NFP International Needs Help

Natural Family Planning International, Inc.
P. O. Box 861 • Steubenville OH 43952 USA
www.NFPandmore.org

Third week of Advent, 2014

 There’s no question: NFP International needs help. So if you think that NFP International is an organization that uniquely serves the Church and anyone who is interested, please read on….

First, in NFP International we are not just teaching cheap and natural birth control. Not at all. We are unique in teaching ecological breastfeeding, the kind of breastfeeding that maximizes all the dose-related benefits of breastfeeding and also provides, on average, 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea and infertility. Couples who adopt ecological breastfeeding will probably save at least $1,000 with each baby by not using formula and special baby foods, and their babies will most likely experience better health.

Second, we teach all the common signs of fertility and infertility so that user couples can decide which ones they want to use. We teach all of this in the context of the Catholic Tradition of Christian discipleship. We can’t force this on anyone, but we think it’s important to see the meaning that God has built into the marriage act—that it ought to be a renewal of your marriage covenant, and we are unique in that teaching. We may also be unique in allowing our manual to be downloaded for free.

Considering the contemporary culture, we think our effort to place the whole issue of birth control and sexuality in the context of religion and morality is very important for the welfare of Western culture. We think President George Washington was correct when he said in his 1796 Farewell Address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

 So I ask for your support. Please pray for the advancement of the NFPI mission. This effort is an apostolate, and it needs your prayers.

Please help us financially. Please realize that nothing is really cost-free. The only way we can keep offering free downloads for the poor is if the non-poor contribute to that effort. So, if you appreciate what NFP International is doing, please help us. We would not be asking for this support if we did not really need it. Anything and everything helps. No gift is too small. Gifts of $50 and $100 and $500 are very helpful, but so are gifts of $25 and $10 as well. Every gift, even $5, carries the message, “Carry on!”

To support NFPI, please click here http://www.nfpandmore.org/missionhelp.shtml or go to www.nfpandmore.org and click on the PLEASE DONATE button in the left-hand column. Or send a check payable to NFPI to the address at the top of this appeal.

May God bless you and your loved ones in a special way this Christmas season,

John F. Kippley
President

NFP International is a 501-c-3 not-for-profit organization. All gifts are tax deductible.

The Seven Day Bible Rosary for Christmas

When St. John Paul II gave the five Luminous mysteries to the Church, he noted that they filled a gap that had previously existed between the end of the Joyful mysteries and the beginning of the Sorrowful mysteries. In other words, what the Lord did in his public ministry was not the subject of rosary meditations.

I am happy to say that my mind traveled the same track as the Pope’s. Back in the mid-Sixties, I had a stronger stomach for reading the Left, and I read the National Catholic Reporter, usually enjoying the “Roving Reporter” column. The writer typically asked a well-known Catholic a question of general interest, and I still remember one of those questions. “Do you pray the rosary?” The only reason I remember the question is the answer. “Oh no. I don’t want to bore God.”

Well, I thought, she’s confusing herself with God but she has a point. It wasn’t the first time I had heard the “boring” complaint, and the Pope also referred to it. So I gradually developed seven sets of mysteries, one for each day of the week, with a verse before each Hail Mary and a short meditation before each decade (95-105 words, very tough for wordy me).

It will fit in a man’s shirt pocket (3½ x 5½ inches) and in a woman’s purse. It’s only $5.00 with a huge discount on multiple copies (3 for $12 and 5 for $15), and I pay the postage. It’s a neat hospitality gift, and its size makes it a great stocking stuffer at this time of the year.

If interested, you can find out more and order it at http://johnkippley.com/the-seven-day-bible-rosary/ .

Regardless of how you and your family pray the rosary, please try to pray it every day and get others to do the same. Our Lady at Fatima told us to pray the rosary daily for world peace, the conversion of Russia, and for the conversion of sinners throughout the world. Russia has undergone tremendous conversion since our Lady asked us to pray for that intention, but it still has a long way to go. And if we are praying for world peace, it seems to me that it might also be good to pray specifically for the conversion of North America, Islam, the Jews, and peace in the Middle East.

