Sexuality is an integral and good part of human life. When used in an ordered (proper way), sexuality is life giving, integrative and unifying of human relationships. When not used properly (i.e., in a disordered way), sexuality retards human growth, destroys relationships and places an individual at high risk for disease and even death. Sexuality is ordered when expressed in a modest and chaste (non-genital or physical) way when a person is not married and is ordered when expressed chastely and physically between a man and woman who are married to each other. The physical act of intercourse (reserved only for marriage) is proper when it is an expression of love that is open to the possibility of new human life. An act of intercourse between a married man and woman is a true expression of love when there is a total giving of self. Total giving of self includes giving and receiving the gift of fertility. Any act of suppressing, blocking or destroying the gift of fertility or destroying new human life once begun is an act against love and life.
Although couples are called to be generous to new life, there are times within married life when spacing or limiting the number of children is prudent and responsible. A married couple discerns this responsibility in a prayerful and selfless way. Serious reasons for spacing or limiting children could be physical (health), psychological (mental health) economic (financial) and social. Serious reasons are determined within the context of valuing the couple’s duties towards God, themselves, their family, and society in a correct ordering of values.
When married couples have discerned that there is a need to space or limit children the means to do so must be truthful to love, the integrity of the sexual act and to the gift of fertility. As such, there are times within a woman’s monthly cycle that are fertile and times that are infertile. Natural Family Planning is a means in which a couple learns how to monitor the woman’s monthly cycle and to interpret the natural signs that tell them when the woman is fertile or not. If the couple has serious reasons to avoid pregnancy they then periodically abstain from intercourse and genital contact on the fertile times of the cycle. During this time, couples are challenged to express their intimacy in non-genital ways, i.e., through spiritual (prayer), physical (taking walks together, just holding one another), intellectual (sharing a good book), communicative (talking and listening to each other’s needs, desires and fears), and emotional (laughing, crying) ways. Although this may be difficult and at times seem impossible, God does not ask the impossible and will be with the couple in difficult times in a special way.
The practice of NFP and periodic abstinence, far from harming married love actually confers upon married life a higher human value. The many positive benefits of being chaste within marriage and practicing NFP include better understanding of your fertility, increased communication, self-mastery of one’s sexual desires, a greater generosity towards new human life, and an openness to God’s will.