What God Has Put Together

Every informed Christian is aware that even in the Catholic Church today there are significant efforts to undermine the teaching of Jesus about the permanence of marriage. Fortunately, the traditional teaching is being well defended by eminent Churchmen and theologians.

What is not often pointed out is that the words of Jesus about marriage also help to illustrate the evil of marital contraception. Just ask any believer, “Who put together in one act what we commonly call making love and making babies?” The believer has to answer, “God Himself put together in one act what we call making love and making babies.”

The next question: “What is marital contraception except the deliberate effort to take apart what God Himself has put together in the marriage act?” The answer is obvious. Marital contraception is nothing less than the effort to take apart what God Himself put together in the marriage act. For believers, the lesson should be obvious. “What God has put together, let no one take apart.”

I am hoping that the Synod of the Family will make these connections. It seems to me that the Church-listening and the entire world need to hear the words of Jesus about the permanence of marriage affirmed clearly and beautifully. In his teaching, the Lord Jesus is not trying to make life difficult with artificial hoops and hurdles. Rather, as Pope Francis said so well, Jesus is teaching us the way of love and authentic happiness (“Ten Commandments are a signpost of freedom,” Wednesday, June 13, 2013).

Along with a beautiful and clear affirmation of the Lord’s teaching about the permanence of marriage, I hope the Synod will also affirm the teaching about marriage affirmed in Casti Connubii and reaffirmed in Humanae Vitae and the Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II. “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant” (Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II, 2/2/1994, The Year of the Family).

In this statement, Blessed Pope John Paul II may be the first Pope ever to use that phraseology — that the marriage act ought to confirm the marriage covenant –  and that is significant.

First of all, the renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology points at the intrinsic meaning of human sexual intercourse. It ought to be exclusively a confirmation or renewal of the marriage covenant. That helps to explain why fornication is morally evil. There may be romantic love in some such actions, but there is no commitment. There is no marriage. There is no covenant to renew. This does not eliminate the traditional explanation that fornication is a sin of injustice because it may bring a child into the world with only its mother to love and support her or him. The revisionists, however, have worked overtime for the past 100 years to say that contraception does away with such reasoning. But nothing can do away with the fact that fornication is essentially dishonest because it is not a marriage act.

The same thing can be said about the other abuses of the powers of sex—adultery, incest, and so on. The evil of same-sex marriage is also illustrated and shows the need to emphasize that the covenant is not of one’s own description but the natural covenant of marriage that has existed from the beginning.

Experience has shown me that the covenant theology makes sense to those who seek to know and do what God wants them to do, and that includes not only truth-seeking Catholics but also truth-seeking Protestants and even truth-seeking agnostics and atheists.  The problem to day is not with the teachings of the Church.  The real challenge for the Pope, bishops, priests and the believing laity is to increase the number of the baptized who truly WANT to walk the path of self-sacrificing love, the narrow path of Jesus.

John F. Kippley
http://www.nfpandmore.org  where Sheila blogs every week.

Humanae Vitae: Another Approach

In his interview in early March, Pope Francis was asked about Humanae Vitae and supported its teaching as I indicated in my previous blog. Here I would like to focus just on a few words of his response as follows: “The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth. . .”

Blessed John Paul II did that quite extensively in his series of 129 lectures (1979 to 1984) known as the papal Theology of the Body, but they are not easy reading. Ten years later in an effort to reach out to ordinary people, he wrote his Letter to Families from Pope Paul II, and of special relevance to Humanae Vitae he wrote:

“In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant. The logic of the total gift of self to the other involves a potential openness to procreation: in this way the marriage is called to even greater fulfillment as a family (n.12, Feb 2 1994, italics in original).

“…called to confirm the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant.” I was thrilled to see those words the first time I read them because they seem to be saying in different words something that I have been saying since 1967: “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.” Let’s call that expression the “covenant theology” even though it would be more accurate to call it a “renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant” theology.

Perhaps one of the problems with the transmission of the biblically-based teaching of the Catholic Church on love, marriage and sexuality—including birth control—is that these teachings are sometimes seen as separate entities and not as reflecting a basic truth about the meaning of sexual intercourse. Perhaps the covenant theology can be helpful in this regard.

First of all, if, in God’s plan, sexual union ought to be a renewal of the marriage covenant, then it is easy to see the immorality of bestiality, adultery, fornication, incest, solitary masturbation, and sodomy. Obviously, none of these are a renewal of the marriage covenant. Sexual union has a God-intended meaning:  it ought to be exclusively a marriage act.

Within marriage, sexual union ought to be a true marriage act. It ought to renew the faith and love and permanent commitment of the couple’s original marriage covenant, for better and for worse. No, couples do not have to have all of this on their mind as they approach the marriage bed; that’s the meaning of the phrase “at least implicitly” in the covenant theology statement above. But notice what the body language of contraception says (and this includes contraceptive behaviors such as mutual masturbation and marital sodomy). The contraceptive marital embrace says, “We take each other for better but definitely and positively NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.”

Thus contraception does not renew but instead contradicts the marriage covenant. It is dishonest. And that, in my opinion, is what makes it immoral.

I do not claim that internalizing this concept of the marriage act somehow automatically makes periodic abstinence easy. On the other hand, when a person sees the intrinsic covenantal meaning of the marriage act, Catholic teaching about the moral wrongness of marital contraception may become easier to accept and understand. This was the experience of Kimberly and Scott Hahn when they were still Protestants, and they are certainly not unique.

Coming next: What God has put together…

John F. Kippley
http://www.nfpandmore.org where Sheila blogs every week.

 

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Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II re Humanae Vitae

In an interview commemorating the first anniversary of his election as the Bishop of Rome on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis made some wide ranging comments.  Of special interest are his comments on Humanae Vitae. 

“It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.

“His genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”

It is not impossible that for some the mention of “people’s situations” will raise the ghost of situation ethics.  In that vein, I am reminded of a long sentence in which Karl Rahner wrote as follows:

“If we Christians, when faced with a moral decision, really realized that the world is under the Cross on which God himself hung nailed and pierced, that obedience to God’s law can also entail man’s death…..”  [and several more conditional clauses],

“then there would be fewer confessors and spiritual advisors who, for fear of telling their penitent how strict is God’s law, fail in their duty and tell him instead to follow his conscience, as if he had not asked, and done right to ask, which among all the many voices clamoring within him was the true voice of God, as if it were not for God’s Church to try and distinguish it in accordance with His law, as if the true conscience could speak even when it had not been informed by God and the faith which come from hearing.”  (Nature and Grace, 1964 edition.  The complete quotation is in Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Ignatius, 2005, p.205.)

Speaking about exceptions to the moral law, Pope John Paul had much to say about the doctrine of marital non-contraception affirmed in Humanae Vitae, and many of his comments are in Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Chapter 7 “Forming a Correct Conscience.”  A summary is found on page 148 as follows:

  • “to hold out for exceptions as if God’s grace were not sufficient is a form of atheism [September 17, 1983];
  • denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is “equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation” [April 10, 1986];
  • it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion [June 5, 1987];
  • it is a “teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine” and “a truth which cannot be questioned” [March 14, 1988];
  • it is a teaching which is intrinsic to our human nature and that calling it into question “is equivalent to refusing God himself the obedience of our intelligence’ [November 12, 1988] and finally,
  • “what is being questioned by rejecting that teaching . . . is the very idea of the holiness of God” [November 12, 1988].

I can understand the emphasis on mercy when a confessor is dealing with persons and couples whose sexual behaviors have become compulsive and who thus may lack the psychological freedom necessary either for serious sin or for acts of love.  Such acts are the subject of moral pathology.  However, I have yet to see dissenters making the case against Humanae Vitae in terms of almost uncontrollable compulsion.

There is no contradiction between the writing of Pope John Paul II and the comments of Pope Francis, just a difference in emphasis.  Perhaps the promotion of mercy will bring about increased concern for the meaning of the marriage act that Pope John Paul II strove so hard and for so long to enkindle.

John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org, March 10, 2014

Invalid Marriages, the Eucharist, and Romans 10:14-17, Part 2

“The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”  To paraphrase, “If a man can’t get rid of his wife even for a very good reason, he’s better off not getting married.”

So, the difficult teaching comes directly from Jesus; it is not just a discipline of the Church.

