September 15, 2023

Conference shares truth of ‘total, permanent, exclusive love’

(En Espanol)

Mercedes Ahuatl, left, answers a question about Natural Family Planning (NFP) during a conference at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on July 29. Her husband Gaspar Xochitlatoa, second from left, and NFP panel discussion moderators Jose Rivas and Lilia Lua listen to her response. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Mercedes Ahuatl, left, answers a question about Natural Family Planning (NFP) during a conference at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on July 29. Her husband Gaspar Xochitlatoa, second from left, and NFP panel discussion moderators Jose Rivas and Lilia Lua listen to her response. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Gabriela Ross noticed a trend, something akin to “the blind leading the blind,” but with dire personal, relationship and spiritual consequences.

“From my experience talking with married couples and parents in our archdiocese, there is a great need for better formation on how to accompany young people in the area of God’s plan for love, relationships, chastity and marriage,” said Ross, director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life.

But the problem is exacerbated “when parents have never received that message in their own marriage preparation and formation,” she added, a fact she said became clear through her office’s Natural Family Planning (NFP) outreach.

So, Ross and her team made an effort to enlighten both teens and adults simultaneously. It happened during a conference for both age groups on July 29 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. Sixty-eight of the 177 participants were teenagers.

The goal was to share “the message of Theology of the Body and NFP, and to raise awareness of the dangers of the pornography industry and its effects on marriage and pornography addiction,” said Ross.

Internationally-known Theology of the Body speaker and Amar Al Maximo Institute co-founder and director Evan Lemoine led off the conference with a talk on “Love is Love, Except When it Isn’t.”

‘Totally, permanently and exclusively’

Lemoine spoke about the difference between the idea of “love for use” offered by modern culture and true love as God intended.

“ ‘Love’ is when you say I want you to be happy,” he explained. “ ‘Use’ is when you say I want you, and I don’t care about your happiness.”

God made humans with sexual impulses, said Lemoine. “And it’s OK for there to be pleasure involved—that’s a good thing.

“But as persons, our sexual impulses only satisfy when we learn to channel them as a total gift of self to the other, the deep connection of intimacy and communion with another and the openness to life, to create a family with another.

“This means sexual love as intended by God is only possible with a person of the opposite sex, where sexual love has the possibility of reproduction.”

Lemoine defined two primary attitudes toward sexuality that repress a person’s capacity for true conjugal love as God intended. Both are examples of “using.”

The first of those approaches is for pleasure only with no feeling—and often with no other person, he said.

“It’s more like a compulsion, an escape or release,” he explained.

The second attitude is where “there might be a sentimental bond, but it does not give completely of oneself to another,” said Lemoine. This attitude looks for pleasure and affection, and includes premarital sex, adultery, infidelity and same-sex relations.

True conjugal love as God intended “seeks pleasure, affection and is self-giving,” said Lemoine. “It’s when you give yourself to another person of the opposite sex totally, permanently and exclusively.”

“Total” includes “seeking the greatest good of the other,” he explained. “Permanent” means in good times and bad. And “exclusive” includes “in body, mind, heart and soul.”

“It also means that I’m going to cultivate a growing intimacy with you,” he added. “I’m giving you that privileged place in my heart that’s more central than any hobby, job or other relationship.”

In a breakout session for the teens on dating relationships, Lemoine reminded them that “the sexual act is not meant to only say ‘I love you,’ but ‘I belong to you.’ And that’s only true if I give you my whole self forever. [Conjugal love] is not just only allowed in a marriage relationship—it’s only true in a marriage relationship.”

With NFP, ‘You take care of your wife’s health’

Love can only be completely self-giving without artificial contraception.

But a married couple might discern a need to space their children, or there might be an issue with infertility.

Enter Natural Family Planning.

Several NFP teaching couples shared about various practices, each working with the woman’s natural fertility cycle to achieve or postpone pregnancy or to address the root causes of infertility.

“I think that one of the best advantages is that you take care of your wife’s health,” said presenter Ernesto Villasenor. He and his wife Georgina are members of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “There are no chemicals in the process, no side effects.”

The Villasenors tragically know the impact of those side effects.

“We lost our baby girl because of side effects from the pill,” said Ginna. “We’re using that [loss] to let couples know that, worst-case scenario, using the pill could mean no babies in the future.”

