I’ve had it.
I’m tired of all this charting, data-gathering, record-keeping nonsense.
What is it with our need to know things anyway?
It occurred to me the other day when I was doing some family planning. As I sat amidst piles of books, lesson plans, reporting forms, and criteria tables for discerning if the kids I’m preparing to homeschool will achieve mastery of the subjects or not, I had an epiphany and asked myself an important question, “Truly, what is this all about?”
It’s all an effort to tell God that my plan is better than His plan, that He doesn’t understand my circumstances and that I need to be in charge of educating my children myself. All this recording seems so difficult and tedious – takes such discipline and sacrifice – and I see now that this is because it’s unnatural for humans to record things. It reflects a crisis of faith, a refusal to abandon myself to Divine Providence. In a swelling of perspicacity, I slap my palm hard against my forehead because I see the light now: Learning about ourselves is just wrong.
I don’t need to know how my children are progressing in their education, whether they can do math correctly, comprehend what they read in a book, or compose an essay eloquently. I don’t need to catechize them in the meaning of the Sacraments, the Creed, and the Commandments. I just need trust that God will infuse them with the knowledge they need in life. For Heaven’s sake, think what they might do if they learn to read!
I guess I’ll throw out all our books. Nay, burn the damnable things!
For that matter, I think I’ll throw out our bank statements and checkbooks too. They tempt me to control how much money we spend and plan for a responsible financial future. What in tarnations is wrong with me! God will provide. Discerning finances with my husband is just selfish and weak. If I’m honest, I’ll just admit that the only reason we keep these charts and records is so we feel like we are in control. Sure we pray about it and are open to God’s will, but if we really trusted God, wouldn’t we just spend with abandon and trust that it will all work out?
And don’t even get me started on health records. Don’t I trust God to take care of us? I confess; I’ve done horrendous things like memorize birth dates, record milestones, and save shot records. One little angel had allergies and dare I admit that I even recorded her diet for a time to try to understand the source of her unhealthy reactions. Silly me! I was being tempted not to trust God. I was being a willy-nilly faithless sissy. I should have just sat that puffy-necked child down and told her to offer it all up. How I’ve failed.
Just look at all the sin knowledge has caused the human race. Look all around us! People routinely, obsessively even, follow weather patterns so they can plan their days and chose their activities. People collect statistics like scared little control freaks because they are just too insecure to let things happen naturally untainted by the hand of man. Why do we need to know about science and technology? Why do we need to study the pervasiveness of diseases? Why do we need to learn about natural disasters? Spark, boom, crash! Trust God, people. Stop learning.
Sure we may have discovered cures and improved health, invented ways to live more comfortably and fruitfully, and found methods to protect us from danger, but at what cost? Some people used that knowledge sinfully, and that means knowledge is bad. No knowledge — no temptation to sin. That’s the answer. Who can really be trusted to journey towards virtue in this miserable life?
St. Thomas said that knowledge can lead to pride, and pride is the beginning of all sin; and logically, of course, by that he meant that we mustn’t ever, ever, ever promote knowledge as long as there is any chance at all that someone might use that knowledge in sinful ways. Get a spine, you wimps. Close your eyes, plug your ears, shut your mouth, pin your nose and touch nothing. Figure out nothing. Humans are not capable of reason. Just sit there and have faith. That’s all we’re made for.
However, if after reading this you’re still stubbornly one of those faithless sissy Catholic women who charts her fertility cycles, enjoy this list of other faithless Catholic sissies who kept charts too.
- Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799) – Mathematician who wrote on differential and integral calculus
- Georgius Agricola (1494–1555) – Father of Mineralogy
- Albertus Magnus (c.1206-1280) – Patron saint of natural sciences
- André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836) – One of the main discovers of electromagnetism
- Amedeo Avogadro (1776–1856) – Noted for contributions to molecular theory and Avogadro’s Law
- Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294) – Franciscan friar and early advocate of the scientific method
- Daniello Bartoli (1608-1685) – Jesuit priest and one of the first to see the equatorial belts of Jupiter
- Antoine César Becquerel (1788-1878) – Pioneer in the study of electric and luminescent phenomena
- Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his co-discovery of radioactivity
- Claude Bernard (1813-1878) – Renowned physiologist who helped to apply scientific methodology to medicine
- Jacques Philippe Marie Binet (1786–1856) – Mathematician known for Binet’s formula and his contributions to number theory
- Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774–1862) – Physicist who established the reality of meteorites and studied polarization of light
- Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848) – Priest and mathematician who made important contributions to differentiation, the concept of infinity, and the binomial theorem
- Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679) – Often referred to as the father of modern biomechanics
- Roger Joseph Boscovich (1711–1787) – Jesuit priest and polymath known for his atomic theory and many other scientific contributions
- Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349) – Archbishop and one of the discovers of the mean speed theorem
- Louis Braille (1809–1852) – Inventor of the Braille reading and writing system
- Jean Buridan (c.1300-after 1358) – French priest who developed the theory of impetus
- Alexis Carrel (1873–1944) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for pioneering vascular suturing techniques
- John Casey (mathematician) (1820-1891) – Irish geometer known for Casey’s theorem
- Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625–1712) – First to observe four of Saturn’s moons and the co-discoverer of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter
- Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789–1857) – Mathematician who was an early pioneer in analysis
- Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598-1647) – Churchman known for his work on the problems of optics and motion, work on the precursors of infinitesimal calculus, and the introduction of logarithms to Italy. Cavalieri’s principle in geometry partially anticipated integral calculus.
