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NFP and Contraception: What’s the Difference?
ce ^ | September 23, 2009 | Marshall Fightlin

Posted on 09/25/2009 1:19:31 PM PDT by NYer

Many people, indeed many Catholics, do not see the moral difference between contraception and NFP. “It does the same thing, doesn’t it?” They will often refer to NFP as “Catholic contraception.” What these people need is a brief lesson is Moral Theology 101. And here it is.

In order for a human act to be moral, three aspects of it must be good: The act itself (the “object” or means), the goal or reason for doing it (the “end”), and the circumstances under which the act is done.

The bedrock principle from which all moral reasoning flows is this: “The end doesn’t justify the means.” Another way of saying this is “We may not do evil (means) that good (end) may come of it.”

Let me give an example. Let’s say my mother-in-law lives with us. This makes living conditions crowded. My two teenaged daughters have to share one bedroom. I would like to create a situation in which each daughter has her own bedroom. This is a good end.

What means do I use to achieve this end? I decide to put arsenic in my mother-in-law’s coffee and bury her behind the garage. Bad means. In this instance, my good end does not justify the bad means.

Another example. Same situation. My mother-in-law’s residence in our home is causing crowding with my daughters, and I want to create an uncrowded situation for them. Again, this is a good end.

So I decide to put an addition onto my house, creating an additional bedroom. Good means.

“But,” someone objects, “what’s the difference? Whether you poison your mother-in-law or put an addition on the house, it does the same thing, right? It eliminates the crowded condition.”

Discussion: In both examples above, the end is the same. Yet in the first example, the act is immoral because of the bad means. Moral to the story: Although two means achieve the same end, one means can be OK, while the other one is not. Just because one means is good doesn’t mean the other means is good.

An application: Family Planning. The goals (end) of limiting/spacing births or achieving pregnancy are both good. But there are good and bad ways (means) of achieving these ends. In the case of limiting births, the good way/means is NFP. The bad way/means is contraception. In the case of achieving pregnancy, the good way is intercourse alone or accompanied by technology to assist intercourse (e.g. LTOT). The bad way/means is use of technology to substitute for intercourse (e.g. IVF).

Contraception and IVF cannot be justified (made right) on the basis of the good end for which they are used. They need to be justified in themselves.

The question then is not “Why are we doing this?” but “What are we doing?” In the case of NFP, the couple are having intercourse at a time when they know that their combined fertility potential is not sufficient to achieve pregnancy. Both spouses are fully present to one another. Both are giving all that they are to one another. It’s just that, at the time of intercourse, all that they give to one another is not enough to achieve pregnancy. The marital act is all that it can be at that time.

In the case of contraception, the couple are having intercourse at a time when they know that the combined fertility potential is or may be sufficient to achieve pregnancy. The couple then introduce into the marital act drugs, chemicals, or mechanical devices that make them not fully present to one another. They are not giving all that they are to one another. They are withholding. The marital act is made less than it can be at that time.

But don’t contraception and NFP both involve intercourse without pregnancy? Yes, they do. But, again, the means of avoiding pregnancy are radically different between the two methods. We must remember that it has never been Catholic teaching that intercourse is only licit when the couple is seeking pregnancy. There has never been a teaching of the Church that couples must seek intercourse only when the wife is fertile, and avoid it when they know she is not.

The wrongness of contraception does not lie in the desire to have marital intimacy while avoiding conception. It lies in contraception’s failure to recognize marital intimacy as something sacred, a work of art, something not to be monkeyed with. One does not put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Although NFP is distinct from contraception insofar as they are both means of family planning, it can be like contraception-and wrong-insofar as the circumstances are concerned. This pertains to avoiding pregnancy for selfish reasons. A couple using NFP for frivolous reasons as an excuse for selfishness would be guilty of “the contraceptive mentality.” This doesn’t refer to the desire to space or limit the number of children a couple has, but to the selfishness with which the couple carries out that plan. Whenever the Church has spoken of the legitimacy of family planning, it has always done so in the context of the couple having serious reasons.

NFP, used for serious reasons, is morally different from contraception as a means of family planning. But it becomes similar to contraception when it is used selfishly, without serious reasons.

What constitutes a serious reason? That’s the topic for another essay.


