Why Are We Pushing NFP? Because Sometimes It's Needed.

Emerging from my blogging hiatus to address a particularly tiresome article from the "holier-than-thou" Church brigade.

This time it's Michael Voris hosting an article by Dr. Jay Boyd, claiming that the Church is wrong in "pushing" NFP.

Note that Boyd claims NFP is licit, but claims that those using it to avoid pregnancy aren't adequately discerning grave reasons to do so. She implies that there are very few grave reasons in which it is necessary for a Catholic couple to avoid pregnancy, and it's far better to simply have has many babies as physically possible and leave the rest up to God. (Which is kind of like throwing yourself off a cliff and trusting God to save you.)

This is the comment I left in reply, in its entirety:
From Gaudiem et Spes, by Pope Paul VI:
"Let [parents] thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else [not Jay Boyd, and not Michael Voris] should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice,(12) married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate."
I've heard Jay Boyd make the claim before that use of NFP is not virtuous. However, she has never been able to back up that claim with actual Church teaching.
The Church, contrary to what Jay Boyd and Michael Voris claim, does not teach that every couple MUST use NFP. She teaches that the parents themselves, and no one else, should make decisions regarding family size in the sight of God (see quote from Gaudiem et Spes above). Sometimes that means using NFP to avoid. Sometimes that means using NFP to acheive. Sometimes that means not using NFP at all. A Catholic couple can do all three in the course of their married life, depending on their circumstances.
It makes no sense, as Jay Boyd is trying to claim, that the Church says NFP is licit but that it should not be used. If it is licit, then Catholics can freely discern whether or not they should use it, and if their reasons are just. Those reasons, however, are subjective, not objective, and only the couple themselves, in the sight of God, can decide if their reasons are just.
It seems Dr. Boyd and Michael Voris are practicing Matthew 23:4: "For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them."
Michael Voris is not married. Dr. Boyd had a tubal ligation after two children because she was unaware of Church teaching re: sterilization. They have never had to shoulder the burden of a large family in tandem with the financial difficulties of a subpar economy, mental stress and/or illness, physical illness, etc. (Please note that large families are WONDERFUL and joyful, and those who have large families are to be commended for their great generosity. However, the blessing of a large family also comes with great responsibility, especially financially, unless one is blessed to be independently wealthy.) So it is easy for them to say that couples "overuse" NFP. But thankfully the Church does not teach what they claim it does.
Edit: And because I'm sure I'll be asked - my husband and I have been married since 2001 and Catholic since 2003. We have 5 children on earth, and 3 in heaven. My most recent miscarriage was in June 2015. My doctor has recommended that we avoid pregnancy for 3 months in order to give my body a chance to heal. I'm sure Jay Boyd and Michael Voris would think this reason is not sufficient, but my husband and I have discerned through prayer and reflection that it is, and thus we are using the Marquette Method of NFP to avoid pregnancy. Thankfully we, not them, have the final say in the sight of God. We reevaluate our reasons for avoiding at the start of every cycle to determine of they are indeed just reasons to avoid.
Not surprisingly - although hilariously - Mr. Voris redacted my comment, claiming it was an "ad hominem" attack, and that the details of his and Dr. Boyd's personal lives were irrelevant. [Note: since that time, a moderator for Church Militant contacted me to let me know that he, not Mr. Voris personally, redacted my comment. I have since been banned from commenting at Voris' blog. I guess he just can't handle the truth.]

On the contrary, I think it is very relevant. It's simple truth that those facts are VERY pertinent given the scope of their arguments against NFP. They've never been "in the trenches," so to speak, yet they claim authority on this topic. Neither of them have never had any experience whatsoever with needing to discern their family size in the context of Catholic moral teaching, yet they claim that those of us who are obligated to make this discernment are somehow not being generous enough (despite Church teaching that says no one else can make that judgement except the couple themselves in the sight of God).

Have you heard the conservative argument that it's very easy for liberals to be generous with someone else's money? In the same vein, it's easy for the unmarried (Voris) or sterilized (Boyd) to be generous with someone else's fertility. It's no trouble at all to claim that others can and should have 10+ children when you don't have to bear the burden of feeding, clothing, educating, cleaning up after, and spiritually tending those children.

It's easy for them to tell another couple they aren't being generous enough with their family size when they don't have to pay that couple's mortgage, grocery bills, utilities, car payment(s), student loan and/or medical debt, and other expenses.

It's easy for them to tell another couple they aren't being generous enough with their family size when they don't suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, or other illnesses.

But for those of us struggling to raise a larger-then-average family in the midst of financial hardship, mental or physical illness, and other serious concerns, we recognize the Church's wisdom in encouraging us to know and learn a method of natural family planning so we can use it if and when we discern it is prudent to do so (and remember, the Church calls us to responsible parenthood, which encompasses generosity and prudence - not just generosity).

Why does the Church "push" NFP? Because it's better to learn NFP in the months leading up to your wedding when you are (presumably) not having sex, so you can chart your cycles and learn your body without having to factor in intercourse. After the wedding, you and your spouse can discern what to do - avoid, achieve, or just ignore NFP completely if that's what you feel God is calling you to do. And if there comes a time where you discern that avoiding pregnancy is needed, you already have the knowledge at your fingertips and don't have the added stress of trying to learn a method from scratch in the midst of stressful conditions (new baby, health difficulties, financial woes, etc.).

The Church also "pushes" NFP because so few Catholics use it. That's what baffles me about Voris, Boyd, and others who discourage NFP. Talk about straining at gnats while swallowing camels! Any Catholic couple who chooses to avoid pregnancy and elects to use NFP instead of contraception should be commended, not condemned. Even if their motives aren't 100% pure (which is impossible for anyone but the couple themselves to discern), at least they are trying to act morally, which is a good first step toward a complete conversion of heart regarding their family size.

After all, NFP can be hard. It’s almost like it was designed to persuade couples who do have allegedly selfish motives that the reasons they have to avoid pregnancy aren’t really that serious. Who voluntarily abstains from sex with their spouse if they don't have a really good reason for doing so?

If Catholics are inclined to be selfish, they aren’t going to use a method like NFP, which requires one to be selfless. As blogger John Gerardi says, “When Catholics want to be selfish, they don’t use a method of fertility planning that involves enormous amounts of self control and long periods of continence.  They just use contraception, something naturally tailored for people who are trying to be selfish.”

How does it make sense to attack Catholics who are trying to do the right thing? How does it make sense to take a situation than you have never been in, yourself, and presume to make judgement about it? I don't mind when my priest gives me advice about discerning family size - in fact I welcome his advice, because he knows, thanks to the confessional, the intimate details of my life, my marriage, and my struggles. He's heard the confessions of other couples in my position. He's studied for years, as part of his vocation, to counsel couples in these situations. He is the one of the shepherds the Church has appointed to help me make spiritual decisions.

Neither Voris nor Boyd have been appointed by the Church as the shepherds of other Catholics' fertility - they have taken that responsibility unto themselves and it is most emphatically not needed.

But I will extend an offer to them. They can come and live in my home, among my family, and help my husband and I raise our children and pay our bills. Then, perhaps, we will consult them when discerning our family size.

Otherwise, they should butt out.


  1. Agreed. I also think that many times we forget that not every Catholic is in an ideal situation. I am a Convert of about 5 years - I converted pretty much out of nowhere. And while my husband comes to Mass with us every Sunday, he is not yet to the point that he wants to join the church. He is awesome, and fine with the "no contraception" stuff, but can you imagine what would happen if I just told him that we need to have all the babies we can? I feel like God threw us a bone because I have super long periods of infertility due to nursing. :) Anyway, if we ever get to the point where he wants to avoid, then I can rest assured that my church has my back - I can obey my husband and not violate my conscience. And a lot of times, it seems like that self-less act of obedience is just what is needed to change another's heart. Anyway, thanks for writing this Joanna. :)

  2. What in the actual hell…?

    My dislike of priggish preaching and killjoy brow-beating is directly proportional to my dislike of illogical atheistic thinking and emotional butt-aching whining.

    We are allowed to struggle. And we are allowed to decide on our own family size.

    Are they not aware of this? Not aware of the old “yoke is easy, burden is light” adage, eh?
    K. Troll on, I guess. But I won’t be yielding to their emotional shoving match. I don't think else anyone should, either.

