More Blessing than Burden

In my previous blog, I commented on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to accept homosexual sodomy as marriage. I pointed out that this follows logically and sociologically from the wide cultural and legal acceptance of heterosexual sodomy as marriage, understanding that all unnatural forms of birth control are essentially forms of sodomy. I noted that the big question of the day is this: What can leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States of America do about this? I think certain things are obvious.

First, Catholic bishops and priests need to revisit Humanae Vitae. They need to see that this encyclical is far more of a blessing than a burden. They need to preach and teach what Jesus taught—that his burden is light and that his yoke is sweet.

Perhaps they would also do well to revisit the arguments. I have tried to help by providing an analysis of the Birth Control Commission majority and minority reports in Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. It is clear that the arguments for contraception cannot say a logical NO to any mutually acceptable sexual behaviors. Revisionist theologian Michael Valente made it strikingly clear that the rejection of Humanae Vitae logically entailed the rejection of the entire natural law theory on which he said it was based. He used the example of bestiality to make his point. Yes, according to the principles of dissent, he and his fellow revisionists could not say a firm NO even to bestiality. In an article in the liberal Theological Studies, I showed that the decision-making principles of arch-dissenter Fr. Charles Curran cannot say NO even to spouse swapping.

Second, Catholic bishops and priests need to get over their fear of requiring something that is for the good of the persons involved. The Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Research and Practice had it right in 1989 when it urged that every engaged couple should be required to attend a full course on natural family planning. Current experience shows that almost no engaged couples take a course in natural family planning unless they are required to do so. Ironically, they have had to take required courses all their lives, but as they approach one of the most important things they will ever do, they are not required to take the one course that addresses the one issue that is the biggest issue in the Church today. Couples will take an NFP course if required. As Church required, such a course ought to be teaching much more than just fertility awareness. Well informed priests can do much to help couples understand that the teachings of the Church about love, marriage and sexuality are far more of a blessing than a burden.

Third, the contents of a required NFP course need to be adequate for the task at hand, and that means that it will be a holistic approach that is more than just teaching fertility awareness.

  • The course must be a New Evangelization effort. Young people need to learn that Jesus truly is the Author of all the teachings of the Church including those dealing with love, marriage, and sexuality. The blessings of increased discipleship far outweigh any effort put into helping the couples understand some of these basic facts of Christianity.
  • The course must include specific teaching against immoral sexual behaviors. Silence or ambiguous statements to avoid genital contact during the fertile time are easily interpreted in an exclusively pregnancy-avoiding way. Couples have told us how their interpretations of that terminology led them to adopt immoral practices. As a result some or many poorly instructed “NFP couples” practice periodic contraception instead of periodic chaste abstinence. Catholic moral teaching also includes the call to generosity in having children. Systematic NFP is not “Catholic birth control.”
  • The course must teach the abstinence-free form of natural spacing with breastfeeding. That means teaching the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding. To the extent that couples adopt this form of natural baby spacing, both babies and mothers will be healthier. The blessings are far greater than the “burden” of frequent nursing.
  • The course must teach a supporting theology that is easy to understand. We have found that the renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology is easily grasped and almost immediately makes good sense to people of open hearts and goodwill. St. John Paul II used this concept in his Letter to Families, but it is still unknown by many. Regarding hearts, a priest can do much to help open hearts if he takes the time to help couples appreciate the love that Jesus has for us and our need to show our gratitude by following his commandments of love. Again, the blessings of this understanding of the meaning of Christian love and marriage far outweigh the very slight burden of teaching.
  • The course ought to teach all the common signs of fertility and infertility. Comparative studies have shown that systems that use crosschecking signs have a higher user-effectiveness than those that focus just on cervical mucus. Couples have a God-given right to know about the cross-checking signs. That gives them the freedom to make an informed choice about which fertility sign or combination of signs they will use. I do not care what system they actually use, but I think it is imperative that they should have the knowledge-based freedom to choose for themselves. The blessing of having this legitimate freedom of choice far outweighs the slightly greater effort to teach more than one sign.
  • The course ought to be available via a Home Study taken at the couples’ own convenience and speed. The Home Study Course offered by NFP International is being used very successfully by couples all over the States.
  • The course ought to be affordable. The NFPI Home Study Course and its classroom course are both available for a requested donation of only $70.00. Very low cost and yet the most complete.

