An Essay on Natural Family Planning

 The Catholic Church has never opposed family planning, but she teaches through her Magisterium, or teaching authority, that man may not, of his own volition, separate the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, because these meanings are willed by God himself.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a function of God’s will is also a function of the natural law. For years, we have been waging war on our fertility in the practice of artificial birth control to the point that many countries, especially in the West, are demographically below replacement levels. On the other hand, while vast numbers of women are ignorant of the significance of those changing mucus sensations, modern methods of NFP, if the intention is to avoid/postpone pregnancy, are scientifically secure. Natural Family Planning also has several advantages which benefit the marriage. Concluding, the article proposes (read please) that all Catholic physicians begin to conduct “NFP- Only” practices.

Introduction

Following my becoming aware of the Billings Ovulation Method™ in November of 1973, I went through a conversion experience because I saw its value. Since that time, as an obstetrician/gynecologist, I supported, promoted, and taught the method both in, and outside of, my practice. At the same time, I saw no need to become certified because of my in-depth understanding of reproductive physiology. Fast forward 40 years. In July 2013, an opportunity to take formal certification training in the Method presented itself. I did so and was very much impressed with the excellent presentation(s) of the two women trainers, Kim Cole, and Erika Watkins. Conclusion: I only wish I had taken this training 30 years ago!

The doctors John and Lyn Billings (R.I.P.) are two of my heroes. A photograph of both of them graces my bedroom wall. My support and promotion of the Billings Ovulation MethodTM  stems from its essential simplicity. The Method is based on the sensations a woman feels at the vulva and contains only four rulesthree pre-ovulatory and one post-ovulatory.  While most women have taught themselves to ignore those changing mucus sensations, once the cause and effect of their existence is suggested to a woman, she can no longer ignore the physiologic symptoms of her fertility. I believe that Dr. John Billings, et al, will go down in the annals of medical research as some of the very greatest.

Natural Law

“Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” Thus reads the fourth clause of the Our Father. The problem is that his will is not being done on Earth. While this may sound somewhat rudimentary, it is the truth. But how do we know the will of God? St. Thomas Aquinas, following the lead of St. Augustine, defined three types of law that define the will of God: Eternal Law, Divine Law, and Natural Law.  There is another kind of Law: Human Law, which is valid only when just. This paper will focus on the Natural Law and its implications for mankind. But what is Natural Law? Natural Law is a rule of reason, promulgated by God in man’s nature, whereby man can discern how he/she should act so that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided. In its simplest form, Natural Law commands us: “to do good and avoid evil, 1 and St. Augustine maintained that this law is written on the heart of every person.

If the first of God’s gifts to us is the gift of life itself, then one may argue that our second most precious gift is the gift of our fertility. God’s first command to Adam and Eve after the fall was to “be fruitful and multiply.”

In a previous article, 2 we maintained that while pregnancy is not a disease, more fundamentally, neither is our fertility, which is a healthy physiologic component of the sexually mature person.  Given the present milieu, it seems that we are waging war on our fertility in the practice of contraception, i.e., artificial birth control. While this may sound countercultural, this war is attested to by the current armamentarium of barriers, chemicals, abortifacients, and even the knife. The medical profession is undeniably active in promoting this war. Under these circumstances, the furnishing of these modalities which treat a normal physiologic function of the sexually mature human being as a disease, must be a violation of the Natural Law and, therefore, evil and opposed to the will of God. Furthermore, one of the results of this war is that many countries, especially in the West, are demographically below replacement levels. While our non-Catholic brethren in the medical profession do not necessarily see this evil for what it is, Catholic physicians should have no problem seeing the logic of this position.

What has the “sexual revolution,” which began over 50 years ago, wrought with the availability of the birth control pill? It encouraged infidelity, increasing divorce rates, increased out-of-wedlock pregnancies, pornography, blatant homosexuality, promiscuity of all sorts, the spread of sexually transmitted disease, and massive abortion and contraceptive industries. 3

Perhaps, the greatest evil of the contraceptive culture in which we live is that it allows men to avoid their responsibilities, and also enables men to use women as objects for the man’s own sexual pleasure. This denies women the dignity and respect that they are entitled to as our wives and the mothers of our children, not to mention the denial of their normal cyclic fertility. For his own reasons, our heavenly Father placed in the hands of women the key to the control of human fertility. Therefore, today, to refer to the HHS mandate as an issue in “women’s health care” is the height of duplicity. It is clear that contraception acts as the gateway to the culture of death. I have little confidence in a legislative, political, or judicial solutions to the abortion controversy. I believe abortion will stop. But it will not stop until all people take on their own shoulders the responsibility for the control of their own fertility in the practice of some modern method of NFP.                                                                            

Natural Family Planning

The Catholic Church has never opposed family planning, but she teaches through her Magisterium, or teaching authority, that man may not, of his own volition, separate the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, because these meanings are willed by God himself (Humanae Vitae §12). Over the years of his pontificate, and even before, Blessed John Paul II, the Great, spoke and wrote extensively on the subject of human sexuality. Two areas in which he spoke on the subject are in sections 118 to 131 in his Theology of the Body 4 and in a work entitled “The Foundation of the Church’s Doctrine Concerning the Principles of Conjugal Life,” 5 published in 1966, in which Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was the primary director of research.

The title of Part 1 of “The Foundation of the Church’s Doctrine” reads: “The Natural Law as Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception by the Magisterium of the Church, i.e., on natural morality. This statement revolves around the following three questions: (1) “Does the Church have the right to make authoritative pronouncements on matters of morality and natural law?”; (2) “Is her teaching on this subject infallible or not?”; and, (3) “Can this teaching change?” Those in favor of allowing contraception answered the first two questions in the negative, and the third question in the affirmative. On the other hand, those who upheld the constant teaching of the Catholic Church answered the first two questions in the affirmative, and the third question in the negative; they “emphasize(d) that the immutability of human nature provides an objective foundation to natural law” as upheld by the ordinary Magisterium. Furthermore, beginning in the 19th century, under the pontificate of Pope Pius IX in 1854, no less than 29 documents attested to the Church’s position on this matter based on natural law. 6

Following on these documents, three conclusions may be drawn: (1) The Church, in her official teaching, condemns contraception as being morally evil and impermissible; (2) the teaching on this subject is consistent from Popes Pius XI to Paul VI (even before Humanae Vitae), the latter having neither revoked nor questioned it; and, (3) the condemnation of contraception from the point of view of morality is considered by the Church as a norm of natural law and, therefore, an objective norm flowing from nature, immutable and obligatory for all, and not only for Catholics. In the long run, when everything is said and done in the contraception, sterilization, abortion controversy, the Catholic Church will come out smelling like a rose.

