Question 79


This is the testimony of Fletcher Doyle and his wife Tracy. Fletcher is a sports journalist in Buffalo, NY, and Tracy is a physical therapist. When Fletcher converted to the Catholic Church, they were confronted with the Church’s teachings on birth control. Their journey of faith led them to Natural Family Planning. They have two children.

I joined the Catholic Church in March 1997. When I told my wife I was joining the church into which she was born, it brought her great joy. But this decision also brought on a period of searching. 

As we devoured information about the faith, one thing we kept bumping into was the teaching on contraception. I kept averting my eyes in the hope that the issue would just go away. We had already been married for seventeen years. 

My wife, who had a head start on me in matters of faith, would not look away. She spotted an advertisement in our newspaper about a grant being given to our diocesan department of Natural Family Planning. She called the office and had a wonderful conversation. 

I had been in the church for almost two years when Tracy told me that she wanted to give up contraception and try NFP. Let’s just say that I suffered a mild shock. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, and birth control wasn’t an issue. I was still digesting confession and devotion to Mary; contraception wasn’t even on my radar screen. Besides, I was forty-five years old. What if this didn’t work? Could I handle another child? 

We prayed about it during Lent, after which we went to our introductory session and learned the science behind NFP. Some quick figuring in my head as to how much abstaining this would require triggered another crisis: Can I manage this? 

I scheduled a meeting with a good priest to ask him why the Church is against artificial methods of birth control. I went to his residence on May 18, 1999, at 7 p.m. By 10 I had a lot of answers and another crisis: How could I not follow the teachings of this Church? 

Driving home from that meeting, I tried to gather my thoughts. Mt wife would, as always, expect me to reconstruct the evening’s conversation word for word. She was waiting when I arrived home, surprised that I had been gone so long. I settled in for a long discussion. 

The first thing I told her was that the Church had condemned contraception from its first days and that the Romans already had methods of birth control. That was enough for her; the discussion was over, and so was our use of contraception. 

This change of behavior brought about others in me. NFP requires a mental discipline that I lacked. I’ve heard that you are what you think about, and my mind was filled with the idols of money, sex and fame. These left me empty and unsatisfied. I was blessed in all areas of my life, but often I found myself wanting more. 

The things that were going through my head were sins against chastity, and chastity is required to get through the periods of abstinence required by NFP. You have to guard what you look at and what you think about. 

I heard someone say that your spouse should be your banquet table. The reasoning behind this became clear. Checking out women invites comparisons to your spouse, which is grossly unfair. I concluded that the idea that you can look at the menu as long as you don’t eat is false. 

Chastity is not abstinence only. Rather, it is the proper ordering of desires toward your state in life. In marriage I pledge to be faithful to my spouse, and that means in thought, word and deed. 

I also should never do something that reduces the dignity of someone else. Chastity allows me to refrain from using others, spouse or stranger, as sex objects, thereby maintaining their dignity as persons made in the image and likeness of God. 

This has brought about a profound change in the way I look at my wife, a woman I adored even before we heard of NFP. She became even more beautiful to me. Now, more than ever before, I had to consider her in her entirety as a human person and avoid the trap of thinking of her as someone to take care of my needs. 

In fact, when I see any beautiful woman now, I think of the benevolence of a God who brought women into the world so that men would not have to be alone. I see all women as made in the image of a God who is love, never to be used by me even in the privacy of my own mind. 

My life with my wife became more an act of giving rather than taking. When we threw out the contraception, I knew she trusted me to stand by her if she got pregnant again, even if this meant I would be attending my child’s high school graduation the same year I retired. Knowing this makes every act of intercourse even more special and leaves me in awe that this special woman will do this for me.

My appreciation for what I had in life increased exponentially, and I became fully aware of my blessings. This has brought me great peace. God really does know best. 

Once the wall of separation between Church and the state of my sex life tumbled, my faith life flourished. I began to see that the teachings of the Catholic Church were beneficial and not intrusions. And so I began the ongoing process of saying yes to them. 

My only regret with NFP is that I didn’t learn of it sooner. Then I wouldn’t have waited so long to experience the joy I now feel. 

This testimonial, and 19 others like it can be found in Fletcher Doyle’s recent book, NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING BLESSED OUR MARRIAGE – 19 TRUE STORIES (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006). 

Cordially yours,
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB