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Naturally Spacing Children (NFP)

A married couple sincerely seeking the will of God makes a genuine commitment to always include His will in their marital relations. During this process their love for each other grows. The reason is clear: Marriage and conjugal love are, by their very nature, ordained to procreation.

A question often arises in today’s society regarding the differences between spacing children according to nature’s calendar (natural family planning) and contraception. A further question is asked regarding the licit practice of such natural approaches. Let us be clear. The differences between respecting a woman’s natural rhythms and the practice of artificial family planning methods are stark. In fact, these differences were once recognized by all Christian churches. Prior to 1930 no Christian church approved the practice of contraception.

We recognize that the practice of contraception violates the principles of Natural Law which are understandable by the use of reason alone. We endorse the consistent Catholic teachings on this subject and specifically cite Pope John Paul II’s definition of these differences in Familiaris Consortio (Section 32):

When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings [the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act] that God the creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of “total” self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life, but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.

Regarding the licit practice of natural approaches to spacing children, which we have referred to as respecting a female’s natural rhythmic cycle, we understand that such practices may be employed for just reasons. We understand that what one couple views as just reasons may not be viewed as such by another couple. It is clear, however, that in loving communion the couple can, during such times and with spiritual guidance, discern the will of God and grow in mutual respect, love, and tenderness ever remembering that, above all else, God is at the center of their union and the couple’s prayer is “Thy will be done.”

American Life League concurs with Pope John Paul II, who writes in Familiaris Consortio (Section 32):

In the light of the experience of many couples and of the data provided by the different human sciences, theological reflection is able to perceive and is called to study further the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle: It is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is, the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity. In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality in its physical dimension also. In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never “used” as an “object” that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.

American Life League does not ever endorse any method of family planning designed to intentionally avoid one of the two meanings of the conjugal act, which are to be open to the possibility of a child (procreative) and to nourish the love between the spouses (unitive). We do recognize the distinct differences, however, between artificial methods, which are grievously sinful all of the time, and the occasions when, for just reasons, a couple may ask God to postpone bringing a new child into existence for a while. It must be clear that couples understand that when they ask God to not send them another child at that time, they are also saying, “If it is Your will to send us another child at this time, we praise You for Your divine providence.”

(This official policy was adopted by the American Life League Board of Directors in 2000 AD.)