every month during fertile times allows the couple some "space" from each other. They do not take each other for granted, as say, a contracepting couple who have constant availability to each other.
~" Wives should be submissive to their husbands as if to the Lord because the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of his body the church, as well as its savior. As the church submits to Christ so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church. He gave himself up for her to make her holy, purifying her in the bath of water by the power of the word, to present to himself a glorious church, holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or anything of that sort. Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Observe that no one ever hates his own flesh; no, he nourishes it and takes care of it as Christ cares for the church-for we are members of his body." (Eph 5: 22- 30). ~
How come most couples who use NFP have large families?
It is true that many couples who have used NFP do have large families. This could be for several reasons. First, and most importantly, many generous couples desire large families. Understanding the immeasurable value of a human soul, they take to heart the message of the Creator to "be fruitful and multiply." In other cases, couples could already have had several children before they learned the method. Once they develop an awareness of their fertility cycle, they begin to have some "control" over subsequent pregnancies if a good and serious reason arises. It is important to note that couples who practice NFP do so out of love for Christ and His Church. Likewise, they tend to be more courageous, having given themselves over completely to God. This, in no way means all couples who use NFP will have many children. In fact, there are more then a few NFP couples who are unable, for medical or other reasons, to have as many children as they desire. God has the ultimate power over the creation of life and whether He decides to send many or few children,, the loyal Catholic couple accepts His Will.
Don't couples who use NFP have less opportunities for marital relations because of the frequent abstaining required?
No. In fact, studies by NFP organizations have proven that couples who use natural methods have the same frequency of relations, or in many cases, engage in more frequent relations than the "national average" during the course of a monthly cycle. The one difference being the timing of the sexual unions. Couples using NFP have more relations during the first half (pre-ovulatory) or last half (post ovulatory) of the monthly menstrual cycle, to compensate for the time when they know they cannot be together. It usually works that the thought of an anticipated physical separation adds to the allure of frequent "safe" relations during non-fertile times of the month.
What about this "abstaining" time of the month? Isn't this difficult to do?
As a rule, couples whose consciences have led them to practice Natural Family Planning, are more than willing to sacrifice a certain period of time each month in order to preserve purity in their marriage. On occasion, one of the spouses (usually the husband) has a difficult time with abstaining. It is during these times when prayer, combined with some "creative continence" is required.
What is "creative continence"?
Simply put, it is a non-sexual way of showing affection to one's spouse during times when conjugal activity is not possible. This is, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of Natural Family Planning which can, with the right disposition, become occasions of joy and great satisfaction.
What are some examples of "creative continence?"
A prime example of creative continence would would be for the couple to add some S.P.I.C.E. to their monthly abstaining. S.P.I.C.E. is an acronym for Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, and Emotional means of intimate communication.
Spiritual communication stands for the spiritual commitment you share with each other through the Sacrament of Matrimony. Pray together during those sometimes long periods of abstinence that are difficult. Remember that marriage is not just two people living together. It is a husband, wife and God. Periodic abstinence is a wonderful time to develop a strong spiritual relationship with one's spouse.
Physical communication means employing non-sexual activity during times of abstaining. Use this time to "get to know each other better" and discover things that you both enjoy together. Some examples would be mastering the technique of giving a good massage or back rub, dancing to some romantic music, preparing a late night gourmet meal after the little ones are tucked in, enjoying a fun game of Monopoly together, or just falling asleep in each other's arms. Be sure to throw in plenty of good ol' platonic hugging.
Intellectual communication involves sharing the intellectual areas you have in common with each other. This could be reading poetry to each other, working on a joint research project, doing some Bible study together, watching an old movie, sharing some intimate hopes and dreams, or tenderly recalling the first days of your courtship.
Creative communication involves sharing creative aspects with each other during times of required abstinence. Think of fun, interesting things for the whole family to share. For example, try an unplanned day trip to a nearby attraction that you have never visited. Pack the kids in the car and go for a picnic or, organize and have your own family yard sale. Many couples find these times are of the month to be favorable for entertaining. You can use the extra energy during this time of abstaining to do things you ordinarily would not do.
Emotional communication involves sharing your emotions during times of abstinence. Try to communicate often with your spouse and don't be shy to in utilizing more verbal expressions of love. This is also the area that usually gets strengthened through the use of Natural Family Planning.
Where do I find out about NFP?
One of the most active organizations responsible for Natural Family Planning instruction is the Couple to Couple League. As their name implies, they use the "couple to couple" approach in teaching the method. A couple wishing to learn the method can locate a "teaching couple" in their area and be instructed, often in their own home, by a certified NFP couple. This organization also distributes literature, organizes classes, counsels over the telephone, makes referrals. and provides educational materials. There are also several instructional books available including, "The Art of Natural Family Planning,," published by the Couple to Couple International Inc., PO Box 111184, Cincinnati, OH 45211-1184 and "The Ovulation Method of Natural Family Planning," by Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., CNFPE, CNFPMC- published by the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, 1983.
Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives, 2nd ed., Eternal Life, P.O. Box 787, Bardstown, KY 40004, (1994)
The Art of Natural Family Planning, 3rd ed., The Couple to Couple League, P.O. Box 111184 Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-1184, (1994)
Marital Sexuality: Moral Considerations, The Couple to Couple League, P.O. Box 111184, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-1184, (1989)
Valentine, Jon & Maria. Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Birth Control, Protestants Against Birth Control, P.O. Box 07240, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Hilgers, M.D., Thomas W. The Ovulation Method of Natural Family Planning, 2nd ed., Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, Creighton University, Omaha, NE (1983)
Lindvall, Jonathan. Youthful Romance: Scriptural Patterns,, Bold Parenting, P.O. Box 820, Springville, CA 93265 (1992,1994)
EWTN Online Library,
Brief Catechism for Adults
"Did He not make one being with flesh and spirit: and what does that require but Godly offspring? You must then safeguard life that is your own, and not break faith with the wife of your youth."
"For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel." (Malachi 2:15, 16)
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