Catholic marriage preparation

Before my husband and I can have our marriage made official in the Church, we need to take a marriage preparation classes. Our parish’s marriage course is a relationship-strengthening series of classes both for engaged couples and those already married. It’s held at a romantic Italian restaurant, and for each class we watch the official course video and then do workbook exercises as a couple. There’s no Q&A or interactivity with anyone else, just time alone together. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s taken it simply raves about it and can’t say enough about how much my husband and I are going to love it.

Unfortunately, we don’t love it. It’s so positive and peppy and upbeat that we feel like schmoes for not thinking it’s just fantastic. But, while we love spending the time together, we’re just not fond of the message.

Here are my issues with this course:

  • Though the course creators (who are the presenters on all the videos) consider themselves Christian and throw some Bible verses into each lecture, they always go out of their way to assure viewers that they do not have to be Christian for this program to work.

  • The lectures often veer into politically correct territory, such as when one of the presenters balefully told the example of a couple with young children who realized that their big problem was that the husband [gasp!] secretly didn’t want his wife to work (though luckily he was able to overcome this problem).
  • A lot of the advice is the feel-good, touchy-feely “let’s work on our love language!” type of message. Think: Joel Osteen talking about marriage. That’s not all bad, but concepts like humility or selflessness are only touched on in a round about way, e.g. “Your love life will improve if you forgive one another!” or “You’ll understand your spouse better if you listen more!”
  • We haven’t gotten to the class titled “Good Sex” yet, but based on the fact that contraception was mentioned as something for you to debate amongst yourselves in a previous lecture, I don’t think it’s going to be a Theology of the Body type experience. I looked ahead in our workbook and found this listed as God’s Truth on Sex: “[Sex is] a gift from God for our pleasure and enjoyment within a marriage relationship.” Really? A few other bullet points follow about how it’s a deep way of communicating, adds intimacy your relationship, etc. but there’s not a single mention of the connection of sex to the creation of life in the whole section. Not to be nitpicky, but this is not in line with Church teaching, right?

So those are my complaints. I understand the appeal because the presenters are so positive and they do offer some solid advice and interesting relationship-building exercises. There is definitely a place for their peppy “God Lite” message, but I don’t think that that place is in a Catholic church. Couples can find plenty of this type of secular, you-don’t-have-to-be-a-Christian advice out in the world.

On a personal note, my husband and I had most of this stuff down even before we were married. We’re both pretty open, calm people who generally communicate well. We’ve always had a good relationship. But what our relationship has become since embracing Catholic teaching is something completely different. We’ve been transformed as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. In particular, the understanding of Church teaching on openness to life in a marriage has taken our relationship to a level which we could not have previously imagined. It’s been a beautiful experience.

That’s why I hate to see our parish offering a course with such a bland message. The more Catholic churches shy away from upfrontness about Church teaching regarding things like suffering, selflessness, humility, the purpose of sex and marriage, etc. the more it reinforces the impression that this is bad news, a burdensome message that you want to hesitate before delivering. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s surprising to me that the marriage ministry directors have received seemingly nothing but rave reviews about this course. Are we the only ones who notice that, umm, this is isn’t very Catholic? As I listen to these lectures and see the nods and smiles amongst our fellow participants, I often wonder how a more serious, orthodox Catholic course would go over (like one of Christopher West’s programs). I tend to think that people are starving for the truth, for orthodoxy. But, in cases like this, and with the recent popularity of the “God Lite” message, I sometimes think that the time-tested technique of watering down the message to make it more palatable is as popular as ever.

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UPDATE: I emailed our RCIA director and found out that we will be taking a Theology of the Body course at some point before we’re married in the Church. I’m glad to hear this. Although, since a lot of folks turn to my current marriage course when in times of trouble, I’d really like to see a program with a Catholic message.

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Enter the Conversation...

29 Responses to “Catholic marriage preparation”
  1. Adoro Te Devote says:

    I’m nowhere near being married, just a single gal with lots of opinions, but may I recommend a book to you? It’s not specifically about marriage as a whole, but it has a section marriage and basically our need to rely on God. (Seems OT to your post, but something’s telling me to recommend this NOW just the same.)

    “God Alone Suffices”, Slawomir Biela

    It’s not about pre-Cana, or marriage prep, but I’m reading it and understanding how this can appeal to EVERYONE.

    Seriously, go pick this thing up, read it with your husband, and then take it to your Pastor and suggest that anyone discerning marriage or who happens to be married READ it.

    And of course..Theology of the Body. :-)

    Ok, now back to regular programming….

  2. Jennifer F. says:

    Adoro – great suggestion, thanks!

  3. mrsdarwin says:

    Aw, geez, marriage prep — the bane of solid Catholic couples with solid relationships…

    Darwin and I yawned through our marriage prep classes, which were not held at an Italian restaurant, unfortunately. It struck us that the presenters, with their “rules of arguing” and such, had a much rockier relationship than we, as an engaged couple did. (Time has proven that this is indeed so — we’ve never used “rules for arguing” because argument isn’t in our repetoire of communication techniques.)

    We didn’t even have our class on sex because the presenters, a a couple who were high-level professors of philosophy and theology, were “busy that night”. And the class on communication was rescheduled because the presenters had misunderstood which date they were supposed to show up on.

    But anyway — it’s possible that everyone raves about the class is that none of the participants realizes that there really is a Catholic teaching on marriage.

  4. Justine says:

    Question on the pre-Cana classes: How long do these things go on; how many weeks/months? Everyone I know who has taken them disliked them and thought they were a farce (this has been at a variety of parishes around the country). I’ve not before heard of them being held in romantic Italian restaurants!

    Thanks.

  5. Karie says:

    Wow,

    My hubby and I must have lucked out. We had the pre-Cana baloney which I could not get into, but then we did a much more in-depth program with another couple about every 4 weeks and there were 4 or 5 sessions. Very intense and lots of “homework”. We took a questionnaire called “FOCUS” and they went over the answers with us. Was an awesome time.

  6. Dennis says:

    I’m not ordained yet, but I *think* our diocese requires an intro NFP class, a pre-Cana workshop day, and six or seven meetings with the priest. Most of the priests I know are working ToB into their meetings. Also, the FOCUS is widely used. Using mentor or sponsor couples is hit and miss. Some priests do it, others don’t.

    I’m not keen on those videos you’re watching, but I like the restaurant idea. Kind of like Theology on Tap. It would be nice if there were time for more interaction with the other couples.

  7. M_David says:

    Our view was always that if we followed the pre-Cana advice, our marriage would have about the same reliability as the folks giving the presentation. Not good enough!

    We begged off, fought, squirmed, and in the end escaped most of them. It wasn’t easy, but to me, it always seemed a violation of privacy, like someone getting into our marriage bed with us…and they just weren’t as attractive as my future wife (JOKE).

    Sure, test us on the doctrine, fine. But to pretend that our parish was unified on what made a good marriage – no way. IMO, to have a good marriage, one would have to be opposed to the views of a good many (make that most) of the Catholics in America giving those talks…hey, just look at the average number of kids out there, I think we can make a good statistical guess that 80% of Catholics are on birth control without ever judging any particular couple. Not a good place to get advice.

    Sadly, most of our priests were no better.

  8. M_David says:

    You know, another thing that sort of bothered us was the required NFP class.

    I’m kind of in awe that these classes are common – Humanae Vitae saying so clearly that children are really the supreme gift of marriage would seem to imply that if couples actually believed this they would just let nature take over.

    Just by making NFP a standard thing implies that most of us will need it as a standard part of marriage, when all HV says is if there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions . Sounds like an optional thing to me.

