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Learn more about Theology of the Body
Below are two short articles addressing
why the Church encourages couples to practice Natural Family Planning.
Celebrating the Richness of Church Teaching
Janet E. Smith
The Church’s teaching on contraception is not just a doctrine that states what not to do.
Many people would benefit from knowing that it is a doctrine that explains how extraordinarily
important is the act of having children. One reason that modern culture has trouble understanding
the truth of Humanae Vitae is that it fails to appreciate what a profound good children are. It is
true that most parents love their children beyond belief and frequently even acknowledge that
they are great gifts from God. Many parents will testify that when they held their baby for the
first time, they experience a rush of love matched by little else.
...in having children they are “co-creators” with God.
But they do not always realize that in having children they are “co-creators” with God.
This is not a term used by Humanae Vitae; it is a term used by John Paul II in his writing.
Humanae Vitae does speak of the “extremely important mission of transmitting human life” that
God has entrusted to spouses. A human life is of inestimable value; a human soul is destined to
share a blissful eternity with God, the angels and saints. Only God can create a new human soul
but he needs the help of human beings to bring forth a new person. When engaging in sexual
intercourse spouses are inviting God to perform his creative act of bringing a new human soul
into existence: they supply the sperm and egg; God provides the soul. He then entrusts that soul
to the parents to guide and educate and ultimately to help get them to heaven.
Our culture does not really focus on helping people to realize that some day they will
likely be parents and how tremendously important a task that is. We do not often think that we
should be spending much of our youth preparing for the responsibilities of being parents.
Contraception enables us to think of sexual intercourse as a casual and to some extent as an
insignificant act rather than an act that can change the universe – for the coming to be of a new
human being truly changes the universe. Someone who did not exist before comes into existence
and will remain in existence forever.
...the coming to be of a new human being truly changes the universe.
If people were conscious of the extreme significance of the sexual act, they could not
possibly be as cavalier about it as they now are. They would choose their spouses very very
carefully – and use as a foremost criterion the suitability of that person to be a parent. Those who
succeed in marrying someone who will be a good parent – someone who is patient, generous,
responsible, kind, other directed, and reliable also are nearly guaranteed to get a terrific spouse –
for who wouldn’t want a spouse with those virtues? Our sexually out of control culture and
divorce culture has led 68% of children born in the U.S. to being born out of wedlock or born
into households that will fragment through divorce. One out of four pregnancies is aborted.
Those who understand the Church’s teaching on sexuality know that to a great extent it is
shaped by a concern for the well-being of any children who may result from acts of sexual
intercourse. Children born into families where their parents are sexually self controlled, where
they are faithful, stable, and desirous of children are predictably much better off than those born
to single parents, to the unfaithful, to those open to divorce or divorced. The Church’s teaching is
also shaped by a knowledge that those who become parents generally become much better
people; they need to develop quite a set of virtues in order to be good parents. Those virtues also
help them be good spouses, good co-workers, good citizens. Those who use natural family
planning to plan their family size develop the virtues needed to be good parents; they develop
sexual self-control and patience and generosity – and they almost never divorce.
Catholics who have not heard a defense of the Church’s teaching on contraception might
be surprised how rich and full of common sense it is.
Nationally known speaker and author, Janet E. Smith, PhD, teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in
the Archdiocese of Detroit. Many of Dr. Smith’s talks treating the Church’s teachings on human
sexuality are available in a series called “Sexual Common Sense.” Contact: 1-888-765-9269;
or visit, www.mycatholicfaith.org. This article was originally produced for California
Association of NFP’s newsletter, CANFP NEWS, (Winter 2008), copyright ©. CANFP;
www.canfp.org 1-877-33-CANFP. This article is reprinted here with permission from CANFP
By: Theresa Notare
As Christians, we should be grateful beyond words for the gift of our redemption. We believe that Christ’s action on the cross has changed all things, for all time. We should seek to relate every aspect of our lives to how Christ has redeemed us and our world. When we consider the mystery – and contemporary confusion — of human sexuality, it is even more urgent for Christians to ask, ―How has Christ redeemed human sexuality?
Christ’s work on the cross has restored all of human life, even human sexuality.
Christ’s work on the cross has restored all of human life, even human sexuality. That means that human sexuality is not ―tinged with sin, nor is it morally neutral. Although we can misuse even the best of God’s gifts, that does not change the fact that sex is God’s gift of life and love to us. Specifically, sexual intercourse was never meant to be directed to the individual. It’s not a sport or game to be enjoyed on its own. Sexual intercourse is a powerful event of interpersonal communion — it is a sacramental event.
For more information on NFP, visit: USCCB.ORG/NFP
The redeemed nature of marriage was understood by the Church from our earliest history. Following up on Jesus’ own words on the indissolubility of marriage, St. Paul likened Christian marriage to Christ’s relationship with His Church. ―As Christ loved the Church . . . so the husband should love and cherish his wife as he cherishes his own body; for husband and wife are one body, as Christ and the Church are one body. This is a great mystery‖ (Ephesians 5:21-33). St. John Chrysostom (347-407) taught that the ―one flesh‖ of the spouses is ―not an empty symbol.‖ ―They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself‖ (Homily 12).
―The love of spouses, says the Catechism, requires of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life‖ (#1644). The root of this indissolubility is found in God Himself, who taught us of His fidelity through His covenant with Abraham. It is found finally in Christ, who united Himself with His Church.
In this age of continuous assaults on God’s design for life and love, it would do the world good if Christians reclaimed our rich heritage. Before we can do this we need to return to the mystery of our faith and meditate on who Jesus is, what He did for us, and how this has changed all life for all ages.
Theresa Notare, PhD, is Assistant Director of the Natural Family Planning Program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is an edited version of an article that was first printed as a Life Issues Forum column. It is reprinted here with permission. Copyright © 2011, Natural Family Planning Program, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce in whole or in part, in print and/or electronically, with the following statement: Last Name, First Name of Author, ―Title,‖ NFPP/US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC: USCCB, 2011. Used with permission.