LONDON, APRIL 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Natural fertility awareness is not just a method to avoid pregnancy, it’s about gaining a new understanding of the power of procreation, says a promoter of a new diocesan resource in Britain.
Edmund Adamus, director for pastoral affairs of the Archdiocese of Westminster, has helped to launch an educational resource entitled “Natural Fertility Awareness: The Joy of God’s Plan.”
The resource includes a DVD and booklet produced by the Catholic Truth Society, in conjunction with Luton Good Counsel, a pro-life counseling service.
In this interview with ZENIT, Adamus comments on the new resource and the reasons behind its production.
Q: Your new resource says that it is a guide to natural fertility awareness. Isn’t this just natural family planning?
Adamus: Natural fertility awareness is not simply about natural family planning, but about creating within people, especially couples, a deeper sense of appreciation for the gift that is fertility. And, like all gifts from God, we are called to use it wisely and cherish it as we promise to cherish our spouse in the marriage ceremony.
Fertility awareness means so much more than just being able to know how to avoid getting pregnant in conformity with the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception; it’s also about empowering couples, particularly women, with the God-given knowledge about their bodies so that they might also achieve pregnancy as co-creators with God.
When one in five couples these days are experiencing serious problems of either subfertility or chronic infertility, then assisting couples to achieve pregnancy naturally, avoiding the injustice of in vitro fertilization, has to be seen as a pastoral priority.
Q: Why is this new resource needed? Aren’t there already myriads of resources available to Catholic couples looking to use natural methods of birth control?
Adamus: There may be “myriads of resources available,” but couples who practice natural family planning will almost always say that they had to strive very hard to be instructed, trained and supported in their locality.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been some amazingly gifted and generous natural family planning trainers out there who have tried very hard to make their presence felt and their services more widely available. However, without adequate support, the message has, at best, been paid lip service to — and in most cases ignored.
This resource aims to overcome the problem of access. It is designed to make the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality and the wisdom underlying it easy to present in clear and simple terms. It makes no demands on local clergy, but rather puts into their hands a resource to enable them to impart objectively and consistently a teaching they may find difficult to present otherwise.
Q: There are various different schools of thought within natural family planning, such as the Billings Method and the Creighton Method. Is this resource a new method? Aren’t all methods more or less the same?
Adamus: This resource is not announcing, promoting or defending any particular method of fertility awareness. It is primarily about acquainting people — including the clergy — with a sharper sensitivity to the dangers of the contraceptive mentality — so often announced by Pope John Paul II.
Basically, the resource simply points to fertility awareness as a concept, and although some of the various methods are showcased, it is ultimately up to each couple to decide which method seems most appropriate for them.
John Paul II exhorted experts working in this field to “appreciate their respective work and mutually exchange experience and results, firmly avoiding tensions and disagreements, which could threaten this important and difficult work.”
Q: Natural family planning or fertility awareness has been described as the Catholic Church’s best kept secret. Why do you think so little attention has been paid to it by Catholics, and society at large?
Adamus: In essence, the issue of ignorance and lack of engagement with natural family planning and fertility awareness is the problem of the contraceptive culture and mentality.
Commentators — especially Catholics — who disagree with the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception like to think that the problems regarding this issue are due to the promulgation of the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in 1968.
Clearly this isn’t so, and one would have to be morally blind not to see all the effects of widespread contraception which Pope Paul VI prophesied — and even those he could never have predicted, such as embryonic research, cloning and in vitro fertilization.
The theological and pastoral divisions within the Church since then have caused, and continue to cause, a source of enormous supernatural damage for evangelization. Furthermore, given the present cultural climate, it’s very hard to be immune to the effects of what John Paul II called “the culture of death,” even for very devout Catholics.
Even for those who have never, or would never, consider using contraception, but especially for those who do, the effects of the “smoke” we are breathing in is causing moral damage. Without out due care, consciences will continue to grow dull and drowsy to the toxic, narcotic effects of this mentality.
Q: Do you think parish priests and those responsible for catechetical and marriage preparation should be more willing to speak about natural fertility awareness and the Church’s teaching in this area? Why do you think many priests have been reluctant to do so?
Adamus: Yes, I do believe that marriage preparation presents itself as the best, though not the exclusive, teaching moment for a richer appreciation of fertility awareness — even for couples in irregular unions such as cohabitation.
We must never “shortchange” the engaged on what is rightfully theirs — a full, frank and informative catechetical experience of all of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. Only then can we offer hope to these couples, who can go forward to their wedding day confident that the Church loves them, shares their dreams and continues to pray for and cherish their calling just as much as she prays for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
It puzzles, but doesn’t surprise me — given all I have said about the effects of the contraceptive mentality — that clergy express real apprehension about their ability to say anything meaningful to the engaged, and yet there is more in common than they are prepared to admit.
The sacrificial aspects of priestly life and ministry have so much to bring to the renewed appreciation of the sacrament of marriage, and married couples who exercise self-control with fertility have much to offer to a renewed understanding of the charism of celibacy.
Q: How well-known are natural birth-regulation methods in the United Kingdom? Would this resource be used beyond the scope of parish use, in secular environments?
Adamus: It is true that, sadly, natural methods of fertility regulation are certainly less well-known in the U.K. than artificial methods. There could be many reasons for this, but I mention a comment made by one of the couples in the DVD that there is no money in natural methods of fertility regulation, whereas a lot of people are making money with artificial methods!
Could this resource be used in secular environments? I honestly believe that the moral climate and spiritual receptivity has never been better for proclaiming the benefits of natural family planning from the rooftops. There are countless women who desperately want to hear it and multitudes of men who need to learn it.
As John Paul II said in his theology of the body, because of the Fall, the onus is upon men to show the initiative and be the stewards of creation they were called to be from the beginning. This includes, most especially, answering the call as men to be guardians, protectors and lovers of fertility.