The Church has recognized that in some or even many cases the vows of the spouses do not enact a true sacramental marriage because one party or the other was not fully competent to commit marriage.  That’s why the Church can examine a situation and issue a declaration of nullity — a statement that there was no true sacramental marriage from the very beginning.  Given the non-preaching and non-teaching of the reality as well as the “companionate marriage” propaganda of a sexually saturated culture, it is possible that today a great many “marriages” are invalid.  And perhaps there are certain aspects of the nullity process that can be improved.  But I am certain that the Holy Spirit is not going to allow the Church to teach that any marriage that breaks up was automatically null and void from its inception.

The truly pastoral approach needs to seek ways to ensure that couples who want to marry are properly prepared to commit marriage.  The teaching of St. Paul in Romans 10:14-17 is particularly apropos.  “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without a preacher?  And how can men preach unless they are sent?”

Certainly that applies first and foremost to saving faith in the Lord Jesus, but it also applies to everything else including marriage — children, the demands of love, and permanence.  From the beginning couples have had a natural right to marry as Jesus makes clear.  The Canon Law of the Catholic Church makes it clear that Catholics have a right to have a Catholic priest or deacon witness their marriage.  Such a requirement does not, however, eliminate the need for couples to undergo a reasonable amount of preparation for the sacrament.  In fact, out of real love for the future spouses and their children, it is simply imperative for the Church to require and provide, well prior to marriage, adequate instruction about the demands of Christian love and commitment.

Remote preparation starts in the family, Sunday homilies, and proper catechesis.  It can be aided by something like my Seven Day Bible Rosary that has a decade devoted to the teaching of Jesus about the permanence of marriage.  Hearing or seeing these words on a weekly basis might help to engrave that reality into a person’s very being.  And certainly the right kind of natural baby spacing program can help the couple to realize the demands of self-giving love.  We have seen engaged or about-to-be-engaged couples break off the engagement when they realized that they were incompatible on this issue.  I remember one case where the young woman was back the next year with another fiancé, and they went on to have a happy marriage.

The bottom line is this:  Our cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons need to realize that Romans 10:14-17 applies to preparation for marriage and act accordingly.  Conversion, not concession, is the answer.

 

Invalid Marriages, the Eucharist, and Romans 10:14-17

As I began to write this, 150 Cardinals of the Catholic Church were gathered at the Vatican to discuss family matters including the problem of people in invalid marriages who would like to receive Holy Communion.  Published comments have included mention of a possible “pastoral” solution to the problem.

That sort of language is ambiguous and can be troubling.  I suggest that it was that sort of allegedly “pastoral” thinking that led many bishops and cardinals to handle Humanae Vitae as a “hot potato” to use the term of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  That approach and its non-teaching of the demands of Christian love reaffirmed by the encyclical have given us the present situation in which only about one percent of fertile-age Catholic married couples are using any form of systematic NFP.  The rest of them are certainly not just letting the babies come as they may, and another consequence is the societal acceptance of sodomy as “marriage.”

The issue raises the question of the New Evangelization.  As formulated by Pope John Paul II and reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, this was supposed to help Catholics understand that Jesus Himself is the Author of the difficult moral teachings of the Church.  So I wonder how many cardinals, bishops and priests have preached homilies on the permanence of marriage, homilies that explain how radical this teaching sounded to the Jews including the apostles.  In particular, how many German cardinals, bishops and priests have preached at least once a year on the permanence of marriage?

How many ordinary pew sitters realize that divorce and remarriage was taken for granted by the Jews of that time, even though the Pharisees and the Sadducees had different positions?  One party said you could divorce your wife for any reason whatever while the other party said you had to have a serious reason.  So the Pharisees, who held the latter position, phrased the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”  (my emphasis).

The discourse is in Matthew 19:1ff.  Jesus refers them back to the order of creation in Genesis.  “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two become one’?  So they are no longer two but one.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”  The Pharisees then brought up Moses and his command to give a certificate of divorce, and Jesus replied that this was because of their hardness of heart.  That is, it had become the custom for a man to divorce his wife and then call her back like a yo-yo at the end of the string.  So Moses commanded that the divorcing husband give his wife a written decree to stop that evil, but it was certainly not a permission to divorce and remarry.