TOPICS: Catholic; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: contraception; nfp
Marshall Fightlin is a husband, a father of two married daughters, and a grandfather of three grandchildren. He is a licensed psychologist and has been providing psychotherapy for over thirty years. He has given talks at state and national pro-life conventions, and has published articles on marriage, human sexuality and NFP in national and international journals. He teaches courses in psychology in a program for working adults at a local Catholic college. He conducts a telephone consult service at www.catholicpsychconsult.com.
1 posted on 09/25/2009 1:19:31 PM PDT by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

In case you were wondering.


2 posted on 09/25/2009 1:20:07 PM PDT by NYer ( "One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer

NFP is like saying, “Wow, those cookies look great. But sorry, I’m on a diet right now so I better not.”

Contraception is like saying “Wow, those cookies look great. Let me eat them all but then immediately go puke them all up.”

Contraception is sexual bulimia. You seek a natural pleasure, but you frustrate its natural effect.


3 posted on 09/25/2009 1:31:23 PM PDT by Claud
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To: NYer

NFP requires self restraint. That’s is enough to condemn it in societies eyes. What people don’t understand about the Church and it’s understanding of human sexuality would fill the Grand Canyon.


4 posted on 09/25/2009 1:51:30 PM PDT by Jvette
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To: NYer

NFP is actually not supposed to be used as a preventative tool. It is actually supposed to be used for a married couple to learn when is the best time to CONCEIVE. Obviously, it will be used for contracepting as well, but that is not its intent. It also brings a couple closer together as they both take part in planning their families.

Another point about about contraceptives. The pill is not a contraceptive, but an abortifacient. The IUD is also an abortifacient. Many contraceptives are really abortifacients in the guise of birth control.


5 posted on 09/25/2009 2:18:32 PM PDT by murron (Proud Marine Mom)
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To: Jvette
What people don’t understand about the Church and it’s understanding of human sexuality would fill the Grand Canyon.

Too sadly true!

6 posted on 09/25/2009 2:24:18 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Claud

It seems to me that using artificial sweeteners to make the cookies would be cheating in the same way. You eat fake food to gratify your tongue with sweetness without getting the nutrition (calories) that normally accompany the sensation. The natural effect of eating or drinking is that you are nourished.

Maybe that’s why studies suggest that those who drink diet soda tend to be more overweight than those who don’t. They unconsciously eat more to compensate for the missing calories.
http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20050613/drink-more-diet-soda-gain-more-weight


7 posted on 09/25/2009 2:25:27 PM PDT by edweena
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To: NYer
I'm sorry but someone HAS to say it.

YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY!!!


8 posted on 09/25/2009 2:29:34 PM PDT by BubbaBasher ("Liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals" - Sam Adams)
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To: NYer

NFP and Contraception: What’s the Difference?

About six or eight kids.

(sorry...couldn’t help myself....)


9 posted on 09/25/2009 2:31:48 PM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: murron
Depends entirely on the pill. "The pill" is not one pill, but hundreds of different formulations.

Some pills don't reliably prevent ovulation, but do prevent implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall. That is arguably abortifacient because the egg has already been fertilized. The "mini-pill" or very low dosage pill falls into this category . . . which is why such pills (e.g. Yaz) are marketed not as birth control but for regulation of dysmenorrhea and menorraghia (pain and excessive bleeding during menstruation).

The older pills, especially the heavy hitters like Ortho-Novum and Ovulen 21, absolutely prevent ovulation if taken properly. The multi-phase pills like TriPhasil are not an absolute guarantee because they have to be taken faithfully at the same time every day.

Of course, if people can't follow directions all bets are off.

10 posted on 09/25/2009 2:34:40 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of Ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: BubbaBasher
OK, I'll bite:

Why is wanting to allow Nature to take her course "crazy"?

Contraception was uniformly condemned by ALL Christian denominations until 1930, when the Anglicans (why are they always at the bottom of stuff like this) decided it was o.k. 'in certain circumstances' and that opened the floodgates.

There are a lot of couples in their 50s who look around and wish they hadn't contracepted all their kids out of existence while they were in their fertile years . . . there's a T-shirt: "OMG! I forgot to have kids!"

11 posted on 09/25/2009 2:38:34 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of Ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: Buckeye McFrog

What’s wrong with six or eight kids? It’s very generous all the way around.


