We Don’t Need NFP Police

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I would be willing to bet money that any blog post or article that talks about the challenges of NFP will have something in the comment section along the lines of “You’re using NFP wrong anyways. The Church teaches that it should only be used in very serious circumstances.”

This needs to stop.

Before I continue this post: I want to add a point of clarification based off some of the feedback I have been receiving (thank you, ladies, for commenting and giving me feedback!).  As Maria, one of the commenters (take the time to read her response-it is great!) pointed out, a couple may use NFP to avoid or achieve conception, and a woman might track fertility signs for her health in general. When I say using NFP, I am focusing on specifically using NFP to avoid conceiving. 

I know this may seem a little odd since last week, I talked about how important sharing the truth is, but in this situation, we likely don’t know the truth. While we may know what the Church teaches about NFP, we cannot determine what the couple’s specific situation is, especially from one blog post.

While it is absolutely true that using NFP to avoid conception is only appropriate in certain situations, there is no way for a random commenter to know whether or not the writer of the piece falls into that category. Simcha Fisher explains this very well: the Church is intentionally vague on this topic. This discernment process needs to be between the couple and God.

Maybe the person writing about the challenges of NFP is struggling with mental health issues. Maybe they are struggling financially. Maybe they have serious health issues. We don’t know unless they tell us, and the writer is under no obligation to explain why they are choosing to practice NFP.

To illustrate this, I will use myself as an example. As many of you know if you have read my blog, I am a type 1 diabetic. Currently, my blood sugars are not as well-controlled as they should be. Getting pregnant right now would put my health at risk for those nine months, and more importantly, could potentially cause long-term health complications for my child. While it is absolutely possible to have a healthy pregnancy as a type 1 diabetic, my health is not good enough presently for me to be pregnant. If God blessed Ben and I with a child unexpectedly, I would be overjoyed and would do everything I could to protect the health of my unborn child, but with talking to my doctors and spending time in prayer on this topic, we understand that it isn’t God’s will for us to be parents yet.

If someone looked at us from the outside, however, they wouldn’t understand this. They would see a seemingly healthy young couple (part of the “fun” of having an invisible illness) who both have good jobs “avoiding” having a child. I can definitely see why someone would be suspicious of our motives. What they would be missing though is the deep longing for a child but the understanding that, right now, postponing pregnancy is a cross God has given us. Criticizing us for something we have carefully discerned (and continue to discern) adds more hurt to something that is already challenging for us.

This isn’t to say that everyone who practices NFP is above criticism. If you are close enough to a person and have chatted about this and know for a fact that they haven’t been talking to God about it, it would be appropriate to lovingly discuss what the Church teaches about the purpose of marriage.

My point is that we as Catholics need to stop criticizing writers we do not know about their practice of NFP.

The writers very likely know what the Church teaches. They are striving to be faithful to Church social teaching while facing attacks from society telling them to use contraception. We need to support them, especially when they struggle. We can acknowledge the difficulties of NFP while also recognizing that it is the best decision for a couple who has carefully discerned they need to avoid conception (and for couples who want to become pregnant).

We can acknowledge the difficulties of NFP while also recognizing that it is the best decision… Click To Tweet

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, I recommend the following resources.

EWTN answer from Fr. Richard Hogan regarding serious motives

JoAnna Wahlund’s post on Catholic Stand

Simcha Fisher’s excellent book: The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning

Comments 6

  • Just for clarification, the Church does not teach natural family planning can only be used in certain situations. Because NFP is a range of methods that provide scientific data about a woman’s body, it is always appropriate as a method of self-knowledge.
    Morally speaking, restrictions are specifcally placed on use of NFP to avoid pregnancy for reasons against virtue (e.g. generosity, hospitality).
    That is not the same as your claim that NFP as a system of methods is prohibited in normal use, and in fact, it can be a vital tool by which to achieve pregnancy.

    • Hi Christine,

      Thank you for commenting. I’m actually in complete agreement with you. I apologize my post didn’t articulate this clearly enough. I edited a sentence to emphasize that it is only a concern when it comes to avoiding conception.

      NFP has a lot of benefits, and I think women should considering learning their fertility signs whether or not they are married because it is a good indicator of health (or could raise awareness to potential health issues).

      Thank you for your feedback!

  • Hi Kate,

    Thanks for writing on this topic! It’s so good that people are learning and discussing the use of NFP!

    First, I appreciate your honesty and sharing your own personal experience with using NFP for your marriage and how it can be beautiful and difficult, especially with other people’s criticism on situations they don’t understand.

    Second, I want to further discuss the point raised in Christine’s comment. I noticed in paragraph 1 and 5 you talk about using NFP in the context of the Church’s teachings and a couple’s discernment. I’m assuming that what you mean is “the couple is abstaining during the woman’s fertile time to avoid achieving a pregnancy.” I’m sure you know this, but it could be misleading to other readers who are not a familiar with NFP. From the class I took, it taught that tracking the woman’s fertility and choosing based upon the signs to engage in the marital embrace or not is always using the method. Engaging in sex is not “not using” the method; it is just using it for one of its purposes: striving to achieve a pregnancy based upon the fertile time signs. The three purposes I understood were: striving to achieve a pregnancy, striving to avoid a pregnancy, and data collection for diagnosis of health issues related to her repro system.

    I say this because I have been “using” NFP for about 4 years now without the context of any avoiding or achieving–or well sex anyway. Just because I am not using it to avoid or achieve doesn’t mean I’m not “using it.” Years back I took the Creighton Method course to learn about why my cycle was irregular, started charting, and presented that data to a NFP doctor to find out what was off with my system. Although I do plan to use it some day in the context of marriage and spacing children, it was not my sole reason to learn it at the time.

    I don’t believe that we actually disagree on anything foundational about NFP, but I do think it’s just a difference in presentation of language.

    Thanks for letting me share my experience. What are your thoughts on my comments?

    P.S. I enjoy reading your posts from time to time. They’re great–keep ’em comin’!

    • Maria, thank you so much for your insightful comment.

      I agree with what you had to say and am appreciative that you pointed out where it could be confusing. I’ll take a look at my post when I get home from work and see how I can rephrase it to make it clearer. 🙂

      I also really appreciate you sharing your experience using NFP before you were married. I think people miss out on how tracking fertility signs can be useful for things beyond planning a family.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to write this thoughtful and helpful comment.

      Thanks!

  • Thanks for this. I only recently started using NPF because for my whole life I didn’t really know anything about it. I am 48 and it is HARD to start when you are in perimenopuase. Plus, I just changed to a medication that would likely injure or kill a baby if I conceived now. So on the one hand, although now having a child is something I think Would be welcome if it happened (I don’t have any children) it would also mean very bad consequences for the child. I think that the more this is all talked about the better. I wish that anyone had talked to me about it in my 20s or 30s.

    • Margo, thank you for sharing your experience. I will pray for you and your husband as you navigate NFP.

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