All of this is why I get so enraged when I see garbage such as the article by Dr. Jay Boyd which calls NFP a "Trojan Horse" in Catholic families which is destroying the proper understanding of marriage, procreation and sexuality. Let's get the obvious out of the way before her specific arguments are dealt with.
Like myself, Dr. Boyd attempts to wrap herself up in the mantle of a traditionalist, even expressing fidelity to the Magesterium before Vatican II to justify her points. I submit that if we were following the glory days before Vatican II, Dr. Boyd would be forbidden from speaking on this issue, which would be pretty awesome. You see, Dr. Boyd is not a theologian. Her doctorate is in a secular field, Developmental Psychology. As she is not a theologian, she certainly is not a moral theologian. During the glory days before Vatican II, only those with formal training in moral theology were allowed to speak on these kinds of issues. That is because moral theology deals specifically with what is and isn't sinful. In order to come to that conclusion, priests were given training for 3-4 years 4 or 5 times a week exhaustively on this stuff. They also were forbidden from writing about this kind of stuff in popular publications, to say nothing of online Catholic e-zines. So if Dr. Boyd wishes to return to the glory days before Vatican II, let her do so by refraining from speaking on which she obviously isn't qualified to speak on.
Yet if we must live in the post-conciliar days when any layman with google at their fingertips is allowed to speak on such issues, allow me the indulgence of stating why what Dr. Boyd teaches is wrong. She begins by stating the following about NFP:
NFP doesn’t explicitly fly in the face of such an understanding, but it is dramatically not submissive to God. NFP is all about a degree of control that is objectionable in any traditional Catholic understanding of marriage or Catholic spirituality in general.
There's only one problem with this. According to the "traditional Catholic understanding of marriage or Catholic spirituality in general", there's nothing wrong with NFP. I issued Dr. Boyd a challenge. Name me three moral theologians before Vatican II who taught that NFP was not submissive to God. If she cannot name three, name two. If she cannot name two, name one. When I did so, she called me closed minded, and stated she wasn't interested in having this discussion. Don't do it for my sake Dr. Boyd! Do it for your readers, several of them who asked the same questions I did!
Just to humor her, we can cite some moral theologians before Vatican II who speak quite a bit about NFP. Fr. Charles McFadden, a professor at Villanova wrote in Medical Ethics that "No unnatural action is committed by those who exercise their marital rights in a truly natural manner during the safe period." Fr. Gerald Kelly, S.J. (1958) states in Medico-Moral Problems that when it comes to the rhythm method (a very early concept of NFP):
The Church teaches that contraception is a sin because it means doing what is evil. It is not the same with rhythm. Those who practice the rhythm do nothing evil. They simply omit doing something good — that is, they abstain from intercourse at the time when it might be fertile. Therefore, the morality of using rhythm must be judged in the same way as other omissions: if the abstinence from intercourse is a neglect of duty, it is sinful; if it does not imply a neglect of duty, it is not sinfulDr. Boyd comes pretty darn close to saying that couples who engage in the marital embrace knowingly outside of the "fertile period" sin. Fr. Nicholas Halligan (1963) disagrees in his The Administration of the Sacraments:
As regards the conjugal act spouses are free to choose whatever time they wish to use their marital rights or also to abstain by mutual consent. Thus they are not obliged to perform this act only during the fertile period, neither are they obliged to refrain during the sterile period.Finally, in one of the more authoritative Pre-Vatican II theology manuals, Handbook of Moral Theology, Fr. Dominic Prummer states:
“God has endowed the nature of woman with both periods. Deliberately to limit the use of marital relations exclusively to the sterile periods in order to avoid conception (i.e., to practice periodic continence or rhythm) is, according to the common teaching of theologians, morally lawful in actual practice if there is mutual consent, sufficient reason and due safeguards against attendant dangers.
To make use of the so-called safe period (i.e., to refrain from the conjugal act during the period when the woman is fertile) has been declared lawful by the Sacred Penitentiary, but it is not a certain means of preventing conception, since there is no infallible way of determining the safe period
So now that we've established that the Church before Vatican II viewed NFP a lot more permissively than Dr. Boyd, what about the Popes? As Fr. Brian Harrison (as always) masterfully displays, NFP was given formal sanction by the Catholic Church back in 1853. This was reaffirmed several times by those with the competent papal authority under those great Popes of Happy memory Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and finally Pius XI. Now that we have established what the Church taught before Vatican II, let's ask ourselves which sounds more in line with traditional Catholic teaching and spirituality.
NFP is all about a degree of control that is objectionable in any traditional Catholic understanding of marriage or Catholic spirituality in general. (No name layman with a psychology degree)OR
“If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.... And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love (Servant of the Servants of God Paul VI, Bishop of Rome, Humanae Vitae)
Considering that she wrote a book on the subject, you'd think she would indulge in this kind of research, instead of pontificating (without any authority) about how sex between spouses when they both know they aren't fertile is sinful.
Finally, she seems to have an odd view of "remedy of concupisence" when she states:
When a married couple thinks the time is not right for pregnancy, the first option is abstinence; but, if desire is too strong, then charity demands that they engage in the remedy for their concupiscence.It would probably help if she understood a bit about biblical languages. John Paul II did, and he gave a pretty good understanding of this in his Wednesday audiences. Forgive the lengthy citation, but one needs to use overwhelming force here:
In the Pauline words, "It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion," the verb ardere signifies a disorder of the passions, deriving from the concupiscence of the flesh. (Concupiscence is presented in a similar way in the Old Testament by Sirach; cf. Sir 23:17.) However, marriage signifies the ethical order, which is consciously introduced in this context. It can be said that marriage is the meeting place of eros with ethos and of their mutual compenetration in the heart of man and of woman, as also in all their mutual relationships.....
Those who, as spouses, according to the eternal divine plan, join together so as to become in a certain sense one flesh, are also in their turn called, through the sacrament, to a life according to the Spirit. This corresponds to the gift received in the sacrament. In virtue of that gift, by leading a life according to the Spirit, the spouses are capable of rediscovering the particular gratification which they have become sharers of. As much as concupiscence darkens the horizon of the inward vision and deprives the heart of the clarity of desires and aspirations, so much does "life according to the Spirit" (that is, the grace of the sacrament of marriage) permit man and woman to find again the true liberty of the gift, united to the awareness of the spousal meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity.
So let's break this down here. Concupisence effects everything, including the bedroom. Yet as couples grow in holiness, including through the marital embrace, the hold concpusience has over them is lessened. When it is lessened, there is the chance to gradually rediscover and live the true freedom we were meant to live as spouses, a freedom ultimately modeled on Christ and the Church, and the communion of the Blessed Trinity. In this context, the marital embrace is not a mere concession to our sinful ways. It is something that, when used properly, leads to that freedom!
None of this is to say that NFP isn't abused. In many cases, it clearly is. Yet traditionalists should not be fooled by amateur hour bloggers who promise the teachings of the Fathers, but instead give the lies of the evil one behind the veneer of tradition. We should instead look at what the Church actually teaches on the manner. I provide the official Church teaching, and I'm not charging you 18 bucks to do so. I don't need to give you a 5% discount on free ninety nine. If you were going to spend your money on her book, you don't need to. Spend it on my wedding instead!