Saturday, July 27, 2013

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week 2013

Given all the emphasis put on resisting the unjust HHS mandate, such as the Fortnight for Freedom, one would think the USCCB's annual observance of Natural Family Awareness Week would merit more emphasis. But I doubt that many Catholics in the U.S. even know that this week, 21-27 July, is NFP Awareness Week. In addition to being in the midst of the struggle against the imposition of the unjust mandate, 25 July 2013 was the 45th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's promulgation of Humanae Vitae.

His Eminence, Cardinal Dolan of New York, grasped this when he said to the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto in an interview last year that Humanae Vitae "brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us—and I’m using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa. We’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle." More important, he continued, the bishops "forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day."

But Cardinal Dolan also gives the reason why I think NFP Awareness Week remains a relatively obscure, under-the-radar observance: "We've grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom." This is a statement with which I both agree and disagree. Allow me to explain why this is not merely an empty exercise in post-modern dialectics: It is not insofar as we hope to make common cause with other people of faith and even people of no faith, to stand firm on one of the bedrock principles of U.S. constitutional democracy. However, it is precisely about contraception, especially when access to contraception is viewed by many as a woman's "right." When framed in terms of competing rights, especially when an individual right is asserted, you must be able to engage at that fundamental level. The price of refusing to do so is to remain, both for Catholics and non-Catholics an incoherent moral voice. Such an approach also has the eefect of emptying religious freedom of any discernible content. It seems to me that that engaging on a more fundamental level became even more crucial when it was publicly disclosed that many Catholic institutions already voluntarily offered contraceptive coverage and also when it became public that other local churches and Catholic institutions, such as Archdiocese of New York, had already bowed to state, not federal, mandates in this regard.

Am I discouraged? No. There is great joy in living the truth. In other words, it is worth doing for it's own sake quite apart from whether anyone else does, or even quite apart from the growing number of people who think you are insane for so doing. I am especially encouraged by the number of wonderful women of my acquaintance who have been very active in promoting NFP Awareness Week through so many on-line apostolates, even just posting relevant links and updates on Facebook. Today I am also reminded of the beautiful witness of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity who, in response to the inhumane onslaught of coercive and deceptive birth control programs in India, began teaching Indian women NFP with great success.

If nothing else, I encourage anyone reading this post to visit the USCCB's NFP Awareness website, which is a wonderful, authoritative resource.

Over the seven years I have been a card-carrying member of the so-called Catholic blogosphere, I have posted extensively on this issue. So rather than provide a comprehensive list of links to past posts, I am providing links for posts on NFP over the past two years, plus adding two 2008 posts that marked the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae:

"Natural Family Planning Awareness Week"

"Amos was a prophet and so was Pope Paul"

HHS mandate: Why the kerfuffle?

"The joy of NFP"

"NFP: a faithful reality check"

"The reality of the human person"

"'Not everyone can receive this saying'"

"Humane Vitae turns 40: Updated and expanded 26 July 2008"

"Humane Vitae turns 40, part II"

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