Natural Family Planning
The Natural Failure of Planning
Are modern forms of contraception naturally and morally wrong? Pope Paul VI and his Humanae Vitae declare that technological methods of birth control are immoral and should not be practiced by Catholics. However, as our modern society illustrates everyday, this opinion is inappropriate for not only the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church, but also for non-Catholics. According to Munich Archbishop Cardinal Julius Doepfner, “Contraception is not intrinsically evil” (The Politics of Sex and Religion). There is a fine line the Catholic church draws between “natural” methods of family planning and the “immoral” methods of modern technology. After close review of Catholic doctrines, it is clear that this line does not exist. The intentions behind the actions are what matters. Therefore the encyclical of Paul VI , while maintaining good intentions, cannot give Catholics and non-Catholics alike complete guidance in complete humanness when it comes to contraception.
The major problem for the married believers in the Catholic faith is that Human Vitae neglects their ability to make moral decisions. Paul VI claims that contraception limits a person’s human totality and integrity. However, the reality is that the Church is limiting this principle of human existence by assuming the common man is incapable of making the correct moral choice. For example Paul VI states , “…how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” (Human Vitae 8). It is absurd to believe that all moral problems in our society can be attributed to the introduction of birth control methods. Man, in his complete integrity and totality, is capable of judging moral from immoral regardless of the technological devices he is surrounded by. If all parts of a human are in harmony, means of contraception cannot invade this person’s complete humanness.
Scientific research shows that almost all practicing Catholics today believe that modern means of contraception does not interfere with their beliefs and morals. According to one study, “Even among married Catholic women who attend church every week, less than 4% use church-approved family planning methods-about the same as the total population.” (Catholics for Contraception). This illustrates the fact that people of faith have made their own interpretations of God’s desires and find no difference between natural family planning and modern methods of contraception. Weekly patrons of the church know the moral teachings of the Church and the consequences, yet the facts show that all believers have not come to a consensus.
If Catholics do not follow the doctrines of the Church, then where do non-Catholics stand? The validity of Paul VI’s encyclical is questioned further when analyzed by Jewish and Protestant scholars. After all, Humanae Vitae is merely an interpretation of the will of God and full humanness, not strictly biblical. Contraception is never directly addressed in either the Old or New Testaments. As Paul VI states, “Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.” (9) Therefore, the issue of contraception, as with many other moral problems, is clearly debatable. The Catholic Church makes interpretations based on solid biblical knowledge and strong morals, however it is not the only analysis. Many other religions find that a person can be completely human and completely moral and still use birth control. For example, the Christian Reformed Church once frowned upon contraception in the late 1930’s, but now they leave it in the hands of the individual. They claim that Christians must exercise “Christian liberty guided by an enlightened conscience, submit prayerfully to God’s Word and Spirit…” (CRC Doctrinal and Ethical Positions 22). This means that believers are free to make their own moral and ethical decisions based on how they feel God wishes them to act.
The largest problem faced by Catholics and non-Catholics in Paul VI’s encyclical is the illusion of a difference between natural family planning and modern contraceptives. The moral dilemma does not surround the method of birth control, but the mind set