Rorate Caeli

Heroic Parenthood: the case against the NFP mentality

The big Catholic family is dead. Sure, there's a remnant of us left, who still get the stares in the grocery stores, or the eyes rolling every time a co-worker or, even worse, a family member hears mom's expecting again. But, by and large, most Catholics have been lost to the evils of artificial contraception for decades. 

The few Catholics who do not accept all the children God has intended for them, who do not go out and multiply as He commanded, yet still have a trace of Catholic sense to them, have been led to their present situation by many in the Church, with a peculiar understanding of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and its  broad extension to seemingly any specific circumstance, from exception to norm. And the consequences for the Church -- and society at large -- have been devastating.

Read this provocative piece from Christian Order and gain a thorough understanding of where part of the hierarchy has gone astray from the perennial teachings of the past, compiled beautifully by Pius XI and Pius XII, on this most grave matter for society and for souls. Then pass it along to wayward Catholics, and Catholics of good faith, who may be failing to live life abundantly.

And, of course, always remember to seek the spiritual direction of a faithful and solidly traditional Catholic priest.


Alan Aversa said...

An interesting document that will interest readers here: Vatican II's Preparatory Commission's On chastity, marriage, the family, and virginity

arthur said...

I have never heard the birth control teaching addressed from the pulpit.

Roseanne Sullivan said...

The only time I heard contraception spoken against in a homily, I went up afterwards and kissed the priest's hands in gratitude.

Sancte Alphonsus said...

Relevant sermon on audio sancto:

Anonymous said...

Sadly, NFP is routinely part of 'Catholic' marriage preparation in many parishes!

The Church merely tolerates NFP; she does not promote it.

Common Sense said...

Dear RC, in conjuction with your article, allow me to raise one particular issue. While most of us have been fighting for tradition for long time, we as trads neglected in practical terms the importance of well organized and structured family environement and serious decline in parental skills. We can witness more and more unruly behaved children and teenagers from our own ranks and the parents unability to correct those problems. There seems to be a lack of sense of perpective as well as sense of obligation in discharging ones' duty of the state to highest degree possible. Shouldn't the outsiders look up to us? The very leadership of SSPX isn't interested any more in piety sentiments, but hands on the job approach:" Show me what to do, how to do and when to do!" Large families are under pump and need every bit of help in terms of sympathy, sound policy advice and display of sense of solidarity. It is my opinion that unless we implement lovingly, but firmly and consistently sound methods in raising good families, future of tradition isn't looking good. Sinse Rome can't help us, we have to help ourselves. Would you be able to publish some reflection on this important matter please? Our young people are our future!

Ramadan said...

We have a priest who will not celebrate the TLM, but is red hot on contraception and promiscuity, preaching on these topics frequently as a primary subect and tangentially on most Sundays. Now if only he would repgnize the beauty of the liturgy ...

The Bones said...

Very well written. Quite a devastating critique.

Matercula said...

Ah ! at last.

I firmly believe it is a 'contraceptive mentality' that drives NFP in the mainstream neo-con novus ordo circles.

NFP bears no fruit, spiritual and human.

Humane Vitae and NFP has been abused.
Apart from being used as a method of spacing children in a Catholic marriage facing grave circumstances and under 'spiritual direction of a faithful and solidly traditional Catholic priest', NFP is widely being promoted in parishes as the 'Church's approved method of avoiding a pregnancy' (I kid you not). And almost compulsory part of pre-marriage preparation.
It is also taught to captive audiences of teenagers trapped in buses en-route to World Youth Day!

Take the word Natural out, what have we got ?
Yeah that's right.

New Catholic said...


I think you are missing the point. First, we do not know if the author is a "traditionalist" or not - true, he is writing for Christian Order, but, for all we know, he could be a regular Novus Ordo goer with a keen interest in such matters. Second, this is not supposed to be an academic gem of an article, but a simple first reminder to Catholic couples, who, if touched by it, can deepen their understanding of the matter, always, as we suggested, under the spiritual guidance of a solidly traditional Priest. No need to insult the author, and much less to make generalizations.


Anonymous said...

Common sense, I don't really see the problem you do. What would you propose?

Chris Lauer said...

Thank you to the author and to Adfero for posting. This is just brilliant. It is worthy of a much more widespread circulation.

Michael Ortiz said...

Good article, and its principles could be applied to Christian living in many forms, vocations.

Jay Boyd said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Lauer - "brilliant" is the word that came to my mind when I read this. I have been writing about the problems with NFP on my own blog ("Philothea on Phire") for the past year and a half, though I've not been nearly as eloquent as Christopher Gawley is in this article. Still, if you are looking for more reading on this subject, I compiled my blog posts into a book, "Natural Family Planning: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom" It's available on Amazon.

matthew strandquist said...

Matercula: "NFP bears no fruit, spiritual [or] human". I take issue with this statement. My wife and I, and several other couples I know of, have used NFP to GET pregnant when she was having difficulty conceiving, and the fruit in our marriages has been a greater intimacy, and awe at God's works.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, you know that's not the point of this post.

Katalina said...

When my parents got married in 1958 they were given some kind of marriage prep program which was at that time known as the "Rhythm" Method which at that time was a way for a married couple to space out their children NATURALLY. I remember my mom had a special log book to mark and chart the days. This was an early form of NFP IMHO since it was latter deemed not to be effective. NFP also allows you to Conceive as well.

Paenitet said...

New Catholic:

I am Christopher Gawley -- and I am a traditionalist. I am not sure, however, what that has to do with whether my article is right or not in terms of its thesis. That said, I am deeply committed to the restoration of the latin mass throughout Christendom.

Thank you to Rorate Caeli for providing a wide distribution to my article.

Rev. Anthony Cekada said...

A very informative article. I had no idea that the use of NFP was now being presented as some sort of "ideal" for Catholic marriage.

Regarding Adfero's comment:

"And, of course, always remember to seek the spiritual direction of a faithful and solidly traditional Catholic priest."

This prompts a question:

It is said in some trad circles that one must "consult a priest" or have "a priest's permission" or "ask a spiritual director or confessor" before it is morally permissible for a couple to employ NFP or another form of periodic abstinence.

But I have not seen this "requirement" or "obligation" mentioned in any moral theology manual I have consulted.

Can anyone here point me to such a source?


Anonymous said...

I've never seen a requirement Father but I do think it's important, IF the person has access to a traditional priest. The problem is that, even the conservative priests, in most cases, push NFP as the ideal, not the last resort it was intended to be, utilized only for grave reasons. They now push the utter nonsense that you actually improve your marriage and know God better by denying Him souls without a grave reason to do so. It's diabolical.

And, before anyone has a conniption, I don't mean all conservative priests. In fact, a very good priest, whom I do not believe says the TLM, sent me this story because he appreciated our post a couple of weeks ago on the devastating effects of mothers working outside the home. But anyone whose been married in the last decade can attest to the NFP mentality pushed by so-called conservatives onto the laity. Or turn on EWTN or any other typical Catholic modern show or writing on the subject to see they are not only pushing a contraceptive mentality but distorting the entire Church teaching on marriage altogether, as if the education of children tops the procreation of children first and foremost

Jay Boyd said...

Fr. Cekada, I have done a lot of reading on this topic, and although a lot of people suggest that a couple SHOULD consult with a priest regarding use of NFP, I have not seen any source or reference saying that such direction is REQUIRED. And Humanae Vitae doesn't say so either, which is part of the problem; HV is pretty vague about what a "serious reason" might be for limiting births.

Chris said...

Coincidently, in the year 2013 A.D. it is also said in some Eastern Orthodox circles [that one must "consult a priest" or have "a priest's permission" or "ask a spiritual director or confessor" before it is morally permissible for a couple to employ] any form of contraceptive practice - natural or unnatural. : "The Church rejects any proposal of toleration of all unnatural practices like birth control and birth prevention. That this practice violates the sacred purpose of matrimony is beyond doubt." He quotes a joint Encyclical Letter issued on October 14, 1937, by Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens, together with fifty-five other Bishops, in which they said contraceptive birth control is to be condemned, and also any lax teaching on the subject by individual Greek Orthodox priests. Of such false teaching they wrote: "The laxity of the confessor on the question of birth control, opposing his personal opinions to the official and true doctrine of the Orthodox Church and endorsing such a practice creates great and criminal scandals for which the responsibility of such a priest is tremendous. To him the words of the Lord are directed: 'They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch'." The official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Churches is that married people have only two choices morally permissible for them; either to abstain by mutual agreement from marital relations, or to accept such children as God sends. (I believe that this represents the correct position for both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthdox - the only consistent historic traditional teaching of the church.)

Sarah said...

Pope Pius XII, in his "Address to Midwives on the Nature of Their Profession" (allocution, October 29, 1951), he writes, "...If, instead, husband and wife go further, that is, limiting the conjugal act exclusively to those {infertile} periods, then their conduct must be examined more closely." It mentions extreme cases where maternity cannot be risked for the sake of the mother's health (and it refers to those particular situations where pregnancy would seriously imperil the mother's life), and in such cases, complete abstinence is put forth as the only sure way of protecting the mother; heroic though it may sound, it's not impossible without God.
I've not yet found a passage that explicitly recommends consulting a priest, but the general tone of the letter is one that frowns on the idea of abstaining only during fertile periods to avoid conception for any reason other than the extreme one where the mother's life would be imperiled.

BONIFACE said...

My wife and I have been married 12 years and have never used NFP except for 6 months in the beginning. There are definitely abuses with NFP, but it is important to point out that there is no positive mandate for a woman to have as many children as her body can bear. When we have felt that postponing the birth of another child would be in our best interest, we simply abstain. Sometimes we have abstained for as long as a year. There is no mandate of how frequently the conjugal act must be performed, other than that the spouses must be at the service of one another here. Abstention is frequently left out of the discussion, because modern man tends to view the sexual impulse as unable to be controlled. Hence, NFP as a kind of compromise where the act is allowed during infertile periods.

Our thinking is, if you really have unselfish reasons for not wanting a child at the moment, then abstain. Continuing to have sex strategically during infertile periods is only permitted for grave situations. If it is not grave, then abstention is best. But there is no mandate for your wife to be pregnant every 11 months, either.

Dr. Timothy J. Williams said...

I was going to comment, until I read the remarks of Boniface, who says more or less exactly what I wanted to say.

Nate C said...

I studied up on NFP before marriage and became convinced that it was effective and permissible under the right circumstances. After 6 months of marriage we had 3 children pretty much consecutively. Interestingly enough, none were conceived by accident, we willfully engaged in marital relations during times we understood pregnancy was possible. After #4 we started abstaining for the most part which presented a 3 year gap before #5 (which is currently due in November).

The point I'm trying to make is that NFP did not result in less children in my case, mostly because the potential for pregnancy was always there and we acted on the Holy Spirit's promptings I guess.