Bishops and priests who make use of the resources offered by NFP International will be gratified by the results. Priests and bishops alike would benefit by taking the course themselves. They would learn the scientific bases for Ecological Breastfeeding and a cross-checking system, and, best of all, they would also see how all of the above elements are easily integrated into a teaching program. They will see that the NFPI effort is a working example of lay evangelization and accompanying practical help. They will receive expressions of gratitude for having been required to take the course as preparation for Christian marriage.

John F. Kippley, July 2, 2015 for posting on July 8.

 

Sodomy as marriage: a logical consequence

As the world knows, Obergefell vs Hodges, the recent case that was used by the U.S. Supreme Court to forbid states to ban same-sex “marriage,” originated here in Cincinnati. Mr. Obergefell wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on the death certificate of his partner in “marriage.” When that was originally denied, he took it to the courts, and the rest is history.

You have probably seen various analyses of this decision; some of the best are the dissenting opinions of the dissenting Justices. Chief Justice Roberts emphatically pointed out that the decision was not rooted in the Constitution but simply in the personal preferences of the Majority. That is, this is another sad case of Court-imposed legislation.

The Majority decision listed the Griswold v Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v Baird (1972) as precedents. Those decisions forbade States from banning the sale and distribution of contraceptives to, respectively, married and then unmarried persons. To understand the impact of these decisions and their relationship to Obergefell, it is helpful to remember that in his commentary on the Sin of Onan in Genesis 38, Martin Luther called Onan’s form of contraception—withdrawal—a form of sodomy. That applies to any and all forms of contraceptive behaviors. It obviously includes those married couples who engage in the same sort of anatomical sexual acts as homosexuals; it also includes those who use the Pill etc.   Thus Griswold told the American people that it is so acceptable for married couples to engage in sodomy as contraception that States could no longer have any laws against this behavior.

According to the current NIH “Family Growth” statistics, about one-tenth of one percent of couples, married or not, are using natural methods of conception regulation. Let’s say that these figures don’t fairly represent married Christians. After all, do YOU know anyone who has ever been surveyed? And if asked, would you tell the details of your personal life to some survey-taker? So let’s say that the survey results were off by a factor of ten, yielding a rate of one percent of all those surveyed. Let’s imagine that churchgoing-Catholics were not well represented, so let’s double that figure. That would estimate that two percent of Catholic churchgoing parishioners were not using unnatural methods of birth control.

Conversely, that means that among fertile-age people, 98 percent of Catholics and 99% of the rest of the heterosexual population are engaging in various forms of sodomy as their way of preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are no data from the natural family planning community to help us think that more than two percent of Catholic married couples are using only natural forms of conception regulation.

It is quite imaginable that homosexuals in our culture might have been thinking, “Since those doing heterosexual sodomy are calling it marriage, why shouldn’t we?” From that perspective, it appears that Obergefell is both a logical and sociological consequence of Griswold. In other words, from heterosexual sodomy as marriage we now have homosexual sodomy as marriage.

Shortly before the day of the decision, I was receiving emails calling for prayer and predicting that the acceptance of sodomy as marriage would spell the end of our culture. I don’t disagree, but I think that we all need to realize that “marriage” was redefined by Griswold in 1965 and that Obergefell has simply made clear what contraceptive marriage is all about.

The question of the day is this: What will the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States of America do about this? What will they do to educate church-going Catholics about the beauty and truth of Catholic teaching on love, marriage and sexuality? As Timothy Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York has admitted, most bishops treated Humanae Vitae as a “hot potato,” i.e., something not to be handled. The result is in the statistics a few paragraphs above. The merciful Lord has given them another chance to get it right.

Also, this is certainly an opportunity for Protestants to realize that Luther was right about contraceptive behaviors as a form of sodomy and to return to the unity of teaching on this issue that prevailed until the Anglican revolution of 1930. After all, essentially Protestant state legislatures enacted the anti-contraception laws of the 1870s. Perhaps some or many will realize that the Catholic Church is the Guardian and authoritative teacher of the truth despite the failings of the majority of its Western laity and the laxity or timidity of too many of its clergy.

More later.

John F. Kippley, July 1, 2015

 

 

 

Vacuity and violence: the Court and public schools

As I watched the television coverage of James Holmes, the Denver mass murderer, and more recently the coverage of the Charleston mass murder and the Cincinnati suicide-by-cop, to say nothing about Ferguson and others, I kept asking myself one big question: Has there been anything in the background of these murderers that has tried to teach them that it is wrong, seriously wrong, mortal-sin wrong to murder anyone, to say nothing of mass murder?

In a recent story about Holmes, we learned that he told his psychiatrist that he wondered about the meaning of life. That’s obviously an important question, but what a difference between Holmes and the Maritain couple. As I understand it, Jacques Maritain and his wife Raissa, both philosophers, had thought deeply about this and from their secular perspective had concluded that there was no real meaning to life. They had further concluded that it seemed logical, therefore, to commit suicide to end their meaningless existence. Fortunately for them and for us, they met a Catholic philosopher, I think it was Leon Bloy, who explained that there is very real meaning to life, and he helped lead them into the Church where they did great work.

As I wrote in my previous commentary, on the afternoon of the day of suicide-by-cop in Cincinnati, I asked a young black woman about her Cincinnati public-school education. She told me that not only had she never heard anything about the Commandments in her high school but also that they were forbidden to say the American pledge of allegiance because it contains “under God.”

Contrast that completely secular approach with the words of President George Washington in his Farewell Address in 1796: Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. How did we get from there to the practical atheism of our day?

I suggest that it started with the anti-Catholicism of the mid-19th century as Catholics became more numerous via immigration and the Church began to educate its children in its own schools since the public schools were de facto Protestant religious schools. Anti-Catholicism showed its colors very clearly again in 1922 as Oregon made it illegal to attend Catholic schools (overturned in 1923). A decisive step toward complete secularization was taken in 1963 when the Supreme Court banned the last traces of religion in public schools such as Bible reading and prayer. Another key step was taken in 1970 when the Supreme Court in Lemon misread the First Amendment prohibition of the “establishment of religion” to mean the exclusion of anything that was friendly to the free exercise of religion.

That’s a short one paragraph description of how the U.S. Supreme Court has led to the current situation. It started with anti-Catholicism, then became anti-Christian, and ended up as anti-religion. (For much more, see Mere Creatures of the State by William Bentley Ball, 1994.) No teaching of religious faith. No teaching of religious-based morality. And, as I understand it, no teaching of any objective morality.

The huge problem that confronts the nation right now is that widespread experience shows that we need to learn and practice morality. The Ten Commandments are not for God’s benefit but for ours. The reality is that a community needs to instruct its members about the commandments that have to govern human relationships. George Washington was right. The bottom line is that members of a community need to learn to police themselves or the community will turn into a police state.

The Cincinnati police chief has been given an impossible assignment—to come up with a plan that  will greatly reduce our violence within 90 days. The other day there was a walk against violence, and another shooting occurred within a few yards of the walkers.   In fact, there were three shooting deaths within 24 hours.

What school-age boys and girls are learning in this godless and morally bankrupt environment is that the purpose of education is to help you make a lot of money. Not a few have figured out that dealing in drugs and sex is a fast way to get that money, and that violence is a fast and final way of dealing with a competitor. Aside from fear of punishment which in turn nurtures hatred for the police, what other motivation are they given not to shoot those who stand in their way?

In this environment created by the U.S. Supreme Court and the public schools, the question is not “Why do they do violence?”   The real question is “Why not?”

John F. Kippley, June 27, 2015.

For a commentary on a significant omission in Laudato Si, see Sheila’s blog at http://nfpandmore.org/wordpress/. Scroll down if necessary.

 

 

 

Suicide by Cop

National attention has been given to the mass murder of nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina. On June 17, parishioners were attending the Wednesday evening Bible Study service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. A young white visitor had come for other purposes, and after listening for about an hour—and almost changing his mind—he used his Glock 45 caliber pistol to shoot and kill nine people including the pastor who was conducting the services. The headline in the USA Today section of our Saturday morning paper read ‘HATE DOESN’T WIN,’ reflecting the words of other parishioners and relatives who had let the Christian message of loving your enemies penetrate their souls.

That was Wednesday night, June 17. On Friday morning, June 19, we in Cincinnati experienced an equally senseless murder. A 21-year-old black man, Trepierre Hummons, placed two 911 calls about a man waving a gun and behaving in a threatening manner. When the first policeman, Sonny Kim, responded, he saw the situation. The mother of Hummons had become concerned about her son and had found him in the street shortly before Officer Kim arrived. The newspaper report read this way:

“As Hummons approached Kim, police say, Hummons’ mother stood between the two men and told Kim, ‘I’ll take him home.’ Then her son drew his gun. And Kim drew his. Hummons shot Kim multiple times and, soon after, wrestled away the officer’s Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun, police say. He then began shooting at a probation officer who had stopped to assist on his way to work. Another police offer, Tom Sandmann, came under fire as soon as he arrived on the scene. While Hummons’ mother tried to help the dying Kim in the street, her son turned Kim’s gun on Sandmann and began firing, police say.   Sandmann took cover behind his car, returned fire and fatally wounded Hummons.”

The paper reported that the seeds of this disaster were possibly planted early that morning, just after midnight. A woman filed a sex offense report against Hummons who was well known to the police. Hummons’ mother later told police that her son was having troubles with his girlfriend and wasn’t acting like himself. Early in the morning he had texted his friends, “I really love you and thank you for all you’ve ever done for me.” On his public Facebook page he posted an ominous message: “I love every last one of y’all to whoever has been in my life … you’re the real mvp.” The message was dated at 8:55 a.m., just eight minutes before he placed the first 911 call about a belligerent man with a gun.

This came as Cincinnati was already reeling or being roiled about the number of homicides that are up considerably from last year at this time. The police chief was recently ordered to come up with a plan within a very short time to stop this violence.

That is a very bad joke. Aside from turning the city, or at least its hot spots, into a police state, how can any city stop its violence in 90 days? The roots are deep.

That same Friday afternoon, after I had finished a business transaction, I asked the young black female clerk if she had grown up in Cincinnati. Yes, she had. I asked if she had ever heard anything about morality or commandments in her public education. She replied in the negative and then added that in her high school they were not permitted to say the Pledge of Allegiance because it contained the words “under God.”

Concerning both of these tragedies, many will ask themselves, “Why?” Or is the better question, “Why not?”

More on this next week.

Catholic Motherhood Is Vital

Motherhood is beautiful. Almost everyone loves a picture of mother and baby.

Motherhood is also vital, and Catholic motherhood is vital for the survival of the Church in any given area. “Three to survive and five to thrive.” Those seven words summarize the importance of Catholic motherhood for the well-being of the Church. The two-child family is less than basic replacement and allows little room for dedicated young men and women to serve as celibate priests and sisters. The right kind of NFP course will transit this simple truth.

The birth control issue is at the heart of a 55-year decline of the Church. Thus it will have to be at the heart of its renewal. Again, the remedy is not complex. When pastors teach Humanae Vitae and have each of their engaged couples attend the right kind of NFP course, that policy will be a significant step forward. It will certainly help to keep our churches used by Catholic believers a hundred years from now.

