"Natural Family Planning Awareness Week" highlights positive reasons for Church teaching on artificial birth control and offers healthy alternative
By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new campaign promoting the benefits of a non-contraceptive method of planning families is underway from the US Catholic Bishops, who are trying to make Christians aware about how couples can space births in a natural way that enriches married love.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched its "Natural Family Planning Awareness Week" to draw attention to Catholic teachings about human sexuality, conjugal love, and responsible parenthood, as articulated in Pope Paul VI's controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The Church celebrates the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae on July 25, on the same day as it celebrates the religious feasts of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, on July 26.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a term encompassing a variety of methods used to help a couple discern the signs of a woman's natural fertility that may help them conceive or, if a serious reason presents itself, to avoid pregnancy for a time.
The NFP promotion is meant to give Christian couples concerned with spacing the births of their children a renewed appreciation for the gift of life and love that is harmoniously expressed in married sexual relations when artificial birth control or other methods that deliberately frustrate the conception of a child are not employed.
"NFP promotes openness to the transmission of human life and recognizes the value of children. Sexual relations are understood as love-giving as well as life-giving. It is true family planning," reads a booklet by the USCCB's Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning found on its website. "Because NFP respects the two-fold nature of sexual intercourse [unity and procreation], it can enrich the bond between husband and wife. For these reasons it is an acceptable form of family planning for people of various religious and philosophical beliefs." (http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/intronfp.shtml)
The Catholic Church has always held that deliberate attempts to frustrate or interfere with the transmission of human life, i.e. contraception, are intrinsically wrong. The position was reaffirmed by the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Although Paul VI's encyclical has largely been reputed as the Catholic Church's "birth control ban," the negative assessment ignores the pontiff's positive assessment of married love and its sexual expression, which he said would be harmed severely by contraception.
"The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life - and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman," Paul VI wrote.
The Pontiff also recognized how married couples who found it necessary could legitimately use non-contraceptive methods of spacing births in harmony with natural laws. He added, "God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws."
The Natural Family Planning Program posters from the USCCB feature the slogan, "A Way of Life, A Way of Love." The USCCB website is full of resources on NFP, stories of couples who have used NFP, and an archive of Church teachings on the goodness of human sexuality and following God's plan for love and children in marriage.
To visit the USCCB resources on Natural Family Planning:
To read Paul VI's encyclical "Humanae Vitae": http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/docume...
To read USCCB's booklet "An Introduction to Natural Family Planning" by the Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning: