An old friend privately sent me a note in response to a post I had made on Facebook. I was proclaiming how the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as the prohibition of the use of artificial contraception, actually help women have happier and more fulfilled lives. I also touted the benefits to the marriage of using Natural Family Planning (NFP).
Although she had a different perspective, she commented on how confident I was in stating my opinion. She was intrigued about Natural Family Planning.
I explained to her that even as a cradle Catholic, I did not originally embrace the Church’s teachings on artificial birth control. I explained how over time, I grew to appreciate the Church’s wisdom. There is logic to the teaching.
First, as Catholics we believe that life begins at conception. We believe that no matter how microscopic a life is, it is still a life, and it is immoral to kill an innocent human being. Some forms of artificial birth control actually kill a real baby after it has been conceived, even though most people can’t see this and don’t know it is happening.
Secondly, as Catholics, we believe that God is the author of life. For Catholics marriage is a sacrament. It is a threesome–not a twosome–with God, husband, and wife. The Church recognizes there are legitimate reasons for regulating births within marriage.
Natural Family Planning is as effective (if not more) as artificial birth control methods. It is extremely effective in achieving pregnancy and addressing artificial birth control. Our own Benjamin, a Dr. Thomas Hilgers baby, is evidence of that.
In NFP, we acknowledge that the husband is always fertile and the wife occasionally fertile. The couple learns ways to work with God and each other to connect sexually at certain times depending on their goals. God is not left out of the picture; He is in the picture. Each month the couple must communicate with each other on where the relationship is, openness to life, how they are feeling about each other.
In addition, NFP respects the woman. She is not an object to be 100% sexually available for her partner. When the couple is trying to avoid pregnancy they have the opportunity to learn new ways to connect via SPICE (Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, and Emotional). The whole thing affords a much deeper level of intimacy. According to The Natural Family Planning Information Site, divorce rate for couples who practice NFP and their Catholic faith is less than 1%.
Low divorce rates for NFP couples are not coincidental. I can attest as Catholic who has used both artificial contraception and Natural Family Planning that there are substantial differences in the quality of the relationship based on the method the couple is using . With artificial birth control, the premise is a fracture in the trust of God and of the partner. There is holding back. In NFP, there is a willingness to go deeper, to trust more, and to control less. These are all ingredients of a phenomenal marriage.
To be blunt and paraphrase Kimberly Hahn, artificial birth control is more akin to reproductive bulimia where NFP is more like learning healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle habits.
Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip: If you are using NFP, brush up on how you communicate the benefits to others. If you are not, make an appointment at your local Natural Family Planning Office to learn more about this best kept secret that is not just for Catholics.