THE ENCOURAGEMENT
of
NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING
in
AMORIS LÆTITIA
(and other recent Magisterial Documents)
 

 


 

 



“Work of the Enemy!” said Gandalf.
“Such deeds he loves: friend at war with friend;
loyalty divided in confusion of hearts.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, ch. 7, “The Pyre of Denethor”
 

 

 


POPE Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has arguably evoked more – and louder – controversy than any papal teaching since Humanae Vitae.  Certainly the spectrum of discussion and critique of Amoris Laetitia among Catholics has been as broad-ranging and vituperative as anything in recent memory.  Defenders and critics alike have become increasingly strident and insistent on widely-differing interpretations of its more ambiguous chapters and footnotes.  Cynical and dismissive condemnations of opponents abound on all sides of the debate in the Catholic blogosphere. And as the great Catholic philologist and Oxford professor J.R.R. Tolkien observed in the quotation above from The Lord of the Rings, the enemies of the Church, and especially her archenemy, are doubtless delighted at such a spectacle of Catholic disunity.

MANY supporters of Natural Family Planning are less than enthusiastic about Amoris Laetitia.  They wonder whether it accurately represents traditional Catholic teaching concerning human sexuality, and they are concerned (rightly, as it turns out) that some theologians, priests and bishops may invoke it in defense of a permissive and duplicitous approach to moral questions concerning sexuality and fertility. But the misuse of Amoris Laetitia does not alter the fact that it is an officially-promulgated document of the Catholic teaching magisterium.  Specifically it is an apostolic constitution, a papal document in which the Holy Father summarizes and applies the results of a synod, in this case two Synods on the Family that met in 2014 and 2015.  It is a magisterial text that is here to stay; and instead of engaging in acrimonious debate, a more productive approach would be to learn how to constructively use Amoris Laetitia in defense of natural family planning.


1.HISTORICAL_CONTEXT

 

 

 

 

§ 1. THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
of NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING
in
AMORIS LÆTITIA

 

 

 

 

 



 

  1.1. REDISCOVERY of Humanæ Vitæ and Familiaris Consortio
 

 


POPE Francis has warmly recommended both natural family planning and the earlier magisterial documents that promote this practice.  The opening sentences of Amoris Laetitia §222 encourage the ongoing development of a culture of life based on a rediscovery of the insights of  [Pope Paul VI’s 1968 Encyclical] Humanae Vitae and of Pope John Paul II’s [1981] Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio:

The pastoral care of newly married couples must also involve encouraging them to be generous in bestowing life. “In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner. In this sense, the teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (cf. 1014) and the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (cf. 14; 2835) ought to be taken up anew, in order to counter a mentality that is often hostile to life...

BOTH Natural Family Planning and the insights of Humanae Vitae are warmly recommended at the end of the same chapter (§222):

Moreover, “the use of methods based on the ‘laws of nature and the incidence of fertility’ (Humanae Vitae, 11) are to be promoted, since ‘these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favour the education of an authentic freedom’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2370 [2368]).

 


1.2.HIST_of_NFP

1.2. Humanæ Vitæ and THE HISTORY of NFP
(or Why the Ignorance and Opposition?)
 

 


DETAILED HISTORY



 

  1. CALENDAR RHYTHM

 


Early 1930’s Ogino, in Japan and Hermann Knauss in Austria develop the (sometimes ineffective) calendar rhythm method of birth control, based on the finding that that ovulation precedes menstruation by a consistent period of 12-16 days.

 


 

  2. BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE Charting

 


1940’s -1960’s: BBT charts collected and analyzed by researchers including: R. Vollman in the United States, G.K. Doring in Germany, B.Vincent in France, John Marshall in Britain and a team from the World Health Organization. Various methods of analysis and interpretation were elaborated: some very sophisticated, often often requiring complex mathematics and complete charts.

1960’s Present: A simpler form is developed by John Marshall and the World Health Organization, which was widely taught and practiced: the “coverline method” and “three over six” method: a trained couple simply had to observe three temperatures higher than the previous six to identify when ovulation occurred. Often referred to as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

 


 

  3. CONTRACEPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

 


a) 1958, US physician Lazar Margulies develops the “Margulies Coil” Intrauterine Device; in 1964 Jack Lippes’ ostensibly safer “Lippes Loop” became available.

b) 1960, the FDA approved distribution of the Enovid the first (estrogen-progesterone combination) contraceptive pill, manufactured by G.D. Searle and Company

 


 

  4. HUMANAE VITAE PROMULGATED 1968

 


 


 

  5. OVULATION METHOD (Cervical Mucus Symptom Charting, Billings Method)

 


In the 1950's Dr. John Billings of Melbourne, Australia began to investigate alternatives to Calendar Rhythm and the Basal Body Temperature method. both of which were often difficult to apply when the woman's cycles were long and irregular. From 1962 to 1964 Dr. Billings worked with Dr. James Brown, in studying and demonstrating the reliability of  women's observations of their cervical mucus pattern in identifying fertility. In 1964 his wife, Lynn Billings, began to teach the Ovulation Method. which became more widely known and practiced in the 1970s

Further research, particularly by Dr. Tom Hilgers at Creighton, has resulted in the development of the Creighton Method and the NaproTechnology approach to Natural Family Panning.

 


 

  6.  CURRENT APPROACHES

 


AT the present time efforts are being made on various fronts to promote and encourage the practice of Natural Family Planning internationally and in a new social context.

An article in the English newspaper The Guardian reported on July 24, 2018, that “Women are turning to birth control smartphone apps for a reason”:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/24/women-birth-control-smartphone-apps-contraception-technology

The chief reason being a desire to abandon hormones and inflammation-inducing devices in favor of natural methods of fertility-awareness.

 


 


AMONG modern secular attempts to appropriate NFP models and methods is the extremely popular (app-based) “NATURAL CYCLES” approach.  It is a technologized, popularized, [unacknowledged] adaptation of the Basal Body Temperature Method: (reviewed in Vogue Magazine, June 27, 2017).

In brief, A husband and wife team of physicists became fascinated with the mathematics involved in the changes in temperature associated with the cycle of fertility in women.

“We were working at Cern, looking for the Higgs boson. We applied the same statistical methods to my wife’s ovulation”.

In 2014 they devised their own computer algorithms and marketed an app directly attached to a hand-held basal body temperature thermometer.  In 2017, it was approved for use across the EU, receiving specific approval from the German inspection and certification organization, Tüv Süd. As of July 2018 their subscription service (they store the data for users) had around 800,000 users.

 


 


MORE compatible with Catholic teaching, and employing both contemporary technology and modern techniques of teachings is the FERTILITY FRIEND website, where online teaching videos and as well as computer apps and other downloadable products are available either free of charge or at minimal cost:

http://www.fertilityfriend.com/


 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2.NATURE_SELF-MASTERY

 

 

 

 

2. NATURE / NATURALNESS:  SELF-MASTERY
AND
THE RESTORATION of RELATIONSHIPS
    (with
GOD, SELF, and THE ENVIRONMENT)

 

 

 

 

 


FROM AMORIS LÆTITIA:

TYRANIZING of NATURE - THE RESULT of SIN §26

SELF-MASTERY - A NEW FORM of SPONTANEITY §151

 

 

 

 

 

 


ACCOMPANIMENT

 

 

 

 

3. ACCOMPANIMENT
Teachers Who Accompany Clients
Pastoral Accompaniment of NFP Teachers

 

 

 

 

 


FROM AMORIS LÆTITIA:

 

SPIRITUAL ACCOMPANIMENT for COUPLES FORMING CONSCIENCES with regard to NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING §222

PASTORS ACCOMPANY COUPLES: e.g. Divorced and Remarried in Penitential Path  §300

ACCOMPANIMENT in the FIRST YEARS of MARRIED LIFE  §217

EXPERIENCED OLDER COUPLES  Accompany Newlyweds §230; care needs to be missionary - going out to them

 

 

 

 

 

 


4.GRADUALNESS

 

 

 

 

4. THE PRINCIPLE of GRADUALNESS
(and Always Proposing the Ideal)

 

 

 

 

 


FROM AMORIS LÆTITIA:

THE LAW of GRADUALNESS §295

MERCY INCLUDES ALWAYS PROPOSING THE IDEAL §307

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


§ 2. THE IMPORTANCE of FORMAL INSTRUCTION (A TEACHER and CLASSES) in NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING
 

 

 

Not infrequently couples new to the practice of natural family planning report to their parish priest that a given method “doesn’t work for them.”  In most cases this is based on their attempts to research and practice methods without any formal instruction.  Often they have only partially understood descriptions of natural family planning in books or in articles on the internet.  Research has demonstrated the importance of taking classes where participants are free to ask questions and raise concerns; and where, most important of all, they develop an ongoing relationship with a qualified and experienced teacher.

     A recurrent theme in Amoris Laetitia, and a constant emphasis throughout Pope Francis’ papacy is the practice of “accompaniment”.  No one should have to wander through life alone, in isolation from others.  Just as Christ the Good Shepherd is present to us throughout our lives, so all Christians are called to “accompany” those in any kind of need: that is, to walk with, assist, and empathize with their fellow human beings.  Amoris Laetitia §216-243 emphasizes the importance of spiritual and emotional accompaniment during all the stages of married life and specifically recommends (§230) that more experienced married couples make themselves available to advise and encourage younger couples.  In the context of natural family planning this should take the form of an experienced teacher who “accompanies” newly-married couples in their journey of discovering to the possibility of a natural and holistic approach to intimacy and fertility.

 

3. The Principle of gradualness

Anyone who has “accompanied” couples who are in the first stages of learning natural family planning knows the importance of patience and perseverance.  More specifically, both teaches and learners must appreciate the moral courage required to turn away from the pervasive contraceptive mindset of our culture toqards an approach that respects the physical, psychological, and spiritual integrity of both the human person and the marital relationship.  It takes time, sometimes a great deal of time, for couples to trust that the method they are learning is scientifically based and reliable, and that they can rely on the physical signs and symptoms they learn to interpret.  Recently Catholic moral theology has articulated the “principle of gradualness” described in Amoris Laetitia §295:

[…] Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth”.323 This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life”.

The principle or law of gradualness is an encouragement to practice the virtues of patience and perseverance.  Couples not infrequently stumble and revert temporarily to contraceptive practices that the prevailing culture and their previous experience persuaded them to trust and prefer.  It takes time, encouragement, and “accompaniment” by a qualified teacher for newcomers to the practice of natural family practice to fully embrace its life-giving potential.

 

Conclusion

 

The average Catholic couple seeking information on Natural Family Planning will probably not be overly concerned with Catholic “culture wars” or the controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia.  Instead what they will certainly need are reassurance that what they are undertaking has the complete support and encouragement of the Church, as well as competent instruction and compassionate, patient accompaniment by their teachers and pastors.  For those who care to look for them, encouragement in all these matters may be found in the pages of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

 


This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2003....x....   “”.