This is a question I get all so often, most especially in the Catholic world. In case you aren’t familiar, normally when people ask me if Natural Family Planning can be used with a ‘contraceptive mindset’ or ‘contraceptively,’ what they’re really asking is if NFP can be used with bad intentions. Or, if NFP can be used faithfully by a Catholic to avoid a pregnancy. Sometimes I get asked by people with a half raised skeptical eyebrow, others with a curiosity of how NFP actually works.
Let’s take a step back to really examine what’s going on here.
We have to recognize the good of any thing, and any good thing has potential to be abused. For example. I love lattes. They’re awesome. I could have 100 of them in a day. Is it bad for me to have 1 or 2 lattes a day? No. If I had 100 of them in a day? You’d have to send me straight to a cardiologist or ER for evaluation. Now, the other week when I was out of control and had 8 shots of espresso in a single day (true story, I did do this the other week) that my arm started spasming from the amount of caffeine-was that probably an incorrect use of it? Yes. But don’t tell my cardiologist. The thing here is, the problem isn’t with espresso. It was my incorrect consumption of it. Espresso is awesome, and does often serve as reminder to pray when I drink my latte and talk to God in the mornings. Similarly, though analogies always fall a little bit short, the use of NFP is good and works cooperatively with God’s design. If someone chose to take total control and decide to never have any more kids without discerning natural reasons or really asking the Lord what their family should look like, that would be an incorrect use of it. Incorrect uses, however, do not render the thing itself to be bad. Using NFP to avoid a pregnancy can be a great thing. (See Humanae Vitae for more information on responsible parenthood).
The recognition that NFP is a good thing, and the belief in God’s good design. God created a woman’s cycle to have periods of fertility and infertility. This happens both in her natural cycle, and throughout her lifetime. For example, in a woman’s life, there is a natural time after child birth, for a certain amount of time (sometimes this period is extended) and once she reaches a certain age in life, that a woman will be infertile. God’s design is good, and includes times where a woman would be infertile. The Creighton Model System can be used to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. More often than not, when you hear of couples using NFP, normally the implication is that they’re using it to avoid. Couples, if they’ve discerned it well, are working with God’s good design, not against it. It’s not that the times of fertility are “good” and times of infertility are “bad” as is often the implication in certain groups of people. God’s entire design is good and beautiful, and we are called to be good stewards of God’s good design.
There is an inherent difference between contraception and Natural Family Planning. Contraception works against God’s plan and rejects (consciously or subconsciously) God’s good design of natural times of fertility and infertility. It says instead “I will take this into my own hands” and rejects the wholeness of the other. It says “I want all of you, just not your fertility” instead of giving the whole of the person, including their fertility. Rather than working with God’s good design of periods of fertility and infertility, the couples works against this design. Now, my degree is in theology and I am pursuing a Masters in theology with concentration in bioethics, so in an effort to not turn this into a theology paper, I will end this here.
The takeaway from this is that the potential for abuse doesn’t render the thing itself as evil. A couple must keep in mind God’s good design, and make decisions and discernment based on that understanding. His design and His plans are good. Thinking about starting NFP, need to avoid a pregnancy, or thinking about switching from contraception? We are here for you!