HomeNewsPope Francis praises NFP method as ‘valuable tool’ for married couples

Pope Francis praises NFP method as ‘valuable tool’ for married couples

The Billings method is one form of what is known more generally as natural family planning or fertility awareness

Pope Francis has praised the Billings method of natural family planning as “a valuable tool” for married couples that also provides needed education about the meaning of the conjugal act.

“In the second half of the last century, as pharmacological research for fertility control expanded and the contraceptive culture was on the rise, John and Evelyn Billings conducted careful scientific research and developed a simple method, accessible to women and couples, for natural knowledge of fertility, offering them a valuable tool for the responsible management of procreative choices,” the pope said in an April 28 message to a conference on the Billings method.

“In those years, their approach might have appeared outdated and less reliable in comparison with the purported immediacy and security of pharmacological interventions,” he added. “Yet in fact, their method has continued to prove timely and challenging.”

Pope Francis said the Billings method of natural family planning has spurred “a serious reflection” on “the need for education in the value of the human body, an integrated and integral vision of human sexuality, an ability to cherish the fruitfulness of love even when not fertile, the building up of a culture that welcomes life and ways to confront the problem of demographic collapse.”

The pope’s message was sent to participants in an international congress titled “The ‘Billings Revolution’ 70 Years Later: From Fertility Knowledge to Personalized Medicine.” The event was held in Rome April 28-29.

The Billings method is one form of what is known more generally as natural family planning or fertility awareness, a Church-approved way of regulating birth using knowledge about the couple’s natural fertile and infertile periods to either help conceive or to postpone conception through periodic abstinence.

The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that sterilization and artificial contraception are “morally unacceptable means” of regulating birth, while “periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.”

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“In a world dominated by a relativistic and trivialized view of human sexuality, serious education in this area appears increasingly necessary,” Pope Francis said, “requiring an anthropological and ethical approach in which doctrinal issues are explored without undue simplifications or inflexible conclusions.”

“In particular,” he continued, “there is a need always to keep in mind the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal act (cf. Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 12).”

“When these two meanings are consciously affirmed, the generosity of love is born and strengthened in the hearts of the spouses, disposing them to welcome new life,” he said. “Lacking this, the experience of sexuality is impoverished, reduced to sensations that soon become self-referential, and its dimensions of humanity and responsibility are lost.”

Quoting the Catechism, Pope Francis said that “the use of methods based on the natural rhythms of fertility should be encouraged, emphasizing the fact that they ‘respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom.’”

“In the aftermath of the so-called sexual revolution and the breakdown of taboos, we need a new revolution in our way of thinking,” he said. “We need to discover the beauty of human sexuality by once again turning to the great book of nature, learning to respect the value of the body and the generation of life, with a view to authentic experiences of conjugal love.”

The pope also pointed out the benefits of the Billings method and others for using modern scientific findings to help couples struggling to conceive.

A greater understanding of the procreative processes, he said, “could help many couples make informed and ethically sound decisions that are more respectful of the person and his or her dignity.”

“Today the ideological and practical separation of the sexual relationship from its generative potential has resulted in the quest for alternative forms of having a child, no longer through marital relations but through the use of artificial processes,” he explained.

“However,” he continued, “while it is appropriate to assist and support a legitimate desire to conceive with the most advanced scientific knowledge and technologies that can enhance fertility, it is wrong to create test tube embryos and then suppress them, to trade in gametes and to resort to the practice of surrogate parenthood. At the root of the current demographic crisis is, along with various social and cultural factors, an imbalance in the view of sexuality.”

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of a proper sexual education and “the connection between sexuality and the fundamental vocation of each person, the gift of self, which finds particular fulfillment in conjugal and family love.”

“This truth, while present in the heart of each human being, requires education in order to achieve full expression,” he said.

He quoted paragraph 284 of his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia: “The language of the body calls for a patient apprenticeship in learning to interpret and channel desires in view of authentic self-giving. When we presume to give everything all at once, it may well be that we give nothing. It is one thing to understand how fragile and bewildered young people can be, but another thing entirely to encourage them to prolong their immaturity in the way they show love. But who speaks of these things today? Who is capable of taking young people seriously? Who helps them to prepare seriously for a great and generous love?”

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