I don't know anyone who practice NFP who uses it merely to avoid pregnancy, at best it's to delay several months. Now grave reasons may not exist, but avoiding sins of sexual temptation may qualify for certain people.

I don't know anyone who actually think NFP works as contraception, probably because they see the side effects of NFP as pregnancy! Which is the truth, they just don't realize that it probably was...PLANNED!! Hah.

Anonymous said...

Nate, so what you're actually saying is that you didn't use NFP ..,,

I know many Catholics who used it for years to prevent pregnancy so the woman could work and live very, very well.

Common Sense said...

Dear Adfero,as staunch SSPX supporter and of any traditional group for that matter, it pains me to state that there's increasingly larger proportion of incompetent parents right accross the trad spectrum. Some of the critisism coming from outsiders has merits. Those critics may not be any better, but they score a valid point. But don't take my word for it. The most frustrated about this issue are some of the trad priests. And yet they haven't managed to implement remedial policies. Our young people need family atmosphere, where catholic princiles are cherished and lived in practical manner. I see and know some of our youth as lazy, slopy, grossly lacking moral and ethical virtues and self discipline. The reason, cause and source? Disorganized,ignorant and chaotic parents. Most of these defficiences can easily be fixed through well structured counseling, although there may be very few impudent and audacious folk shouting:"Who are you to tell me and mind your own business!" Well, true as long as they don't impose themselves on others and live on Mars. Rule of law and order is a crucial component in the live of society. To be fair, there're lot of examplery trad families, but the devil never sleeps. Now briefly on NFP: abuse of it constitutes a mortal sin and only a competent, traditionaly minded priest must be consulted. NEVER a lay person! Thank you RC.

gtaylor said...

Here in Scotland, i have never hear a priest, let alone a bishop preach on the evil of artificial contraception since the death of the late Cardinal Grey ( over 30 years ago) surprise there then.

Anonymous said...

Common sense, not sure where you live, but I don't see that. All trad families I know have wonderful children, thrive at homeschooling and, most importantly, are bringing souls to heaven. Sure, there's an occasional problem, but by and large I see families raising fine young Catholics and citizens,

Michael Ortiz said...

A few comments:

1. If using NFP involves--which it does--serious issues, it follows from prudence to consult a wise and holy priest. As a general rule. Hence no need for explicit mandate in this instance, which may explain why one hasn't been found.

2. I remember back in the 1990s hearing in an Opus Dei context to beware of the "contraceptive mentality" that was creeping into NFP.

3. When my wife and I did "pre-Cana" in the DC area, we were simply told "NFP works".

4. I suspect there are a good number of faithful Catholics who using NFP simply want to not offend God, and yet show affection to their spouse, avoid temptation, etc. That's not nothing! Though I agree with the "grave" motive to sanction its use...

Rev. Anthony Cekada said...

Common Sense said....

"Now briefly on NFP: abuse of it constitutes a mortal sin and only a competent, traditionaly minded priest must be consulted."

You're mistaken on the issue of mortal sin.

I've been teaching the moral/canonical course to our seminarians for about twenty years now, and here's a little summary of the moral considerations regarding NFP or other forms of periodic abstinence:

1. General Principles.

a. Spouses are free to choose whatever time they want to exercise their marriage right or abstain from exercising their marriage right by mutual consent.

b. Conversely, they are not obliged to exercise their right during fertile periods, or abstain during sterile periods.

c. Deliberately to limit marital relations to sterile periods to avoid conception is morally lawful in actual practice, provided the requisite conditions are met.

d. Family limitation without good and sufficient reason involves a degree of moral fault.

e. Periodic continence is morally permissible because it fulfills the other ends of marriage (mutual love and fidelity, alleviation of concupiscence) and because it does not physically hinder the natural processes of conception.

2. Requisite Conditions.

a. Mutual consent or willingness of the spouses.

b. Ability properly to observe periodic continence without danger of sin.

c. Sufficient justification or cause, just and grave, either medical, eugenic, economic, or social, which justifications are outlined by various theologians.

3. Gravity of the Various Obligations.

a. The issues involved with NFP were not fully discussed by pre-Vatican II theologians.

b. The gravity of an obligation (if any) to exercise the marriage right during fertile periods was not clearly established.

c. Neither was the gravity of the unjustifiable use of periodic abstinence.


As I mentioned above, I have never seen permission or approval from a priest or confessor listed among the requisite conditions, and I would appreciate any leads on this point.

That said, it is absurd to make NFP a cornerstone of Catholic marital life, given the primary end of marriage as always understood and proclaimed by the Church. If anything, priests preparing couples for marriage should point out the anti-child mentality of the culture in which they live (kids as "trouble," "expense," "danger to the planet," etc.) and encourage them to look upon kids as a blessing and a support to them.

One mother I know who was a convert announced she was having another baby and relatives gave her heat about the "expense." Her response: "Sure, I could put the money towards an SUV — but while you can love an SUV, an SUV can never love you back!"

We need more Catholics like that!

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this on behalf of a good and holy priest:

Pius XII in his allocution explained that there is a positive duty of parents to provide children for the well-being of society, the State, and the Church. There are, to be sure, serious reasons that could justify the abstention from that duty. However, the Pope did not mention "unselfish" as the qualifier for serious reasons.
I agree with Boniface that total continence is to be preferred over periodic continence, when both spouses are in agreement. But the comment: "there is no mandate for your wife to be pregnant every eleven months" can easily become the slippery slope gateway to the contraceptive mentality. Indeed, the birth control movement made much headway by promoting birth spacing, a concept now almost universally accepted even in Catholic circles. As a result, Irish twins are sadly a vanishing breed.