Thanks for reading, and may God grant you a blessed Advent and Christmas.

John F. Kippley, December 7, 2014

 

 

The Synod and the Meaning of the Marriage Act

The recent Vatican conference on the Complementarity of Man and Woman (November 17-19) got high marks from reviewers. Pope Francis invited speakers from a wide spectrum of religious traditions including Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims and Sikhs from around the world to discuss marriage consisting of male husband and female wife. It was good to see such a widespread agreement on traditional marriage, but from the reports I read, it seems that the speakers avoided those subjects on which they would differ.

That is, there seems to be wide agreement that marriage is a divine and natural institution between one man and one woman, but nothing was said about the events that have led up to the growing acceptance of “same-sex marriage.” For that we turn to an unusual source, a book review in the Wall Street Journal (weekend edition Oct 11-12, 2014).

In Henry Allen’s review of a new book, the Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig, he favorably quotes journalist Margaret Wente as saying, “The pill decoupled sex and marriage, and it also decoupled marriage and procreation. The purpose of marriage was mutual satisfaction, not children. And once that happened, gay marriage probably became inevitable” (my emphasis).

A problem with traditional natural-law theology is that it commonly explains various evils in terms of their natural effects rather than in terms of their violation of the created order. For example, the evil of fornication can be seen in a consequentialist way—it might cause the birth of an out-of-wedlock baby with all the difficulties that entails for both the child and the parents, especially the mother who is typically the permanent caregiver. That explanation is by no means erroneous, but effective contraception makes it seem that fornication no longer has evil consequences. (Of course, it is never 100% effective in real life.) Something more is needed to explain its evil, regardless of the effectiveness or failures of contraceptive devices and drugs.

I suggest a theology that starts with a stated norm. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.”

That means several things. First, God has a plan for love, marriage and sexuality. Second, in that plan, sexual union is reserved exclusively for marriage. If you believe that, then it is easy to understand that most sexual sins are evil first because they are not marriage acts and then also because of their evil consequences. Regardless of affection in adultery and fornication, they still contradict the divine plan and are evil. Third, within marriage, the marriage act ought to be a true marriage act, renewing and not contradicting the marriage covenant. Within marriage, a contraceptive sexual act is not a true marriage act; its body language clearly says, “I take you for better but definitely NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.” That contradicts the “for better and for worse” of the marriage covenant, and such an act is thus dishonest and immoral.

It seems to me that the Pope and bishops simply have to find a way to clearly express the evil of sins against love and marriage. They have to preach and teach meaning, not consequences. The renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology offers one way to do this. Many have found that it makes good sense, and some have found to be helpfully persuasive.

Somehow, the Pope and bishops need to make it clear that they believe that God really does have a plan that gives beautiful meaning to married love and sexuality. The marriage act is meant to be a renewal of the marriage covenant. That can help young people tempted to fornication to realize that sex outside of marriage is seriously dishonest, violating the very meaning of sexual union. It can help married couples to realize not only the evil of marital contraception but also that their marriage act ought to be a renewal of the faith and caring love they pledged on their wedding day.

The bottom line is that the sexual act has a God-given built-in marital meaning, and Pope Francis and his fellow bishops need to make this meaning clear and promulgate it enthusiastically to the entire world. They also need to clarify and preach the essential dishonesty of all sexual sins. And along with Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, they need to encourage the weak and the fallen to make good use of the sacrament of healing and reconciliation given us by the Lord on Resurrection evening.

John F. Kippley, November 29, 2014

 

 

 

Birth Control and Christian Discipleship

Sooner or later the Synod Fathers have to address the issues raised by Humanae Vitae, the encyclical of Blessed Pope Paul VI issued on July 25, 1968. Its condemnation of marital contraception is not the only issue it raised, but it is the chief issue in terms of the widespread dissent. So, like it or not, Pope Francis and the bishops of the world have to address it. They can do this effectively only if they truly believe that the 2,000-year teaching against marital contraception is the divine truth about human love. Since they are Christians and are teaching other Christians, they need to put the whole issue in terms of Christian discipleship.

So what did Jesus teach us about love, marriage and sexuality in terms of being his followers?

The first thing to be noted is that Jesus began his public ministry by meeting people where they were, to use the popular phraseology. He did not engage in any long philosophical discourses about the nature of love or the various kinds of love. Meeting them and us as we are, the first thing Jesus did was to imply that he recognized that we are sinners. His first words of public ministry are “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14). To repent doesn’t just mean to say a careless “I’m sorry” and carry on as before. It means to have a change of heart and a change in behavior. We don’t have to read very far in the gospel of Matthew before we have three long chapters called the Sermon on the Mount. They are challenging, to put it mildly. The beatitudes and the permanence of marriage in Chapter 5 (and again in Ch 19).   Don’t sweat the little things such as food and drink. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6.33). The narrow gate in Chapter 7. And more in Luke: If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself and “take up your cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” And to encourage his followers not be embarrassed to talk about the cross, he adds, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Lk 9.23-26).

Our Christian leaders need to reaffirm over and over again that the essence of being a Christian is to believe with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6.68-69). Second, we need to understand in our inmost being that there is nothing in the teaching of Jesus that allows us to believe that authentic love is easy. The blessings of Christian discipleship—peace, patience, the satisfaction of loving and being loved, and much more—are also very much part of Christian discipleship, to be sure, but they are the rewards of walking the narrow way with Jesus, not following the wide and easy path.

This is all so basic that it is almost embarrassing to put it into print, but there has been misleading talk in the last few decades about being “resurrection Christians” who do not need to carry the daily cross because Jesus did it all for us.

Pope Francis, bishops, and priests and deacons: Just give us the straight and difficult truths about love, marriage and sexuality. Teach them from the pulpit. Teach them in the grade and high school years. Teach purity as well as service projects in preparation for Confirmation. Teach and preach Humanae Vitae. It is eminently believable and practical in the light of Christian discipleship. The fruit of 20 years of such teaching and preaching will be a revitalized Church giving glory to God.

John F. Kippley, November 22, 2014

Birth Control and Christian Discipleship is also the title of a booklet I wrote in 1985. It is nothing like the above commentary and it’s still available through the NFP website, www.nfpandmore.org. It’s historical in nature and has a number of quotes from Protestant sources showing that the teaching against marital contraception was once widely held by non-Catholic Christians.

THANKSGIVING SALE: Through November 28.  50% off the following print books: Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach (both perfect bound and coil versions), The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and Battle-Scarred (John’s memoirs).  The Seven Standards and BF&NCS together make an excellent gift for an expectant mother.  Go to lulu.com for the discounts.

The Synod and the New Evangelization

I think it is certain that the Synod on the Family will address preparation for marriage and will probably do this in the context of Humanae Vitae. What is not at all certain is how they will do this. Considering what came out of the first Synod meeting of October 5-19, it would not be surprising if there will be at least some effort to portray the teaching of Humanae Vitae as requiring heroic virtue of everyone. Along with that there could be considerable emphasis on the dissenting priests and the numbers of couples ignoring the encyclical and practicing various contraceptive behaviors including the use of drugs and devices with abortifacient potential. Such an approach will not be helpful to the teaching Church or to the laity.

In my opinion, the teaching of Humanae Vitae needs to be placed in the context of Christian discipleship and the New Evangelization, and that term needs to be clarified. As I recall, when Pope John Paul II began talking about the New Evangelization, he was emphasizing that what was “new” was that it would be directed to those already wearing the Catholic label and that it would seek to show us Catholics that Jesus himself is the author of the teachings of the Church including its difficult moral teachings.

