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|Issues on Fertility and Sexuality|
by Sr. Mary Pilar Verzosa, RGS
Even within the Catholic Church, and even after 40 years since the encyclical Humana Vitae was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1968 emphasized the importance of teaching natural family planning to respond to the needs of married couples for birth spacing, promoters of natural family planning have a hard time organizing teachers and trainors for effective and efficient programs on fertility education.Although learning one’s fertility, both of the male and female, is simple enough so that even those who do not have medical training can appreciate it, using the information in order to achieve or avoid a pregnancy is not that simple. It is true that practicing natural family planning is free, unlike taking contraceptive pills or injectables, using condoms or IUDs, or undergoing ligation/vasectomy, but setting up the training programs and providing the teaching materials does entail the need of funds. Within an area, we begin with an orientation session, emphasizing the fact that we are not there only to assist couples not to have babies, that is, we are not just teaching “birth control through natural means” but we are sharing the information on fertility so that couples can decide for themselves, with prayerful discernment and a deep sense of responsible parenthood, whether to avoid having a child at this time or to postpone it for later. From that orientation session, we invite those who wish to learn how to keep tract of their fertility and we monitor their learning for three or more months until they can be independent and secure in their observations, as well as comfortable in following the days of abstinence as a couple. Then we identify those who have potential to be teachers, gathering them for a training workshop and once again monitoring their teaching and counseling skills until we can evaluate that they can continue the program on their own. Yes, the process takes time but it is fulfilling to see so many couples, most of them from the grassroots, reporting to us their joy in quitting contraceptives ever since they learned NFP.
However, many parishes and organizations claim they are unable to implement the directive of the Bishops to promote natural family planning. The parish priests seem to have a hard time getting volunteers, especially among the professionals, because it does take time and they often have to shell out of their own personal funds in order to implement the program. Also, it is harder to get lay people who have not been affected by the contraceptive-population control mentality and who believe that the church teachings against contraception is right after all. Many women subscribe more to the instructions of their physicians rather than to the priest (if they hear the priest at all speak out on these matters!).