- Andrea Cesalpino (c.1525-1603) – Botanist who also theorized on the circulation of blood
- Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) – Published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone
- Guy de Chauliac (c.1300-1368) – The most eminent surgeon of the Middle Ages
- Albert Claude (1899-1983) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contributions to the study of cells
- Christopher Clavius (1538–1612) – Jesuit who was the main architect of the Gregorian calendar
- Mateo Realdo Colombo (1516–1559) – Discovered the pulminary circuit, which paved the way for Harvey’s discovery of circulation
- Carl Ferdinand Cori (1896-1984) – Shared the Nobel Prize with his wife for their discovery of the Cori cycle
- Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis (1792-1843) – Formulated laws regarding rotating systems, which later became known as the Corialis effect
- Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) – Physicist known for developing Coulomb’s law
- Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) – First person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology
- Johann Baptist Cysat (c.1587-1657) – Jesuit priest known for his study of comets
- René Descartes (1596–1650) – Father of modern philosophy and analytic geometry
- Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) – Historian of science who made important contributions to hydrodynamics, elasticity, and thermodynamics
- Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1800–1884) – Chemist who established new values for the atomic mass of thirty elements
- Christian de Duve (1917–present) – Nobel Prize winning cytologist and biochemist
- John Eccles (neurophysiologist) (1903–1997) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the synapse
- Stephan Endlicher (1804-1849) – Botanist who formulated a major system of plant classification
- Bartolomeo Eustachi (c.1500-1574) – One of the founders of human anatomy
- Hieronymus Fabricius (1537–1619) – Father of embryology
- Gabriele Falloppio (1523–1562) – One of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century
- Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665) – Number theorist who contributed to the early development of calculus
- Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work in induced radioactivity
- Fibonacci (c.1170-c.1250) – Popularized Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe and discovered the Fibonacci sequence
- Hippolyte Fizeau (1819-1896) – The first person to determine experimentally the velocity of light
- Léon Foucault (1819–1868) – Invented the Foucault pendulum to measure the effect of the earth’s rotation
- Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826) – Discovered Fraunhofer lines in the sun’s spectrum
- Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788–1827) – Made significant contributions to the theory of wave optics
- Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) – Father of modern science
- Luigi Galvani (1737–1798) – Formulated the theory of animal electricity
- Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) – French astronomer and mathematician who published the first data on the transit of Mercury and gave the Aurora Borealis its name
- Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) – Chemist known for two laws related to gases
- Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618–1663) – Jesuit who discovered the diffraction of light
- Robert Grosseteste (c.1175-1253) – Bishop who has been called “the first man to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment.”
- Johannes Gutenberg (c.1398-1468) – Inventor of the printing press
- Jean Baptiste Julien d’Omalius d’Halloy (1783–1875) – One of the pioneers of modern geology
- René Just Haüy (1743–1822) – Priest, and father of crystallography
- Eduard Heis (1806-1877) – Astronomer who contributed the first true delineation of the Milky Way
- Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579-1644) – Founder of pneumatic chemistry
- Charles Hermite (1822–1901) – Mathematician who did research on number theory, quadratic forms, elliptic functions, and algebra
- John Philip Holland (1840–1914) – Developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy
- Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836) – The first to propose a natural classification of flowering plants
- Athanasius Kircher (c.1601-1680) – Jesuit scholar who has been called “the last Renaissance man”
- Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (1713–1762) – French astronomer noted for cataloguing stars, nebulous objects, and constellations
- René Laennec (1781–1826) – Physician who invented the stethoscope
- Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) – Mathematician and astronomer known for Lagrangian points and Lagrangian mechanics
- Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) – Biologist whose theories on evolution preceded those of Darwin; also divided the animal kingdom into vertebrates and invertebrates
- Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943) – Nobel Prize winner who identified and classified the human blood types
- Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827) – Famed mathematician and astronomer who has been called the “Newton of France”
- Pierre André Latreille (1762-1833) – Pioneer in entomology
- Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794) – Father of modern chemistry
- Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994) – Pediatrician and geneticist, best known for his discovery of the link of diseases to chromosome abnormalities
- Georges Lemaître (1894–1966) – Father of the Big Bang theory
- Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694) – Father of comparative physiology
- Étienne-Louis Malus (1775-1812) – Discovered the polarization of light
- Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937) – Father of long-distance radio transmission
- Edme Mariotte (c.1620-1684) – Priest who independently discovered Boyle’s Law
- Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1698-1759) – Known for the Maupertuis principle and for being the first president of the Berlin Academy of Science
- Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) – Father of genetics
- Marin Mersenne (1588–1648) – Father of acoustics
- Charles W. Misner (1932-present) – American cosmologist dedicated to the study of general relativity
- Gaspard Monge (1746-1818) – Father of descriptive geometry
- Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682–1771) – Father of modern anatomical pathology
- Johannes Peter Müller (1801–1858) – Founder of modern physiology
- John von Neumann (1903–1957) – Brilliant 20th century scientist who made major contributions to quantum mechanics, mathematical physics, and computer science
- Jean-Antoine Nollet (1700-1770) – Discovered the phenomenon of osmosis in natural membranes.
- William of Ockham (c.1288-c.1348) – Franciscan Friar known for Ockham’s Razor
- Nicole Oresme (c.1320-1382) – 14th century bishop who theorized the daily rotation of the earth on its axis
- Barnaba Oriani (1752-1832) – Known for Oriani’s theorem and for his research on Uranus
- Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) – Created the first modern atlas and theorized on continental drift
- Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) – One of the most famous mathematicians of all time
- Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) – Father of bacteriology
- Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) – Discovered the Orion Nebula
- Georg von Peuerbach (1423–1461) – Has been called the father of mathematical and observational astronomy in the West
- Giuseppe Piazzi (1746-1826) – Theatine priest who discovered the asteroid Ceres and did important work cataloguing stars
- Jean Picard (1620–1682) – French priest and father of modern astronomy in France
- Jules Henri Poincaré (1854 – 1912) – French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science, who discovered a chaotic deterministic system which laid the foundations of modern chaos theory and was one of the founders of topology
- Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) – Awarded the Nobel Prize for his contributions to neuroscience
- René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683-1757) – Scientific polymath known especially for his study of insects
- Francesco Redi (1626-1697) – His famous experiments with maggots were a major step in overturning the idea of spontaneous generation
- Henri Victor Regnault (1810-1878) – Chemist with two laws governing the specific heat of gases named after him
- Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598–1671) – Jesuit priest and the first person to measure the acceleration due to gravity of falling bodies
- Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923) – Discovered X-rays.
