Contraception: The discussion has finally begun

April 18, 2012 | 88 comments

There’s an article out in the Washington Post this week that’s been getting a lot of buzz, titled Young Catholic women try to modernize the message on birth control. In it, Post writer Michelle Boorstein explores the issue of how modern Catholic women perceive Natural Family Planning, and highlights some voices that say that NFP could use some “rebranding, ” so to speak.

As it turns out, I am one of those voices! I was reading the article, and came across this paragraph:

The new movement’s goal is to make over the image of natural family planning, now used by a small minority of Catholic women. But natural family planning, which requires women to track their fertile periods through such natural signs such as temperature and cervical mucus, is seen by many fertility experts as unreliable and is viewed by most Catholics as out of step with contemporary women.

I thought, Hmm. I disagree with that. I certainly don’t see NFP as being out of step with contemporary women! Then I read this quote from some Catholic woman, who obviously didn’t know what she was talking about:

“[NFP] ends up being this lofty, ‘Isn’t every baby a precious blessing?’…Meanwhile, you have one kid with colic [and] some 2-year-old pulling on your pants. It just doesn’t resonate. There needs to be a modernizing.”

Aaaaaaand then I re-read the quote, and realized it was from me.

As the old adage says, “Reporters don’t have the space to fully quote the ten-thousand word, hour-long conversation you had on the phone in which you detailed all your nuanced opinions, so you’d better make your points clearly and concisely or else you might be very surprised by the words that are attributed to you in print.” Well, maybe that’s not an old adage, but it should be. Someone cross-stitch that on a pillow for me, because it’s a guiding principle I need to remember.

I didn’t mean to sound dismissive of the concept that every child is a blessing, and when I referred to NFP messages not resonating, I was thinking only of certain materials I’ve seen that take a very idealistic approach and don’t spend any time addressing the real struggles that can come with parenthood and discernment about child spacing.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think that to some extent this kind of miscommunication is inevitable, because the way secular society understands human sexuality and the way the Catholic Church understands it are so vastly different.

When I re-read the Post article and some of the resulting commentary, I noticed undercurrents of the idea that NFP is the Catholic version of contraception. Most of the posts and comments I read took for granted the following ideas:

  • Babies are, by default, burdens to be avoided
  • People are entitled to engage in sexual activity without having to think about the possibility of new life
  • Parents can and should control their fertility with as much precision as possible, only being open to children when they are absolutely sure they are completely ready

Thus, even when people are sincerely seeking to understand the Catholic understanding of NFP, the questions sound something like:

  • How does Catholic teaching help women avoid the burden of babies?
  • How does Catholic teaching allow couples to engage in sexual activity without having to think about the possibility of new life?
  • How will Catholic teaching allow parents to control their fertility with as much precision as possible, only being open to children when they are absolutely sure they are completely ready?

…And we end up completely missing each other.

I’ve used the analogy before that the contraceptive worldview is like saying that loaded guns can be used as toys as long as you put blanks in the chamber; in contrast, the Catholic view says that guns are not toys, and should always be handled with grave respect. Now, to continue with that analogy, in these latest chats about Catholicism and NFP, folks are seeking to understand the Catholic viewpoint by asking which kind of blanks the Church recommends using when playing around with guns. These kinds of questions are bound to lead to misunderstanding, because they are borne from an entirely different understanding of what a gun is in the first place.

The Catholic understanding of human sexuality (which, it’s worth noting, was shared among all Christian denominations up until the 1930s) is that the sexual act must never be severed from its life-giving potential, neither physically nor mentally. The Church teaches that we must never, ever forget that it is through this activity that we co-create human souls with God; to act as if we have the right to enjoy the pleasurable aspects of sex without being open to any new life it might create not only disrespects this most sacred of acts, but it sets us and our future children up for tragedy. This does not mean that people must actively try to have a child with every sexual act; it does mean, however, that if they really, really, really, really cannot have a baby, they should not engage in the act that creates babies.

Thus, the Church’s “rules” about the boundaries of sexual activity are not arbitrary restrictions concocted by the guys in the Vatican; rather, they are an owner’s manual for the human body, handed down from God himself, based on an accurate understanding of what human sexuality and the creation of new life is really all about.

Back to the Post article, I love it that Michelle Boorstein brought up this topic — almost seven hundred comments later, it certainly seems to be something people are ready to discuss. I wish I had been able to articulate my views more clearly, but I think that, at this point, miscommunications are going to be inevitable. For over thirty years, the culture has been drifting further and further away from the ancient understanding of human sexuality, to the point that the contraceptive worldview had become something that the average person would never even think to question. But things are changing now, and the tide is beginning to turn. Folks are seeing that contraception has not solved the problems we were told it would solve, and has in fact introduced a whole host of new problems. For the first time in decades, there is serious discussion in the public square about the fact that contraception just might not be the cure-all solution it was supposed to be. We have a long way to go in the process of unraveling this issue, and, in the meantime, I’d imagine that there will be plenty more misunderstandings. But I am thrilled that the discussion has begun.


  1. Sara H

    Read this article and discussed via facebook earlier this week (was happy to see you quoted by the by). I am just glad to see people discussing. Frankly, the comments were disheartening. I found that they tended to lean heavily on the hate side or were by Catholics who are ever and always happy to tell everyone that they don’t follow xyz teaching and yet they don’t seem to really know what that teaching entails.

    A more liberal Catholic friend of mine said that she struggles with teachings like this, but is always happy to see people trying to bridge that gap. To essentially work to make what seems outmoded share a commonality with modern issues. I agree. Don’t sugar coat, but make me understand so that I can more fully make a free will decision.

    FWIW, I understood your comment not as stating your feelings on children as blessing, but more as the image that women who are trying to figure out how to be good Catholics in a very non Catholic culture might have in their heads about what using NFP could mean to their family. For some it would be a dream come true…to others it could send them for the hills 😉

  2. Joanne

    I’m glad the discussion has started too, but I can’t go look at those comments, because I find comments on the internet to be so hateful when it comes to NFP and the Church. I understand your quote completely, for the last seven years I’ve had either a baby with colic or a two year old pulling on my leg, and sometimes both. If my husband and I waited until we were ready to have kids, seriously, we would not even have one. And then we wouldn’t have our four, who can be giant pains but are also blessings at the same time.

  3. Leila

    I am glad to see your thoughtful clarification here, Jennifer! What disturbed me about the article is two-fold: 1. that the very message that attracted a young woman to convert — that sex is meaningful and babies are a blessing — is now being conditioned by that same person and 2. that the take-home message was that those Catholics are a bunch of wackos who can’t even talk to each other.

    What can’t be understood unless you have lived it — for a lifetime, in the case of the person, or for two millenia in the case of the church– is that babies are the blessing of marriage, and the marriage that is faithful and open to life is the blessing of the world.

