Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 5

This is my fifth and last commentary on The Church in America.

What can ordinary lay people do to make their parish one that truly radiates Christ?

First of all, they need to make sure they are on board with full Catholic teaching. I recently had an email from a couple who had been practicing sexual immoralities during the fertile time for some 23 years in their misunderstanding of NFP. They said they were never told that abstinence meant CHASTE abstinence.   That is, their NFP program and teacher never told them that chaste abstinence entails sexual self-control and that cuddling should not proceed to climax, masturbation or marital sodomy etc.

Second, they can and should pray for their parish priests to do what only they can do. Third, they can also talk with their priests and ask them to do everything they can to preach and teach marital chastity.

Third, they can support the teaching of Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.” This makes sense to people of faith and good will. It is so simple and so obvious once people learn and believe it that they can use it to explain and support Catholic teaching. Ordinary lay people can also promote and teach chaste Natural Family Planning including ecological breastfeeding and generosity in having children. It cannot be forgotten that the Church needs at least three children per family for long term survival.

The bottom line is this. When the teaching of Humanae Vitae is accepted and lived by the majority of fertile-age married couples in a parish, that parish will have healthy-sized families, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the basis for being a community of small communities. Then our parishes will truly be radiating the Lord Jesus and attracting men and women of good will.

Not to be ignored, when a diocese is filled with believing parishes, it can have a significant influence in the election of representatives who are truly pro-chastity, pro-family, and pro-life.   The truly Catholic parish and diocese will be counter-cultural. Thus it can and will make a difference. Amen.

John F. Kippley, August 31, 2014

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 4

This is my fourth comment on section 41 of The Church in America.

My previous comments showed why many parishes are not radiating the call and the attraction of Jesus. Essentially, if and when the call of Jesus to faith and repentance (Mark 1:15…) is muted and rejected by priests and parishioners alike, whatever is radiated is not the call of Jesus. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.

What can be done?

In my opinion, parish reform and renewal starts with parish priests. First of all, they have to come to believe that the practice of contraception is a grave moral evil. But that’s not enough. They also have to do what they can to lead their parishioners to believe what the teaching Church actually DOES teach about the immorality of contraception.

That may involve preaching from the pulpit, which can be difficult, and it can include little lessons in the parish bulletin. Priests can also do a tremendous amount of good in their face to face dealings with engaged and married couples. With the right kind of materials at hand, they can help people to know and understand the teachings and also to understand the biblical reasons for believing that Jesus is the ultimate author of these teachings. To encourage and support breastfeeding mothers, pastors can start chapters of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League; see www.catholicbreastfeeding.com .

Second, they can require their engaged couples to take the right kind of course dealing with natural family planning. They can also make sure that their RCIA instruction contains the full teaching of Humanae Vitae. They can insist that the laity who participate in the public ministries of the Church as Lectors and Distributors of Holy Communion believe and practice what the Church teaches on these matters.

In the right kind of NFP course, couples will learn about the kind of nursing—ecological breastfeeding—that normally delays the return of fertility for more than a year. They will learn how to monitor the wife’s fertility. They will learn the relevant moral teaching of the Church. Unfortunately, most NFP programs omit both the ecological breastfeeding instruction and the relevant moral teaching of the Church. So pastors can either insist that local programs expand their teaching to include these subjects and all the signs of fertility, or they can bring in NFP International and its Home Study Course.

Teaching relevant and specific morality is important. Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens wrote succinctly in his 1960 book, Love and Control, “The sins of omission and laziness of those who, for whatever reason, have the job of giving sex instruction will weigh heavier on the last day than the sins of the men and women who were never sufficiently instructed to meet their obligations.”

Third, pastors can insert instructional sheets on these issues in the parish bulletins.

Fourth, all pastors can use the NFPI Home Study Course for their engaged couples. It contains all the teachings discussed in this series and is about half the cost of some other natural family planning online programs. Couples who take the NFPI course received lots of individual attention.

Next week: What can ordinary lay people do?

John F. Kippley, August 24, 2014

View NFP International and its Home Study Course at www.nfpandmore.org.

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 3

This is my third commentary on section 41 of The Church in America.

Why isn’t the typical American parish radiating Jesus? I think that the main reason for the failure of the typical Western parish to radiate Jesus is the non-preaching and non-acceptance of Mark 1:15, that call to a change of heart. While we can never say anything about any particular couple or parish, the statistics say that the teaching of Humanae Vitae is widely rejected. At the USCCB website you can find an article that says that only one-tenth of one percent of Catholic women who are doing anything about birth control are using any natural form of conception regulation. Pope Paul VI certainly was correct in 1968 when he wrote the following in Humanae Vitae, section 18:

It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Truly Pope Paul VI was prophetic.   In section 17 just preceding this, he prophesied about the various adverse consequences of the widespread societal acceptance of marital contraception.

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone [emphasis added]. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

In short, the Pope predicted something very close to the ObamaCare birth control mandate. What the Pope was too polite to say is that once a culture accepts one unnatural form of sexual activity such as marital contraception, it has no logical way of saying “no” to any other such activity. In his commentary on Genesis 38:6ff, Martin Luther correctly called the Sin of Onan a form of sodomy. Once a culture accepts marital heterosexual sodomy, it has no way to say no to homosexual sodomy. The same-sex “marriage” issue is the direct consequence of the societal acceptance of marital contraception.

The bottom line is that when a significant majority of fertile-age Catholic parishioners accept and practice marital contraception, the parish is failing to be the faithful organism that is radiating the Lord Jesus. What is radiating is not the pleasant odor of sanctity, to use a pious phrase, or even that of antiseptics as in the hospital image of the Church. Instead, the smell is not sweet.

It would be nice if I am wrong. But how can a parish in which pastors won’t preach and parishioners won’t accept what the Church teaches are the divine truths about human love—how can such a parish radiate Christ who is the ultimate Author of these truths?

Next week. What can priests do easily and without significant costs of any kind?

John F. Kippley, August 17, 2014

 

 

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 2

This is my second comment on the 1999 papal exhortation titled The Church in America.

This teaching from St. John Paul II presents a beautiful ideal, but it is far from being realized. It seems to me, a man who sits in the pews, that it might be helpful to have greater clarity and emphasis on the ultimate purpose of the parish. That is, what is the real purpose of the parish? Isn’t it to help individual persons grow in Christian holiness?

It is certainly true that one way in which the parish leadership assists its members to grow in holiness is to encourage community among parish members and to encourage service to others, whether parish members or not, as indicated in section 41 of The Church in America. Let’s call that the Matthew 25 Last Judgment and humanitarian aspect of parish life.

But that’s not all. What about the call of Jesus as he started his public ministry? “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Or, in a few more words: Have a change of heart. Wherever necessary, have a change in behavior. You can’t serve God and mammon. Don’t worry about what to eat and drink. Seek first the kingdom of God and trust Him to take care of the rest of it.

Is this the way it is? We are supposed to be a Eucharistic community, but some statistics indicate that a very large percent of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. We have very clear teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control and in favor of generosity in having children, but the statistics show that only a very small percent of fertile-age couples accept these teachings. If they were followed, we would anticipate lots of babies and larger families.   Our seminary problems would chiefly be having enough space and faculty to handle the crowd.

Next week: Why isn’t it happening?

John F. Kippley, August 10, 2014

See also Sheila’s blog at www.nfpandmore.org/wordpress .

P. S. My effort to explain and uphold Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality is published by Ignatius Press as Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. This is the book that, in a previous edition, helped Scott and Kimberly Hahn, while still Protestants, to accept Catholic teaching on birth control. During its summer sale, Ignatius is offering it for only $6.00, but only through August.

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 1

Recently I was part of a small retreat team, and the topic assigned to me was “Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes.” My talk was supposed to be, more or less, a commentary on section 41 of The Church in America, an Apostolic Exhortation by Saint John Paul II, dated January 22, 1999. The background for the Exhortation was a Latin American synod of bishops held in 1997, but it is addressed to the entire Church concerning “the encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion and communion and solidarity.”  References are to a Synod document.

Section 41 is titled, “The parish needs constant renewal as a Eucharistic community.”

1.  The parish is a privileged place where the faithful concretely experience the Church. (137) Today in America as elsewhere in the world the parish is facing certain difficulties in fulfilling its mission. The parish needs to be constantly renewed on the basis of the principle that “the parish must continue to be above all a Eucharistic community”. (138) This principle implies that “parishes are called to be welcoming and fraternal, places of Christian initiation, of education in and celebration of the faith, open to the full range of charisms, services and ministries, organized in a communal and responsible way, capable of utilizing existing movements of the apostolate, attentive to the cultural diversity of the people, open to pastoral projects which go beyond the individual parish, and alert to the world in which they live”. (139)

I suspect that almost no one can find fault with that statement as far as it goes. But what is lacking is any clear statement about the need to challenge the individual person, the married couple, and the family to grow in faith and holiness.   Reading that statement, one would not perceive as a great challenge to the Church the fact that only a small percent of adults in the typical American parish actually believe and follow the moral teaching of the Church. It does not challenge the parish leadership to try to persuade adult Catholics to conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church and to cease conforming to the culture.

2.  Because of the particular problems they present, special attention needs to be given to parishes in large urban areas, where the difficulties are such that normal parish structures are inadequate and the opportunities for the apostolate are significantly reduced. The institution of the parish, however, retains its importance and needs to be preserved. For this, there is a need “to keep looking for ways in which the parish and its pastoral structures can be more effective in urban areas”. (140) One way of renewing parishes, especially urgent for parishes in large cities, might be to consider the parish as a community of communities and movements. (141) [emphasis added]. It seems timely therefore to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that allows for true human relationships. This will make it possible to live communion more intensely, ensuring that it is fostered not only “ad intra”, but also with the parish communities to which such groups belong, and with the entire diocesan and universal Church. In such a human context, it will be easier to gather to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word, and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ. (142) The institution of the parish, thus renewed, “can be the source of great hope. It can gather people in community, assist family life, overcome the sense of anonymity, welcome people and help them to be involved in their neighborhood and in society”. (143) In this way, every parish, and especially city parishes, can promote nowadays a more person-centered evangelization and better cooperate with other social, educational and community work. (144)

I want to draw attention to the underscored sentence about one way to renew—become a parish that is a community of communities. A most obvious application would be Presentation Ministries based in Cincinnati and with home-based communities in a number of states. My talk was given at one of its retreats.

3.  The kind of pastor who is needed. Moreover, “this kind of renewed parish needs as its leader a pastor who has a deep experience of the living Christ, a missionary spirit, a father’s heart, who is capable of fostering spiritual life, preaching the Gospel and promoting cooperation. A renewed parish needs the collaboration of lay people and therefore a director of pastoral activity and a pastor who is able to work with others. Parishes in America should be distinguished by their missionary spirit, which leads them to reach out to those who are faraway”. (145)

Again, no one can find fault with this statement as far as it goes, but I would like to put it in context. This Apostolic Exhortation was published on January 22, 1999 in Mexico City. Much of its talk about the problems of the apostolate in large cities refers much more to Latin America with its huge city slums than to North America. I wish that Pope John Paul II had also included in this document the recommendations he had made just four years previously in Rome. In May 1995 he co-sponsored with the Royal Society of England a conference on breastfeeding and mothering. Bishop James T. McHugh of the United States made the introductions. In his address, the Pope endorsed the recommendations of the World Health Organization and UNICEF that mothers should breastfeed their babies for at least one year and then up to two years and beyond.

It would be very helpful if the Pope had carried that sort of thought forward into this document. It would be helpful to the Church as a whole if Catholic parishes were known as centers of breastfeeding. Here in the United States such thinking is apparently not yet on the radar of parish expectations.

The document is beautiful, and I don’t think anyone can take exception to its message as far as it goes dealing with the communal aspects of the parish and the ideal pastor. I hope that it has had good effects in Latin America and all throughout the world.

Next week: Current challenges in many parishes.

John F. Kippley, August 3, 2014

P.S. This week is World Breastfeeding Week and Sheila is blogging daily at http://nfpandmore.org/wordpress/ .

 

 

 

 

 

Do Biblical Themes Apply Today?

In his homily on the readings for July 24th (Jeremiah 2:1ff and Matthew 13:10-17), our priest noted that much in our culture today parallels the things against which both Jeremiah and Jesus spoke. That struck a resonant chord for I have long wondered if the current attacks on the Church are analogous to the attacks that the Lord allowed his Old Testament people to suffer when they became unfaithful.

In the prophets and the psalms it is very clear that God has selected the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not for any merits of their own but simply to show God’s love, mercy, and power at work in the world. They would exist only by his very special protection. The Babylonian exile, however, represented God’s lifting his special protection since the people no longer wanted to walk in his ways. Their return to Israel was due to a moral miracle worked through a pagan, not by any virtue of their own except repentance.

By analogy, if we acknowledge that the Church was suffering internal corruption during the 15th and early 16th centuries, can the rise of Protestantism be compared to the Old Testament assaults? And what about today? After Vatican Council II ended in 1965, its work was widely misinterpreted as permission to become worldly in the worst sense of that term instead of a call to evangelize the world. This came to a head in 1968 with the massive rejection by Catholics of almost 2,000 years of Catholic teaching against marital contraception. The result is that in these United States it is estimated that less than one percent of fertile-age Catholics are living out the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

To tighten the analogy, the Chosen People settled in the land of Canaan among peoples who were worshipers of Baal, considered the god of fertility. Ritual prostitution was common and even required. As OT scholar Fr. Bruce Vawter wrote someplace in his book, The Conscience of Israel, a young woman might not like the idea, but playing the part of a temple prostitute was part of their religion. This proved to be a great temptation for all too many of the Chosen People who chose to join the Canaanites in these practices.

Can we not say that all too many of God’s chosen people—his baptized—once again have fallen into the trap of pagan sexual immorality? And can we not say that this time around these sins may be even worse—and especially for those who benefit from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church—because the participants are hoping not for the gift of fertility but in their idolization of contraceptive sex are hoping for infertility?

Is it not possible that God has somewhat lifted his mantle of protection of the Church in recognition of the failure of Church leaders to really confront this massive moral heresy?

Regardless of the value of this speculation, I suggest that all Christian parties ought to agree on a few things.

First, we all ought to be praying for authentic reform and renewal all throughout the Church in the widest meaning of that term. We all ought to be praying for a rebirth of modesty and chastity, for a stop to contraception and sodomy and abortion and FOR a culture of life.

Second, all Catholics ought to be praying for the conversion of North America, for the reconversion of Latin America, for the reconversion of Europe, for the conversion of Russia, for the conversion of Islam and the Jews, and for peace in the Holy Land and all throughout the Middle East and the entire world. If we love these peoples, we want what is best for them, and that means that we want them to have lives of full Catholic faith and holiness.

To me these things are so obvious that I sometimes wonder: Why don’t we hear these petitions at Mass? Why don’t we hear these petitions before the start of group rosary prayers? Certainly, someone might say, God knows all these needs, so why should we tell him what he already knows?

Well, if that’s the case, why pray in petition for anything? Maybe the Lord just wants to see if we are sufficiently interested in these projects to give a bit of our time in prayer.

At any rate, please join me in making these intentions part of your daily prayers and intentions. The current wars are not going to be resolved just by guns and more killings.   And really, you cannot reasonably want your descendants to have to live under Sharia law.

John F. Kippley, July 26, 2014

See also Sheila’s blogs at the NFPI website, www.nfpandmore.org.

(A 30% discount is now offered on all Kippley print books at lulu through August 7 in recognition of NFP week and World Breastfeeding Week.  In addition, Sophia is offering a 25% discount on Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood through August 7.  The code for the Sophia discount is “motherhood.” Ignatius Press is offering Sex and the Marriage Covenant for only $6.00 through August 31.)

Did Bottle-feeding Increase the Use of Contraception?

