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

 

 

 

Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage

I recently received a notice about a conference dealing with homosexuality and the future of marriage. I did not recognize the named lecturers, so I replied to my source: Who is going to talk about the connection between the acceptance of contraception and the acceptance of sodomy?

In recent discourse about sodomy under the title of “same-sex marriage,” it is common for critics to say that the acceptance of “same-sex marriage” will lead to the destruction of traditional Christian marriage. I have to disagree with them even though we share the same convictions about the immorality of sodomy. It seems to me that the growing societal acceptance (or imposition) of sodomy-as-marriage is more of a sign that modern society and federal judges have already rejected traditional Christian marriage.

Let’s go back a few years. I don’t know when the America anti-sodomy laws were enacted, but it was in 1873 that the Comstock anti-contraception laws were first passed by essentially Protestant state legislatures for a basically Protestant America.   It was exactly 100 years ago in the spring of 1914 that Margaret Sanger began her successful campaign to legalize the sale and distribution of contraceptive devices and information. In the national census for 1910, there was one divorce for every eleven marriages, a divorce rate of 9 percent.   The “philosophy” of Margaret Sanger was that unlimited sex and very small families would yield great family happiness. With the nearly universal acceptance of Sanger’s ideas, today we have a divorce ratio of 1 divorce for every two marriages, a rate of 50%. If we assume that the divorce rate is an indication of marital unhappiness, we can conclude that a 500 percent increase in the divorce rate indicates a very serious increase in marital unhappiness, just the opposite of Sanger’s predictions.

During the next 15 years there was increasing speculation about contraceptive marriage. The so-called progressives were openly advocating deliberately childless marriages for which they even had a special name—companionate marriage. In brief, within a few short years, the societal acceptance of contraception had led to the destruction of the idea of marriage as a divinely instituted and permanent relationship for having children and raising them in the ways of the Lord.

In 1920, the bishops of the Church of England were faced with this growing debate and reaffirmed the Christian Tradition against marital contraception.

In 1929, secular humanist Walter Lippmann wrote that the progressives were following the logic of birth control, not the logic of human nature.

But in 1930 the Anglican bishops folded and accepted marital contraception, thus earning for themselves the distinction of being the first organized Christian communion to accept contraception. In the course of their debate, the more conservative Anglican bishops warned the others that the acceptance of marital contraception would lead logically to the acceptance of sodomy. The history of the Church of England has proved that prediction as all too true. If you want a specific event to mark the start of the sexual revolution, I submit it was the Anglican acceptance of contraception in August 1930.

That was quickly followed by the acceptance of contraception by the Federal Council of Churches in February 1931, which led to the general Protestant acceptance of contraception despite some very strong initial opposition. The introduction of the birth control Pill in 1960 added gasoline to the fire, and the widespread rejection of Humanae Vitae by Catholics starting in 1968 tragically added more fuel to the flames.

Martin Luther was correct when he called the contraceptive sin of Onan a form of sodomy. Further, while every unnatural form of birth control can be called a form of heterosexual sodomy—seeking to make the act just as sterile as homosexual sodomy—some heterosexuals engage in the same anatomical acts as homosexuals as their form of birth control. This acceptance of sodomy by heterosexual couples certainly makes it difficult for them to call “evil” the same sterile acts performed by homosexuals.

In the language of baseball, the acceptance of marital contraception by those who call themselves Christian was strike one against the societal acceptance of Christian marriage.

Strike two against the societal acceptance of Christian marriage was the acceptance of no-fault divorce. Governor Ronald Reagan signed legislation on September 5, 1969, making California the first American state to grant no-fault divorces, and by 1985 every state had a no-fault divorce law. As Maggie Gallagher wrote some years ago, in this country, the government won’t let you get married for keeps. Even though both spouses marry with the best intentions and enter a valid, sacramental marriage, if the relationship goes sour and one spouse wants a divorce, there is no legal support for permanence. The one who wants out wins.

To the extent that there is societal acceptance of sodomy as same-sex marriage, that is the third strike against the societal acceptance of the Christian Tradition of marriage as permanent and ordered toward the social purpose of having children as well as the personal hopes of marital happiness. Sodomy has been with us since early biblical times, so why is it having greater acceptance today? I submit that it is because so many of those who call themselves Christian have turned their backs on the demands of Christian married love.

This brings us back to the early years of the Church. From what I can gather, Roman society was as debased as contemporary post-Christian and non-Christian cultures. The witness of our Christian ancestors living chaste and fruitful marriages gradually changed that aspect of the culture.   Those Christians who deplore sodomy but practice contraception are inconsistent. They may be simply ignorant and therefore not hypocritical, but they need the same conversion that they are urging on those with same-sex attractions and behaviors.

The renewal of contemporary and future society is truly dependent, once again, on Catholic leaders and the faithful living the Faith to the full.

 

 

 

 

 

What is real patriotism?

The 4th of July, Independence Day, traditionally has been a day to celebrate the birth of the United States as an independent nation, freed from the constraints of being a colony of England, then one of the world’s great powers. The signers recognized the seriousness of what they were doing, and the Declaration is largely an apologetics text explaining the reasons for their revolt from what they considered despotism.

Of special interest for July 4, 2014 is that the first two sentences of the Declaration refer to God. In the first sentence our founders refer to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as their reason and authority setting up a separate and equal country among the nations. In the second sentence they profess that it is their Creator who has created them and Who gives them the right to secede.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence is a profoundly religious document, not in the sense of quoting the Bible or ecclesiastical document, but in the sense of recognizing their creature-hood and the Creator as the Source of all life and good.

When the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified on December 15, 1791, religion was still important in the minds of Americans, and so was their negative experience with the established Church of England. Thus we read:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is simply absurdly anti-historical to regard the First Amendment as anti-religion or as a national freedom from religion.

As Catholics and others know very well, the “free exercise” of religion is under great attack. This past week’s Hobby Lobby by the U. S. Supreme Court was a partial reaffirmation of religious freedom, but the battle is far from over. As far as I can see, the Court did not address the irrationality of the HHS claim that there is a compelling need for every woman to have free unnatural forms of birth control. With birth control devices and drugs cheap and widely available, no reasonable case can be made for a compelling need that can be met only by forcing employers to provide these things for free.

Lost in the argument has been the increased immorality aided and abetted by the promotion of contraception. And that brings us to a most important consideration for the Fourth of July. The words of President George Washington in the masthead of this blog site still hold true: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

It is national suicide to pretend that his words are obsolete.  Real patriotism will both keep them in mind and act on them.

Will restart blogs soon

My last blog was posted April 21. About the same time, I lost my entire email list. We had to switch to Windows 7 and made a switch to a newer computer at the same time.   Also, I had a tremendous amount of yard and garden work this spring. I hope to have my email list reconstructed by mid-June and plan to start my blogs again.

John Kippley, www.nfpandmore.org

 

 

“Chaste” abstinence is key to NFP

Are couples who use systematic “natural family planning” following the chaste-marriage teaching of the Catholic Church? From the available evidence, some are and many are not. The “method” of true systematic NFP is chaste abstinence during the fertile time of the cycle. That is, not only do the couple abstain from full sexual intercourse but they also refrain from masturbation, whether mutual or solitary, and other immoral activities such as oral and anal copulation. In short, they abstain from all orgasmic activity.

It has long been agreed by moral theologians that abstaining married couples can morally engage in romantic activities that do not conclude with orgasm. That, however, is not what is practiced by some or many couples who do “NFP” without chaste abstinence. In a recent discussion about these matters on an NFP email list, several studies were referenced. A 1970 study of temperature-only couples found that almost 90% of the couples had some sexual activity and that in most cases this led to climax. A 1978 study of mucus-only couples found that 70% reached climax during the fertile time. A 1993 study of mucus-plus-temperature couples found that 84% engaged in romantic activity during the fertile time and that 62% reached climax via mutual stimulation, 10% by self-stimulation, and 40% used barrier methods. This is obviously not the chaste abstinence called for by Catholic teaching.

Those studies were of non-American users. Are things different in the United States where only a very small fraction of Catholics are practicing any kind of “NFP”? I have no reason to think American NFP Catholics are more chaste than our international friends. Some years ago I had a phone call from a repentant woman. She and her spouse had been practicing mutual masturbation during the fertile time for eight years, having taken an NFP course that did not teach chaste abstinence.   Last fall a woman wrote in a similar fashion, “Sadly we were trained 23 years ago – that is why I was so shocked to know that we had been doing something wrong for all these years.” As we dialogued, she noted that she thought everyone was acting as they had been doing. Within the last month I have heard from another woman who has been discussing the problem of marital chaste abstinence and is appalled at the lack of support. She listed seven types of responses she had received including “I have sought priests who think I’m crazy for not giving in to contraception.” In context, she was looking for priests who could give her and her spouse some helpful counseling about marital chastity.

How can this happen? How can couples who are of sufficient good faith to attend NFP courses because they want to follow Catholic teaching still think that mutual masturbation and so forth is morally acceptable? Well, I am not going to ignore the strong tendency to rationalization, but in the above cases, these couples were never informed by their NFP course and/or instructor and materials about the demands of chaste married love. Providentially, they had stumbled upon an NFP manual written by my wife and me. Further, some previously unchaste couples have reported that our books helped them to make the decision to become chaste and eventually to promote or teach natural family planning. See Chapter 7 of our current manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach. The current problem is that there are widely used NFP books that do not teach morality. They might teach to avoid genital contact, but that can be interpreted in a strictly pragmatic way and says nothing about some of the various activities told to me.

Ultimately, of course, the problem lies with the bishops. Collectively or individually, they could stipulate that any program in any way affiliated with the diocese or a parish simply must teach explicitly against these common sins to which NFP-using couples are tempted. That would have to apply to all teaching manuals as well as to the verbal instruction. It only takes a few lines and a couple minutes. Why don’t they take this simple step?

Can there be anything resembling a New Evangelization without teaching the demands of marital love and chastity and generosity?

I suggest that this is worthy of our prayers as we celebrate Divine Mercy on the Sunday after Easter.

 

John F. Kippley, also at http://www.nfpandmore.org where Sheila blogs weekly

 

 

 

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.