    Yes, the conversation is good to have. But we have to be strong and unafraid of the truth. We can’t let the culture of death define our terms. You express that well here.

  4. Leila

    And of course, regarding your quote, the point of a blessing is precisely that it might not appear as a blessing.

    The colicky baby and the cranky toddler are the blessing. That it doesn’t feel that way at the time is what the Church is here to tell us, and of course it doesn’t seem like a great message.

    Babies are a blessing to marriage.

  5. Steph

    Six years ago, my husband (to be at the time) and I were at pre-cana, and a couple took the stage to teach us all about Natural Family Planning. They had no less than six kids in tow, and at one point, the husband had to leave the stage to tend to their three or so unruly children sitting in the front row.

    Let me just say, as a woman who had never really thought about an alternative to birth control pills and just assumed that was the way everyone did it, it was not a very positive introduction (for me and my husband) to NFP. In fact, we chuckled on the way home about how she kept saying “it works so well” at the same time as she was having to speak louder and louder so we could hear her over her children’s cries and squeals.

    Don’t get me wrong – I bet that is a wonderful family, with a wife and husband who are dedicated and excited to share the joys they have had with NFP and who decided to “waste” an afternoon to come speak with all of us… but, like I said, this was my intro to NFP and it turned me off from the get go.

    My point of all of this is that I never ever once reconsidered my stance on contraception until I found your blog, Jen. Seriously. It wasn’t until I started reading you descriptions of the method, how you and your husband use it, the reasonings behind the church’s stance on the issue, etc. that I actually started looking at NFP with an open mind.

    So for that, I say thank you! And please don’t let a little miscommunication get in your way of doing a fabulous job of communicating to women like me.

  6. Linda Wightman

    In the spirit of correcting misunderstandings, did you really mean “if they really, really, really, really cannot have a baby, they should not engage in the act that creates babies” the way it sounds? That is, that sex must stop for a married couple once the woman passes menopause? That infertile couples should not have sex?

    I, too, am glad to see the topic being discussed, and I agree that it won’t be very productive as long as we’re only discussing the surface issues, and miss the great dichotomy at the foundation. I see it like this:

    The Church says:
    (1) Sex is good, but only under very limited and controlled circumstances.
    (2) Children are an unconditional blessing, and the crown of a human relationship.

    The modern world says:
    (1) Children are good, but only under very limited and controlled circumstances.
    (2) Sex is an unconditional blessing, and the crown of a human relationship.

    Unless we acknowledge this foundational difference, I suspect we’re only going to be talking past each other.

    For what it’s worth, of the people I know whose attitudes (and practices) align with the “Church” as above, almost all are Christians, but not Catholics. There’s a significant (though small) part of the Protestant world that thinks the Catholic Church got this one right. 🙂

    • Lina

      I think when she wrote “cannot” she meant it to be understood as “should not” or “must not”. There is absolutely not a restriction on sex after menopause, or during pregnancy, or other times when a woman “cannnot” get pregnant.
      I like your explanation of the dichotomy, by the way. Well put.

    • Amanda S.

      Thank you Linda for bringing this quote up. I would appreciate clarification on this point. I honestly don’t think you meant it the way it is being read, but I’d like to hear from you what exactly you mean.

      • Amanda S.

        by “you”, I mean Jen – sorry for any confusion

    • TRS

      To me, she clearly meant “cannot have a baby” to mean “don’t want to have a baby”, “claim you can’t afford a baby.” , “would find a baby to be nothing more than a burden.”

      If that’s the case, really… don’t have sex. It’s not worth the risk if you really really really really really don’t want a baby.

      • Amanda S.

        TRS – I really hope you don’t mean that women who are done having children/can’t have children/claim they can’t afford (which the word “claim” sounds very pejorative to me) more children are not allowed or should not enjoy the unitive aspect of the marital act during the infertile periods of her cycle.

        This is what I am hearing? Is this what you are saying?

        • TRS

          Amanda, I’m not sure what you’re asking.
          are you asking if I think they shouldn’t have sex when they can’t conceive? Well no. It’s that what NFP helps with?

          if you’re asking if I think they shouldn’t have sex after menopause or anything else that has ended their reproductive lifetime… the answer is no. I don’t even see where I mildly suggested that!

          Okay, sure the use of ‘claim’ was pejorative… and yeah, I meant it that way. Because you know what? I don’t have a husband… and I don’t want to bring a child into the world without one… so I don’t have sex. It’s not so hard. (it sucks… but it’s perfectly doable.)

          • Amanda S.

            You answered my questions.

            I think Jen’s statement suggests that if you can’t have another baby with your spouse that you shouldn’t/can’t use those periods of God-given infertility to have sex with your husband.

            The fact of the matter is this…..a lot of Jen’s readers are Catholic women, who have been open to life and now must not conceive any more children (at least for a time being). I think her statement made it sound like if you can’t have a baby – don’t have sex. When you’re married, the answer isn’t that easy. God gives us the beauty of our cycle to be able to enjoy sex with our spouses even without conceiving a baby.

    • Allie

      “For what it’s worth, of the people I know whose attitudes (and practices) align with the “Church” as above, almost all are Christians, but not Catholics. There’s a significant (though small) part of the Protestant world that thinks the Catholic Church got this one right”


      My husband and I are protestant, and we, and a growing number of (also protestant) couples we know, use NFP. From what I understand, it was also widely used by our parents’ generation. It was mildly surprising to me when I first heard NFP presented as a purely Catholic practice.

  7. Kathleen Basi

    I think one of the problems with the contemporary image of NFP is a direct result of the way we, as NFP community, present ourselves. We want to make sure we DON’T give the impression that children are ever anything but a blessing–which is absolutely true–but then we make it sound as if there is NEVER a good reason to avoid having children, or to stop having children, short of high risk of maternal death. And even then, we hold up women who run the risk of maternal death to have another child as the pinnacle of virtue. In short, we end up committing another whole fallacy–namely, that all families should be as big as physically possible. Not everyone is called to have families of six, eight, or ten children (or, to use an extreme example, nineteen and twenty). Godly families come in all sizes, and yet NFP users who have smaller families (2, 3, 4 kids) feel they have to keep their mouths shut in these discussions or risk being judged as sinfully selfish. And that just has to stop, or we’ll never, ever make headway in convincing fellow Catholics, let alone the world, to use NFP.

    • Michelle

      Absolutely agree with you! What is disturbing to me is that I have to be careful that the aching I feel in my heart (at times) for another baby…isn’t pride taking over my humility so that I can be a witness to the world that yes, you can have 5 or 6 kids, work full-time and in essence, do it all. The discernment process to feeling “complete” in your family is so very important, requires prayer and constant communication with your spouse and the both of you with God.

      Sometimes, the NFP community is so quick to say, “Another beautiful little blessing…another Soul for Christ!” because we’re trained in so much on the fact that the secular world will scoff and look at us like we are freaks.

      But another side of “Another beautiful little blessing…another Soul for Christ!” sometimes takes root as “Aren’t you so holy that you have been blessed by God again!” And it’s very important not to fall into that trap.

    • Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

      Yes, thank you! Somewhere along the line the idea that “every child is a blessing” got distorted into an attitude that “the more children you have, the holier you are.”

  8. Joanne

    Linda, this statement: The Church says:
    (1) Sex is good, but only under very limited and controlled circumstances.
    (2) Children are an unconditional blessing, and the crown of a human relationship.

    is just not true. The Church doesn’t say sex is good only under limited and controlled circumstances. Not even close! It’s hard indeed to have a good and frank discussion if we can’t even agree on the foundations of the foundation, ha!

    • Linda Wightman

      Joanne, what I meant by “very limited and controlled circumstances” is “within the bonds of (one man/one woman) marriage,” which as far as I know is still the teaching of the Catholic Church. True, in the days of my ancestors the “one woman” part was left out by the LDS church, and today some Protestant denominations (including my own) are trying to do without the “man/woman” part, but nearly all churches that I know of still cling to the “marriage” part, even while having to deal with the reality that many people, even in the church, disagree.

  9. Lydia

    “I’ve used the analogy before that the contraceptive worldview is like saying that loaded guns can be used as toys as long as you put blanks in the chamber; in contrast, the Catholic view says that guns are not toys, and should always be handled with grave respect. ”

    Wow. I’ve never heard it put that way before, but that is excellent! I’m a protestant, actually, who came to the nfp conversation from a slightly different route. I’m finding that a lot of young people are coming to NFP from a desire to keep their bodies natural and stay away from harmful chemicals, and are finding great joy in discovering God’s plan for fertility in the meantime. I am finding more and more young couples that I know are heading to their local parish for NFP classes, regardless of their denomination. I think a slight rebranding would be a good thing to encourage young people to give it a try, but you are right – trying to turn nfp into natural contraception misses the mark entirely.

    Excellent post!

  10. Sara H

    I can’t speak for Jen, but I took that to mean that if the couple has grave reasons to not have a child at that time, they should abstain. Perhaps that is my interpretation due to the fact that I have at times had grave health issues.

    I also don’t know if I completely agree with your interpretation on the Church’s teachings on sex and children. Maybe I am just not sure exactly what you mean. From what you have written, I understand that the Church only thinks sex is good when married and fertile and that a relationship without children is unworthy. Perhaps I misunderstand?

  11. Caitlin

    AMAZING Jennifer. I think you’re really on point here, but I would like to add that it’s not only the secular understanding of sexuality, but also of self. I guess it goes hand in hand, but the concept that “I and I alone” (and certainly not my spouse!)have control over my body really pervades. Also, what is considered “responsible” is completely different. It’s somehow irresponsible for a dedicated, married couple to have as many children as they are blessed with. But we should applaud a single woman who has sex with whomever she likes (whether it’s a longtime partner or ahem, not) and contracepts so she doesn’t have to bring a child into the world when she’s not “ready”.

  12. Sara H

    @Katleen, I couldn’t agree more. It is a misinterpretation that I have even had to combat amongst the younger couples in my family – we are an extended family that supports nfp – perhaps because the previous generation did have larger families and the thought is, “that must be what they are saying we have to do”

    I myself have felt awkward at times because, until recently, we only had 3 and had always proclaimed loudly that we wanted a larger family and use nfp. I sometimes worried that people must think we were just saying that was our belief.

  13. Sally Thomas

    Linda Wightman,

    The Church’s position is that sex is good in the following ways (and I realize this may be kind of a reductive list):

    1. within the bonds of marriage

    2. as a unitive act of self-giving, as Christ gives Himself to the Church

    3. as an act which is open to life

    This means that regardless of whether you’re physically able to have a child or not (I’m 47 and post-menopausal, so I’m one of those “nots”), you haven’t altered your body (either permanently or temporarily) so as to close off its (at least potential) procreative function.

    So even though the machinery doesn’t work any more, I haven’t denied its procreative purpose in my use of it. Meanwhile, my husband and I are fulfilling the unitive aspect. We do actually have children, but even had we been infertile from the start, our relationship would not have been “unworthy.” Childlessness would have been a cross for us to bear (as I’ve observed that it is in the lives of friends — often a very heavy cross), and God would have given us that particular cross as He gives any cross: to help us to heaven. But sex under those circumstances wouldn’t have been “less” in any way — being open to life doesn’t mean that God necessarily grants you what you’re open to. It simply means that you’re willing to be receptive to what He does give, including the functions of your own body, which you’re meant to work *with* and not against.

  14. Domenico Bettinelli

    You know, someone ought to do some kind of training for Catholics on how to talk to the media effectively. It’s not rocket science, and reporters like talking to people who know how to give them good quotes that can be incorporated into their stories as well as good background material to educate them and the reader.

    • Kathleen Basi

      My husband (a media relations guy for a major university) says this All.The.Time. To bishops, to NFP leaders, to parish priests…it seems no one ever listens to him. 🙁

      • TRS

        I will be happy to consult!
        I’m a former tv news reporter – and I know what sound bites they’re likely to use and want to use.
        You have to know how to give them what they want sometimes… and how NOT to give them what they’re looking for – if you know what I mean!

        • Lizzie

          Check out Catholic Voices Over here in the UK, it was put together before the Pope’s visit to train and equip people to deliver media interviews on the Church’s ‘hot topics’. It was so successful that a second ‘branch’ has just been rolled out and their training is in demand. We need more like this!
          From their website:
          What is Catholic Voices?
          Catholic Voices began with a single aim: to ensure that Catholics and the Church were well represented in the media when Pope Benedict came to the UK in September 2010. Inspired by that visit, it has become much more: a school of a new Christian humanism; and a laboratory of a new kind of apologetics.

  15. ARM

    One thing I found off about that article is that it seemed to suggest that an adequate “rebranding” of NFP must eliminate the idea that children are blessings. But that’s just the point of NFP, right? That children are good, and are the natural fruit of sex. And one of the benefits of NFP as opposed to contraception is that practicing it tends to make couples see children as a blessing. So there’s a reason NFP pamphlets have babies on the covers. That McGuire person they quoted seemed to be saying we should present NFP as just another way to have sex without having babies (and without risking that it will change your heart so you actually want babies). But then again, maybe she was quoted out of context too.

  16. Sara H

    I didn’t get the idea that we should remove that at all. At it’s heart, nfp is about healthier, more communicative marriages, healthier bodies and often more ability to recognize fertility, and openness to life – the deep recognition that sex creates babies sometimes and we should try not to fear having God at the center of that discussion with our spouse.

