Last night, as I was catching up with one of my college friends, I was reminded of a previous conversation we had a month or two ago. It related to the intention of a couple using NFP. When I was learning the method, I remember my teacher saying that you can use NFP in immoral ways, but I don't remember a lot of details on how that is possible. If you aren't using anything artificial, how can the system be immoral?
First of all, I want to say that NFP can be used for more reasons than many people think. Dr. Gregory Popcak (PhD) put it best when he wrote:
The phrase 'grave reasons' comes from a popular - though flawed and unofficial - translation of Humanae Vitae that has caused much harm and misunderstanding. The official Vatican translation from the original Latin reads 'serious reasons.' What constitutes 'serious reasons,' however, is left to the couple to discern. Pope Pius XII indicated that the reasons a couple may choose to prevent pregnancy are 'in truth, very wide.' The Church asks only that every couple give prayerful consideration to 'both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which may be foreseen' as well as to exhibit a willingness to 'reckon with both the material and spiritual conditions of the times as well as their state of life...[and] the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself' (Gaudium et Spes, no. 50) - Gregory Popcak Ph.D Holy Sex: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving pg.185
Serious reasons can and should include physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs. The question then needs to be asked: Can we support a new child in all of those ways? If the answer is no, then NFP can be used to avoid pregnancy.
That brings me back to my original question of how NFP can be used immorally. In my understanding, it all comes down to intentions. Is the couple prayerfully considering a family and their ability to care for one? This is where the confusing gray area is found. Only the couple can know where they are at in all the categories above, so the church is necessarily vague in discussing serious reasons. However, if the couple sees children as a bad thing or just an inconvenience, don't they have the same mentality as those using artificial means? It is something that only the couple and God can know for sure. I have to ask myself every month if I am remaining truly open to life. If my heart is closed to the possibility of a new life, the fact that I do not use artificial means to prevent pregnancy is not benefiting me spiritually.
As I stated in an email to my friend after the conversation we had, it is hard for me to answer that question sometimes. In regards to one of the categories, my answer is no and has been for a number of months. On the other hand, saying no to children without trying to improve my life so that I could switch that answer seemed incomplete. Being open to life and really questioning my intentions behind NFP has helped motivate me to live a healthier lifestyle so that I know that I am working toward turning that no into a yes.