In the online edition of the Telegraph (UK) on September 19th, Religious Affairs editor John Bingham reported that Cardinal Walter Kasper “hinted at the possibility of a reinterpretation of the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception.”
He said it was “the responsibility of the parents” to decide how many children they should have. Almost no informed orthodox Catholic will disagree with that if it is rightly understood as decisions made in the light of the divine call to generosity in the service of life and family. A church of only one-child and two-child families is doomed to self-extinction.
According to Bingham, the Cardinal said that “so-called natural family planning, which is promoted by the Church as an alternative to contraception, also has an ‘artificial’ element.” Bingham notes that some representatives of natural family planning will be at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and then adds, “But the Cardinal argued that natural methods have an ‘artificial aspect’.”
The Cardinal simply has to know that “artificial” has nothing to do with the birth control issue. Almost everything we do today has an artificial aspect. The alarm clock that wakes us in the morning. The central heat that goes on automatically at a preset time. A thermometer used to check body temperatures. None of this has anything to do with being contrary to nature.
Cardinal Walter Kasper is 81 years of age. That means that he was 35 when he witnessed the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and the explosive dissent from it including the German bishops’ lack of support for it. As a theologically interested priest, he would have also read the two conflicting reports from the Papal Birth Control Commission. He would have seen that the “conservative” report pointed out that the “liberal” paper could not say “no” to sodomy, and he would have seen that the “liberals” replied that such activity was against human dignity, an assertion of their personal opinions but not based in logic. Over the years, he would have seen that homosexual activists say or assume that sodomy is in accord with human dignity and sometimes even call their organizations “Dignity.” In the ensuring debate he would have seen that researchers found that Martin Luther called the Sin of Onan a form of sodomy.
I grant that there are some today who erroneously refer to unnatural forms of birth control as “artificial contraception,” but no one today is arguing that the evil of marital contraception is its use of an artifact. After all, when married heterosexuals practice fertility awareness and then engage in the contraceptive practices of sodomy or mutual masturbation to avoid abstinence during the fertile time, they are using their own organs, not anything artificial. The Cardinal has to know that the traditional argument has been that marital contraception is contrary to nature, and he has to know that the argument from natural law is criticized in certain quarters. But as a theologian, he also has to be aware that some or many now argue that the essence of the sin of marital contraception is its contradiction of the marriage covenant. The act of marital contraception pretends to be a marriage act, but it says, “I take you for better but definitely NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy,” thus contradicting the “for better and for worse” of the marriage covenant. That’s why St. John Paul II affirmed that in the marriage act couples are called to confirm their marriage covenant, and why he taught repeatedly that marital contraception is dishonest.
It may be that Cardinal Kasper and many others have not kept up on the theology that supports Catholic teaching affirmed by Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. But he simply has to know that “artificiality” is not in the discourse.
John F. Kippley
NFP International, www.nfpandmore.org