Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 15, 2001
Sex information blackout
The Western Catholic Reporter this week again has a feature article on natural family planning(Page M-2). Perhaps the WCR sounds a bit like a broken record, frequently returning to this theme. Nevertheless, this newspaper is likely the only media in Alberta where readers will ever hear much about the benefits of this approach to birth regulation, promoted by popes and ignored by virtually the rest of the world.
The various methods of natural family planning (NFP) are effective in both preventing and inducing conception, helpful for some couples in dealing with infertility, the healthiest form of birth regulation and effective in improving marriages. It's a wonder everyone doesn't use it.
In fact, it's been estimated that less than one per cent of couples of child-bearing age use some form of NFP. Family physicians can give you barrier methods and chemical contraception, but if you want the details of NFP, you will have to track down one of a few small groups of dedicated volunteers.
NFP methods are not taken seriously by secular society for various reasons. One is that sex is now widely assumed to be a primarily recreational activity, with human reproduction as only an optional secondary function. This represents a revolution in society, and not a healthy one. If the link between sex and procreation is broken, we end up with a society of narcissists concerned primarily with their own pleasure.
Related to that is the fact that new human life is no longer seen as sacred, but as something to be manipulated using scientific know-how. We create babies in test tubes and also create embryos for research purposes. As the range of reproductive "technologies" receives growing acceptance in society, the person is reduced to a thing.
From this perspective, NFP is archaic because it views sex as a communion of persons and procreation as a sacred occurrence involving a married couple and God.
Third, pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars selling artificial contraception and are growing more powerful in our society every year.
Fourth, there is a misplaced fear of a world population explosion. In fact, Western nations where contraception is widely used are not even maintaining their existing population levels through childbirth.
NFP strengthens marriages. Divorce is virtually non-existent among NFP couples compared with a rate of about 50 per cent in the general population. Why? One can only speculate. The periodic abstinence used in NFP leads spouses to put the needs of each other and the family as a whole above their own desires. In any healthy marriage this is an habitual practice of both partners.
In an article in the November 1999 issue of First Things, Joseph Stanford, MD, a Mormon, reflects favorably on Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld the Catholic Church's ban on artificial contraception. "I believe that the insights of that encyclical could only have come from divine inspiration," he writes.
Stanford says that a couple of years after he became a physician, "I came to the decision that I could not in conscience prescribe contraceptives of any sort (whether or not they are abortifacient), because I felt that on at least some level, all contraception is detrimental to marriage and to the health of the spouses."
If all this is correct then, not only the Church, but also society itself has an obligation to educate young couples in NFP. So far people are being denied the right to choose NFP by what is essentially an information blackout. But if more couples were enabled to choose NFP, it would likely lead to a lower divorce rate and to a reduction in the manifold social problems which result from the divorce epidemic. NFP can not only build healthier families, but also a healthier society, and we have a responsibility to tell as many people as possible about it.
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