Marriage Prep and NFP

In one of his Lectures Fr. Ripperger, suggests that NFP talks, given in mixed company are inappropriate. This observation resonated with me. I found it incredibly awkward, as an engaged woman, striving to live a chaste life, to be thrown into a room (of mixed sexes!) and given an explicit “how-to-use- NFP” talk by a married couple. I was mortified. I cried afterwards. It left me demoralized.

The NFP talk given at out marriage prep was at best confusing, at worst heretical. It was presented as a catholic contraception. If you don’t want to have children, use this, not contraceptives! How sad. The focus should have been on the great blessing of children not NFP strengthens marriages and is as effective as contraceptives!

One older engaged couple, said they were not open to having any children because  the dangers of pregnancy, at their age, were too great. This seemed to be accepted as  reason enough, and  to enter marriage, with not intention of ever having any children, was not even blinked at. It was troubling to hear such stories.

I thought marriage was for children, I thought NFP was for grave reasons, I thought that if you weren’t ready for children, you shouldn’t be getting married! The push for NFP seemed completely contrary to all of this.

When it comes to marriage prep, the focus should be marriage is for childrennot how to avoid having children. Of course, the evils of contraception needs to be addressed! Couples should be properly catechized in these matters. But these NFP crash courses are not properly catechizing people! They are  at once biologically explicit and Dogmatically  vague.

I believe NFP courses should be available, Catholicism is not a type Gnosticism, NFP isn’t a secret knowledge. However, it is just a small piece in properly catechizing couples. Such public and mixed presentations are inappropriate. Such sexually explicit discussions are better done in men only or women only groups or privately between the instructor and a married couple or even a single woman who needs it for health reasons.

I am not against NFP in itself. In fact, we find ourselves in a grave situation now. Sadly, my treatment for Lyme Disease, is incompatible with pregnancy.   (I tried treatments that were compatible with pregnancy but they did not work.) Without this treatment (BVT), I was completely bed-bound some days! Without it, my symptoms were numerous and far-reaching: from severe depression, intrusive thoughts to constant heart palpations. I was unable to fulfill my basic duties as a wife and mother.

With treatment, the disease is manageable. the protocol lasts two years. Our circumstances are not ideal.  Although we find practicing NFP necessary at this time, it grieves us. And it should, it’s not normal.

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11 comments

  1. It was presented as a catholic contraception. If you don’t want to have children, use this, not contraceptives! How sad. The focus should have been on the great blessing of children not NFP strengthens marriages and is as effective as contraceptives!

    I am not Catholic but we live in an enclave where quite a few Catholics are. A big church is nearby, and when our older girls were in public school, I had a lot of interaction with Catholic mothers during those years.

    The few times ( I can clearly recall between 5-10) the subject of children/NFP came up, NFP was always spoken of as if it were “Catholic birth control”. I always found that rather strange, that using Church approved family planning for the express purposes of not having children for reasons not grave was seen as more legitimate than Protestants who used other methods to avoid pregnancy.

    We Prots take the whole “intent of the heart” thing to heretical places at times, but intention does matter. Birth control by any other name…

  2. “intention does matter.” Yes, NFP does not separate the conjugal act with reproduction, but that’s only the half of it. The other half is the matter of the heart. Why? Why avoid children?

    1. The answer is simple: We as a culture do not value life. We value comfort and ease and luxury. Life? Not so much.

      Ours is a culture of death, and the rot of it has spread its tendrils everywhere.

  3. There is actually nothing in Catholic teaching about NFP only used for grave reasons. The Church says just reason. NFP is supposed to be treated as a tool, or a guide to fertility, but not as contraception. It is up to each couple to decide on a short-term basis for using NFP and its reasons. The Church doesn’t actually tell couples what to do because they should be using their own conscience.

    It’s really impossible to judge what’s going on with a couple from the outside, but couples shouldn’t be treating NFP like it’s contraception. I’ve also never heard of “NFP crash courses,” and having been through NFP training I can’t even fathom how that would work.

    The older couple stating they won’t welcome children is rather unfortunate, but they shouldn’t be taken to represent the majority of Catholic couples using NFP. Most Catholics don’t use it, and for a lot of the couples who do use it, it’s definitely not perfect. I remember the nurse who trained me said during one of her informational sessions, a woman proclaimed how NFP was incredibly unreliable and contraception was better, and she was only there because she had to get married. There are clearly vastly different views on the subject.

    1. Maea, I know there is dispute about nfp only for “grave reasons” and when it comes down to it, it is up to the couples conscience. I agree. The main point I was trying to make was the tone of the marriage prep was all wrong. It left me feeling very alone in my desire for children. It left me second guessing myself and disheartened.

      The “crash course” I think was called “An Intro to NFP.” It was required for our marriage prep. It discussed the Creighton Model and the basal body temp method. It was rather detailed, complete with slide shows. The married couple also gave their own little testimony on nfp in their own marriage. We were then given “couple to couple league” cards for further more personalized instructions. I don’t know how its done in other parishes. I’m sure it varies greatly though.

      1. They also gave us a list of Dr.s in the area that could also help with instruction. Some specialized in Creighton others in basal body temp method.

      2. That’s so odd to me to actually give out details like that! In my experience, couples have to meet with a couple (no groups), or they meet with a nurse.

        The main point I was trying to make was the tone of the marriage prep was all wrong.

        And I agree the tone is too often presented wrongly. I believe the aspect of using one’s conscience prayerfully and unselfishly is overlooked, and to be frank the idea of a prayerful conscience is nearly absent from parish teaching. People would get more out of reading catechism themselves, but I’m biased and somewhat pessimistic.

  4. Maea,

    There is actually nothing in Catholic teaching about NFP only used for grave reasons. The Church says just reason.

    I disagree. It’s how you read the Latin. Here’s what it says:

    If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

    “Well-grounded” reasons means GRAVE. How do we know? If one is offered the opportunity to co-create a soul with God, but tell Him to go screw Himself, well, that better be grave. This is a no-brainer. No need to parse the Church documents.

    But what amuses me? Even the most ignorant savage in every era knew children are GOOD, and wanted as many as they could have. The Church just scratches her head that they would have to write such a document as Humanae Vitae. One shouldn’t need any Church documents to know this, or the bible, which is clear as well.

    Elspeth, using Church approved family planning for the express purposes of not having children for reasons not grave was seen as more legitimate than Protestants who used other methods to avoid pregnancy.

    It is. Prots used to think just like Catholic here, that artificial birth control was sinful outright, but chastity in marriage not. That was until 1930! After that, Prots went full culture and got confused. Remember, NFP is merely timed chastity, and everyone agrees this is ok when for a grave reason. Using artificial methods was always wrong by every Christian, even the secular law, until recently. Here’s the relevant passage for your thinking:

    Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.

    1. NFP is merely timed chastity, and everyone agrees this is ok when for a grave reason.

      There’s no disagreement with that, but I wasn’t aware the “well-grounded” was from Latin. I think the problem is what constitutes grave reason. Grave reason for one couple could be frivolous to another. Personally– I don’t like to get into that because I’m not an examiner of another’s conscience. I’d rather leave that to a priest.

  5. I completely agree with your post. I have never attended NFP classes but I think it is wholly inappropriate for it to be done in mixed classes. Of course engaged couples need to discuss their respective views on their future family but discussion of intimate anatomical details in mixed company or of sexual relations is not at all appropriate.

    It seems to me that the Church actively promotes NFP as an alternative to contraception, with the aim of ‘retaining’ members who might otherwise simply decide to use artificial birth control. I suppose that policy can be justified if you believe that promoting one sin to discourage a greater sin is acceptable. But on that basis we might advocate condoms to reduce abortions. In fact all these things are a continuum of the same sin. The separation of intimacy from procreation and the rejection of God’s design for us as wives and mothers.

    Worse still is that young couples are encouraged to marry on the basis that with accurate scientific and reliable NFP they can have ‘a few years together’ or ‘get set up’ before having children. In other words to start marriage in violation of their vows to welcome children and with a contraceptive mentality.

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