A true method of family planning must be a method that can be used to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. In a very real sense, methods of Natural Family Planning, and fertility awareness, are the only true methods of family planning for the simple reason that they are the only methods that can be employed either to achieve or avoid pregnancy. All other methods can only be used to prevent pregnancy. An excellent article 7which one can heartily recommend, by Pilar Vigil, M.D., Ph.D., (and others) and which describes the values of fertility awareness and NFP appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Linacre Quarterly. Fr. Matthew Habiger, Associate Director of NFP Outreach stated: “It is the natural right of all women of childbearing age to be aware of those symptoms of fertility awareness.” Additionally, Dr. Hanna Klaus also has perfected a curriculum, entitled “Teen STAR,” which teaches youngsters to hold their sexuality and fertility in profound respect.

How does the Church justify its condemnation of contraception? First of all, this condemnation is based on the human person: the individual’s dignity, rights, and values. Secondly, the person’s power of co-creating (transmitting life) is a gift of God, but human intellect has discovered biologic laws which command the person to follow the dictates of Humanae Vitae, which is grounded in truth. Next, the natural law demands that a person should never be used as an object for one’s own ends, egged on, so to speak, by concupiscence. Rather, the virtues of justice and love should govern relations between persons and that the marital embrace be guided by the virtue of chastity. In fact, John Paul II asserted in his Theology of the Body that the practice of Natural Family Planning in marriage is the practice of conjugal chastity, and defined periodic continence as a virtue.

Furthermore, the “Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception” asserts that both man and woman enjoy an equality in marriage, i.e., in their nature, in their right of contracting marriage, but also marked by the differences in the sexes. While the normal sexually mature male is continuously fertile from puberty, the woman is only periodically fertile through relatively short but relatively frequent periods of time. In this regard, contraception makes no contribution to the woman’s personal rights, and primarily benefits the male, as stated above, relieving him of his responsibility.

In both the “Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception” and Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, he makes the assertion that the sexual instinct in man is “without a doubt, one of the strongest instincts” and taught that periodic abstinence, i.e., continence, is a virtue. In addition, he pointed out that the willingness to abstain from the marital act on occasion can be a greater act of love than the act itself.

So, Why NFP?

First and primarily, NFP is a function of the natural law and the will of God. This is so because God created man and woman in his image and likeness with an intellect, a will, and a memory. God, therefore, also created human sexuality, and with it, fertility; and ordained that this fertility provide a unitive and procreative meaning to the marital embrace. We are all called to lead chaste lives. Blessed John Paul II defined NFP as the practice of chastity within marriage. The practice of NFP requires precisely the same kind of commitment as marriage itself. The practice of NFP obligates the couple to discuss with one another, among other things, the availability, or not, of the marital embrace, thus increasing loving communication between the spouses.

While the divorce rate in this country, for Catholics and Protestants alike, is estimated at 50 percent, the divorce rate among couples using NFP is between 2 and 5 percent. 8 In other words, if you want your marriage to survive, you cannot contracept.

When feminists finally figure out how badly they have been deceived by the contraception industry, there is going to be an immense amount of anger, especially when they realize who their true friend has been.

When a wife sees that her husband is willing to deny himself for their mutual benefit, and the benefit of the family, this increases her love for him. It, on occasion, can be a greater act of love to abstain than to engage in the act itself.

While this may seem overly simplistic, there are only two essentials in the practice of NFP if the intention is to delay/avoid pregnancy: (1) that the woman temporarily defines the limits of the fertile phase of her reproductive cycle, and (2) that the couple willingly abstains from all genital contact during that time period.

Blessed John Paul II the Great also mentioned in the Theology of the Body that NFP is not without its difficulties. At the same time, it promises the couple both a courtship and a honeymoon each month.

And last but not least, the practice of NFP experientially teaches four virtues: Patience, Generosity, Self-Control, and Sexual Maturity.

Conclusion

Having said all of the above, there remains the proposal or plea, nay, the obligation, that all Catholic physicians commit to conduct “NFP Only” practices in obedience to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Nothing short of this will act to defeat the culture of death in which we. live.

_____________ 

The Linacre Quarterly previously published significant portions of this essay as an editorial entitled “Why NFP” in Vol. 80, number 3, August 2013. The Linacre Quarterly is published by Maney Publishing on behalf of the copyright holders, the Catholic Medical Association. The Catholic Medical Association retains all rights, title, and interest in the copyright throughout the world for the above editorial for the full legal term of copyright. The Linacre Quarterly can be found online at:
www.maneypublishing.com/journals/lnq  and www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/lnq.
Used by the author with permission.

 

  1. Rice, Charles E., “50 Questions on the Natural Law.” Ignatius Press,1995.   Questions # 6, pp. 43–49 and #42, pp. 252 – 258.
  2. Peck, R., Norris, C., “Significant Risks of Oral Contraceptives (OCP’s) Why This Drug Class Should Not Be Included in a Preventive Care Mandate.” Linacre Quarterly Vol. 79, No. 1 (2012): 41 -56.
  3. Pope John Paul II., Man and Woman He Created Them. A Theology of the Body. Translated by Michael Waldstein. (Pauline Books and Media, Boston.) (2006): Introduction: p.1.
  4. Ibid.: No.118 -131.
  5. Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, et al., “The Foundation of the Church’s Doctrine Concerning the Principles of Conjugal Life.” Nova et Vetera, English Edition, Vol. 10, No.2 (2012): 321-59.
  6. Ibid., p.325.
  7. Pilar Vigil, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard F. Blackwell, Ph.D., and Manual E. Cortes, Ph.D. “The Importance of Fertility Awareness in the Assessment of a Woman’s Health. A Review.” The Linacre Quarterly 79(4) (November, 2012): 426-450.
  8. McCrystal, Patrick.  ”Who’s at the Center of Your Marriage: The Pill or Jesus Christ?” Human Life International (Ireland), p.77 referencing Wilson, Mercedes. ”The Practice of Natural Family Planning.” Catholic Social Sciences Review, Vol. VII, Nov. 2002.
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avatar About Dr. Charles W. Norris, M.D.

Charles W. Norris, M.D. is a retired Obstetrician/Gynecologist and a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Medicine, class of 1957. He can be reached at chazno@comcast.net.

Comments

  1. avatar John Kippley says:

    Doctor Charles W. Morris is correct in advocating that Catholic physicians ought to be teaching their patients about natural family planning. He is, however, quite incomplete in his description of what constitutes natural family planning or natural baby spacing as some prefer to call it.

