Question 60



If all the priests preached on the issue of NFP, teachers would not be able to handle the volume of people wanting to learn about it.  It would be a disaster!” – a clergyman in California 

What a felicitous disaster this would be!  Too many people wanting a good thing would lead to more couples volunteering to become trained teachers of NFP.   

I think it is true that, if more priests preached on God’s plan for spousal love, then more couples would be encouraged to live by that plan.  And there would be a greater demand for NFP classes.  More classes could easily be accommodated.  Most teachers of NFP across the nation complain of not having enough clients.  They went through the trouble and expense of getting themselves trained to be competent teachers, only to find that very few priests promote NFP, and make referrals to them. 

The teaching of the values and methodology of NFP is the task of the laity.  But then the laity are 99.9% of the Church.  They are a sleeping lion, just waiting to be summoned to active duty.  This is part of the apostolate of the laity. 

On the other hand, we should not exaggerate the ability of a priest to change his parish overnight from having 85% plus of its couples either contracepting, or sterilized, to become totally in accord with God’s plan for marriage and spousal love.  There has been massive contraception since the arrival of the Pill in the 1960’s, with little resistance offered from most pulpits over that time.  The culture, the media, the pharmaceuticals and the medical profession all promote this profitable product relentlessly.  Many Catholics think that self-control and chastity are obsolete virtues.   

The extensive damage done to couples by contraception and sterilization is becoming more obvious every year.  The utopian dream that the Pill would bring about strong marriages and happy, healthy families is now impossible to uphold. 

The 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae in 2008 is a perfect time to resume teaching what the Catholic Church has taught for 20 centuries.  As God designed the spousal act, it can only be expressed authentically when there is a total openness to both love and to new life. 

I think that this is a very safe bet to make: if any priest is overwhelmed with requests for NFP classes as a result of his preaching on these values, and cannot find enough teachers, then NFP Outreach will help him have all the teachers he needs within six months.  

2) “The people are drowning in pornography.  We have to tackle this before we get to contraception and sterilization.”  -- Military chaplain in California 

Pornography is a huge problem today, including Catholics.  But pornography is just one of a cluster of problems surrounding marriage and family life.  All these problems have one thing in common: they are all violations of God’s plan for human sexuality.  The natural approach to all these problems is to clearly proclaim God’s plan for us as bodied persons, who are either male or female, fertile and sexual.  This is the reason Pope John Paul II wrote the Theology of the Body. 

Everyone wants to have a strong and loving marriage.  Everyone wants to have a happy, healthy family.  When these two essential components of their lives are impaired or missing, then people are hurting deeply.  

People need to hear God’s great plan for marriage, spousal love and family.  They need to know just how beautiful, and attractive, that plan is.  Couples need to know how they can achieve such marriages and families with the combination of God’s grace and their own efforts.  They need to know that there is no problem that they cannot face down, if they are drawing upon the grace of their sacrament and cooperating with it.   

Pornography is a violation of human dignity.  It injures both the guilty party and his or her spouse.  Contraception is a violation of a couple’s act of spousal love.  At the precise moment, which calls for total self-giving and self-surrender, a contracepting person instead expresses self-grasping and self-assertion.  Once a spouse understands what self-sacrificial love is, then he or she can understand what violates this love and therefore what must be resolutely rejected and brought under control. 

The violation of the act of spousal love strikes at the core of a marriage.  A 50% divorce rate today, due largely to contraception with all the reservations and conditions it brings to the relationship, is becoming too obvious to ignore.  It is increasingly more difficult to persist in massive denial about these realities. 

Therefore, padre, I encourage you to clearly address the moral evil of pornography.  But the solution to this is closely related to the solution for all the other violations of the marital relationship, where contraception and sterilization are predominant.  Go to the root of the problem. 

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB