The contraceptive mentality is real, but it’s probably not what you think

When we were in marriage preparation class many years ago, there was one evening devoted to instruction on Catholic sexuality. The teaching couple said, “You guys have heard about NFP, right?”

And we said, “Yes.”

And they said, “Whew.”

And that was pretty much it. I’m paraphrasing, but that was pretty much all we got, other than the advice to keep the lines of communication open, and to invest in gold. And that was okay with me. I thought we knew everything already anyway. We did intend to use NFP, eventually, once we had a grave enough reason. But we weren’t afraid of babies, like some people, and we certainly didn’t intend to be one of those couples who used NFP with a contraceptive mentality

Oooh, that contraceptive mentality! Boy, it sounded pretty bad whenever it came up in the Catholic groups and message boards I frequented as a new wife. The context was always, “Most couples these days are using natural family planning with a contraceptive mentality.” Or, “The contraceptive mentality has crept into our marriage prep classes. Whatever happened to being open to life and trusting in God?” 

The phrase “contraceptive mentality” is loosely used to mean, “Using natural family planning in such a way that you might as well be using artificial contraception.” It’s used to mean, “cheating the system.” It means, “You can’t fool God. You may be using NFP and calling it Catholic, but if you are making an effort not to have babies, then that’s what contraception is: trying not to have babies. God is not deceived.”

Is this true? Is it possible to use NFP with a contraceptive mentality?

origins of the phrase

Before we answer this question of whether it’s possible to use NFP with a contraceptive mentality, let’s find out where the phrase “contraceptive mentality “actually came from. It’s not in the catechism!  And it’s not in Humanae Vitae. This phrase was coined by John Paul II, first in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio in 1981, and then in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae in 1995.

 Strangely enough, he wasn’t talking about contraception, exactly; and he definitely wasn’t talking about natural family planning. In Familiaris Consortio, he mentions the “contraceptive mentality” in the context of a bunch of things that have gone wrong in the modern family. He references

a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values: a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.

And in Evangelium Vitae, he uses the phrase in the context of how artificial contraception leads to abortion. He says:

[T]he negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality” – which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act – are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected.

In both of these cases, he’s using “contraceptive mentality” to mean “the mentality that one has when one uses contraception,” or perhaps “the mentality that leads one to use contraception.”

Tellingly, in both cases, he’s contrasting the contraceptive mentality  with obedience to Church teaching. He’s not using “contraceptive mentality” to mean “using NFP for less-than-dire reasons” or “using NFP selfishly.” That simply isn’t in the text. He’s not talking about NFP at all, or about people who are trying to follow Church teaching. He’s talking about people who are rejecting Church teaching with their behavior by literally using contraception. 

He’s saying, “When we reject the Church’s teaching on contraception, i.e., by using contraception, bad things happen. The family is weakened. Marriages break up. We start killing babies.” And so on. That’s how he used the phrase that he invented.

The phrase “contraceptive mentality” also turns up in one more document, also in 1995, in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality from the Pontifical Council on the Family. It’s in a passage warning parents to make sure that nobody teaches your kids to fear and despise virginity and babies, and it uses the phrase: “the contraceptive mentality, that is, the ‘anti-life’ mentality” 

So that’s what the phrase means: it means the mentality which teaches you to use contraception, which also teaches you to be promiscuous, to not value love, marriage, family, and fidelity, and to have abortions. It means rejecting Church teaching and being anti-life. It’s not about your NFP attitude, it’s about literal contraception and the bad things that go along with literal contraception.

Is it possible to use NFP contraceptively?

When the phrase was coined, it wasn’t intended to mean “doing NFP wrong.”

But does that really matter? It’s a pretty good phrase. Can we stretch it a bit past what JPII originally meant, and still make a valuable point? Is it possible to do NFP wrong? And is that a big problem in the Church? Is it really true that a majority of couples who use NFP are doing it wrongly and are probably committing a mortal sin because they don’t really have good reasons to space or avoid pregnancy?

First of all, let’s look at some numbers. According to various studies, anywhere from 2 to (maybe, maybe) 20% of Catholic couples do what the Church asks them to do, and reject contraception to avoid pregnancy. There’s a lot of dispute about the numbers, but they are all low numbers. So even if most of these couple are using NFP selfishly or for trivial reasons, that’s still an extremely small number of people, and not a widespread problem. A widespread problem is when fully half of American Catholics don’t know what the Eucharist is.) So you’d have to live in a bit of a bubble to think there’s massive numbers of people using NFP for less than saintly reasons. 