    Now, I understand some folks need to use NFP, and my heart goes out to them. Personally, being of sound health and mind and living in the richest country in the world, we don’t need NFP. And not that anyone with an IQ over 80 needs a class to know how it works (5 minute worksheet?). To make it a required class is simply a sad coda to the fall of the West. What ever happened to a child being a blessing? Now there’s a class I doubt could be taught with a straight face in 99% of parishes in the USA (considering the US TFR=2.1).

    I often wonder how humanity has made it thus far without the ability to space births. Of course, our marriages are so much better now that we can choose to space our kids (JOKE).

    Sorry for the rant. In summary, we skipped NFP class too.

  9. catholic-turned-atheist says:

    Jen wrote about herself and her husband:

    We’ve always had a good relationship. But what our relationship has become since embracing Catholic teaching is something completely different. We’ve been transformed as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. In particular, the understanding of Church teaching on openness to life in a marriage has taken our relationship to a level which we could not have previously imagined. It’s been a beautiful experience.

    Jen has finally revealed the real reason that she and her husband are becoming Catholic: better sex!!! No wonder atheist arguments have fallen on deaf ears. And no wonder they’ve chosen the Catholic Church, for only the Catholic Church has continued to teach that contraception is — without exception — a sin. That teaching, by the way, is about the only thing that has survived unmuddled and uncompromised since Vatican II. Even so, it is largely ignored in most parishes and Jen is rightly frustrated because they just don’t get it.

    The brain is the most important sex organ in the body. It’s what determines whether coitus is an act of rape, mutual masturbation, or love. But add in the spiritual dimension as taught by the Church and the sex act is elevated to a level far above mere lovemaking. Coitus becomes a holy act commanded by God that may, if God wills it, create not only a new life but an immortal soul to give glory to God. The couple sense a level of power, importance, purpose, submission, and excitement that is beyond the reach of atheists and contracepting theists. In other words, better sex!!!

  10. 4andcounting says:

    Good for you for letting your RCIA director know about your disappointment. You should also make an appointment with your priest and tell him about your experience. He may be largely unaware of what the content of the classes cover and say. Unfortunately, with fewer priests and more duties, they are letting their control over things like marriage prep slip away and we all suffer for it.
    Has there been opportunity to ask questions? Have you challenged the teachers on the contraception question and the like?

    A required NFP class might be overreaching for those that have spiritually attained the maturity to surrender to God in that area, but for so many it is the one and only time the Church’s teachings on contraception will be spoken truthfully. It could plant a seed. And, the example of those who have given it all over to God is a great witness for those struggling with surrendering.

  11. Jennifer F. says:

    m_david: Just by making NFP a standard thing implies that most of us will need it as a standard part of marriage…

    Thank you! You really put words to something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Very good point.

    Catholic-turned-atheist: Were you being sarcastic? I can’t tell, so I’ll hold off on responding.

  12. Newly Open to Life says:

    m_David,
    Perhaps a couple should be asked if they a) ever anticipate a need for child spacing or b) will be eagerly anticipating children as quickly as their fertility allows. If they are in the b group, perhaps they should be exempted from an NFP course. But if they are like a large percentage of the population, they’ll anticipate some need for spacing (and/or less acceptable, contracepting).

    In my case, NFP made our marriage very much open-to-life. We needed it to space children (breastfeeding wasn’t an option), but once we had our heads above water we were open to the next (4th) baby due this summer.

    I think a parish is wise to work with the numbers on this one… more people stand more to gain by requiring NFP than will be put off because they are already VERY open to life, as in your case.

  13. mrsdarwin says:

    Just by making NFP a standard thing implies that most of us will need it as a standard part of marriage, when all HV says is if there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions . Sounds like an optional thing to me.

    Humanae Vitae also says that “With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person.” It seems only appropriate that Catholic couples understand the biological processes by which their fertility is governed.

