The calumny leveled against the Church’s teaching on artificial contraceptives usually stems from either: a.) a general lack of knowledge or denial of how contraceptives work (or, I should say, continuously fail) and b) ignorance of Church teaching and the theology behind it. From my limited experience as a speaker about the morality of Natural Family Planning, I have to say that just a little clarifying information about either typically appeases all except for the most cantankerous objectors.
And so, enter my sister and I. She’s a nurse, I’m a theologian (in training), we both practice NFP with our spouses and between the two of us, in the course of an hour, we cover the science and reason that support the rationality behind Church teaching on sexual morality. It’s a fitting ministry for any Catholic wife and mom to undertake and I wish more did so!
We’ve gotten pretty good reviews from the couples so far, and have not yet encountered any blatant hostility. With the next engaged couple retreat coming up I find myself again contemplating what it is that we NFP speakers (following Holy Mother Church) are actually asking of the couples in our talk; what we are inviting them them consider about human sexuality and God’s plan for their marriages.
On one hand, we are asking for a lot. In an hour, we’re encouraging them to buck the trend of popular culture, rethink their opinion of the Church’s teaching and go against what they’ve been taught and have probably practiced for some time.
On the other hand, we are asking for very little. In fact, all we are ultimately asking for is what people already do in other corners of their lives: practice self -restraint along with some observations of temperature and physical signs and that’s it!
What? Are you suspicious that it’s too simple? Why?
I can tell you very plainly, why: because it is that simple. One of the most negative aspects of human nature is that we tend to complicate things. Pharmaceutical companies know this and firmly invest themselves in nurturing our anxieties about health and fertility - and it gives them great financial returns, indeed! For we, the easily ruffled sheep, go out and buy, buy, buy our peace of mind with a product (contraceptives), even as we say bye, bye, bye to our health in the long run.
And yet, scratch but a little of the placid ‘I’m in control of my body’ surface and you discover that peace of mind is impossible once you know the risks associated with taking birth control. And yet many people don’t know the facts – for some couples, our talk is the first time they hear how hazardous contraception is to health!