There are times when couples may have serious, grave or just reasons for avoiding pregnancy, be it due to serious mental or physical illness or to space pregnancies so that the couple can physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare for another child. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II wrote that married couples are called to responsible parenthood. Couples need to work with God in deciding if they can properly raise a child and be able to teach their children values and virtues needed to build a humane society. The Church thus agreed that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an acceptable way to regulate fertility.
Nowadays, however, many couples turn to contraception quite often to control the size of their families. Contraception contradicts the very nature of the marital act. Contraception via the condom, hormonal pill, injection, patch or even withdrawal is unnatural and is a direct interruption of the generative process of the marital union, and every action that renders procreation impossible is “intrinsically evil” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2370.
It is immoral because it puts man in the role of God, who alone decides when a new human life comes into existence. Contraception contradicts the most intimate relationship between man and woman and therefore the plan of God and His will. It amounts to a partial self-giving, holding back one’s fertility, instead of the giving oneself completely as Real Love demands!
Many times women suffer from the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. Side effects include weight gain, lowered libido (sex-drive) and irritability. These are not pleasant for the woman and can be harmful to the couple’s relationship. Not as common, there are severe side effects such as blood clots and even deaths have occurred. Contraception can thus be harmful to the woman and to the couple’s relationship.
Mahatma Ghandi once said “Man has already degraded women by his lust, but contraception would still further degrade her”. And Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae wrote that the widespread use of contraception and sterilisation (tubal ligation and vasectomy) would:“Lead to marital infidelity and a general lowering of morality” and “The loss of respect for and objectification of women by men”.
These two predictions have both come true and have contributed to the skyrocketing of divorce rates and a change in the entire social atmosphere between men and women. No longer are we persons to be loved, but we have become objects to be used and replaced.
Using NFP and in particular the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM), couples never attempt to separate the two meanings of the marital act – the unitive and procreative aspects remain intact. Couples simply abstain during the fertile phase in order not to get pregnant for serious or just reasons. For the BOM to be successful it requires communication, cooperation and generosity. Couples communicate better when using NFP and have a better relationship. This definitely rubs off on the children and creates harmony in the home. This is evident in the low divorce rates couples who use NFP have, as low as 0.2% divorce rates have been reported.
One may argue that both contraception and NFP have the same end – to prevent a baby. That may be so, but the means are quite different. According to Christopher West, what is the difference between killing ‘grandma’ and just waiting for her to die? Clearly the first is immoral and the second is not. This is the same difference between contraception and NFP.
In the 1950’s the Catholic Church asked men of science to find effective, natural means to help couples live out responsible parenthood. We no longer have to put up with ineffective natural methods like the Rhythm or Counting method that had failed a number of couples. We have today several effective and reliable natural methods of regulating fertility. Drs John and Evelyn Billings with their team of scientists performed more than 850,000 hormonal assays to develop the BOM. In two major trials, the BOM was proven to be 99% effective in preventing a pregnancy when the method is used properly. There is still that 1% however that is left to God because sex by its very nature is procreative.
– A monthly column by the Billings Ovulation Method Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BOMA-TT)