Perception of "Catholic" NFP theology from a non-Catholic
by Misty Mealey
I wanted to offer my experience being taught NFP as a non-Catholic.
Five years ago, I was a pro-choice, pro-homosexual "rights" atheist who had had terrible side-effects on the Pill and Depo. A devoutly Catholic friend loaned me The Art of NFP. When she did, she did not state that it was written from a "Catholic perspective." (i.e., there was no advance warning that I would be reading Catholic theology!)
My initial motives for reading the book were to learn the method and practice it. I had no interest at all in the moral theology. In fact, the first several months we used NFP, we also used condoms during the fertile time. It wasn't so much that we didn't want to abstain, but we honestly didn't trust the method. As soon as we saw three charts where my body did what the book said it would, we threw away the condoms and used "pure" NFP. However, I can say that because the Pill had dampened my libido (and now studies report that effect continues after a woman stops taking it), I believe we simply did not have the "sex on demand" attitude that our peers often so. We abstained frequently, mostly because I wasn't interested! Bunching up those days verses spreading
the abstinence out didn't matter much to us.
[I should say that I had a rather dramatic conversion and that learning about NFP had a major role in it. One night while reading about how my body worked, I had a blinding moment of infused grace and I emerged from that experience knowing with certainty not only that God existed, but that he had created me. One moment, no argument could have convinced me that God existed and the next, no argument could have convinced me he doesn't.]
I'm kind of a print junkie. If there is a book laying around, I will read it, even if it's the Routine Manual on Repairing Toasters. Because TAONFP was on my bedside, more than once I would pick it up to browse. Eventually I found myself reading the theology chapters and to be honest, it just made sense to me. I had spent years being used by men and degrading myself sexually and I believe there was just something in my soul that yearned for the noble vision of sexuality presented in the book. I simply had never heard that sex was supposed to be anything more than recreational and I was intrigued by the idea.
It sounded a lot better than the "use and be used" mantra I was reading in Cosmo or hearing among my peers.
So I just wanted to say that my exposure to Catholic sexual theology did have a profound impact on me, but I hope I don't sound like I'm boasting when I say I believe I was more disposed than most to hearing the truth of this message. I had been on a quest for "the truth" for several years and I had already decided that I would commit to whatever that truth was, no matter where it took me or how my life had to change to embrace it. I was an atheist who believed in objective truth, which already gave me a significant push toward the right path.
When I chose to be an NFP teacher myself, I specifically did NOT want to use a curriculum that was overtly Catholic. I believe the Theology of the Body is universal and I wanted a curriculum that would allow me to present the truth in universal terms in a way that would appeal to even the most secularized heart. I strongly believe in meeting people where they are: if I'm speaking to a Catholic audience, I cite encyclicals, the Theology of the Body, the Catechism, etc. If it's a Protestant group, they get Scripture. If it's a secular group, they get a talk about the "communion of persons" and "total self-giving and acceptance." Each group gets the Catholic faith, but only the Catholics get the present with the obviously Catholic wrapping paper.
These are just my thoughts on some of the discussion about FAM and NFP and how they are presented differently.
Misty Mealey, NFP coordinator for the Diocese of Richmond, VA
2870 Northview Drive
Roanoke, VA 24015