Only Serious Concerns Justify NFP

If all married couples stopped using artificial birth control and started using natural family planning (“They're Throwing the Pill Away. But Why?,” Oct. 17-23), at least they'd not be using these heinous, often abortifacient devices. But what this article and others fail to mention is that NFP is only allowed for serious reasons. Humanae Vitae details these reasons, which include severe health problems and serious financial situations (not being able to afford college costs is not a valid reason!).

As the expert quoted in the article stated, NFP, when used correctly, is “quite effective.” Unfortunately, NFP users can also have the contraceptive mentality. Because they are “open” to having children does not mean that they will willingly accept every child God would send them if they did not use NFP. To be blunt, NFP should not be used for any old reason or to space children beyond what nature provides as a normal spacing for most women (two to three years). Perhaps I would be a bit more encouraged if your recent articles on NFP mentioned that these couples had or were expecting their second, third, fourth or even fifth child.

Christina Watkins

Oxford, Connecticut

I was amazed to find, in an article titled “Faith and Family Planning” (Oct. 17-23), [apparent] enthusiasm that an organization called GIFT (for God-Intended Fertility Technique) is planning to give “kits” to newly wed couples concerning family planning. The implication is that family planning is somehow a “natural” part of marriage. I can only conclude that the writer of the article has lost sight of the primary end of marriage.

From the beginning, God's plan for married couples is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). … The Church reiterated this teaching in Vatican II in no uncertain terms: “Marriage and married love are by their character ordained to the procreation and bringing up of children” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 50).

These words make it clear that, no matter how much our culture would like to obscure the issue, the primary end of marriage is to have children.

To be sure, there is a well-known phrase that often appears in discussions of this sort: “responsible parenthood.” But in order to avoid the common mistake of jumping to an uncritical interpretation of this phrase, it is worthwhile to read how Pope Paul VI defines the phrase. He gives two definitions. The first is noteworthy because it is rarely (if ever) cited: “Those are considered to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family” (Humanae Vitae, No. 10). Even though this definition reflects precisely the idea that children are a blessing from God, it is rare to come across this definition in contemporary discussions of marriage.

Much more commonly cited is the second definition of Pope Paul VI: “those … exercise responsible parenthood … who for serious reasons … choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period” (Humanae Vitae, No. 10). The words “for serious reasons” are significant. Because marriage is primarily about having children, a decision to have no children for a period of time must be regarded as a particularly serious event in the marriage.

There is no denying that, in the lives of many couples, periods of time may occasionally arise when “serious” reasons (as defined by the Pope) do arise. During such periods, NFP becomes an appropriate topic for discussion. But such periods should be entered into with a sense of regret, and with a hope that the serious reasons will be short-lived, so that the couple can soon return to their natural state of openness to the “outstanding gift of marriage": children. In this natural state of marriage, the topic of family planning (natural or otherwise) need not arise.

Newlyweds are in an ideal position to enjoy this natural state. I cannot understand why the National Catholic Register contains an article that encourages a couple to enter marriage with plans to limit the greatest blessing of family life. The secular culture in which we live does enough of that. Why can the Register not break the mold and encourage newlyweds to be open to having a large family?

Dermott J. Mullan

Elkton, Maryland

Eye of the Beholder?

The thing to remember about the Brooklyn Museum of Art's “Sensation” exhibit is that it's not only not art, but it's anti-art (“'Desecration’ Is Not Art, Catholic Protesters Insist,” Oct. 10-16).

For centuries we understood that, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “beauty” was the mind's appreciation of the goodness of God's creation, and that the decorative arts provided us with a reminder of that goodness in their wholeness, proper proportion and clarity. Art ennobled, because to appreciate art you had to understand that creation was good and, therefore, God was good. Art could also be used to symbolize virtue and encourage us to live as God intended us to. Art could even lead us to pray, if the contemplation of creation's beauty led us to contemplate the Creator.

If earlier artists argued with their patrons about art, at least both artist and patron agreed about what art was. That's why Brooklyn set up its art museum, whose 1893 lease states that its purpose is to serve the public and the city's schoolchildren. And Mayor Giuliani argues (correctly) that a show like “Sensation” violates the terms of the muse-um's lease. … [T]he same people who argue that you shouldn't be allowed to display our Lady in a manger scene at Christmas are now arguing that the taxpayers have to pay for “Sensation” because the government should promote art.

Don Schenk

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Conscience in Connecticut

In reference to your editorial “Conscience in California” (Oct. 24-30), I would like to point out that the state of Connecticut, where more than 40% of the population is Catholic — it's second only to Rhode Island — signed into law an act requiring health insurers to cover prescription birth control. This happened on June 3, at the hand of our Catholic governor. The vote was overwhelmingly anti-Catholic. Of the 145 votes in the House, only 20% voted against this bill. In the Senate, only one of the 18 members voted “against.” It deeply saddens me that there are a large percentage of Catholics who do not understand the true beauty and benefits of our Church's teachings.

Suzanne Donofrio

North Haven, Connecticut

Joys of Adoption

We loved all the coverage in the Oct. 24-30 Register on adoption throughout our country. Many years ago, after our natural child (now 26 years old) was born, we chose to adopt. At the time, the main argument for abortion was “so many unwanted children.” [But] there are no unwanted children — only uncaring parents.

In 1996, our state had no child abandonment laws on the books. We tried in vain to adopt an 11-year-old girl who had been lost in the system for eight years. Unable by law to sever parental rights, she was never free to find a loving family. In 1997, with the help of state Sen. Bill Armistead, we lobbied, we called, we begged 54 senators, the whole House of Representatives. We finally received the governor's backing if he ever received the bill.

In 1997-98, Alabama's Child Abandonment Law was passed and signed. On that date, we were asked to attend the ceremony, but chose instead at that time to kneel before our Lord at our Catholic church. To him was the glory of that day!

This year, we finalized the adoption of three more children, ages 12 (twin girls) and 14. Now, as a result of the new law, more than 500 children are free to be adopted; they're just waiting for families. Once again, we take a public stance to reach families for these little gifts from heaven. In our work and in our hearts, may we give glory, praise and honor to God.

Bob Boffa

Gardendale, Alabama