Natural Family Planning and the Teaching of Morality

Without the teaching of Catholic morality in NFP instruction, what results is most likely just non-hormonal contraception during the fertile time.  Without learning the specific teaching of chastity, how can ordinary folks be expected to be practice chaste periodic abstinence?  I suspect that a lot of bishops think that their NFP course is teaching chastity, but it may not be.  To find out, just take a look at the various NFP manuals.  It is not difficult to be specific.  Check out our manual.  And, of course, the other moral issue is Catholic teaching about the call to generosity and the need for sufficiently serious reason to use NFP for avoiding pregnancy.  Dr. John Billings said at one of the Collegeville summer symposia that he deliberately does not teach morality because his method stands on its own as a birth control method without any need for Church authority.  He certainly believed that teaching but thought that referring to the authority of the Church would undermine the value of the method.  I think he was mistaken, but that may still be the thinking in a significant part of the NFP movement.  Also, the social-spiritual environment has deteriorated in the last 40 years, and assumptions made in the 70s may not be valid today.

Authority.  Granted, we all have limits on what we can say, but the bishops have real authority.  And if they want the couples to learn chaste NFP, then they need to use NFPI almost exclusively or require every provider to have such teaching in their manuals and to teach it.  It is not difficult, except for the FEAR factor— fear of not being liked, fear of losing clients and money, etc. What we all need by way of motivation is not only love for God and neighbor but also a healthy fear of offending God by being afraid to teach his truths about love, marriage and sexuality.  Call it evangelphobia—fear of evangelizing.

Church leaders need to know the realities and what organizations are teaching specific morality and which ones are avoiding the subject.  In Chapter 7 of our NFP manual we include the witness of a couple who used their form of “NFP” with fertile-time immoralities for 23 years before somehow running into our material and changing to chaste NFP.  How many other  couples are there with similar experiences simply because their NFP provider failed to teach chaste periodic abstinence?

I think that it is impossible to have authentic renewal within the Church without nearly universal acceptance of Humanae Vitae and that’s also true regarding every parish marriage program.

John Kippley

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