What Catholic women actually believe about Natural Family Planning

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A minority of Catholic women in our survey have used natural family planning (defined in our question as “a method of postponing pregnancy without the use of artificial contraception”). One in five women who had ever been married or were living with a partner said they had practiced N.F.P. with a partner.

Natural family planning is a method of observing the signs of fertility, so couples can decide whether or not to have sex at the times a woman is most likely to be able to conceive a child. The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers the question “When is it moral to regulate births?” with a variety of factors to observe: Is it a decision free from external pressure; is it driven by serious reasons, not selfishness; is it sought using moral (non-contraceptive) means? (No. 497).

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We asked the women who used N.F.P. about what factors were most important to them when they decided how to space births. Financial concerns were some of the most commonly cited: 38 percent of women said it was very important to them. The next most frequently cited reasons were not wanting more children (34 percent) and a woman’s relationship with her husband (33 percent).

 

This article is one of four short explorations of the data found in the America Survey, commissioned by America Media and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Read the other three here: 

The Prayer Lives of Catholic Women 
How many Catholic women have considered religious vocations?
What Catholic women believe about Mass attendance, confession and God's existence

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Lisa Weber
9 months ago

Catholic women use contraception, and the same types of contraception, at the same rate as the general population. Even those who teach NFP will tell you that it is used primarily by those wanting to conceive rather than those wanting to avoid pregnancy. I keep wondering when the church will concede that the faithful have rejected the conclusions of Humanae Vitae.

Bennett Kalafut
9 months ago

The numbers typically cited by (e.g.) the Guttmacher Institute do not distinguish between "Catholic" as a kind of ethnicity (self-identify as Catholic because Mom or Grandma were Catholic), "Catholic" by baptism, or "Catholic" because one gives assent of intellect and will to the ordinary magisterium (except perhaps on this issue), nor between Catholics who follow the five precepts of the Church (confession and communion at least once per year, Mass on Sundays and holy days, etc.) , Catholics who at least try to follow the precepts of the Church, and non-practicing Catholics who don't care, don't know, or don't care to know what is expected of them.

It's one thing to poll people who keep the Catholic faith and another to poll those for whom the Catholic Church is the special, specific church they're not going to on Sundays.

Fortunately there are enough data in the poll Libresco has been writing about to do the analyses and separate the difference between ethnic/non-practicing nominal Catholics and faithful/practicing religious Catholics.

James Haraldson
9 months ago

It's very debatable as to whether "Catholic women" who use contraception are Catholic or faithful to anything other than their egos.

Nora Bolcon
9 months ago

NOT SOON ENOUGH EVEN IF IT HAPPENED TODAY!

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

The logic that birth control is unnatural is almost silly. If we were to be consistent then taking vitamin pills is equally “unnatural”. God has given us the intelligence to accomplish a morally good end in a better way and we should use it.

Ginnie Howell
9 months ago

Birth control is called unnatural because it distrupts a normal biological function. Taking vitamins would not be considered unnatural b cause it is meant to be used to restore balance to a normal biological process or state of health.

And yes, God DID give us intelligence, that’s why the Church developed various methods of fertility awareness, and supports the truth that we have the intelligence and thought to purposely abstain during fertile periods.

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

Most of the medicines we take disrupt normal biological functions. Also a heart transplant certainly distrupts the normal function. We accept this because it is good and achieves a good end. As normal we have to be careful about the end justifying the means. The Papal Commission in 1964 addressed this issue and deemed birth control to be consistent with God’s teaching. So certainly, as a matter of widely accepted moral principles every Catholic can have doubts about the hiearchy’s dictates and where there is doubt there is no sin. I happen to th ink that there is a serious issue of giving false conscious issues of the part of those who do not explain the reality. Fortunately our pastor, many years ago, did explain this to us.

Ginnie Howell
9 months ago

Birth control is called unnatural because it distrupts a normal biological function. Taking vitamins would not be considered unnatural b cause it is meant to be used to restore balance to a normal biological process or state of health.

And yes, God DID give us intelligence, that’s why the Church developed various methods of fertility awareness, and supports the truth that we have the intelligence and thought to purposely abstain during fertile periods.

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

I recommend that you read the notes from the Papal Commission in 1964. It was very clear that abstinence at certain periods is very unnatural and can have serious psychological consequences according to these participants who were speaking with the help of the Spirit.

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

I recommend that you read the notes from the Papal Commission in 1964. It was very clear that abstinence at certain periods is very unnatural and can have serious psychological consequences according to these participants who were speaking with the help of the Spirit.

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

I recommend that you read the notes from the Papal Commission in 1964. It was very clear that abstinence at certain periods is very unnatural and can have serious psychological consequences according to these participants who were speaking with the help of the Spirit.

Ginnie Howell
9 months ago

Birth control is called unnatural because it distrupts a normal biological function. Taking vitamins would not be considered unnatural b cause it is meant to be used to restore balance to a normal biological process or state of health.

And yes, God DID give us intelligence, that’s why the Church developed various methods of fertility awareness, and supports the truth that we have the intelligence and thought to purposely abstain during fertile periods.

James Haraldson
9 months ago

"Naturalness" or "unnaturalness" has absolutely nothing at all to do with Catholic opposition to contraception. See if you can make an effort to be unsilly and honorable enough to learn before mocking the Catholic religion.

