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Why on earth do Catholics believe *that*???
and since I'm promoting lately, I may as well pose a question... 
5th-Mar-2007 09:23 pm
this came up in one of the recent catholicism discussions, but was never really addressed.

what forms of affection are allowed, and what not allowed, during the abstaining period of NFP? I'm thinking a lot of people have the idea that anything goes, as long as it isn't intercourse (that could get you pregnant), and doesn't involve something artificial...
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6th-Mar-2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
thank you for responding, you have a very beautiful understanding of natural law :) however, remember NFP is taught, for catholics, as the ONLY acceptable means of child spacing allowed. thus many catholics are tying to practice it not because they undertand the meaning behind it, but simply because they want to be licit and follow the rules. the letter of the law, I should say, without understanding the spirit.

I can't assume you've read the discussions over in catholicism as of late, and I certainly won't try to summarize them all for you (there were many) but one point that came up was "In my opinion, avoiding intercourse (but still sharing pleasure) during fertile times is just as "bad" and interfering [as contraception, withdrawl, etc]." I basically had to address that "but still sharing pleasure" comment because no one else did. which is why I posed the question over here as I did, rather than as a more broad understanding of natural law.

btw, you're more than welcome to post posing a new question more suitable to your tastes :) *hopes for more acitivity around here*
6th-Mar-2007 04:44 am (UTC)
I think it's a tough question. Definately tough to answer non crudely. I think it's a good time for a couple to connect in non sexual ways.
6th-Mar-2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
Definately tough to answer non crudely.

I think you just did...

I think it's a good time for a couple to connect in non sexual ways.

6th-Mar-2007 07:55 am (UTC)
There are plenty of affectionate and sexual acts that have no chance of leading to conception.
6th-Mar-2007 11:51 am (UTC)
I think the question was more of a moral/theological question, not a practical one. =)
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6th-Mar-2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
please go read the userinfo again, and then decide if you really want to be here or belong here.
6th-Mar-2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I read the userinfo. It says "Don't assume everyone here agrees with you."

I'm a very recent returnee to Catholicism, and I'm here to learn, and this particular teaching simply boggles my mind.
6th-Mar-2007 06:11 pm (UTC)
that line in the userinfo applies to those who already accept all the teachings. I suppose it wasn't very clear, but I meant that people should talk in a way that would be easily understood by those coming to learn, and not in a way that is condescending toward or way above the heads of those who don't understand completely.

what I meant, though, is that it should be clear (correct me if I'm wrong) that this isn't the place for promoting ideas that go against church teaching, or to make snide remarks about other faiths, which you did both.

however, now that you've clarified why you're here, I can say welcome aboard :) I do hope you learn what you're looking for here, but I have to say if you learned about these things from secular hippies, you might do better sticking to asking questions or lurking, rather than trying to answer.
6th-Mar-2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
I have a lot of respect for and knowledge about the Orthodox family purity laws; I simply only knew of such rules as they apply in that faith, and not in Catholicism. I know more about those, which is sort of ironic.

The line in the user info is not very clear; since one needs to learn about the reasons why rules apply, and the practical implications of them before accepting them. If people who are in early stages of converting or learning aren't welcome in the discussion, that's completely understandable, but perhaps you should make that clearer.

I'm a product of woefully inadequate, extremely liberal religious education, and I'm single so I have not gone through Pre-Cana. (I actually left the Church since what I had learned prior to Confirmation was utterly unfulfilling.) To people from my background, Humanae Vitae is utterly foreign. Contraception wasn't even discussed in my parish's "sex and family" class.
7th-Mar-2007 03:54 pm (UTC)
yeah, I probaly should re-do the whole userinfo. now that I re-read it, it's not as clear as I would like, and not as broad as I would like either.

I rally know nothing abot Orthodox Jews.. as far as catholicism goes.. it's pretty hardcore in that area, but not as hardcore as some outsiders think ("they can only have sex if they're TRYING to get pregnant!").

