Information for Clergy

In 1966, Patrick and Patty Crowley sent a report to the Papal Birth Control Commission. This report set out to determine if the Calendar “Rhythm” Method, then the only moral way for couple's to space births, brought more harm or good to marriages. The responses were mostly negative, which prompted the Commission to petition the Catholic Church to change its teachings on contraception.

As we all know, the Church did not. This is not because the Church is “behind the times” or doesn't understand the needs of her member. In his Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians, Bishop Flavin explains it well:

The ban on contraception is not a disciplinary law of the Church, like abstinence on Friday, which the Church can enact and which the Church can dispense for good reasons. Rather, it is a divine law which the Church cannot change any more than it can change the law of God forbidding murder. Contraception is wrong, not because the Church says it is wrong (it was wrong before Christ established the Church); it is wrong because God Himself, through the revelation of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, has declared it to be wrong. Because contraception is intrinsically evil, it may never be practiced for any reason, no matter how good and urgent. A good end never justifies the use of an evil means.

Unfortunately, more Catholic couples use contraception, most not knowing what or why the Church teaches as it does.The negative effects of the “Rhythm” method are still being felt to this day. It is unfortunate that the shadow of the “Rhythm” method is still being cast over modern methods of Natural Family Planning.

Indeed, it seems unjust to link modern methods of Natural Family Planning with the “Rhythm” method in the same sentence. In fact, they are nothing alike. Where the “Rhythm” method used past cycles to predict future fertility, modern NFP methods are based on basic, proven biology. It has been proven to be as effective as any modern contraception to space pregnancies but more than that, it is also a moral method of family planning that can bring couples closer to each other and to God.

What makes it moral?

Natural Family Planning respect the Natural Law, which was designed by God himself. The Natural Law is best summed up as the right use of things in accord with their nature. To do otherwise is to mistreat the thing which you are using. You wouldn't use a car to explore the bottom of the sea. A car is for use on solid ground, to get you from one place to another. Likewise, sex has two purposes: to bind and to procreate. To separate either of those two purposes from sex is to use misuse it.

While couples are preparing for and receiving their final catechesis before they receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, it is vital that this “[c]atechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ” (CCC, 1697).

The Catechism further states “The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the 'family of God' is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian values of marriage and family...” (CCC 1632).

As the “front line” of the Church, it is your responsibility to teach truthfully and faithfully the fullness of the Church's teachings on marriage, including her teachings on artificial contraception. If they don't hear it from you, it is unlikely that they will hear it from anyone else. It is a sad state that so many Catholic couples enter marriage with a dull understanding of what marriage can truly be, and in truth their marriages suffer from it.