They’re running scared

Articles that have appeared in the media controlled by Catholic dissenters seem to indicate that they are running scared. Humanae Vitae and natural family planning are not their favorite subjects except for criticism. They generally consider these subjects as settled in the negative and not worth discussing. Airplane comments by Pope Francis perhaps have made them almost giddy. After all, if the Pope can be soft on sodomy, what can he have against the use of unnatural methods of birth control that seek to make the marriage act just as sterile as sodomy? Of course, those who actually read what the Pope said and consider the circumstances in which he said it realize that he was not talking about sodomy in general but only whether that sin disqualified a particular priest for a Vatican banking job. On that one, he reserved judgment.

More recently Pope Francis not only presided at the beatification ceremony of Pope Paul VI but also praised his work including Humanae Vitae. The proponents of the Catholic Tradition regarding love, marriage and sexuality have been getting more press, even good press. If I were a dissenter and had been expecting the Pope and the Synod to say some things that further undermine traditional Catholic teaching on birth control and the indissolubility of marriage, I would be very concerned. So they’re writing.

One new trend is to treat systematic natural family planning as an ideal but not as the norm. That’s joined with the use of difficult cases to make the actual teaching of the Church look impossible to follow. For example, a long-absent soldier returns home during the fertile time, and they don’t want to get pregnant. The dissenters’ solution is simple—just contracept. Why? Well, it would be difficult to abstain. In other words, it would be a cross to abstain. Granted.

The problem is that the Lord Jesus told us—and still tells us today—that taking up the cross daily is the price of discipleship for which the reward is eternal happiness. With many words and sympathy-inducing scenarios, the message of the dissenters is the same: you are excused from carrying the cross of Christian discipleship. That is not compassion.

Compassion in this situation starts well before the actual scenario event. At NFP International, we do what we can to identify the fertile time and to keep it as short as possible when abstinence is required. Many of us who have been teaching Catholic NFP have suffered lots of rejection, but at NFP International we persevere simply because teaching chaste and generous NFP is the right thing to do. It’s a response to section 26 of Humanae Vitae that encourages couples to share their NFP knowledge with others.

The other thing that needs to be said is that through their mutual fertility awareness and Catholic faith, the couple in this situation may realize that it may be providential that they are fertile at homecoming. Do they really have a sufficiently serious need to postpone pregnancy? Perhaps seeing what he has seen may lead the military man to be all the more grateful for the gift of life.

Next week: Rebuilding the Church.

Visible consequences of rejecting Humanae Vitae

In my comment on January 4, 2015 I wrote about abandoned Catholic churches in the Netherlands and Germany now being used as athletic facilities, a mute testimony to the Dutch and German bishops’ general failure to support Humanae Vitae. We have some beautiful churches in Western Cincinnati where I live. Ever since reading the WSJ article the first weekend of January, I have occasionally thought about the fate of the Churches and schools in this part of town. We live within 2 miles of three churches. Extend that to a three mile radius and there are seven more churches.   A five mile radius would include at least another five. You get the picture.

When we started teaching NFP here in 1972, we taught four courses simultaneously in different parts of the city and suburbs. A brief bulletin announcement would bring 15 to 20 or more couples. Most of them wanted spacing, not great limitation. They had formed their consciences prior to the post-Humanae Vitae explosion of dissent. But by 1981, things were different. We were then 13 years after Humanae Vitae, and people with 12 to 16 years of Catholic education had never heard a good word about the encyclical. As far as we can tell, although there are a number of HV-accepting pastors in our part of town, only two of them require their engaged couples to take an NFP course as part of preparation for marriage. All the parish statistics except funerals are down. There’s talk about parish consolidation. You get the picture.

The acceptance of contraception by most of the Catholic laity in the West is having visible effects. It’s not primarily a matter of money—we just recently read of a Catholic school in an affluent Cincinnati suburb being shuttered. Catholics can indeed speculate how their beautiful churches will be used a hundred years from now—as Catholic churches, or as mosques, museums or athletic facilities.

It is not too late to reverse the process, but more than bare bones survival requires more than what’s happening now. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has embarked on a campaign to raise 130 million dollars for an endowment fund, and it will probably succeed.  Half of it will help with student tuition assistance. The rest goes for other worthy projects. More money can be helpful, but it is certainly not the key problem. The Church in Germany has lots of money, but it’s falling apart because of the lack of believers who have sufficient faith and trust to have children.

What the Church needs more than money is a systematic effort to make every diocese and every parish a Humanae Vitae diocese and parish. That will prepare the ground for a very practical solution to a great need—more families who are generous in having children. More on that on Mother’s Day.

Next week: The dissenters are running scared.