12 posted on 09/25/2009 2:48:51 PM PDT by Desdemona (True Christianity requires open hearts and open minds - not blind hatred.)
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To: BubbaBasher
OK, I'll bite:

Why is wanting to allow Nature to take her course "crazy"?

Contraception was uniformly condemned by ALL Christian denominations until 1930, when the Anglicans (why are they always at the bottom of stuff like this) decided it was o.k. 'in certain circumstances' and that opened the floodgates.

There are a lot of couples in their 50s who look around and wish they hadn't contracepted all their kids out of existence while they were in their fertile years . . . there's a T-shirt: "OMG! I forgot to have kids!"

13 posted on 09/25/2009 2:57:03 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of Ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: BubbaBasher

NFP is a remarkably reliable way to achieve/avoid pregnancy without the use of chemicals or barriers during intercourse. Furthermore, NFP puts you so in tune with your body that you can identify problems very quickly. Name me a birth control pill that can do that.

I have 4 kids. I used NFP to both achieve (successfully within months) and avoid. In time my daughters will be carefully taught this method.

If I agree that your chosen method of pregnancy avoidance is reliable, can you not agree that mine is as well?


14 posted on 09/25/2009 3:42:34 PM PDT by melissa_in_ga (God Bless Sarah Palin)
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To: murron
it will be used for contracepting as well

This is a pet peeve of mine. NFP is in no way, shape or form contraception and can never be used as contraception. NFP does not act against conception, ever, whether it is used to postpone pregnancy or not. That's part of the beauty of NFP, it doesn't keep the body from acting naturally, because if you don't have sex, it is natural to not get pregnant.

Now, NFP could be properly referred to as birth control, because it does allow for both birth and self-control. But it ain't contraception.....

15 posted on 09/25/2009 3:51:43 PM PDT by mockingbyrd (Sarah speaks for me!)
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To: melissa_in_ga
My mom said she and my dad used the Rhythm Method (NFP) and she STILL had five kids!

I agree that abortifacients are morally wrong, but God has allowed science in that area. Condoms, though not 100% effective, are not abortifacient nor contain harmful chemicals. I don't see what is morally wrong there. I fully agree that sexual intimacy should be between a husband and wife only, God gave this as a gift and the “marriage bed is undefiled” in his sight. It is not only for reproduction.

16 posted on 09/25/2009 7:43:40 PM PDT by boatbums (Not everything faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.)
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To: Desdemona

I think the problem is that women who are capable of conceiving eight kids are capable of conceiving sixteen kids. I know the Church has to be against contraception, but I don’t think God would care if a woman who’s already had six or eight kids used nonabortiofacient birth control.


17 posted on 09/26/2009 5:13:02 AM PDT by utahagen
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To: boatbums
The old "rhythm method" a/k/a "Ecclesiastical Roulette" is not the same as NFP.

You can look it up.

18 posted on 09/26/2009 1:09:18 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of Ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: NYer; RichInOC; Prince of Space; JoeFromSidney; TNMountainMan; alphadog; infool7; Heart-Rest; ...
+

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Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

19 posted on 12/14/2013 5:36:17 AM PST by narses (... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.)
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To: BubbaBasher

If all Christians unanimously taught that contraception was sinful till about 80 years ago (easily proven), and since then all Christians caved on this issue except the Catholic Church which held strong to the teachings of the Apostles and the Early Church (again easily proven), I wouldn’t say Catholics are crazy so much as everyone else is either deceived or apostate. At least from a Christian moral perspective.


20 posted on 12/14/2013 11:22:53 AM PST by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: mockingbyrd
When we taught NFP, I really hammered the concept that NFP is only morally licit when used for grave reasons. We even had a couple walk out on our class because of that talk.

Here's the way I explained it on an old Catholic forum:

NFP CAN BE and often IS used, and even TAUGHT, in a sinful manner. Yet it is NOT and can NEVER be inherently sinful as artificial contraception is so.

NFP itself is NOT inherently sinful, and anyone claiming otherwise is not only misrepresenting post-conciliar but also pre-conciliar Catholic moral theology.




To say that NFP is ALWAYS sinful is just as wrong as to say that NFP is NEVER sinful.