Early this summer, a physician who is knowledgeable about natural family planning and its statistics asked this question: Is there any study that shows a connection between bottle-feeding and the acceptance of contraception?

The short answer is that Sheila and I are not aware of any study that attempted to measure that relationship.

A more helpful answer, however, is found in the work of Dr. Otto Schaefer, a physician who worked among the Canadian Eskimos in the 1950s. He went there as an advocate of formulas and bottle-feeding. What he experienced led him to become a champion of the pattern of nursing that we call ecological breastfeeding.   He saw that the birth interval in this culture before the arrival of bottle-feeding was three to four years. With the advent of the trading post and formula and bottles, the babies were coming every year, and the mothers were complaining. In short, he witnessed a very clear example of hyper-fertility caused by the loss of breastfeeding.

This was very similar to the hyper-fertility of the 1950s here in the States. The WWII vets had returned and many wanted nothing more than to get a job, get married and have children. They were soon joined by the veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953). Prosperity was in the air. If formula-feeding made child-rearing much more expensive, so what? And they couldn’t wait to use jar after jar of Gerber-type baby food.

The result among many of these young families was the hyper-fertility of a baby every year. Breastfeeding was so rare in the United States in the Fifties that no one seemed to know that having a baby every year was highly unusual in breastfeeding cultures.

Nor did most married couples of the Fifties and Sixties know much about the first form of systematic natural family planning—Calendar Rhythm. Our landlord told us that he and his wife had practiced the Ogino-Knaus rhythm—they called it the O-K method—during the 1930s with a hundred percent success and three children. But that knowledge seemed to get lost in the postwar years. A great book on Catholic marriage published about 1956 referred to Calendar Rhythm, but instead of giving the formula, the author told couples to see their priest, assuming he would know.

The result was hyper-fertility. Contraception became widely practiced among those who had no moral/religious objections to it, and faithful Catholics and other Christians had large families. But even among the faithful, there were some real questions. A mother of seven who had married right after college was experiencing obvious varicose vein problems. She was about 30 and realized she had another 15 years of fertility; so she asked me, the parish lay evangelist, point blank, “What are we to do?” At that point I didn’t know enough even to give her accurate Calendar-Temperature rhythm rules.

However, there were certainly others who were very clear in saying that they were sure that the Church was going to change its teaching, so they hinted that it was okay to go ahead and use unnatural forms of birth control. Their articles were in periodicals read by Catholics, and their brochures and pamphlets might be found in church literature racks. There was little vocal opposition from the local clergy.

This is the background for my conviction that the demise of breastfeeding and its consequent hyper-fertility played a big role in the acceptance of contraception.

That’s why Sheila and I have always included ecological breastfeeding in our natural family planning instruction. When mothers follow the Seven Standards of ecological breastfeeding, they will experience, on average, 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea (no periods). They have a right to know this, and they also have a right to know that without following the seven standards they will most likely have a relatively early return of fertility.

Aside from the extended natural infertility that God Himself built into this pattern of baby-care, there are a plethora of demonstrated health benefits for babies and even for the mothers. In our manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, we list 21 health benefits for babies and 8 for the mothers. It seems to me that everyone who loves mothers and babies would want young couples to know these things. That’s why we think ecological breastfeeding should be incorporated into every church-affiliated NFP program. We don’t think that young people should have to wait for a July freeze in Texas for this information to be made universally available in church-affiliated educational efforts.

Are programs that relate breastfeeding-in-general, commonly called cultural breastfeeding, with delayed fertility really being fair with couples? That was the sort of talk common in the early 1960s before Sheila did her research and published the importance of mother-baby closeness and frequency of nursing. Cultural nursing almost guarantees an early return of fertility.

For accurate information, see www.nfpandmore.org, the manual mentioned above, and especially Sheila’s most recent book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor available at that website. Faithful Catholics and other interested parties need and deserve every help they can get in countering the sexual revolution and anti-family propaganda, and this sort of down-to-earth help simply must become a common part of the help that is given.

John F. Kippley, July 19, 2014