7QTF: Reasons Why We Should All Be Aware of NFP

7_quick_takes_sm1Join Jen and the others for more!

Yes, even us singles! It’s NFP Awareness Week.


The foundational principles of NFP—chastity, communication, dignity of the human person, and much more!—are foundational principles of every aspect of our faith. They are what we are called to evangelize. Yesterday’s post is my bit of evangelization, and I need you help to not be preaching to the choir so much.


You will be called upon to be an apologist for the faith, no matter your state of life. Men and women, single or not, need to know a little about NFP and why Catholics have it, because you just KNOW someone who has not been privileged with good catechesis will hear something stupid on the news and demand, accusingly, of you, an explanation or justification (or sometimes even an apology!), as if you were recently appointed a Cardinal’s spokesperson, and that these sex issues are somehow entirely why you are Catholic. We really need to do a better job connecting the Eucharist, Trinity, and Church better to individual human dignity, and how NFP is an expression of that. Too often, secular people just only want to see the trees, not the forest, and preferably in 140 characters or less.


Levels of Catholic belief and practice between boyfriend and girlfriend are increasingly more and more likely to be different, especially the more likely one is to be virtually anywhere that is not Ave Maria, FL or Franciscan at Steubenville, and want to be married. If you are a woman, you may have to explain NFP to a future fiancée, or failing that bit of good advance notice, actual fiancée when he gets alarmed during the Pre-Cana presentation. If you are a man, you will be less surprised and maybe more on board come your beloved’s “Honey, by the way, there will be no artificial birth control in a marriage to me.” Men will also get to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. So if they’re 26 and horrified, they’ll know if they need to take time to pray about it and make some choices based on what they truly believe. To a lesser extent, the latter also applies to the more liberal women who find themselves with a die-hard Catholic boy.


The principles of NFP communicate (if done well by the mouthpiece) how the Church is not actually horrible and desirous of women to be barefoot and pregnant or dead from having too many babies or completely barren because IVF isn’t okay. It is a loving option for couples who both want to achieve or postpone pregnancy.


The science of NFP communicates how the Church fosters the growth of intelligence, discovery, and medicine. I once heard on a podcast about birth control “You can get pregnant at any point in your cycle” full-stop, terrorizing women into believing ovulation either happens willy-nilly month-to-month, or every.single.day. like we’re a guy or something… What the Church knows from actual doctors with MDs is that what that really means is it is possible to ovulate once at any point in your cycle…so why not get informed about yourself? Can you imagine what women’s reproductive health care could be like if doctors didn’t resort to the Pill because it was “easier” and more importantly, cheaper? Though Ireland had outlawed abortions, that country has the best maternity care around precisely because they knew that if they couldn’t kill the child, they had to solve the actual problem related or not to the pregnancy. I worry about what their recent vote means for women who want to have their children, but doctors will begin to push for an abortion as a solution because it’s “easier” or cheaper.


NFP is a message of hope to give to the world. It can give hope to your own family by promoting virtue in your husband and yourself. It can give hope to your children, who one day may choose this practice over a worse option for their own families. It gives a message of hope to friends who confide in you their troubles in this area and need a better solution than what they’re working with now. And yes, it gives a message to hope to the world, because if everyone came to see what NFP teaches couples—that we are human beings with souls worth protecting, that there is a respect for sex and its procreative potential, that we should be sacrificial for the good of another, and not selfish—then I think we’d be a lot happier world that treats each other with dignity.


And simply, because Jesus calls us to be witnesses, even if people hate us because of it. We want to make Jesus and God happy, right?

NFP isn’t popular. It’s not pretty (mucus!). It’s certainly not easy. But it is an aspect of our faith that has flowed from teachings that came from Our Father and His Son, and we owe it to ourselves, our families and friends, and even the world to not just know it, but eventually own it.


Thoughtful Thursday: Why I Believe What I Believe: NFP and Humanae Vitae

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, an encyclical from which all our beautiful teaching on fertility and life issues flows. We’re also in the midst of NFP Awareness Week. There are many posts about this issue, so here is mine, which I think takes a very different approach.

Ladies, I am not brave enough to post this on my own Facebook, but please, please, post on yours, especially those of you whom have lots of young, secular friends. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to start sharing this aloud, person by person.

All too often the voices of women who support the creation and sustenance of new life and wish others would see the same beauty in it get drowned out or go unheard. We are told to go out and spread the Good News, but I am sorry to say we do not do so very well. We get snarky, defensive, screechy, preachy, or entirely religious or philosophical and impractical. Our intentions are good: we want others to discover hope. But sometimes our tone means we treat them as if they are hopeless: jumping to conclusions, proclaiming judgment, or outright doling condemnation.

