Question 122

Is there an Obligation to Teach NFP to a Co-habiting Couple with No Intent to Marry?

Is there an Obligation to Teach NFP to a Co-habiting Couple with No Intent to Marry?

In reply to the case of co-habiting couples with no intent to marry, who want to learn how to use NFP to postpone a pregnancy, I recommend:

The NFP teaching couple should explain their position to the couple:

  1. NFP is not just a method of spacing pregnancies. It presumes a whole set of values about marriage, spousal love and family. It is a way of life, and a marital spirituality. It is really God’s plan for all of these matters that we are dealing with here.
  2. Every child has a right to be conceived by an act of love between his/her father and mother, who are committed to each other in marriage, and to be received into a home that will provide for their needs as a young person growing into maturity. 
  3. The NFP teaching couple are presenting values which are very important since they deal with the great mystery of love and life. 

We do not live in a perfect world, however, and sometimes we must accept situations that are less than ideal. Many young couples today have not experienced a strong, committed marriage in their own families as they grew up. They grew up in a contraceptive society, a society that does not understand marital chastity. 

If a co-habiting couple is drawn to learning NFP, even for less than perfect motives, then the teaching couple has an opportunity to teach them the true values of marriage, spousal love and family. Who knows what might happen? With God’s grace, during the instruction the co-habiting couple may discover the beauty of God’s plan for these matters and experience a conversion.

In China, there are over 35,000 NFP teachers using the Billings method. In China the main intent of using NFP is to prevent abortions, since the brutal one child policy is still mandatory there. But spacing pregnancies, or avoiding pregnancies, using morally good means is still a good thing.

In so many words, we take other people where they are, but we do not leave them there. There are definite expectations and requirements that go with the teaching and learning of NFP. If the co-habiting couple comes to appreciate human fertility, and wants to learn the marital chastity that NFP requires, then continue teaching them. Hopefully this will lead them to a committed marriage. If the co-habiting couple decides that periodic abstinence is impossible for them, they will drop out on their own accord. 

The good Lord deals with us as flawed human beings. He constantly summons us to move in the direction of light, away from darkness; in the direction of goodness, away from evil.

NFP teachers are usually not dealing with situations of total light or total darkness. Rather, they deal with various shades of grey. When dealing with shades of grey, we are to always move towards the light, and never towards the darkness.

NFP teachers are not expected to violate their conscience to accommodate the clearly sinful wishes of their clients. But they should leave room for the possibility that God’s grace will move the hearts of their clients. The Holy Spirit will guide them in discerning what they should do.

Cordially yours,

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB