Many Catholics don’t understand the value of Natural Family Planning, and even fewer use it (about 2% by some accounts). Even fewer are aware of the Catholic Church’s principled objection to techniques such as in vitro fertilization. These teachings can be hard to transmit, because they are hard for people to hear, especially couples who are struggling with infertility and desperately want their own child. But as one couple told us in a pre-Cana class we were teaching, “if you don’t tell us, who will?”
We included what we felt to be a gentle yet crystal clear explanation of the Church’s position on NFP, contraception, and IVF in Chapter 8 of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime. Please get your copy, read along, and join in the discussion with the 4 Keys Online Book Club on Facebook. FOR A PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION OF THE WORKSHEET, CLICK HERE.
Turning the Fear of Fertility into a Total Gift of Self:
Finding a Better Alternative to Artificial Birth Control & IVF
According to Pope Francis, when we rob sexual acts of their natural fruitfulness by using contraception, we disfigure married love (Amoris Laetitia, 80). But 75% of sexually active Catholics use artificial birth control, according to one 2006-2010 study. So what’s causing the major disconnect between what the Church teaches and what vast numbers of Catholics actually do? One big cause is fear.
Women especially are taught to fear their fertility during their teen years when adults (with the best of intentions) warn of the dangers of premarital sex. In addition, many couples worry about the impact of children on finances or career plans. “Women can be put into a state of constantly fighting their fertility, chemically suppressing it when it’s at its height and then trying to jump-start it as it diminishes,” say Manny and Karee in Chapter Eight of The Four Keys.
Natural Family Planning (or NFP) assists women in breaking that vicious cycle. NFP encourages the mindset that fertility is a great blessing. It helps couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy in an effective, safe, ethical, and relatively inexpensive way. And it helps them develop the gift of sexual self-control. In Chapter Eight, Manny and Karee offer scads of helpful information on contraception, NFP, and IVF, including:
- the medical dangers of artificial birth control
- the financial, emotional, and ethical downsides to IVF
- the advantages of using NFP to achieve or avoid pregnancy
- selecting the right method of NFP to fit your lifestyle
You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going between yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.
1. Do you and your spouse agree on the morality of contraception? If you don’t, how do you cope with this disagreement?
2. What have you heard (good and bad) about NFP?
3. Do you or anyone you know use NFP? What were the most powerful reasons influencing the choice to use NFP?
4. Which NFP method do you think might work best for you and why?