But I mention numbers just to get it out of the way. A serious sin is a serious sin, and even if only a few people are doing it, it’s worth addressing, because nobody wants to fall into serious sin.

First, let’s look at the idea that it’s possible to use NFP as contraception. If two couples want to avoid a pregnancy, and one uses NFP and the other uses contraception, what does it really matter? Their goal is the same, right? They both are trying not to have a baby.

In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI directly answered the claim that contraception and NFP can be the same when they have the same intention of avoiding conception. He said:

The Church is coherent with herself when she considers recourse to the infecund periods to be licit, while at the same time condemning, as being always illicit, the use of means directly contrary to fecundation, even if such use is inspired by reasons which may appear honest and serious.

In other words: no, the Church is not illogical for saying that there’s an important difference between using NFP and using contraception, even if you think you have a good reason to use contraception. He says:

In reality, there are essential differences between the two cases; in the former, the married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the latter, they impede the development of natural processes. It is true that, in the one and the other case, the married couple are concordant in the positive will of avoiding children for plausible reasons, seeking the certainty that offspring will not arrive; but it is also true that only in the former case are they able to renounce the use of marriage in the fecund periods when, for just motives, procreation is not desirable, while making use of it during infecund periods to manifest their affection and to safeguard their mutual fidelity. By so doing, they give proof of a truly and integrally honest love.

What he’s saying is that it matters why we do something, but it also matters how we do it. Doing it the right way matters.  Our intentions are important, but so are our actual bodies, and what we do with them. What we do with our bodies, what happens when we have sex, has significance. Contraception messes up that significance.

Let’s put it in different terms. Let’s say you want to lose weight. You could either start eating different foods, eating less food, assessing your habits, and spending time figuring out why you eat in a way that causes weight gain, and fixing that, and therefore losing weight . . . or you could have your esophagus fitted with a rubber bag, so that you eat whatever you want, as much as you want, and then when you’re full, you can just drag the bag out and throw away the food. Same result: you lose weight.

Are they the same thing?

It’s pretty easy to see that they are not. Being healthier, exercising self-control, taking a closer look at the rest of your life – these are the right way to lose weight. Doing the rubber bag thing is gross and weird and dangerous, and it shows that you don’t really understand what eating is for. The same is true for NFP and contraception: your goal may be the same, but how you get there matters a lot.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say you have a very old grandmother who needs some help. You could move across the country and take wonderful care of her because she’s your grandmother and you love her, and when she dies peacefully in her sleep, you get all her money, which makes you very happy.

OR, you move across the country and take wonderful care of her to lull her into trusting you, and as soon as she tells you where she keeps her will, you put your name on it and then smother her with a pillow. And you get all her money, which makes you very happy.

Same result, right? Grandma’s dead, you’re rich. But the way you got there matters a lot.  The end result is the same, but how you get there matters a lot.

 The same is true for NFP and contraception: you can have the same goal of not having children, but how you achieve that goal matters a lot.

Okay, but don’t our motives matter, too?  It’s all very well to say that NFP is licit because Humanae Vitae says so, but isn’t it possible to have bad intentions or trivial motives, and wouldn’t that be a bad thing?  Can’t we have such bad intentions that NFP really is a kind of contraception?

Going back to the example of losing weight: say I lose weight in the right, acceptable way – diet, self-control, assessment of habits, leafy greens – but I’m doing it because I want to fit into a slinky dress and make my fat sister feel bad about herself at the next family reunion.

Horrible motive for losing weight. I’m doing something bad. But I’m still not doing the same bad thing as putting a rubber bag down my throat. It’s a different kind of bad thing. So most of us can recognize that, while your motive is important, and may say a lot about where you are spiritually, your actual behavior is also significant.

Your intentions matter, but so does your actual behavior. It would be a bad thing to use NFP with selfish or petty motivations. On this we can agree. But it’s not the same bad thing as using artificial contraception. Even if your motives are not very good, still, the thing that you’re doing is entirely different in nature from the alternative. You may possibly be committing a sin, but it’s not the sin of contraception, and shouldn’t be called contraception.  Contraception, as Pius XII said, is “a perversion of the act itself,” and NFP cannot be a perversion of any act. 

I’ll get back to your rich old grandma later.

***

This is part one of a two-part essay. Next time, we’ll slip into a slinky dress and examine the idea that many couples using NFP don’t have sufficiently grave reasons for avoiding or postponing pregnancy.

Image via Pixnio

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31 thoughts on “The contraceptive mentality is real, but it’s probably not what you think”

  1. One of the hardest things about this is that the Church is so very VAGUE about what constitutes a licit reason to avoid having more children via NFP. Of course, medical reasons (such as a friend whose life would be put at risk from another pregnancy) are obvious. But what are the other reasons? I know that Mother Church is slow to put out an exhaustive list of such things, and understandably so. But my husband and I have gotten conflicting answers about our situation. One priest says that we have good reason to limit our family size (we already have 4 kids). Another said we need to trust in God more. But my husband is will be 58 years old next month, and I am much younger and still fertile. We have both believed that since he works and I homeschool our children, we are prudent to limit our children as he is going to reach a point when he simply cannot support our family any longer. Imagine being 70 and having a 10 year old!!! I guess if you want to get really biblical, you could look at Abraham. At what point is it prudence or lack of trust???

    1. Would it help you to think of discernment as something that also involves trust? You ask God to show you His will, to give you the desire for whatever He wants, to give you peace in following Him, etc, and you have to trust that He will answer those prayers. Not that you have to make a decision once and for all, but when you do make whatever decision for how long, believing that God guided you in that decision is also a matter of trust, and endless anxiety about the decision can be a failure to trust. I offer this not to heap up scruples, but to point out a way it’s not a question of trust vs TTA — there’s always trust on both sides. I hope it’s useful.

  2. Simcha, I love your weight loss analogy (& have used it myself), as well as your “caring for grandma” analogy.

    It’s good to distinguish btwn the sins of contraception and selfish use of NFP. I still think “contraceptive mentality” is a good summary term for the latter. Thanks for a good essay!

    1. This month I had discussion about it with my friends and I almost convinced them that using NFP to avoid pregnancy is a contraception.
      My brother was against it and showed me your article.
      God bless you!

  3. To Suburbanbanshee:

    Re: “Divorce isn’t a sin. Remarriage after divorce is the sin.”

    Just FYI, I believe that generally divorce is a sin in itself (unless you are an innocent party whose spouse divorced you, or you needed to legally separate because of abuse, financial protection, or other serious reasons). Here’s CCC 2384: “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign…”

    For more info, see CCC #2382 -2386, 2400, and other paragraphs. As you mentioned, “remarriage” and the ensuing adultery greatly compound the sin. Hope this is helpful. God bless!

  4. Oh, and I find it annoying that people should be hassled (online or offline) to give a reason for their married sex lives, to people who are not the priests hearing their confessions, or their doctors, or their psychologists.* If people aren’t breaking the laws of the Church, the whole thing falls under their Christian freedom and their domestic church. Not mine.

    Some things are not “loopholes.” They are loose guidelines designed for adults in changing situations. Canon law is designed to be loose and generous. Incredibly loose. Because if people need it, they need it, and if they don’t and use it anyway, it’s no harm or foul.

    * Or possibly a consulting theologian, if there is such a thing. I guess that would be Catholic Answers’ help line.

    1. I tend to agree with your assessment. No one size fits all clean-cut situation. There are two camps of opinion even amongst our clergy- one that is traditionalist and black and white. The other tends to view the situation according to its particular details. I tend towards the second. I find the first lazy. But that’s just my two-cents.

  5. Given that it used to be a discipline of the Church (and still is, in the East) for married couples not to have sex on Saturday night before Sunday Mass, and on all fast-days (that would usually have included Advent and Lent, the 12 Ember Days, as well as all Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and sometimes all Mondays too, as well as the day or night before you intended to receive Communion at any Mass), it’s a bit silly to worry that people are using NFP to abstain too much, out of a contraceptive mentality. (Although I have seen this stated.)

    So I conclude that people are in a snit because that couple over there is having sex too much without the wife getting pregnant (which is assuming a lot, considering all the sad barren couples out there), or because overenthusiastic advocates snooker people into thinking that you can’t get pregnant or fail to get pregnant unless it’s intentional. (As one of the posters above seems to have run into.)

    Life is uncertain in a fallen world, God wills some funny things, and none of us have Edenic human bodies that answer perfectly to our wills. Maybe if NFP was presented as an ascetic practice or a sort of physical novena, the medical bits would not override the chancy bits in people’s expectations?

  6. That the phrase “contraceptive mentality” is so frequently used with “Natural Family Planning” should not come as a surprise.
    Consider the source of the term “Natural Family Planning”. It was coined by an east coast office of Planned Parenthood in a memo advising their members to stop mocking Catholics at once. They explained that while this was far far far from ideal, this wasn’t Catholic Rhythm and the practitioners were not closed minded. Yes, that’s what PP thought of some post war Catholics and they didn’t want to alienate them.

    The Church had historically used the broader term “periodic continence.” Planned Parenthood obviously had a lot better marketing sense than our own moral theologians.

  7. Sorry, just to also add- the reason the Contraceptive Pill is so gravely sinful is that it has an abortificient element to it, where the women remains unaware if infact an egg was fertilised, but then spontaneously aborted due to the hostile environment which the Pill creates inside the woman’s reproductive system. NFP does not do this. This is why artificial Contraception is intrinsically evil- it is anti-life through and through. Couples who go to the effort of using NFP (and yes it is an effort to use it to avoid a pregnancy) do not have this anti-life mentality. They are trying to be real about the number of children they think they can look after. They also are extremely unlikely to abort if NFP results in a pregnancy. The likelihood of aborting following a positive pregnancy when using artificial contraception, is much much higher.

  8. I appreciate this column, and I think for many reasons, it’s important to understand these distinctions as one enters married life. But I will say that in my non-academic theologian life, the only time I ever hear the phrase “contraceptive mentality” is when a group of Catholics is gossiping about someone who doesn’t have enough kids in their estimation. I wish faithful Catholics would stop keeping score for holiness based on family size. There are many faithful Catholics practicing NFP or experiencing infertility who would love not to have to justify our small family immediately upon being introduced to someone after Mass. The assumptions made by other Catholics that we must be using contraception or that we couldn’t possibly have a reason that’s “that grave” is yet another cross to bear when we’re agonizing over charts or preparing for yet another surgery. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that, given that the Church leaves it to couples to prayerfully discern and practice responsible family planning, Catholics could stand to practice a little more MYOB along with their NFP.

  9. Just speaking from personal experience here, marriages can be destroyed by the subtle implication that NFP works just as well as contraception. My husband took that to mean that NFP was as good as contraception. When we were contemplating our second child, I was on amoxicillin for an ear infection. I charted a fertility spike earlier in my cycle and thought the extra signs were just induced by the medicine and not accompanied by any eggs. We got pregnant with our daughter during this time, 3 months earlier than “desired”. That, coupled with my post-partum depression, induced my husband to get a vasectomy. This was against my wishes, but as a stay at home mom (off work for 2+ years), what options did I really have in the marriage? It was the prospect of not being able to leave, coupled with his withholding of affection and marital relations for over a year that induced me to sign the papers (MI law- spouse has to sign). It destroyed the sacramentality of our union and now we are contemplating divorce, for many reasons, 7 years later.

    Personally, I think the marriage prep counseling has to do a better job of assessing whether the couple are united in their attitude towards children. Just using NFP is not enough. I am a healthy woman with regular cycles, so NFP was almost as effective as contraception for us. Part of me wonders if we had been on the same page with wanting a fully sacramental union, if our problems would have been less severe and we could have better worked through things as spouses. If my husband truly was open to life in his disposition, and if I had been able to effectively treat my post-partum depression sooner, we would likely not be in the situation we are in now.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Sarah. I can’t imagine how difficult things are for you at the moment. Sometimes things are not that clear cut. Sometimes we do things to keep the marriage working and I beleive in my whole heart that God truly understands. I believe the priority is the marriage especially where children are involved. There’s always this ideal scenario which we have to know as Catholics and then there is the messiness of reality. My 11 year old told me the other day that in religion class the teacher was teaching the class how divorce was a sin. And her friend next to her said to my daughter after the lesson that her father married her mother after he divorced his first wife. The girl added to my daughter that she felt like punching the religion teacher in the face when she was talking. Strong words for an 11 year old. My daughter was in two minds about how she felt about this. I told my daughter no one can walk in someone else’s shoes, but I guess it’s the religion teachers obligation to teach the “rules” of our Catholic Faith and she is doing her job. I guess NFP and the Contraceptive Mentality is another one of these “rules” which have clear boundaries but when the details of life get in the mix, it is not clear cut. Love the children you have and thank God for them. Everything else is just hearsay. It’s noones place to judge but Gods.