Mr. Gawley's article is excellent; and I highly recommend Dr. Jay Boyd's book (Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom) as well.


TC said...

The author's belief that legitimate NFP use is like bankruptcy is a dangerous position: is it really the case that legitimate NFP use still constitutes a failure to fulfill one's obligations, as the author says? According to that understanding, married couples are obliged to have as many children as they physically can, and anything short of this is a failure to fulfill one's obligations. I would like to see some substantiation of this position from Church documents, but I'm skeptical that any such substantiation exists, since this is surely not the Church's position: one's obligations regarding family size are not reducible to the one-sentence commandment "have as many as the woman can birth," but, rather, are subject to one's personal circumstances, abilities, etc.

Sarah's comment that the only sufficient ("grave") reason that would justify using NFP is a circumstance in which the mother's life is imperilled. The tone of the letter of Pius XII does not, pace Sarah, indicate that conclusion, nor does the content. Pius indicates economic and social reasons as possibly constituting grave reason.

As Fr. Cekada pointed out in a letter to an editor some years back, we laypersons need to stop trumpeting our opinions/interpretations on such difficult questions as if they were the Church's position: let the documents speak for themselves (rather than reading into them), and let ambiguities remain ambiguities.

Jay, perhaps the Church's ambiguity with regard to what constitutes "grave" or "just" cause is intentional. Meaning, various elements involved in the moral decision are particular, concrete realities, in regard to which prudence can only apply principles, principles that can never be as concrete as the situations. Principles don't decide: prudence decides in light of principles. The Church has given the principle, at some level of detail, and perhaps further elaboration is forthcoming, but perhaps it is not.

Finally, I repeat Father Cekada's question: can anyone point to an authoritative Church document, or even a moral theology manual, that states a priest's permission is required in this regard? I would be surprised if anyone found any such requirement.

JOR-EL said...

A married couple should only limit the number of children – to the number God is willing to give them. They can only accept the number of children He gives them just as they (not always so graciously) must accept the crosses He gives them.

Common Sense said...

Thank you, Adfero.I live in Melbourne. One of my relative teaches at traditional school which maintains very high academic standard and according to the official publicly published results rates among the top one hundred schools in Victoria. Great achievement! I'm not at liberty recklessly critisize something I hold dear, but wordly spirit of indifference and folly slowly filters into traditional communities particularly among the younger generation,who some of them not only don't go to mass anymore, but lost the faith also. Please don't dismiss it lightly because it comes from people of impecable credentials, both priests and lay people.There is review on the way. How can one explain inrease the number of unfortunate single mothers? My soul agonizes when I see them. Overall the standard of quality of parenting in trad communities is higher both in essense and scope than the mainstreem, but that is poor consolation. I conclude this subject with question to every parent: does your child obay each time your request immidiatelly without talkback and willingly? If yes, well and good. If not than why not? That's all on this issue from me. Thank you RC.

Sarah said...

Oops! TC is right. I missed that part about the economic and social reasons. Sorry.

JOR-EL said...

Some authoritative statements worthy of consideration:

Decree of the Holy Office, March 4 1679, listing various errors on moral subjects, to include: "The act of marriage exercised for pleasure only is entirely free of all fault and venial defect." ... which the Holy Office condemned and prohibited, as here expressed, at least as scandalous and in practice pernicious. [D. 1159]

St. Augustine - On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book I, Ch 16
Then, "It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful: it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin. For although propagation of offspring is not the motive of the intercourse, there is still no attempt to prevent such propagation, either by wrong desire or evil appliance. They who resort to these, although called by the name of spouses, are really not such; they retain no vestige of true matrimony, but pretend the honourable designation as a cloak for criminal conduct."

St. Augustine, Treatise on the Grace of Christ & Original Sin, Book II, Ch 43
"[...] they make a perverse use of it,—not alone all kinds of lawless corruptions [...] even in the marriage state itself, whenever husband and wife toil at procreation, not from the desire of natural propagation of their species"

St. Thomas Aquinas ST Sup. Q. XLIX A. II & V
"The aforesaid act does not differ from the act of fornication except in the aforesaid goods. But the act of fornication is always evil. Therefore the marriage act also will always be evil unless it be excused by the aforesaid goods." and the "aforesaid goods" are "One of these is required on the part of the agent and is the INTENTION OF THE DUE END, and thus the OFFSPRING is accounted a good of matrimony; the other is required on the part of the act, which is good generically through being about a due matter; and thus we have faith, whereby a man has intercourse with his wife and with no other woman."

Anonymous said...

Common sense said: "I conclude this subject with question to every parent: does your child obay each time your request immidiatelly without talkback and willingly?"

My answer, for my young children: of course not! In times of seriousness, yes, usually. In everyday things, no, of course not. This is because, as juveniles, they act juvenile!

But, common sense, do you obey God, your authority, each and every second of the day? Unless you're a living saint, that answer would be no. None of us do. That doesn't mean you're a train wreck of a human, you're just human. And when kids whine or take a few times to step to attention, that's not some grave flaw in parenting, it's just their fallen nature.

What I fear most are the over the top parents who beat their children into obedience. That takes the boy out of the boy, crushes his spirit, and nearly guarantees he'll never stand up for God and the Faith when he has no fight in him left when he's a man. And any man who would strike his daughter is no man at all.