- Theodor Schwann (1810–1882) – Founder of the theory of the cellular structure of animal organisms
- Angelo Secchi (1818-1878) – Jesuit priest who developed the first system of stellar classification
- Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) – Early pioneer of antiseptic procedures and the discoverer of the cause of puerperal fever
- Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) – Priest and biologist who laid the groundwork for Pasteur’s discoveries
- Nicolas Steno (1638–1686) – Bishop, and father of stratigraphy
- Francesco Lana de Terzi (1631-1687) – Jesuit priest who has been called the father of aeronautics
- Louis Jacques Thénard (1777–1857) – Discovered hydrogen peroxide
- Theodoric of Freiberg (c.1250-c.1310) – Gave the first geometrical analysis of the rainbow
- Evangelista Torricelli (1608–1647) – Inventor of the barometer
- Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1397–1482) – One of the most distinguished scientists of the fifteenth century
- Richard Towneley (1629-1707) – Mathematician and astronomer whose investigations and correspondence contributed to the formulation of Boyle’s Law
- Louis René Tulasne (1815-1885) – Noted biologist with several genuses and species of fungi named after him
- Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1763–1829) – Discovered the chemical element Beryllium
- Pierre Vernier (1580-1637) – Mathematician who invented the Vernier scale
- Urbain Le Verrier (1811–1877) – Mathematician who predicted the discovery of Neptune
- Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) – Father of modern human anatomy
- François Viète (1540–1603) – Father of Modern Algebra
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) – Renaissance anatomist, scientist, mathematician, and painter
- Vincenzo Viviani (1622-1703) – Mathematician known for Viviani’s theorem and Viviani’s curve as well as his experiments to determine the speed of sound
- Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) – Physicist known for the invention of the battery
- Wilhelm Heinrich Waagen (1841–1900) – Geologist and paleontologist
- Karl Weierstrass (1815-1897) – Often called the Father of Modern Analysis
- E. T. Whittaker (1873–1956) – English mathematician who made contributions to applied mathematics and mathematical physics
- Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) – One of the founders of scientific archeology
Compliments of Wikipedia
48 Replies to “Charting is For Faithless Sissies”
Stacy, this is brilliant. I am going to keep this one “starred” in my feed reader so I can come back to it whenever I get fed up with NFP.
Oh goodness yes, Stacy. This is fabulous. Gotten sick of anti-nfp’ers telling you you lack trust in God’s will because you don’t just make love and let the chips fall where they may? Me too. This post illustrates nicely that NFP is, in itself, nothing but information. How dare we women want to have more information about our bodies? Outrageous!
Stacey, LOVE this! 😀
Gabriele Falloppio – wonder what he discovered? Not!
I enjoyed this list and it has several names on it that I am unfamiliar with but ….
Henri Becquerel, who is the son of Antoine Becquerel, was distinctly not Catholic. He in fact helped to persecute Pierre Duhem because Duhem remained unapologetically Catholic. I regret to say that Madame Curie was one of the persecutors as well.
I suspect that Lagrange was also not Catholic. I’m pretty certain that Poincare gave up his faith and that Fermi was also not a believer.
On the other hand Amedeo Avogadro (studies of atoms and molecules) almost certainly was. So was Karl von Frisch (the bee dance guy).
I have seen Roentgen’s name but never been able to find any independent confirmation for his Catholicism.
OK, I admit it. I clicked on this to see if you were actually serious… 🙂
If nothing else, charting one’s cycle could show if there is a serious problem. My wife and I certainly wish we had done so prior to trying to get pregnant.
Well…really, I think we all know it’s about more than “just information”. The knowledge of how to make human clones is “just information”, too. The knowledge of how to assist a person to “painlessly” commit suicide is also “just information”. Etc. How is the information being used? That’s the critical factor. And that’s the point I have tried to make in my posts on NFP. I think intentions matter. I think the Church teaching that NFP should be used only for serious reasons matters.
Jay, I can’t help but wonder why we should be worried about how our brothers and sisters (who are obviously using NFP and not contraceptives) are using this information? Is it really our business? I am all for Christian accountability, but when we begin to judge another married couples reasons for using NFP, I think it definitely crosses a line. They are co-creating their own family with God and I don’t think we can really listen to the Holy Spirit for them or discern these sort of matters for another family. We can only do this for ourselves. Of course intentions matter- why would a Catholic be using NFP otherwise? This is a very sensitive topic to “preach” about and I think we should leave it for our priests to address in their homilies, writings and in personal spiritual direction. Charity and the benefit of the doubt can be all but forgotten quickly in this realm….
Are you OK with promoting the science of NFP?
If not, do you realize that women need this information to know about their hormones, to know if they are likely to sustain or miscarry a pregnancy? They need it to know how to treat infertility. They need it to understand changes in their bodies as they age.
There is a serious lack of understanding of the female reproductive system in the medical community now because doctors rely on pills and devices to “solve” problems. The science offered by NFP is a better way.
But how do you further the science if no one practices it because some poor soul might commit a sin with it?
It’s not like the “science” of cloning and committing suicide. Totally disagree. That knowledge is not used for anything moral, the means in and of itself is immoral because it either requires conception outside the marital bond or it requires the destruction of human life.
With NFP, the means is not immoral even though the end can be. It most certainly is NOT always, no more so than studying the effects of poisons on the body to better understand how to keep a child alive. Just because someone might use that knowledge to achieve a reprehensible end is not a justification to never learn how to protect children.
Also, one thing I never see in the “must be serious reasons” debate is an actual list of reasons that do not qualify.
Brittany: I’m not judging any individual couple’s “reasons” for using NFP. I’m saying we need to form our consciences according to Church teaching, and we can’t do that if we don’t know what that teaching is. The discussions I’ve seen of NFP brush off the “serious reasons” aspect, and no one wants to talk about Church teaching on the blessings of large families and the duty of motherhood. These things should be part of an honest discussion of NFP.
Stacy: I’m not against promoting the science of understanding a woman’s cycle, the hormonal fluctations, the way this can impact a pregnancy in terms of miscarriage, etc. And why should we encourage ALL Catholics to use NFP just because the knowledge might be useful to a few who have health problems? We could require everyone to participate in other healthful therapies for varies diseases following that line of reasoning. Also, I think you set up a “straw man” argument with the “charting is for faithless sissies” hook. As far as my posts on the subjects, I’ve never made that charge, nor implied it, as far as I know, and I really haven’t seen anyone else do that either.
“I’m not against promoting the science of understanding a woman’s cycle, the hormonal fluctations, the way this can impact a pregnancy in terms of miscarriage, etc.”
How do you propose anyone studies that if no one practices it?
I’m glad the bishops promote NFP because I want that field to develop to combat the misleading, unnatural information rampant in the medical community today.
There’s a vast difference in “ALL” and “few who have health problems.” The number of women who suffer reproductive health problems and problems with infertility and miscarriage is by no means relegated to the “few.” It’s a major problem, and the standard of treatment right now is 1) birth control, 2) IVF, 3) surgery, or 4) insert devices. You have to miscarry three times before most doctors will even begin to investigate the reasons why.
I also plan to write something addressing the Creighton Model folks who speak in terms of “achieving” and “avoiding” pregnancy, and use those outcomes from women to collect data on the “effectiveness” of NFP based on how many were able to “successfully” avoid pregnancy.
If you use contracepting language, don’t be surprised if people think you are promoting “Catholic contraception.” This is a problem, and it’s why people think, erroneously, that NFP is all about spacing children. They kind of brought that on themselves, in my opinion. It IS confusing.
I’d still like the science to be furthered, but more in line with Blessed Pope John Paul II’s exhortation in Fides et ratio to “know yourself.”
I think there are serious problems with promoting NFP in the blanket way it’s being done within the context of the Church. Stacy, you’re a scientist! You know how studies are designed, subjects recruited, etc. The medical and scientific community should not be relying on the Catholic bishops to do the recruiting and research for them! There are other ways for the research to be done than to promote NFP. Red herring!
First, I fully support the teachhing of the Church re: NFP. And, I do believe it requires serious reasons to use it, as I am sure you do also.
However, I am sick and tired of having NFP pamphlets shoved into my hands as if I need them. I am tired of being asked by NFP advocates what “model” we use, as if it any of their damn business.
Ironically, while both my wife and I believe in it, we have never used it, as we felt no need to. And that’s our choice we made together. Perhaps we will in the future after our 6th child arrives.
I have no problem with people who like to chart for reasons other than fertility. But people could also chart their daily temperature and consistency of their stool for other health reasons, and there’s no push there, even though it would provide deep insight into several bodily functions. (Please know, I am serious and not being sarcastic by using that example.)
In any case, I make no assertion about people not “trusting God” or whatever. But I will say that the people who choose to do that should be left alone. Oftentimes people who respond the way you suggest are doing so because they are tired of others jumping into their marital bed.
I post this as a serious post — not an attack or being sarcastic. It is not meant to be combative.
It is either intentionally disingenuous or just plain naive to discuss NFP as if it is merely a scientific exercise designed to produce knowledge. “Contraceptive language” is the subtext of virtually every promotion of NFP: it is a safer and “equally effective” method of birth control. Engaged couples are not required to learn NFP as part of marriage preparation so that they can learn more about the cycle of fertility. It is taught and promoted because, in our contraceptive culture, it is a morally licit method to achieve what the Church has always defined as an immoral end.
MOST couples marry and practice birth control. Birth control is now part of the cultural air that we breathe. NFP is MOST OFTEN a method of birth control, although it can, obviously, be practiced for good purposes. Couples enter marriage expecting to plan the size of their families, and the reason they have come to expect this is because they CAN. Our very human nature makes us masters at rationalization. Spiritual discernment is often little more than “it can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” If NFP were really practiced for serious/grave/just reasons (as the Church teaches), it would be exceptional and not able to sustain whole publishing industries and institutes.
It is beyond obvious that NFP can be and too often is practiced for reasons that do not align with the Church’s understanding of the purpose and ends of marriage. Most reasons for practicing birth control via NFP are not new: they have been present in almost all marriages from the beginning of time. It’s just that now we CAN practice birth control whereas in past ages we could not. So now that we CAN, we have begun to rationalize that we SHOULD in circumstances that would never have been judged so in the past. We now have knowledge and, as happened in Eden, we have rationalized use of that knowledge for our own ends. We now have knowledge that allows us to do evil that we couldn’t do before, and we can do it as partners with God (we say).
Does anyone ever really sin without believing that what they want to do is better than not doing it? Philosophers propose that everything that we do is done “under the appearance of good.” No woman kills her unborn child fully believing that what she is doing is worse than not doing it. In other words, women have abortions believing that it is better to abort than not. How many people are spiritually mature enough to conclude “God wants us to have a child right now even though I don’t think we can afford it or care for it properly”? How many people are able to think that “you are worth more than many sparrows” means that they can trust God to provide for any children He provides? Has there EVER been a time in history when 20 children would be judged as “responsible” or “prudent” for ANY couple?
As for useful scientific knowledge, we now have knowledge that enables us to transplant vital human organs but, for all that, we lack the knowledge to do so from anything but a living donor: a truly dead person is useless as an organ donor, so we must transplant vital organs like hearts and lungs ONLY from LIVING DONORS who will PROBABLY die anyway but, for now, are actually killed in the act of removing organs for donation. They aren’t really dead until their organs are removed!