Catholic education is, sadly, lacking in most areas. it's getting to where you pretty much have to self-educate if you want to know anything, because the schools and CCD classes are falling dramatically short :(
6th-Mar-2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
Also, let me add: The disconnect for me was that "NFP" used as a broad term from me has a medical connotation; the Catholic applications thereof don't fall under that at first blush, since many people who use it aren't religious at all. I seem to have misunderstood the question.
7th-Mar-2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
technically speaking, NFP is the catholic term, and FAM (fertility awareness method) is the secular term. since the term NFP was, as far as I know, around first, a lot of people (wrongly) use that to mean all of the above. the book "taking charge of your fertility" at least makes the distinction that NFP requires abstinence during fertility (when trying to avoid pregnancy, obviously) where as FAM allows barriers and what not.

so going by that definition, NFP does in fact require complete abstinence form all sexual acts dring the abstaining time. anyone who says otherwise is confusing it with FAM.

of course as far as charting and figuring out what days are fertile and what days are not, they are the same thing, so there's where the lack of distinction comes in.
6th-Mar-2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
I think you miss the point of the question. it's not "how to avoid pregnancy" but why abstaining is OK as far as catholics go, where as condoms, withdrawl, etc. are not. if you're performing "sexual acts that have no chance of leading to conception" it's basically the same as having contracepted sex. (remember, this comm is all about catholic morality here)

NFP teaches that the fertile period is a sacred time during which it's up to God to deciede whether a couple conceives or not if sexual acts take place. if the couple wishes to avoid conception, the couple is to avoid sexual acts all together--even ones that can in no way cause pregnancy. because the idea is not to get the pleasure of the act without the "consequence".
6th-Mar-2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
I think that's where the disconnect is for me. I learned about NFP from secular hippie-types who practice it, and I didn't learn it from a religious perspective.
6th-Mar-2007 11:46 am (UTC)
I guess it depends a lot on whether you see what you're doing during the abstaining period as an act/end in itself; or if you see it as part of a longer buildup until the fertile phase has passed.

To my mind, there's a difference, anyway.
6th-Mar-2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
or if you see it as part of a longer buildup until the fertile phase has passed.

this one seems rather.. difficult. I mean, normally when you're building up form something, it's for an act that's what, 15 minutes away? maybe 45 at the most? I can't imagine trying to build up for something that's still days away without getting plain old frustrated. but that might be more of a practical answer than a moral one :P
6th-Mar-2007 11:53 pm (UTC)
I guess it's a matter of mindset, though there are obviously practicalities involved. But we do spend that time actively looking forward to "rabbit season" (as we call my luteal phase! *grin*), so when we're affectionate during a time where we're abstaining, we are looking forward to the time when we can join together again in that particular physical sense. So there's never really a sense of 'completion' during that time, if that makes sense to you. I don't mean 'completion' in the sense of physical satisfaction, I just mean that in our minds, it's definitely a leadup to something more, which we anticipate eagerly.
7th-Mar-2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
just wait til you're breastfeeding ;) sometimes you get long periods of not-as-fertile quality fluid that last a few weeks with no end in sight, only to just stop with no ovulation taking place! I had six anovulatory cycles before conceiving this last one (incidentally, 1 year was our cutoff for stopping NFP, and I ovulated at 12.5 months, so the timing worked out...) and all 6 'cycles' had some sort of fluid appear between periods that we had to abstain through "just in case" but that had no connect at all to the next period (sometimes bleeding showed up like 2 days after the fluid stopped.. once it was a month later!)

so yeah.. with that in mind, it's hard to look forward to the end of it when you have no clue when the end will be. we had to take it one day at a time.
6th-Mar-2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
It really comes down to the question, then, what does theology of the body say? Theology of the body states (to simplify) that sex is for the purpose of unity, and procreation. therefore, sexual acts outside of this purpose are against God's will. The question then becomes "define a sexual act". Many people consider kissing to be sexual, and therefore abstain from it before marriage. I do not. Where do we draw the line between God's purpose and our own? I have trouble with this, even outside of the context of NFP, just as a person in a relationship.
7th-Mar-2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
it also depends whose theology of the body you're reading, the pope's or christopher west's? I've heard the latter is a rather crude and somewhat innaccurate interpretation.

kissing in itself is one of those things that ranges everywhere from short and merely affectionate, to longer and more passionate. it's hard to lump all kinds into one category.

my husabnd and I refrained from kissing before marriage not because we considered it a sin and wrong, but because we knew the temptation to take it from one kind to the other would be great, and didn't want to see where it would go from there...
8th-Mar-2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Anything goes? No. But I would say it's unrealistic, on a practical level, to expect nothing to happen.

This is an issue with which I have a lot of problems. Why must each and every sexual act be oriented toward procreation as well as unity? That pretty much cuts out any sexual act except for vaginal intercourse. For people like me at least (and I expect I'm pretty normal), limiting sexual acts to vaginal intercourse is detrimental to the unitive aspect of a relationship.

Taken to the extreme, I can see how that argument leads to artificial birth control. My point here is that there surely is a path of moderation.

For me the line gets drawn not so much with specific acts but with the intent behind the act. If it's pure lust, it's not okay. But if it's a buildup like catdraco mentions, or otherwise an expression of love, I don't have a problem with it.
9th-Mar-2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I read that other acts are ok as long as they're in the same context as a full act of vaginal intercourse so as not to use them to avoid pregnancy. since no vaginal intercourse is taking place during the abstaining times, that makes others off limits too, at that time. it's the pleasure vs. pregnancy thing.
9th-Mar-2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I'll admit I've not actually read either version of Theology of the Body, but I still have a problem with this. The only acts that are conducive to procreation are those that involve genital contact. Intercourse isn't necessary per se, but there's a fine line between genital contact with and without intercourse.

Expecting people to abstain from any act that can't result in pregnancy is essentially boiling it down to "sex is only for procreation." And expecting people to abstain from all acts when abstaining from genital contact (just because they also do them along with genital contact at other times) is pretty much the same thing.
9th-Mar-2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
I've not read the theology of the body either, just the catechism on this topic. I'm going from memory here, so it may be a bit sketchy. I won't try to claim anything I say is directly quoted :P mostly, I just think it makes sense.

I'm not even sure we're talking about all the same "other acts", though. the whole point of NFP is that all sex acts *aren't* for procreation, otherwise complete abstinence at all times, rather than just fertile times, would be required for those wishing to avoid pregnancy. I see a big difference between a time when it's impossible for me to conceive (and therefore not God's will that I conceive through any marital relations which take place during that time) and the times when it is possible for me to conceive. during the latter, I have no problem with feeling I should either be open to life, or avoid anything that offers the same kind of pleasure as an act that could result in new life. engaging in other sexual acts while avoiding any act that could result in pregnancy would just seem, well, contraceptive. I won't say it's easy, but I can see it as a sacrifice to be made in exchange for avoiding pregnancy for whatever reason I have seen fit for the time.

now I'm getting all wordy again, and I still don't know if I've clarified what I mean, and whether we're talking about the same thing :/
9th-Mar-2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
I think we are, and your response here leads back to the original question: what, exactly, is okay during an abstinence period?

I'm going to apologize in advance for the bit of vulgarity below; I'm trying as hard as I can to keep it clean, but...

Here's an example. If my spouse and I engage in oral sex as well as vaginal intercourse during the infertile periods, does this really mean there's an expectation to avoid oral sex during the fertile periods, just because we do it along with vaginal intercourse sometimes but not this time?

This is what I consider impractical and, on a spiritual level, possibly detrimental to the unitive aspect of the relationship. With respect to the abstinence period and menstruation, that's nearly half of every cycle that's "off limits." While I have no issue with celibacy among single people, that's expecting an awful lot of a married couple. Surely God doesn't intend that couples do such damage to their unitive relationships, just because they're avoiding conception!

