Posted by: L. E. Barnes | March 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent

This fourth Sunday of Lent was the day to “spring forward” an hour. I wonder if that had anything to do with my parish’s 8 AM mass being so sparsely attended today…

In our catechumenate class today we focused on the Church’s teachings on contraceptives (including abortion) and natural family planning. As mentioned in my post about last week’s class, this is one area that the Church receives heavy criticism for. The official position of the Church is that contraception is intrinsically wrong. And one person in the class pointed out that Pope Paul VI “took it on the chin” for his encyclical Humanae Vitae, which affirmed the Church’s stand against contraceptives and abortion. So why does the Church take such a stand?

First, the Church’s teachings on this matter are rooted in its teachings on marriage. Rather than being a mere contract, marriage is a covenant. Just as we enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord at baptism, so a man and woman enter a covenant relationship through marriage. Holy Communion and sexual intercourse are, in a sense, actually analogous: Christ literally gives His body to us in the Eucharist, and the husband and wife give their bodies to one another in intercourse.

Furthermore, God allows a man and woman to participate in the act of creation by having children. However, by using contraceptives and thus rendering the sexual act sterile, a couple is divorcing sex from its divinely ordained purpose. Our discussion leader remarked that using contraceptives is a person’s way of saying, “What God has joined, I will divide.” It probably should come as no surprise that couples that follow the Church’s teachings in this matter have only a 1% divorce rate, as opposed to a nearly 50% divorce rate among the general population.

The Church also recognizes that it would not be prudent for all married couples (due to financial, medical, or other reasons) to have a large family. Thus, it approves of natural family planning (NFP). This method (which is not to be confused with the notoriously unreliable rhythm method) involves a couple determining a woman’s periods of fertility and infertility and timing their sex life accordingly. Because it simply follows the body’s God-given cycles, NFP respects God’s sovereignty while allowing a couple to exercise prudence. In addition, NFP requires a couple to communicate more with one another (since they must carefully monitor such things as the wife’s body temperature as well as discuss the timing of their sex life), thereby strengthening the marriage bond. NFP is also as effective as any form of contraceptive–and even more effective than some contraceptives. Finally, NFP can likewise help a couple wanting to have children to determine when they are most likely to conceive. So NFP lets a couple stay faithful to the Church’s teachings as well as enhance their marriage.

Here is a short video in which a couple shares their experiences with NFP:

Toward the end of class, some people asked whether there were situations when it would be acceptable for a woman to a contraceptive. For instance, some women take “the pill” for purely medical reasons. The answer was that in such a case no sin has been committed. And it was added that there are a number of “gray areas” in this matter. But it must be remembered that the Church does not proscribe contraceptives to be ironfisted; rather, it is for our own welfare and happiness, fostering a culture that affirms life.

Today our parish is celebrating the completion of its new family life center. Our bishop, as well as a number of priests, will be attending. A sumptuous feast is planned! At the mass today, our pastor spoke to us about his love for the people of the parish. The new facility is the culmination of a lot of planning, fundraising, and overseeing. The long, arduous process is over, and the parish as well as the community will certainly benefit from this building to build the Body of Christ. Learn more about it our parish’s website.

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