Natural Family Planning and contraception… they are not the same

by Paul Braun | New Earth

Father Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia and a frequent New Earth contributor, speaks about life issues and the moral concerns around using medical technology to create new life at a gathering at Sts. Anne and Joachim Church in Fargo on Oct. 12.(Paul Braun | New Earth)

Last fall, the Diocese of Fargo conducted a Life Issues Survey to help determine what life issues were important to parishioners. One area that sparked interest of those surveyed was the topic of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART), including artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization as a way to achieve pregnancy.

Father Tad Pacholczyk, one of the nation’s leading experts on bioethics and the moral dangers of artificial means of fertility, was in Fargo on Oct. 12 hosting a seminar to help clear up any confusion Catholics might have about the use of ART. Father Pacholczyk is the Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia and is a frequent contributor to New Earth. Father Pacholczyk says that Church teachings are clear on artificial means of birth control and contraception.

“My focus is largely on the question of the moral propriety of Natural Family Planning (NFP) versus the impropriety of the use of contraception in marriage,” said Father Pacholczyk. “When you use contraception, you are taking a whole other series of measures into account. You’re saying ‘we’re going to have sex… but,’ and there’s that big ‘but’ if we’re going to step in here and take that spermicide and the condoms, all these other things and drag it all in, so we’re not really going to have sex, and that’s the big difference between contraception and NFP.”

Sex in marriage is all about a language of totality, according to Father Pacholczyk. He says it’s one of the rare elements of humanity where two people give their all to each other within the bonds of matrimony, but using artificial means of contraception is disruptive.

“Contraception is a lie,” said Father Pacholczyk. “It’s a false language. It’s a false way of speaking to a fellow human being, especially a spouse. You may be thinking that you’re saying ‘I love you, I want to show you that I love you,’ but what you are actually saying is ‘I don’t want to have all of you. There’s part of you I want to cordon off and keep that part of you separate, at a distance, and I’m going to partially do the same with myself and just give you a little piece of me, even though I’m pretending to give you all of me.’”

For many couples, having children is the primary goal of their marriage, but some couples have fertility issues that may result in the inability to conceive. For these couples, the allure of advances in medical science — such as in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination — are an attractive option, but an option the Church forbids.

“Anytime you have a third party taking over the function of the mother or the father, it violates of the exclusivity that’s supposed to be just between that man and that woman,” said Father Pacholczyk. “We recognize as humans we are entitled to come into the world through the embrace of our parents and not through a mechanization from others who have been designated to mix and match our cells. It doesn’t respect who we are or our human dignity. If we respect each other through our human dignity, we will also respect each other through our origins, and we don’t treat others differently by bringing them into the world in glassware, laboratories, and clinics, and other settings apart from the marital intimacy.”

So what can Catholic couples due if they as having issues with fertility? Father Pacholczyk used the seminar to talk about Natural Procreative Technology, or NaPro, which was pioneered at the Pope Paul VI Institute. According to its website, “NaPro identifies the problems and cooperates with a woman’s menstrual and fertility cycles that correct the condition, maintain the human ecology, and sustain the procreative potential. It has many applications, including family planning, the evaluation and treatment of infertility and other reproductive disorders, abnormal bleeding, abnormal hormone conditions of the menstrual cycle including premenstrual syndrome and recurrent ovarian cysts, the dating and beginning of pregnancy, and postpartum depression.”

“NaPro is a technique that is an amalgamation of different techniques that look to assist the marital act and to determine the underlying causes of infertility of the couple,” said Father Pacholczyk. “The practice identifies the appropriate treatments to remediate whatever those problems are. Many times these treatments and techniques are able to help couples that previously appear infertile to surmount whatever the barrier was and be able to have a child through the intimacy of the marital act.”

Father Pacholczyk invites anyone seeking more information on the subjects of ART, Natural Family Planning, or NaPro to go the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s website at ncbcenter.org.