      1. Divorce isn’t a sin. Remarriage after divorce is the sin. (Or really really technically, sex in remarriage after divorce. But remarriage after divorce definitely creates scandal.)

        I agree that the religion class teacher should have been a little gentle about presenting the point, but he wasn’t wrong to present it. It’s always been an important difference between the Church and other religions and cultures, and we have Jesus as authority. If that kid somehow missed that Gospel at Mass every year, and at every Catholic wedding she ever attended, it’s good that she should know now.

        (There’s a Blessed from Argentina who fainted in religion class, when it suddenly dawned on her that her mom was living in sin and not even pretending to be married. Poor kid — her mom’s boyfriend/employer ended up beating her to death on the main street of her town. He came to a bad end and the mom survived, but sheesh.)

        1. Of course, the religion teacher probably knew bupkis about that girl’s family or any of the kids’ family. Living in a modern incurious parish atmosphere has its consequences. But any religion teacher today (or even forty or fifty years ago) should probably assume there’s at least one kid whose parent/s are divorced, and try to be both definite and tactful.

          1. The religion teacher is the elementary co-ordinator at the school. She is a good teacher and a good woman. The school teaches the Catholic Faith. The teacher knows about individual family circumstances and would know about this girls family. I don’t think the teacher did anything wrong. I think the girl took it to heart because she loves her mother and father and rightly so. I hilighted this particular situation to demonstrate the difference between what we follow according to our Catholic Faith (the ideal circumstances) as opposed to the reality in life. We are not failures if our circumstances don’t live up to what we would like according to our Faith. And we ALL have instances where things don’t turn out the way we planned for them to. We ALL do our best. We don’t judge others according to the suffering they are enduring in their life. It was a moment for me as a parent to teach my own daughter this valuable lesson.

  10. Okay, I see where you’re coming from, but I also know (and I mean know very well, immediate family or the very closest friends) couples where the idea that perfect NFP allows perfect planning, just like the rest of the world gets to do using contraception, caused very serious problems and nearly destroyed their marriages. Luckily, in the end, it didn’t in these cases (as far as I can see because they eventually had the kids they’d been avoiding, whether by accident or on purpose). Are you saying you know nobody like that? Are you saying it’s impossible?

    In the one case, the couple mutually decided to get married with the plan of definitively not getting pregnant for many 6-7 years because of grad school plans, – in the end, they never finished school, but only rather prolonged a very juvenile adolescence by about 8 years, when a slip-up finally forced them into adulthood. I have no doubt that if that hadn’t happened, they’d be divorced by now. In this case, both spouses were in agreement, but for bad reasons that brought out the very worst in both of them. E.g., they spent their time and money in the shallowest of pursuits, and would lash out in rage when 3 or 4-year-old nieces and nephews innocently asked if Auntie So-and-so would have a baby soon: perhaps that’s not what “contraceptive mentality” means in papal documents, but it seems like a fair description to me.

    In another case, the wife soon regretted her initial agreement that they couldn’t afford kids yet, but then she was in a bind. As she put it:”If I agreed before we couldn’t afford kids, what grounds do I have now to argue we do?” As things played out in her marriage, the burden of proof was on her to prove having kids was okay – which to me is a pretty good definition of what “contraceptive mentality” actually means. It was a huge strain on the marriage, and I couldn’t see any real psychological difference from the situation so common in our society where the wife would love a third kid but hubby says she’s not allowed to go off the pill because two is enough. Again, “contraceptive mentality” seems like an apt description.

    1. I think that Simcha is trying to point out that though there can certainly be selfish and wrong reasons for using NFP to avoid children (and in fact many times these situations are influenced by the contraceptive mentality prevalent in our culture that stems from actually using contraception and that sees children as a right, or a burden, or anything other than the natural end of the procreative act), but that this sin is ontologically different from contraception itself (and therefore much less serious). And in fact, at least in the first example you state, the couple overcomes their selfishness perhaps through NFP—because there is an opportunity for God to act within that marriage, and eventually a baby was born.

