Monday, November 30, 2009

Intentionally NFP

Well there has been a big to do in some places about how to use NFP in a morally licit manner. Many comments say go to your spiritual director, pastor or priest. Well I know that the Catholic Church teaches NFP is the only acceptable approach to spacing children, but not all priests adhere to that. I for one was shocked when I went to the priest who was presiding over our marriage ceremony said not all couples are "mature" enough for this method. He knew we were planning on learning NFP and he still wasn't encouraging it? How can I go to that person and ask to use the method correctly?

Needless to say, my husband and I were feeling a bit lost and confused in the beginning of our marriage (mostly me - he had more confidence in our discernment process). Were are reasons just? Who could help us out if not our NFP instructors or priest? And then you read some NFP dialogue and they say "being newlyweds" is not a good enough excuse...well I'm pretty sure I used that one for a couple months. In my defense, I had never shared a bed (at least as long as I can remember) and it took me a couple months to have a full night's sleep. Plus there are so many other adjustments that correlate with "being newlywed" so in my head that just summed up all the parts.

Moving on, I thought I would write a post on my take in this debate. First of all, I think any couple mature enough to get married is mature enough to use this method. Marriage is about communication and mutual self-giving. NFP enhances both. Secondly, I agree that "just reasons" need to be discerned by the couple and will be unique to their situation. With that being said, I can't judge if any particular couple is using the method correctly but I have found myself asking a few questions as a guide.

Is my reason selfish? I say this to remind myself that I should be making the decision based on what is best for my family and future children. If it is just because I want something or don't want something, then I am not thinking about family.

Am I truly open to life? NFP is all about being open to life in that you don't artificially avoid conception but there is a difference between physically being open to life and mentally being open to life. Would I be happy if I had a baby in 9 months? This question I ask without all the qualifiers of the next and most standard question...

Can I support a new life physically, financially, spiritually and emotionally? This is the only question where I find it appropriate at times to say no. Yes I am married and my husband and I would love to have kids, but right now is not the time for us based on all the needs this new life would have. We are working toward better meeting those needs so I know I am not being selfish and I would lovingly accept a child if God gave us that gift right now. However, lovingly accepting the Church's teaching on NFP does not mean we all have to race to see how many children we can have as soon as possible.


  1. Jenelle,
    I think your questions are a great guide. I agree that it can be SO hard to try to discern how "just/grave/serious" your reasons are. For a couple months there I was really concerned that our reasons weren't serious enough. After a lot of time in prayer and some discussion with my husband (who has felt all along that our reasons are good), I realized our reasons were in fact valid at that time.

    Just this month, though, I've started to question that again. (The ongoing debate hasn't helped!) Is it so important to postpone now if we don't plan on doing so 2 or 4 months from now? Agh! Suffice to say, I will be taking your questions to heart :)

  2. I liked this too! my husband and I have been talking about this recently too after I told him about that priest and HIS response was that he actually thinks its morally wrong to say that a newly married couple MUST have kids! (as wrong as saying that they shouldn't) The idea being that if you knew that that first year of marriage was foundational to the development of a marital relationship, wouldn't you want it to be as strong as possible? To advise people that they must not postpone having children can actually be detrimental.
    I thought it was an interesting point, but on the whole I'm glad to always have another side to think about since I'm so used to holding the controversial opinion!

  3. Alison,
    When I spoke about my priest, I meant more that he didn't think it necessary to go by the Church's view and that some couples aren't "mature enough" to be in line with church teaching. His point was alluding more toward contraception than a honeymoon baby although I agree with you that no one should say a couple MUST have kids right away

  4. I think the question of having a child and when is very personal and complex. I like your guideline questions but the "am I selfish?" is a very tricky one.
    >Is my reason selfish? I say this to remind myself that I should be making the decision based on what is best for my family and future children. If it is just because I want something or don't want something, then I am not thinking about family.<

    What is the best for my family? That is the tricky question for me. Is my desire to have a kid selfish? Am I trying to push an idea on Dh? Sometimes I think it is his best interest to open up to life and let go of controlling everything and having luxurious stuff he likes, but sometimes I wonder I'm not just imposing MY vision of what is best, when he has a different one..
    I think my guideline is Deut 30, 19-20:
    >> I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. >>
    Choose life :) SOmetimes choosing life means to not add more to the stress burden of DH, or to the physical health of mommy, but most of the time, I hope I will choose life. And I pray that DH will come to embrace MY vision. A little selfish, but it's ok, my vision is better ;)

  5. Interesting comments TL. I know the questions are tricky and they are different for everyone. It is true that you can be selfish in wanting OR not wanting children. I guess my point on that question was that I should be thinking about the whole family (including future children) and not just what I want at the moment.

  6. haha! i loved your comment tiphanie. i know my vision is the right one too ;P

    and jenelle, sorry i should have clarified, but i was talking about the nfpworks discussion and the priest that she was referring to. did you listen to his homily? anyway, that's the priest i was talking about, although that stinks about yours too!!

  7. oh okay...I know what priest you are talking about now and like I said, I don't agree with that idea either and your comment makes much more sense now! I didn't listen to the whole homily but I did see that post

  8. Great post! I must admit that I am a bit horrified at all of the people who go on and on about how NFP is overused (because we know how all newlyweds are so eager to abstain for less than serious reasons!) and make women question everything about using NFP. It seems quite odd to set oneself up as a judge for something the Church has said is for a couple to discern, and to interfere with marriage by encouraging women to question and doubt what their husbands have already discerned is correct.

    I am not saying that the husband is supposed to decide alone, but it is so odd that the "traditionalists" are the ones undermining the husband's role in decision making by causing the wife to challenge his view.

  9. Rae I completely agree. Husbands can be a bit more level headed and have a better discernment process especially when in the fertile phase and the woman's body is distracting her with purely biological cues