NFP has given us extraordinarily useful knowledge about the cycle of fertility. We can use that knowledge to prevent birth, or we can use that knowledge to improve the prospects of live birth. Consciously and intentionally acting in such a way to prevent birth is contrary to Catholic teaching from the earliest days of the Church. Even TOTAL ABSTINENCE as a method of birth control must ONLY be done for serious/grave/just reasons. Reasons typically offered as serious/grave/just are laughable when judged against traditional Church teaching (e.g., “we can’t afford another child right now”). How can people look God in the face (“discernment”) and judge that He is saying “No, you can’t afford that child right now, and I’m not going to provide”?
As I said at the beginning, all this talk about NFP is either intentionally disingenuous or just plain naive. Grow up and get serious.
“The medical and scientific community should not be relying on the Catholic bishops to do the recruiting and research for them!”
Then take that up with the medical community.
You didn’t answer my question.
How do you further a field of research is no one is practicing it?
“Grow up and get serious?” You’re killing me man. Keep it about the issues please.
That’s all I’ve got time for, but I’ll be back online tomorrow. Thanks for your thoughts.
“How do you further a field of research if no one is practicing it?” Umm…your own response answers that: “Take it up with the medical community.” Even if an NFP group or the bishops get a bunch of couples to practice NFP, how is the data being collected? What exactly are you measuring? Who is collecting and analyzing the data? If you’re relying on data from couples in pre-marriage classes in a diocese, you’ll have some self-selection issues. You might have sample biases like age, socio-economic status, etc. You will have self-report biases.
The person or group who would like to see the research done will have to design the study, find a grant, recruit subjects. It’s been done that way for a long time! The Na-Pro (http://www.naprotechnology.com/} people seem to have a handle on the research end, claiming to have 30 years’ worth behind their work. Is that the kind of research and the types of women’s gynecological health issues you’re talking about? It sounds pretty comprehensive on their website.
I am SO GLAD I read this article today, only because it provided me the opportunity to read Terry Carroll and Jay Boyd’s comments. The article itself caused me to think, “good grief, NOT AGAIN!” but your comments expressed very well my own thoughts on the matter. I’d like very much to see more of your thinking in the Catholic blogosphere, rather than the ever-prevelant “it’s okay, you can live In the world AND of the world, AND still feel like you’re a good Catholic because I drank the Cultural Kool-aid too!”
Thank you for your insightful, direct, and honest comments Terry and Jay.
We married at age 22; we kept track of cycles for a number of years. Our children were born at my wife’s ages 24, 27, 29, 32 and 34. After her fifth delivery, her obstetrician remarked that her “props” – the tendons and other muscles that support the uterus – were not in very good shape.
We prayed about this, as we had done regularly. We decided that we would try to avoid relations when she was probably fertile.
We maintained records of her temperatures between periods for more than 17 subsequent years. Some years after that, she had to have a hysterectomy.
I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to judge whether another married couple has sufficient reasons for avoiding pregnancy, and employ the NFP rules for that purpose.
We welcomed the children that the Lord sent us.
In my experience of online debates, I find it is often those who are not in the trenches who have the strongest opinions. I am IN the trenches of my childbearing years and you know what? I haven’t the slightest worry or concern about how others discern God’s call for *their* family because it’s exactly that. *THEIR* discernment. Am I concerned with the staggering 90% of Catholics who contracept? Yes. Am I concerned with calling Catholics to a lesser degree of sinfulness by calling them into using their God given faith and reason to hear God’s call on family size? Absolutely.
Am I willing to judge them based on the small amount of information I might be presented with in a testimony given on a blog? Nope. The truth is that the discernment is truly a private issue.
I have six children. I still have many years of fertility left. How that plays out is up to God. I don’t concern myself with others’ use of NFP because it tends towards a level of scrupulosity that turns into something incredibly negative.
Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt. I used to be as judgmental of others’ situation as they come. No more. I can be right or I can bring others to know Christ. My goal is to bring others to know Christ because being right takes my focus off of that.
If nitpicking the use of NFP and folks’ use of it is something someone feels brings others to His Church, then I think it begs a reconsideration of why the Faith exists in the first place.
It certainly isn’t in the details of NFP. I can assure you of that much.
From one childbearing woman to others, please know that scrupulosity on this issue can be detrimental to your faith, particularly if it lacks charity. I find that many of the visiting comments here to be teetering by focusing on the minutia and making the gray issues appear to be black and white.
Nice list of scientists!
If you like lists of scientists who were believers, especially CATHOLIC scientists, we have a whole line of them at BestCatholicPosters.com
Biology, Math, Physics, Cosmology, Electromagnetism, Chemistry, Founders of Science, Nobel Prize Winners, and the Greatest Catholic Scientists.
I only mention it because I’m a faithless sissy, of course, but perhaps some of your readers, or even you yourself, would be interested in decorating your walls with the lists.
BTW, the Great Catholic Scientists poster includes two Popes, one of whom died while working in his custom-built laboratory. 🙂
And don’t forget Albert Magnus, Aquinas’ teacher.
Albert discovered the element arsenic.
NaPro is Catholic. When the bishops support NFP, they are supporting the research NaPro does. NaPro research is funded by the Pope Paul VI Institute. NaPro uses the Creighton Model.
I can’t tell from your comment whether you already knew that, but I’m a little confused. You say the bishops shouldn’t support NFP, then you seem to say you support NaPro because it’s the medical community. That is precisely what the bishops are referring to when they promote NFP research. Maybe I read it wrong.
It works like this: If you are a Catholic woman in a diocese in need of a safely Catholic doctor who strictly follows Catholic ethics, you call the diocese office and ask for the NaPro list of doctors.
The concern I have (and already mentioned but our ever-so-charitable Terry seemed to miss) with CM research is that they measure “effectiveness” based on how well a woman “avoids” pregnancy. As a scientist, I would urge them to define “effectiveness” another way, perhaps in terms of how well a woman was able to successfully understand what was happening with her body, more in line with JPII’s exhortation in Fides et ratio to “know yourself.” The *science* goes way beyond avoiding pregnancy and there’s much more potential for CM than that. Plus, it sounds like Catholic contraception to measure effectiveness in those terms.
