Can Natural Family Planning be Misused?

In 2015, a question had stumbled in my head “Can natural-family planning be used as a method of contraception?”. Now I was 17 at the time, and as I thought about the different vocations, the issue of family came up. I was not getting very far, because many of the answers I had were “Natural family planning is promoted by the Church, it promotes abstinence which is virtuous, and it helps to space out the births. Contraception is bad, and NFP is not contraception, so it’s not bad.” But it didn’t really go deeper than that… I had a vague answer, but I was not fully satisfied.

I was confronted with a hard question, and unhappy with the answers I received. During that summer, I went and helped at a medieval Catholic boys’ camp in the Rockies called Arcātheos . With Mass every day, a presence from priests and brothers such as the Legion of Christ, there were plenty of opportunity to grow in my faith. Best of all, Jason Evert was also at this camp! He was there simply to enjoy some time with his son, and wanted to go unnoticed, but… that was hard. He is pretty famous because of his knowledge on the Theology of the Body of Pope Saint John Paul II. So, one night, we were a bunch of guys around the campfire and we he said he could answer some of our questions on sexuality and marriage. I fired away my question, and his answer made much sense.

He explained that yes, some individuals may use even natural family planning as a form of contraception. It’s not a sin to space out births evenly, and even to use NFP to prevent a pregnancy in times of economic crisis, or to safeguard the health of the mother. However, if there are no economic crisis going on, the youngest child is 3 or 4 years of age, the pregnancy will not endanger the life or health of the mother, etcetera… if there is no reason not to have another child, you must have one. In fact, the very first commandment in the Bible is to be fruitful and multiply. There are of course some circumstances where a couple vow to abstain of union for for a period of time, and this is perfectly acceptable.

It is a grave sin to use NFP for selfish purposes, because it goes against the very nature of Holy Matrimony. NFP is to be used so that the love, trust, and respect between a man and a woman flourishes… The best way to grasp this love is to look at a newborn child. A new and beautiful human being, created in the image and likeness of God, through and with love. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”

Man and women are made in the image and likeness of God. So how exactly is this fulfilled? Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity is fully God and fully man, with a human body and soul, but the two other persons, what about them? Further, he is a man, so how is He in the image and likeness of women? Well, the very essence of God, who God is, is love. God is Love. The Blessed Trinity is Love! When a man and a woman unite in Love to create a new being (with the help of God), they are expressing this likeness of God. Through love, we are in the image and likeness of God. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the eternal love of the Father and the Son, and so right there we have a perfect union, one that Holy Matrimony reflects. Holy Matrimony also reflects the espousal of Christ and His bride, and of the Holy Spirit and Mary. And this is why it is so evil to use means of contraception, it breaks away from the perfect self-giving aspect of those unions and replaces it with selfishness. It breaks mankind away from this likeness of God.

This is why it is so vital to protect the integrity of Marriage. Through Holy Matrimony, the two bride and bridegroom become one flesh. Through the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, through the Eucharist, Jesus and His people become one flesh. Destroying marriage brings the downfall of the church, because the two go hand in hand, and if one is destroyed, the other will follow.

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