The New Evangelization addresses a very basic and important question. “Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches about love, marriage and sexuality—or, for that matter, about anything?”  Doesn’t every Catholic have to deal with that question? Doesn’t every separated Christian have to deal with that question regarding his own denomination? Can’t the Synod Fathers make an appeal to the gospels, an appeal so basic that it will make sense to all Christians who really believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises? Allow me to offer a brief practical example of how this can be done by simply quoting from page 12 of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.  What follows occurs in Chapter 1, Section 5 titled, “Why NFP only? The moral and religious reasons.”

“Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches?

“The fundamental reason for believing what the Catholic Church teaches is that Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church to keep alive his way, his life and his truth. “God developed the Church of the Old Covenant upon Abraham, and through it for 2000 years prepared the way for Christ the God-man. Christ established the Church of the New Covenant upon Peter and promised at the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church for all ages.  Jesus keeps his promises.

“A familiar example of common Christian faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the Nicene Creed professed at Sunday Mass in Catholic Churches and also professed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches and many Protestant communions. This profession of faith did not just happen to drop out of heaven. In the early fourth century of the Christian era there were controversies about the very being of Christ and his relationship with God the Father. The bishops at the Council of Nicea made the profession of faith now called the Nicene Creed, and all who accept it as true do so because they believe that the Holy Spirit guided those bishops as Christ had promised.

“There are many excellent books about the Catholic faith. An easy and very readable one is Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, converts to the Catholic Church. While still Protestants and studying in a Protestant seminary, they accepted Catholic teaching on birth control.”

* * *

That’s a very basic and simple way of explaining the basis for Catholic faith. Any priest in the world can sit down with his engaged couples and review this and explain things more fully. But the bottom line is that we either believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises to send the Holy Spirit, or we don’t. And if we believe that the Holy Spirit enabled the bishops at Nicea to get it right about something so difficult as the very nature of Christ, then it is no great leap of faith to believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church during its 2000 year history of condemning contraception and reaffirming such teaching in Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio when the doctrine was being attacked within the Church as well as from the outside.

John F. Kippley, November 15, 2014 also at www.nfpandmore.org where you can find related material including blogs.

Next week: Love, marriage and sexuality in the context of Christian discipleship.

THANKSGIVING SALE: Through November 28.  50% off the following print books: Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach (both perfect bound and coil versions), The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and Battle-Scarred (John’s memoirs).  The Seven Standards and BF&NCS together make an excellent gift for an expectant mother.  Go to lulu.com for the discounts.

The Synod and Cardinal Suenens

My previous comment on the Synod noted the huge importance of attitude in receiving or refusing authentic Christian teaching regarding love, marriage and sexuality. It closed with a reference to Léon Joseph Cardinal Suenens who wrote a small but important book on these matters in 1959, Love and Control, published in 1960 and revised for a 1962 printing. My quotes are from the English translation of the 1962 edition; the bold-face emphasis is mine.

Relevant to the controversies mentioned at the Synod, Cardinal Suenens had this to say:

“No one denies that a man’s first obligation is to his conscience. But that is just the point: if a man follows his conscience and remains in the Church, then he should also follow his conscience and accept the Church’s teaching. There is no place for conscientious objectors in the Church who accept only part or reject part of what she teaches. Heresy means a withdrawal. Taking or leaving doctrines as one chooses is a basic denial of the essential meaning of the Church and her divine foundation. As Father Congar has said, the faithful must be free within the Church, but not with regard to the Church” (29).

The Cardinal, who was Archbishop of Malines-Brussels when he wrote this book, waded head-on into sex education. “At all costs, we [the Church] must take the lead in apostolic activity and sex education, otherwise all her work will come to nothing” (32). “Men have to be taught control over their sexual instincts. This is the only really humane and Christian answer to the problem of love” (34).

“For today’s Christian, the word “love” is a defeat whose losses must be recouped. The fact is that no other word has been so weakened and muddled by modern literature and the jargon used by television, radio, films and advertising. . . ‘Love’ is put forth as the one excuse which makes any sort of behavior blameless, and which is its own justification. . . Our job is to restore to real love its pristine and sacred meaning” (36-38).

The question of teaching morality in courses on natural family planning has been raised several times over the years. Cardinal Suenens addresses this: “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” (53).

On the need for sexual self-control: “Everyone has to have sexual control and no one can begin to develop it too soon. For a married couple, however, it is doubly essential and it has a special marital aspect which needs considering” (66).

Should NFP programs say anything about family size? The Cardinal quotes from the Family Code, an authoritative document of the Union of Malines which says among other things, “If, however, some indication must be made of the social minimum of procreativity, it could be said that an average of less than three children per home would mean the death of society by suffocation” (93).   Perhaps marriage instructions should teach, “Three to survive; five to thrive.”

On the need to provide practical help: “We have no right to demand that men obey this law [the Church’s teaching against contraception] without, at the same time, doing everything we can to make obedience possible, without straining all our energies to make the way clear” (150).

“Anything which can ease the burden of enforced continence by making it last for a shorter time is an inestimable help in keeping souls in the state of grace” (152). Then the Cardinal goes on to praise the work of Ogino, Knaus and Smulders in the Thirties and the more recent work of Drs. Holt (1959) and Doering (1957) using temperature-based systems.

Next week: Humanae Vitae, preparation for marriage, and NFP instruction.

John F. Kippley, November 10, 2014; also at http://www.nfpandmore.org.

Synod Aftermath: The Importance of Attitude

In 1960 Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels authored a small but insightful book titled Love and Control, (Un problème crucial: Amour et Maîtrise de Soi.) In the 1962 second edition he writes: “At all costs, she [the Church] must take the lead in apostolic activity and sex education, otherwise all her work will come to nothing” (32). How prescient. The huge question today is, how to do this? While there may be different ideas on how to approach the issues of love, marriage and sexuality, there is probably universal agreement on the role of attitude on the part of the recipient.

The matter of attitude is absolutely crucial. Many Catholics are aware of the conversion of Scott and Kimberly Hahn. By way of summary, they were married students in a Protestant seminary. Scott prided himself as being the most anti-Catholic person at the seminary because he believed that much Catholic teaching was seriously wrong. Kimberly took up the question of birth control in a seminar, and another married student providentially gave her a copy of my book  Birth Control and the Marriage Covenant. She shared it with Scott and when he got to the key section on the covenant, he threw the book across the room—so he once told me. Fortunately, he picked it up, and he has written that it helped to persuade him and Kimberly to accept Catholic teaching on birth control while they were Protestants. As they began to live the truth about marital love, gradually they came to appreciate the whole truth of the Catholic Church. I believe that behind all of this was an attitude of searching for and following God’s truth no matter where the search led, an attitude that derived from a prayer given them by Kimberly’s father, a Presbyterian minister.

To give another example, an atheist wife and her agnostic husband became Catholics after adequate exposure to simple Catholic covenant theology. She had complained to a Catholic friend about her unhappy experiences with the Pill, and the friend gave her the 1996 book on natural family planning that Sheila and I wrote. After teaching themselves how to practice the Sympto-thermal Method, the spouses who described themselves as a truth-seeking atheist and agnostic couple didn’t stop just when they learned a healthy method of birth control; the wife kept reading the theological sections of the book. Key factor: an attitude of seeking for the truth.

It works the other way, too. In my life-before-Sheila, I lived in a guest house in San Francisco, and it was pretty obvious that one of the young men was trying to seduce a young woman who was not exactly the smartest girl in the house. He accepted my invitation to attend a Paulist inquiry forum which was truly great. But he refused to come with me to the second talk because, as he put it, “If I were to accept that as true, then I would have to change my lifestyle which I do not intend to do.”  He was a non-practicing Catholic. The truth can be scary for those who are committed to sinful ways.

Next week: More from Cardinal Suenens about sex education.

John Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org