In a post last year over on Καθολικός διάκονος, entitled Marriage and the Gift of Life: Some Diaconal Observations, to which I provided the link in my initial post on sexual morality, I wrote: "Natural Family Planning cannot be employed by couples as just another form of contraception. Properly speaking, NFP, when practiced with the correct intention, is not contraception. Moral acts have three components: the object chosen, either a true or apparent good; the intention of the subject who acts, that is, the purpose for which the subject performs the act; and the circumstances of the act, which include its consequences. If the intention behind using natural methods of family planning is the same as that behind the decision to use artificial contraception, the goodness of use NFP is forfeited. Of course, the object is also at issue as regards how couples seek to regulate the timing, number, and spacing of children." This is true and often gets overlooked when teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP). After all, pregnancy is not what happens when something goes wrong while having sex. That this attitude is the default setting of our society is just plain sad and reveals how divorced from reality we truly are.
The Christian attitude is an attitude of genuine love, of respect for one's self, for one's spouse, and for God, especially as regards the beautiful gift of sex, from which comes the even more wonderful gift of children about whom Pope Benedict spoke in his marvelous homily at Mariazell in September 2007: "The child Jesus naturally reminds us also of all the children in the world, in whom he wishes to come to us. Children who live in poverty; who are exploited as soldiers; who have never been able to experience the love of parents; sick and suffering children, but also those who are joyful and healthy. Europe has become child-poor: we want everything for ourselves, and place little trust in the future. Yet the earth will be deprived of a future only when the forces of the human heart and of reason illuminated by the heart are extinguished – when the face of God no longer shines upon the earth. Where God is, there is the future." Stated more directly: children are our future and without them there is no future. Here is where the contraceptive mindset, which is proving suicidal for entire countries and cultures, shows signs of original sin. The original sin is wanting to be god, wanting to be self-determining, to do what we want, to be selfish.
I have often heard and read various analogies that liken the use of NFP to some form of roulette, usually of the Russian variety. This "game", a favorite of the mentally unstable and chemically addicted, consists of placing a live round into one chamber of a revolving pistol, twirling the cylinder, waiting for it to stop, pointing the barrel at one's temple, and pulling the trigger. It bears reminding that to play Russian roulette is a nihilistic toying with death. It should go without saying that being open to life is the exact opposite of such insanity. The only analogy to death here is the paradoxical analogy, given us by the Lord himself: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 10,39). This dying to self and living for God by giving ourselves to others in imitation of Jesus Christ is a requirement of Christian discipleship. Marriage and family life, as the late, great Pope John Paul II often pointed out, is the most intense school of love imaginable.
All this puts me in mind of that wonderful song The Greatest Love of All:
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be"