    Given that most of the women I know are not practicing nfp, we need to be open to how they think and what good things we can show them, not try to get them by preaching to the choir. We aren’t singing the same song.

    • Kathleen Basi

      Sara, yes. Neither you nor ARM are wrong–but it’s a matter of where we place our focus in the larger effort. And we as NFP community have spent a long time hitting “babies are blessings, always and only” and never crediting people with having good reasons to hold down the #s. Your way of looking at this puts the whole thing together–your summing-up comment (try not to fear having God at the center of that discussion) is spot on. It’s about God having a say; the “babies are blessings” puts the babies at the top of the totem pole, and makes it seem like you are being sinful if you include parental frazzling or other commitments in the decisionmaking; the assumption is that God ALWAYS WANTS YOU TO HAVE ONE MORE, RIGHT NOW. I know that’s not what people actually think, but that is how it comes across.

      I really like the way you put that all together.

  17. Maggie

    Just wanted to say that I love the loaded gun analogy; my young adult group is discussing Humanae Vitae right now, so we’re having this discussion too. The Post article (while relatively fair for a Post article) did have a few places that seemed off to me; I wondered, too, if your quote was taken out of context or misquoted…anyway, I’m glad that 1) this discussion is becoming widespread and 2) that I’m getting a good understanding of all the nuances of the Church teaching on contraception/families before I put it into use in my own life, as I’m unmarried at this point.

  18. Katie@NFP and Me

    I am so torn on this article. I love that NFP is getting this kind of press because it’s great. NFP works for modern young woman not just baby making machines (though there’s nothing wrong with that.) But I just hate that this plays into the contraceptive mentality so much. We run a fine line of adhering to our morals but making them applicable to people who don’t share them.

    I do think it’s true that we can’t keep showing women pictures of rosaries, women in mom pants, and babies galore and expect them to understand that NFP can work for them. I think Kayla contacted you about the new site ( and how we’re trying to modernize the advertisement without watering down the message. Hopefully we can find the middle ground that is so obviously needed.

    Thank you for you wonderful clarification and oh so poignant thoughts. 🙂

  19. Kate

    Absolutely agree and well-said, Michelle. We’ve been practicing NFP for 7 years and have two kids. My heart aches for more as does my husband’s, but right now we simply can’t afford it. And I’m not talking “we have to give up that expensive vacation” can’t afford it. I mean, “we put off buying groceries until pay day and live on beans and rice” can’t afford it. We’ve cut just about all the expenses we can cut, and still struggle. So for me, exercising faithfulness and living in humility means having the temperance to put off what both of us really want to do in favor of what is best for our family. I would like nothing more than to be pregnant right now, but after praying long and hard about this we feel we’re being called right now to live with what we have. Sometimes that is the other side of the NFP coin, and that is also a sacrifice.

    I did enjoy the article and posted it to my FB with a note about how my husband and I practice NFP. First time I’ve really talked about that with most of my FB friends, and I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction. Jen, I got what you were going for with that quote, and thanks for your contribution to an intriguing article.

  20. The Boring Blogger

    The minute we market NFP as the catholic contraception, it is over. After the article, comments were made that one of the women in the article was pregnant. “See NFP doesn’t work!” You have got to stay on message. And as uncomfortable and perhaps “uncool” as phrases like “the primary end of marriage is children”, or “the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage cannot be separated in the marriage act,” it has to be said. Children are a blessing. Jen thanks for clarifying your quote!

    That being said, we should try to market the Church’s teaching on Marriage in a beautiful, accessible way, and it encompasses so much more than NFP. I kind of get annoyed that the Catholic view point on Marriage is always in relation to NFP. Let’s talk about it as a sacrament that gives grace, that it is a unbreakable bond, that is requires self sacrifice that leads to true love. It is so much more that mucus (gag, sorry I am immature) and fertility monitors.

    Again, I am so grateful for all these women that are speaking on this subject in the media, My prayers are with you to have wisdom and grace!

    • TRS

      What we should promote is the benefit of NFP models ability to lead women to better health care.
      The benefit of knowing and understanding your cycle helps you to get past the medical community that just wants to prescribe The Pill for every little ailment! (which is total BS! )

      This writer makes the point beautifully:

  21. Diapeepees

    I was so happy, too, when all this stuff about pp came out — considered it a win for our side that contraception was even being revisited, since most people consider the topic shut and decided.
    NFP is certainly wonderful and scientific when we talk to non-Catholics; but when we talk to each other, I think we all get laugh about reality vs “NFP theory.” Still, it’s what makes being Catholic so daring — always living on the edge!

  22. Christy

    I read this article last week as well and obviously thought it didn’t capture the spirit of NFP perfectly, but it made good points and its great that its bringing this topic into everyday discussion. NFP is a difficult thing to both discuss and practice because it is such a personal, sacrificial, difficult, always changing thing. In the real life marriages of those using NFP the conversation is always happening and ongoing. It clearly isn’t discussed enough in Catholic circles let alone in the general population. We need more voices discussing the difficulties that are navigated in marriage and NFP. The Church is right, babies are blessings, life is precious, but NFP can still be difficult. I guess I’m just thinking aloud that NFP is a beautiful gift, and deeply sacrificial and difficult at times as well. But then again, most wonderful things in life are.

  23. Mel

    I was raised Catholic but as an adult I have grown apart from the church because of its views on birth control as “wrong,” among other things (their anti-gay marriage stance, not allowing priests to marry & have a family, etc). As someone who USED natural family planning very successfully up to this point (I have two sons and am 7.5months pregnant with my third), I plan to use birth control pills after this child is born. I suffered three miscarriages between my babies, and while an unplanned PREGNANCY would not be unwelcome, the chance of going through the agony of LOSS again (being at high risk for more miscarriages based on my history) is something I want to avoid—and I do not trust natural family planning *by itself* as enough of a fool-proof measure.

    Why can’t we be women of strong faith AND prevent unwanted pregnancies in a way that best meets our needs? Unfortunately, the Church will continue to alienate women like myself if it does not accept that birth control is not evil. I believe that life is sacred, too, and I cannot believe that God would be more “accepting” of my potentially losing more babies to miscarriage, rather than using birth control. It’s not about “wanting to have sex without worrying about the possibility of new life”–it’s because I worry too much and I don’t want to lose another innocent new life because my human body is not perfect. I’m pretty sure that even if the Church doesn’t understand that, God does.

    Natural family planning versus birth control is just a not black-and-white, right-or-wrong issue. I hope that’s what this discussion brings out on both sides! 🙂

    • The Boring Blogger

      Don’t forget that you could unknowingly lose a baby on birth control pills! You uterus lining becomes a hostile place for a fertilized egg. I know many people who get pregnant on birth control pills and you are more likely to miscarry if you were on the pill.
      Also, the Church is a mother and she understands that sometimes it is hard to live out these teachings, but she stands firm that every martial act should be open to God’s creative power. Birth control pills carry their own risks. I would encourage you to look into the Marquette Method which uses a Fertility Monitor. It can really help you if you have unclear signs.
      There are people who can help you navigate and coach you! God will give you the grace! Pray about it!