    The most basic form of natural baby spacing is ecological breastfeeding. This respects the natural ecology of mother and baby in which the mother’s presence allows the baby to suckle frequently and in turn the frequent suckling postpones the return of fertility. Pope John Paul II in May 1995 recommended that every mother nurse her baby for two years or beyond. Frequent suckling is the key to successful long-term nursing because it maintains the milk supply.

    Also, while the mucus sign is a very helpful part of fertility awareness, it is not the only sign. Doctors should also be informing their patients on how to crosscheck the mucus sign with the temperature sign in what is called the Sympto-Thermal Method. In the only American comparative study (Wade et al, 1981), the investigators found that both the perfect-use and typical-use rates of the STM users were significantly more effective than the corresponding rates of the mucus-only users.

    Even if the rates were identical, Catholic doctors and educators need to give engaged and married couples a proper freedom of choice among morally acceptable systems of natural family planning. Such freedom, of course, requires adequate instruction in the various signs and ecological breastfeeding. People are not free to choose something unless they are informed about it.

    Disclosure: My organization, NFP International, teaches these things and makes them available at http://www.nfpandmore.org.

  2. avatar anne cherney says:

    Dr. Norris, you have many good points, but in one you are wrong. The Church has NEVER approved of “family planning.” I must be much older than you because I remember when that was clear! As Canon Francis Rippley wrote in “This is the Faith,” first published in the 50′s, “A couple does not have the right to ‘plan their family.’ ” (p. 356) It is true that as soon as the time of ovulation was discovered, only about 1930, the Church allowed that Catholics who encountered “serious” problems in child rearing could make use of the new knowledge…though the only previous forms of child prevention, condoms and the “sin of Onan,” had been forbidden. Periodic continence, “rhythm”, was possible for serious reasons.
    But “family planning” was a Planned Parenthood term, simply less threatening than the earlier “birth control”, Both terms illustrate the “contraceptive mentality,” the idea that God is not to be trusted here, that we need to take control of the matter or we will be overrun! It grew in popularity during the time in U.S. history when nursing was being abandoned, making “take control” here seem necessary. John Kippley’s excellent comment spells out the inverse connection.
    “Family planning” is far broader and more inclusive than what the Church allows. “Planning,” for one thing, is done ahead of time. If you do reach a stage when you have, what would be for the Church “serious enough reason to avoid pregnancy”, then you haven’t done a good job of planning! Planning is even done before marriage–how many children, how soon, how far apart. And if we are going to do a good job of planning, we are going to aim for the best possible time to have a child, not simply avoid the worst possible time. That means a lot fewer children!
    But a ways into that “sexual revolution” you mentioned, a decision was made to rename what the Church allowed, no longer saying “rhythm,” but “Natural Family Planning.” It was user friendly–becuase it was like what the rest of the world was using. “Be like the nations,” with only that added “natural” twist.
    But it was a very unhappy decision.
    I believe that the new term was a (or the?) major reason that the Church in America is failing in this area. At least 98% of child bearing age Catholic couples are using artificial contraceptives. Well, why not? When the Church promotes something called “Natural Family Planning,” it must mean we are supposed to plan our families. So therefore, if we just leave it up to God and don’t plan, we are being irresponsible! And besides, what is the big deal about “natural” over “artificial”? Even aspirin is artificial! They want me to plan my family…well, I’ll do it the surest way I can…with the pill!
    I don’t believe we will see a change in this thinking until we see a new name for the method. “Natural Baby Spacing” or “Natural Child Spacing,” would allow for the teaching of appropriate breastfeeding as the basic method…with periodic abstinence only when serious problems are faced. And if we can’t shake the habit of saying “NFP”, maybe we can just change the meaning behind the letters to “Natural Fertility Prediction”?
    The extremely intelligent Father of Lies, who doesn’t want children born, sometimes gains territory through outright lies, but more often through subtle half truths and confusions.

  3. avatar Dr. Al says:

    In my residency back in the late ’70s, I refused to participate in the training at the abortion clinics associated with the residency program. I don’t know of any Christian doctors that did, but the clinics were run by non-Christian doctors, mostly Jews and Asians.
    God did not come to earth as a fully grown man, but as an embryo and fetus, developed in Mary’s womb; was born and breast-fed and nurtured by a father and a mother and grew, through childhood into a man. That is how it is supposed to be. The fact that the SCOTUS can make a decision that it is OK to terminate a pregnancy at ANY stage is ludicrous and of course political, like everything else. An embryo or a fetus is no less a stage of human development than an infant, a toddler, an adolescent or an adult. That is about as simple and as easily understood as it gets.
    In the Love and Peace of our Lord,
    Dr. Al

  4. avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

    “The Catholic Church has never opposed family planning…” This may be true; however, St. Augustine did condemn the practice of periodic continence by the Manicheans. And for centuries, it was understood by Catholics and most Protestants that the purpose of sex is to have as many children as God wants to give us in marriage. This hierarchical purpose is written into the nature of human sexuality: the procreation and education of children.
    I agree with Dr. Norris’s insistence that physicians should conduct “NFP Only” practices, but may they also encourage patients to consider that there is no bad time for a baby once a couple is married.

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Fr. Gardner,
      Augustine was against all contraception and made a disparaging remark about the nautural methods as he addressed a Manichaean leader but he and Jerome were simultaneously not admirers of large families. I know it’s odd but the texts are online. Augustine sees big families as Old Testament and Jewish in “The Good of Marriage” section 17: ” For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there was then…section 19 ” For in these (married contemporaries of Augustine) the very desire of sons is carnal, but in those ( OT Patriarchs) it was spiritual, in that it was suited to the sacrament of that time.” Jerome placed “be fruitful and multiply” as being OT only and strictly under the curse of the Jewish law because he was arguing against Jovinianus who valued marriage above virginity so Jerome went to the other extreme. Here’s Jerome sarcastically saying your children may not fill heaven but some could end up…you know where…from “Against Jovinianus” sect.23:
      “And much fruit truly did Samuel reap from his children! He himself pleased God, but begot such children as displeased the Lord.”
      The oddity of their being against contraception and not admiring of large families had to do with Jerome being argumentative for celibacy too much but in Augustine’s case, it is more complex but as in the above quote he seems to have insufficient respect for the child bearing couples of his area calling their procreation carnal compared to the high motives of the OT patriarchs whose childbearing was meant to build up a community large enough to protect the coming Messiah.
      They seemed to be against contraception then for sexual sin reasons rather than for pro life reasons.

      • avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

        Mr. Bannon,
        “They seemed to be against contraception than for sexual sin reasons rather than for pro life reasons.” But is sexual sin unrelated to pro-life reasons? The fact that St. Augustine held a very standard for the virtue of marital continence does not imply that he despised large families. On the contrary, most couples who practice no contraception (artificial or natural) will tend to have child-rich families, which the Angelic Doctor knew are necessary for a strong and healthy society… especially a society that promotes celibacy for some of its members. He did feel the need to justify the polygamist practice of the patriarchs since, although it is not contrary to natural law, it is clearly contrary to divine positive law. He did this, as you indicated, by explaining that it was a special dispensation necessary to accelerate the propagation of the race that would produce the Messiah. Polygamy makes large families, but not large Christian families.
        My point is that St. Augustine’s teaching on marital chastity and continence established the basis for much of the Catholic Church’s pastoral practice and theology for centuries. And it resonated perfectly with the common sense understanding that there is one supernatural purpose to marriage and marital relations: namely, the procreation of children. I think we need to return to St. Augustine’s approach; and urgently.
        Anne Cherney, Thank you!

  5. avatar anne cherney says:

    God bless Fr. Gardner!

  6. avatar Mark Doherty, MD says:

    We must be very cautious to teach NFP in context with the magisterium of our Church. It is not enough to teach couples how to do it.
    And we should never bypass or usurp the authority of that couple’s clergy in our teaching.

    Morally, Catholic clergy and health care practitioners must also teach them UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES our Church allows its practice.
    And those circumstances are extremely extremely rare – of similar rarity to morally acceptable capital punishment.
    A couple’s real or potential economic hardship (the most common reason used to attempt justification of NFP’s practice) is never adequate, since poor families have children who thrive all across the world, and God has provided countless societal “safety nets” to protect these families, including their own family members. That type of justification is based upon selfishness and refusal to submit to God’s will.
    Examples of morally acceptable reasons include a maternal medical condition that would be gravely exacerbated by pregnancy, presence of a medical condition that may result in maternal death before fetal viability, or use of a maternal drug that is uniformly teratogenic and has no alternative. Very rare indeed.
    The couple must first obtain counselling from their priest to assure that their justification meets the “serious reasons” criteria.
    If approved, their ongoing practice must be regularly supervised by their priest.
    They must stop NFP practice when the “serious reason” no longer exists.
    To practice NFP in any other way uses human will to disassociate to God’s unitive and procreative intent from the conjugal act.

    Improper use of NFP is no more morally acceptable to our Church than the use of barrier contraception. And, if willingly used in that way, becomes a matter of grave sin.

    Let us do what we can to assure that NFP is never used as “Catholic contraception”.

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Mark,
      Your description of safety nets for poor people across the globe is simply incorrect. CNN reports that about 129,000 Somalian children died in the 2010-2012 famine which killed just as many adults. Where was the safety net? Many were large families since it was an agrarian culture.
      I sent money through Catholic Near East Welfare to a child and her mom for ten years because her husband died early in India, and there was no safety net, whereupon she had to give her four children into orphanages, and work as a domestic near the orphanage in order to be near her children. We have
      all read of poor Thailand farmers selling their daughters into the bar dancer industry which becomes prostitution in Bangkok soon enough.
      The Catholic documents nowhere state that priests are the determiners of whether a family’s reasons are sufficiently serious or not. That is up to the couple and God.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        P.S. Here is Vatican II saying that the number of children is decided by the parents alone:
        ” “The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God” (Gaudium et Spes, 50).

      • avatar Bain Wellington says:

        “The Catholic documents nowhere state that priests are the determiners of whether a family’s reasons are sufficiently serious or not. That is up to the couple and God.” and a sentence from the last document approved at the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) is quoted.

        It’s true that priests are not the “determiners” and that the final decision belongs with the parents. But what considerations are parents entitled to take into account when reaching their decision?

        The fuller picture from Gaudium et Spes, n. 50 is this:-

        “. . Let [parents] thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.”

        According to Church teaching, the ambit of “responsible parenthood” (a term used in Humanae Vitae, nn. 7 and 10) is most certainly not left to the unfettered discretion of the parents.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        “in the sight if God” from my little quote implies that parents cannot be unfettered.

  7. avatar anne cherney says:

    Bill Bannon…you are correctly quoting “Gaudium et Spes” on this question. But I am old enough to remember that before that, we were taught that a couple needed the confessor’s permission to use it, “rhythm.” That is part of Church tradition, and should at least be kept in mind when a couple is now considering using it. Why would our standards be different now? It served to keep the reason for its use being objective, one that even another person would accept, instead of just a subjective one. And back to my original point: Dr. Doherty, NFP will definitely be used as “Catholic contraception” as long as it is called “NFP.” What those three letters say is that there is nothing wrong with using periodic abstinence to avoid children for absolutly any reason whatsoever…that is the essence of “family planning,” which the Church has just thereby endorsed by its use of the term…and that the only thing wrong with modern contraceptive practices…is that they are artificial!

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Anne,
      An Ecumenical Council supercedes minor traditions that had to post date 1853 when Rome first explicitly allowed the use of the cycle in answer to dubia from the Bishop of Amiens. There are many on the Catholic internet undermining Vatican II. Why join them? Pope Francis wants a decrease of clericalism….a decrease not an increase. Why undermine him? A couple can seek counsel from a priest if he seems wise. If he seems extreme, they should avoid him. There was in the papers last year a priest selling meth in New England and a self handcuffing priest in the midwest and a Cardinal who stepped down in Scotland and several years ago the John Jay report that found 4% of priests molested during four recent decades. In such times, laity may not have access to what the past considered a wise and reserved counseling priest. Humanae Vitae in section 10 mentions psychological and social reasons along with economic and physical reasons for spacing children. A priest knows little about several of those because they are intimate to the persons living there.