So Jesus replied, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity [an already immoral union], and marries another, commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”

“The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”  To paraphrase, “If a man can’t get rid of his wife even for a very good reason, he’s better off not getting married.”

So, the difficult teaching comes directly from Jesus; it is not just a discipline of the Church.

To be concluded next week.

John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org

From Sanger to Same-Sex “Marriage”

Have you ever wondered when and how the same-sex-marriage proposition got started?  It was 100 years ago that Margaret Sanger began her literary efforts to promote contraception.  It is clear now that these efforts prepared the way for the contemporary societal acceptance of sodomy under its current euphemism of same-sex marriage.

It was in 1914 the Sanger started her own paper, The Rebel Woman, and began to circulate it via the U. S. Postal system.  This brought her into conflict with the existing obscenity laws, and in August she was arrested and given six weeks to prepare her defense.  Instead, she wrote a book on contraception and fled to England where she imbibed more of the evil philosophy of Havelock Ellis who publicly advocated for the societal acceptance of contraception, masturbation, and sodomy.  That’s  When and How the idea of same-sex “marriage” was conceived although not yet explicitly proposed.  Sanger returned to the States in 1916, eventually went to trial, received a very short sentence, and successfully used the legal proceedings as free publicity for her cause.

The promotional work of Ellis in England and Sanger in the United States led to much discussion in the 1920s about the social effects of accepting contraception.  One such idea was “companionate marriage” — legal marriage, deliberate childlessness via contraception, divorce for any reason, and remarriage.  The reformers considered the cycle of divorce and remarriage to be social progress, but they did have a proviso.  If the partners have a contraceptive failure, they must remain together for the sake of the child.

Secular humanist Walter Lippmann brought a critical eye to these developments in his 1929 book, A Preface to Morals.  He did not disagree with the basic argument against unlimited family size, but he found fault with the way the argument was advanced.  He saw that it was folly to argue that this information could be kept to married couples because human curiosity would make certain that everybody would soon know it.  “Now this is what the Christian churches, especially the Roman Catholic, which oppose contraception on principle instantly recognized.  They were quite right.  They were quite right, too, in recognizing that whether or not birth control is eugenic, hygienic, and economic, it is the most revolutionary practice in the history of human morals (1999 printing, 291, emphasis added).

He then summarized his review of the sex talk of the Twenties in this way.  “What has happened, I believe, is what so often happens in the first enthusiasm for a revolutionary invention.  Its possibilities are so dazzling that men forget that inventions belong to man and not man to his inventions.  In the discussion which has ensued since birth control became generally feasible, the central confusion has  been that the reformers have tried to fix their sexual ideals in accordance with the logic of  birth control instead of the logic of human nature” (306, emphasis added).  How sadly true.

That was 1929.  The very next year, the bishops of the Church of England debated the marital contraception issue.  One of their retired members, Bishop Charles Gore, a leader of the “conservative” group, argued that the acceptance of marital contraception would lead logically to the acceptance of sodomy.  Despite this clear warning, the Church of England formally accepted marital contraception in August 1930 although with some reservation.  The Church of England thus became the first organized religious body calling itself Christian to accept the practice of marital contraception.  In my opinion, this was even more important than the efforts of Margaret Sanger in explaining the acceptance of unnatural forms of birth control by Christians whose churches had previously condemned it.  By 1958 the Anglican bishops were openly advocating marital contraception, and early in the 21st century they were accepting sodomy even by their own married bishops.  Ellis and Sanger had replaced Genesis and Romans.

The bottom line is this:  Once you accept marital contraception as a matter of principle, there is no logical way to say NO to heterosexual sodomy within marriage, and there is also no logical way to say NO to same-sex sodomy and even its masquerade as same-sex “marriage.”  As Professor Raymond Dennehy of the University of San Francisco wrote some years ago, once you accept contraception, “any orifice will do.”

Martin Luther was correct when, in his commentary on the Sin of Onan, he called the contraceptive sin of withdrawal a form of sodomy.  That applies to all unnatural forms of birth control.  Thus it is not surprising that huge numbers of contracepting couples who call themselves Christian see nothing wrong with same-sex “marriage.”  It’s hard to call wrong what you yourself are doing in your own marriage.

When married couples engage in mutual masturbation, that’s a form of marital sodomy.  That also applies to oral and anal sexual copulation.  I can imagine that practitioners of same-sex sodomy might say something to this effect—“Some of you married heterosexuals are doing our kind of sex and calling it okay for yourselves.  Why shouldn’t we do sodomy and call it marriage?”

I think everybody dealing with human sexuality or who even reads the papers has to know that oral sodomy is practiced — sometimes widely — by heterosexuals, married and unmarried and even teenagers, as well as homosexuals.  Yet, to the best of my knowledge, the only natural family planning books that teach explicitly against these immoral behaviors are those written by my wife and me.  It only takes a few lines to say these things, so space cannot be a consideration.  A related question—Is this basic moral teaching contained in any of the marriage preparation texts and courses used in Catholic parishes?  I don’t know, but if any reader can cite any such books or programs, please let me know.

If the purpose of preparation for Christian marriage is to help couples live a morally good life and to build up the Church, why aren’t these things being taught in every marriage prep and NFP course and text?  Is the mission of the Church advanced by omitting these basic moral teachings?

John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org

The Little Sisters and the Obama Supremacy

The year 2013 ended with U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ordering a temporary halt to the enforcement of the U. S. Health and Human Services birth control mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor.  This is an organization founded by Saint Jeanne Jugan in France in 1839 to take care of the poor and has had a home here in Cincinnati since 1868.  The number of people they care for exceeds what the Sisters themselves can do, so they have employees.  The Obama administration insists that the Little Sisters provide any current or prospective employee with “free” birth control of whatever kind they might want.  The Little Sisters operation in Denver is the subject of the litigation, but the judgment will apply to all locations as well as to similar religiously based organizations.

As believing Catholics, the Little Sisters believe that the practice of contraception is immoral and do not want to facilitate it.  The HHS has proposed what it calls an “accommodation” for Catholic organizations.  They don’t have to pay for the contraceptives directly or even directly pay for the insurance to provide it.  The Wall Street Journal (Jan 3) explained it this way:

“The problem is that to qualify under the ‘accommodation,’ religious organizations must sign a legal contract with their insurer certifying that the religious organizations refuse to subsidize contraceptive services. ‘This certification is an instrument under which the plan is operated,’ the contract notes, then informs the insurer of its ‘obligations’ under the rules.

“Those include a command that the insurer ‘shall provide’ contraception to all enrollees, supposedly independently and for free. The political point of the accommodation was to pretend that the costs of contraception or abortifacients are nominally carried by a third-party corporation, but the insurers are really only the middle men. The Little Sisters thus argue that signing the certification contract directs others to provide birth control in their place and makes them complicit.”

The contract that HHS insists must be signed is not just a piece of paper.  It is an acknowledgement that the State has the right to force Catholics and others to contradict their religious convictions under pain of severe penalties.  As the WSJ concluded, “This case is simply a raw assertion of state power directing the religious to follow orders. Thus ObamaCare forces women who have taken a vow of chastity and minister for the dying to implicate themselves in what they consider to be grave moral wrongs.”  For the entire article, see http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304325004579298542674477308

Such raw power has been used before by a State power that will stop at nothing to compel Catholics to abandon their faith.  Two egregious examples suffice.  In 1534 subjects of King Henry VIII were required to accept his Oath of Supremacy that recognized the King as the supreme head of not only England but also of the Church in England.  For refusal to sign this piece of paper, Saints John Fisher and Thomas More were beheaded in 1535.

The French Revolution provided the context for those terrorists to attempt to exterminate the Catholic Church in that country.  The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed on 12 July 1790 to completely subordinate the Church to the French government.  Hundreds of non-subscribing Catholic priests were imprisoned on ships at Rochefort.  I don’t know how many of these died, but 64 of them are recognized as having died a martyr’s death there in 1794-1795.  Not only priests but infants and children were killed by the French revolutionists.  For more on this, see http://newsaints.faithweb.com/martyrs/MFR06.htm.

Every President wants to be remembered for his legacy.  So that his legacy does not include such visible persecution of faithful members of the Catholic Church and others, please pray for the conversion of President Obama, his Cabinet, and the Supreme Court Justices who will ultimately have to judge the constitutionality of the HHS birth control mandate.

John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org