    • Jessica

      Dear Mel,

      As a sister in Christ who has also suffered as you have
      (four children in Heaven, and one beautiful little boy with us here) the most important thing I can say to you is this – if we are to follow Him, we will always, always be carrying a cross.

      I know your pain. My husband and I have been there, and the empty places in our hearts and our lives ache to this day – but only the Lord can heal, and none of us will find Him among the thorns of sin. And you will only be separated from Him further if you cannot accept Him, True Body and Blood, in the Eucharist.

      If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

      It IS black and white.

      I certainly don’t want to presume that you haven’t studied and researched the teachings that you feel opposed to . . . but on the chance that you haven’t . . . please, please pray and read before deciding that you disagree with the Church. The Catechism, obviously, and Theology of the Body – and an apologist whose writings have been very helpful to me is John Salza.

      Lastly, if the method of NFP that you are currently using is not giving you confidence, perhaps you might consider switching to another – as Blogger suggested – before you throw it out entirely.

      Whatever peace is possible on this side of Heaven, I hope you are graced with it. I hope your children – the blessings from God that they are – always bring you comfort and happiness.

      Love in our Savior,

  24. Diapeepees

    Your experience is so funny, Steph. That’s what I hear from people all the time — that they are turned off when people with 7 kids try to sell them nfp. I think the difference is that NFP Catholics think that gigantic crazy families are fun (well, at least a lot of us do) — we think we’re a testament to how great NFP is; and on the other hand, two singles, who may be barely catholic, attending an nfp course, are nowhere near the idea that six kids are normal….We’ve got to know our audience better.

    • Steph

      Know thy audience is a great idea! Especially in pre-cana. It wasn’t so much that my husband and I were turned off because they had so many children, it was just this (disruptive) parade that was going on during their talk that really distracted us from the message. And also the message was not the same as what I read in Jen’s blog, it was more black and white (birth control bad, NFP good) with no reasons backing it up. Although, to be honest, she may have given some great reasons but I just could not concentrate!

      • Tammy

        Okay… this resonates with me.
        Since the HHS controversy has flared up… I’ve realized that The Church needs to do more to promote NFP models…. and even teach them in High Schools along with any sex ed and/ or abstinence programs. (teenagers need to know that they will have options other than the pill – when they DO finally become sexually active. Also, it couldn’t hurt to teach this to boys as an effort to promote proper respect for sexuality!!)

        So what do you all think of a 40+ single, abstinent woman teaching NFP???

        I was kind of irritated when I told a CATHOLIC date my plan and he said, “But you don’t have sex! How could you teach NFP?” Gah… hello! I am a human and I can read, I know how things work. and ps… I’ve had sex! I think that’s very important to present a single life perspective — plus it’s important for abstinent women to know NFP in order to outsmart their doctors who want to put them on the Pill for their pimples or headaches!!!

        Really women? What do you think. Would a single woman be just as or more effective teaching NFP to newlyweds as a couple with 7 kids?

        • Steph

          FWIW, I’d listen to you. I’d listen to anyone who can talk to me about the advantages of NFP and present the reasons why the Church has the stance it does about family planning in an understandable and approachable manner. A single woman has the same parts as a married woman, so I don’t know why it would be a problem??? 🙂 And I agree re:doctors and the pill — they push that on you as soon as you get your period so it would be nice to hear a voice of dissension every once in a while.

        • Diapeepees

          I’m assuming most nominally catholic about-to-be-marrieds would also scoff at the single teaching nfp…
          As far as high school, I was just told by a teen who I’m close with that they weren’t even going to talk about birth control at their catholic high school until jr year…which is way too late…even if you’re just pushing nfp…you should be building on all these ideas, abstinence, nfp, why not to use typical contraception so much earlier, all thru high school. Really, the discussion should start very generically, very gently, in middle school — even if it’s just why we respect our bodies, and why it’s so important to keep them pure. Tons of girls have already been sexually active (and pregnant) way before jr year of high school.

          • Diapeepees

            I’d also add that teens need to know about how the pill is a carcinogen. The teen I just referred to didn’t know that it was…and of course her dr wanted her on the pill for cramps…When I told her the pill could possibly cause cancer, she said, “Why would my dr want to give me something that could cause cancer?” Yes, that’s the question every woman should be asking her obgyn…Link about carcinogen/pill:

          • Tammy

            Well that’s no big deal… all the Catholics scoff at the single anyway!

  25. Joanne

    Whenever I read someone’s reasons for not using NFP, or for having problems with the reasons for using NFP, I always notice how often “I” is used in their reasoning. I think, I feel, I want, I don’t want, etc. Of course I don’t want to suffer any loss, I don’t want to be in pain, I don’t even know if I want all the kids that I have, if it were just left to me. I feel lucky that it’s not just up to me, because without God I find many things are impossible. There’s no I in NFP, we always say. 🙂

  26. Rebecca

    I think the Catholic Church would be well served to:
    a) Have mainly women speak on the Catholic teaching about contraception
    b) Emphasize the good to women of using NFP…such as avoiding the cancer risks and other health risks of birth control.

  27. Kelly

    I am not catholic but I am a christian. I do not have a problem with people that choose to use NFP. I think it is wonderful if they can make it work for them. I even agree that it should be an option presented to women when they are considering having sex and dealing with the responsibilities that come with that choice. More education has never hurt anyone. I think all children are a blessing.

    I do not, however, think all of these blessings deserve the life they are born into. For people too absorbed with themselves and their own desires to really love and provide for each child they bring into this world, I am grateful for their decision to use contraception.

    I am not catholic, as I stated, and honestly, I do not know the official rules about contraception from the catholic church. I can only speak of what I have heard from friends and in the media, which is the catholic church is 100% against birth control. No pills, no condoms, no exceptions. This brings up the question – where does the church stand on IVF, insemination, and surrogates? These are people who are doing everything they can to bring a child into their lives since nature simply isn’t enough to make it happen. Where to they fall in the contraceptive/NFP debate? Afterall, IVF/insemenation and surrogates are a form of birth control.

    Also, for that matter, what about the other foot? If women are encouraged to NFP and making the best of what God bestows on them, is the same true for men? Where do things like Viagra and Cialis fall in this argument? Let’s say a woman chooses NFP to have children but her husband is impotent, should he just keep trying, drug free?

