Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

5. Mauritius: Non-Christians Find NFP Satisfactory

The movement Family Action was established on Mauritius in 1963 to help Catholics at a time when a major campaign for population control was being mounted by the government.

In 1960, Professor Tittmus, an English expert who had been invited to make an official report on the population situation, sounded the alarm. Following upon the eradication of malaria and improved sanitation, population was showing a marked increase. Faced by pressure for birth control, we felt obliged to give suitable guidance to our Catholics, who form 40 percent of the population.

A. 1. Family Action thus originated from a desire to help Catholics use natural means when practicing birth regulation. It is paradoxical that right from the beginning even until today, 15 years later, 45 percent of the registered users of the natural method as promoted by Family Action are non-Catholics: Muslims, Hindus, and others. This indicates how wrong many international demographers are when they label a natural method of birth regulation "Vatican Roulette."

2. Our experience in Mauritius also calls into question the widely held cliche that the sympto-thermal method is practical only for an intellectual elite. A very large percentage of our users have only a certificate of elementary school; 16 percent have never been to school at all; 4 percent are totally illiterate.

3. Is a natural method impractical for newlyweds? Many engaged women follow their sympto-thermal chart for several months before marriage. Our experience indicates that after they marry these remain far more faithful to the method than older couples.

4. Is it a method that cannot be followed for a long period of time by couples? Here again we have in our organization couples that have followed the method faithfully for 17 years. We have several cases where women users have become in turn educators of their own children. The passage from one generation to the next comes quite easily.

5. Are artificial methods more efficient than the natural ones? We wonder about the good faith of those who keep people confused between the ineffectiveness of the Ogino, (or calendar) method, and the high effectiveness of the sympto-thermal method, which rests on newer scientific data. We also observe a tendency to attribute failures to the method and not to the real source, namely the negligence of users, or a lack of sufficient information. Apropos to this we might add that an astonishingly large number of couples have been coming to us during the past several years, after having abandoned use of the pill. B. The sympto-thermal method is not taught as a mere technique to avoid pregnancies. We have always put the stress on education of the couple for total married life. We stress the following points.

6. When teaching the STM our educators are careful to make women aware of their biological systems. Women thus gain much self-knowledge. They learn what is happening within themselves. Husbands then become more attentive to the entire personality of their wives, and realize that biology is an important factor.

In this manner, education of the couple fosters deeper human development. Our experience has taught us that an important dimension is neglected if a woman is taught only to record and interpret a chart without giving her a more rounded biological education.

7. We have been trying to help the couple discover the human dimensions of the sexual act as an expression of the total person. It is impossible to teach the STM without evoking in the couple a deepening of the quality of their love. We have noticed profounder dimensions of communion via the sexual act in many couples. In some cases, the sexual union has remained superficial, mechanical. We tried then, via the occasion of abstinence which the STM requires, to help them discover that the higher quality of the less frequent unions can be made to compensate for the lower quantity. We have invited the couple to see the sexual act as a means to reach in depth the "personal core" of the partner. The periods of abstinence are in no way presented as times when affection is not expressed. On the contrary, when exercising tenderness and affection in lieu of sexual activity, many couples have rediscovered carnal harmony and sexuality as an expression of mutual giving of self.

8. A final important concern is the relationship between love and the gift of life. Family Action has always insisted that the child should not be presented as a potential danger. The effort expended in the exercise of continence reminds the couple of the indissoluble link between the gift of self and the gift of life, and awakens an awareness of that link.

Seen in this context, the sympto-thermal method, as promoted by Family Action, is not simply a technique for birth regulation. It is seen as a means of deepening the dialogue between the partners at all levels. We could quote a great number of witnesses from among couples of Mauritius, Christian or Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist, very rich or very poor, who now live out their conjugal relations in a much improved manner because they have adopted the sympto-thermal method as a way of living their love.

by Bishop Jean Margeot of Port-Louis and Doctor Pierre Piat

Bishop's House, Port-Louis February 12, 1980

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