    I agree that NFP classes are too long to present the necessary biological material. Still, it seems that a newly married couple would be prudent to realize that even if they are “eagerly anticipating children as quickly as their fertility allows”, there may be events in the future which might necessitate spacing of children if only for a month or two. Implying that couples who use NFP prudentially (and with the church’s blessing) are less open to life or don’t trust God enough comes off as rather a childish slur.

  14. KathyJo says:

    mrs darwin, I have to respectfully disagree. m_david actually hit upon the exact reason that many Protestants simply cannot accept the teachings of the Catholic Church on this particular issue.

    Please allow me to explain. If a couple is using NFP to space children, then they are abstaining from intercourse whenever the woman is ovulating. OTOH, if a couple is using a condom to space children, then they are probably having intercourse regardless of whether or not the woman is ovulating. The people using the condom are actually more likely to conceive than the couple using NFP.

    So who’s really more open to life?

    FTR, I’m not arguing that Catholics should toss out Church teachings on this subject and go buy a pack of Trojans. However, under the circumstances, it does come across as a bit of a childish slur when Protestants are told by Catholics that we’re not open to life, or that we’re part of the culture of death, just because we use condoms instead of NFP. “Because the Church said so” does not make it a logical argument, and since I don’t recognize the authority of the Catholic Church, the argument would have to be more logical to convince me.

    KathyJo
    Protestant mother of four

  15. melanie b says:

    Yep, that sounds a lot like our pre-Cana experience. Presentations on dealing with finances and how to argue.(Married a year and a half and still haven’t had an argument. Don’t plan to have one as we are quite capable of having a discussion about our differences.)

    The only talks about the theological and spiritual aspects of marriage and the Church’s teachings on sexuality were given by a priest.(And he forgot the part about contraception. Apologized later when my husband called him on it, but by then all the couples who needed to hear it hadn’t.) Huh? No married couples could talk about these topics? Certainly none of the ones that presented on other topics. They were clearly clueless about what makes a Catholic understanding of marriage different than a secular one.

    To give him credit, our pastor does try to cover some of that in his meetings with couples. We actually skipped some of that in our meetings with him as my husband was then DRE for the parish and he and the pastor are close friends so Fr. knew we could probably do a better job than he teaching on the Theology of the Body etc.

    As far as mandatory NFP classes, I’m kinda of two minds about that.I understand the objections and by and large agree with them. But I also understand the reasoning behind it. For one thing, I think statistics show that Catholics use contraception at the same rate as the rest of the population. I’d certainly not have been surprised to find out that 80-90% of the couples in our pre-Cana class were already sleeping together and contracepting.

    Given that pervasive contraceptive mentality, I think perhaps it is prudent to mandate some sort of class on the Church’s teaching on sexuality and risk offending the sensibilities of the faithful 10-20% who are already in line with HV.

    And based on my understanding of human nature, I do think that actually teaching at least the basics of NFP is really the best way to get people to fall in line with the Church’s teaching. Many of the couples who are “forced” to take such a class will either be predisposed to contraception or are already using contraception and have either never heard of NFP or have only heard of the “rhythm method”. Most of them are already convinced that the Church’s teaching on contraception is archaic and unreasonable. (What do a bunch of celibate men know about it, anyway? they say.) For these people NFP will be a revelation. Hey, the Church isn’t unreasonable, she doesn’t teach that you have to have as many children as you possibly can. She takes into account the real hardships that people face and says it is ok to pay attention to one’s natural fertility cycles to postpone conception.

    Maybe they won’t have a change of heart immediately. Some will continue to contracept. But at least they will know there is an alternative and maybe they will change later. Maybe some of them will use NFP with a contraceptive mentality. But even for them there is hope that their hearts will change over time. More likely if they have at least heard that the Church teaches that conception should only be avoided for grave reasons.

    I understand the objections. And I do have some grave doubts as to the wisdom of handing out NFP instead of condoms without changing people’s hearts. But as I looked around the room at the glazed faces as the priest talked about the Church’s teaching on marriage, I kept thinking that an NFP class, with the proper emphasis on prayerful discernment about grave reasons, might have got through to some of these people.

    Also, a practical consideration: it takes some time to learn NFP and proper charting. Which basically means at least six months of complete abstinence while you figure it all out. Even though when you are young and healthy you can’t imagine ever having sufficient reasons to not have children, there might come a time when suddenly you find yourself in just such a situation. Now complete abstinence isn’t the end of the world. in fact, maybe even if you knew NFP you might still feel called to it. But the Church teaches that sex isn’t just for procreation. There’s also a unitive aspect. Sex is important for a healthy marriage, for a healthy relationship. And if your marriage is already under the kind of strain that would constitute grave reason for not having another child, then it might be a time when that unitive aspect becomes even more important.

    KathyJo,

    Yeah, condoms are less reliable than NFP, but I don’t see how you can seriously say that a couple that deliberately puts a barrier between themselves is more open to life than one who doesn’t. There is a logic beyond “The Church says so”. The Church is not only looking at the outcome, whether a child is born or not. It is looking at the sign value. Contraception says: I don’t accept all of you,I reject your fertility, I see your fertility as a disease, something that must be prevented. NFP doesn’t put any kind of barrier between the spouses, either chemical or physical. The sexual act is still one that is open to life, they are not taking a deliberate step to block their fertility. They simply choose not to engage during a time when conception is likely, but there is still an element of “thy will be done”. The Bible offers examples of God overcoming natural infertility (such as with Abraham and Sarah or Elizabeth and Zachariah).

    God could have made us fertile all the time. But he didn’t. There are some times of the month when you can’t conceive. So using NFP is simply working with human nature and the way God made us. I don’t see how you could similarly argue that a condom is part of God’s plan for human sexuality.

    And I should emphasize that the Church teaches that NFP should not be used lightly, that one should avoid conception only for grave reasons and only with much prayer and prayerful discussion, seeking to hear God’s will for your family, and with counsel from a priest. It is actually rather hard for a couple to deliberately refrain from sex during that time of the month when their hormones are pushing them to do that. Thus a couple has to decide every month to again refrain. It tends to lead to repeated discussions about whether their reasons really are sufficient and quite often they decide they aren’t and take a chance. (Which is one reason why NFP couples tend to have more kids.) Because contraception isn’t the default position, and because it is a mutual decision rather than the responsibility of one spouse, as the pill is the woman’s sole responsibility, or a condom is the man’s, it does tend to lead to more openness to life.

    Sorry for going on at such length. Hope that made sense.

  16. Darwin says:

    The argument is that the use of condoms and other forms of birth control is not “open to life” because it physically changes the nature of sex, turning what might otherwise be a fertile act of intercourse into an intertile one, and thus intentionally separating the unitive and procreative meanings of the physical act.

    NFP is different from contraception in that it simply involves not having sex at times when conception is likely. Not having sex does avoid pregnancy, but it doesn’t seek to change the nature of sex in order to get away with experiencing the sensation of sex without dealing with its consequences.

    Basically the Church argument is that NFP is okay because you’re always having “real sex”, you’re just not having it half the time. Whereas the use of contraception involves having “fake sex” in order to try to get away with having it whenever you want.

    No argument from authority involved.

  17. melanie b says:

    Kathyjo,

    I’d also like to add that the reason NFP is debated by Catholics (as on this thread) is precisely because there is an element of truth in what you say. NFP can be used with a contraceptive mentality and in such a case there is little difference between that and a condom.

    But the Church teaches that that too is wrong. It teaches that children are a blessing and fertility a gift from God. And that when we decide to postpone pregnancy, to only have sex during infertile times, it should be done in a spirit of prayer and discernment, seeking to understand God’s will and always open to the possibility that God’s will might be contrary to your own desires and that your plan for your life might not be His, and that what you think might be sufficient reasons for avoiding pregnancy might not appear so to Him.

    NFP should be used in a spirit of seeking God’s will and being open to life. It is a recognition that right now might not be a good time for you to welcome a child, but still leaving the final say in God’s hands.

  18. The Opinionated Homeschooler says:

    Frankly the “open to life” argument for NFP always left me cold. I know Mormon couples who use contraceptive methods to space their families of six or more children. “Open to life” means anything and nothing.

    The *only* reason to say yes to NFP and no to contraceptive methods is that Christians have always forbidden contraception, and condoms etc. are contraceptive while NFP is not. That this is unclear to many, Catholics and non-Catholics, is because of a fudging of the meaning of “contraception.”

    Contraception is a deliberate interference with the conjugal act so as to prevent pregnancy. Condoms so interfere; abstaining from intercourse does not, because there is no conjugal act to interfere with.

    That’s it. “Contraception” doesn’t mean “having a contraceptive mentality” or “not being open to life” or “family planning.” It may be that using NFP to avoid any children, or to limit children for selfish reasons, is a sin–but it’s not the sin of contraception, and so to say that it “can be used with a contraceptive mentality” and that then “there is little difference between [NFP] and a condom” is simply muddying the moral waters.

    Protestants are right to be offended by being told that by using artificial contraception they are “part of the culture of death” or “not open to life” or “using each other as sex objects” (I actually heard this used in an RCIA class, to the great offense of most of the potential converts present, and was later removed from the RCIA team for pointing out how offensive it was). There’s no need for that kind of insulting hyperbole; all that needs to be said is that (a) condoms, the Pill, etc. are contraceptive (while NFP is not), by the meaning of “contraception” that’s always been used; and (b) Christians from the earliest times have shunned contraception.

    Regarding pre-Cana: Add me to the bandwagon. Our course assumed that we’d all just met our future spouses in the past year or so, and was full of “getting to know you” games and quizzes. Having known my fiance since we were kids, it was endless boredom. The couple leading it had no children, so there was no discussion of that (not small) aspect of marriage. And we quickly realized we were the *only* couple there not already living together, which is probably why the NFP talk lasted five minutes and we were on to more getting-to-know-you games.

  19. SteveG says:

    The Opinionated Homeschooler:

    Bravo! You said very well exactly what I’ve been thinking while reading this thread.

    In particular, this…

    It may be that using NFP to avoid any children, or to limit children for selfish reasons, is a sin–but it’s not the sin of contraception, and so to say that it “can be used with a contraceptive mentality” and that then “there is little difference between [NFP] and a condom” is simply muddying the moral waters.

    …is so often overlooked in these discussions. Thanks!

  20. KathyJo says:

    The problem with these arguments is that they usually assume that a non-Catholic couple that is using birth control such as condoms is not attempting to prayerfully discern God’s will. You all seem to acknowledge that NFP can be used with a “contraceptive mentality,” but you refuse to believe that some Protestants might use condoms with the attitude that is desired for NFP.

    Again, I would never attempt to convince Catholics to ignore the teachings of the Church. But what I would appreciate from my *Christian* brothers and sisters who happen to be Catholic is an attempt to understand the other side of the argument, that YES, many of us may use birth control, but that does not mean that we’re not open to life.

    This is one of the reasons that I rarely read Catholic blogs anymore. I’ve read about how I’m part of the culture of death too many times, from Catholics who have fewer children than I do because of their use of NFP, and even from Catholics who have no children at all. NFP is a way to continue having sex while preventing conception, period. So are condoms. Disagree with my choice of method all you want, but don’t think that means you know anything about my motives or my desire for God’s will in my life. That’s both insulting and judgmental.

    “…turning what might otherwise be a fertile act of intercourse into an intertile one, and thus intentionally separating the unitive and procreative meanings of the physical act.”

    Since with NFP, intercourse only happens during infertile times, I have to disagree with this comparison between condoms and NFP.

  21. lp says:

    Jen, I’m sorry your marriage prep course isn’t better–it sounds pretty awful, actually!