(Okay, yes, I know menstruation isn't technically off-limits, but let's be practical here...)
9th-Mar-2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
does this really mean there's an expectation to avoid oral sex during the fertile periods, just because we do it along with vaginal intercourse sometimes but not this time?

yes, actually. I've read about that (oral sex) specifically, not in the catechism but in a NFP taching manual (I babysat a family where the mom taught NFP classes and I picked up and read one of her supplies while she was out). I mean, it's sex during fertility, but without fear of pregnancy. basically, what contraception is.

I don't see it as a detriment to unity. NFP is something a couple prayerfully decides to do, for whatever reason. you weigh your reasons against your desire for unity at that precise moment, and decide which wins out. having sex every day or even every week isn't a requirement for marriage, but neither is practicing NFP at all. physical unity is important, but avoiding it is temporary. other unity is important, too, like praying about whether to abstain or accept a (possible) pregnancy, being on the same page with your spouse as to whichever you ultimately decide, and together making the necessary sacrifices.
9th-Mar-2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have to agree to disagree with the teaching manual, then.

To place oral sex between consenting spouses on the same level as contraception is, IMNSHO, completely misunderstanding the need for a unitive sexual aspect in a marriage, and I also personally find that concept offensive*. The fact that not all married couples have that need at the same level (or at all) doesn't mean that those who do are doing something "wrong."

God doesn't mean for us to deliberately self-flagellate via sexual frustration. We're not animals to let it rule us, but sexual feelings in and of themselves are neither disordered nor shameful.

Asking someone to accept such a high level of sexual frustration is essentially asking them to give up part of the marriage. In many marriages -- I'd even dare to say most -- physical expressions of love are an intrinsic part of the relationship. I don't see what's so terrible about that.

* This does not mean I am offended by you or this conversation.
9th-Mar-2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
can't make you agree ;) just stating what I've read, have always been to the understanding of, and incidentally, makes sense to me.

a lot of people would disagre that condoms distort unity in any way, either, but that doesn't make their use licit.

the fact is, need/desire/want/whatever aside, sex also makes babies. I don't think it's my place to try to come up with loopholes to this fact. and that's what I feel an oral sex exception would be..

though I also feel, personally, that that by iteslf would be, well, not very unitive. I tend to think "embrace" when I think unity, and other things are just foreplay or what not.
9th-Mar-2007 10:46 pm (UTC)
To place oral sex between consenting spouses on the same level as contraception is, IMNSHO, completely misunderstanding the need for a unitive sexual aspect in a marriage

I don't think it's that hard to see a link. Certainly you know that many people take advantage of oral sex's lack of conception powers.

What does the consent of the spouses have to do with it?

I think you're a little close to isolating the 'unitive aspect' in sex. If we're morally avoiding the procreative, I don't see right away that we can still demand the same level of unitive pleasure. Do you? As an informal rule of thumb, as it were, I would consider that any act that is intended to lead to an orgasm should probably be off-limits during the time that we're abstaining from sex. I don't see a reason to think that we're just abstaining from procreation itself, and not from the whole act of sex; so by extension, I would say we're abstaining from the 'other' side of sex, the "unitive" or the pleasurable. Remembering that these are only abstracted distinctions and don't (or shouldn't) really exist in a couple's sex life.

I partly base this on another idea I have, that any act that leads to an isolated orgasm of one person of a couple, and not the other, is not a good idea, at least as a continued habit. Engaging in, say, similarly-pleasurable acts like oral sex during the time we're morally avoiding sex itself seems like this same principle, multiplied by two. Do you agree with that or is this unfounded?
26th-Apr-2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
This is an excerpt from the book Holy Sex! by Gregory Popcak (definitely worth a read - he bases his book on Humane Vitae and the Catechism):

"Done properly and with the right understanding, NFP can be a kind of master class in sexuality, a real education... because it employs a concept known as SPICE. SPICE (an acronym for Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, and Emotional) is best understood as the conscious effort a couple makes to enflame their desire for one another and enhance their intimacy by taking short breaks from genital intercourse while at the same time intensifying the amount of nongenital physical contact (kissing, cuddling, "making out" without going all the way, etc.) and other expressions of affection (such as praying together, making daily time to talk, challenging each other to learn something new together, playing together, making time to share their hopes and dreams)."
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