FAMs vs contraception
FAMs are not contraception. Although both contracepting and FAM/NFP using couples may have the same goal, that is to space their children and plan their families, they approach the issue differently. Contracepting couples take action to separate the unitive from the procreative meanings of sexual intercourse. Their bodily message which says ‘I give myself totally to you’ excludes their fertility. Often there are physical barriers which illustrate this point. The integrity of the sexual act is destroyed.
Couples practising FAM will give themselves totally to each other when they are intimate, using neither devices nor hormones to render their act sterile. Barrier methods and withdrawal are not used. They can use their knowledge of a woman’s cycle to time intercourse to achieve or avoid pregnancy. When they have sexual intercourse, it is a full self-gift and in this way, it is different to contraception.
Furthermore, FAM practicing couples would not act against life. During fertile days, when the couple wish to postpone pregnancy, they would abstain from sexual intercourse and express their affection differently. In the case of contracepting couples, they would use devices and chemicals to knowingly act against possible conception. The primary mode of action of contraceptives is at preventing egg and sperm meeting, thereby preventing conception. However all hormonal contraceptives and the copper coil also prevent implantation of an embryo, should conception occur, as a back-up mode of action. This is abortifacient rather than contraceptive.
FAMs can be used selfishly in that a couple may not wish to have children when perhaps they should consider being generous in the service of life, but the discernment which a couple brings to their relationship each month (born of the necessity to communicate the wife’s fertile time) will make it harder for them to drift on for years, never discussing the matter.
The Church has always taught against contraception and this teaching was affirmed in Humanae Vitae, written by Pope Paul VI. He made predictions, in the 1960s, of the effects on society of widespread use of contraception. We can now see that his predictions were correct:
- Marital infidelity and lowering of moral standards
- Objectification of women
- Governments imposing contraceptive policies on populations
- People wanting to have absolute dominion over their own bodies