The secular world looks at couples practicing NFP who have large families and assumes that the method does not work to prevent pregnancy, an assumption that Fulwiler describes as “a mountain of misunderstanding.”
When you embrace the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and life, you tend to be open to more kids, she explained, adding that this is not failure on the part of natural planning.
Presenting NFP can be challenging, Fulwiler admitted, because it is “very difficult to sum up the fullness of Church teaching” in a brochure.
She believes that one effective way to initiate a “dialogue with the culture” is to engage those who have had a negative experience with contraception. Once people have established that artificial birth control is not the perfect solution, they are more willing to hear a new view of sexuality, she observed.
“I think there is a big interest in women really listening to their bodies,” Fulwiler said.
After years of being told to “take a pill and shut up,” women are eager for an approach that looks “at the whole woman.”
Emily Stimpson, author of “The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years,” added that in promoting NFP to a secular world, Catholics should not shy away from presenting the level of self-discipline that is required.
We need to be “as clear as we can up front” in order to “set people up for success,” she explained. People need to “realize that it is possible, but will take work.”
Stimpson said that arguments against Natural Family Planning based on the sacrifices it requires are “dangerous” and reveal that the problems with contraception are part of a “much larger issue.”
As a culture, we should “be careful where we set the bar for ourselves,” she warned.
If we don’t cultivate these virtues in our sex lives, we won’t have them in other areas either, she explained. But if we do build these virtues, we will be able to make use of them in all areas of our lives.
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In a world that is “filled with temptation,” self-discipline is crucial, and a failure to develop it can lead people into disaster, both in their marriages and in other areas of their lives, she said.
The Church is not asking the impossible, stressed Stimpson, adding that she knows many people who are living out the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
“It is possible,” she said. “It’s just difficult.”
Developing the virtues needed for NFP is a process that should begin long before marriage, said Stimpson. Practicing the “basics of Christian holiness” can help single people achieve success with NFP after they are married.
However, people also “like practical steps,” she added, suggesting the promotion of specific practices such as fasting that the Church has given us to build basic virtue and self-disciple.
Stimpson believes that the next generation is “very willing” to respond to the message of NFP. She explained that in addition to an aversion to chemicals and affinity for things that are radical and counter-cultural, young people have seen the results of a contraceptive mentality in their parents’ generation and are longing for something better.