Catholic author Thomas Storck has an excellent article on Natural Family Planning (NFP) over at Crisis Magazine entitled “The Curious Controversy Over Natural Family Planning” . In the article, Storck makes a very strong case for the legitimacy of NFP and shows the problems with much of the suspicion and unnecessary criticism that comes from fellow Catholics.
Is NFP the New “Confessional Argument”?
Near the end of the article, Storck mentioned one of the usual suspicions about NFP:
No doubt someone will point out to me that NFP can be misused. Truly so, just as any other legitimate human activity can. But how often is it in fact misused? NFP users tend to have larger families than the American Catholic norm, even if they do not have families of the size that the critics of NFP think they should have.
I was thinking about the NFP controversy this morning and recalling analogous arguments I have had with Protestants and atheists on the potential abuse of the confessional via the “sin of presumption”. In brief, the accusation is that may Catholics justify any sin, because they are just be able to go to confession afterwards.
What such individuals cannot see, from the outside, is that it is very, very difficult to maintain both the sin of presumption and the practice of baring your soul to a priest (and saying the act of contrition). If you are really set on continuing to sin, you will much more likely end up quitting Confession altogether.
I have found NFP to be similar in my experience (and in the experiences of other couples with whom my wife and I are close). Yes, one could imagine NFP being used with the “contraceptive mindset,” at least by some at the start of their marriage. But it is/would be very difficult to keep up both the contraceptive mindset and the communication, sensitivity, and self-discipline that are necessary for the practice of NFP.
In both cases — Confession and NFP — there is the potential for abuse, but there is also the very real presence of grace always threatening to break through, always challenging us to make a choice between any internal contradictions we might be trying to maintain.
Having seen and experienced this reality, I now fail to get too worried any more about the “contraceptive mindset” in the relationships of NFP couples. The practice is largely self-corrective via the action of God’s grace working through our feeble efforts. I suspect that those who worry about NFP would be surprised how big a breach in our defense against grace this one act of obedience can constitute.
Again, I welcome you to venture over to Crisis Magazine and read Mr. Storck’s article.