There is an excellent article posted on the WIT Blog (Women In Theology) titled, “Women Speak about Natural Family Planning.” Whether you practice NFP or not, whether you agree with the Church’s position on artificial contraception or not (and there is, as regular polling suggests, a huge population in the United States that does not agree), I would be interested to hear what you think about this excellent reflection on the subject. I’m sure the women over at WIT would also be interested in a respectful conversation on the subject. Here’s how the piece begins:

If we listen to the stories of all women, not just those for whom natural family planning works in the way that the magisterium says that it does, we will see that natural family planning is not always good.  In fact, in some cases, it is natural family planning, rather than artificial birth control, that is harmful to marriage and families.

In her article, “Papal Ideals, Marital Realities: One View From the Ground,” Northwestern professor Cristina Traina critiques magisterial teaching on sex and marriage, especially as it relates to artificial contraception and sexual complementarity, from the standpoint of her experience as a married, Catholic woman.   Her argument is not so much theological as it is practical— she offers her experience as evidence that church teaching on marriage and sex does not always “work,” and in some cases can actually harm, rather than protect, particular marriages.   This approach is particularly effective since the magisterium often argues that contraception and betrayal of gender roles do great harm to marriage and family.

For the full text, visit: “Women Speak about Natural Family Planning.”

8 Comments

  1. All kidding on twitter about wearing asbestos aside, I’d agree with the original post. I think the concept–that is, not objectifying your partner–is a good one. The practice? not so much. Then again a lot of NFP adherents make claims such as how non-NFP couples don’t really love each other, which I think says a lot more about them than the contracepting couple. It’s the same argument we see elsewhere: put someone else down to make someone feel better about their choices. (And when you’re doing the pre-Cana thing, you encounter that viewpoint a great deal.)

    I have to wonder what the fruit of it all is, if it produces people who like to denigrate and put down others and are bitter, but can’t admit it. And that goes for a lot in Catholicism these days. What message does it send to others? How about Catholics who’ve been away from the Church for a long time?

  2. As a twenty-something woman who is Catholic and recently married, I think this article hits the nail on the head. I too have a difficult time reconciling the Church’s teaching on sex and artificial birth control with my own circumstances. My reasons for using birth control are many, but like Traina, a big reason is economic: I am on track to go to graduate school next year, and while I intend to one day have children (should we be so blessed), I would like to first establish a career so that I, along with my husband, will be able financially to support our future kids. Dual-income families are – often out of necessity – becoming the norm in this country. I do not see my using birth control as selfish – I view it as a prudent choice so that my husband and I can secure the strong foothold needed to take on the weight (financially speaking) of having kids.

  3. The so called Teaching that all sexual intercourse must be open to conception denies that God made us stewards. It is an absurdity.

    NFP can be a positive aid to those wishing for pregnancy, and for that it is often a blessing.

    george – Evening Division, ’76

  4. I think it’s unfortunate that people are so quick to blame the lack of contraception rather than look for ways our society can be more supportive of women so that they don’t have to feel like children are a burden. Do you really think if the Church said “hey, we changed our mind…birth control is A-OK. Knock yourselves out kids!” that all these marriages would miraculously be wonderful? I don’t. I think that this professor would still feel like she had to choose money over family, and that the woman they mention in South America would still have a controlling husband that doesn’t care about her desires. Birth control doesn’t change who you are, it just changes the nature of the sex act.

    1. “Birth control doesn’t change who you are, it just changes the nature of the sex act.”

      My age is pretty advanced, and “just changes the nature of the sex act” is something I’ve not quite grasped. When a couple wants children, they have sex. When they don’t want children, they have sex. People who do not want children should not have them, and have a responsibility to see that unwanted children are not concieved. In actuality, some of the people who want and have children shouldn’t have children, but that’s another subject. Sex has other uses besides procreation, and they are quite beneficial to the psyche.

    2. It seems that while you hit on a real issue (and we certainly do need broader societal change and support for women and families!) I’m not sure that you’ve represented Traina properly. You seem to present a false dichotomy: money over family; her article talks more about her responsibilities to the children she already has. Further, the rest of her discussion (included in the post) question to what extent the “nature of the sex act” is changed. I think that this kind of post is meant not necessarily to “blame” contraception so as carve out a space to discuss the issues in terms and experiences not accounted for in official Catholic statements

    3. Birth control doesn’t change who you are, it just changes the nature of the sex act.f

      And you know this is true for all couples, how?

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