    As a woman that has had to resort to science for the conception of my child (and hopefully that will be plural one day), how does the church say we should proceed? One friend, casually stated in a discussion of science and religion that God simply did not want women in my position (women that require science to conceive) to be a parent. Not only did that hurt more than I will ever let her know, but I know that God has helped me work through the obstacles before me to be a mother and provide the best life I can for my child. What does the church have to say about cases that are not so cut and dried?

    My point is that this shouldn’t be a debate about which is better. It should be a discussion to determine what is best for YOU right now. The individual making the decision. It is between you and God. No one else. The end.

    • The Boring Blogger

      I appreciate you asking about Catholic teaching, Kelly! The Catholic Church (and actually our brother and sister of all the protestant faiths until 1930) believes that the conjugal act is outward sign of an inward reality. Namely, it is the physical manifestation of the couples wedding vows, which are that I am exclusively yours till death do us part and that I am opening myself up to creating new life with you. So each conjugal act is a renewal of those sacred vows said on the altar. We believe that Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament that gives us the grace to live out these vows. The conjugal act like our vows has two parts. It is unitive (mutual love for eachother) and procreative (capable of cocreating with God to bring new life. As long as both parts are present in the act then fertility drugs, or viagra are fine. Contraception cuts off the procreative part and IVF cuts out the Unitive aspect. IVF also poses other moral problems, the extra embryos created in the petri dish are not respected as human persons with dignity and are thrown away or frozen. Anyway that is a short and incomplete answer to your question. There are so many beautiful teaching the Church has to offer on marriage and human sexuality! I would encourage you to read Kimberly Hahn’s book, Life-giving Love! She was protestant prior to becoming Catholic so her viewpoint might be something you can relate too!

      • Jenna@CallHerHappy

        This was a really good comment. I am Catholic and I often struggle to find words to explain what my husband and I believe. I might just have to save your words 🙂

  28. Joanne

    Kelly, the Catholic church is opposed to IVF for the same reasons that She is opposed to artificial birth control, for Catholics. Since you’re not Catholic, I don’t know that it would be a concern for you. I don’t understand how you think this shouldn’t be a debate about which (which what? birth control?) is better, this is a discussion about how the Catholic church feels about artificial birth control, right? Obviously, for Catholics, it’s not just between us and God, the end. The Church and its teachings figure into it as well, for a *small minority* of Catholic women anyway.

  29. Sarah Marie

    That doesn’t negate the fact that some reporters are (1) lazy (2) brimming with a distaste for religion (3)ignorant of the subject matter GOING INTO interviews, thus taking away only what they see fit. It’s not an interview subject’s job to educate a reporter on issues, nor is their job to “give them good quotes”. It goes without saying that representatives of the Church and other organizations should be aware of how their words can be misconstrued to serve a different agenda. But I insist that reporters focus more on seeking truth than dramatics or paper sales. That’s just my opinion.

    • Diapeepees

      Journalists certainly have their biases, but unfortunately they’re also often thrown into topics they virtually know nothing about and then forced to turn over a piece quickly — that’s a lot of the reason why you can’t be sure everything you read is done accurately.
      Gosh…the comments over here today…it’s like a party over here…I can’t bring myself to leave.

  30. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Jen, your posts are always so comforting to me. I wish that we lived close so we could be NFP pals together…is that weird? Seriously though, I am a young mom, and my husband is even younger than I am. Our old friends are very liberal and “I” minded. We are praying to find friends our age that share our views!


    ps I heard you on Relevant Radio the other day! It was a great interview 🙂

  31. Rachel

    Jen, I really appreciate how you are calm and respectful in engaging those who disagree with you. It helps me to remain peaceful and just be enlightened by your clear and incisive writing. (In this case, the fact that the quote in the article didn’t represent your whole message– I appreciate that you didn’t assume the reporter meant to be malicious. It’s hard to be gracious like that!)

    I think you hit the nail on the head about how the Church and the culture approach the topic with utterly different assumptions, and end up talking past each other. I’m going to save your post for future reference; maybe it will help me communicate with someone later who doesn’t understand the Church’s stance.

  32. Tara

    Jen, I am such a huge fan of yours. You are such an articulate writer. I have been so excited about the discussion going on, but was so upset when I read the Post article. I felt this woman just got it so wrong. She appeared to have such a contraceptive mentality, but was supposedly speaking from the point of view of the modern Catholic. When I read your quote I was just so sad. I knew they did not represent you well. You cleared it up beautifully. Thanks so much.

  33. Elizabeth

    Thank you for a great post, and putting yourself out there in the media! I also completely understand what you meant by 2 year olds pulling on your pants.

    I don’t know how much modernizing NFP can undergo. Wherever Modenity as a philosophy/culture is strongest, the birth rate is lowest. The modern world has fundamentally lost it’s hope in itself and the future, and so children have become nothing more than a drain on precious resources in the present. As you so brilliantly wrote Jen, you can’t replace contraception with NFP because they are fundamentally different philosophies on life.

    This whole discussion — which is wonderful to see — isn’t at heart about child spacing, but what is really important in life, and what we should be living for.

  34. John Henry

    Insightful, articulate, compassionate, and on point. Thank you.

  35. Smoochagator

    I laughed when I saw your quote in that article, because you have said over and over how “bad” you and your husband are at NFP. And I did think that the soundbite the writer pulled seemed out of character for you, so I’m glad you wrote this clarification. NFP, like a thousand other parts of the Catholic/Christian lifestyle, has really gotten a bad rap because nobody really understands what it is. I mean, how many people still think that NFP is the rhythm method, or refer to it as “Catholic birth control?” That’s why it’s important for people who reject the contraceptive mentality and either practice NFP or follow a “quiverfull” approach, explain to their friends and family WHY they have made this decision. I sometimes have a hard time telling people why I’m not on the Pill anymore because I really, REALLY don’t want anyone to think I’m “judging” them. But I think it’s important for women to understand that there are VERY good reasons for NOT taking the Pill – especially when the culture-at-large tells them they are KUH-RAZY for not using hormonal birth control. I feel a similar tension when I try to explain to people why I chose to have a natural birth, because the culture-at-large tells women they are KUH-RAZY for not loading up on drugs while in labor. It just goes to show how being a “rebel” in certain ways (I’m a vegan! 90% of my body is tattooed and/or pierced! I dumpster-dive for food and recreation! I speak pig latin and panhandle for a living!) is cool and hip, but being truly countercultural is something no one knows how to handle.

  36. Diane K.

    I think we should start marketing NFP to the Green Movement. Think about it: The Natural Family Planning Method is, well, natural, organic, animal friendly, environmentally safe and is suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians! Laugh if you want, but the environmental, animal rights, whole foods, natural health and organic lobbies are growing daily and could be a viable marketing strategy for NFP and the Church.

    I noticed a few comments in the thread mentioning the health benefits of NFP but you rarely hear about this in the media and I think it’s a benefit that should be emphasized and talked about much more than it is. In my pre-Catholic/Christian days I had a difficult time finding contraception I was comfortable with. Almost, if not all, artificial contraception comes with health risks. Some of them quite serious. Did you know IUDs can become imbedded in the uterus and have to be surgically removed? Eeesh! Then I came across a book on NFP and I loved that it was all natural, didn’t require a medical exam, or a daily dose of toxic chemicals and it’s FREE! So, that’s what I used from then on.

    I’ve been an environmentalist for more than 20 years now and that includes being Vegan and an animal rights advocate, so I understand that many people think we are all nutty hippies or New Agers and you’d be right, most are (I’m very Catholic now, but used to a New Age, hippie liberal), but that’s no reason to count us out of the fight. NFP doesn’t have to be “just a Catholic thing.” It’s good for everyone.

    • NoMoreIUD

      “Did you know IUDs can become imbedded in the uterus and have to be surgically removed?”

      Why yes. I got to learn that the hard way.

    • Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

      This is something I’ve been thinking of writing about since I read this post. I’ve heard NFP or similar practices called the “Fertility Awareness Method” outside of Catholic circles, and I think many people who ascribe to live more “naturally” have adopted FAM, although, as you say, many people still don’t even know of alternatives to artificial contraception.

      The reason I think it’s a challenge to “market” NFP to those who aren’t Catholic is that there are a lot of philosophies bound up in the practice of NFP about openness to life, artificial contraception, marriage, etc. Most Catholics I know don’t WANT people conceptualizing of NFP the way Jen was describing above — as nothing more than a natural way of avoiding pregnancy — so that means that the people “selling” NFP are usually selling the whole package of religious beliefs/philosophies along with teaching about the literal practice of charting. I’m one of the few people I know who are comfortable encouraging others to learn about NFP even if I know they would use it as basically a non-chemical way to avoid pregnancy. So I think that’s one of the challenges to NFP being shared and adopted more broadly.

  37. That Married Couple

    I thought those quotes from you sounded a bit strange! And I’m also really (really!) excited about the fact that this stuff is being discussed!

  38. Theresa

    Although it seems to fit the bill at first read, using the “loaded gun” analogy implies that our bodies are intended for destruction, rather than construction, and furthers the misconception that babies are an undesirable outcome. Sure enough, God did not create our bodies as simple playthings, but they were not created as weapons, either. I know every analogy falls short somewhere, but the loaded gun analogy is just plan b a d.

    • Becky

      Well, I think it is no worse than using a thief in the night, or an unjust judge who neither fears God nor respects man as an analogy for God.

  39. Sara

    I have a hard time understanding how NFP is different theologically from contraception. I don’t know that much about it, so it’s definitely possible I’m just mis-informed, but if you intentionally have sex during the time each month when you are unable to pro-create, isn’t that separating sex from procreation? Using NFP, do you still do your best to plan when you’ll have children? I just don’t really see the difference.

    • Sara H

      Sara, I am sure someone else can better address this, but just briefly…The first thing to know is that NFP is a method of monitoring fertility. In and of itself it is neither a theology or “rule” of the Catholic Church. The Church does however allow for its use. The theology actually comes into play more in the way in which the method is used. Any type of hormonal or barrier method of birth control is a complete disconnect of the procreative property of the marriage act. While using NFP as a Catholic, we are called to prayerfully discern with our spouse on a month to month (and frankly sometimes night to night) basis as to whether this is a good or bad time to add to our families. The Church, within the catechism, gives spouses the ability to determine that there are in fact times when it would not be healthy or responsible to bring a child into your life (this is something that is not understood enough and can often be a point of judgement amongst users of NFP). So, utilizing the natural “seasons” of your cycle, you can decide to utilize only the unfertile periods or to avoid for the entire cycle if health or reasons are grave enough.

      That being said, there are definitely people that probably use NFP in a more contracepting manner and there are always judgments as to whether there really are any good reasons to avoid a child and in the end, even if you are following your cycle, there are times when a person may become pregnant even if they thought that they could not. Those using NFP in an open attitude must recognize that possibility in every marital act and be open to the idea.

      • Sara

        Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I had originally thought that the main problem with contraception is that we are in control of when we have kids instead of allowing God to control when we have them, but your explanation clarifies that point for me.

  40. n2127

    As a newlywed with a serious health condition that requires SEVERAL dangerous medications that are considered “Black Box” and would severely deform or kill a fetus, I have been ordered by my team of doctors to use contraception to avoid a pregnancy that could harm or kill me and the fetus. Your logic seems to be suggesting that women like me suffering from cancer, or other serious diseases, who are fertile but are not ALLOWED to get pregnant, should have sexless marriages while getting treatment. Some diseases have no cure – some of us will be on medication the rest of our lives – some of us die. Should we spend the rest of our lives, either way, living with NO intimacy? This line of thinking is BEYOND insulting, thoughtless, and exclusive.

    • Lucy


      I, in turn, am insulted by your words and thoughtlessness.

      Have you read Humane Vitae? Have you any knowledge of the Principle of Double Effect? Have you spoken to a priest? Because in your case – a TRULY severe, TRULY life-or-death medical issue and TRULY provided you and your doctors have responsibly exhausted EVERY OTHER OPTION – taking birth control would not be a sin. And that is simply not the case for most women.

      God bless you.

      • compassion

        Lucy I am not sure why you were insulted by the writer’s words.

        Clearly she is writing a note on a very delicate heart wrenching matter and you were “insulted by her thoughtlessness”

        The church teaches that you can not use contraception even if you have a life threatening illness or take medication harmful to a baby.

        If you need to take the BCP for medical reasons then this is where the principal of double effect comes in–infertility is secondary it is not the reason you are taking the medication.

        I have walked along side couples in these situations and I fully supported their decision to use contraception. We do not live in the Garden of Eden. We live in a world with illness. It is the pharisees that place heavy burdens on people that they can not bear. The church has been oversome with LEGALISM and will be accountable to God for it.

        n2127 you asked a good question but you will be told you are going to hell if you use contraception even if you are on medications that could kill a baby “god still requires you to be open to having a baby everytime you have sex with your husband” this will be followed by “following the gospel is hard and you don’t want to do this because it is hard”

        • Lucy


          I repeat, I believe that n2127 needs to speak with a priest about this very important matter.

          Yes, the faith is hard – we know it will be, because the Bible tells us so numerous times. For you to flippantly say that someone will tell n2127 that she is going to h— is very unfair. No Christian Catholic should ever say such a thing. We ALL need His mercy. However, we can and should advise one another against sin. We can and should encourage and uplift one another toward righteousness.

          God bless you.

    • Sara H

      I am not sure if you were responding to my explanation of the differences between nfp and contraception, but let me first say that I am sorry that you are dealing with this. I certainly can’t understand how you feel, nor am I a doctor to understand your treatment plan, nor was I trying to tell you in particular how you should act. I was simply explaining the theology of sex and the use of nfp in marriage. I agree with the posters that suggested you should contact a priest…I would even go farther to say that you should contact a priest associated with this particular issue in the church – perhaps one associated with the Pope Paul VI institute where they have been working with and studying the issues of fertility and infertility. (

      While it may seem harsh, I have known women in a somewhat similar situation. They seem to take one of 3 paths. The first is to ignore the instructions of the doctors and not avoid pregnancy at all. The second is to avoid intercourse at all times and to consider this a cross to bear. The third is to work very closely with an nfp expert to find the narrow windows when it is believed that there is no way to conceive and utilize that time for intercourse in prayerful hope that God understands the dangers.

      I also agree that the person who first described the doctrine of double effect had it a bit off. @Compassion explained it properly. If infertility is not the goal, but secondary, then the Church teaches that artificial birth control or whatever treatment is utilized is ok. That is why the issue of Church funded hormonal bc for health reasons has never been an issue.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Sorry to hear you found the post upsetting. For what it’s worth, I have a serious blood clotting disorder that makes pregnancy a high-risk condition for me, requires that I take life-saving that costs hundreds of dollars a month ($2,000+ if anything happens to my insurance) and I have to spend months at a time on Coumadin, an FDA Category X drug. I fully realize that this path is not an easy one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right one.

      • JD

        Which is why your joking about being “bad at NFP” isn’t reassuring.

        You obviously have a serious need to avoid pregnancy, yet you keep getting pregnant. What is going on here? Is this a choice you and your husband are making despite the risks, or are you struggling with being able to detect your fertile period? If you are struggling with detecting your fertile period, what method are you using? Did you take a class? Have you tried other methods?

        The Catholic Church does not require couples to have large families (the last four Popes came from families of four children or fewer). People do have serious needs to avoid pregnancy. Most people are highly skeptical of NFP, even in the medical community. You flippantly saying that you are “bad at NFP” without further explanation while continuing to have high risk pregnancies is an excellent advertisement for contraception and sterilization, which I am certain is not your intent.

  41. Elizabeth

    Didn’t read all your comments, but one of the other issues with NFP is the lack of cooperation among the methods. CCLI, Creighton, others need to start working together and I think that would help a lot of women who are just REALLY confused by the nuances of everyone’s different way of executing NFP. Each couple uses what works best for them, sometimes combining the methods — NFP is best described as an art that you learn to use better and better over time. My husband and I used what I called “sort of” NFP for about 7 years. Then we found out he would be deployed to Afghanistan for 6 mos. in 2011. We quickly went and found a teaching couple to brush up on our skills in charting. We were successful in avoiding pregnancy, AND we did find that it built our marriage. It even gave us those mini “honeymoon” phases each month, and after 7 years of marriage, three children, military life, lots of schooling, they were quite welcome!

  42. Katy

    The new movement’s goal is to make over the image of natural family planning, now used by a small minority of Catholic women. But natural family planning, which requires women to track their fertile periods through such natural signs such as temperature and cervical mucus, is seen by many fertility experts as unreliable and is viewed by most Catholics as out of step with contemporary women.

    • Jessica

      Well, Katy, those experts who view NFP as “unreliable” are, quite simply, mistaken. 🙂

      And nothing is more “contemporary” than being in tune with one’s body and forgoing chemicals in favor of what is natural!

  43. Christine Falk Dalessio

    Great analogy! I will probably be using that myself! (i always quote sources never fear)
    And thanks, really, for the reminder that until our language captures the same meaning, misunderstandings are inevitable… But we need to stay patient, and keep pecking away to reveal the Truth.

  44. Maria Sawick

    nfp AND nAPRO ARE NOT THE ONLY LEGIT OPTIONS. tHERE ARE EXCELLENT OVULATION MONORITING DEVICES AND WE should embrace them as I really think many skeptics gotta have their “science based gadgets to get sold.” THIS IS AN APP/TECH CULTURE–and flexibility is a virtue—not very one can handle “mucus.” People who are non-Christian and many “eco” minded friends will embrace at least the green/body ecology aspect but we don’t market with an “open mind.” It is an invitation to look at the body, sexuality and fertility in a new light and I believe an excellent

  45. Fr. Aschenbrener

    Hi Jennifer,

    I really enjoy your website and articles. I came across one article on Contraception where you state: “The Church teaches that we must never, ever forget that it is through this activity that we co-create human souls with God; to act as if we have the right to enjoy the pleasurable aspects of sex without being open to any new life it might create not only disrespects this most sacred of acts, but it sets us and our future children up for tragedy. This does not mean that people must actively try to have a child with every sexual act; it does mean, however, that if they really, really, really, really cannot have a baby, they should not engage in the act that creates babies.”

    This last sentence makes it seem as if couples who are infertile, or beyond child bearing years, etc, should not engage in the conjugal love act. Am I misunderstanding your quote?

    I write books on marriage and really like the quote by Dietrich Von Hildebrand who spoke of procreation as the primary purpose of marriage and marital intercourse, but of loving communion as their primary meaning.

    He asserts: “The intrinsic meaning and value of marriage consists in its being the deepest and closest love union. In its mutual self-donation and in its constitution of a matchless union, the conjugal act has the meaning of a unique fulfillment of spousal love. But to that high good, which has a meaning and value in itself, has been entrusted procreation. But let it be stated again emphatically: to stress the meaning and value of marriage as the most intimate, indissoluble union of love does not contradict the doctrine that procreation is the primary end of marriage.

    The conjugal act does not in any way lose its full meaning and value when one knows that a conception is out of the question, as when age, or an operation for the sake of health, or pregnancy excludes it. The knowledge that a conception is not possible does not in the least way taint the conjugal act with irreverence. In such cases, if the act is an expression of a deep love, anchored in Christ, it will rank even higher in its quality and purity than one that leads to a conception in a marriage in which the love is less deep and not formed by Christ. And even when for good and valid reasons conception should be avoided, the marital act in no way loses its raison d’être,because it’s meaning and value is the actualization of the mutual self-donation of the spouses. The intention of avoiding conception does not imply irreverence as long as one does not actively interfere in order to cut the link between the conjugal act and a possible conception.”

    I would love to hear your thoughts,
    In Christ,
    Fr. Aschenbrener

  46. Elizabeth

    Sorry Father A, but I totally think you misunderstood her meaning. She was saying if you can’t (shouldn’t) have a baby (for personal reasons such as sickness, you REALLY can’t afford one or you can’t support one) you shouldn’t be taking part in the conjugal act. Taking contraceptives, or using some other form of birth control is sinful and should never be used to prevent pregnancy.

    • Fr. Aschenbrener

      Got it, maybe it should just be worded a bit differently, like mentioning sickness, financial difficulty, etc. Thanks!

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates