Natural Family Planning:
Trojan Horse in the Catholic bedroom?
by Jay Boyd, Ph.D
In this thought provoking and highly readable book, the author clearly states that there is a moral difference between contraception, which is intrinsically immoral, and Natural Family Planning (NFP), which in itself is morally neutral. The author follows Church teachings in saying that there needs to be "serious reasons" for the practice of NFP. These reasons include medical, genetic, economic and social ones. The reasons are therefore not to be limited to life threatening ones.
However, Dr Boyd is surely correct in noting that a contraceptive mentality can be present when NFP is used for not very good reasons. Pope Saint John Paul said as much. NFP can sometimes be promoted as something that is good in itself. Thus experts may tell couples to use NFP while discerning family size rather than trusting in divine providence and cultivating virtues such as generosity.
The author is right to note that some NFP promoters may oversell the product. I attended a NFP conference where the speaker stated that couples using NFP are less likely to divorce. But this is surely because those who use NFP are more likely to take the teaching of the Church seriously. Marital stability and NFP are linked in an indirect way.
Having read this work with interest, I remain of the opinion that we need to be doing more to promote NFP use when the reasons are serious. Most couples I know who use NFP either have many children or they perceive their inability to have many children in negative terms.
While I cannot agree with all of the conclusions, this is a welcome contribution to the discussion about when NFP ought to be used. There is a still greater discussion to be had: to persuade Catholic married couples to reject contraception.
REVIEWED BY DR PRAVIN THEVATHASAN