4. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have a Right to Know

3.  Specific moral teaching that deals with the temptations to which abstaining couples are tempted.  In the context of chaste systematic Natural Family Planning, the method for avoiding pregnancy is chaste abstinence during the fertile time.  Experience indicates, however, that some couples practice fertility awareness with immoral fertile-time sexual actions such as masturbation and forms of sodomy.  For example, a woman called my NFP office and asked if we had a priest on staff.  Since we didn’t, she told me her story.  She and her husband had been doing mutual masturbation during the fertile time.  They had taken an NFP course in which nothing was said about these things.  They had been doing this for eight years, and then she read our book on natural family planning where she learned that the Church teaches that these things are immoral.  She wanted to go to confession by phone because she was so active in her parish that she knew the priest would recognize her voice.  She was happy to hear my advice to confess in another parish where she was not known.

In another case, an enthusiastic user of his own form of “NFP” was trying to persuade another man to practice “NFP” and told him that abstinence is no problem because you can just masturbate.  The other gentleman told him, “That’s immoral.”  The first man and his wife were self-taught using a book written by my wife and me, and they have written that they had “skipped the chapters on the moral aspect and what made NFP different from contraceptive methods.”  They repented and became NFP teachers.

In another case, an email letter informed me that the writer had just recently read our book on natural family planning and was surprised to find that the Church teaches that masturbation and other activities are immoral.  She said that she and her husband had taken an NFP course 23 years previously, never heard anything about such things, and had been practicing fertile-time immorality for that entire time.  They changed their behavior.

The problem is that many or most NFP programs say nothing about these specific immoral behaviors to which abstaining couples are tempted.  It is completely insufficient to instruct couples simply to avoid genital contact.  Experience shows that such a generality can be interpreted solely as a means to prevent the transmission of semen, but no one has ever become pregnant from oral-genital copulation.

The NFP course and text do not need to spend much time and space on this subject.  In our text, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach (NFPTCA), we quote section 14 of Humanae Vitae.  First, it condemns abortion.  Then it continues:  “Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.  Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

Our text then asks, “What are the other behaviors that seek to render procreation impossible?” We answer:
“ Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragm, foams, and jellies
The intrauterine device (IUD)
Hormonal forms of birth control (the Pill, Shot, Patch, implants)
Masturbation, whether mutual or singular
Withdrawal and ejaculation (Onanism)
Marital sodomy (anal sex and oral sex)” (Kippley and Kippley, NFPTCA, 18).

I use this quotation simply to illustrate that it does not take much space to convey this sort of teaching.  We do not harangue; we simply report.

Our text then asks, “Why do we mention masturbation and marital sodomy?”  We reply: “It’s because we listen and read.  People have told us [ as indicated above]…  We have read in the papers that in some parts of the United States about half of high school teenagers have experienced oral sex, that is, oral sodomy.  It take no genius to figure out that if they somehow attend an NFP course and hear ‘abstinence’ during the fertile time, they may start thinking in terms of their previous behavior unless they learn that it’s immoral.  Chaste abstinence is the pregnancy-avoiding ‘method’ of true systematic NFP.”  Couples have a God-given right to know specific sexual morality that applies to marriage.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —

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