      Thank you, Simcha, for illuminating these tricky but important distinctions! I think it would profitable to point out why this is an important distinction, or why you’re drawing needed attention here—I’m thinking about why this ought to be clear in my own mind, so that I can help others better understand it. Much to ponder here.

    2. I think what you’re saying is valid.

      I think the point here was that it’s a different KIND of sin than using contraception, not that it isn’t sinful to approach things that way.

      Goodness knows, NFP doesn’t prevent men or women from acting like selfish asses sometimes. Not using NFP and ‘taking what comes’, using contraception, or eschewing sex entirely doesn’t prevent that either though. And one of those IS a sin just by using it, while the others aren’t. So you’re worse off morally speaking using contraception and being a selfish ass than not using contraception and being a selfish ass– though you’re still going to suffer from being an ass. I think that was the point she was trying to make.

      1. I think it is far more helpful to talk about the different forms of selfishness that cab crop up in marriage than it is to use a misleading label like “contraceptive mindset,” which implies that as long as you are “welcoming life,” you are good–“not like those sinners over there,” you know.

        The truth is of course that there are as many ways to be selfish in marriage as there are married people. It is a constant discernment.

        You can be selfish by imprudently indulging your sexual desires without consideration for the good of your spouse or of existing children or of any child that might result. Or you can be selfish by refusing to even discuss the possibility of more children when your spouse desires them. You can be selfish by putting all of the burden of family planning decisions on your spouse, so that they have to tell you “yes” or “no” all the time. You can be selfish by withholding yourself to punish or try to manipulate your spouse when you’re unhappy with them. Or you can be selfish by making sexual demands of your spouse when you know they feel unloved and used by you. You can be horribly selfish and abusive by coercing your spouse into sex through threats, force, or manipulation (psychological or religious).

        And that’s not even going into all the other ways marriage has of showing us our own propensities for selfishness.

        You can be selfish by hiding and controlling your marital finances without allowing your spouse full knowledge or say in how your assets are used. You can be selfish by putting too much responsibility on an overwhelmed spouse and abdicating your own responsibility to be a full helpmeet and partner. You can be selfish by retreating to the workplace when home is stressful. You can be selfish by demanding your spouse make you happy when you are stressed out. You can be selfish by giving too much of yourself to others and coming home to your family with nothing left to give. You can be selfish by being so protective and wrapped up in your family and marriage that you become insular and miss God’s call for you to practice hospitality or exercise your gifts elsewhere.

        Let’s stop setting one flavor of selfishness up as being especially bad. It doesn’t help us with our REAL task–which is not to judge others like the Pharisee, but rather to hear the call of conscience in our own lives.

  11. Thank you! I’ve seen a couple people blame NFP for the falling birth rate among Catholics, and then I laughed and laughed and laughed. I’m sorry to say, NFP use is hardly an epidemic.

    1. And if it were, it would hardly result in falling birth rates. I mean look at any NFP using family. After a year or two of making it work, almost no reason seems dire enough to continue that kind of discipline.

      1. I can assure you this is not the case. Discipline is better than death or wrecking your family. I have three living children, plus two in heaven, and suffer from severe pregnancy-related health issues that got progressively worse with age and every subsequent pregnancy. Now I have no choice other than discipline to try to avoid until my fertility ends…and I am not even forty yet!

      2. You are very fortunate to be in a position to say this. For many of us with mental and physical health problems, the serious reason(s) we have to practice NFP will never go away. We can’t take the discipline required by NFP lightly in the way your comment suggests.

      3. Even without particularly serious reasons, some husbands have no trouble with the discipline required. For a man, phase 2 is interchangeable with phases 1 and 3; he can just wait a week and it’s all the same to him. It’s just too bad that it actually makes a big difference to the wife’s experience what phase it is. Phase 2 is always automatically off the table, except for those 4 perfectly timed months that are now all several years in the past.

  12. This is the first time I have ever seen someone go back and explain where the phrase “contraceptive mentality” came from, and how it had nothing to do with the mindset of anyone using NFP.
    Looking forward to part II.

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