NFP (Natural Family Planning) – the great fertility awareness tool that it is - allows us to successfully track biological information in order to know when to try to achieve pregnancy or postpone pregnancy. It essentially provides us with information that gives us “complete” autonomy over family planning matters. NFP frees us from having to rely or resort to man-made barriers or contraceptives that are environmental pollutants and personal/relationship robbers.
Since the use of NFP is always good – why do we still need to pay attention to the Church’s call for responsible parenthood? Simply put, NFP is mere knowledge, what we do with that knowledge still matters. Attitude is everything. As taught in the CCL class, couples may first begin to realize there is a difference in the way the world defines responsible parenthood vs. the way JP ll defined it.
The secular world essentially defines responsible parenthood as the balancing act that entertains both elements of vice and virtue: it is the act of “balancing personal ambition with parental/family guilt”. In other words, the secular world suggests that people will experience guilt over being childless or being absentee parents when they pursue lifestyles that put all their personal talents toward job-related functions. This effort is touted as the way to get ahead- the way; it yields maximum material benefits and personal reward. Simultaneously, the world acknowledges that adults who seek only “materialism” veer toward vice such as selfishness and self centeredness. So society urges adults to have children only to the extent that it mitigates any continued feelings of guilt for “selfishness” and “self centeredness” while allowing them to pursue personal ambitions that provide significant material abundance. These families are propped up as the model for society. Their achievements and family size are said to be the envy of many. But is there any Truth in this model?
My prayer group just finished a short Bible study of the First Corinthians; St. Paul wrote this letter to the new, faithful, Corinthians to urge them to abandon the ways of their secular world and to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh. His urging is just as important and relevant to us today – especially in these matters of sexuality and responsible parenting.
By the way, the Church also defines responsible parenting as a balancing act but one which strives to grow virtue while abandoning all vice. Responsible parenting is all about infusing blessings into and within the family; sometimes these blessings are additional children, always these blessings produce joyful coexistence. And always these blessings move us to grow in virtue and abandon vice. And that is why we must pay attention to whether or not we are practicing responsible parenthood even while using NFP. Responsible parenting is all about developing virtuous attitudes as well as actions; they go hand in hand. We grow in all Virtue in proportion to how we love God; quite naturally it follows that we grow in personal and spiritual virtue in proportion to how we love our spouse and our children.
Our family becomes either one joyful, happy circle of relationships that keep growing us and each other as well as growing our physical numbers; or family can become one that is a hopeless or unhappy and a circle of relationships that keeps its members from growing and loving each other (and God) more.
In truth, responsible parenting must first include a loving relationship with God; we must be open to receiving His enormous blessings before we can authentically love our family members and bring blessings into our family. When we learn to authentically love God first and then our spouse, we are fortified against the ways and opinions of the secular world which castigates couples for: having large families; for not pursuing material wealth; for not putting both mom and dad to work; for breastfeeding; for not aborting a baby with Special Needs, for having a baby when we are over 40, for …