Thursday, January 24, 2013
Whatever Happened to That NFP Series?
Okay, so I was supposed to be writing a series about NFP and it turned into a series of philosophical dialogues about homosexuality instead. Blame the Muses. I do, however, have a lot of things to say about NFP, and that's what I promised, so here goes.
There are seven common things that I hear about NFP from real people on the ground:
1. NFP is so beautiful because it really respects a woman's body and her natural fertility. I'm not married yet, but I'm really looking forward to practicing it. (Naive Family Daydreaming)
2. My spouse and I used/are using NFP to get pregnant, and it's great. (Natural Fertility Promotion)
3. We used NFP to space our ten beautiful children. (No Family Planning)
4. My husband and I used the Pill until we had both nearly reached the age of infertility, but I felt like I was being used and my body wasn't being respected. Now we're using NFP and we both really love it. Right dear? You love it. See, he loves it. (Natural Family Procrastination)
5. My spouse and I are using NFP...supplemented with, uh... (Natural Family Contraception)
6. NFP failed for me last time, but I talked to my instructor and we were able to figure out the minor, niggling mistake that I made in my charting, so the failure was really my fault. Now I'm learning a new method that I hope is going to work better. (Natural Unplanned Pregnancy)
7. My wife is making me use NFP. We never have sex anymore. At least not with each other... (Natural Family Porn Addiction)
NFP is used by approximately 1-2% of the Catholic population in North America. So far as I can tell young, fertile couples who are able to successfully use it to prevent pregnancy in situations of grave necessity are about as common as successfully “repaired” ex-gays. The problem is straight-forward: on the one hand, it would seem that there genuinely are circumstances which may arise where it is not reasonable or responsible for a couple to have another child, and on the other hand the only method of pregnancy avoidance which is permitted by the Church is not very effective when used in accord with the“natural law” as it's usually defined in Catholic discourse on sex.The efficacy of NFP can be massively increased if it is used in conjunction with “unnatural” acts. I suspect that's why it has had fairly high rates of success in tests by secular organizations like WHO who were primarily testing it with populations that have low access to contraception, but who don't necessarily have any moral problem with mutual masturbation or other...variants. (With regards to this, note the coy references in Billings' handbook.) Trials with religiously motivated North American populations have had high rates of failure, with one commonly cited cause being “complex personal reasons” -- which I think we can take as a euphemism meaning that the couples involved were not able to tolerate the amount of abstinence which the methods demand. The other commonly cited causes of failure (mistakes in charting, failure to chart reliably, uncertainty as to the meaning of the symptoms, etc.) are also only problematic if there is a lot of pressure to get it right. If you can simply say “You know what, I don't know what's going on. It's been a wonky month. We'll try again next month” that radically increases the likelihood that you're going to succeed. The problem is, people who are so indifferent to sex that they don't mind indefinite stretches of celibacy generally do not get married in the first place.
Anyways, that's a teaser. I'm going to resume my series of dialogues now, and I'll write more about this when that series is finished.