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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 for a couple. 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