In this posting are three comments I made at CalCatholic.com to Christopher Zender's post titled "Of Crucifixion and NFP: An invitation to a discussion about contraception, NFP, and related topics" under "Notes from a Cultural Madhouse"
See the full discussion.
Note: CalCatholic is an online site that has replaced several print newspapers published by James Holman, one of which was San Francisco Faith, for which I wrote some articles for a couple of years. Christopher Zender, who wrote the post, is the former editor.
I used to believe that NFP was a good thing because it is allowed by the Church, so I started to try to write up a defense of NFP for a niece who is Catholic but who does not accept many Church teachings, including the teachings on contraception. Then I looked into various places on the web where good people like you were discussing the topic. Some think that we should never do anything to limit the number of children we have, seeing each child as a gift from God. Every child we bring into the world has the potential for eternal life of joy in the presence of God. Come to think of it, the human race lived that way for most of its existence. That idea gave me pause.
I pretty much my opinion on this thought: that NFP could be practiced if there was a grave reason, but not as Catholic family planning. For most modern Catholics who have been subtly and not so subtly taught by Catholic moral theologians and even their confessors that contraception is ok, NFP would be a big stretch, and accepting all the children God gives you would be an even bigger stretch.
I never thought about how NFP results in sex being possible only during times when women are not much interested in sex. That would be another argument against its use. Wouldn't women feel pressured to make love with their husbands during their infertile periods because of the desire not to remove that intimacy totally from their lives?
I cannot speak to this personally, but in the old days, couples often stopped marital relations when they reached the family size they wanted. I can believe it would just happen naturally, sort of dropping out of the picture. Freud and his wife stopped sleeping together after they had four . . ..
Hello again Christopher and all,
For some reason, the paragraphs in my last comment all ran together. Oh well.
I mentioned Freud's arrangement with his wife only because he is the only public figure that I know of from before the time of wide-spread contraception who went on record stating that marital intimacy ended because the couple did not want any more children.
You are right, there probably isn't anything wrong with a spouse accepting intimacy even when he or she doesn't feel like it. But [from what Zehnder wrote[ it sounds to me that NFP might result in the wife accepting intimacy ONLY when she didn't feel like it. Speaking as a woman, of course, facing a life of intimacy ONLY as an act of charity to my husband would not be a bright prospect. Consenting to this course might truly be heroic.
I don't think accepting all the children God sends us even when it is hard to raise and educate them is necessarily heroic. Otherwise, all married couples in straitened circumstances before the advent of birth control would have been heroic.
If a person is forced into complete abstinence by needing not to have any more children, that would not justify adultery any more than a person who is single would be justified in fornication.
Think about it from this angle: The Lord does not ask of us anything He doesn't give us the grace to do. We can offer our sufferings in raising our children or in living celibately with a spouse [or not] in reparation for our sins and those of the whole world.
I'm trying to suggest that marriages that end up not being intimate might have been (and still might be) a lot more common than our current mindset can imagine, with a lot less suffering involved than we think. I've even heard comments from very secular new parents about how intimacy between the husband and wife loses its importance when they move into building the family together.
Perhaps there are stages of marriage and life-long intercourse may not be as important as our culture makes us think it is.
No problem with what you are saying. However, whenever you use the word "Church" I substitute "Christ." As St. Joan of Arc said, there is no difference. So, for example, your final sentence is read by me this way: "Christ has very high standards but is also quite realistic." Does that ring true to you? It doesn't quite, for me. It makes the Church sound very Mosaic, as in "Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of your hearts."
I personally find that abstinence as a single person is an occasion of temptation too, but the temptation isn't overwhelming enough for me to face the temporal and spiritual consequences of straying from what God intended in the matter. I would hope that husbands tempted to find comfort would find the same things holding them back. A man who strays would have to chose between having a contraceptive relationship with a prostitute or a mistress versus risking impregnating the woman in order not to be deprived. The consequences, again, would be more than one might bargain for spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
You haven't addressed the problem I pointed out based on what you said about NFP that a woman may never be able to have intercourse except during her times of least interest except for the times when the couple is trying to have a child. JP II's theology of the body is pretty frank about how a woman's needs must be respected.
Thanks for bringing up and maintaining a discussion on a very interesting topic.