Edmund Campion said...

I am a priest who says the Traditional Latin Mass evert Sunday and on some weekdays (the Novus Ordo Mass the rest of the days). I have several copies of Dr. Jay Boyd's book: 'Natural Family Planning: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom'. Some of my parishioners have borrowed the book (TLM and Novus Ordo parishioners), and it has worked wonders among them. I highly recommend this book. People need to know about the danger of the disordered NFP mentality.

Unknown said...

For the main points, I agree with Gawley. The idea that heroic parenthood should be the norm is beautiful and true. I think, though, that the author fails to realize many families with 6 or 8 or even 10 children do often use periodic abstinence and use it successfully. NFP can and should be consistent with the idea of heroic parenthood.

Gawley later compares NFP to bulimia. "Truly it is a form of conjugal bulimia. While NFP brings you to a place without children in a markedly different manner, it nonetheless still brings you there." That would be like saying that "while a person who maintains a strict diet and exercise regimen brings you to weight loss in a markedly different manner, it nonetheless still brings you there." There is a difference between purging and choosing to abstain when it is likely that food will result in added weight. Likewise, there is a difference between contracepting and choosing to abstain when marital intimacy is most fecund.

Gawley also says that "there have never been fewer grave reasons not to have children as there are in the United States today given its sheer material and economic wealth." That betrays his belief that one must be materially destitute in order to turn to NFP. The United States is destitute - but not of material wealth. Our nation is destitute of good Catholic schools to which we can send our children; it is destitute of charitable help for large families - the prevalent idea being that "you chose this now live with it". Even among the traditional parishes I have been blessed to be a part of there was no help for families. There was an expectation that you could/must do it all on your own. For my part, I find this a much harder thing to handle than material poverty with a generous parish school and a helpful community. Material poverty is a huge blessing! The Christian education of our children is a duty. It is a relatively mild burden to feed/clothe an extra child. It is a much larger burden to add another grade level to ones school (up until the firstborn children are of an age to really help).

It is a tragedy that in our age we cannot rely on our Catholic parishes for our children's education. The parents now are often in the unfortunate circumstances of having little to no support in the true education of their children from either the Church or the state (both have the duty to support the parents!). How terribly sad.
Let's see some movement to support families - to give them the resources they need, the assistance they need, the support they need to not only welcome a large number of children but also to care for and educate them as good Catholics. Even the large families who are blessed to live near a good Catholic school are often required by circumstances to homeschool. Tuitions are too high and family discounts/financial aid is often not enough when you have 8 children to enroll.

Anonymous said...

Unknown, even parents who can afford a good Catholic school, and with 8 or 10 kids, choose to homeschool for the sake of homeschooling. It's not always a last resort but the first choice for many if us.

And I really don't believe lack of a school of your preference is a reason to deny God souls.

Anonymous said...

And, if the schooling is that difficult, why not abstain? Why must one participate in the marital act and not offer that up?

bill bannon said...

The acceptance by the modern Popes of NFP began in the mid 19th century after science explained the woman's cycle. There was resistance even by Arthur Vermeesch who advised on Casti Connubii. But by the time one gets to Humanae Vitae, the resistance of such people was over.
This acceptance nullifies Augustine and Aquinas believing asking for the debt is venial sin and nullifies any non infallble exercises of the ordinary papal magisterium.
For example Pope Leo X forbade Catholics to affirm with Luther that burning heretics at the stake was against the Holy condemned, Exsurge Domine...1520. Splendor of the Truth, sect. 80 by John Paul II voids Exsurge Domine...both are papal; neither are clearly infallible...but the later is therefore binding. Section 80 said that torture and coercion of spirit are intrinsic evils. John Paul was really returning to the early Church writers who were against torture and killing heretics in the first 500 years. The next 500 were mixed.
1253's Pope Innocent IV ( and Aquinas) reversed that earlier gentleness which John Paul returned to.
If you hold everything of long past times as infallible, you like Ignatius will hold to virtual pan infallibility but only of the past. Ignatius did not have the advantage of Vatican I which limited infallibility. You have that advantage.
Check the Intro to Ludwig Ott's " Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" Go down to section 8 and then to its last paragraph which will tell you that on morals the ordinary papal magisterium is not not infallible.

JOR-EL said...

What has become very apparent to me is that many Catholics (traditional, novus ordo, whatever) have, regarding the issue of NFP (among others, e.g. the
acceptance of theistic evolution) completely
loss the sense of the Sensus Catholicus. This tragic rejection of our religious patrimony was foretold by Our Lady of Good Success (Quito, Ecuador, 1611) Our Lady told Mother Mariana that in the future the acceptance of non-sound doctrine and the corruption of manners and customs would be almost complete and the light of the Faith would be nearly extinguished.

bill bannon said...

Jor El
If you use that to idolize the past without thinking, you'll be making a mistake. Paul in I Cor. 7 tells one group ( not all people) to marry in order to avoid fornication and in verse 5 tells them not to separate over long sexually lest satan enter their marriage. Then along comes Augustine ( with the baggage of ten years of hypersexual sinning in his past) and tells the same group they are sinning venially when they follow in effect...what Paul told them to do to avoid fornication. Aquinas simply copied Augustine in that detail and in other sexual matters which is why both ended up incorrect on Mary contracting original sin because her parents enjoyed the sexual act. They both held she was cleansed before birth. They were wrong. One's job is not to be overstrict but to be in line with the truth....otherwise, ask yourself if you would have rejected Christ when He let the disciples pick grain on the Sabbath as they walked along or when He told a healed man to carry home his cot on the Sabbath. Had you lived then, would you have sought His arrest. Always ask yourself that. Dietrich von Hildebrand said the truth is not only between the two extremes but above them.

Sancte Alphonsus said...

One thing gone unmentioned is that breast feeding (what is now being called 'ecological breastfeeding') is God's natural way to space births. Leaving the exceptions alone, a lot of women don't want to have anything to do with breast feeding their own children and instead opt to feed their infants soy based formula. My family can vouch that if you do things within the natural framework that God made your children will, more often than naught, be spaced roughly two years apart - give or take.

Yes, there's exceptions but God doesn't make mistakes. And what is so 'natural' about feeling mucus, taking temperatures, and charting it all out every day anyway... Weird Family Planning (WFP) is more like it.

Anonymous said...

Sancte, one thing I did purposely in the original post avoid, but I'm glad you brought it up, is the "weird" factor of NFP.

While modern men, may not see this, those of us who are more old school may find the whole process weird. I know when my wife and I were sent to an NFP class as required for pre-cana, I found it, frankly, disgusting. I could believe how much of a turn off it was to hear about my wife's bodily functions, the "signs" of fertility, etc. And it was embarrassing to her as well.

And, to boot, having some strange man asking my wife about her bodily functions was really bizarre.

There's a reason NFP offends our Sensus Catholicus in so many way. Because it should. Abstinence wouldn't offend those senses.

Briena said...

Adfero, I think you misunderstand me. I'm not lamenting the lack of a school of preference. I'm lamenting the lack of a school one can in good conscience enroll one's children in. Our modern schools are a danger to the faith of young children and our Catholic schools are often no better.
Every person has different gifts. Some parents are very blessed to be able to easily school numerous children at home. Others do not have those gifts. Shall we condemn them because the Lord has blessed them in other ways? Why must we expect everyone to share our talents?
Sancte Alphonsus, women who use NFP, by and large, do breastfeed. Unfortunately, breastfeeding does not work to space children here in the US. It is the exception, in my experience, for a women to be able to space children two years apart through ecological breastfeeding alone - even when all of the rules are followed. The women I know who use ecological breaastfeeding and have children spaced 2 yrs apart only achieved that through NFP. Most of my friends who use ecological breastfeeding have children spaced 11-18 months apart. It's very easy for people who can naturally space their children to condemn the use of NFP - why should it be necessary? But for the family with four children 4 and under receiving no support...what do you tell them? I'd rather see people encouraging the communities and parishes to offer that mother support she desperately needs than condemnation if the couple should choose to use NFP - a method repeatedly approved by the Church even pre-VII.

Anonymous said...

I think the link may have originally been found on my blog. But irrespective of that, I would like to state some personal experience. My wife and I know some Catholic couples that used NFP. They were very proud of that fact. These couples - and there several - all proceeded to have the husbands sterilized after they obtained the desired number of children (from 2 to 4). I think there is some significance in the trend towards male sterlization, but I'll leave that aside for now.

How is it not possible to see a contraceptive mentality in their NFP use when they all got surgical sterilization? I wonder how widespread this is. We were under some pressure from these couples to get on board with sterlization after we had our 4th child, but we of course found that ridiculous and offensive. So, we're not really friends with those people anymore, pretty much by their choice.

There are a number of dangers and problems I see in the NFP movement. One is the zealots who have made NFP into an 8th Sacrament of sorts and insist that you can't be a good married Catholic without using it. Another is its depiction in popular presentations as what amounts to Catholic contraception to be used for life, regardless of circumstances - as if NFP is in itself a positive good, rather than a fallback position in extremis. Finally, there is the main point of the author's piece, which is the abrogation of the traditional Catholic concept of heroic parenthood, parenthood as a vocation and a vehicle of Grace and virtue and ultimately, we pray, salvation. All of that routinely gets lost in most of the popular presentations on NFP.

I also agree with the author that NFP has been a disastrous failure. Only a tiny fraction of Catholics use NFP, even less in the prescribed, morally acceptable manner, while most continue to use contraception. In many people's minds (I have personal experience of this), NFP is nothing more than a Catholic version of contraception. So why not have more assurance and "less hassle" and just use the real thing?

New Catholic said...

"I think the link may have originally been found on my blog."

Not to our knowledge; it was sent to Adfero by a third party. We always recognize our sources and links.

Anonymous said...

Briena: "Some parents are very blessed to be able to easily school numerous children at home. Others do not have those gifts."

While I'm in no way saying every mother should homeschool, it's not really a matter of "gifts" but a matter of grace.

As someone whose own mother was a teacher, and whose mother-in-law is still a teacher, and whose wife homeschools much to their initial dismay, homeschooling doesn't require the mother to have the gift to teach. God grants all mothers, through Our Lady, the graces she needs to get her kids to Heaven. So, if putting them in a local school puts their souls at risk, I think one would be wise to trust in our Lord that she will homeschool them successfully.

Again, I know there are women who cannot, due to many factors, homeschool to the level their wish their children to be educated. But, as a good priest once wrote many years ago, it would be better, by and large, for children to sit at home and play checkers than to go lose their souls in a school!

Sancte Alphonsus said...

Briena said

Unfortunately, breastfeeding does not work to space children here in the US. It is the exception, in my experience, for a women to be able to space children two years apart through ecological breastfeeding alone - even when all of the rules are followed.

