Couples using apps to learn about natural family planning now have an option which aligns with Catholic faith and values.
The SmartFertility online course designed by the Sydney-based Marriage Resource Centre will be available from its 18 August soft launch.
It is offered in the spirit of Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical on responsible parenting which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.
Based on the sympto-thermal method, it teaches couples the basics of fertility awareness and includes links to local natural family planning instructors.
It also offers prompts for conversation and prayer about fertility decisions with the start of each cycle.
Centre co-director Francine Pirola says SmartFertility was developed to counter the plethora of fertility apps in the market and plans to produce an accompanying app.
“Natural family planning methods are no longer seen as the domain of ‘weirdo retrograde Catholics’ or ‘tree-hugging hippies’,” she says.
“Being aware of one’s fertility is being integrated into a contemporary understanding of personal responsibility for our health.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the Church to share its wisdom in this area.”
However many couples—including Catholics—are getting a superficial understanding of their fertility through apps which don’t accord with a moral framework, she says.
“This is our response to the secular forces that are encroaching onto the territory of the fertility awareness methods which have been lovingly developed for decades in the Natural Family Planning movement,” says Francine.
“They’re taking all the wisdom we have got and are applying it in a way that we never intended—either to be used alongside artificial insemination or with artificial barrier methods of contraception.”
Francine says that there will always be people who need individual coaching and the course is not intended to compete with face-to-face teaching agencies.
“What we want to compete with are the apps that oversimplify decisions about a couple’s fertility and solve them by just telling people to put on a condom for example,” she says.
“Pope Benedict talked about the need to evangelise the digital continent and Pope Francis about accompanying people on their journeys.
“The spiritual battlefront for many people is the online environment so going out to these spaces is part of our response to those calls.”
She says NFP instructors may find it helpful as to a complement to their face-to-face sessions, and welcomes feedback on the course from people new to, or already trained in NFP.
To register for the course, go to: Smartloving.org/fertility
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