I am not so naïve to think that every couple exposed to the best possible NFP course will convert to full Catholic practice, but I think that 25% acceptance is not totally unrealistic. That might not sound like much, but it’s probably ten times better than the current situation in which 95 to 98 percent of newlyweds start their marriage with contraception, many simply continuing to live as they had been before the wedding.

A recent example gives hope. A priest insisted that this engaged couple take the Home Study course offered by Natural Family Planning International (www.nfpandmore.org). The woman stopped taking the Pill about 10 weeks before they started the course. The course asks for an evaluation on a scale of 1 to 10 from those who complete it. Here’s what the woman wrote:

“10!!!  We participated in NFP due to church requirements, but I am so glad we did. I really believe in NFP and following God’s plan by knowing our bodies and becoming more life giving. Thank you so much for all your help. We are very happy to use NFP!!. (San Angelo TX April 2015)”

Here’s another remark on the home study course, received just a day before I wrote this. She gave us only a 7 out of 10, but her comment was interesting. “Although at first I was very put off by this process, through it I think it has strengthened my relationship with my fiancé and has given me a better understanding of the importance and role that sex has in a marriage.” Sounds to me as if she is growing, for which we are grateful.

Contracepting couples will discover, sooner or later, that contraceptive on-demand sex is not heaven on earth, and I am hopeful that at least half will convert to chaste NFP within ten years of marriage. In almost every NFP course, they will learn about the abortifacient and breast cancer risks of hormonal birth control. If they use barrier methods, they will discover why there was such a huge switch from the barriers to the Pill—the contracepting couples didn’t like the barriers. Some couples may resort to mutual masturbation and/ or oral sodomy. These things are difficult to talk about from the pulpit, so that’s why I insist that they should be taught as seriously immoral in the right kind of NFP course.

Some contracepting couples will “get it” about chaste NFP when they internalize the teaching that in God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality, the marriage act ought to be renewal of the faith, love, and for-better-and-for-worse commitment of their marriage covenant.   It is not at all hard to see that the contraceptive sexual union says an emphatic NO to the imaginary “worse” of possible pregnancy and is thus a contradiction of their marriage covenant.

Some couples may not really “get it” about God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality until they experience the natural spacing of babies with ecological breastfeeding. Bishops should insist that that the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding be taught in every sort of NFP course.

Let us be very basic. The Sexual Revolution is all about the personal and societal acceptance of sexual immorality. The Church by its own constitution is empowered and commanded by the Lord to preach and teach the divine truth about human love, and it needs to do so at every level—papal teachings, diocesan policies, and parish implementation of Humanae Vitae.

That would be a significant change. When diocesan leadership starts to make any given diocese a true Humanae Vitae diocese and requires the right kind of pre-marriage instruction including the right kind of NFP instruction, there is reason for hope that fifty and a hundred years from now our Catholic churches will still be places of Catholic worship.

May God continue to bless every mother who reads this and all mothers throughout the world.

John F. Kippley, May 9, 2015

 

 

Rebuilding the Church

This series of blogs started because a picture of a former Catholic Church in the Netherlands now turned into a skate park continues to haunt me. It is a reflection of the neglect of the Church, specifically in Europe but also throughout the West, to proclaim the teaching of Humanae Vitae with confidence and conviction.

The intellectual debate about Humanae Vitae was completed very quickly. It was clear very soon that the rejection of the teaching of Humanae Vitae entailed the rejection of the natural moral law. Dissenters still calling themselves Catholic spelled out the logic of birth control, including even the acceptance of bestiality. Other dissenters spelled out their new principles for moral decision making. I pointed out in a liberal theological journal that Fr. Charles Curran’s principles cannot say no even to spouse-swapping. At least by the end of the 1970s, it was clear that the logic of birth control cannot say no to any imaginable sexual behavior between consenting persons of legal age. That is moral absurdity, and that should have been the end of the so-called “debate” about the merits of Humanae Vitae and Catholic teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control.

