A Message to Those Who Are Preparing Couples for Marriage

I used contraceptives ten years before my husband and I began to 
use Natural Family Planning... Birth control bothered my 
conscience. I used to justify my use of it because my husband was 
not Catholic. I felt that he would not be open to Natural Family 
Planning. Little did I know the precious gift God gave me in my 
husband. Had I communicated my struggles, thoughts, 
assumptions and feelings, I know it would have been different. 
But at that time in my life, fear and insecurities seemed to be 
dominant. I decided to consult a priest about my problem. I 
presented to a priest my situation as I understood it.

I was in an interfaith marriage, and not to use a form of birth 
control could cause tremendous hardship in our marriage. I had 
conjured up the worst. Could it even cause a divorce? I sat in the 
priest's office fearful, trembling and at times tearful. What was he 
supposed to do? As far as he knew, I was giving him the accurate 
assessment of my marital relationship. In my mind, I believed the 
situation to be that critical. I know the priest's heart went out to 
me. In all honesty and compassion he wanted to quiet and calm a 
fearful young woman. I can't remember all the words of comfort 
and encouragement that he gave me or even if he shared about the 
teaching of the Church, but what I do remember are these words: 
"Let love be my guide." This suggestion sounded good to me.

Let love be my guide...

Let love be my guide? My question was, "What is love?" At that 
time in my life, love meant don't stir the waters... Don't rock the 
boat... Don't take a risk communicating my struggles to my 
husband. Who knows what I might have to face possible rejection 
or even ridicule.

Let love be my guide? To me, love meant keeping peace at all 
costs. Peace to me meant the absence of risks, disagreements and 
confrontation. It meant not communicating about questionable 
material. It didn't matter what the internal struggle of my heart, 
mind or soul might be. I have learned since then that in marriage I 
have to communicate or I will find myself alienated from my 
husband. I have no other choice if I want my marriage to grow and 
flourish. I have to take risks, face my fears and share. This 
communication has helped me to grow in understanding and trust 
with my husband.

Let love be my guide?This was just what I needed to hear to 
justify my use of the pill, IUD, condoms, diaphragms, gels, and 
foams. I often wondered what would have happened if the priest 
had said, "This is what the Church teaches..." and left the 
responsibility and accountability up to me? Who knows? I might 
have left, judging the Church as uncaring and out-of-date, and 
judged the priest the same. I might have gone from priest to priest 
until I heard what I wanted to hear.

Scripture talks about the day when people will raise up leaders to 
tell them what they want to hear.

"For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound 
doctrine, but, following their own desires,will surround 
themselves with teacherswho tickle their ears."2 Timothy 4:3
That is what I was doing, although I was not consciously aware of 
it. In my human nature, I was looking for justification and 
rationalization not to follow the church's teaching. I just needed 
ONE word or ONE phrase to say contraception was okay.

I used contraceptives...

I used contraceptives ten years before my husband and I began to 
use Natural Family Planning. Since then I have thought many 
times about my use of the IUD and the pill. I have no idea how 
many children (unknowingly) were aborted by my use of these 
forms of contraception.

Scripture says:
"But if they obey not, they perish;they die for lack of knowledge." 
Job 36:12

Scripture does NOT say that I will be excused for not obeying or 
for not having knowledge. I have a teaching Church and I WILL 
be held accountable for the decisions, and consequences of my 
behavior. I will also be held accountable for the judgments and 
the counsels I have made or suggested because of wanting to right 
things and make things comfortable for myself or others.

Scripture reads:
"I assure you, on judgment day people will be held accountable 
for every unguarded word they speak. By your words you will be 
acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."Matthew 
12:36-37

Did I by my silence or opinions encourage contraception to 
others? I now realize how important it is for me to guard my 
words in counseling, so that I do not support contraceptive 
behavior. I will be partly held accountable for bad advise that 
resulted in damaged relationships, abortions, divorces, health 
problems, etc. Besides the knowledge that contraception is 
intrinsically evil (See the New Catechism 2370 page 570), the 
divorce rate among contraceptive users is fifty percent as 
compared to Natural Family Planning users, two to five percent. 
This should be sufficient reasons to strongly encourage Natural 
Family Planning.

The pain I experienced...

The pain and struggle I experienced over contraception, I believe, 
was a direct result of my attitude and disobedience to the 
teachings of the Church. When my attitude IS one of reverence 
and respect to those in authority, the result is a peace, that gets me 
through IF there is suffering. I am convinced there are some things 
I will never receive in this life unless I am obedient. If I can't 
subject myself to those I see, how can I learn submission and 
obedience to God who I cannot see?

Throughout Scripture God directed and governed His people 
through a visible, structured leadership. He continues to govern 
his people through the Church today. In Numbers, Aaron and 
Miriam complained against Moses saying,
"Is it through Moses alone that the Lord speaks? Does He not 
speak through us also?"Numbers 12:2
This is the same argument individuals and groups are using today 
against the teaching authority of the church. I did the same, I 
placed myself as my own authority. The Lord became angry with 
Miriam because she spoke against His servant's leadership. 
Miriam was struck with leprosy. I believe sin, spiritually, affects 
our souls in the same way that leprosy affects the body.Leprosy is 
a disease that attacks the nerves. In addition to skin lesions, 
leprosy also causes the nerve endings to die, beginning first at the 
extremities, the fingers and toes. People with leprosy gradually 
lose all sensation and eventually become paralyzed to the point 
that they don't feel pain. Sin does the same in my spiritual life. 
Eventually, I am unable to feel or recognize the pain of being 
separated from God. I do believe I will suffer the consequences of 
rebellion and disobedience. When I choose not to respect and 
listen to the teaching authority of the Church, I could experience 
leprosy of the heart, mind or spirit. In not listening to Church 
teaching, I suffered the consequences and alienated myself from 
the fullness God intended in my marital sexuality.

One day, I prayed ...

As I prayed one day, I asked the Lord to communicate to me the 
best strategic weapon that only a Christian could use, a weapon 
that would dispel the darkness and the enemy from its constant 
onslaught against the family, and the destruction of mind, body, 
and spirit. A weapon that would put the enemy to flight. I kept 
asking the Lord, "What is it?" Just as the armed forces have their 
secret weapons, I asked, "What is ours?" The answer came back 
clearly: "Obedience to the word of God and to the teachings of the 
Church."

Obedience is the weapon...

Obedience is the weapon of protection and deliverance. You 
might say, "But we have many in the Church who disagree with 
the Church's teaching on birth control and will often tell you what 
you want to hear." Scripture talks about those who give messages 
that tickle your ears and also about those entrapped in their own 
philosophies. They will be held accountable. Some will say, "Let 
your conscience be your guide." This advice leaves everyone to 
do their own will. It is important to form the conscience by the 
Word of God and the teachings of the Church. The Canadian 
bishops say that if your conscience goes against the Word of God 
and the teachings of the Church then you must believe that your 
conscience is in error. I believe that. It is not my trust in man or 
even in the Church that gives me this faith, but my trust in Christ's 
own words to His disciples: "He who hears you hears Me." Luke 
10:16.

I believe in the faithfulness...

I believe in the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit's guidance in and 
through the Church. If the Church consistently teaches something 
as truth, then I believe it is truth no matter how many people defy 
it, try to soft-pedal it, or give rationalizations, confirmations, or 
justifications for dissenting. What does the very word dissent 
mean? "To differ in opinion," "to refuse adherence to a belief." 
"Responsible dissent" is a modern term. I asked myself, "Is it 
responsible to encourage dissent from something that teaches self-
control and responsibility for sexual behavior?" This is exactly 
what the world needs compared to the destructive consequences 
of contraceptive behavior: selfishness, promiscuity, addiction, 
abortion, etc. Another question I asked, "Is it responsible to teach 
couples that contraceptive behavior is acceptable?" I was tempted 
to discount the church's teaching when one or two couples found it 
a hard teaching to follow and walked away from Natural Family 
Planning, much like Jesus' followers in the scriptures on the 
Eucharist. But after seeing the change in hundreds of couples, I 
feel a stronger urgency to offer even more encouragement to 
couples to use Natural Family Planning. I believe Natural Family 
Planning is for every married couple, even for the life and death 
situation. If a couple is using contraception, they may be having 
intercourse during their fertile time. Their chances of getting 
pregnant are higher than if they are using NFP, because they 
would be abstaining during the fertile time.

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but 
sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it afterwards it 
yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."Hebrews 12:11

If you cannot encourage couples to use Natural Family Planning, 
please contact a couple that is using Natural Family Planning and 
they can encourage them. We can tell them, "You CAN do it!" 
"You CAN control yourself!" You are created in God's image, He 
has given you authority over your passions. You have within you 
the power to follow Natural Family Planning, You have only to 
commit yourself and carry it out. Read Deut. 30:11-14.

What am I to do?

I ask myself, "What am I to do if people choose not to follow the 
Church's teaching on birth control?" I will love them, bless them, 
and continue to pray for them. God never withdraws His love 
from me, no matter how many times I seem to fail. He is always 
there to pick me up and encourage me along the way. I must do 
the same for others. There will always be some in the Church that 
will misconstrue the teaching on Natural Family Planning and 
negate their responsibility. They will NOT exercise restraint and 
self-control. There will be some couples who will have more 
children than they can handle and consider themselves good 
Catholics because they are not using birth control. Yet they might 
blame the Church and expect it to financially support them in 
times of trouble. I must continue to reach out and try to help them. 
I must try to educate and counsel them to accept personal 
responsibility. Some will reject this offer too. (Even among 
contraceptive users, some fail to use contraceptives as taught.) 
The truth is that they do not want to exercise restraint or accept 
personal responsibility, and irresponsibility will be apparent in 
other areas of their life too.

I do NOT believe that God wishes us to bring children into the 
world and expect others to raise them. I do believe when there are 
sufficient serious reasons to postpone pregnancy that God would 
have me accept the responsibility by controlling my sexual 
behavior.

I share my story with you...

I share my story with you because I find that the responsibility to 
be steadfast and unwavering is sometimes hard to carry. I also 


know how easy it is to disregard the church's teaching when trying 
to comfort a woman or a couple if their story seems to be the 
exception to the rule. Guard your words, for it is the truth that will 
set them free. I've counseled a young woman with cancer, on 
chemo-theraphy. Pregnancy would have meant a life threatening 
experience. I told her she needed NFP more now than ever. She 
was to use the most conservative rule and when in doubt abstain. 
It was tough but she and her husband came through it much 
stronger in their relationship because of it. The easiest couple we 
ever taught had the best attitude. It was, "This is what the Church 
teaches so this is what we are going to do." They had no other 
options. Encourage your couples to frequent the sacraments for 
the strength they need. If they continue to struggle, ask them to go 
to their pastor and ask for the sacrament of anointing. Remember, 
contraception is a spiritual leprosy. God bless your ministries! 

Arlene 


 

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