Friday, July 28, 2006

NFP Awareness Week, July 23-29, 2006

In honor of the anniversary of Pope Paul VI's landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae (July 25) and the feast of Saints Anne and Joachim (July 26) this is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! Woo-hoo!

Bishop Victor Galeone's pastoral letter entitled Marriage: A Communion of Life and Love, is a good introduction to the Church's positive teaching on marriage and its condemnation of contraception.

Bishop Galeone gives very clear, everyday explanations of the communicative power and purpose of sexual intercourse, the problem with contraception, and the virtue of "speaking the truth with our bodies":

According to Pope John Paul II, God designed married love to be expressed in a special language—the body language of the sexual act. In fact, sexual communication uses many of the same terms that verbal communication does: intercourse, to know (carnally), to conceive, etc. With this in mind, let’s pose some questions:

*Is it normal for a wife to insert ear-plugs, while listening to her husband?

*Is it normal for a husband to muffle his mouth, while speaking to his wife?

These examples are so abnormal as to appear absurd. Yet if such behavior is abnormal for verbal communication, why do we tolerate a wife using a diaphragm or the Pill, or a husband employing a condom during sexual communication?

Since God fashioned our bodies male and female to communicate both life and love, every time that husband and wife deliberately frustrate this twofold purpose through contraception, they are acting out a lie. The body language of the marital act says, "I’m all yours," but the contraceptive device adds, "except for my fertility."

So in actual fact, they are lying to each other with their bodies. Even worse, they are tacitly usurping the role of God. By thwarting the purpose of the marital love embrace, they are telling God, "You may have designed our bodies to help you transmit life to an immortal soul, but you made a mistake—a mistake we intend to correct. You may be Lord of our lives—but not of our fertility."

But how does natural family planning differ from contraception? And why bother, if their objective is the same? To understand the difference, one must realize that having a right intention for an action does not always justify the means.

For example, two separate couples want to support their families. The first couple does it through legitimate employment, while the other couple does it by trafficking in illegal drugs. Or two persons want to lose weight. The first accomplishes the objective by adhering to a strict diet, while the other person grossly overeats and then induces vomiting. Or to return to our analogy of the language of the body: To say that NFP is no different from contraception is like saying that maintaining silence is the equivalent of telling a lie.

Paul VI expressed the same idea more poetically: "To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not master of the sources of life, but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator."

To find out more about NFP, visit The Couple to Couple League for information, books, and home study or classroom courses. I personally think that an NFP course is a must for engaged or newlywed couples.

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