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Faith/Spirituality Forum: NFP

by Catherine Frakas 03 Jul 2001

NFP QUESTION from Jeni April 23, 2001 Dear Father,
First, I just want to say thankyou for this forum. It has been extremely helpful. The question I have is in regards to NFP.
My fiance and I just joined the Catholic Church on Easter. We are so happy. I too have come from a Southern Baptist background. As a matter of fact, I am finishing up my Associate of Arts at the Criswell College is Dallas, Tx. this semester. I am 20 years old and he is 19. We have an awesome parish with a great priest who is very grounded in the teachings of the church. We are in the process of discussing with him when to set a date for our marriage. We have completed the marriage classes required by our parish and also take Catechism and a Facts course. We have been studying the Church intensly for about a year now and we fully accept all teachings of the RCC. I have given all of this background to lead up to my question.
My fiance and I will be attending the University of Dallas hopefully this coming fall. Our desire is to learn the faith to the fullest and to be able to share it others. We plan, if God allows, to have a ministry among the Catholics in our neighborhood many of which are nominal. Would it be okay for us to practice NFP for about the first two years of our marriage so that we may learn more about the Cahtolic faith and have an opportunity to go to a Catholic school. We desire children greatly and are very open to this but also desire to raise them accuratley in the faith. Actually, I should have mentioned that I may not go to school but for sure my fiance will and I will work full time to help him get through. We would not practice NFP for any other reason but to learn the faith and we would only practice it for two to three years. Side note: We have not yet talked to our priest regarding this issue but we do plan to. I just wanted to see what your answer would be.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on July 8, 2001 Dear Miss Jeni:
Thanks for the promotion, but I am merely a brother.:-)
Welcome to the Church and I praise God for your thirst to be a good and Knowledgable Catholic. We will pray for you and future husband and family.
As for NFP, while it is the only form of birth regulation allowed by the Church, even NFP cannot be used for just any reason. To approach NFP with a contraceptive mentality is to use NFP as a mere contraceptive which is wrong.
Here is the teaching from the Catechism:
The fecundity of marriage 2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is on the side of life 151 teaches that it is necessary that each and every marriage act must remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life. 152 This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act. 153
2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. 154 Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility. 155
2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart. 156 2369 By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood. 157
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. 158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil: 159
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. 160 2371 Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny. 161 The operative language here is: For just reasons
The reasons we accept must come from a desire not motivated by selfishness but ... in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.
The reasons must not be trivial or ordinary. Spacing the births of children due to medical necessity is an obvious just reason. Being in a situation in which a couple is another obvious just reason. But there can be less obvious just reasons.
As for whether it is a just reason to delay pregnancy to study the faith and to go to school for two years is not something I can really judge.
You need to decide whether your reasons are sufficient enough and extraordinary enough to warrant just reason. Only you and your spouse, in honest and intense self-examination of your motives and intent and situation in deep prayer, coupled with perhaps the advise of a spiritual director, can make the final decision. If you approach this honestly, unselfishly, and with genuine sincerity and prayer, God will lead you to the right choice.
But this is a decision that must be born on the shoulders of you two. Busybodies like myself cannot judge this or make the decision for you as to what constitutes just reason in your particular case.
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