Pope Francis’ Opportunity

Pope Francis continues to draw the curiosity of the world’s elite and the poor alike.  Among orthodox Catholics there is even a bit of nostalgia as we think back to the early years of the pontificate of soon-to-be Saint Pope John Paul II.  I think it is fair to say that he made Humanae Vitae the focus of the first ten years of his pontificate.  This is pretty well documented in Chapter 7 of Sex and the Marriage Covenant from which I have lifted the following on page 148 of the 2005 edition:

“In his manner of speaking John Paul II has left no room for doubt that the doctrine of marital non-contraception  reaffirmed by Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio must be believed and put into practice.  He has taught that

  • to hold out for exceptions as if God’s grace were not sufficient is a form of atheism (September 17, 1981);
  • denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is “equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation” (April 10, 1986);
  • it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion (June 5, 1987);
  • it is a “teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine” and “a truth which cannot be questioned” (March 14, 1988).

On the other hand, despite all of the reaffirmations by Pope John Paul II, the use of natural family planning continued to drop all throughout the Eighties, probably bottoming out in the Nineties, and still so very low that it can hardly get lower.  I mean, there are a certain number of people who simply “get it” and recognize that unnatural forms of birth control are truly “unnatural” and will not have anything to do with them.  A certain number of mothers similarly “get it” regarding ecological breastfeeding which some of them discover on their own simply because it is so natural.

Somehow or other, however, Pope John Paul II didn’t seem to get through to most of the bishops in North America and Europe that they need to take Humanae Vitae seriously and do everything within their power to teach it and provide the practical help to live it.  I do not know what effects his affirmations had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but I have never seen anything to indicate they were much better than the morally declining West.

So maybe Pope Francis has seen all of this and is looking for a different approach.  I found one sentence in his October 30th America interview to be intriguing.  It is preceded by these sentences:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.  The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”

Then he says: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Some have been disappointed in these few sentences, but I find a reason for hope in that last sentence.  Maybe he sees that the abortion and same-sex issues (and also the widespread sex-as-sport attitude with its ramifications in fornication, adultery, and prostitution) are not disjointed but all stem from the acceptance of marital contraception.

Just about 100 years ago Margaret Sanger began her very public campaign to legalize contraception.  Within a few years, she had influenced the progressives so much that they were spelling out the logical consequences of the contraceptive lifestyle, and it was widely practiced in the “Roaring Twenties.”  Secular humanist Walter Lippmann wrote in 1929 that they were following the logic of contraception but not the logic of human nature.

The baby born out-of-wedlock has two strikes against him, and the likelihood of poverty is one of them. Perhaps Pope Francis will be the international leader who points out the connection between the acceptance of marital contraception and the whole unhappy rest of the sexual revolution — and that the poor are the ones who suffer the most from it.  Maybe he can be the one to lead the other ecclesial leaders to recognize that God does have a plan for love and sexuality starting with the basic fact that the marriage act ought to be a true  marriage act that reaffirms the faith and love and “for better and for worse” openness to life of the marriage covenant.

 So please pray for Pope Francis.  He has a great opportunity.  And please pray for the continued efforts of NFP International.  Next year we will begin a transition process that will certainly need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so we ask your prayers.

We remain in the fight.  Please help us first of all with prayer for the NFPI apostolate.  Second, please help us financially as you see fit.  Every gift is important whether it’s $5 or $500 because every gift is a vote of confidence, and that’s something we need.

Third, please help us with your ideas.  What more can we do to get our message to those who need and are open to what we have to offer?   If there is something you think we should do and can do, please let us know.

Lastly, check out the NFP website blogs every week and share them as you can.   (www.nfpandmore.org)

Your December gift will be matched by a donor up to $10,000 total.  May God continue to bless you for whatever help you provide.

John F. Kippley,  President, NFP International

P. S.  Couples are finding the NFPI Home Study Course very helpful.  See the next page.

 NFP International is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, and gifts are tax-deductible.

Comments from users of the NFPI Home Study Course

  • This was very educating.  I learned things about myself that I never knew before.
  • The course has been very beneficial to me in more ways than I thought would be possible.  I definitely learned more about my religions and how the Church sees and feels about the marital act.  The course definitely has opened my eyes and reshaped and refocused my path to future family planning. 
  • We appreciate all your help and how responsive you have been.  The course has been great and the NFP process seems really strong.
  • I believe this is very valuable information.  We have also made the decision to discuss with local priests about offering the class for the local Catholic churches as part of pre-marital counseling.  I only wish I had learned this information years ago, especially the ecological breastfeeding prior to my first child.                    Note:  This writer works at a clinic which does “not offer, recommend or refer for abortion,   abortifacients or birth control.”  The NFPI course and materials will be free at this clinic, and she is now going through teacher training to teach NFP at the clinic.
  • The course is an informative guide to accurately monitor one’s cycle.  It accommodates a busy schedule, and the material is clear and easy to understand.
  • We truly wish that others would see NFP as we do.  I know that a man and a woman can benefit  tremendously from this method, following God’s teaching and procreating.  It is healthy, simple, convenient and thorough.  We have started charting.  We both know how much we love each other, and each month will be our relationship story replayed over and over again. 
  • We really enjoyed learning about this and talking with each other about what we have learned. 

 *  *  *  *  *

If you know someone who would benefit from the NFPI Home Study Course, have them go to the NFPI Home Page – www.nfpandmore.org. – and then click on the Home Study course near the top of the page.  It’s that simple.

 ______________________________________________

The above is the Advent Fund Appeal of NFP International.  If you feel moved to help this apostolate financially,  use the Please Donate button in the left hand column at http://www.nfpandmore.org.   Many thanks for reading and even more for your prayers and and other help.

11 thoughts on “Pope Francis’ Opportunity

  1. We just got a class evaluation this Fall, and it said,”We learned that doing NFP isn’t ridiculously hard or time consuming. It is a very realistic way of treating family planning. As a woman, I have learned a lot about my body and how awesome God made it. It {class} was great!

  2. A.M.D.G.

    I would suggest that Natural Family Planning International get on Facebook and Twitter. I think that would be an ideal way to get the message out to more people.

    • A.M.D.G.
      Indeed. I have shared Mr. and Mrs. Kippley’s fine work in person, on Facebook and in comments sections all over the Internet. I pray that more bishops and priests will get on board.

  3. There was a recent article in The Atlantic about how non-Catholic couples are becoming interested in NFP. Women are sick and tired of the artificial hormones in the Pill, nobody likes barrier methods, and they all want a better option.

    As for the continued resistance, I think many people don’t realize is that there has been 45 years of research and advancement in NFP since Humanae Vitae. Older Catholics may be afraid to tell younger couples about NFP because of difficulties they may have had with the rhythm method or of older forms of NFP. The bishops are mostly single men of that generation, haven’t kept up with the science, and probably still have the same misconceptions. As a result, many younger Catholics simply aren’t being told about it or are given a “we have to tell you this, but feel free to ignore it” presentation.

    Technology, including remote classes and charting apps is making the methods more accessible than ever. For example, the OvuView app for Android implements the NFPI method, saving couples a lot of work and reducing the chance of user error in interpreting the charts. The new Marquette Method with its hormone monitor is making it easier for women with difficult cycles to use the method. The twentysomething and thirtysomething women who need NFP see technology as second nature, so embracing technology is key to promoting any form of NFP.

    • In the NFP community there has been some discussion about the electronic charting devices. From what I have seen, it appears that some of them may be helpful for charting, but I would not recommend any of them for interpretation of the fertile and infertile times.

    • But we must still be a bit cautious w/promoting apps; there are about 50 and some are worthless. We know a gal scared of NFP due to a “NFP app” that only entered her period and she conceived. Of course – too much like “old rhythm”. There are also no studies done on the app effectiveness although some are raising money right now to do some studies, {{ but then someone must look at the research and be sure it was done scientifically + not biased – will be time consuming.}}
      And to be honest AND complete, we must inform folks the point of Marquette by the inventor was to hopefully reduce only Phase I abstinence, and this has mixed results in my observation as a NFP Instructor for 20 years; however, your point is well-taken that many would perhaps listen to NFP’s science base; NFP is ultimately a faith issue for longevity-use, and that is the factor many folks don’t possess

      • Many “NFP apps” are terrible. Some are no more than rhythm calculators, even popular or well-funded ones. Others are simply electronic graph paper.

        I mention OvuView because it is not. Even if the implementation is not perfect, it is not prone to human error as manual chart interpretation is. Nor does it require the effort of learning all the ins and outs of the old Art of NFP. The difficulty of human interpretation of the temperature graph is one reason some methods omit it completely.

        As for the science, the topic of NFP recently came up among some friends. The immediate and unanimous response was “It doesn’t work” and “The Church needs to stay out of science. Look at what happened to Galileo.”

        Marital contraception has been around for centuries and has been widely practiced, despite the Church’s teaching. St. Bernardino of Siena railed against the widespread practice of it in medieval Italy. But what has changed in more recent times is the medicalization of contraception with the coming of the birth control pill. Before the Pill, contraception was a behavioral choice, usually on the part of the man. Love and Responsibility, written in 1960, goes into great detail about how the man’s choice to avoid conception leaves the woman unsatisfied. It only briefly touches on the Pill as a theoretical possibility.

        With the Pill, contraception became synonymous with “good health”. Women get it from a doctor, and they take the “medicine” to suppress the “disease” of fertility. (This also is behind the explosion in Pill use for non-contraceptive reasons. Although not immoral, it is highly concerning for women’s health.) The message to women is that their bodies are inherently defective but that science can “cure” them. Women who leave their fertility “untreated” are frequently shamed as anti-science or ignorant for doing so.

        The problem is that when NFP is presented as primarily a behavioral issue and a faith issue, it doesn’t address these scientific concerns. People are skeptical of faith based groups pushing science. Their initial reaction is to think of it as “faith healing” or “non-scientific” or something on par with “creation science” pushed by some fundamentalists. Nor does it tackle the diabolical anthropology that repeatedly tells women that their bodies are defective. Any effective NFP class must affirm the goodness of the woman’s body and its functions to counter this narrative and not all do.

        A woman may attend an introductory session on NFP and may even be interested. But what happens when she asks her doctor about it and he tells her that NFP means “No Fewer Pregnancies” and that if she doesn’t go on the Pill, she’s going to be pregnant within a month? Most people are naturally going to trust their doctors and overcoming this requires a highly scientific approace.

  4. waywardson23: I let stand your reference to OvuView, but that is not an endorsement. For the rest, I have never been a fan of an “NFP Introductory Session.” There is too much to learn. We attempt to cover the material you mention in our course and our manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach. I suggest that you review the blog currently at our NFP website for a description of a complete course. See http://nfpandmore.org/wordpress/ .

    • Despite anyone’s contentment with any certain NFP-app, within NFP-professional circles, there is no NFP-app, even OvuView, that has had scientific studies done on it, NOR has it had those studies reviewed for bias or imperfections. This is crucial and ethical in marketing NFP. On the other hand, NFP-professionals HAVE looked at numerous and various app interpretations and correctly shared with others: “That is a wrong interpretation!” {sadly}
      As one other NFP-professional recently commented, we want USER-effectiveness improved and that can not come solely with app use. In addition, apps, as well as computer interpretations, are very likely to “err” on a side of caution and unnecessarily increase abstinence which is difficult for some users. Nothing beats learning NFP well with a variety of rule options as the NFPI course does: “Natural Family Planning, The Complete Approach.”

  5. OvuView was thought up and produced by people who took our course in Prague. It uses our rules, which are the same as those used by NFPI. Apparently it also includes options of using other systems. Not having the required hardware I have not been able to examine it myself. Such a system may be useful for charting, but couples should make their own decisions as to whether a given day is fertile or infertile. It is of course far better to attend a course and learn the method properly, rather than depend on an electronic program.

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