This year, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) turns 50. Humanae Vitae re-affirmed the Church’s 2000 year teaching that artificial birth control was immoral and “intrinsically evil.” To celebrate this milestone, I’ll be re-posting many of my NFP/Theology of the Body-themed articles.
This week: Theology of the Body in a Nutshell
So what is NFP (or Natural Family Planning)? NFP is safe, healthy and effective. Most importantly, it is a morally acceptable way to avoid and achieve pregnancy.
If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.
Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.
Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).
Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other. But if we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.
Fruitful: Marital relations must be fruitful, open to children, each and every time. That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace. It just means we need to be open.
Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When an action, device, medication or operation is purposefully used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”
Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and, if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.
NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.
Want to live the highest expression of your marital love? Use NFP and be open to life.
For more information about the Theology of the Body:
For more information on NFP: