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.