Instead, a majority of Catholics as well as other Christians became part of the contraceptive-based Sexual Revolution. Through contraception, sterilization and abortion, the Western once-Christian world stopped having enough babies to replace themselves. The Church and the world are in crisis and in need of a solution.

The solution is both simple and stupendous.

Simple: The Church needs to preach and teach God’s truths about love, marriage, sexuality, and the call to be generous in having children and raising them in the ways of the Lord. The Church has these truths, and everyone in the world needs them. The leaders of the Church need to preach and teach these saving doctrines with the confidence that they really are true and the conviction that they come from God and are for the benefit of every man, woman and child. Then they will also experience the joy that comes from seeing more Catholic couples internalize and live these truths.

Stupendous: The Church needs to inspire its members to say no to themselves and yes to serving God and others. The symbol of Christianity is the Cross. The teaching of Jesus about love, marriage and sexuality involves carrying the daily cross. Somehow, pastors of souls need to reawaken in themselves and their laity a true and personal love for the Lord Jesus. As his disciples, we will understand that the sacrifice of chaste living is just a normal part of walking with the Lord Jesus. Every day young men and women sign up to give their lives, if necessary, for the life of their country. What we need is that every day all men and women sign up again and again to live their lives on the narrow path of Christian discipleship, an adventure that we know involves the daily cross of saying no to ourselves and then the joy of saying yes to the Lord Jesus.

Next Sunday, May 10th, is Mother’s Day.  John F. Kippley, May 2, 2015

They’re running scared

Articles that have appeared in the media controlled by Catholic dissenters seem to indicate that they are running scared. Humanae Vitae and natural family planning are not their favorite subjects except for criticism. They generally consider these subjects as settled in the negative and not worth discussing. Airplane comments by Pope Francis perhaps have made them almost giddy. After all, if the Pope can be soft on sodomy, what can he have against the use of unnatural methods of birth control that seek to make the marriage act just as sterile as sodomy? Of course, those who actually read what the Pope said and consider the circumstances in which he said it realize that he was not talking about sodomy in general but only whether that sin disqualified a particular priest for a Vatican banking job. On that one, he reserved judgment.

More recently Pope Francis not only presided at the beatification ceremony of Pope Paul VI but also praised his work including Humanae Vitae. The proponents of the Catholic Tradition regarding love, marriage and sexuality have been getting more press, even good press. If I were a dissenter and had been expecting the Pope and the Synod to say some things that further undermine traditional Catholic teaching on birth control and the indissolubility of marriage, I would be very concerned. So they’re writing.

One new trend is to treat systematic natural family planning as an ideal but not as the norm. That’s joined with the use of difficult cases to make the actual teaching of the Church look impossible to follow. For example, a long-absent soldier returns home during the fertile time, and they don’t want to get pregnant. The dissenters’ solution is simple—just contracept. Why? Well, it would be difficult to abstain. In other words, it would be a cross to abstain. Granted.

The problem is that the Lord Jesus told us—and still tells us today—that taking up the cross daily is the price of discipleship for which the reward is eternal happiness. With many words and sympathy-inducing scenarios, the message of the dissenters is the same: you are excused from carrying the cross of Christian discipleship. That is not compassion.

Compassion in this situation starts well before the actual scenario event. At NFP International, we do what we can to identify the fertile time and to keep it as short as possible when abstinence is required. Many of us who have been teaching Catholic NFP have suffered lots of rejection, but at NFP International we persevere simply because teaching chaste and generous NFP is the right thing to do. It’s a response to section 26 of Humanae Vitae that encourages couples to share their NFP knowledge with others.

The other thing that needs to be said is that through their mutual fertility awareness and Catholic faith, the couple in this situation may realize that it may be providential that they are fertile at homecoming. Do they really have a sufficiently serious need to postpone pregnancy? Perhaps seeing what he has seen may lead the military man to be all the more grateful for the gift of life.

Next week: Rebuilding the Church.