Natural Family Planning: The Muting of Morality

In a press release kit called the “EXTREME MAKEOVER” issued December 12, 2007, the Couple to Couple League (CCL) announced its “extreme” changes in its NFP teaching program.  Normally I would not use the term “extreme” in or out of quotes to describe CCL’s changes, but that’s the term that CCL management has chosen.  As co-founders of the program that is being changed, my wife, Sheila, and I have a number of concerns.  We certainly do not approve of its extremely different approach to morality.  Here’s what we wrote about some specific behaviors in the Fourth Edition of The Art of Natural Family Planning:
     “Some couples may be tempted to try to beat the system by using condoms or other barrier methods of contraception during the fertile time.  As you will discover more fully in Chapters 18 and 19, such activities are immoral.  Other couples may be tempted to engage in masturbation, whether mutual or solitary, or in marital sodomy.  (Anatomically, marital sodomy is the same form of anal and oral activity engaged in by those who do homosexual sodomy.)  Such activities are really forms of contraceptive behavior and are likewise condemned by the Christian Tradition as seriously immoral.  When you are using NFP to avoid pregnancy, you are called to chaste abstinence during the fertile time.  A combination of fertility awareness and sexual immorality during the fertile time is not natural family planning “ (pp. 247-248).
      Here’s the makeover’s version in CCL’s new book, The Art of Natural Family Planning: Student Guide:
“Who would want to violate his own body?  Sometimes we do this without realizing it.  For example, contraception—the use of mechanical, chemical or medical procedures to prevent conception from taking place as a result of sexual intercourse—involves the alteration of a healthy, major functioning part of the body.  Therefore, it is a use of oneself and is unworthy of our dignity and value.  Similarly, since pornography, lust and masturbation involve the use of oneself (and sometimes another), they also violate the dignity of the entire person” (p. 143, emphasis in original).
     Notice that there is no mention of withdrawal, one of the most widely practiced contraceptive behaviors.  In the 4th edition, we discussed it in Chapters 1 and 18.  Will CCL’s Student Guide talk get through to people who are tempted to that sort of sin?  Will the makeover’s muted talk about morality get through to people who have been engaged in various sinful behaviors for years?  It’s not impossible, but it’s very iffy. 
     On the other hand, I know for certain that our brief but direct mention of these sins has gotten through to people.  A woman trained by another NFP program told me by phone that for eight years she and her husband practiced “NFP”—with mutual masturbation during the fertile time.  They stopped the immoral practice when she read a few crucial lines in our book.  Two current CCL teaching couples have told me that they were practicing their own form of “NFP” with immoral behaviors during the fertile time.  Then they read our few sentences above.  They were people of general good will who had rationalized their way into such behaviors.  After all, how many of us have done the same thing in one way or another.  You know how it goes.  “Well, none of the authorities have told us it’s wrong so it must be okay.”  The couples above changed their behavior.  The latter two not only repented but became CCL teachers so that they could help others avoid falling into the same trap. 
     Some of CCL’s teachers defend this and call it a softer approach.  I call it the muting of morality.  Whatever it is, the change in moral teaching is another extreme departure from the traditional program that served the Church well for some 36 years in CCL, and the traditional direct approach still serves well in NFP International. 

NEXT WEEK:  NFP and the Magisterium

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

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