NFP: Throwing Down The Gauntlet

NFP Awareness Week, not unlike NFP (natural family planning) is one of the Catholic Church’s best kept secrets. Memo to Dan Brown: I think you could come up with a…

NFP Awareness Week, not unlike NFP (natural family planning) is one of the Catholic Church’s best kept secrets. Memo to Dan Brown: I think you could come up with a great story here. This might be bigger than your tired Da Vinci Code.

Several years ago, I was asked to do a radio interview about NFP Awareness Week at the end of July. I hadn’t even heard of it. I was convinced that the host of the show was wrong because, after all, who would run an awareness campaign during one of the slowest news cycles of the year? Ha. I was wrong. Still, I wasn’t even sure that anyone was listening to radio shows in the midst of summer vacations and other fun activities.

Meanwhile, at the USCCB homepage, there was no mention of it.

And there’s no mention of it this year, either. If you dig a bit, you’ll find it in the pro-life section here. Ah, yes, awareness.

At the time, I contacted the Pro-Life Secretariat of the USCCB to share both my concerns and my support for the endeavor. But they’re still using the same strategies.

Which brings me to a great post by Ashley E. McGuire. She writes:

We need more than an awareness week. The whole Catholic approach to NFP needs a massive overhaul. It simply isn’t working.

I couldn’t agree more and I highly recommend that you read her entire piece.

I’m not in agreement with her use of the term “contraceptive mentality,” but I get where she’s going. Also, she suggests that men don’t need to get the full dose of NFP instruction until after a couple is married. I think that would affect the communication aspect of NFP and I think it’s almost un-Catholic to be so hyper Puritan when discussing bodily matters. The Catholic Church is uber earthy. Just listen to the words of Consecration. But these points are all debatable and she’s spot on about the way we communicate about NFP.

I’d add two other communications issues.

1. Catholics who complain that NFP doesn’t work or is too hard are doing a service to no one. There may be shortcomings in one’s knowledge of NFP, but the method works. And NFP is certainly not the cause of marital difficulties, but perhaps a couple’s struggles with NFP can be indicative of other issues in the marriage. I recently devoted a column to this topic: NFP Is Not The Problem.

2. That said, I would agree that NFP is sometimes taught as a sort of secret code which can be difficult to decipher. Some instructors/practitioners definitely come across as though people are not responsible enough to know when they’re fertile. But somehow they should be responsible enough to raise children…?

As one woman commented to me, she and her husband were talking  about how much money she spent learning NFP and she still had to “pee on a $7 stick to know when I was fertile!”

NFP can be a great tool for couples, but they need to learn it well and it needs to be well promulgated.

My suggestion? How about an NFP Awareness Year (featured prominently on the USCCB website), including with ads like those suggested by McGuire, and instruction available throughout every diocese? – I’m definitely available for consulting on a project like this.

Another woman, who is both an NFP instructor and a marriage annulment advocate, pointed out that in her diocese there are perhaps fifteen NFP instructors and a couple hundred annulment advocates. Those numbers alone indicate why there’s a problem with contraception, divorce, and the Church’s teaching on marriage, including same-sex marriage.

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