    When my husband and I were engaged, we were very skeptical that pre-Cana classes would offer anything we didn’t already know. However, our parish’s program involved pairing each engaged couples with an already-married couple, and our “mentor” couple was terrific! We met with them in their home for about six sessions, each with a different theme.

    We didn’t learn anything “new” in terms of Church teaching, but hearing an experienced couple talk about the Church’s views on marriage with such excitement was a wonderful experience for us! Plus, they were very open with us regarding how they came to accept the Church’s teachings on birth control, and how they had to work to create a Catholic atmosphere home for their family.

    Just wanted to let you know that there are some good programs out there–maybe you could suggest a format like that at your parish. And if you have the opportunity to talk to any serious Catholic couples, take advantage of it!

  22. KathyJo says:

    Two other things I’d like to say…

    Since studies have shown that women have more desire for intercourse during their fertile times, I absolutely cannot agree that abstaining during these times can be considered natural or a part of God’s plan for human sexuality.

    The other thing is that even though I would still disagree, I could respect the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception if it were not for NFP being acceptable. (Since “contraception” means against or without conception, then NFP definitely falls into the category of contraception to me.) With NFP, I can neither agree nor respect the teaching. It comes off as hypocritical.

  23. Faith says:

    There is one thing that I love about what NFP taught me even though frankly I never have really used it. My dh would alway joke, hey, what’the worse that could happen? You get pregnant! So we were always very half-hearted about it. Even when we thought getting pregnant would probably be a bad idea, we just figured we’d muddle through. After 8 pregnancies, resulting in 5 beautiful children, we seem to have finished our family. But what I liked about it and what makes it different to me as opposed to using a condom (which always struck me as a completely gross and unromantic thing!)was that both of you were making a sacrifice together. NFP makes sex not just about about answering physical urges but about being close. Close enough that even though you really want to, you don’t. Because you want to be in a complete agreement about what you are doing. It is making your mutual life together the frame of reference for your sex life not your physical drives.

    It isn’t much of a sacrifice usually, because your spouse is probably going to be in your bed the following week or two. So if you’re patient, things will be fine. I like that the NFP approach puts sex in its proper place. I remember reading somewhere someone said that only in modern Western culture are we expected to have sex any time we want. In pretty much every culture there is a time to refrain. Even in the karma sutra, it talks of fasting from sex. To me the use of condoms makes sex on demand the norm. I should be able to have sex whenever I want to. I have this handy dandy condom here so I don’t have to bear the consequences. Even if you are justing using this in marriage, it still introduces that coarsening element.

  24. Anonymous says:

    That is what sucks to me about the Catholic teachings when it comes to sex. If you were allowed to masturbate, be it alone, or with eachother, you wouldn’t have to sit here and whine about having to abstain during that fertile time. You can still get your pleasure without having sex. And the man does not need to watch porn or look at playboy in order to get his rocks off. I know, I know, that is soooo wrong and icky right, why in the world would you want to touch it? Even James Dobson thinks that masturbation is a wonderful thing, look it up.

    Jen, has becomig a Catholic made the way you and your husband are with eachother in the bedroom?

    If the men in the clergy were allowed to masturbate, they probably would quit praying on little boys.

    Knowing that I get to do all these things that are so taboo and wrong to you folks makes it that much better for myself and my husband.

    I have had my tubes tied to prevent having anymore children, and let me tell you that that is in no way my husband or myself rejecting my fertility. It is called taking responsibility.

    There is a recent case out there where this woman has had 5 kids by 3 different men, do you think it’s okay for her to just keep being a baby machine and taking your tax dollars? This is where lack of contraception hurts the kids. Stuck with a good for nothing mother.

    You all need to get off of your high horses and quit preaching about how horrible contraception is.

  25. Jennifer F. says:

    KathyJo -

    Since studies have shown that women have more desire for intercourse during their fertile times, I absolutely cannot agree that abstaining during these times can be considered natural or a part of God’s plan for human sexuality.

