There are fundamental differences between NFP and contraception. This post is not a lesson on the method of these two polar opposites, but an analysis of mentality behind each. An understanding of the difference between NFP and contraception demands that we look to the supernatural. Without that, it is impossible to fully understand the mystery and beauty of human sexuality. And without that understanding of human sexuality, it is difficult to see why contraception is wrong.
Many people explain this by saying it is the "intention" that matters the most, ignoring the fact that contraception is inherently wrong. "The end justifies the means," they say. In both instances, pregnancy is avoided. Should it matter whether a couple takes the virtuous road using NFP to get there or the sinful road of contraception? The simple answer is "yes."
The "intention" that matters the most is the deep, mysterious language spoken by the conjugal act. This act is the "communication" between spouses, in which they come together fully as persons for the sake of union and procreation. When either of these aspects is hampered with, the communication is broken down, nearly destroyed, and the path toward other vices such as divorce, abuse and abortion is inevitable.
When contraception is used, the intention is no longer to love one another fully, but to use each other to achieve pleasure. When the marital act happens outside of the vows of marriage, it too is only a means for the couple to achieve pleasure because the intention to give to one another is impossible without commitment. Commitment is made only through marriage vows.
One more point is that NFP can also be used to achieve pregnancy! So, the differences between NFP and In Vitro Fertilization are worth taking a glimpse at.
NFP demands that a couple recognize the Divine hand of God in their conjugal life and in the planning of children. Because the ends of marriage are the procreation and education of children, a couple is tempted to believe that they have a right to have children. In reality, it is God who chooses when and whether a child is conceived. The couple must be open to this possibility in every conjugal act, and they must be willing to accept when it is not God's plan that a child be conceived as well.
Archbishop Raymond E. Burke of St. Louis wrote a wonderful column in last week's St. Louis Review. He summarizes a proper understanding of marital love in these words.
"According to God’s plan, the conjugal union has two inseparable meanings. On the one hand, through the conjugal union, the married couple express the full gift of themselves to each other for the good of the other. Engagement in the conjugal union while not giving oneself completely to the spouse betrays the meaning of the act and leads to the breakdown of mutual respect and trust. On the other hand, through the conjugal act, the couple share with God Himself in the procreation of offspring made in God’s own image and likeness and redeemed by the outpouring of Christ’s life on Calvary. Even though every conjugal act does not, in fact, result in the procreation of new human life, the act contains in itself the expression of the procreativity or fertility of both spouses. To deny or to frustrate the life-giving dimension of the conjugal act is to distort the act, at its foundation, leading to the breakdown of mutual respect and trust between the couple."
Please read the USCCB's "game plan" for observing NFP Awareness week. This provides many ideas and educational resources. This is great for anyone who is preparing for marriage and wants to know why the Church insists on NFP!
Next year, for NFP Awareness week, it is my hope that every diocese and parish will joyfully and actively educate on the truth of NFP through vigorous campaigns. I certainly intend to be a part of this Week next year.