This is my fourth comment on section 41 of The Church in America.
My previous comments showed why many parishes are not radiating the call and the attraction of Jesus. Essentially, if and when the call of Jesus to faith and repentance (Mark 1:15…) is muted and rejected by priests and parishioners alike, whatever is radiated is not the call of Jesus. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.
What can be done?
In my opinion, parish reform and renewal starts with parish priests. First of all, they have to come to believe that the practice of contraception is a grave moral evil. But that’s not enough. They also have to do what they can to lead their parishioners to believe what the teaching Church actually DOES teach about the immorality of contraception.
That may involve preaching from the pulpit, which can be difficult, and it can include little lessons in the parish bulletin. Priests can also do a tremendous amount of good in their face to face dealings with engaged and married couples. With the right kind of materials at hand, they can help people to know and understand the teachings and also to understand the biblical reasons for believing that Jesus is the ultimate author of these teachings. To encourage and support breastfeeding mothers, pastors can start chapters of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League; see www.catholicbreastfeeding.com .
Second, they can require their engaged couples to take the right kind of course dealing with natural family planning. They can also make sure that their RCIA instruction contains the full teaching of Humanae Vitae. They can insist that the laity who participate in the public ministries of the Church as Lectors and Distributors of Holy Communion believe and practice what the Church teaches on these matters.
In the right kind of NFP course, couples will learn about the kind of nursing—ecological breastfeeding—that normally delays the return of fertility for more than a year. They will learn how to monitor the wife’s fertility. They will learn the relevant moral teaching of the Church. Unfortunately, most NFP programs omit both the ecological breastfeeding instruction and the relevant moral teaching of the Church. So pastors can either insist that local programs expand their teaching to include these subjects and all the signs of fertility, or they can bring in NFP International and its Home Study Course.
Teaching relevant and specific morality is important. Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens wrote succinctly in his 1960 book, Love and Control, “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.”
Third, pastors can insert instructional sheets on these issues in the parish bulletins.
Fourth, all pastors can use the NFPI Home Study Course for their engaged couples. It contains all the teachings discussed in this series and is about half the cost of some other natural family planning online programs. Couples who take the NFPI course received lots of individual attention.
Next week: What can ordinary lay people do?
John F. Kippley, August 24, 2014
View NFP International and its Home Study Course at www.nfpandmore.org.