      • avatar anne cherney says:

        Bill, Humanae Vitae was still talking about reasons that are objectively true, not just subjective feelings, which is why it still would be good to consult a priest. As to the 1853 date, the time of ovulation was not even guessed at back then, so periodic continence was not seriously being considered or approved. Aristotle thought ovulation was at the time of the period…that sperm cells just grabbed up some of the available matter…and Thomas Aquinas believed him and continued the mistake. That was accepted by the medical community. I have a book published in 1922 by a New York doctor, a member of the Eugenics Society…who really did not want to see babies born…in which it is taught that to avoid pregnancy, a couple had to abstain from three days before the period began until fifteen days after!!!! The truth was discovered in the East in the mid-twenties, wasn’t really known in the West until 1930. The Church immediately approved of periodic abstinence to avoid conception WHEN SERIOUS PROBLEMS WERE BEING FACED. God bless us all with the truth.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Anne,
        Read more recent books from an elite publisher, Harvard Press/ Contraception 1965, by Federal Judge John T. Noonan Jr. which book was read by both liberals and conservatives on the papal commisision on these matters just prior to Humanae Vitae. I suspect Paul VI read it too in light of Noonan’s century by century history of the issue. Your pastor may have a copy to loan you. Go to page 438-439 for exactly what I stated.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Anne,
        And here at this below link, you will see the initial scientific work as Noonan states was done in 1847 by Felix Pouchet who began the stated two periods of fertility studies which incited the dubia by the Bishop of Amiens in 1853. The Bishop was probably petitioned by very educated Catholic aristocrats who often sought to limit child numbers for inheritance class reasons. If an aristocrat had nine children, leaving them to divide a finite inheritance would reduce them in some cases to no longer being of the aristocratic class whereas to leave the same amount to two children permitted them to still be of that asset class. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict each had only two living siblings.

        http://www.hormones.gr/224/article/article.html

  8. avatar Eva says:

    For all interested in natrual family planning I recommend Lady-Comp – an intelligent NFP monitor. I love using Lady-Comp and I highly recommend it to all ladies out there. Additionally more women need to know about NFP and Lady-Comp – so they can get off of invasive hormonal birth control and IUDs, which not only can cause a cancer and lots of other health problems! In addition they also act as abortifacients (sic!) while using them, you can still have breakthrough ovulation, which occurs quite often – a woman can still conceive a baby, who because of synthetic hormones cannot attach to the uterine lining and is aborted….for sure this is adequate enough not to use pills and IUDs any more….

  9. avatar anne cherney says:

    The exact year still doesn’t make any difference. It is clear that until only a very few years ago, in the history of mankind, periodic abstinence was unthinkable…and total abstenence was the only possible way to avoid conception….which meant it would only happen in very serious cases! More importantly, it should be obvious that children used to be considered blessings. I read the Bible all the way through one year, highlighting passages which showed that God intended them to be such. There were 200 of those passages! He Who is the Father of all and loves each person with infinite love, desires to fill Heaven, and can provide for any children with which we will entrust Him, has left conception in our hands. But the father of lies wants Him to be frustrated. So with his lies, mouthed by people like Margaret Sanger, he has convinced modern couples, Catholic ones included, that there are all sorts of things, like money and careers and leisure, which are more valuable than their own children! It is only very serious problems, ones our faith cannot overcome, which would legitimize our refusing to let God the Father create. Childen don’t come by chance. The very first question in the old catechism was, “Who made you?” And the answer was, “God made me.”

  10. avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

    Mr. Bannon,
    “If an aristocrat had nine children, leaving them to divide a finite inheritance would reduce them in some cases to no longer being of the aristocratic class whereas to leave the same amount to two children permitted them to still be of that asset class.”
    Are you implying that fear of losing “aristocratic” status is a sufficient reason for precluding the existence of another human being; namely, a son or daughter of God who by Holy Baptism will be destined for eternal life? If so, you are not promoting Catholicism.
    The fact is, whether it was effective or not, St. Augustine knew that the periodic continence was used by the heretical Manicheans to prevent the conception of children, while still enjoying the use of marital relations, and he condemned the practice. Therefore, you must look upon the use of periodic continence as an exceptional permission, not as an ideal way living the marital vocation, unless you prefer to break from centuries of Catholic tradition. Would you not agree that the virtue of purity is for married couples to have all the children God wants to give them?

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Fr. Gardner,
      I implied no such thing though I also would not make your rapid judgement on such people since in context, going down in station was not just about losing status but about living closer to dangers like more physical crime amongst the lower classes. This varies right now country to country and state to state.
      No one sane in Illinois wants their granddaughters becoming so poor that they one day live in a crime ridden part of Chicago. But…travel to another state that has little crime like Vermont and such anxiety is then out of place.
      On Augustine, you are assessing him as an expert without telling the readers here that he was an ex sexually excessive sinner, not just a one time sex sinner like Jerome; but having had a mistress for ten years who bore him a child, Adeodatus, despite his use of ancient nfp as a manichaean. He then dumped the mother if his son and she left saying she would never love another. St. Monica then found him a young woman to marry who however was too young for marriage and Augustine would have to wait til she came of age. Augustine in his Confessions stated he could not wait and he therefore took still another mistress. That is not ordinary lust but compelling lust. His sexual advice was then based on never experiencing good married sex but only sinful sex and this shows up in SOME not all of what he wrote on the matter. St. Thomas who should have known better based on his own concept of the “remnants of sin”, should not have parroted Augustine on sexual issues but he did and both then ended up wrong on the immaculate conception based on Augustine being wrong therein for sexual reasons. Augustine in one place says that since Mary’s parents enjoyed sex they therefore passed on original sin to Mary who was then cleansed of it prior to birth. Aquinas followed the resultant position that Mary contracted original sin but was cleansed of it before birth. Both were corrected by the ex cathedra encyclical on that matter.
      Distorted by his sexual past was a bizarre paragraph about how women only help men in one thing only…procreation. Aquinas copies it. Here is Augustine seeing women as now good ONLY for procreation:
      St. Augustine, De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9
      “I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?”

      Aquinas then repeats this neurotic statement twice as valid in the Summa Theologica alone; whether he announces it in the other Summa, I don’t care to look. Augustine saw women one dimensionally when he sinned but after he repented, he went to a new one dimension…first they were only good for sex then later they were only good for procreation but not for comfort in solitude. And Aquinas, a real virgin, swallowed this one dimensionality because perhaps at least Augustine had sex which Aquinas never experienced. It was a false admiration IN THIS AREA.
      Augustine had what Aquinas called elsewhere…”remnants of sin”….dispositions toward a foregiven sin like many drunkards. He would not be alone with any woman including relatives according to an account from his day unlike Jerome who had several women friends who helped him financially etc.
      and accompanied him to Jerusalem. The Old Testament says, ” Do not be without fear for sins foregiven” and Christ repeats the concept in telling how when the evil spirit leaves a man, it searches for seven spirits stronger than itself and returns to the man who has cleaned and swept his soul but apparently has not produced good works to fill it and the devils enter and the last state is worse than his first. Augustine did fill his soul though with good works but as Aquinas says abstractly…God may still leave in such men strong dispositions to the same sin lest they be proud.
      Bottom line Aquinas should have known that that might be a problem within Augustine on sex.
      Aquinas admired Augustine too much based on the great work Augustine did in other areas outside sexuality. So he then parroted him on sex and both then burdened lay people with the bizarre idea that if you ask for the marriage debt without intending children EXPLICITLY then you sin venially but not if you said yes to such a request. I Corinthians told some men to marry to avoid fornication but when then did so, Augustine and Aquinas told them they were sinning venially when they used that saving aspect if marriage. Augustine passage is long but here’s Aquinas parrotung the idea VERBATIM:

      Supplement question 49 art.5 Reply to Objection 2.
      ”If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor
      was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins.”
      Here he is again: ” Supplement 49 art 5 I answer that: ”Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt. otherwise it is always at least a venial sin.”.

