Question about Catholicism and natural family planning

(26 Posts)
TremoloGreen Sat 02-Apr-16 23:41:21

Wondered if anyone Catholic could help with this question. We were discussing the growing industry around fertility awareness/ natural family planning (apps etc and different business models) with a Catholic neighbour recently and this occurred to me, but I didn't like to ask in case it seemed like I was challenging her beliefs as a Catholic - she kind of sidestepped saying exactly what she felt about the subject, and DH and I are from a Jewish background so we don't know much about it.

She said that 'natural family planning' was kind of the opposite of trying to conceive in that you abstain on the days when you might be fertile. What I don't understand is how is this different to using contraception really? What is the theology behind not using contraception? Is it seen as interfering with G-d's plan or is it because all sex, except that which may conceive a child, is somehow wrong (even between husband and wife?) Either way, I don't see how NFP is that different, in the first case, you are still weighting the odds very heavily against G-d's plan and in the second, you are only having the type of sex that is seen as wrong.

Please don't think I'm asking this to be oppositional about Catholic belief, I just want to understand another religion better and I'm a very small details person, so I just get bogged down in the logic of a situation and need to understand it.

annandale Sat 02-Apr-16 23:45:47

I only know this from reading David Lodge's lovely novel How Far Can You Go, but yes, this was a debate that has definitely been had in the Catholic Church. The novel contains a two or three page explanation of the theological problem (it's a fun novel, don't be put off grin )

You've put your finger on the problem - if you are allowed to reduce the chances of getting pregnant using natural contraception, it is because having sex in a marriage is a good thing in itself, separately from conception. And that works against the natural law principle of not using contraception. [David Lodge says it so much better].

7Days Sat 02-Apr-16 23:49:59

AFAIK, and I'm no expert, the position of the RCC is that once sperm meets egg, life begins. Life trumps all else. So once life begins, it's God's gift and only God can decide when life finishes. Therefore preventing conception is no sin, but once conception has occurred , that is God's will and no one can take life only God. That is the difference between NFP methods versus MAP.

Personally, while I have sympathy with that view, I am on balance prochoice .

TremoloGreen Sat 02-Apr-16 23:57:40

But my understanding is that all forms of contraception are banned, not just the MAP?

I know that the very Orthodox forms of Judaism also advise against contraception, to do with the command to go forth and multiply and also not to 'spill seed' (sorry). But in Judaism in general, there are many nuances and many things come from rabbinic law rather than from the Talmud or from G-d... and at least in Liberal/Reform circles, it;s all seen very much as 'guidelines' anyway grin. I should say, we are not particularly religious, but liberal if anything, so we've never worried about not using contraqception, hence my ignorance.

annandale Sun 03-Apr-16 00:27:37

My understanding is that the traditional Catholic doctrine is that any use of artificial contraception goes against the natural law, i.e. how things were created by God. Therefore natural contraception is OK because it fits with how bodies naturally work.

I am absolutely no expert, am not Catholic, have never read Thomas Aquinas and recognise totally that the 'traditional' view on contraception is not the view of many Catholics.

mrsmeerkat Sun 03-Apr-16 00:36:02

I was taught sex ed by a nun in the late 90s London and she only discussed natural methods - ie stretchy mucus, feeling ovulation pain etc but I am not sure how to answer your question either op. Think if it is natural you can go with it.. within marriage

3luckystars Sun 03-Apr-16 01:45:07

Maybe they don't mind couples using the natural fertility planning, because it doesn't work smile

Only joking!!

pearlylum Sun 03-Apr-16 07:51:44

7days, but barrier methods are also frowned upon by that catholic church, so it's bit more complex than you describe.

My friend is a natural family planning counsellor for the catholic church, it certainly does work, although ot is a complicated method, requiring a great deal of self monitoring. When used rigorously it is at least as effective as the condom.

AllPowerfulLizardPerson Sun 03-Apr-16 08:08:14

It's a view that the purpose of PIV intercourse is conception, so that every act of intercourse carries the possibility of transmitting life.

Not having intercourse is fine. Interfering with the transmission of life, not fine.

This is why condoms are permitted only for the control of disease.

Mrsw28 Sun 03-Apr-16 08:20:23

I think annandale has said what I believe - that the "rhythm method" as I was taught it, is a natural way of not conceiving, it's something our bodies do without interference and so if you take advantage of that time it's not a sin as you aren't altering yourself or using barriers/chemicals to prevent conception.

A bit like breastfeeding can be used as a contraceptive (I believe, I'm sure you would have to do some self monitoring to be able to rely on it). Sex is an important part of marriage and so to deny yourself and your spouse because you don't want more children would be damaging.

pearlylum Sun 03-Apr-16 08:30:25

Sex is also an important part of life to many. But I am a fornicator according to the church,

VertigoNun Sun 03-Apr-16 08:38:48

It is odd as it's preventing life as much as a condom.

What is really sad is it feels like opressing sexual enjoyment for women. It's the time when sex is most enjoyable for women who don't use chemical contraception.

MajesticWhine Sun 03-Apr-16 08:39:51

Many Catholics take a practical stance on this issue and use contraception, including barrier methods that prevent sperm meeting egg.

Fink Sun 03-Apr-16 08:40:05

As has been said above, the prevention of conception (barrier methods) is only a side issue, although the Church does consider that contraceptive methods which are potentially abortifacient are morally worse than simple barrier methods.

It mainly comes down to working with God's plan for the body & fertility rather than treating a fertile woman like she has a disease and medicating her. The analogy used (weak, but it sort of gets the point across), is that using artificial contraception is like telling God you don't want him at your party; using nfp is like saying 'oh, we didn't think you could make it, but we're delighted you're here.' The point is that sexuality is a positive gift from God and all good sex should involve the husband, wife, and God.

Spacing children responsibly is seen as a duty, but it should be done in a way which supports the partnership of the couple. Nfp means learning the body's natural language.

I could write a lot more (coherently) but I'd be late for church!

pearlylum Sun 03-Apr-16 08:42:34

" all good sex should involve the husband, wife, and God."

I'm not into threesomes myself, but each to their own.

TremoloGreen Sun 03-Apr-16 09:33:16

Thanks all, and thanks Fink that answers my question.

meditrina Sun 03-Apr-16 09:44:02

grin at threesomes!

But it is a stance that goes against the idea that women should be medicated or devices used so that there is pregnancy-free sex on tap all the time.

pearlylum Sun 03-Apr-16 10:31:09

I like having pregnancy free sex on tap at all times.

Your statement is quite loaded "women should be medicated", you make women sound like a herd of sheep ( which I guess fits well with christian doctrine )- believe it or not some women choose to be "medicated".

Even the fornicators like me.

annandale Sun 03-Apr-16 10:41:36

I believe that artificial contraception is one of the greatest boons to humankind ever created, but there's no doubt that it creates complications of its own including some men thinking that sex is a right without consequences. However, that's patriarchy given access to contraception, not a moral hazard of contraception itself which has given many of us lives our great grandmothers would have died for.

duckyneedsaclean Sun 03-Apr-16 10:50:43

Basically, every sexual act should be open to life - so no barriers/chemicals used.

If you decide that it is right to not have a child for the time being, then abstaining during the fertile time does not prevent sex from creating life. So every time you have sex you are still open to life - if you ovulate early etc you would embrace the pregnancy.

Also nfp is not just the women's responsibility - husband & wife work together. Most people who use it (for whatever reason) say that it brings them closer together.

quencher Sun 03-Apr-16 11:45:36

Op what I understand is that natural law trumps all. This is backed up by the design augment that God created the penis to go into the Vagina. The purpose of intercourse is only for procreation and not sexual pleasure. Abstinence is advised when not ready to have children. I think that is where sex before marriage idea comes from.

Pope France's recently said that the Catholic Church has put dogma before love. Prioritising moral doctrines such as same sex marriage, abortion and contraception over helping the poor and marginalised.

I agree with what he said. I do think that they have to change their stance to reflect the changing world. Their biggest influences now days is in the third world countries. Std prevention and having lots of children you cannot afford should be paramount and tantamount to their teaching.
Using contraceptives would be great to those who most need it. A fair bit of women in places like Africa being coerced into having sex and bearing lots of children they cannot afford by their husband. The church should see them as priority among their other priorities.

They should also consider the fact that the world is becoming over populated and with this there will be an effect on the environment and consequences that will be detrimental to the human race.

I don't know much about Islamic teaching but I think they could learn a thing or two too.

meditrina Sun 03-Apr-16 11:51:56

I'm not Catholic, btw, so not ovine.

Vatican II (back in the 1960s) stated that (within marriage) sex for pleasure is OK.

And the previous Pope endorsed condoms for disease prevention.

Coercive/abusive men are a different issue. Because their existence is not limited to adherents on one denomination of one religion.

quencher Sun 03-Apr-16 13:02:11

And the previous Pope endorsed condoms for disease prevention.

Do you know how this was worded and how it should be applied ?

I also agree with your last point.

meditrina Sun 03-Apr-16 13:33:23

It was in 2010, in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, with excerpts published by L'Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican newspaper).

Using a condom to reduce the risk of HIV infection "can be a first step in the direction of moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants".' (This aimed at people who know or strongly suspect they have a transmissible STI, to say they have a responsibility not to transmit and bareback is not automatically allowed).

It can be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality,"

duckyneedsaclean Sun 03-Apr-16 15:49:51

meditrina, I may be wrong, but I think he was talking about homosexuals, not heterosexual sex.

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