Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Let me start out by saying that Natural Family Planning can be a good thing. In my marriage, my wife and I have utilized it for some time and other times we did not.
This post is not about any of the usual controversial teapot tempests that rise up on the internet from time to time about NFP and its proper use and marketing. Nope, this post not about any of that stuff.
This post is about the phenomenon that causes otherwise rational people to say loopy things in promotion of NFP.
Case in point, I read a post the other day by Dr. Gregory Popcak that made my puzzler sore. In his support and promotion of NFP, Dr. Popcak writes a post about how NFP really isn't a thing, but an approach. All, well and good, but in his case he makes the following assertions.
He says that pastors not requiring NFP training in pre-cana are essentially saying “We don’t require our couples to learn to communicate and pray together about how their marital intimacy can help them grow in holiness.”
He goes on to say
"I don’t mean to suggest that couples who don’t use NFP have no process in place for communicating and praying about how their marital intimacy can help them grow in holiness and receptivity to God’s will, but I think any couple who isn’t using NFP needs to ask themselves some hard questions about what that process actually is. And, just to be clear, singing, “Que sera, sera” is not an acceptable process. It’s not an OK way to be a godly steward of your money. It’s not an OK way to be a godly steward of your home. And it is surely not an OK way to be a godly steward of your marriage and sexuality."I appreciate what Dr. Popcak is getting at in his attempt to redefine NFP as any and all communication about intimacy in marriage. But yet I think he overstates the case and by doing so, damages it.
Reading it, one gets the impression that a good holy Catholic marriage was darn near impossible before the invention of mucus charting. In fact, before the birth control era, I think people in general had a much clearer understanding of the intimacy, purpose, and consequences of the marital act and their communication followed suit. Reduced simply, having sex meant you might have a baby.
As someone who used NFP in my marriage and who ultimately abandoned it for that more previous mindset, I can attest that my marital communication was in no way diminished, nor was our capacity to understand the consequences of our marital choices. As a result, we had 5 children in 7 years.
All that said, I think I was mostly irked by the the suggestion relying on providence, or as Dr. Popcak derides "singing Que sera, sera," is ungodly and bad stewardship of you money, marriage, and sexuality.
The Church teaches us that NFP is legitimate to use for serious reasons. It most certainly does not teach us we must use NFP or we are bad stewards of our God given gifts. If a married couple makes an informed judgement that they do not have just reasons to space the births of their children and they adopt an attitude of complete openness to life as a consequence of their marital act, I would call them good Catholics rather than bad stewards.
Such rhetorical overkill makes super-dogma of what is no more than licit and imputes sin where there is none. This helps nobody and certainly does not promote a reasonable understanding of the use of NFP.
NFP can be a good thing. Too much love of that good thing, not so much.