Let’s Talk NFP! 10 Things You Can Do!

Some time ago, I was participating in a Facebook conversation about natural family planning when one of the respondents objected that the topic wasn’t appropriate for a forum as public as Facebook. Others, she claimed, might be grossed out by the discussion should not be exposed to it. We NFP-supporters are familiar with such reasoning after decades of silence from the pulpit on one of the most pressing topics of our modern era. The discrepancy between the overwhelming need of Catholics to learn about NFP and the underwhelming response from priests and parish staffs around the country is striking. When so many willfully ignore the topic, it falls to us who are willing to speak out.

Here are 10 things you can do to help spread the word about natural family planning:

  1. Be positive. Is there anything less attractive than an evangelist who begins with all the things wrong with everyone else’s beliefs? Most folks out there focus first on the negatives regarding contraception – and there are plenty – but starting a conversation that way is rarely the most helpful approach. Need some positive points to address: NFP allows women to practice total self-control instead of just reproductive control, NFP gives women and their husbands a better understanding of their bodies, NFP is free and effective, NFP is morally sound, NFP is natural, NFP is empowers women by preventing them from becoming sexual objects. Got more? Put them in the comments.
  2. Assume the best. While its true there is never a justification for resorting to contraception, you probably don’t know the reason another couple is using contraception. For all you know, they have a just cause to avoid children, but never realized or were taught the truth about human sexuality and contraception.
  3. Use social media. The original impetus for this article was an objection over a Facebook conversation on NFP. I’ll come right out and say the opposite of that concern: mention NFP frequently on your wall. I’m not suggesting you write something like, “YAY! Peak + 4 today!” I’m just suggesting you repost articles on NFP or contraception, write about how the practice has helped your relationship, or share any number of statuses on the topic from our affiliate, Stand with the US Bishops Against the HHS, and then explain the Church’s teachings to any friends who post objections.

    Talk about NFP. Just spare the frog a cold shower. He’s cold-blooded, you know. He’d fall asleep and drown in there.

  4. Use your friendships. I know women talk about their relationships when they get together for Ladies’ Night Out. The contraceptive commercials on the television lead us men to believe that birth control is a common topic at such gatherings as well. If you have secular friends who bring up those topics, have the courage to mention natural family planning.
  5. Teach your kids about it. Kids these days, huh? They hear about sex at such at early age, and with the selfish impulses engrained on them daily in our culture, you can be sure they’re going to wonder why they should want kids in the first place. Don’t delay a talk on NFP. Discuss it in some basic way as soon as they begin sex ed. Sure, they’ll assume it’s being brought up because mom and dad use it, but modern kids would assume you use contraceptives anyway, so you might as well give them a moral example instead of leaving them wandering in the dark.
  6. Volunteer with your parish pre-Cana program. With so many church-going Catholics practicing nearly identical rates of contraception and divorce as the secular population, it’s important in parishes for faithful Catholics to step up to help prepare the engaged for the realities of marriage. My wife and I have been called upon several times to discuss NFP in front of crowds. It’s really not as terrifying as it sounds. If you can really own your use of NFP, then you can wear it comfortably on your sleeve and discuss it in any setting.
  7. Emphasize the organic nature of NFP. These are some interesting times we’re living in. Folks will pay substantially more for organic goods, but they’ll still pump their bodies full of artificial hormones, even with death as a known side effect. When my wife and I have discussed NFP at Pre-Cana retreats, this approach has always garnered at least a few interested responses.
  8. Reach doctors and medical students with the facts. The pro-life movement has many physicians and other medical professionals on its sideany doctors and medical students, even OBGYNs, have been educated in environments hostile to the pro-life movement and the Church’s views on sexuality. They’ve been sheltered from the facts about contraceptives and human sexuality. Natural family planning has been ridiculed as backward, medieval quackery. Occasionally, you’ll meet such a person who will try to use their authority in general or reproductive medicine to stop your arguments. Simply present them with the facts from respected medical establishments. (Example: The World Health Organization classifies the Pill as a Group 1 Carcinogen.)
  9. Talk about both sides of NFP. Natural family planning can be used for just causes to avoid conception, but it can also be used to help couples conceive, especially through NaPro. I’d like to see the Pill do that. One of its more attractive features is that it is in line with human nature. If it can help a person get pregnant without chemicals and surgeries, that’s a huge testimony in NFP’s favor.
  10. Teach NFP. If we’re going to do a good job bringing NFP into popularity, we need more people to teach it. A lot more. We need instructors who are certified to teach the method and are familiar enough with the moral doctrine of the Church to help their students learn to discern just causes. We also need instructors to help people use NFP to get pregnant.

13 Comments

  1. Barbara /

    I completely agree that chemical forms of birth control are disgusting, dangerous, and evil. I also think all the other types of birth control aside from abstinence show a fundamental lack of faith. I appreciate that you know the pill, etc., is immoral. I feel that NFP has been pushed down our throats for years now. So much so, that my archdiocese requires a class in NFP before marriage. I find this offensive. I feel I dodged a bullet on that one. I also know that my vows said I would willingly accept children not pick and choose when I will accept children. I realize that this can be a scary prospect sometimes for people. I know what NFP is and how it is used to get pregnant and to avoid pregnancy. I also know that if a couple has a real reason to avoid pregnancy such as a medical problem, it is ridiculous to engage in the marital act at all when it is always possible to conceive, no matter what you chart nor what time of the month it is. Futhermore, I do appreciate that using NFP does not cause the same physical effects as articial birth control and that there is no risk of NFP causing an abortion. I believe in my heart that many good people use NFP, but I think it is the lesser of two evils for lack of a better term. I think being open to children all the time is what God and the Catholic Church calls us to do.

    • One is, of course, permitted to hold your preference to use neither contraception nor NFP, but when you claim that your views are the views of the Church, you unnecessarily narrow the Church’s mind to the detriment of Humanae Vitae. To suggest that NFP is evil, even if the lesser evil, is a direct contradiction of the papal magisterium.

    • cmom /

      NFP isn’t birth control, it is a gift – simply using how our wonderful bodies work in our married life to maintain our health. When you make your vows you said you would willingly accept children, which is Church teaching, but the Church never said anything about not spacing children for health or other substantive reasons. The “not pick and choose when I will accept children”, that is your personal addition. Nursing our children may for the first two years delay fertility, but does not guarantee it. We still need to give our bodies time to recover from childbirth and regain some energy and these are legitimate reasons to space out children. To go from childbirth to childbirth to childbirth is not taking care of the body God entrusted to you. To say that we avoid intercourse to avoid pregnancy is your choice, but again not the teaching of the Church, and is certainly not unitive in any way. Not everyone is called to practice heroic virtue on a daily basis.

  2. Barbara /

    Sorry, I just had one more thing that I forgot to mention. In the early reasons you gave for using NFP, you said,”It allows woman to practice self-contol. . .” I practice self-control by staying faithful to my marriage vows. I have never appreciated the notion that somehow if one isn’t using NFP, he/she must have no self-control.

    • Barbara, the point of the self-control comment was a comparison to the lack of self-control on the part of those using contraception. In no way was it intended to pass judgement on those who choose neither contraceptives nor NFP.

  3. Another positive: the charting used for NFP can help to identify reproductive health problems, and with the help of NaPro, these health problems can be treated. This has been one of the biggest blessings of NFP for me!

  4. johnny b /

    I agree with Barbara. When we married we took a vow to accept children lovingly from God. Why not just simply do that? Why would we teach our 8 children about NFP, when we could teach them by example that children are always a blessing. I too am offended that we had to go to meet with the NFP person for our diocese before we were married. What kind of message does this send?

    A good/different perspective on this matter that I’ve found helpful is a new book
    http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Family-Planning-Catholic-Bedroom/dp/1482570394

    I agree that it is vitally important to stay positive but that the most Positive is to be fully open and fully lovingly open to children and family life. NFP has a place for those with serious/grave reasons, much like the reasons you would miss Sunday mass.

    • The Church teaches and permits NFP for just causes. It’s not a sin to use it accordingly. I’m sure God will bless you for your beyond-the-call-of-duty approach to procreation, but to imply that the marriage vows and NFP are in contradiction is an error. Humanae Vitae, and thus the papal magisterium, allows and promotes NFP.

      As for dioceses requiring NFP classes, I think it’s brilliant. Consider it from the bishop’s perspective. Most couples contracept. He wants them to be aware of and know how to use a moral method of spacing children for just causes. What he is teaching is allowed and supported by the Church’s theology. He is doing it to combat a dangerous moral error you also oppose. Yet, rather than go to the class happily to serve as a good example, to support your bishop, and to learn something conducive to a holy lifestyle, you show outrage that you aren’t allowed an exception because you plan to live a holier lifestyle. This does not strike me as being a humble course of action, and blaming your diocese for the requirement because of that seems entirely unjust.

      Those who want to be Catholic quiverfulls, which is perfectly fine by me, could also still benefit from NFP’s ability to help a couple conceive more children. It seems to me, in light of this, that there is really no good reason to avoid learning NFP.

      • johnnyb /

        For the record, I am a big sinner.
        I heard from a priest up for canonization that only supernatural marriages will survive. I want to call others to the greatest holiness and sacrifice and so we are called by Jesus Christ.

        You should read that book. I goes over all of your points even the false statement that we are trying to have as many kids as possible.
        Also for the record, NFP if used properly is not a sin. Gotta go.

        • Amazon’s description of that book makes several valid claims which have no contradiction to what I wrote above. It also has several logical fallacies that have been refuted many times, specifically associating NFP as morally similar to contraception and questioning the faith of Catholics who use NFP according to the Church’s guidelines.

          Also, by definition, sacramental marriage is supernatural marriage. Your canonization-considered priest is right. So was Paul VI, my canonization-considered pope. Papal magisterial authority is a bigger seal of God’s approval that the heroic virtue of the saints.

      • HI-LO!

        Just to clarify (as the guy who the links point to!) I don’t think one should look to go “beyond NFP” per se. I just don’t like how its presented as the default within Catholic marriages, when the likes of Christopher West present it as something every Catholic couple must do, and if they aren’t using it, they aren’t practicing “responsible parenthood.”

        There certainly could be times me and my now wife (she was fiancee when I first wrote that) will be practicing NFP, and there will be absolutely no remorse over that fact. (Well, maybe for her having to do the whole temperature thing, yeah, that’s the only thing that would inconvienence a woman… MOVING ON!)

        The point I attempted to convey in those articles was that its okay to not be using NFP at every point of your marriage, but that it’s also okay if you are using it, and for those who try to equate NFP with contraception, they need to temper their language, if for no other reason than the Church clearly disagrees.

  5. Bernadette Davies /

    I have been teaching the Billings Ovulation Method of NFP for nearly 25 years. Dr Lyn Billings, co-creator of the method with her husband, Dr John Billings, said that the knowledge that we give women about their fertility is knowledge that every woman should have. It doesn’t matter whether or not you use the information as a form of family planning, every woman of childbearing age i.e from puberty on, should understand her cycles. Many more women than ever before, it would seem, are having problems with their cycles and fertility – even young women who have never been on the pill and have remained chaste until their weddings. As a vast majority of fertility problems arise from endocrine pathologies, by knowing what is normal and recognizing that her cycles are not normal, a woman can have the underlying pathology treated immediately so that it doesn’t develop into a chronic illness e.g. diabetes.
    It is vital that all women have this knowledge and all men should want their wives and daughters knowledgeable to protect their health and their futures.

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