How can NFP impact my spiritual life?
The thing is, it is hard to talk about sin or the potential to sin. No one likes to be told that they're wrong about anything. And no one likes to be the one to point a finger. As the saying goes “I can point 1 finger at you, but 4 more would be pointing right back at me.”
However, to not say something would be wrong, for both parties. For one person to know a truth, and a
beautiful truth at that, and to keep it from others would be worse than a shame. Everyone has the right to the truth, even if the truth is uncomfortable to speak.
You might find yourself asking “What does sex have to do with my spiritual life?” A lot, actually. Sex is not just an expression of rushing hormones – it is meant to bind one to another. It affects intimacy, self esteem, and spiritual well-being. Humans are not purely physical creatures like animals; humans are body and soul. What affects one affects the other.
Marriage in God's Plan
“The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws....God himself is the author of marriage.” (CCC,1603) Marriage is a way for the couple to help each other on the path of grace, in the life of Christ. NFP by its very
nature helps couples to follow God's plan for marriage. How does it do this?
The dual ends of marriage are to be unitive and procreative. God created sex to unify man and woman in a
holy marriage as well as to produce children. Each new cycle a couple must decide how to be generous and responsible with their sexuality. NFP asks couples to rely on God and seek Him in the most intimate
area of their lives. God calls for couples to be generous, responsible, and open to life. All of this requires a great reliance on Him. Natural Family Planning respects each partner's sexuality and fertility while also respecting God's plan for marriage. It allows couples to be both unitive and procreative in a responsible manner, by respecting the fertile and infertile periods of the couple's cycle. Because these ebbs and flows of fertility were put in place by God, it is only natural that couples may take advantage of those times which best support their family planning intentions.
The Natural Law
But are couples to have a child every time they have sex? The short answer is no. But they are to respect the Natural Law. Janet Smith in her talk “Contraception; Why Not?” explains “Natural law says that if you want things to prosper, you have to use them in accord with their nature. If you want things to prosper, you have to
live in accord with the reality or the nature of the things you are using.” The reality is that sex has two purposes – to bond spouses and to produce children. Natural Family Planning works within the Natural Law and reminds couples of the purposes of sex.
So, NFP is just Catholic contraception then?!
No! Because NFP works with the Natural Law and not against it, it is fundamentally different from contraception. Contraception is always, without exception, a grave sin. Though it is hard to hear and harder still to believe, contraception is against God's plan for marriage. Why? St. Augustine defines a sin as “A word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (See Catechism paragraph 1849) Contraception by it's very name declares itself to be against the eternal law. Its whole purpose is to prevent the conception of life by making sterile an act which by its very nature is not meant to be*. Natural Family Planning, on the other hand, does not change the nature of sex. If a couple wishes to avoid pregnancy, they abstain from sex, respecting its dual purposes.
We know it's a hard truth to hear. But please take heart. If you are using contraception, stop. Go to confession and enroll in an NFP class as soon as possible. You can find a list of classes here. Your instructor should be able to help you find a doctor that will support your decision and work with you to find alternatives to contraception if you are taking it for any other purpose. Please visit the NaProTECHNOLOGY website
for more information.
*Couples suffering from infertility are close to the heart of the Church and are of course not in a state of sin. In fact, couples may use Natural Family Planning to help in the identifying and treating of the causes of infertility. Please see the NaProTECHNOLOGY website for more details.