NFP and Population Policies

Anthony Zimmerman
Pan-African Conference on Love, Life and Family
Kenya Technical Teachers' College
Nairobi, August 22-28, 1993
Reproduced with Permission

Let the word go forth that the members of this Conference profoundly respect the laws of God concerning the transmission of human life; laws which Pope Paul VI articulated anew 25 years ago in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae.

My purpose is to recommend natural family planning (NFP) as a gentle and dignified manner designed by Divine Providence to help parents cope with family problems. By no means do I propose the use of NFP as a direct means to curb population growth. The first part of this paper, therefore, commends NFP for family use; the second part condemns as mistaken and immoral the promotion of population control.

Pope John Paul II urges bishops, priests, and devoted lay people to engage themselves vitally in the apostolate of NFP; he said, for example that:

The promotion and teaching of the natural methods is, then, a truly pastoral concern, one that involves cooperation on the part of priests and religious, specialists and married couples, all working in cooperation with the Bishops of the local Church and receiving support and assistance from them (To NFP Congress, 8 June 1984).

The essential difference between the aims of promoters of POPULATION TARGETS and teachers of NFP is evident to all: teachers of NFP inculcate chastity, love, and family virtue; whereas population targeteers promote copulation without babies: they peddle condoms, insert IUD's, cut tubes and vasa, insert Norplants. Their one-track mind focusses on maximizing sex but minimizing babies. The more they keep from being born, the better pleased are their paymasters.

We know that NFP teachers are not typically against babies. They are for spacing well, and so helping parents to cope, also when there are many children. we see NFP teachers in every country who have 6, 8, and 10 children. As Mother Teresa told 20,000,000 people on her television appearances in Japan that her sisters teach NFP so that parents can know this simple means which allows them to be holy, and to face the future with confidence:

We are teaching natural family planning to the poor so that the future will become simple for them; and so very many of them have told me that from the time they began practicing this way of life, their families have remained united, they are health, and they are happy that they can choose to have a baby whenever they like. This has brought much peace and unity into the lives of our poor people. That is something so wonderful to see, the peace of the family because they are not destroying anything, and they are not killing anything, but they are using their bodies to glorify God through the sanctity of this way of family life (Tokyo, NHK, April 24, 1981, slightly adapted).

The Discipline of NFP is Wholesome for Families

The ancient wisdom of the Hebrews shines through their firm and practical support of family happiness. One of the ancient regulations is a Jewish style of periodic abstinence from sexual relations, beginning with the monthly period and lasting for seven days even after the period has ended. The Hebrew Family Purity Law prescribed this, explain the Rabbis, as a means of keeping marriages always fresh and vital. Here is the explanation, as recorded in their Niddah, 31b:

Because a man may become over-acquainted with his wife and thus repelled by her, therefore the Torah said that she should be considered NIDDAH [off limits for sexual intercourse] for seven days, i.e. after the end of her period, so that she might become beloved of her husband on the day of her purification even as she was on the day of her marriage.

Rabbi Norman Lamm of New York gives much credit to this kind of periodic abstinence as a means of avoiding marital ennui. He believes that "Familiarity does indeed breed contempt, and a little absence does make the heart grow fonder ... This separation ... puts the poetry back into marriage, which retains the charm, the elegance, the excitement. It is the pause that refreshes all of married life" (Lamm, A HEDGE OF ROSES, New York, Feldheim, 1968, p. 58).

Why are there so many divorces today, when the Pill makes the woman accessible to the man at all times? Some couples testify about their experience that the Pill cheapened sex to the point of where both lost interest. Marriages fall apart then sex loses its sanctify, its challenge, its inner meaning, its privileged position.

NFP teachers know that couples who practice periodic abstinence, and so honor God and each other by this show of reverence and deference, generally find that their love grows more tender, strong, and clean. All NFP teachers know that divorce among NFP users is rare. I can't give you neatly compiled statistics, but from what I know and see, Pill users and their company probably have divorce rates 100 times as high as do NFP users. Pills transform the partner into an object which comes abhorrent, disgusting, finally intolerable. Instead of throwing out the Pill, they throw out each other from the marriage. It took only 15 years for the divorce rate to explode by 300% in the USA, after the Pill came on the market in the 1960s. Pills and condoms are horned devils in the bed room, smelling of sulphur; and sterilization savages a marriage like a foul punch below the belt in the boxing ring. Lucifer knows how to put an end to peaceful marriages which he envies, by inducing one or the other to have the tubes or the vasa cut. His raucous Mephistopheles laugh disturbs the peace when doctors cut tubes and vasa deferentia.

Whereas NFP users find that periodic abstinence for the sake of virtue can draw couples together and mature their marital union. Sr. Helen Paul reported that when some thousands of couples in her area in the Philippines adopted NFP, a remarkable improvement in the law-and-order situation soon became noticeable:

A change seems to occur in an individual's self-image, the way a man sees himself as a man. He becomes a person aware of his dignity, a person worthy of respect, who invited respect from his peers, his wife, and his children. His personal discovery of self-control in his sexual life opens up to him the opportunity for change in other areas: gambling, smoking, alcohol. ..

The children used to comment about the change in mother and father. No more fighting at home they said. And when this happens within a home, the children apply it to their own relationships. We see this change in behavior of children because of the change in the parents (A Philippine Experience in NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING, NATURE'S WAY - GOD'S WAY, ed. by A. Zimmerman, Milwaukee; De Rance, 1980, p. 10).

Numerous testimonies voiced by couples who changed from use of contraceptives to NFP show that the Christian and the world "community of love" about which Pope Paul II speaks frequently, is not realized in the Pill user population, but is found among users of NFP. Jean Cardinal Margeot of Mauritius found that NFP deepened the dialogue between marital partners universally, among Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists (Op. cit. p. 13). A typical couple in America, John and Jeanie, told how they found peace after rejecting vasectomy and adopting NFP: "NFP has changed our lives, all for the better" (Op. cit. p. 15). All this was foretold clearly by Pope Paul VI, who described in Humanae vitae that the discipline of NFP, is a straight road by which couples can travel safely, all the while increasing their joy in each other and in the children:

Yet this discipline, which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers upon it a higher human value. It requires continual effort, but thanks to its beneficent influence husband and wife fully develop their personalities and are enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it fosters attention to one's partner, helps both spouses drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents become capable of a deeper and more efficacious influence on the education of their offspring; children and young people grow up with a correct appreciation of human values, and enjoy a serene and harmonious development of their spiritual and sense faculties (HV 21).

Because children tend to pattern their lives upon what they see in their parents, self-discipline practiced by parents makes it easier for children to master their instincts and to grow up as civilized human beings. In a sense, parents make room for self discipline in the lives of their children. If parents shy away from periodic abstinence and use Pills and condoms, they model this escapism from discipline for their children. Whereas if parents themselves practice periodic abstinence and marital discipline, they educate their children more by being models for them, than by teaching them with words. When parents are solidly convinced that authentic love requires self-mastery and domination over natural instincts, and live out this conviction by the practice of periodic continence (see HV 21), they gain great power to educate the children in the same manner.

The Mind Can Shape the Brain

Fathers and mothers who practice the discipline of periodic abstinence out of love for God and for each other, shape their brains even biologically to make the practice of virtue to be the normal course of action. Brain researchers tell us that the human forebrain, the seat of thought and volition, can be molded by repeated acts of self-control, to construct the neurological pathways and automatisms to habitually exercise rational control over the instincts and emotions. By performing repeated acts of self-control we humans can shape the brain to follow the pathways of virtue as the normal pattern of a personal life (see, e.g. Joseph Roetzer, M.D., paper at International Medical Congress, Meran, May, 1989).

We know that animals do not have the kind of frontal orbital brain which humans have; not even the highly developed chimpanzees and monkeys have this compartment of the brain which humans have. Reason and free will in humans, acting through this forebrain, can act to influence the instincts and emotions of the mid-brain by a kind of veto power and selective domination. And by repeatedly dominating the mid-brain, the forebrain establishes those neurological pathways and automatisms which make mastery over the instincts and emotions habitual, a way of life. Humans can, so to speak, shape and mold their own brains by practicing self-determination, and so enlarging their own scope of freedom in action and wisdom in thought. Humans can shape their brains to make the practice of virtue both habitual, natural, and easier.

Parents, who shape their own brains and habits to practice virtue, model the good life for their children. Their children get a good start in life. Parents cannot guarantee absolutely that their children will mold their brains through self discipline, also through the stormy years of the teenages and into adult life, but they do give their children a good start in life if they themselves model a life of self discipline for their children to follow. And they provide the children with the kind of human culture and love which can help them greatly to maintain their human dignity in changing situations. Today, many of the young will leave their surroundings of a stable traditional society and enter into wild ferment of society which is still maturing in the great metropolitan areas. Disciplined parents must eventually shape urban social life to support family structures and virtues much in the same way as the rural patterns have done before. Natural family planning is God's gift to our generation, to preserve human dignity both in country and city alike.

Pope John Paul II wisely instructs us to give access to the younger generation to knowledge about the natural rhythms of fertility, and to inculcate with this teaching, the necessity of practicing chastity. You must help the young generation to know the basics of the body's rhythms of fertility, he teaches, and you must teach them to be chaste: "Every effort must be made to render such knowledge (about the rhythms of fertility) accessible to all married people and also to young adults before marriage, through clear, timely and serious instruction and education... Knowledge must then lead to education in self-control: hence the absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it" (Familiaris Consortio No. 33).

How many Children Should We Have?

The same Pope who instructs us to engage in the apostolate of teaching natural family planning, tells us to be generous in giving birth to children and educating them. He told people in the USA that giving their children another brother and sister can be much better for them than giving them all kinds of new toys and an easy life: don't worry too much about your children not having certain comforts or material advantages, if you can provide them "with the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety" he said (Washington, 7 October, 1979). In other words, brothers and sisters are a great gift for your children, also when this means fewer toys or comforts.

How many children should parents have? Dr. Patrick Dunn of New Zealand, who gained much practical expedience with parents during his practice while delivering 15,000 babies, advises that reason suggests that four children is a good starting point. Those in good circumstances can do well with ten children. But for some couples, children may not be possible or advisable. God requires us to be prudent, to use common sense. (THE DOCTOR AND CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE, New York, Alba House, 1992, p. 35). Vatican II reminded us that parents find in the procreation and education of children the "ultimate crown" of their marriage and love (GS 48; and the same Fathers of Vatican II saw signs of special virtue in those parents who "after prudent reflection and common decision courageously undertake the proper upbringing of a large number of children" (GS 50).

I myself come from a family of ten children, and can assure you that we're all glad that our parents gave us a chance to live.

The practice of natural family planning, therefore, should not at all mean planning only small families. Large families, well educated, are simply beautiful. Many teachers of natural family planning know this from personal experience. All of us know good teachers of NFP who have six children, eight children, ten children, and more, and think they could not plan things better with God's help and grace and support and joy.

To sum up this section, then: parents can help themselves to cope with family life by use of natural family planning. The Pope advises that married couples, and the young who are preparing for marriage, ought to learn the basics of NFP, and together with it, accept the discipline of chastity. Large families, well educated, are beautiful, and good NFP practice favors such large families.

Population Target Setting Invites Coercion

Does the Church approve of those government policies and programs which aim to meet certain POPULATION TARGETS? Which are designed, for example, to reduce national population growth rates by 0.2% within the next ten years? Which then makes noisy propaganda over the radio and through the press, and by posters and popular songs, to have small families? Which then supplies Pills at health centers with primary health care? And provides condoms even to school children, and at hotels and restaurants? And sends around doctors who can sterilize a record number of men or women per hour? The Church does not approve these things, of course.

For example, the last thing that comes to a sane person's mind when driving through the spacious and sparsely populated country of Tanzania in Africa is that there is overpopulation. The land is vast - almost a million square kilometers - and underdeveloped; much of it still left to lions and elephants, to zebras and wildebeests. To develop the land, people and yet more people are needed. Yet of a sudden, in 1992, the government began to grind out propaganda for population control. What happened? International funding agencies had told the Tanzanian government: either institute population control, or say goodbye to funding.

Thanks to USA tax funds, 47 million condoms promptly landed in the harbor of Dar Es Salaam, for 27 million people. Every truck stop, every restaurant and hotel is obliged under threat of closure by the government to provide condoms. Condomania has gone wild in the land. The radio and press grind out propaganda like a broken record player. People wonder what the government will try next. When girls in schools are forced to take tetanus shots, worried parents suspect that the government is up to foul play even there; their fertility is being impaired. Tanzania is but another example of a government turning somersaults under the whip of anti-population trainers, like animals in a circus; US AID, UNFPA, the World Bank, IMF, IPPF wield economic whips which cause underdeveloped countries to dance to the tune of simplistic anti-baby jingoism.

Anti-baby propaganda focuses on so-called "population targets," temporary demographic growth reduction rates set up by social engineers. We read about the five year target, or the ten year target to reduce births. And then we see employees fanning out from government agencies well stocked with condoms, IUD's, Norplants; with knives to cut tubes and vasa, and pumps to suction out babies. The slogan is YES to sex, but NO to babies.

TARGETS are attractive to all of us as attention getters. We like to shoot at targets with bow and arrow, with rifles and shot guns, with intercontinental missiles. We shoot, and the bird drops, or the missile explodes. Now human numbers have become the object of population target shooting by sundry governments. And tax payers in the USA and elsewhere are supplying deadly anti-baby ammunition to these governments.

Population Targets Rejected By Vatican Spokesman

Bishop Jan Schotte, head of the Vatican Delegation to the 1984 World Population conference in Mexico city, gave early warning that setting up "population targets" invites anti-baby coercion. And he cautioned that developing countries might very well be black-mailed by economic threat to achieve the targets. The achievement of targets might be used as a condition for receiving socio-economic assistance, he warned. We know how true that is today, when the tyranny of the media demand birth control, when governments have bowed to the World Bank, to the International Monetary Fund, to US AID officials, to begin ridiculous population campaigns in order to qualify for funding.

The Vatican Delegation at Mexico City also stated that the Vatican does not equate population policy with population control. A proper population policy looks to the welfare of the people, he said, "to the good health and well-being of the human person who must always be looked upon as an active participant in life, as a precious good to be cherished, and not as a mere object of government policies" (Mexico City, August 9, 1984). Note the gap between the thinking of the Vatican about "population policy" and the anti-baby policy of population engineers. The Vatican asks governments to serve the health and welfare of its people, whereas population propagandists aim to do away with births. We ask two questions, therefore:

  1. Does the Church approve "population targets," and contraception programs to implement them? Some argue that the peoples of developing countries will not practice natural family planning in great numbers, and therefore the Church ought to exercise prudence by closing an eye to contraception as a lesser evil than abortion and/or world overpopulation.
  2. Does the Church favor the promotion of natural family planning as a means of reducing world or national population growth? Or does she teach that NFP is for family welfare rather than for influencing national or world demographic trends?

Population Targets, Quota's, and Their Implementation

At one time the Philippine Bishops had expected the government to cooperate in a plan to teach natural family planning-systematically. But no more. Under prodding by the international fund providers, the Philippine venture turned out little help for teaching NFP, but ground out vicious propaganda for contraception, which promoted promiscuity and ultimately detonated an explosion of abortions. By 1984 a wiser Philippine Episcopal Commission on Family Life circulated a scorching criticism of imposed population targets to participants of that 1984 World Conference. Experience in the Philippines has taught us a severe lesson, wrote Sr. Blesila C. Fabricante, ECFL Executive Secretary, blaming the World Bank with these words:

Since the late 19601s, the Philippine government has implemented a population program which has directly or indirectly affected family life in our country and this program seems to be the same with others existing in developing countries funded by the World Bank. Abortion is part of this program structure. We cannot fight abortion alone without confronting the whole structure of which abortion is only a part.

In other words, the World Bank was pushing the Trojan Horse of contraception into the Catholic Philippines; once admitted, a legion of abortion devils clatters out of its belly to overwhelm the nation. In the document itself Bishop Jesus Y. Varela, Chairman of the ECFL, told how population targets, like the AIDS virus, destroy moral defenses and freedom; A national policy of population control officially began with Presidential Executive Orders 171 (1969) and 233 (1970) creating a Commission on Population...

The movement of the program has been towards the radical: from four-children-per-family as its goal, to three children, then two, and now, to one child by the year 2,000 (the third 5-year plan, 1981-1985). It has also moved from a "contraception-only policy, to sterilization for its main thrust. The IUDs, admittedly abortifacients, continue to be offered.

Manipulation has been indispensable to the program. When targeted results of human behaviour are desired, freedom of decision becomes an obstacle. Thus, material incentives and social sanctions ... are applied.

Our observations of the 15 year's operation of the government's drive for population control has revealed that:

These observations confirm the CBCP decision not to be involved in any way (personnel, organization, funds) with the population control program of the government, nor to enter into any form of association that lends a semblance of tacit approval of the program.

The entire system: to that we must address ourselves. Tagaytay City, July 10, 1984.

The logic of targets, as Bishop Varela states, leads to manipulation, because human freedom is an obstacle to the targets imposed. The Bishop has articulated clearly what happened in the Philippines, where an unwelcome foreign dominated and funded program is firmly in place, working at cross-purposes with the pro-life and natural family programs of the Bishops. At the present time Cardinal Sin of Manila is in open conflict with President Ramos about the immoral population policy, and the fight promises to be long and earnest. That Philippine model of government sponsored birth control, instituted under the threat of black-mail by the World Bank and other funding agencies, is spreading into other developing countries with the speed and wings of the AIDS virus.

Next Page: The Insidious Workings of Targets
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