For some couples, the decision to not have a child seems as easy as a reach for the Pill or a condom. But that’s not the case for Joshua Schulz, a teaching assistant and graduate student by day and Natural Family Planning advocate by night.
Schulz, who teaches philosophy at Marquette, and his wife Christine not only practice NFP in their personal lives but also are also public advocates for the lifestyle.
“There’s a better way of life out there,” Schulz said. “Marriage can be happier and better. We want to share that with other couples and be positive.”
Raised Methodist, Schulz did not learn about NFP or begin to view the Catholic Church as an authority on contraception until he met Christine. Shortly after Schulz converted to Catholicism, they were introduced to the benefits of a contraceptive—free marriage at a Couple to Couple International NFP class.
“The instructor noted that my wife and I were talkers and later approached us about teaching an NFP class,” Schulz said.
Seven years and two children later, Schulz and his wife are still teaching NFP classes to married and engaged couples, and also give talks at local church and Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) groups. They recently spoke to an RCIA group at Three Holy Women Parish on the east side, and will be speaking at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee later this month.
WHAT IS “NFP?”
Schulz described NPF as “essentially taking a look at the body’s signs to figure out how or how not to get pregnant.”
He identified three main types of NFP: The sympto—thermo method, the Creighton method and the Marquette method. According to Couple to Couple International, symptom—thermo method involves, “a couple uses crosschecking signs of fertility: cervical mucus, waking temperatures and changes in the cervix itself” to determine times of fertility. The woman may also use secondary signs of fertility such as ovulation pain.
The Creighton method measures cervical mucus before and after urination only.
MARQUETTE’S INSTITUE FOR NFP
The third method recommended by Schulz, the Marquette method, is primarily used today in Marquette’s College of Nursing Institute for Natural Family Planning. It involves using a hormone monitor to measure hormones present in the woman’s urine stream in addition to analyzing cervical mucus.
Marquette has been providing professional services in NFP since 1985, and founded an Institute for Natural Family Planning on campus in 1997. The purpose of the institute, as stated on the College of Nursing Web site (www.marquette.edu/nursing/NFP/), is to provide professional “education, research and service in natural family planning (NFP). Reflecting the mission of Marquette University, the mission of the INFP is to serve God by contributing to the advancement of knowledge in NFP and by collaboration with the Catholic Church in local, state and national NFP programs.”
The three major goals of the INFP are to provide online NFP teacher training for health professionals, conduct research and scholarship in NFP and develop and offer innovative NFP services.
MU LEADS NFP INNOVATION
In 1999, a new method of NFP was developed at Marquette University that integrates new technology (the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor — Unipath Diagnostics) with traditional natural biological markers of fertility. According to Unipath Diagnostics Inc., “the ClearPlan/Clearblue monitor is a hand—held device used to measure urinary female hormones that can help a woman confidently determine her fertile time.”
The Marquette Model of NFP is currently being evaluated in a number of cities in the United States including Milwaukee, Madison, Atlanta and Saint Louis, according to the College of Nursing Web site.
CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADS THE NFP TREND
Modern NFP is a constantly evolving practice that is much different from the “rhythm method” of the late 60s and early 70s. The NFP lifestyle is gaining popularity and recognition among the public, particularly among younger generations.
“Natural Family Planning is becoming increasingly popular in younger orthodox Catholics,” Schulz said. “Older Catholics just don’t know as much about it.”
Although increasing numbers of Protestants are advocating for Natural Family Planning, the Catholic Church is still the primary advocate of NFP.
According to the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, any action is excluded, “… which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means.”
The encyclical, or the teaching letter written by Pope Paul VI, also describes how “procreation is considered by the Church to be a primary or essential good to sex,” Schulz said.
While the Catholic Church is commonly regarded as the lone advocate of contraception—free marriage, no Christian churches considered contraception morally permissible before 1930, according to John F. Kippley’s “Birth Control and Discipleship.”
In his book, Kippley outlines religious communities’ views toward contraception throughout history, paying special attention to the changes in the Protestant doctrine.
For 70 years, the Christian community as a whole resisted the contraceptive movement. Kippley also writes that it was not until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 that “the Anglican Church broke from the previously unanimous teaching and allowed unnatural birth control devices and practices.” Within a few months, the Anglican break spread to the United States, and the Federal Council of Churches endorsed “the careful and restrained use of contraceptives by married people.”
NFP AS A MARITAL LIFESTYLE
Although Schulz is not directly involved with Marquette’s INFP, he is adamant about the many benefits of incorporating NFP into marriage.
“Natural family planning is so beneficial because it brings the couple together emotionally and has no side effects or cost,” Schulz said. “Communication is key in NFP.” Schulz also said couples who practice NFP tend to have a divorce rate at less than five percent
NFP is logical because the function of marriage according to the catechism is procreation, protection, essentially from desire (concubiscus) and mutual satisfaction, he said.
“The procreation aspect is what makes sex, sex. Therefore, when you take away an essential good, like procreation, it makes it intrinsically wrong,” he said.
Schulz’s view echoes the advocacy of Vicki Thorn, wife of journalism professor William Thorn and founder of Project Rachel. Project Rachel is a post—abortion ministry founded in Milwaukee in 1984 that has expanded internationally.
“With our contraceptive driven society, a couple’s bonding and communication is interfered with,” Thorn said. “Its God’s gift, teaching us how as a couple to live, to make marriages better.”