Would it be appropriate to teach NFP to singles in order to gain an appreciation of the natural cycle of fertility or a general ‘fertility awareness’? Some state that this would not be advisable because it may be used in a fashion similar to contraceptives. Others state that, if presented correctly, fertility awareness would give singles a new found sense of dignity and awareness that the total ‘gift of self’ in a sexual union within marriage which includes fertility (without holding this back by contracepting). – Marie
Remember the Socratic error? Knowledge, by itself, is virtue. We know that is not true, because virtue requires another indispensable element: will power. I must both KNOW what is right, and WILL (consciously choose) to do the right. Thus, giving good information to a young person about their bodies, as God designed them, must be accompanied with good morality. This means explaining the moral principles of chastity, and why they make such good sense. Then train the will by DOING virtuous acts. We grow into a virtue only by doing virtuous acts, e.g., the acts of self-denial which chastity demands.
Take another error from the other extreme: ignorance is bliss. We know that this does not work in a world where sexual misinformation and disinformation is pervasive. If young persons do not have good knowledge about their sexuality, then they are easy prey. Parents know their sons and daughters best. Parents know when they are ready for more insights into their makeup as bodied-persons, male or female, fertile and sexual.
The beauty of NFP is that it provides a rich understanding of our sexuality and fertility in the context of God’s magnificent plan for us as bodied-persons. NFP cannot stay at the level of simple biology. Behind the biology there is a meaning, a set of values, a plan that God has devised. This is where the Theology of the Body comes into play. The Theology of the Body helps us to understand God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family, as well as His plan for making us bodied-persons, male or female.
Can knowledge be abused by putting it to doing wrong? Oh, yes! But that is part of our human condition as persons with free will. God gave us our sex drives and our free will, and we must learn how to give them good direction in ways that give glory to God and benefit ourselves. We always run the risk of abusing our freedom. That is what sin is.
If you teach a young person how to shoot a gun, he or she may abuse that knowledge. Teaching the morality of using a gun is imperative. But a risk still remains. If you show a young person how to drive a car or truck, he or she may abuse that knowledge. Thus teaching the rights and wrongs (morality) about driving is imperative. Risks are involved, because they are never completely avoidable.
Learning morality (good moral principles and their reasonableness) and developing the virtues (using our many talents correctly in pursuit of the good) is a lifelong task. Each stage of life has its tasks to be mastered. You see this especially in the area of human sexuality.
Parents need to give their sons and daughters the knowledge and moral guidance they need to cope with a culture that is confused, indulgent, promiscuous and full of moral relativism. Some, perhaps many, parents are not well equipped to do this. Cardinal John J. O’Connor said that we now have two generations of catechetical illiterates. By that he meant that the catechetical programs since the 1960’s were very short on content and long on experiences and feelings. As a result, many parents are unsure about the sexual ethic. But not to fear! You cannot begin to learn any younger! Parents can benefit as much as their teenagers in learning the theology of the body, and NFP.
Learning NFP allows the young woman to know how God put her together. Later on in life, she has the ability to help pinpoint problems in her gynecological system that she can take up with her doctor. This is a good reason for a woman not to get into the pills (hormones) that disguise the workings of her gynecological system. Diseases can progress and not be detected which can be fatal, whereas they could have been detected much earlier. They are detected too late because the symptoms were disguised with birth control pills and other unnatural birth control.
Acquiring self-possession, self-mastery and chastity are a lifelong task, and there is massive ignorance about these matters out there. So let’s get started!
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB