WHAT ARE THE CONTENTS OF A FULL COURSE IN NFP IN MARRIAGE PREPARATION?
WHAT ARE THE CONTENTS OF A FULL COURSE IN NFP IN MARRIAGE PREPARATION?
4 Examples in the USA.
Archdiocese of Denver: The archdiocesan norms, What God Has Joined, were written by the Office of Marriage and Family Life in conjunction with the office of Archbishop Charles Chaput. It includes a discussion of NFP. The norms were inspired and based on the document Preparation for the Sacraments of Marriage by the Pontifical Council for the Family. In addition, in his pastoral letter, Of Human Life, Archbishop Chaput directed the archdiocese to require adequate instruction in NFP as part of all marriage preparation programs. During the formulation of the norms, the Presbyteral Council was engaged in the process. Throughout the process, the tribunal staff provided key insights and reviewed proposed changes to the norms. The documents were bound as one resource and promulgated with a letter from the Archbishop to all priests and deacons
Couples are required to complete a full course of NFP instruction prior to the wedding. In order to learn NFP, it takes several months of tracking a woman's monthly cycle. The intent is to allow time for a couple to grow in their appreciation of NFP, rather than simply to understand the Church’s reasoning for encouraging NFP. The time needed for this is usually between three and six months. Exceptions are allowed at the discretion of the priest or deacon working with the couple.
Diocese of Fargo: The Diocese of Fargo had an extensive approach to implementation. Before the Diocese of Fargo implemented its policy, from 2003 until its implementation in September 2005, clergy and laity were prepared for the change in diocesan policy through workshops for clergy, married couples, and college students. Articles about fertility appreciation were featured in the diocesan newspaper. Mailings were sent to priests and NFP teachers with particular emphasis on National NFP Awareness Week. After this thorough educational effort, Bishop Samuel Aquila set the stage for introducing the new policy through a Fertility Appreciation Seminar held for all priests and deacons.
During the seminar, Bishop Aquila introduced the policy. The Fargo Diocesan NFP Coordinator explained the procedural points of the policy. Fr. Richard Hogan (from NFP Outreach) provided teaching on the Theology of the Body. Representatives from the Couple to Couple League explained the practice of the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP. A second day (optional) included a NaPro Technology medical conference with Dr. Thomas Hilgers. At deanery meetings throughout the diocese, teachers and clergy had an opportunity to get to know each other and ask questions. From the outset, Bishop Aquila was and continues to be actively involved in the education and formation of priests and deacons regarding Natural Family Planning and the Theology of the Body.
All couples preparing for marriage receive an introduction to the Church’s teaching on conjugal love, modeled on the Theology of the Body. Couples are required to attend a full course of instruction in a method of NFP. Special consideration is given to couples who are entering a second marriage. But if they are within child-bearing years, it is expected they will attend a full series of instruction. Couples who are beyond childbearing years or where one or both have been sterilized are to receive instruction in the Theology of the Body.
Diocese of Phoenix: Bishop Thomas Olmsted expressed his goals for NFP within a month of being installed as Bishop of Phoenix. They included: education and formation of priests on NFP andTheology of the Body; diocesan acceptance of all recognized and Church approved methods of NFP; commitment to increasing the number of trained and certified NFP teachers; meeting with Catholic OB/GYN physicians to discuss NFP and the moral practice of reproductive medicine; and establishment of an NFP representative in every parish.
Bishop Olmsted took responsibility for the education of priests, deacons, lay leaders and the laity. He began with a 5-part series in the diocesan newspaper which concluded with his plan to require NFP classes of all engaged couples in the diocese. Bishop taught the priests during in-service days, retreats and through the diocesan education department. He required all deacons to take a Theology of the Body class. He established a Theology of the Body department under the leadership of Katrina Zeno, who is available for workshops to parishes, youth groups, and adult education, etc. Bishop Olmsted has met with physicians.
Currently there are three NFP-only OB/GYN physicians in the dioceses as well as four supportive physicians in Family Medicine and others in a variety of medical specialties. Recruitment of parish NFP resource couples has already begun. Some pastors have begun to require the full series of classes for couples marrying in their parishes. This has created an opportunity for study.
After about 2 years of this practice, the parishes have received few complaints. The time line for full implementation of the policy was approximately six years with recruitment and training of teachers perceived as the biggest challenge.
To facilitate and to coordinate its own educational efforts, the Diocese of Phoenix established a new diocesan office, the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture. This department provides workshops and education for parishes, youth groups, and adult education. The Diocese of Phoenix also established an NFP Center over thirty years ago.
The Phoenix Natural Family Planning Center is an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation established to meet the needs of the Diocese of Phoenix butoperating independently of the diocesan structure. In July of this year, the well-established work of the Phoenix Natural Family Planning Center was incorporated into the diocese, and their employees were hired to form the Diocese of Phoenix Office of Natural Family Planning.
Presently the only diocesan requirement is an introduction to NFP, provided by a certified NFP teacher. It is anticipated that the full course of instruction will be implemented in approximately 2 years, allowing time to recruit and train new teachers.
Diocese of St. Augustine: In March 2006, the Diocesan Pastoral Council approved a motion to survey priests and deacons on the matter of implementing a full course of instruction in NFP as a requirement for marriage preparation. The results of the survey indicated a split between those clergy who wanted the requirement, those who did not want the requirement, and those who were undecided.
In January 2007, the Presbyteral Council was asked for approval of the formation of an ad-hoc-committee to study the issue in greater depth. Approval was given and the ad-hoc-committee was comprised of three priests who were undecided, one deacon in favor of the policy and one opposed, an NFP teacher at whose parish the proposed policy had been piloted, and the Family Life director/NFP coordinator who served in a non-voting, advisory capacity. The rationale for the choice of members of the ad-hoc-committee was that they would proceed cautiously. After the ad-hoc-committee studied the matter, it was decided that the full course of NFP requirement was desirable. Bishop Victor Galeone then proceeded with plans to develop and implement the requirement.
The NFP education requirement for marriage preparation became effective for all marriages scheduled after January 1, 2008, that is, whose prenuptial papers were not filled out until after that date. Only couples of childbearing age are required to take the NFP course. It is required only of those couples who are preparing for marriage in the Diocese of St. Augustine. It is not required of couples fromanother diocese who will be married in the Diocese of St. Augustine, but who are doing their marriage preparation in their home diocese.
By the same token, it is required of a couple to be married in another diocese, but doing their marriage preparation in the Diocese of St. Augustine. Should there be a special circumstance, such as the prior sterilization of one of the engaged, or should a couple simply refuse to participate, the priest or deacon preparing the couple for marriage must inform the chancellor that circumstances preclude completion of the requirement. The circumstances need not be specified.
Couples may also fulfill this requirement by taking their NFP course online. The online version is not the preferred option, but it may be used in cases of necessity. All couples required to take the course must give the priest or deacon witnessing their wedding a certificate of having successfully completed the course. Scholarships are available for those couples experiencing difficulty in paying the modest fee for materials.
The full report, REQUIRING A FULL COURSE OF NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING INSTRUCTION IN MARRIAGE PREPARATION, can be found at