    If God’s primary purpose for sex is the creation of life, then it could make sense that we have to “sacrifice” having sex during the times we feel like it if we’re not open to having children at that time.

    Also, what about the fact that reliable, convenient contraception has only recently become available? It seems like abstinence during fertile periods is the only possible method that could have been part of God’s plan for limiting family size since it’s the only thing that’s been available to everyone throughout time.

    NFP is a way to continue having sex while preventing conception, period. So are condoms.

    Personally, I see a big difference there. The widespread acceptance of and availability of condoms (and chemical contraception, etc.) definitely reinforces the idea that we can have consequence-free sex on demand, which also then reinforces the idea that the main purpose of sex must be for recreation and pleasure. I’m not saying that everyone who uses contraception is not open to life or to God’s will, but that barrier and chemical contraception make it far easier to slip into that mentality than NFP.

    For example: can you picture an NFP-only version of Sex and the City? Even if you set aside the issue of STD’s, it’s just really hard to imagine Carrie Bradshaw meeting a hunky bartender and asking him if perhaps they could have a steamy one night stand next week when she’ll be in the luteal phase of her cycle? :)

    This is one of the reasons that I rarely read Catholic blogs anymore. I’ve read about how I’m part of the culture of death too many times…

    That sucks. The last thing we need is finger-pointing and bickering among Christians, and I apologize if I’ve said anything accusatory like that. Personally, I do see a very clear connection between contraception and the culture of death. I used to be vociferously pro-choice, donated money to NOW, need two hands to count the number of close friends and family members who have had abortions (and countless friends of friends), etc. And, looking back, acceptance of contraception which therefore enabled on-demand, consequence-free sex was a key part (not the only part, but a big one) of the calculation that made it OK in my mind and in the minds of the women I know who’ve had abortions.

    But, that said, I don’t put that out there as an accusation directed at you, just as a topic for discussion. I’m open to the idea that maybe I’m missing something or maybe I’m wrong, and I’m sincerely sorry to hear that you feel alienated from Catholic sites. Assuming you’re the same KathyJo whose blog I love to read, the last thing we need is fewer voices like yours in the Catholic blogosphere.

  26. Keith says:

    God’s Plan for a Joy Filled marriage is a video presentation by Christopher West. It might be the Theology of the Body course that you are referencing. The videos are a tad expensive, but worth it. You can get it from ascension press online

  27. m_david says:

    Implying that couples who use NFP prudentially (and with the church’s blessing) are less open to life or don’t trust God enough comes off as rather a childish slur. (emphasis added).

    mrsdarwin:

    I never implied anything like you claim. Re-read my post, which was concerned with forcing average Joe to learn about NFP. I said nothing about people who use it for legit reasons.

    You, however, have strongly implied I am childish and have slurred people.

    I have done neither.

  28. Anonymous says:

    We have been giving Pre Cana “classes” for 26 years. We have done large groups (200+) and now one on one in the bar in our house. We talk about the loss of our 2 sons and of the love of having 6 other children. Recently we saw a couple that we had 5 years ago and at that time we were accused of being morbid to speak of death. We met them at the wake of their 5 year old son who had just died of leukemia. They thanked us for teaching them the coping tools. “doing” over 1000 couples we have had only 2 dropouts and all the one’s we have done in our home are still successes, even the live together one’s whose odds are 85% against.
    Challenge the presenters it’s your marriage and it’s for life.
    it”s prayer that makes a marriage work. No divorce ever listed “unreconsiable differences ” “I , liked the Our Father she, the hail Mary”

  29. Anonymous says:

    My brother strongly recommends the book "For Better AND Forever" by Fr. Rob Ruhnke at http://www.marriagepreparation.com/.
    It consists of chapters that each person reads separately and does some "homework" for. Then the couple gets together to talk about what they did in the homework. My brother and his wife did one chapter per week over a series of 16 to 18 weeks.