July 24, 2012

NFP – we're all in this together

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

Imagine most of the world laboring under a set of presuppositions that have absolutely awful social and economic consequences.

Scholars from multiple disciplines have amassed vast evidence over a length of decades demonstrating how bad these ideas are for human beings.

What would you make of the people who not only ignore these facts but go out of their way to discredit the evidence, or claim the bad consequences are actually good? And how would you go about correcting the record?

Those are questions Mary Eberstadt asks in one chapter of Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, her charming, readable and intellectually relentless little volume of essays re-thinking our culture from the point of view of human happiness.

Are we happy?

At the level of immediate gratification we unquestionably are.

Were that not true there would have been no sexual revolution, because few would have bought what was being sold: liberation from the immediate consequences of sex. Almost everyone bought in at some level.

As Eberstadt notes, “Every family in America by now has been shaped by one or more of [the sexual revolution’s] facets – divorce, single parenthood, abortion, cohabitation, widespread pornography, open homosexuality.”

It’s precisely because we’re “all in it together,” Eberstadt argues, that we’re afraid to look at the evidence social science keeps accumulating that we are making ourselves, and the most vulnerable among us, miserable:

“After all, who wants to give offense? Who wants one’s divorced brother, homosexual cousin or remarried father to get hurt? The answer is no one of course – and the desire not to hurt people who are openly living the liberationist creed is yet another reason for the denial...”

But what if the fact that we’re in it together also offers an opportunity to think anew together – to offer a new vision; friend to friend and neighbor to neighbor, leaving judgment to God?

That’s the idea behind Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, an annual effort to share one of the Church’s best kept secret treasures.

I can’t put it better than Judy Barrett of the Diocese of Santa Rosa: “Church teaching on contraception is morally correct, good for individuals, families and society at large, and it needs a fair hearing.”

When it gets that fair hearing, it convinces and attracts! For 20 years I’ve been involved with a marriage preparation program, proposing Church teaching on sexuality to engaged couples. Most of the men and women who come to us are only nominally Catholic. Most cohabit, almost all the women are on the pill, there are always non-Catholics present accompanying their Catholic fiancés. In short, the audience is predisposed to skepticism.

It’s not at all unusual – it happens routinely in fact – that sometime during the sessions we’ll notice someone start to get agitated as we speak and we brace ourselves for an angry confrontation. Almost always, though, the anger is not with the presentation team; it’s with the sense of having been cheated out a more beautiful way of life. “Why was I never told this before?!” is a sad, but quite common, response to hearing the Church’s rich and positive teaching on sex laid out in its fullness for the first time.

Natural Family Planning is part of that teaching. It is not, not, a thousand times NOT, the old, discredited “rhythm method.” It’s, as Barrett puts it, “the moral, holistic, drug free, natural, healthy, modern and scientific means of cooperating with God’s plan to achieve or postpone pregnancy.”

The bishops’ website linked above is rich in resources of all kinds for those who’d like to learn more about NFP and help spread the word. If you have friends who won’t give a Catholic source a fair hearing, though, visit a new non-religious, non-sectarian website, iusenfp.com, designed to give information and encouragement to anyone open to learning more. There you can take a quiz to determine which NFP method might work best for you, read the latest scientific developments, and find a class or teacher near you.

Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve after the Pill documents the relentless unhappiness the culture built by the pill has wrought. Natural Family Planning Awareness Week is a reminder that a genuinely liberating and joyful way of life awaits anyone who is willing to think anew and give Church teaching a fair hearing.

Rebecca Teti is a wife and mother who writes for Catholic Digest and other publications.


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