Nora Bolcon
9 months ago

Some Catholics use the religion like a law book and even to the point of ignoring the one perfect human being that the religion claims is it's Lord, Namely, Jesus Christ. Nowhere in any gospel does Jesus condemn anyone for using artificial forms of birth control and there were forms of it available in his time. However, in every Gospel, Jesus definitely demands that we do not condemn others unless we wish to be condemned ourselves.

James Haraldson
8 months 3 weeks ago

You're dealing in an unsubstantiated caricature. First, rational examination of a moral principle is precisely what Jesus did frequently, more than what is recorded in the Gospels as the Gospels say about themselves. You have no knowledge of what Jesus did not say. Second, taking refuge in the do not judge cliché is always a silly thing to do. That admonishment OBVIOUSLY refers to souls not to behavior and certainly not to a rational examination of moral questions, an understanding so self-evident, it even applies to someone so silly as to not understand the irony, let alone hypocrisy, of judging someone guilty of judging. Third, Jesus gave magisterial authority to the Church he created to articulate self-evident moral truths, like the intrinsic evilness of contraception, because He knew how self-delusional all of God's sinful children will persist in being for the whole life of the Church.

Kevin Fallon
9 months ago

I am a daily communicant. My sacramental faith is this most important element in my life. I also have a PhD and don’t live by slogans.

James Haraldson
8 months 3 weeks ago

If you believe that the immutable truth of God, reflected in Catholic propositional doctrines, gifted to it by God, can be trivialized to "slogans," the only faith you have is in your ego.

Judith Gerharz
9 months ago

I would like to hear what Catholic men think about the same subjects.

Nora Bolcon
9 months ago

Again, we need to be first honest about the survey these stats. were taken from because it is a bit of a strange survey if the truth and facts on the surveyed issues were the aim or goal of the survey.

What do I mean by this?

If I wanted to truly know how the majority of Catholic American Women felt about the issues the survey asked, I would do a much larger survey group of women. The survey only asked 1,500 American Catholic Women, nationally, these survey questions, yet tried to get the full range of all American Catholic Women's beliefs on the questions. This averages out to 30 women surveyed per state and since we are looking for all ages of women, this means half the women are well above child-bearing years now so we know they are not using NFP currently. This leaves us with a stat of 40 % appx. of all child-bearing women are currently using NFP because 50 percent of all women who would need to use the method are the only ones that would be contained in the supposed 20% use overall. So since every other survey in recent years on this subject alone has led us to believe that more than 90 % of American Catholics are not using this method but artificial methods instead, we know this survey has serious flaws. This also included women who almost never go to church but still consider themselves Catholic as some of the 30 women in each state so even the definition of Catholic is a little skimpy. Now, if you say, well, they meant what women ever used NFP, not how many are using it now or used it for long periods in their marriage, then the question becomes completely useless, because what does it matter if the majority of 70-80 year old women used NFP before Vatican II, or even if a 30 year old Catholic women now used the method for a month, hated it and never used it again.

So why do this strange survey, with many quasi-hot button issues (i.e. womens ordination to deaconate but does not ask about full ordination for women to priesthood intentionally, and asks about birth control use and NFP, and political leanings, etc.) but not do it very well or in a way that seeks to get at the real truth about what Catholic women believe on these subjects? There is one good reason and I hate to say this regarding this particular magazine because over all I really like America Magazine, but the only reason I can think of is one of the oldest reasons and that is for propaganda purposes.

There are those in our hierarchy that want women prepped to accept, perhaps very soon, female ordination to the permanent deaconate but not ask for more. They want all the so called "progressive-like" Catholic news sources to push the idea that women should think deacon ordination is a miracle alone - enjoy that idea and don't ask yourself "Is this just a decoy for justice since deacons really have no authority and can't promote? Is this still a sexist cage, just with a new name? or am I really supporting equality and equal human dignity if I receive this news as some kind of step forward?" The paperwork from those researching the subject of female deaconate for the Pope have sent this info. to Pope Francis to review and make a final decision on as we speak. So these articles and surveys are not likely coincidence. These same hierarchy members want to push women to strongly reconsider NFP because they want women to birth more Catholics and the church realizes that women with greater amounts of children are often to busy to speak up on social justice issues in or out of church. They also want to keep women out of real ordination for as long as possible so they can install gender segregation by hopefully pushing the idea of married male ordained priests.

We need to be aware that this is a very pivotal time and that surveys that are made in such a way that it would almost be impossible to gain the truth from them (such as this CARA report on what women really want and believe is, due to its lack of respondents alone) are often put forth to us for other reasons. For instance, if I only ask 30 women in each state how they feel about a certain subject, it is very easy to find a way to only ask the women who I think will likely answer the question the way I want and still not appear to have discriminated. For instance, I could pick a very conservative or liberal parish to ask all my questions in, etc.

CARA has done somewhat contrived surveys or surveys with an obvious agenda and clear desire for a particular type of result in the past. They simply are not an unbiased source. The pew report and other respected secular papers and articles have actually done less biased surveys that are still accurate. When it comes to how many priests do we have or deacons, numbers, or facts-type reporting, CARA is pretty reliable but I am less likely to seek CARA alone as a source tool on issues in the church that are contentious. I do use CARA still to support other reliable sources' findings so I don't believe they are a total farce but they do have an agenda at times so I suggest for all to seek back-up research when in doubt. With this current survey of the 1,500 women Catholics, there is much room for doubt, on the validity of its findings at all or in any real way reflecting the complete truth on its research questions.

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