Natural Family Planning: An Unprovable “Best” or Most Complete?

In CCL’S EXTREME MAKEOVER promotion of its new NFP teaching program, there is a studied effort to make the new program look better than the old.  The December promotion was so derogatory to the traditional program that CCL issued a message in January to its in-house cadre advising them to be prudent in comparing the two programs.  “Since the old program served us faithfully and well for more than 30 years,” CCL teachers should be “thoughtful” when they discuss “the relative merits of the old course versus the new.” 
     Comparisons are frequently odious, and whenever someone calls his product the “best” or even “better” than other programs, a thoughtful person wants to know the basis for comparison.  That’s why I tried to avoid ever calling CCL the better or the best program when I was its president or executive director.  I believed that such verbiage would be recognized as propaganda by any thinking person, and that any investigation of such claims would quickly lead to highly subjective claims or interpretations about what is good, better and best in the field of NFP instruction and practice.
     On the other hand, toward the end of my time with CCL, I began to hear talk about making CCL the best in every way—the best program, the best-trained teachers, the best materials, etc.  Someone once said that “best” is the enemy of the good.  You can spend so much time trying to be perfect that you lose sight of the goal and don’t get the job done.  That perspective influenced me when I was with CCL.  To be sure, we tried to get better all the time, but our goal was not mythical perfection or some arbitrary claim of being “the best.”  Our goal was a high level of adequacy, doing well the job that needed to be done, and I think we succeeded at that goal.  
     My contention during those years was that CCL had the most complete program.  Such a claim is readily verifiable.  Such a statement of itself makes no claim that the program is better or best, and it is obvious that those who teach in other programs might agree with the completeness claim but still not think it was any more appropriate for those they seek to serve.  It is on that basis that Sheila and I have been criticizing the new CCL program.  There should be no debate on the facts of the matter.  The value of excluding certain key elements remains a subject of debate on which we have very definite convictions. 
     Here I want only to quickly state three basic factual points and then move on to a new point next week.
1.  Ecological breastfeeding has been dropped from the extreme makeover program. 
2.  The simple-to-grasp covenant theology of human sexuality has been dropped.
3.  The concept of having different rules for different situations has been dropped.  The makeover program says it has only one rule, but that rule recognizes three different situations, so it actually becomes three rules. 

Therefore it is clear that the EXTREME MAKEOVER has yielded a program that is less complete than the traditional program that served well for 36 years.  The League still uses the term “The Triple Strand approach,” but the content has been reduced and “extremely” changed as CCL has been pleased to tell the worldWhether such changes have made the CCL program good or better or worse or best is a legitimate matter for discussion and debate.  

 A TRADITIONAL LENTEN REMINDER.  The reading from Joel on Ash Wednesday has a line in it about the bridegroom departing from the bridal chamber.  That has traditionally been seen as a call to abstinence from the marriage act during Lent.  If you accept that challenge, please be sure to offer this sacrifice as a living prayer for a rebirth of chastity as well as penance for past sins of whatever nature.   

 NEXT WEEK:  The Muting of Morality

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius)
Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book, online at

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