I’d imagine you and I could at least agree on that much. As a mother who lost two children in miscarriage and is convinced that armed with the information CM provides I could have sought better care, I don’t want to see the science tossed out just because people are afraid a woman won’t abandon herself to God’s will enough if she uses it.
Good morning, Dr. Trasancos. I linked here from another blog. I am a Catholic convert and a former NFP user. Chart and record keeping are primarily used to record progress, manage affairs, and examine outcomes. In and of themselves, charts are useful tools to help us organize our lives and ensure that whatever we are working on is a fruitful endeavor. For those of us with analytical minds, charts and graphs and collecting data just make sense. But in reality they are rather impersonal and cold. They are just collections of data, information, as you say. There is freedom in information, yes. While all those biology classes I took in college taught me how the reproductive cycle worked as a system, it took charting and checking for me to make a connection with how God designed women’s bodies for growing and nurturing babies. And since not a single person had ever explained that to me in real terms, I had to use my reasoning skills to determine it for myself. And yet, after 5 years of successful NFP practice, I abandoned it completely when I realized that my knowledge had crossed a very ambiguous moral line. When my relationship with my husband became a scheduled event, when loving each other was limited to infertile days, when I wanted my husband and he resisted because it was my fertile time, I decided to call it quits. That same year, I was at a homeschool conference where a priest was discussing NFP. His words ring in my ears still. “NFP is neither morally good or evil. It is morally neutral. And it would be a good idea to stop encouraging couples to use it for spacing their children. In many occasions, it only leads married couples to sin. It should be avoided unless there is some truly grave reason for married couples to avoid having more children, such as the case of serious illness of the mother which might leave other children orphaned.” I bought the CD recording and listened to it over and over until finally I understood. After much prayer and contemplation, my husband and I drew this conclusion. After discussing the matter with many of our NFP using friends, we all agreed. We were using NFP as contraception. We didn’t want any more children. Out of 10 or so couples, only 1 couple was using NFP to space their children. It was eye opening. While I agree with you that, fundamentally, there is absolutely nothing but freedom in knowing how our bodies work, the motives behind NFP use are often very troubling. And this is not God’s way. Science is an amazing tool, but when we place our faith in our scientific methods over our faith in God’s Providence, we are in jeopardy of losing our souls. You are right, we cannot abandon our reasoning ability. But, as St. Thomas Aquinas reflected, our reasoning must be properly ordered lest it lead us to sin. I have come to believe it is highly imprudent to tell married couples that NFP is a moral good. God bless you.
Honest question. Or anyone.
A woman in her 40’s is more likely to miscarry because her hormones can fluctuate significantly from month to month. Charting makes her more aware of the likelihood that her body can sustain a pregnancy.
Say a woman’s had a couple of miscarriages already. Should she:
A) Not chart, and continue to risk miscarriage
B) Chart and be more aware of what’s going on in her body
Knowing what I know now, I’d feel irresponsible not to chart and to keep having miscarriage after miscarriage.
This applies to a lot of women, not just those who are older. It’s not just about avoiding and achieving pregnancy, and it seems many of you are not aware of the other benefits. Goodness, it’s even a benefit for me to know when my hormones are wacky so I can understand my mood swings and warn my poor husband.
Not everyone succumbs to the temptation to manipulate love-making. Some of us honestly want the science and the knowledge for moral reasons. How can anyone say that treating a child to save his life is immoral? Are the unborn somehow less important? Surely not.
I also gather from reading the comments that a lot of you are upset about how NFP is pushed on new couples preparing for marriage.
I am with you 100% that the terminology needs to change. I do not like the term NFP either.
Maybe you don’t know these things that Creighton Model teaches now. It’s different than it used to be.
A woman’s body will delay ovulation if she is under a lot of stress, and when that stress goes away, she’ll then ovulate. You can follow this with charting, you can tell if there is a delay.
Brides-to-be, under a lot of stress, can experience such a delay leading up to the wedding night and that is why it is so common for couples to conceive shortly after marriage. They need this knowledge. Why? Lots of reasons. The woman should start taking folic acid and vitamins to help prepare her body for pregnancy. The couple should be prepared to be parents right away. Or, if the woman is really sure that she will ovulate, maybe they will chose to abstain even on the honeymoon so that they can settle a few more months. It’s not being shut off to life to wait a few months because the marriage sometimes needs to come first. No marriage, no family.
These are the types of discernment I hear about from young people who understand this knowledge is about more than avoiding and achieving. They either do it for health reasons or they only avoid for very short periods of time to manage their lives. The young Catholics I know either want large families or are well on their way to having them, and charting is part of a communication.
Generally, the people I hear speaking in terms of avoiding for years and years at a time are people who aren’t aware of the other benefits of charting and the progress that has been made in this field of research.
I’m still trying to figure out how someone with a Ph.D. could call Galileo the father of modern science. He was dishonest, did little work that was novel, and he always “skipped steps” from hypothesis to tested-conclusion. Not a model for modern science, nor for the philosophically inclined (Ph.D. = Philosophiae Doctor … sorry, I guess it should be Doctrix for you!) You don’t have to be a committed geocentrist to disown him as a patron of modern science.
Galileo is considered the Father of Modern Science because he promoted the idea that mathematics is the language of the physical universe.
Prior to Galileo, mathematics was considered about as important as shop class in high school – useful if you want to build fortifications or cast a horoscope, but it bore no relation to reality apart from that. Aristotle’s philosophy was thought to be the key to understanding God’s handiwork. Mathematics was for slow students who couldn’t handle philosophy, so they dabbled in alchemy and morally questionable astrology instead.
Galileo changed all that. His work on mechanics (NOT his support of heliocentric theory) forms the basis for his reputation as the Father of Modern Science.
Aristotle’s philosophy wasn’t necessary to understand the world. Galileo insisted that we just needed to start measuring everything. Galileo showed that mathematical laws were universal on earth. Everything responded to the same mathematical laws in the same way.
Thus, Galileo lays the groundwork for Newton’s insight – that the same mathematical laws which govern everything in the world might also govern the heavens. This was a shocking thought in its day, but Newton proved that what Galileo had shown was true for earth was actually true everywhere.
Mathematics is now universally recognized as the language of the physical universe, and Galileo was the man who put us on the road to understanding that.
I wanted to respond to your comment, sorry it took so long, hope you’re still around.
“Ironically, while both my wife and I believe in it, we have never used it, as we felt no need to. And that’s our choice we made together. Perhaps we will in the future after our 6th child arrives.”
I didn’t really think much about it either until after my sixth birth. Two miscarriages later we started taking it more seriously. I was able to figure out why I was miscarrying and do something the next time so there was a seventh birth.
As for the analyzing poop comparison, good point, I don’t know. This reproductive information has mattered to me because it helped me understand myself so much better, and I’d like to see it furthered for the benefit of my daughters.
When people (on both sides) boil it down to nothing more than avoiding and achieving pregnancy, it seems they miss so much of what it really is.
Thank you. I love your website, and have visited it before as the result of a google search. We are preparing to homeschool four little kids so this will be a useful resource.
Indeed brilliant. If we had more apologists like this our enemies would run for the hills.
And yet, there are times when the main reasons for charting is a lack of courage or the attempt to overcome some timidity in the face of the awesome and awe-inspiring plan of god for new life. In these situations the couple may not yet be emotionally ready, or yet enough accomplished in the virtue of trust, to simply “allow nature to take its course”.
But all the more reasons for charting in those cases, because charting provides just enough control to remain virtuous and advancing in virtue, provides the way to avoid pregnancy without transgressing God’s holy law, and still allows intimacy. So it’s true that the couple may be charting because they don’t yet trust God enough, but that ought not be understood in a denigrating or disparaging way, for the charting then is part of an apprenticeship in virtue. Ingenious! So much so we take it for granted.
I largely agree with Jay, Papabile, and Terry.
I have no problem with a woman “charting.” What I several serious concerns about is the use. Colloquially, the term “NFP” is used to describe use of fertility info to avoid children. I will use it that way here.
1). Stacy, you said “one thing I never see in the “must be serious reasons” debate is an actual list of reasons that do not qualify.” That is my number one complaint. In all the NFP promos and articles, etc., I never hear any hint from the proponents that there are ANY moral guidelines to the use despite the fact that moral guidance is a primary function of the Church. Instead all we hear is that we now have this “Get out of Child Free” card.
I don’t think NFP is even properly presented. While NFP (as defined above) is morally permissible when practiced with the right intentions and for a just reason, it is only a dispensation for concupiscence. Sex is a reproductive act whose primary end is reproduction. Unity and pleasure (essentially a biochemical drug trip) are secondary and tertiary ends. Strictly speaking, it is contrary to reason to have sex while intentionally avoiding the primary end to enjoy secondary effects. However, due to our fallen, wounded nature God, through the Church, teaches that use of the infertile periods is acceptable to avoid the greater evils resulting from concupiscence as long as couples do not directly contracept and will welcome the little “oopsies”.
2) Many diocesan bishops are making NFP and its medical training *mandatory* for those preparing for marriage. According to CIC 843, ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those properly disposed and pastors are required to ensure they are properly catechized. I strongly believe that mandatory NFP training is an unlawful bar to the sacrament, and am likely to write to the CDW to inquire. Only those components that deal with the moral issues surrounding NFP can be considered catechetical in nature. Medical training is not and outside the competence of the Church. It’s fine to *offer* the training, but wrong to *require* it.
I have more, but no time to write it up.
I actually work at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha. I’ve been with the Institute for almost 2 years, my wife has been a patient for the almost 7 years we’ve been married and we chart to the best of our ability. That said, the PPVI Institute doesn’t generally use “NFP” or “Natural Family Planning” to describe what is done here. For us, it’s all about Fertility Care and Awareness. We have Fertility Care Centers across the US and around the world. To those who might have objections or concerns, I would recommend contacting the Institute as we have resources available to answer your questions. A quick internet search will lead you to our website.
As an aside, or in addition, you can listen to Catholic Answers Live for an all-new interview with Dr. Tom Hilgers on Friday, August 10th at 5:00 p.m. CDT (6:00 p.m. EDT or 3:00 p.m. PDT)! The topic will be Overcoming Infertility. Don’t forget to share this news with your Creighton Model, NaProTechnology providers, family and friends too! Listen online and get updates about the interview at http://www.drhilgers.com.
My main objection to NFP here is that NFP is pushed as if it is the only way to be a good Catholic re: the marital union.
It’s not, and it IS a morally neutral system. There is no inherent good or evil in it. In many ways, it’s just like a gun or knife. Both can be used for killing people, and both can be used for putting meat on the dinner table. It depends on its use.
If people want to chart for the reasons Stacy has outlined, that’s fine with me. But, there’s no obligation to do so, nor does it mean one is being irresponsible if one chooses not to use it.
NFP is continually pushed as if it is a form of birth control. I resent it. For a few years I worked for the NCCB and I knew the NFP ladies in the Pro-Life Secretariat well. The few conversations I had regarding NFP and contraceptive intent can be summarized in this way:
(Complete paraphrasing here as it was 15 years ago…) ‘You might be right that NFP can be used with contraceptive intent, but why focus on that when only 3 percent even use it, and 7% use nothing at all? Wouldn’t it be better to just get people on board with the Church’s teaching?
My answer would be: “Yes, it would be good to get people on board with the Church’s teaching, but that doesn’t mean NFP should be marketed as an end and a postive good.”
Additionally, the annoying and continual willingness of people to speak about their marital activities annoys the hell out of me. The decision of whether to use it or not is between oneself, one’s spouse, their confessors and God.
I think you are correct in every regard.