      The Modern Popes rejected this in accepting NFP. Thank the Lord. We have a oversexed ex fornicator and a real virgin follower telling people from the 5th century til the 19th that all sexual need is concupiscence and therefore venial unless excused by procreation or by saying yes to the debt even though I Corinthians from the Holy Spirit disagrees. Their theory was based on a man who had a lot of sinful sex and not one minute of decent sex that affirmed the other person as in marriage.

  11. avatar anne cherney says:

    Bill, the up-to-date teaching on all this is Catechism #2363: we are not to separate the unitive and procreative purposes in marraige. Our ancient theologians didn’t recognize the former, and most modern Catholics disregard the latter.
    I could not agree more strongly with Fr. Gardner’s view of the “aristocrat reason.” An eternity with the Father at the cost of a lifetime in a lower social class? How valuable is an eternity in Heaven? How valuable is any one human being? How valuable does God think one is? I think we need to go on our knees and ask the Lord what He wants us to think about this whole question. God bless you.

  12. avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

    Mr. Bannon,
    I think you misunderstand the virtue of purity. Although Sts. Augustine and Thomas approached the study of this virtue from different life experiences, the appreciation of purity is connatural to the human person. Purity recognizes that the hierarchical primary purpose of sexual relations is the procreation and education of children. As Pope Pius XII, who first gave papal magisterial permission to use periodic continence for grave reasons, so aptly explained: everything in the realm of sexual difference and marital intimacy is ordered toward offspring… everything is at the service of posterity.
    So when the woman is acclaimed to be helper of the man in the realm of procreation it is because she helps him to be fully a man; namely, a father who generously begets life in the persons of his children. Therefore, she is mother through and through. Purity is written into her very nature as woman, so much so that she provides the bond of commonality between the begetter and the begotten in the conception and nurturing of a child. But religious sisters (virgins) also exhibit the quality of motherhood towards those whom they serve. Consecrated virginity has a maternal quality; and chaste motherhood preserves a woman’s integrity. Of course, in the Blessed Virgin Mary both virginity and maternity are marvelously combined, for she is the Virgin Mother of the Savior.
    St. Augustine and St. Thomas held a very high standard for purity, which implies venial sin when marital relations are undertaken knowingly apart from procreation. But these venial sins are easily forgiven and can be occasions to lead the couple to greater appreciation for the mystery of sex, which is how Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen described purity. Purity is reverence for the mystery of sex. Purity honors fruitfulness.

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Fr. Gardner,
      You are putting makeup on an egregious paragraph from Augustine and you are getting the word
      “grave” not from an encyclical but from a lesser venue address by Pius XII to the midwives and you are going back in time to make asking for the debt a venial sin when children are not intended. That last idea is the most extreme because it inter alia implies that all the sexual contact of known infertile couples and the elderly ( which the Church permits to marry) are venial sins BUT per Aquinas repeated venial sins in one area dispose toward mortal sin and Aquinas cites as proof the OT proverb, ” He that contemneth little things shall fall little by little.” So you have by your theory and its implications the Catholic Church allowing two groups to marry for whom marriage is a near occasion of eventual mortal sin, and you have married normal couples sinning venially when they follow the Catholic Church’s permission to use the infertile times in NFP. Catholicism has always had extreme ideas, traditional and anti-traditional at the far ends, since after Cornelius Jansen who himself seems to have been open to correction at least at the point of death. Good bye to you and Anne. God be with you. Further discussion would have no point. Augustine saw original sin as transmitted by concupiscence itself. Both the Council of Trent and the present catechism refuse to use his paradigm and simply use the word propagation as the transmitter…and propagation is the only pure moment for you. Ironic.

      • avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

        Mr. Bannon,
        You seem to be implying that, since original sin is passed on to posterity by the natural process of generating life therefore, the propagation of human life is evil. Of course, I cannot agree. To use a crude analogy: Just as one should not turn down income in order to avoid paying income tax, so also one should not refuse existence in order to be spared the handicap of original sin. However, it is much more comforting to promote the transmission of human life where the only true remedy for original sin is readily available: namely, Holy Baptism and communion with the Catholic Church.
        Lastly, it seems to me that venial sin can be tolerated if it prevents even the near occasion of mortal sin. Which is perhaps why the Apostle urged people to remain celibate, unless doing so would lead them to serious sin: “But if they cannot contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt.” 1 Cor. 7:9.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Fr. Gardner,
        Once again you see implications that are not there in my text. Propagation is wonderful but it passes on original sin ( Trent and the catechism )….Augustine’s concupiscence does not pass on original sin: he once again was influenced by his past fornicative life.
        Marriage saves from fornication but first Corinthians no where says asking for sex at an infertile time like nursing is a venial sin. You and Augustine and Aquinas say that. God never says it in scripture. No modern Pope ever says it. Now to your and Aquinas’ logical problem:
        Summa T. by St. Thomas Aquinas
        First Pt. of the Second Part
        Quest.88 article 3
        ” Now he that sins venially seems to contemn small things. Therefore by little and little he is disposed to fall away together into mortal sin.”… St. Thomas Aquinas

        You and Aquinas and Augustine have men fleeing a-marital sexual mortal sin into marriage only to find themselves moving toward a different mortal sin inside marriage (Aquinas’ logical outcome of repeated married venial sin) by repeatedly asking for sex during the infertile times which you and they state is venial sin even though permitted by the modern Popes none of whom have stated what you and two near ancient writers have said…that asking for sex during an infertile time is venial sin. You are making a rigorist mistake ….that NFP leads inexorably to or rather is venial sin which venial sins Aquinas notes leads to mortal sin. You have not grown past a rigorist moral sexual error in two quasi ancient writers…the Church has grown past them. They’re waving to you from Heaven…”Father…we were incorrect…it happens.”
        Aquinas by the way made two similar rigorist errors and both in defiance of obvious scriptures ie that interest on money was always sin unless extrinsic titles were present (repeated by Pope Benedict XIV in Vix Pervenit,1746, but corrected by the Vatican in 1830 in answer to dubia)…and that lying is always sin when in fact scripture is permeated with white lies by heroes…e.g. Solomon..”cut the infant in two”…Judith’s with Holofernes, Jehu with the Baal worshippers, Christ with the Canaanite woman ” I have come only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” when in fact He cured the Roman centurion’s servant several chapters prior…and Christ implies as much when He gives in to the woman’s last debating point…
        “woman, great is your faith” ( you really know Me and that I delight in mercy as Micah and Jeremiah said I do).