What do you mean it does not work in the US? Physiology is physiology. If it's not working here it's because US women resent aspects and duties of mothering children and are unwilling to do it right. Again, I'm not talking about the exceptions who cannot breast feed but those who can and do not. Mothers are told to put their children in cribs, only feed at certain times, are shamed into not nursing their children discreetly when they're out and about etc. My family is living proof of this method and we don't use NFP - we just do what comes naturally. Actually - we didn't view it as a method at all we just wanted to do what's best for our children. We weren't looking to space children out. Then we'd see the families who have child after child after child and would see them feeding them from bottles, shaking up some formula - go figure.

You don't need to read a book about "ecological breastfeeding" rules - when your newborn cries it can only mean a handful of things and usually it's hunger. If you have your child in your bed there is nothing easier than just rolling over and nursing your little one - no getting up in the middle of the night cooking up some Gerber soy bean formula with all the estrogen like substances that goes along with it.

Curious observer said...

I think this a good article, and good comments too, but on the whole a wee bit harsh on NFP. I agree with the idea that most Catholics in the west have lost an understanding and appreciation for having a large family, and that this is related to artificial contraception and a consumer mentality, however NFP is not to blame.
In my experience the Catholics who have small families are the ones using artificial contraception and the ones who are using NFP tend to have more kids (not because NFP is less effective, but because the type of people who would care enough about their faith to use it are more Catholic in their understanding of the value of children.)
I also disagree that understanding how your wife's cycle works is somehow unnatural or weird. Understanding her cycle helps with more than just conceiving or not, it helps you understand moods and emotions, it helps you understand her. And after she learns about her cycle and understands it she stops needing to look at her physical symptoms.
I do agree however that it shouldn't be taught en masse and I would have been very uncomfortable if a man had been teaching it.
I think NFP has its place but I agree that Catholics should have lots of kids.
May I also suggest that we refer to the idea of couples leaving it entirely in God's hands Super-natural family planning?

Anonymous said...

Curious: "I also disagree that understanding how your wife's cycle works is somehow unnatural or weird."

It's not just knowing her time of the month, when it happens. That's apparent to most husbands.

I'm talking about the stuff you actually put on the chart, of which I will not mention in writing. I'm sorry, if you don't find that weird, you have a much different mindset than me.

Curious observer said...

We appear to have misunderstood each other. I have no desire to have detailed knowledge of my wife's physical symptoms, much less be made to record them! However I do think that knowing where she is in her cycle is valuable (not just when its evidently TTOTM) for both of us.
Are couples taught that it is necessary to chart for the rest of their lives? I wouldn't have thought it necessary.
Surely once she has a good understanding of her cycle charting can be abandoned?

Common Sense said...

Good on you Jor-El for proposing sense of prudence with perhaps few other. Yes, catholics uncriticaly accepted prophet Darwin also. NFP is new idea and must be approach with caution. I find hard to digest these constipated, intelectualized ideas, inviting even Holy Scripture and exegeting according their own whims. The Holy Scripture praises wise man and dispises a fool. I also find it distastfull talking at point blank about intimite issues as if this was a science club.

Sarah said...

Adfero: "But, as a good priest once wrote many years ago, it would be better, by and large, for children to sit at home and play checkers than to go lose their souls in a school!"

Thank you for that. :) My in-laws were dismayed by our decision to homeschool, but it has been the best thing for our kids so far. While we're going to give the online K12 program a try (at least for a semester), I'm prepared to go back to homeschooling our own way if it doesn't work out. At least they'll still be home with us, though.

Michael Ortiz said...

I think the nature of a woman's fertility isn't disgusting in the least.

However: it's private, and having a "seminar" on this subject in mixed company is absurd, irreverent, and vulgar.

Common Sense said...

Adfero, what do you think about setting weekend little community schools withn the vicinity of homeschoolers? I'm definitely not against HS. What I detest with passion is simplistic solution and mediocracy right across the board. I favour structured approach as opposed to casual.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what you mean common sense? Little weekend schools?

Common Sense said...

Adfero, before we set up succesfully run trad school, all options were on the table. One of those was to run saturday morning from 9a.m to 1p.m. with one break session focusing on english, science, maths and religion with standard private school type curriculum and tought on voluntarily basis by qualified teachers. It was to be held in church hall and this way bypassing the goverment red tape.Yes, as discrete as possible and not to annoy neibourghs with exessive noise and nuisence parking. It was to serve as interim period for fully established registered school. Unconventional, well thought through methods are often succesfull. Because we trads don't have much money, we have to use our ingenuity coupled with solidarity. Don't be detered by some occasionaly hissing snake from your own ranks!

Cathy said...

What you said is so true! At my daughter's two-year old check-up the doctor said that my daughter shouldn't breastfeed at night and that she was nursing too much! The medical community discourages true breastfeeding. They are fine with it if it is done just the same as formula-feeding, however.

Anonymous said...

Common sense, if that's what you need, then I have no problem with it. But no, we don't want it -- we homeschool because we believe its the best way to raise and educate our children. It's not because we have no alternatives.

Sarah said...

Our approach to homeschool--and to many things in our family--isn't so neatly structured, but it works for us. Our Aspie son has been forced unintentionally by his routine-averse mother to be more flexible, and while we don't generally cover all the neatly-defined "subjects" every day, we cover many things--without arbitrarily alienating them from each other and their real-life context.
Structure has a purpose, but it ought to serve man and real life, not the reverse. I was told people with Aspergers need LOTS of structure, but I'm not well-equipped to provide that, as I tend to take each day as it comes. NFP charting and well-structured approaches to homeschooling have proven to be more a hassle than a help.