If you don’t like the term ‘natural family planning’, then how about ‘virtue family planning’?
Stacy, this post is delightful! Haters gonna hate, keep up the awesome work.
My body isn’t in this fight any longer, since cancer took at my fertility, but I am a self-proclaimed science nerd and Catholic apologist. When I did have reproductive organs I learned to chart using the Creighton model prior to meeting my husband for health reasons. The number of women who have some type of gynecological issue, whether PCOS, endometriosis, painful periods, long periods, short periods, heavy periods, etc is astronomical. So the theory that teaching NFP will only help a few women in ludicrous. Most women, even though who feel they have no gynecological complaints can benefit from learning more about their bodies. I was told by one of my instructors that the Creighton model is actually a fertility awareness model more than NFP… Perhaps if more people used fertility awareness method the objections would be more limited.
As a student and practioner of Creighton, I was always struck by how much about family the system was. In the book I have, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to SPICE (basically how to connect with your boyfriend or spouse without using sex). Although the statistics trend towards the effectiveness of avoiding pregnancy, that is the most measurable and repeatable part of the process, so it is understandable. Shouting the conception rate effectiveness would actually be disengenuous without the corresponding statistic of avoiding conception, because there are fewer variable at play with avoiding conception and avoiding and achieving are opposite sides of the same coin. The result of avoiding pregnancy, a normal menstrual period, is clearly measurable. However, there are so many variables with achieving conception that clear statistical trends are difficult to present as a blanket statement. It’s the same theory as why most, if not all, fertility awareness methods use the beginning of menstrual bleeding as the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Menstrual bleeding is THE most obvious sign that you’re having a normal reproductive cycle (if you’re not getting pregnant). Therefore, not conceiving is also THE most obvious sign that your use of the system has ‘worked’ to avoid pregnancy.
There’s another reason why avoidance rates are used so frequently with fertility awareness methods: these methods are trying to out-class artificial contraception. The vast majority of women (not just Catholics) are more concerned about whether they can avoid pregnancy, than they are with achieving pregnancy. It is a sad thing, but it’s the truth. Trying to discuss fertility awareness without having a significant amount of information on avoiding pregnancy would be like talking about the sacrament of Reconcilliation without talking about what to do when we sin. The goal of Reconcilliation isn’t to give us a “get out of hell” free card, but to help us learn our weaknesses and how to avoid sinning through these mechanisms. The goal of fertility awareness isn’t to give us a “get out of pregnancy” free card, but to help us know what happens when and why as well as how to use it.
Another reason effectiveness rates are typically about avoiding pregnancy is that you can’t have achieving pregnancy without havinging avoiding pregnancy. I don’t know if perhaps I am very good at reading between the lines or what, but when I read the sections my instructor told me to read, what I got from the Creighton manual was that the goal was actually to use the method to a) give the woman (or couple) an insight into female fertility, b) to give the couple the information necessary to identify problems, c) to give the couple a way to achieve pregnancy, d) give the couple a way to avoid pregnancy, and e) give the couple an understanding of how to truly communicate with one another without having sex be the only closeness in the relationship. This last goal was very helpful in my courtship with my now husband. He had learned that sex was basically the way men and women communicated their affection for one another. However, I was able to tell him (probably in too much detail) that sex was NOT the only option.
While I was learning the method, my instructor would gloss over the avoiding/achieving parts and focused more on what was actually happening in my body to make me so miserable. Not only that, but she was also letting me know that somewhere someone actually cared to find a way to help me that didn’t require me covering up the causes for my misery. The beauty of the system was that once I married the man of my dreams, I could use the knowledge I already had about my body to achieve or even avoid pregnancy.
Since I was single while learning the Creighton method, the emphasis given to me was about what my body was doing right/wrong/naturally and applying that to my everyday health. Maybe that’s why I don’t get the “contraceptive mentality” of the method or any method of fertility awareness. Maybe that’s a way around the whole conundrum of fertility awareness — teach it to EVERY young girl when they begin their menstrual cycle. That way issues can be identified before artificial methods have been tried. Not too mention that teaching EVERY young girl (hey, guys are more than welcome to learn too) would let them understand the whole purpose of the menstrual cycle — not as a punishment from God (thanks a lot Eve), but as a beautiful way God created us to share in His creational spirit.
My initial reaction to this post was to be totally turned off. I found the extreme sarcasm to be borderline cruel and offensive. I do think that some of the comments had a kinder & more respectful tone, and better illustrated the author’s point. “When people (on both sides) boil it down to nothing more than avoiding and achieving pregnancy, it seems they miss so much of what it really is.” <– This I agree with!
I think what’s missing from NFP teaching is the ascetic/moral context. NFP should be seen as a part of the virtue of chastity. At present, it’s taught in a clinical fashion as a matter of technique for practical ends, but with no attention given to the moral difficulties that are always present in abstinence.
What about the struggle involved? The self-denial, the uphill road to virtue, the grace that will be needed in the sacraments?
I would like to see NFP presented in a broader theological/spiritual context.
At the risk of bringing science back into the discussion, it is quite possible that the use of NFP in the first six months to one year of marriage dramatically reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, which affects about 7% of pregnancies.
It seems that some men produce sperm with antigenic properties that some women’s bodies read as highly toxic. If such a man and woman get married, the first pregnancy is likely to degenerate into a life-threatening pre-eclampsia.
If, on the other hand, the woman is allowed to become acclimated to her new husband’s sperm WITHOUT getting pregnant, over roughly the first six months to one year of marriage, her risk of pre-eclampsia in subsequent pregnancy drops dramatically.
The study is discussing the risk of barrier contraceptives, but the results imply that NFP would solve the problem nicely.
Bingo! Thank you.
The NaPro people may already be onto this, but YES, that’s the kind of information couples need.
Good discussion! (and great original post).
FWIW, I address the ascetic dimension of NFP and the development of virtue in Holy Sex! See the section on When NFP is “Too Hard.”
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