Catholic family size – a response from Edmund Adamus

I always appreciate receiving feedback and so I was most grateful to receive an email from Edmund Adamus, the Director for Marriage and Family Life in Westminster Diocese.

I have with his permission, published his email in its entirety below. In a stroke of providence, the 2008 Theology of the Body Lecture in Westminster which was delivered by Janet Smith for the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, was one which I attended with Robin and was one of those key moments in his journey towards Catholicism. Janet’s talk should, I think, be delivered in every school and parish up and down the land. Also Mark Lambert has written an interesting response, here.

Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your post on August 1st

A most articulate piece. Janet Smith and I have been in continuous correspondence since she delivered the 2008 Annual Theology of the Body lecture in Westminster to commemorate the 40th anniversary of HV. She and I both agree that the phrase ‘responsible parenthood’ doesn’t adequately reflect a faithful translation of the original Latin in the Encyclical. “Conscious parenthood” would render something closer and with one stroke it would extricate the Church from ‘buying in to’ [albeit in an unintended manner] to the culture that treats conception and birth like a pathology.  You may find the quote below useful at some stage in your work. It is certainly one I intend to use again when I address the annual national ‘NFP’ conference on October 12th. *

“It is said that when seeking ways of regulating births, only 5% of you consult God. In the face of this unfortunate fact, we your pastors have been remiss: how few are there among you whom we have reached. There have been some couples eager to share their expertise and values on birth regulation with others. They did not receive adequate support from their priests. We did not give them due attention, believing then this ministry consisted merely of imparting a technique best left to married couples. Only recently have we discovered how deep your yearning is for God to be present in your married lives. But we did not know then how to help you discover God’s presence and activity in your mission of Christian parenting. Afflicted with doubts about alternatives to contraception technology, we abandoned you to your confused and lonely consciences with a lame excuse: ‘follow what your conscience tells you.’ How little we realized that it was our consciences that needed to be formed first. A greater concern would have led us to discover that religious hunger in you”

(Professor Janet Smith, Contraception – Why Not? Westminster Cathedral Hall, March 5th 2008).

One other less known fact of history is that ;


‘The term ‘Natural Family Planning’ or ‘NFP’ was coined in 1971 at a joint meeting of federal public health officials [in USA] and international leaders of the nascent NFP Movement, and made its first appearance in print in 1973. The implications of this verbal merger were not lost on the population control establishment, which was quick to publicize the idea that the Church had adopted the concept of ‘family planning’ and that the only remaining area of disagreement was over methodology. . . .’ The Final Plague: Sex Education by Randy Engel . Pan Books 1993, footnote 400.


Hence my own personal and professional preference to refer to fertility awareness or as you say NFA….   But for now nfp will do when we are starting slowly to reverse a culture …


* The title of Edmund’s talk is “Fertility Awareness; Naturally Serving the Communion of Persons.”

3 thoughts on “Catholic family size – a response from Edmund Adamus

  1. Hello Caroline, I am curious as to what fertility control methods people used in the U.K. prior to the introduction of the Pill?

    In Ireland people used the rythm method if they were Catholics. It was assumed that women had a 28 days cycle each month. A joke told in the early 1970s by a work colleague of mine in the civil service illustrates.

    A married woman went to confession. She told the priest that she wanted to space her family or words to that effect. He told her to use the rythm method.

    She replied ” Ah sure Father, where would I get a ceili band at 2.00a.m. in the morning?”

  2. In CCLI we all get a free copy of Janet Smith’s talk upon joining…

    I feel a bit sad reading about what “we” are doing and how “we” should boycott an acronym pretty well no-one has heard of.

    What I plan to do is teach NFP, its basis in human reason and experience, and its vital connection with the Christian faith.

    It’s worth noting that the primary scientific bases of modern NFP (e.g. the sympto-thermal method) have actually been around for over 100 years. Science is certainly advanced enough to make it work very well; the will to see reality as disciples is lacking, I think 😀

  3. PS The discussion on “ideal family size” is very easy to bring to a reasonable conclusion: One. At. A. Time. 😀

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