  3. * anyone else should, either.

  4. Slow clap. Seriously. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And not that anything needs to be added to this, but priests also have valuable insights because, especially diocesan priests, they are spiritual fathers to many (which on a practical level also means shouldering great practical burdens, like keeping the lights on at the parish and the water running while managing to have enough time and mental energy to make the Sacraments accessible still).

    Something else that baffles me with the anti-NFP crowd is that they seem to like to deny that sex was intended to be a free act of the will in marriage... it's a gift to our spouse, not something we just mindlessly fall into. It's design inherently invites us to be active decide-ers. And I sometimes wonder what the difference is between Providentialism and just letting your physical urges make all your decisions for you.. in other words, I am baffled as to why Providentialists think they are so immune to sinful motivations when NFP-ers are so clearly always teetering on the edge of offending God. Grrr. That's not reality, in my opinion.

    1. They seem to have this mindset that sex is dirty, evil, and should only be tolerated when trying to procreate. They also seem to think that all sexual desire between spouses = lust. It's a sad, strange mindset.

  5. Thank you! There is another post by Joy Boyd in which she showcases the words of a former NFP teacher who says, explicitly, "NFP is contraception". Totally against Church teaching! The comments under that post are just.... unreal. Wow.

    Thanks for telling it like it is.

  6. I agree with you, but I write only to extend my condolences for your recent loss. RIP, sweet little one +

  7. Well said and on point JoAnna! You're completely right and I have to stop myself right now before I say something uncharitable/swear about that website...

  8. Thank you for writing this response! I can respect a couple who choose to use NFP to tta or ttc (which for some couple is the only way of having a successful pregnancy because of many health issues) or not using NFP at all. I think at some point in most marriages, we change around between the three. I find it sad that some "Catholic" blog posts I have been reading this week are not very charitable about anything towards fellow Catholics that make different choices to them - specifically the article you are address, another NFP dissing article and an article aimed at mothers working outside the home who can't possibly be fulfilling their duties as a wife by raising their eight or more children! Christians are called to love, and we must love and be charitable to our fellow Christians, NFP is definately good for the soul, it is life giving and it takes into consideration the current family's needs. I am pregnant with baby number 2, my little man is 4.5 years, I'm sure there are people that judge me or assume I'm on birth control or think I should spend more time at home with my too few children, but they really and truly don't know the half of it. I think I've rambled on here, but thank you for the eloquent response to this very uncharitable and judgemental blogpost written by a woman who has no even need to practice NFP!

  9. Did anyone else notice that the picture that accompanies "Why Are We Pushing NFP?" shows a couple with only two kids? Talk about ironic. If Jay Boyd is really serious, it should be a picture of the Duggars.

  10. I am just shaking my head at this blog.
    All I can say is that none of you read Humanae Vitae. Or if you did you skimmed through it.
    Mr. Voris is perfectly correct in is statements regarding NFP, because he actually follows what Paul VI says.
    And Paul VI never says you can choose your family size. I will quote his encyclical to prove my point and to disprove the writer of this article.

    1. Nothing you quoted proves Voris right or me wrong. In fact, everything you quoted supports what I wrote, both in his article and in this one as well: http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-catholic-church-means-by.html

    2. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical
      or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances...

      Umm, Well grounded reasons of a condition which is referring to a medical condition?
      Why do you think you can choose your own reasons for using NFP?
      You really don't have any real serious reason if you are healthy.

      I come from a very large family, and we have pulled through very tight financial situations (while children still came) because my mom trusted in God.
      All your petty "serious" reasons are almost (not always) all just excuses and not real reasons.
      You just don't trust in God's will or his abilities to put and pull you through hell.

      NFP is just a statement that says "I don't trust in God so I will rely on human methods and on myself."
      That is what it all boils down to.

    3. No, that is the statement that contraception makes. NFP works with, not against, God’s design of our bodies.

      Do you have a job? If so, that shows a lack of trust in God to provide for your needs.

      Do you have a car? If so, that shows a lack of trust in God to provide for your travel.

      Do you go to the doctor when you are sick? If so, that shows a lack of trust in God to heal you.