  13. Mr. Kippley: Thank you for your comments. Of course ecological breast feeding has been forever a very effective method of child spacing. That goes virtually without saying and women used it for eons of time, until “modern” methods of feeding infants with the bottle and artificial formula weaned women off of breast feeding. With all due respect, on the other hand, the thermometer is not necessary but simply places an additional, undue, and unnecessary burden on the woman. The Drs. Billings demonstrated this early on. Interesting to me is that it is men who primarily promote the use of the thermometer, while women are more prone to rely on the mucus symptom to define the limits of the fertile phase of their reproductive cycles.

    Mrs. Cherney: I never said that the Church NEVER approved of family planning. What I said was that the Church has never OPPOSED family planning. If you have information to the contrary and can document it, I would very much like to hear it. Parenthetically, I am in the middle of the ninth decade of my life. In his Theology of the Body, as translated by Professor Michael Waldstein, the soon to be called “St. John Paul II,” referred to family planning as “responsible parenthood,” and maintained that these decisions not “be based on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be evaluated by objective standards … in the context of true love” (TOB #121 August 1, 1984).
    With respect to renaming NFP: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Fr. Gardener:
    Natural Family Planning is NOT contraception. The differences are stark. While contraception, in every case, separates the unitive from the procreative aspects of the marital act, NFP does no such thing, and shows our fertility the dignity and respect which such an awesome power deserves.

    • avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

      Dear Dr. Norris,
      Thank you for your important article. And I agree completely that NFP (periodic continence) is not contraception in the Church’s technical sense of the term. But would you concede that NFP is easily seen more broadly as a form of natural contraception inasmuch as it regulates, or limits, births within marriage? Indeed, if one Googles on “natural contraception,” you will be directed to information about NFP. I would suggest that this general impression is rooted in a common sense understanding of the word, contraception.

    • avatar Jill M. says:

      Dear Dr. Norris,

      Thank you for an excellent article.

      As far as the thermometer adding an “additional, undue, and unnecessary burden on the woman,” I disagree in many cases. Women today are so estrogen dominant due to our environment, food supply, stress levels, and diet. This equates to very confusing mucus patterns that can last throughout the cycle.

      Therefore, I think many women are greatly helped by using NFP rules that surround the thermal shift of the cycle. For a woman with a continuous mucus pattern, it can often bring clarity where only frustration reigns. As well, helps confirm when bleeding is menses and when it is not- very helpful for peri-menopausal NFP users in particular.

      My point is that I do not think we serve women by disparaging any methods. We support them by explaining the way the different methods work so they can make a match with their lifestyle and body.

      I think the future of NFP needs to include far more scientific research into using diet, supplements, exercise, and stress reduction to help women normalize cycles. This makes for a much healthier woman, and much less frustration using NFP.

      Thank you again for your article, and for your commitment to faithful medicine!

      Blessings,
      Jill

  14. avatar anne cherney says:

    Of course “contraception” just means “against conception”. Obviously it may be applied to any method. As to the necessity of not separating the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage….I have a question: how can a couple working hard to take temperatures, check calendars, check mucus, then putting whatever effort is required into abstinence… possibly pretend that they are still trying to fulfill the procreative purpose? I do have an answer…but I’d like to hear it from someone else.

  15. avatar anne cherney says:

    And Dr. Norris, technical but crucial point: nowhere in John Paul II’s talks on Humanae Vitae, July 11 through November 14, 1984, does he speak of “FAMILY PLANNING” at all! He speaks of “responsible parenthood” relating to “regulation of births,” “regulation of fertility”, “recourse to the infertile period.” The term “family planning” is Planned Parenthood’s term and leads listeners to think the Church is basically approving of their message! “Planning the family” is a far broader concept than the Church has ever accepted…and the term very misleading. Please look back at my first entry again. And while we are on the TOB of August 1st, the pope also twice reminded us that on the question of the righteousness of the use of the infertile period, couples “are not to proceed at will.” I would also like to point out to all that in TOB #125, Sept. 5, 1984, he wrote, and Waldstein has it italicized, of Humanae Vitae’s “responsible parenthood” term, “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.” God bless you.

  16. Dear Fr. Gardener;
    When one hears or uses the word “contraception” that, in the usual parlance, means artificial birth control, e.g. the pill, the IUD, barriers and etc. As I said NFP in no way can be considered “contraception” i.e. artificial birth control. Of course NFP enables a couple to practice “responsible parenthood” per soon to be St. John Paul II. What Google does is completely irrelevant and is of no consequence. The teaching of Humanae vitae and of the Church’s Magisterium is more, certainly, than technical. Thank you for calling my work an important article.

    Mrs. Cherney;
    I’m sure we can agree that the term “responsible parenthood” is much better “family planning”, but how does one turn that around? You touch on the reason why I am a proponent of the Billings Method.
    What is so difficult about asking a women to chart at the end of the day the most fertile sensation (symptom) observed that day sans thermometer, calender calculations & etc? One problem: Most women have taught themselves to ignore those changing mucus sensations. And how do we turn that one around?

  17. avatar anne cherney says:

    Dr. Norris, the term “responsible parenthood” would be an utterly poor substitute for the term “natural family planning” because they don’t mean the same thing at all! The first example of “responsible parenthood” given by Humanae Vitae is just accepting the children God sends and not doing any “planning” at all…the way everybody did before modern times. I believe the Kippleys would be happy to have the term replaced by “Natural Baby Spacing,” which would allow for the first method to be just breastfeeding appropriately and accepting its child-spacing consequence, and the second method to be periodic abstinence, where there are real problems being faced. As to the other question, if Google thinks “natural contraception” means the same as “natural family planning,” then it DOES…for most people. Google simply reflects popular understanding. Contracepting is just working against conception, just “family planning,” just trying to avoid conception, just trying to have sex and not have the baby that could follow! I believe that the term is the main reason most Catholics use artificial contraceptives. They think the Church is, by the term, telling them they must prevent some babies, and that the only difference between the World’s method and the Church’s method is that one is artificial and one is natural. “So what’s the big deal?” they think. ” Let’s go with the modern World and do it the easy way!” May the Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth personified, let us all see the truth in this matter!