M.P. said...

Well that was something that I did argue, that there is not much difference between NFP and a condome. The truth is also that in the past famillies were not as big as in the middle ages etc. This was due to lactational amenorrhea (nowadays babies are weened from the breast so fast). If people only followed the way how God designed our bodies all would be great. Familly sizes would probably avarage about 5, a good proportion of the population would be monastics and all the so called problems of modern times would be solved.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

It doesn’t take a lot of observation or reasoning to become aware that contraceptive practice is well and truly established right deep inside the Catholic Church and doing its evil work most thoroughly, to the harm of its practitioners and all those who support and encourage them to behave like this, totally against Catholic faith and belief. How did this all happen ?

It’s a long while since I heard it said, but certain priests (I am going back many years) became known (in unguarded moments) as “OK on contraception”. The subterfuge these ordained priests used at the time was “Rely on your conscience”, cleverly omitting to state that our bounden duty is to inform our consciences properly and fully, in accordance with Revealed Truth, according to the One Holy Catholic Church, God’s representative on earth.

At the chapel where I am fortunate to attend Mass, there are so many joys to be found, apart from the always reverent celebration of the immemorial rite of Mass and excellent sermons : these include the sight of many families with five, six or seven young children. Often they are all under 10 years old or so. Yes, mea culpa, I do confess my attention does wander a bit when I can’t help but notice these little children, but I am also filled with admiration for their Catholic parents, knowing that will enjoy such pleasure, such fun, solace and joy in years to come. And they will have the beautiful happiness of a clear conscience.

Also, I realise that the source of good priests and religious for our Church is down to these Catholic mothers and fathers, may the Lord God bless them forever in maintaining the Faith. But, since I avoid the Novus Ordo as being a possible occasion of sin (for me) I do not know what it’s like in the Conciliar Church.

Mr Gawley, I read your article in CO and have been mulling it since then, I thank you sincerely for it and praise God we have courageous and dedicated Catholic authors to remind us of the eternal Truth. More of the same, please.

Ecce Fiat said...

I might be saying something already said here, so I apologize for that. But as a Catholic woman struggling with infertility, I wish discussions like this would acknowledge directly the fact that Catholics without the mini-van full of kids are not de-facto contraceptors. They could be struggling to conceive even one child, as is the case for my husband and me. Yes, we use NFP - but to try and get pregnant! Yes, there are dangers here too, just as there are dangers in using NFP to avoid. We have to be careful to not treat each other as an instrumental means to motherhood/fatherhood, which is a particular challenge for couples struggling with infertility. We have to nurture our marital intimacy even on days with a less likely chance of conception (also a challenge for infertile couples). But I am grateful for NFP and more specifically for the science behind it that is helping us to pinpoint our most fertile days and to seek appropriate medical help (Napro Technology) to hopefully address underlying medical issues.

Please don't act as if there are no infertile couples out there. Please don't act as if the only reason a Catholic couple doesn't have the big family seal-of-approval is because they've bought into the contraceptive culture. This is very painful for those of us who want a big family but have not been blessed with a child. And please don't treat NFP as if it is only used to postpone pregnancy - I am very grateful for the increased knowledge we have of hormones, cervical mucus, and so forth that I think NFP has had a big hand in developing.

Sarah said...

Ecce Fiat: I don't think anyone here would condemn a family with few or even no children by assuming they're using contraception. The parents of two of my best friends were always getting flack for not having a huge family when, in fact, the reason why they didn't have more kids was the mother's endometriosis, which caused her to miscarry a few boys before their two girls were born--the first one dedicated to St. Therese.
We have four kids, which means we get to hear comments from both camps: "What?? You have FOUR?!?!?" from one group, and "So, why only four?" from another. ;)
God bless you and your husband. I was really only interested in NFP, at the start, because I thought it would help us start a family as soon as possible. As it turned out, I didn't need the help, but my heart breaks for those who have difficulty conceiving children &/or carrying to term. One of my cousins miscarried six times before her second son was born. God must have made her and you out of tougher stuff than I'm made of.

Oliveira said...

I think this post was excessively unfair with John Paul II. What C. West says or not has nothing to do with the real writings and thoughts of JPII. If you really want to be fair and let the justice prevail, you should/ought to publish the following lines from JPII: "The use of infertile periods in conjugal shared life can become a source of abuses if the couple thereby attempt to evade procreation without just reasons, lowering it below the morally just level of births in their family". (General Audience of September 5, 1984; §3). I'll come up with another quotes.

Oliveira said...

As I said, this post was unfair with JPII. What makes me mad is that it seems that you didn't read a line from his catechesis, and talk about it like a known thing. See these quotes: "Humanae Vitae presents "responsible parenthood" as an expression of a high ethical value. In no way does it aim one-sidedly at limiting, even less at excluding, children; it means also the willingness to welcome a greater number of children... When one separates the "natural method" from the ethical dimension, one no longer sees the difference between it and the other "methods" (artifical means), and one ends up speaking about it as if it were just another form of contraception". (General audience, September 5, 1984)

Anonymous said...

First, this isn't our article. We simply shared it. Second, NFP, except in GRAVE circumstances, is no different than artificial contraceptives. It's all a contraceptive mentality.

Try reading Pius XII on the matter. There were popes before the dreaded Council.