You no doubt already have this marked on your calendar, but next week is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, as designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops. This is the tenth year that the bishops have held what is essentially a national educational campaign about the church’s only acceptable form of birth control.
The week also marks the 44th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which officially established the church’s opposition to any method of contraception outside of natural family planning. A papal commission on the topic had previously recommended approving some forms of contraception, but Pope Paul VI opted for a strict prohibition.
I was struck by the Religion News Service story about the bishops’ campaign, which quoted a couple who practice natural family planning. The wife works for the committee at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that oversees marriage and family issues. (Given that 98% of sexually-active Catholic women say they have used birth control at some point, I imagine the pool of young Catholic women who use natural family planning and are willing to be quoted is rather small.)
The article says of the couple: “Married a little more than a year ago, Meola and her husband practice natural family planning and are open about their hopes that it will help them conceive.”
It’s unclear whether that means the couple is tracking the wife’s ovulation cycle in the hopes of conceiving a child, as do many couples looking to start or expand their families. Or if they’re just not using contraception and know that by so doing, the odds are pretty good that they’ll end up with a baby.
Either way, it’s telling that even proponents of natural family planning don’t promote it as a method of contraception.
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