    4. But if you don't have a serious reason for the use of NFP it is just a form of contraception.

      If NFP is inherently good, couples can use it to achieve no pregnancies at all.

      You need a job, you do not need NFP.

      You need a car, you do not need NFP.

      You do not need a doctor, your body can heal itself.

      You do not need NFP to keep your marriage.
      You are confusing what you "need" with what you don't.

      NFP is compatible with the female body, but so is the ability to hurt another with the male body.
      You can learn martial arts, but that doesn't mean you can use them whenever you want.

    5. No, NFP cannot be a form of contraception. It is ontologically impossible. The Church has a very specific definition of contraception -- "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14). NFP cannot fit that definition because no action is performed. Abstinence is not an action; it is the lack of one.

      Why do you need a job? Shouldn't you just trust God to provide for your needs?

      Why do you need a car? Shouldn't you just trust God to provide for your needs?

      People with cancer don't need doctors? Huh. That's news to me.

      Who is saying you need NFP to keep your marriage...?

      God did not create the male body to hurt people. He did create the female body to work the way it does.

    6. Contraception is anything that prevents the completion of the sexual act, I understand this.
      The abuse of something for the prevention of conception can also be a contraception.
      Back in ancient Egypt, women used the dung from crocodiles as a contraceptive because crocodiles were the animal form of the goddess of fertility.
      The point is if you use NFP beyond what you absolutely have to, it is a form of contraception, because God commanded you "Be fruitful and multiply."
      Also, that is an incorrect saying. "Abstinence is not an action; it is the lack of one."
      Actually, not to act is to act and not to speak is to speak.

      Work is what God commanded men to do. Refer to Genesis for further info.
      I work because:
      1. It is good for me,
      2. It is commanded by God,
      3. Because it is just common sense that you do not get something for nothing.

      A car is needed to follow God's commands for work.
      Clearly his will is that I use some form of transportation to get to work because he is not going to do it for me.

      Doctors are men, not God. If you want to rely on man for your health and healing, that is your fall.
      "Damn the man who puts his faith in man"
      (Jer. 17-5)
      God can heal if it be his will, all you need to do is trust in his will.

      God made me to protect others. And in some cases I may have to hurt another to protect, but if I misuse my ability to protect by striking when not needed, I am sinning.
      Same with you and NFP. Use of NFP when not needed is just like using strength when not needed. It is sinful.

  11. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical
    or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the
    Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles
    immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during
    those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least
    offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

    -Humanae Vitae

  12. With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible
    parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more
    children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts,
    decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

    -Humanae Vitae

    1. I don’t see the word “grave” in there.

      Also, please see: http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-catholic-church-means-by.html

    2. The word "grave" also means serious.
      Don't get liberal on the word technicalities here.
      Anything short of life threatening is really not a serious physical reason to use NFP. Psychologically speaking, that would cover a bit of a wider range, but you still need a serious reason.

      Mr. Voris is correct in his statement of licit but not necessary.

  13. In other words, unless you have grave reason to use NFP, you are not to use it.

    I for one choose to see NFP as a necessary evil, where in certain circumstances it is not sinful to partake in its use, just as war is a necessary evil.

    In all reason, if NFP is inherently good, anyone should be able to use it when they want to. But that would be contrary to the Churches teaching on NFP.

    What is your grave reason? Or do you excuse your unwant for more children and justify it through NFP?
    You are to let God and nature have its way with procreation if you don't have a reason in accordance with Paul VI.
    If this is not the case than you are not pro-life.
    Pro-life is not about letting life exist, it is also about the creation of new life too. And if you are not for the creation of life when God decides, then you are not pro-life.

    1. The Church teaches we must have just reasons, not grave. That is based on a mistranslation. http://www.hprweb.com/2008/03/humanae-vitae-grave-motives-to-use-a-good-translation/

      NFP allows for the creation of life when God allows. That is the whole point.

      Also, the Church does allow us to use NFP whenever we want to! It can be used to acheive pregnancy and monitor gynecological health.

      She only requires us to have just (not grave) reasons when using it to avoid pregnancy.

    2. From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of
      transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to
      follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the
      will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear,
      while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.

      -Humanae Vitae.

      Here is stated that you are not free to choose God's will for how many children, but to let God choose how many children.


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