Why I Like to Promote NFP

Anthony Zimmerman
Address at International Symposium on NFP
Tokyo, 1980
Reproduced with Permission

I can never forget the bitter cold of the first night I spent in Tokyo, January 15, 1948. One piece of wood was lit in the stove in my honor, as a new missionary from America. When the last ember went out, we all went to bed, hugging blankets.

Everything was in short supply then: fuel, food, housing. Smoke poured through broken windows as the steam-engine train went through tunnels.

Birth control was on everyone's mind. Japan had too many people, said everyone. General MacArthur welcomed Catholic missionaries to Japan, but some of the Americans here were aggressively promoting artificial contraception which is contrary to Catholic thinking.

In that same year of 1948 contraception blitzed Japan, from Wakkanai to Kagoshima. And just as surely as thunder follows lightning, abortion rolled over all of Japan in the wake of contraception. Soon the whole country settled into a contraception-abortion pattern of living. We missionaries stood by helplessly, feeling like museum pieces. When we said something against these practices, people turned the other way.

Four years later I returned to America and did my doctoral work on documents written by Popes about birth control, especially when there is economic pressure. I learned that the Popes were indeed much concerned about human rights, about providing enough living space, about sutitable wages and housing for families, about preserving human dignity under all circumstances. The Popes had always said NO to abortion and NO to artificial contraception. But they had never said NO to reasonable family planning when done in the natural way.

After returning to Japan, we held meetings to promote the cause of better housing, to urge the government to provideallowances to families with three and more children and to promote family life education, especially natural family planning.

A very significant thing occurred at the Bucharest World Population Conference in 1974. Some criticized existing birth control programs, saying that these violated the rights of families. Instead much stress was placed on economic development. Milder programs of demographic control were also proposed, which should not lose sight of human rights. Abortion, which had swept the world like a prairie fire, was recognized as the result of too much pressure against births. Harmful effects of abortion were mentioned.

Though the big money was still going to artificial methods, enthusiasm was not as great as it had been. Artificial methods were inconvenient, had harmful side effects, and many failures.

A small group of Catholic doctors, journalists and priests held regular meetings at Bucharest to pool knowledge about natural methods. Out of these meetings grew a comradeship among international NFP experts. We don't have money, we thought, but if we help each other, we can offer to the world a mild kind of birth control which will be safe and harmless, and which will receive its strength from the good will of couples rather than from highly financed commercial or official programs.

Father Paul Marx came to Japan soon after the Bucharest Conference. He was greatly surprised to see so much good will towards NFP in Japan, where everyone knows Dr. Ogino. He advised me to gather a team of doctors, nurses and promoters to study advanced NFP in the USA. Our first team went there in June of 1975. It was there that Mrs. Honma and I learned to know each other well. We shook hands one day, promising each other to work together for family life in Japan. We have kept that promise. She has become the great heart of our movement. I draw much strength from her great energies and determination, and her marvelous desire to help families in Japan.

Each year in June another tour was arranged to the USA to study NFP, some new members, some old, always with Mrs. Honma as the most faithful attendant at the lectures. The lectures were translated into Japanese for our group. We always met NFP people of the finest kind from all over the world, and held special interviews with them. in this way we became a growing circle of NFP teachers and promoters, and our Family Life Association began to take shape. By 1977 we were able to begin courses for teachers in Japan, and the number of our publications began to grow. Admittedly they were not perfect at first, and are still not perfect now, but we are gaining in knowledge and experience.

We also invited expert teachers from the international community to Japan to give lectures and courses in NFP, such as Dr. Lanctot from Washington, Dr. Roetzer from Austria in Europe, Dr. Keefe from New York, Mrs. Manion from Portland, Dr. Nakamura from Los Angeles, and Fr. Marx from the Human Life Center at Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. We wanted only the best in Japan at this early stage, so that the foundation will be firm and sound in every way.

The staff of the Family Life Association has tried to maintain good relations with journalists and with people from the mass media, who in turn gave us help and advice. We are most gratified to have good relations with so many doctors of great influence and ability, and to see so many midwives, public health nurses, teachers, and nurses come to our lectures and courses.

I have been asked to search my heart and tell you frankly why I like to promote natural family planning. It is always hard to know what really motivates oneself, but I will try my best to explain.

I like natural scenery very much - woods, mountains, the sky at night, the change of seasons, the birds, animals - everything which fits so well into our universe. And I like good music with rich harmony, plays which reveal the genuine thoughts and feelings of men, art which is not gaudy and exaggerated. We all do.

For me it was a sad thing to see that mankind was reacting to the so-called overpopulation problem in a manner so amateur and unimaginative as use of abortion and of chemicals and barriers. Surely mankind can do better than that, I think.

If God has made the universe a sparkling thing of beauty, of harmony, one might say a symphony of glory; if Goethe)can write a Lied Zu Freude, and Beethoven can put this to music; then surely man can also render family life into a harmonious thing of music and beauty and love, I thought. If only man will learn from nature, from God, how to activate love and harmony in the family, there should be no need for all these abortions, these chemicals and barriers, and all this shrill quarreling which too often ends in divorce.

To make music rise from one's life in a family, from one's role as husband or wife, there must be a heart from which harmonious music vibrates and resounds. There must be genuine love for the other, love for oneself. Such love does not grow unless the couple and the family play the symphony together. If husband goes his selfish way, wife goes her own way, and the child is aborted, there is not much symphonic family music.

On the other hand, even in the very poorest family, one can find love, happiness, peace, when the couple cooperate well, when they live in harmony with nature and with God. I am thinking about the couples in Calcutta to whom the Sisters of Mother Teresa go to help them with natural family planning. Even though they may not be able to read and write, they can fill out the chart, putting in the temperature curve and the signs of the cervical mucus. Husband and wife sit on the floor together to study the chart, to speak to each other, to arrange for intercourse or for abstinence for the sake of each other and of the family. They love each other when they work together like this. Sometimes when they do not understand, the husband may send the wife to one of the sisters to get an explanation of which time is safe. The love relationship between them is so much better now, say the sisters, when the couple are in confident and full control of their fertility.

Some will say that NFP is too hard for husbands and wives. But that is just one of the points which makes love grow, working at it together, even when it is hard. it is not too hard when they love each other.

Some say that NFP is not reliable. They are mistaken. Today's NFP is very reliable if you learn from a good teacher and take care.

I think that women will gain much more through NFP than through acrimonious debates of women's lib. If they ask their husbands to help with the charting, to help with explaining the meaning of the signs, the husband will not feel threatened, and will do his part. If husband and wife know very well which times are fertile, which infertile, they do not have to quarrel about times for intercourse. They decide on the basis of the signs. The wife will gain more if she wins a loving and cooperative husband by means of her own complete devotion to him, by showing him her body and her cycle, than if she insists on rights as women libbers tend to do.

When a husband learns more about the cycle of his spouse, and how her body functions, he tends to be more understanding towards her. He may not become angry when she scolds him during her menstrual days. He may take great interest in teaching her about the signs of fertility. They speak more openly and at ease about their sex to each other. From my experience with couples and from reading much literature, I know also that divorce is something which hardly ever occurs among NFP couples. NFP is a great help towards better communications, towards learning the art of consideration for each other, towards growing into a far deeper love and appreciation of the gift of married love.

Neither do NFP couples suffer the trauma of abortion, and that dread of another child, as contraceptors often do. An experienced NFP couple need never have a failure, an unplanned pregnancy. Even if they deliberately, or by mistake, use the fertile time against plans, and a pregnancy follows, it is my experience that NFP couples do not abort. The wife may be angry and rebellious for a time, but she has better support from her husband. They make room for this child in their home. Love outlasts and overcomes the disappointment, and they find themselves in love with this child too.The gratifying quality about NFP is that a couple can always stop using it if they wish to have another child. NFP does no harm to the body. Moreover, if a couple are sub-fertile, they may succeed in achieving a pregnancy by watching signs carefully and timing intercourse judiciously. There are many happy children and parents in the world today because of NFP.

NFP is part of the harmony of God's universe in this

20th century. I hope that Japan will be the number one nation in the world, leading the others in this harmonious way of life.

Let's work together. Thank you.