  18. avatar anne cherney says:

    Correction. I just heard from John Kippley that their preferred term would be “Natural Child Spacing”. God bless you.

  19. Dear Mrs. Cherney;
    I didn’t suggest that NFP now be called “responsible parenthood” but only that St. John Paul II used that term as did HV. Regarding changing the name: As I said “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet” so why monkey around? It would be pathetic if (as you suggest they do) if people, especially Catholics, took the word of Google instead of HV and the teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. A better understanding of the word contraception, if I am not splitting hairs, is anti-conception which is a stronger term. Your use of the word Contraception as being this, that or the next thing should be succeeded by “just plainly sinful”. In truth, the Church has never told the faithful or anyone else that they “must prevent some babies”. As I have said, there is a stark difference between artificial birth control and NFP. While NFP holds the normal fertility of the couple in profound respect, artificial birth control does nothing of the sort. Yes, it would be wonderful if all peoples could see the truth in this matter!

  20. avatar anne cherney says:

    Dr. Norris…neither John Paul II not HV equated NFP with “responsible parenthood”, but gave its use as ONE type of “responsible parenthood”. And Google merely reflects what the majority of people, unfortunately, understand…we need to be more careful so that they understand the truth! If Catholics hear they must learn Natural Family Planning, understand that this means they are morally obligated to use it, then they are hearing that it would be wrong to just accept whatever children God sends….and that they are supposed to “prevent some babies.” The name needs to be changed so that it doesn’t spread this tragic misunderstanding.

  21. Mrs. Cherney;
    I have no problem with the use of the term “Natural Child Spacing” as opposed to “Natural Family Planning” regardless of its origin. In fact the latter term is so deeply embedded in the lexicon of the English language that the use of a new term such as “Natural Child Spacing” could introduce much confusion in the minds of many thinking that this is a “new” system as opposed to the now current systems used to practice “responsible parenthood”. As I have said on a couple of occasions “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

    • avatar Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

      Dr. Norris,
      “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
      I hope you would agree: That sweet smelling rose is the child… and lots of them! Let us not forget that the true Catholic alternative to contraceptive drugs, surgeries and devices is not mucus examination, temperature observation and charting, but rather children. Children are the supreme gift of marriage and gifts are not to be regulated. They are to be generously received with joy and great trust in God’s loving Providence.

  22. avatar anne cherney says:

    AMEN to Fr. Gardner! There is “Natural Child Spacing”, there are contraceptives, and there is “Supernatural Family Planning”, that is just accepting as many of these greatest gifts of God as He wants to send! Feeding each baby the way He intends it fed automatically provides a “natural child spacing” factor. He is the FATHER of us all, and wants to have a great big family…but He is dependent on our willingness to let Him do it!

  23. Fr. Gardener and Mrs. Cherney:
    Yes, of course. However what I meant by “A rose by any other name…” is like calling Natural Family Planning “Natural Child Spacing”.
    From the standpoint of women’s reproductive physiology during her fertile years she will ovulate +/- 400 times (50 years – 12 years, a total of +/- 38 years, ovulating +/- 12 times / year = +/- 400 ovulations. So what is physiologically possible is to have 25 or more children running around the house. Don’t misunderstand me. God also gave us intelligence and the ability to naturally and morally, according to the Natural Law, control the number of children by practicing responsible parenthood per John Paul II in the practice of NFP. Of course, children “are to be generously received with joy and great trust in God’s loving Providence”. No doubt about that!

    • avatar anne cherney says:

      Can’t let that go without reminding people that if they nurse an appropriate amount over an appropriate period, and in an appropriate way…God’s own plan for child spacing, the way it was always done before the twentieth century abandonment of nursing and the modern discovery of the fertile time, (check Sheila Kippley’s books), they will only have less than half that number. And they will do so without ever looking at any mucus or temperature chart! The mucus and temperature chart are ONLY for if there is a serious problem faced, of economic or health nature, according to Church tradition and according to Humanae Vitae. Periodic abstinence, (NFP), IS NOT TO BE THE NORM, not to be used generally. And even where serious problems are being faced, no one is morally bound to use periodic abstinence. Children are worth taking risks and making sacrifices for…and the Lord has told us to “consider the lilies” concerning our material needs, and has promised that if we ask, we shall receive. The real questuion is do we value children as much as the Father wants us to?

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Anne,
        You shorten Humanae Vitae’s reasons to two….economic or health. You are therefore making your will…..the will of Paul VI. Now actually read his 4 reasons which are not your two:

        Humanae Vitae…section 10: ” With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

  24. avatar anne cherney says:

    Well, I count “psychological” along with “physical” as parts of “health.” I guess I see “social” as part of economic, but that may not be so legitimate. I can list three in the future….but it really doesn’t change anything! Glad to see you are still with us! God bless you.

  25. avatar Dr Rebecca Peck says:

    Dear Charlie,
    Great article! And great comments from all. I am a woman physician married for 14 years in love with my husband whom I also practice with, and we have 6 beautiful children. We were “open to life” and accepted our first baby and then our second soon after with open arms. When we got to the third in 5 years, we took a NFP class. We were initially taught symptothermal. After the class, I observed my fertile signs and were still open to more children. NFP has been a way of life for us, a “school” of sorts where we have learned and practiced virtues. We have both grown tremendously. Now I teach fertility awareness to my patients and have them consider their fertility signs as “vital signs” to aid in diagnosis of problems. Using NFP via the Marquette method (hormonal monitor), I have been able to diagnose many underlying medical problems missed by previous doctors, including a brain tumor, PCOS, thyroid and celiac problems. How good God is to give us this wisdom! Whether one uses readily observable signs (of mucus) or for the techies among us (the monitor), this opens up a new world for many patients and these discoveries are very powerful to combat a Culture of Death whose crowning achievement is a pill to take away this gift of fertility! Women have realized they are being duped. The conversions are slow, but they are real. It will be important for the medical profession to accept this paradigm shift, and to hang on to the theology side as well, or the fullness of Truth will not be realized. May God bless us all with His Spirit of obedience and wonder which couples respect for fertility and respect for new life. For, we went awry when we lost respect for fertility, or saw it as a burden. That is when we viewed children as unwanted or as burdens.

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