Monday, April 23, 2012

Natural Family Planning: What the Church Teaches...

Is Natural Family Planning or the belief that contraception is wrong only a Catholic teaching?  Actually, no.  And, not long ago, every Christian church was against contraception.

Every Christian community prohibited contraception, until 1930.  At that point, the Anglicans/Episcopalians bowed to the pressure to accept it, and all Protestant communities followed their lead.  The Orthodox Churches continue to teach, along with Catholics, that contraception is prohibited and sinful.

Martin Luther (writing on Onan in Genesis 38): "This is a most disgraceful sin.  It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery...surely at such a time the order or nature established by God in procreation should be followed.

John Wesley: "Those sins that dishonor the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections.  Observe, the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lord - and it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls."

Pope Paul VI predicted, in 1968, that contraception would:
  •  Greatly increase marital infidelity and promiscuity.
  •  Usher in a general lowering of moral standards.
  •  Greatly diminish respect of men for women, reducing her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
It doesn't seem too "off the mark" today, does it?

What the Church teaches...

There are two inseparable goods of marriage:
1) the good of the spouses, and
2) the procreation of children.

Artificial birth control seeks to frustrate God's natural design for marriage -- the acceptance of each other, wholly and entirely, with an openness to life.

The blessing of children:
 Gen 22:17
 Gen 33:5
 Sirach 25:7
 Psalm 127:3-5
 Psalm 128:1-3

Papal Teachings
  •   In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae (Human Life), which reemphasized the Church's constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human life from coming into existence.

  • "Marriage and conjugal love are, by their nature, ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare." (HV 9)

  • "[Spouses] are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow.  On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator." (HV 10) 

  • "an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life.  Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will." (HV 13)

The Bottom Line...

"We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children...(HV 14)

...Equally to be condemned, as the Magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary...(HV 15)

...Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation - whether as an end or means." (HV 16)

Pope John Paul II: "Contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified.  To think or to say they contrary is equal to maintaining that, in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God."

Blessed Mother Teresa: "In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception...This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her.  In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception...I also know that there are great problems in the world - that many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural family planning...let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is to destroy love.  And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion."

Why is contraception sinful?
According to Father John Harding, "[Contraception] tries to separate the two built-in qualities of marital intercourse, claiming that one (children) can be deliberately prevented while the other (mutual love) is being retained.  Not so, says the Church.  Either you admit both or you lose both.  You cannot successfully divide, in practice, what God has placed together in principle."

Finally, Pope Paul VI stated, "We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the loves of Christian married couples.  For them, as indeed for every one of us, 'the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.'" (HV 25)

Yes, NFP requires effort, self-control, and even short-term self-denial, but the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. 

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