John F. Kippley, April 18, 2015

Further logical consequences of birth control

In last week’s blog I noted that a Catholic dissenter openly admitted that the rejection of Humanae Vitae also entailed the rejection of the whole idea of the natural law as the reasoned basis for Catholic moral teaching, and he used bestiality as an example to make his point.

That writer, Michael Valente, spilled the beans about what the intellectual acceptance of contraception is all about. That made him unpopular among the other dissenters who did not spell out the consequences of their advocacy; I never saw him mentioned in the anti-Humanae Vitae literature thereafter.

Others, however, spelled out principles on which to base your decision-making responsibility if you think you are “free” to pick and choose among Catholic teachings. Father Charles Curran, then a professor at Catholic University of America, spelled out his decision-making principles. I analyzed them in “Continued Dissent: Is It Responsible Loyalty?” published in Theological Studies (32:1) March, 1971, pp. 48-65. In this generally liberal journal, I showed that Fr. Curran’s decision-making principles could not say “NO” even to spouse-swapping. When personal morality becomes a matter of personal preference, “anything goes” if it’s mutually acceptable. This came to mind a few weeks ago when the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a series about “swingers” in Mason, a growing city just a few miles north. The articles had a general tone of disapproval, but why? Maybe the writers wanted to be part of the action, but it’s not impossible that they realized that there is something just plain wrong about a mutual adultery society. The natural moral law doesn’t want to go away. The “swingers” were the subject of a national TV “reality” show, but it was dropped after only a very few episodes. Even a national secular TV audience found its immorality a bit too much.

The point is this. The intellectual acceptance of contraception entails the acceptance of the idea that modern man and woman can take apart what God has put together. What do I mean? Ask anyone who believes in God these two questions. 1. Who put together in one act what we call “making love” and “making babies”? The theist has to answer, “God Himself put together what we call making love and making babies.” 2. What is contraception except the studied effort to take apart what God has put together in the marriage act? Well, what else is it?

In the universe of having the right to take apart what God has put together regarding sexuality, there is no logical stopping point. Morality becomes a matter of personal preference.   Another big question: do the promoters of dissent point this out? Do they tell parents who want to pick and choose that they are logically giving the same decision-making principles to their children?

Next week: Evident consequences.

John F. Kippley, April 11, 2015

 

 

The logic of birth control vs the logic of human nature

I first saw the subject on this article in a book written by secular humanist Walter Lippmann and published in 1929. The 1920’s era was not only a time of bootleg liquor in the States; it was also a time in which effective contraception was becoming widely known. It was practiced in secular circles, debated in religious circles, and philosophized about by the followers of Margaret Sanger who had made it a front page item. Starting her war on chastity in 1914, just a few months before the start of World War I, she promoted contraception as a way to be happy by having unlimited sex and very small families. She managed to get arrested repeatedly, and her court cases drew more attention and sympathy to her cause. Her promise of happy marriages through contraception was, however, a misconception; the divorce rate in 1910, the year of the last census before she started her work, was 1 in 11 marriages. By 1970, with nearly universal contraception, it had grown by 500% to 1 in 2 marriages.

Fear of pregnancy had been a controlling factor in the lives of many would-be fornicators and adulterers. What could life be like without any fear of pregnancy? It didn’t take the reformers long to develop the logical consequences. If there was no built-in law of human nature, and if fear of pregnancy was the only limitation on sex with an agreeable partner, what was there to stop anyone from doing anything of mutual agreement? To be sure, there were laws based on the religious condemnation of adultery, fornication, incest, etc., but only rape could not be a matter of mutual agreement. The reformers would have to get the laws changed to accommodate this new image of human relationships.

Walter Lippmann observed this but didn’t buy into it even though he was not a religious person, at least publicly. So he wrote in his A Preface to Morals that the self-styled reformers were following the logic of birth control but not that of human nature.

I suspect that most Catholics who bought into the anti-Humanae Vitae revolution didn’t give their acceptance of contraception much more thought. They were content with their new freedom to have Margaret Sanger’s dream of unlimited sex and smaller families, and some perhaps prided themselves on their courage to go against the actual teaching of the Church and still call themselves Catholic. As many found out, the dream was a nightmare; more on that next week.

The point I want to make is that the dissenters’ acceptance of unnatural forms of birth control did not do away with its logical consequences. Soon after Humanae Vitae was issued on July 25, 1968, a vocal dissenter wrote a book that was published in 1970. He clearly pointed out that “we revisionists” have not only rejected the teaching on birth control but also the whole idea of natural law. To drive home his point, he wrote that as a revisionist, he could not logically say “no” to bestiality. After all, he argued, who are we to say that it might not help some young man get over some sort of hang-up?

I am not making this up. More next week on the logical consequences of contraception.

John F. Kippley, April 4, 2015