Catholicism, NFP, and the Golden Era That Never Was


This sums up everything I’ve ever felt about fertility awareness. Period.


You know I probably have upwards of 20 posts sitting somewhere within the depths of my computer and/or many hard drives all having something to do with why NFP is awesome.

And here I am….NFP Awareness Week in all its glory and I’m struggling with what to write about.

I saw this post on Holly Grigg-Spall’s wall, the author of Sweetening the Pill: How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control:

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 1.00.11 PM
(She is a secular FAM evangelist.)

First, I want to say as a Catholic, health grounds are THE MAIN reason I am pro-fertility awareness. The religious stuff is great but really only matters to me personally as a Catholic.

I’m used to being viewed as the enemy. People hate the Catholic church. My theory on that is that we are the longest reigning organization with power and money. (However I might argue that their power is more an illusion of power than actual power. Look at this HHS Mandate CF.) The Catholic church hasn’t been very kind historically, remember Galileo? Remember the indulgences that got a little out of hand? (Which by the way, people need to calm down about the Rio indulgence thing. The pope did not say “Follow me on Twitter and you’ll get a free ticket to heaven.” For the love of Francis, does the media have to construe everything the pope says??) My main point here is that people are much, much more accepting of other religions even when they aren’t spiritual themselves because they find it “honorable” or “respectable”. For instance, when I spent time in Spain and Morocco, I found people to trash the Catholic church on a number of instances in Spain, but when I was in Morocco people’s attitudes instantly transformed into “I don’t believe in a God, but I really respect Muslims because they wake up every day for the call to Allah. They stick to these rich traditions. It’s really honorable.”

And I’m thinking, “This is fascinating.” Why do these other religions get a hall pass, but the Catholic church remains forever blacklisted in their minds? The only thing I can think of is people don’t like being told what to do. The Catholic church, historically, has always told people not necessarily what to do, but how not to sin. And people really don’t like that.

So birth control. Let’s go back to birth control. The church especially most recently has put itself in the forefront of reproductive health issues, making very clear its stance on birth control. And all the media sees is “Look at the Catholic Church being all misogynistic….yet again. Telling people what to do with their power and money.”

For the record, I am not anti-contraception because I am Catholic. If you really must know the story, I’m Catholic because I’m pro-fertility awareness. That was the one teaching I would absolutely put my foot down on. And through things like JPII’s Letter to Women and Theology of the Body, I realized it isn’t about women hating at all. It’s actually a way to celebrate women.

I think the pill has had a lot of adverse effects on society and women, BUT I don’t think it has single handedly thrown society into sexual corruption. (And while I think it is highly over prescribed, it does have a medical place. Such as for women with endometriosis.) I think whenever we talk about sexual morality, it’s really really important to include the fact that it’s nothing new in the span of humanity. Yes, it might be changing. It might be becoming less scandalous. Or more socially acceptable. Or whatever. But sexual depravity is nothing new. Rape, incest, and orgies existed thousands of years ago. Contraception wasn’t really “invented” when Margaret Sanger discovered that hormones suppressed ovulation in rabbits. The condom wasn’t invented by Trojan. Contraception is as age-old as the act itself.

So I think it’s equally important when we talk about sexual theology that we stray from talking about “the good old days”.

I’ve read about matriarchal tribes that thought radically different about female sexuality, but by and large I think female fertility has never really been culturally praised.

And I think that’s why I found Fertility Charting so empowering and fitting with my womanhood. For the first time, being a woman was intrinsically part of my biology. I recognize that some women may not feel this way, especially transgender. I read once about a transgender woman who went on Seasonale because her periods caused her an immense identity crisis every month.  A complete out of body experience where she was alienated from her body. Honestly, I have very little knowledge on what that is like, so I feel it inappropriate for me to speak on it. But I do feel it necessary for me to recognize that not all women may feel the way I do about my biology.

When I fight for women’s fertility awareness, I come from a place that understands there never really was a golden era. I get where the Church comes from, but I don’t promote NFP or FAM from a strictly religious background. All of us who support women’s fertility must band together because we’re already fighting big pharma and the overwhelmingly accepted notion that hormonal contraception is the only option. We don’t have time to bicker over condom use or the sin of Onan. We can’t afford it.

The reasons I fight for Fertility Awareness are simple.

1. Women shouldn’t have to choose between side effects ranging from annoying to life threatening for family planning.
2. Women shouldn’t be in the dark about their biology. They should have the opportunity to be empowered. (And sorry, middle school sex ed isn’t enough.)
3. Women should know that they have options.

Did I say “women should be converted to Catholicism”? Or “They will go to hell if they don’t use NFP”?

No? Thats what I thought.

PS: Check out Katie’s blog for more NFP Week link ups.


4 responses to “Catholicism, NFP, and the Golden Era That Never Was

  1. I like to say that a Jewish feminist (Toni Weschler) taught us to appreciate Catholic teaching on sexuality. 🙂

    K and I agree that the best way to approach NFP/FAM is to teach the biology well and let people use it as they see best. She feels particularly strongly about this. Fertility awareness is basic health information and should be taught as such.

    Not that theology/faith/philosophy isn’t important, but it’s rarely appropriate to combine religious instruction with health instruction. Those are two separate fields. We’ve had some bad experiences with well-meaning people trying do so and doing a poor job of both. Very few can people do both well and people can get hurt when either is done badly.

  2. I like your approach. God’s Truth should never conflict with science, and when taught the Church’s teachings on artificial birth control, I was also taught about the science behind abc. I think Catholics should be taught both. God doesn’t want us to use something that will harm us; there’s a reason behind every religious teaching.

    • I think it’s crazy how so many people (myself included a few years back) don’t know how abc works. I mean I knew it turned my fertility off, but I think NFP requires a paradigm shift entirely that the church shouldn’t shy away from.

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