I believe people need to hear “I believe” statements. Not the Church says, this document says, this study from 5 years ago says, this 67-year-old white man says…. I believe people need to hear positive-only messages. Not what’s negative about a product, behavior, or motivation. So here is me, speaking up, positively:

I believe that fertility is a gift. And what’s more–I like it.

After a childhood marked by pituitary issues and an early adulthood punctuated by digestive issues, I like that at least this particular system of my body is functioning correctly. I like that instead of deliberately overhauling it with a substance that has side effects, I can work with it to achieve a desired outcome (pregnancy or not).

I like that by working with it, my husband and I must engage in dialogue about our future  and force the question: which is more important: a few-second rush of endorphins this particular week, or avoiding a baby. I like that it forces my husband and I to see each other as potential co-creators and not just as bodies of hormones and sources of orgasm.

I like that I have been born with a whole set of organs whose sole purpose is to support the creation and nurturing of a new human being. It’s kind of funny to think about, isn’t it, that as individuals, we do not need our reproductive systems to continue living, but yet we still have them. Why? I believe it’s because there is some grander design at work that intends to compel people to continue making more people, not fewer. I like that I belong to the one gender that supports the development of an entirely new human person who will mature and be in this world, hopefully after I am not.

I believe in the concept of a soul, that there is some part of me and you and children that distinguishes us from animals. I believe the soul is so integral to the person, that the soul is there from the moment the person starts, which I believe is when sperm meets egg, and that suddenly these two tiny facets of two individuals become one tiny being entirely distinct from the two. I like that in good health, the new little being is automatically human and could never be anything else—not canine, feline, lupine. I like that within weeks, entirely new biological systems are developing or finally developed. I like the fact that there’s a heartbeat in a uterus that is not the mother’s.

I believe that all of the above is so special it deserves respect. I believe society should change to accommodate the growth of itself, not change biological processes to accommodate society. I believe there are no hierarchy of rights when it comes to two individual human beings. I believe every life is worth living, however short or long or easy or complicated. I like what it says when we don’t end life in-utero because of a disease or condition—that “No mater what, we value your presence in this world and are worth being born, worth figuring out how to ease your pain or heal your body. We see you as worth being a part our family, just as we saw your healthy siblings as belonging to our family when they were growing.”

I like belonging to a community that believes and likes all of the above. I like that it affirms a society that promotes and cultivates new human life. I believe it’s not so much a matter of political or legislative solutions, but one of hearts and minds. I believe that seeing fertility and fecundity as a gift is one that supercedes creed, party affiliation, or philosophy. It is simply a very human vision of the human person. I believe if we all stop shouting at you and each other, we can work together to make a world where such beliefs are liked by everyone.

Seven Quick Takes Friday – Mandates Women Can Actually Use


If we operate on the presumption that the government should provide assistance to its citizens (becauseit has a vested interest in their health and well being) and that the executive office can mandate anything it wants, then here are seven things that actually would help women (that we’re actually asking for):


 Free heart disease medication. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, not pregnancy. I bet they’d also have better peace of mind when going to work.


Paid maternity leave and post-natal job security for all workers (even part-timers). FMLA is not enough. If the government itself can’t mandate this (but apparently, IUDs…), then create tax breaks for companies to actually see the benefit in providing this option for all parents. If you really want your daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons – children and a job at the same time – then this just makes more sense then telling them to either delay or just give up on having children.


Firmer policies to encourage positive economic/market activity. You know what’s really a “pocketbook issue” – not entirely the health screenings covered by the insurance we’re all going to have – but the cost of gas/transportation, groceries, and housing.


Fatherhood Initiative support. Every child brought into this world has a father. But when those men leave or are not in condition to best raise a child, the mothers also suffer. While studies show (stable) married parents provide the best outcomes for children, just telling couples to say I do won’t help. A marriage certificate will not magically make a man with issues suddenly support his family. And marriage incentives will not help a woman find a quality husband/father when she’s too busy working three jobs and lives in a drugs-on-the-corner neighborhood. So how about supporting programs that instill in men the habits and virtues needed to raise the children they sired?


Better protections against criminal activity. One of the primary arguments in favor of reproductive inhibitors is to allow for care for victims of incest, rape, abuse, etc. However, if all a doctor does is help the woman prevent or end the pregnancy, but does not call for the cops to go out and arrest the perpetrator IMMEDIATELY, what good does it do for a woman to not end the incest, rape, abuse, etc? A strong leader would say: “You hurt a woman in this way? You don’t get to hide. You’re going to jail.”


Insurance coverage for NFP and NaProTechnology. If you’re going to cover artificial hormones and plastic, why not monitors and treatments that actually, treat gynecological problems instead of masking them.


Actually solving the pay equity issue. Did everyone listening to Tuesday’s debate fail to question how offering free contraception directly leads to companies paying women better than 72 cents to the dollar? Plus, if companies would still pay a man a higher salary even after he took time off to be a stay-at-home dad, then the issue isn’t really about parenting; it’s about gender discrimination. Further, contraception does nothing for childless or menopausal women who are still making less than their male peers in the same job. Perhaps the money the government would have paid for contraception could go directly to the woman to use at her discretion.

Regardless of where you stand on the government’s role in mandating things for society, the bottom line is that a true pro-woman government mandate would be for society to improve itself so that contraception and abortion are the rare exception, not the rule, for women.

Topical Tuesday – We Are Not “Julia”

The Life of Julia, according to President Barack Obama’s campaign

Last month, the campaign to re-elect President Obama released a slide-show documenting how the administration has, or purports to support women better than presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Users can view this every-woman “Julia” at every stage of her life and read little blurbs about the two main candidates’ positions on issues deemed critical to women. Clicking on the image will bring you to it, should you like to view it before the following analysis. Also of interest may be FactCheck.org’s breakdown of the veracity of the claims and assertions presented: http://factcheck.org/2012/05/the-life-of-julia-corrected/

Unfortunately, in trying to champion efforts to support women through health care, education, pregnancy, and retirement, this ad makes some grave presumptions about what women want and insult their intelligence and especially deny them dignity, as defined by the Catholic Church.

Presumption #1: Women do not want to get married. At no point is Julia shown with a husband or father of her son.

What That Seems to Mean: While the administration appears ready to back same-sex unions, it does not have any policies or programs to champion that further affirm or support marriage between a man and a woman and families headed by such (no additional tax breaks for joint-filers? No recommendations to eliminate loan penalties? No male version of WIC to encourage meaningful fatherhood?) And lest you think this is partisan, the other campaign’s ideas (if true), do not provide the helping hand that some women need and sadly, private charity cannot address in entirety*.

Presumption #2: Fertility is a distracting health problem. At age 27, Julia is happy to have contraception provided for free because otherwise, she’d be worried about it and not focusing on her job.

What that Seems to Mean: Apparently, remembering to put tampons on your grocery list is problematic to the point that you could not be adult enough to focus on her job. Okay, less sarcastically: The government is willing to pay for you to avoid getting pregnant, but it won’t think to give employers incentives to extend paid or even unpaid maternity leave and it won’t encourage creative solutions so that women who work can also mother. Additionally, it promotes birth control pills as the contraception of choice. What if women using fertility awareness methods wanted their classes, testing strips, and monitors subsidized? Does this slide (age 27) indicate that government-directed health care would? Would any effort to get the FDA to approve the Persona monitor (UK) for sale in the US be supported?

Presumption #3: You will want to work from graduation (also presumption) until retirement. At no point does Julia “opt-out” of a career life.

What that Seems to Mean: The government will incentivize and support only women who remain in the workforce. What if women become unemployed? What if they want to “stay at home” raising children, those young people who will inherit Earth and need to know how to live charitably and responsibly? Any incentives for that?

Presumption #4: You will thrive under a pro-choice administration. Julia presumably would vote for Barack Obama for these policies, also championed by Democrats, known for their pro-choice stance.

What that Seems to Mean: The government wants you to be pro THEIR choice. From which schools (public, and in the questionable Race to the Top program) to how to spend one’s career (only at a job) to health events (delay pregnancy, use an ill-defined, un-tested government facilitated insurance), the clear advantage is to women who follow this proscribed program.

Presumption #5: Your mothers and grandmothers, you yourself, and your daughters will always be supported by the government. Julia’s life spans from 3 to 67. 44 years of benefits backed by Barack Obama.

What that Seems to Mean: If you want this “dream” life with all these benefits, you’d better vote Democrat for the next 11 presidential terms and hope that the Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court are also aligned with these policies. In this current political climate, it can be hard enough to make it through the week, let alone envision a future five decades later. If we stick with the program now, what room does that leave for better solutions? For holistic approaches to larger social problems that make use of both personal and publicly provided support?

Proverbial Girlfriend will not take a political position, because as outlined above, neither side is entirely right nor entirely wrong. She acknowledges that there are fundamental and structural social problems that a single policy, law, tax cut, or philosophy cannot solve. She feels deeply for the men, women, and children who are trapped by circumstance and definitely need support from all who will grant it. Improving the lives of the least of our people will have trickle down AND up effects, which over time will improve society as a whole. Rather than sniping about opposing approaches that alone do not or will not work, every citizen should get creative and collaborate with their shared values (protection of the vulnerable, promotion of motherhood when desired – and the appropriate ways to achieve/delay it, and inclusion of men as equal partners in the public and private sphere.

*A Jesuit’s perspective on subsidiarity:  http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13455