FARGO, N.D. (CNS) -- Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo has announced that engaged couples across the diocese will have to be instructed in the theology of the body and complete an approved course in natural family planning before they can marry in the Catholic Church.
He announced the new policy July 18. It takes effect Sept. 8.
The Fargo diocesan communications office said the Denver Archdiocese is the
only other one in the country that requires completion of a natural family
planning course before marriage. The Fargo Diocese covers the eastern half
of North Dakota and has about 78,000 Catholics.
Bishop Aquila said the policy arose "out of a genuine concern for the right
formation of conscience, the understanding of the truth, dignity and meaning
of human sexuality and the responsibilities a couple accepts in married
"Through my personal experience in preparing couples for marriage and
through discussions with priests, I have seen a great need for this
instruction to help couples fully live the sacrament of marriage," he said.
"Young adults are bombarded with negative images of sexuality, with
attitudes that demean the marital commitment and with lies about the
so-called 'freedom' contraception provides," he added. "They need to know
and they deserve to know the plan that God has for them regarding their
sexuality and the conjugal love they will share as husband and wife."
The policy says that:
-- Couples preparing for marriage "shall receive an introduction to the
church's teaching on conjugal love, modeled after (Pope) John Paul II's
theology of the body during their interview with their parish priest, deacon
or qualified married couple."
-- They will participate in a Marriage Preparation weekend that will include
a presentation on natural family planning. It will also include at least a
one-hour introduction to the theology of the body, which the late pope
outlined in 129 general audience talks in the early years of his
-- They must complete "a full course of instruction in a method of natural
family planning" from an instructor approved by the diocese. A certificate
of attendance is to be given to the parish priest, who is to place it in the
couple's marriage file.
For couples entering a second marriage, past training and experience will be
taken into account, the policy says. It says if they are still of
childbearing years, the instruction in natural family planning is expected
unless "previous equivalent training is already present."
Couples beyond childbearing years are to receive instruction in the theology
of the body but need not learn natural family planning, it says.
Rachelle Sauvageau, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, said she
was impressed with those in the diocese who are serving as teaching couples.
The teachers are listed on her office's Web site.
"They have used NFP, they have seen what it has done in their lives as a
married couple and their relationships with God, and they are excited to
share that message with others," she said.
The diocese is also inviting married couples to take instruction on natural
family planning. Sauvageau said couples who have used artificial
contraception may turn to natural methods "as they grow and gain a deeper
understanding of each other and their faith."