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NFP is NOT the same as ABCBirth Control in the Catholic Church

N. F. Hutton
October 30, 2002, 04:06 PM

NFP is NOT the same as ABC
Editor:

There is a significant moral difference between the regulating of conception by periodic abstinence and by using contraceptives.

1) I admit that it is possible for couples to act immorally and with a contraceptive and indeed anti-baby intent by preventing conception through the misuse or abuse of natural family planning.

2) Their precise intent and choice can be to make the act they choose, sexual union, to be the sort of act closed or opposed to the transmisson of life. If they do so, they are acting in a contraceptive way, and they may indeed be erecting a "temporal" barrier between sperm and ovum.

3) If they act in this way they are not doing something that the Church approves. Rather they are doing what the Church condemns in its condemnation of contraception. For the Church teaches that "every action which ... in anticipation of the conjugal act ... proposes to render procreation impossible" is "excluded."

This seems to be about as far as we agree, however, based on your previous comments, where you too facilely have equated NFP with ABC.

Both NFP and ABC couples may well agree in their purpose or further intention, for both may be seeking, for legitimate reasons, to avoid a pregnancy here and now. But the human acts they freely choose to do to realize this purpose or further intention are quite different, and different too are their present intentions. Those who contracept, whether for selfish or unselfish motives or purposes, are after all contracepting. They are choosing both to have sexual relations here and now, i.e., to engage in the sort of act they know to be open to the transmission of human life, and to make this act to be closed to the transmission of human life. This is their present intent, the proposal they freely adopt by choice. And their act is contra-ceptive or anti-procreative precisely because of this present intention.

Those, on the other hand, who seek to meet parental obligations by practicing periodic abstinence choose to do different sorts of acts, and their present intentions are different.

1) They choose to abstain from the marital act when to engage in it might lead irresponsibly to conception or would require them, by using contraceptives, to set aside its procreative meaning.

2) They refuse to make the marital act opposed to the transmission of human life by contracepting. In short, their present intent here is to abstain, and not to contracept.

3) They then choose the marital act when the wife is not fertile because they intend or propose to participate in the unitive good of genital sexuality and of marriage; they intend presently to express marital love by the marital act. This present intent is not contraceptive. Such a married couple is being non-procreative in their behavior, but they are not being anti- or contra-procreative.

THEREORE, the moral difference between contraception, whether "natural" or "artificial," and the practice of periodic abstinence as means of exercising responsible parenthood consists in a) the reality that different sorts of human acts are being done, b) different present intents are operative, and c) different proposals are being freely adopted by choice.

What this shows us, too, is that the teaching of the Church, far from being physicalistic, is concerned with the nature of human choices and actions and their moral determinants. The Church does not condemn contraception because of the "physical structure" of the action but because of the intentions that are required on the part of those who contracept, namely, the intentions to set aside, get rid of, damage, or impede the procreative meaning of the marital act.
Editor
Member
October 30, 2002, 07:01 PM
N. F., thanks for taking the time to so clearly express your points on this and the other thread you started. As the two are so closely related, perhaps the discussion will eventually end up happening on one or the other.

James has done a good job replying to some of the points you've made on this thread and the other. In case the two get separated too much, I'm referring to this one and his post is the second on the thread.

I'll reply to a few of your points, here.

1) I admit that it is possible for couples to act immorally and with a contraceptive and indeed anti-baby intent by preventing conception through the misuse or abuse of natural family planning.

What you seem to be admitting, then, is that NFP is immoral, for unless it's used "in reverse," then what else BUT a contraceptive (i.e. conception-avoiding) intent motivates the practice?

2) Their precise intent and choice can be to make the act they choose, sexual union, to be the sort of act closed or opposed to the transmisson of life. If they do so, they are acting in a contraceptive way, and they may indeed be erecting a "temporal" barrier between sperm and ovum.

Yep!

3) If they act in this way they are not doing something that the Church approves. Rather they are doing what the Church condemns in its condemnation of contraception. For the Church teaches that "every action which ... in anticipation of the conjugal act ... proposes to render procreation impossible" is "excluded."

Correct!

This seems to be about as far as we agree, however, based on your previous comments, where you too facilely have equated NFP with ABC.


Facilely? Seems you've also just nailed the heart of the matter.

Those, on the other hand, who seek to meet parental obligations by practicing periodic abstinence choose to do different sorts of acts, and their present intentions are different.


The sexual acts that they actually do choose to use are non-procreative, however. And that's the point!

2) They refuse to make the marital act opposed to the transmission of human life by contracepting. In short, their present intent here is to abstain, and not to contracept.


Any act chosen as an alternative to sex in order to prevent conception is a contraceptive act. Ask yourself if they would abstain from sex if they thought there would be no probability of conception and you'll see that there are times when abstinence is a contraceptive practice.

3) They then choose the marital act when the wife is not fertile because they intend or propose to participate in the unitive good of genital sexuality and of marriage; they intend presently to express marital love by the marital act. This present intent is not contraceptive. Such a married couple is being non-procreative in their behavior, but they are not being anti- or contra-procreative.

So you are speaking primarily of intent, here. Why not say that ABC users "intend or propose to participate in the unitive good of genital sexuality and of marriage; they itend presently to express marital love by the marital act." Whether or not that intent is contraceptive is beside the point, but it cannot be denied that in either case, they choose to act on this intent when they are reasonably sure there will be no conception.

THEREORE, the moral difference between contraception, whether "natural" or "artificial," and the practice of periodic abstinence as means of exercising responsible parenthood consists in a) the reality that different sorts of human acts are being done, b) different present intents are operative, and c) different proposals are being freely adopted by choice.

I don't think you've successfully distinguished between ABC and NFP, and have replied to the points which lead you to your conclusions, which I don't accept, of course.

What this shows us, too, is that the teaching of the Church, far from being physicalistic, is concerned with the nature of human choices and actions and their moral determinants.

Actually, the present teaching IS concerned with the objective structure of the act, and it is also attentive to choices, relationships, etc. It's this linking one to the other that's the problem--kind of like that bubble in the water bed.

The Church does not condemn contraception because of the "physical structure" of the action but because of the intentions that are required on the part of those who contracept, namely, the intentions to set aside, get rid of, damage, or impede the procreative meaning of the marital act.

You're being disingenius if you say that the Church makes no reference to the physical structure of the act in its teachings. If you're not careful, JSM, our favorite local champion of this very issue, will get on your case for turning this whole thing into an issue of intentions. Then you two can argue and I'll get a break! wink

Thanks again for your post.