Mireya Ramirez and Gustavo Serrano, members of St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis, shared about the Sympto-thermal Method of NFP.

Serrano said men ask him about the time of abstinence when a couple is seeking to postpone having children.

“It’s about 10 days a month that you will not have intimacy,” he said.

“But there are many ways that you can show love to your spouse, like when you’re dating. We’ll take a walk in the park, go out for a nice dinner.

“But bottom line, I do this because I love my wife, because I need to take care of her, and that makes it easy.”

Gasper Xochitlatoa and Mercedes Ahuatl said they see the benefits of practicing NFP in the relationships of the couples they teach the Billings Method.

“There’s more unity, more communication,” said Ahuatl, who worships with her husband at

St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis. “They value one another. It’s a richness that’s incomparable.”

Treating infertility and cycle issues naturally

The couple has personally experienced the promotion of artificial contraception by those in the medical industry.

“The doctors always would ask right after she had a baby, ‘How are you going to take care of yourself? What artificial method are you going to use?’ ” said Xochitlatoa.

As a pharmacist, José Ocampo is aware that most doctors push the pill—and not just to avoid pregnancy.

“A young, single woman once told me she had very hard periods and that her doctor prescribed the pill,” he recalled.

Ocampo teaches the Creighton Method, which serves not just as a means of NFP but also as a way to treat infertility and gynecological issues by tracking biological markers in a woman’s cycle.

By using the Creighton Method, “in about three months, we were able to determine that her problem was just because of low levels of progesterone, which is easy to take care of naturally,” said Ocampo.

Maria Hernandez, who teaches the Creighton Method with her husband Daniel Cabrera, said the method is supported by natural pro-creative technology, or NaPro Technology.

“NaPro doctors want to get to the bottom of the problem,” she said, whether it’s female or male infertility, post-partem depression, pre-menstrual syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis.

When it comes to achieving pregnancy when infertility is an issue, the Creighton Method alone “has a success rate of 20-40% of conception just with the chart,” said Hernandez. “Then when you add the help of NaPro technology, there’s an 80% success rate of becoming pregnant.

“And it’s all done naturally, so it respects the dignity of women and men.”

With porn, ‘You lose the capacity to love’

On the opposite spectrum of such respect is pornography. It’s a sin that is pervasive in today’s culture—and not just among secular society, Claudia Corona told those at the conference. She is coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life. She attended a six-hour course by Lemoine on the topic.

“The cause of 56% of divorces is pornography,” she said, citing a statistic from a 2009 study by Dr. Patrick Fagan titled “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community.” In the study he called pornography “a quiet family killer.”

Corona cited other sobering statistics from the study, including that nearly 50% of families in the U.S. are affected by pornography, “even among Catholic families,” she said.

She recalled a priest at a conference she attended saying, “You cannot imagine the number of men that volunteer at my church who mention pornography in confession. It’s the main mortal sin I hear.”

His comment is supported by another statistic Corona shared: 68% of church-going Christian men admit to consuming pornography, according to The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age, published in 2016 by Barna and Josh McDowell Ministry.

The same study noted that 76% of Christian men and women ages 18-24 actively search the Internet for pornography, she said.

“It’s an addictive behavior,” she noted. “And children who access pornography are getting younger and younger. Many children are exposed to pornography by age 11, but some as young as 9 or 10.”

In fact, Corona noted that “75% of parents in a survey thought their child hadn’t seen pornography online, but 53% of their children reported that they had.” The figures come from a 2019 survey by the British Board of Film Classification.

A 2023 Gitnux Digital Strategy Consulting report showed that the industry generates up to $14 billion in revenue the U.S. annually.

“Many of the girls are sex slaves,” said Corona. “That means there is abuse. Pregnancies are likely, which means there are abortions.

“Every time you click on pornography, you are contributing to the industry,” she said. “Every time you don’t, you’re saving a woman.”

One of the “worst effects” of consuming pornography “is that you lose the capacity to love,” Corona said. Just as Lemoine noted earlier, she said, “You cannot love because you are trained to use others.”

(For more information about Natural Family Planning, go to For information on healing from pornography addiction, go to For more information on Theology of the Body and the offerings of Amar Al Maximo Institute, go to

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