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Natural Family Planning

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Definition:   A method of birth control that limits the sex act to the time of the month when the woman is infertile. All other forms of birth control are condemned by Catholic teaching. Pope Paul VI states that “every marriage act must be remain open to new life” and “every action which…proposes, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil. In the papal encyclical Casti Connubii (1930), Pope Pius XII claimed that contraception violates natural law. The Catholic Church thus sees the prohibition of contraception to be binding even to non-Catholics. As part of Vatican II, Pope John XXIII convened a commission to study birth control. The commission found in a survey of 3,000 Catholic couples that 63% of the couples claimed that the Rhythm Method had harmed their marriage and 65% said that it did not actually prevent contraception. As a result of the study, the commission voted 30 to 5 to change the Catholic position on contraception. The bishops on the commission voted 9 for, 3 against and 3 abstaining. However, the findings of the commission were overridden by Pope Paul VI, who felt that the teaching authority of the Pope was at stake. However, to the amazement of the Pope, bishops in many countries stated that although the encyclical was the official teaching of the Church, Catholic couples with serious and informed consciences could disagree and not sin.

Discussion: In allowing the Rhythm Method, it seems that the Catholic Church places the mechanics of the sex act above the intention of the couple. There is no difference in intent between couples that use contraceptives and those using the Rhythm Method. The Church technically teaches that the use of contraceptives is a mortal sin which removes all righteous from the Catholic’s account. Then it says that those with an “informed conscience” do not sin. Hypocritical to say the least.

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