Motherhood is beautiful. Almost everyone loves a picture of mother and baby.
Motherhood is also vital, and Catholic motherhood is vital for the survival of the Church in any given area. “Three to survive and five to thrive.” Those seven words summarize the importance of Catholic motherhood for the well-being of the Church. The two-child family is less than basic replacement and allows little room for dedicated young men and women to serve as celibate priests and sisters. The right kind of NFP course will transit this simple truth.
The birth control issue is at the heart of a 55-year decline of the Church. Thus it will have to be at the heart of its renewal. Again, the remedy is not complex. When pastors teach Humanae Vitae and have each of their engaged couples attend the right kind of NFP course, that policy will be a significant step forward. It will certainly help to keep our churches used by Catholic believers a hundred years from now.
I am not so naïve to think that every couple exposed to the best possible NFP course will convert to full Catholic practice, but I think that 25% acceptance is not totally unrealistic. That might not sound like much, but it’s probably ten times better than the current situation in which 95 to 98 percent of newlyweds start their marriage with contraception, many simply continuing to live as they had been before the wedding.
A recent example gives hope. A priest insisted that this engaged couple take the Home Study course offered by Natural Family Planning International (www.nfpandmore.org). The woman stopped taking the Pill about 10 weeks before they started the course. The course asks for an evaluation on a scale of 1 to 10 from those who complete it. Here’s what the woman wrote:
“10!!! We participated in NFP due to church requirements, but I am so glad we did. I really believe in NFP and following God’s plan by knowing our bodies and becoming more life giving. Thank you so much for all your help. We are very happy to use NFP!!. (San Angelo TX April 2015)”
Here’s another remark on the home study course, received just a day before I wrote this. She gave us only a 7 out of 10, but her comment was interesting. “Although at first I was very put off by this process, through it I think it has strengthened my relationship with my fiancé and has given me a better understanding of the importance and role that sex has in a marriage.” Sounds to me as if she is growing, for which we are grateful.
Contracepting couples will discover, sooner or later, that contraceptive on-demand sex is not heaven on earth, and I am hopeful that at least half will convert to chaste NFP within ten years of marriage. In almost every NFP course, they will learn about the abortifacient and breast cancer risks of hormonal birth control. If they use barrier methods, they will discover why there was such a huge switch from the barriers to the Pill—the contracepting couples didn’t like the barriers. Some couples may resort to mutual masturbation and/ or oral sodomy. These things are difficult to talk about from the pulpit, so that’s why I insist that they should be taught as seriously immoral in the right kind of NFP course.
Some contracepting couples will “get it” about chaste NFP when they internalize the teaching that in God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality, the marriage act ought to be renewal of the faith, love, and for-better-and-for-worse commitment of their marriage covenant. It is not at all hard to see that the contraceptive sexual union says an emphatic NO to the imaginary “worse” of possible pregnancy and is thus a contradiction of their marriage covenant.
Some couples may not really “get it” about God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality until they experience the natural spacing of babies with ecological breastfeeding. Bishops should insist that that the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding be taught in every sort of NFP course.
Let us be very basic. The Sexual Revolution is all about the personal and societal acceptance of sexual immorality. The Church by its own constitution is empowered and commanded by the Lord to preach and teach the divine truth about human love, and it needs to do so at every level—papal teachings, diocesan policies, and parish implementation of Humanae Vitae.
That would be a significant change. When diocesan leadership starts to make any given diocese a true Humanae Vitae diocese and requires the right kind of pre-marriage instruction including the right kind of NFP instruction, there is reason for hope that fifty and a hundred years from now our Catholic churches will still be places of Catholic worship.
May God continue to bless every mother who reads this and all mothers throughout the world.
John F. Kippley, May 9, 2015