If my "INTENTION" is to bring home enough money to feed my family, that is a good thing. I may get a job, bring home my salary, and feed my children. The job is a licit way to achieve a licit thing.

On the other hand, I could rob a bank and get enough money to feed my family for a whole year. That is an illicit way of achieving a licit good thing.

The same is true for child spacing. If my children would literally starve if my wife were to get pregnant, it is morally licit to space children until I could afford to feed them.

NFP would be a morally licit way to acieve this necessity.

But artificial birth control is intrinsically evil. It can never be morally licit to have recourse to artificiaql contraception.

So to answer your question, the INTENTION in having recourse to EITHER artificial family planning OR "natural" family planning could be illicit or licit. One may be sinsul, one may not.

However, the method itself, in the case of artificial birth control, is intrinsically illicit, i.e. regardless of intent is it gravely sinful.

However, NFP itself is morally neutral. It becomes morally illicit when the intention itself is illicit.

4 main reasons for having recourse to NFP.

1--Physical/ mental health---a pregnancy could kill you or so physically impair you as to prevent your fulfillment of your duties in your state in life---NOT because of a widening wasteline or drooping skin! Or psychological health, i.e., mom would literally have a nervous breakdown if she became pregnant---not because she "just couldn't stand being home with the little kids all day without the personal fulfillment of her professional job..."

2--Financial constraints---your child will starve if you have another. Wanting a bigger house or designer SUV just does not cut it!

3--work on the mission fields by one or both spouses that would proclude having children temporarily

4--active persecution or war---i.e., you or your child likely to die by coercive abortion, in concentration camp, in acts of war, etc.

Clearly we say these reasons must be SERIOUS, not trivial. Only the couple and their confessor can truly decide what truly constitutes grave reason.

We've had couples sit through my talk on this subject and literally say, "Gee, we thought we were being good Catholics just for deciding to use NFP. Now we realize we don't even have grounds for recourse to NFP," then tell us a month or two later they're pregnant.

NFP vs Contraception

Spacing children may be a desirable goal that does not violate God's laws in certain serious situations such as those outlined above. But the means of achieving the goal differ.

One is intrinsically evil (abortion, abortifacient contraception, barrier methods, sterilization) while one is morally neutral (Natural Family Planning.

In one, an act is performed (sex) but its natural outcome is artificially foiled.

In the other, no act is performed (simple abstinence during fertile times) so there IS no act, therefore the practice is morally neutral.

It is then the intention of using NFP that constitutes its relative moral licitness or illicitness.

If NFP is used in a selfish manner, it too can be sinful.

If it is used only in grave circumstances, it is not sinful.

The difference is real.

Dieting (decreasing caloric intake, the "act" of NOT eating) is a moral and responsible means of losing weight to maintain the body's health.

Bulimia (the ACT of eating, them vomiting) is rightly called an eating DISORDER.

An ACT is performed (eating in this case) and its natural outcome (nutrition) is foiled by expelling the food from the body.

Likewise contraception is a disorder. An ACT is performed (sex) and its natural outcome (procreation) is foiled by expelling the sperm or egg or both (abortifacient contraceptives) from the body.

Contraception is to NFP what Bulimia is to dieting.

But just as dieting can be misused (anorexia) so too can NFP be misused in a sinful manner

21 posted on 12/14/2013 11:24:38 AM PST by Brian Kopp DPM
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To: BubbaBasher

The Church teaches the ideal moral behavior. It is very difficult to meet the ideal standard in all aspects of life and very few do here on earth. That said, the teaching about contraception does not have the “prima facie” obviousness of teachings about killing, stealing, adultery etc. The moral logic requires a deep understanding as has been pointed out in this thread. Most Catholics don’t really understand it, or more likely, have not put any effort into trying to understand it.

We all like to think we are moral people. But nearly all of us are failing to meet the ideal in one way or another. But just because the ideal moral standard is difficult does not mean it should be changed to make it easier.


22 posted on 12/14/2013 11:26:31 AM PST by HerrBlucher (Praise to the Lord the Almighty the King of Creation)
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To: Buckeye McFrog
So Self control a few days a month is impossible.for anyone except faithful Catholics?

That explains a lot.

23 posted on 12/14/2013 1:59:31 PM PST by Rashputin (Jesus Christ doesn't evacuate His troops, He leads them to victory)
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