More Blessing than Burden

In my previous blog, I commented on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to accept homosexual sodomy as marriage. I pointed out that this follows logically and sociologically from the wide cultural and legal acceptance of heterosexual sodomy as marriage, understanding that all unnatural forms of birth control are essentially forms of sodomy. I noted that the big question of the day is this: What can leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States of America do about this? I think certain things are obvious.

First, Catholic bishops and priests need to revisit Humanae Vitae. They need to see that this encyclical is far more of a blessing than a burden. They need to preach and teach what Jesus taught—that his burden is light and that his yoke is sweet.

Perhaps they would also do well to revisit the arguments. I have tried to help by providing an analysis of the Birth Control Commission majority and minority reports in Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. It is clear that the arguments for contraception cannot say a logical NO to any mutually acceptable sexual behaviors. Revisionist theologian Michael Valente made it strikingly clear that the rejection of Humanae Vitae logically entailed the rejection of the entire natural law theory on which he said it was based. He used the example of bestiality to make his point. Yes, according to the principles of dissent, he and his fellow revisionists could not say a firm NO even to bestiality. In an article in the liberal Theological Studies, I showed that the decision-making principles of arch-dissenter Fr. Charles Curran cannot say NO even to spouse swapping.

Second, Catholic bishops and priests need to get over their fear of requiring something that is for the good of the persons involved. The Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Research and Practice had it right in 1989 when it urged that every engaged couple should be required to attend a full course on natural family planning. Current experience shows that almost no engaged couples take a course in natural family planning unless they are required to do so. Ironically, they have had to take required courses all their lives, but as they approach one of the most important things they will ever do, they are not required to take the one course that addresses the one issue that is the biggest issue in the Church today. Couples will take an NFP course if required. As Church required, such a course ought to be teaching much more than just fertility awareness. Well informed priests can do much to help couples understand that the teachings of the Church about love, marriage and sexuality are far more of a blessing than a burden.

Third, the contents of a required NFP course need to be adequate for the task at hand, and that means that it will be a holistic approach that is more than just teaching fertility awareness.

  • The course must be a New Evangelization effort. Young people need to learn that Jesus truly is the Author of all the teachings of the Church including those dealing with love, marriage, and sexuality. The blessings of increased discipleship far outweigh any effort put into helping the couples understand some of these basic facts of Christianity.
  • The course must include specific teaching against immoral sexual behaviors. Silence or ambiguous statements to avoid genital contact during the fertile time are easily interpreted in an exclusively pregnancy-avoiding way. Couples have told us how their interpretations of that terminology led them to adopt immoral practices. As a result some or many poorly instructed “NFP couples” practice periodic contraception instead of periodic chaste abstinence. Catholic moral teaching also includes the call to generosity in having children. Systematic NFP is not “Catholic birth control.”
  • The course must teach the abstinence-free form of natural spacing with breastfeeding. That means teaching the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding. To the extent that couples adopt this form of natural baby spacing, both babies and mothers will be healthier. The blessings are far greater than the “burden” of frequent nursing.
  • The course must teach a supporting theology that is easy to understand. We have found that the renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology is easily grasped and almost immediately makes good sense to people of open hearts and goodwill. St. John Paul II used this concept in his Letter to Families, but it is still unknown by many. Regarding hearts, a priest can do much to help open hearts if he takes the time to help couples appreciate the love that Jesus has for us and our need to show our gratitude by following his commandments of love. Again, the blessings of this understanding of the meaning of Christian love and marriage far outweigh the very slight burden of teaching.
  • The course ought to teach all the common signs of fertility and infertility. Comparative studies have shown that systems that use crosschecking signs have a higher user-effectiveness than those that focus just on cervical mucus. Couples have a God-given right to know about the cross-checking signs. That gives them the freedom to make an informed choice about which fertility sign or combination of signs they will use. I do not care what system they actually use, but I think it is imperative that they should have the knowledge-based freedom to choose for themselves. The blessing of having this legitimate freedom of choice far outweighs the slightly greater effort to teach more than one sign.
  • The course ought to be available via a Home Study taken at the couples’ own convenience and speed. The Home Study Course offered by NFP International is being used very successfully by couples all over the States.
  • The course ought to be affordable. The NFPI Home Study Course and its classroom course are both available for a requested donation of only $70.00. Very low cost and yet the most complete.

Bishops and priests who make use of the resources offered by NFP International will be gratified by the results. Priests and bishops alike would benefit by taking the course themselves. They would learn the scientific bases for Ecological Breastfeeding and a cross-checking system, and, best of all, they would also see how all of the above elements are easily integrated into a teaching program. They will see that the NFPI effort is a working example of lay evangelization and accompanying practical help. They will receive expressions of gratitude for having been required to take the course as preparation for Christian marriage.

John F. Kippley, July 2, 2015 for posting on July 8.

 

Rebuilding the Church

This series of blogs started because a picture of a former Catholic Church in the Netherlands now turned into a skate park continues to haunt me. It is a reflection of the neglect of the Church, specifically in Europe but also throughout the West, to proclaim the teaching of Humanae Vitae with confidence and conviction.

The intellectual debate about Humanae Vitae was completed very quickly. It was clear very soon that the rejection of the teaching of Humanae Vitae entailed the rejection of the natural moral law. Dissenters still calling themselves Catholic spelled out the logic of birth control, including even the acceptance of bestiality. Other dissenters spelled out their new principles for moral decision making. I pointed out in a liberal theological journal that Fr. Charles Curran’s principles cannot say no even to spouse-swapping. At least by the end of the 1970s, it was clear that the logic of birth control cannot say no to any imaginable sexual behavior between consenting persons of legal age. That is moral absurdity, and that should have been the end of the so-called “debate” about the merits of Humanae Vitae and Catholic teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control.

Instead, a majority of Catholics as well as other Christians became part of the contraceptive-based Sexual Revolution. Through contraception, sterilization and abortion, the Western once-Christian world stopped having enough babies to replace themselves. The Church and the world are in crisis and in need of a solution.

The solution is both simple and stupendous.

Simple: The Church needs to preach and teach God’s truths about love, marriage, sexuality, and the call to be generous in having children and raising them in the ways of the Lord. The Church has these truths, and everyone in the world needs them. The leaders of the Church need to preach and teach these saving doctrines with the confidence that they really are true and the conviction that they come from God and are for the benefit of every man, woman and child. Then they will also experience the joy that comes from seeing more Catholic couples internalize and live these truths.

Stupendous: The Church needs to inspire its members to say no to themselves and yes to serving God and others. The symbol of Christianity is the Cross. The teaching of Jesus about love, marriage and sexuality involves carrying the daily cross. Somehow, pastors of souls need to reawaken in themselves and their laity a true and personal love for the Lord Jesus. As his disciples, we will understand that the sacrifice of chaste living is just a normal part of walking with the Lord Jesus. Every day young men and women sign up to give their lives, if necessary, for the life of their country. What we need is that every day all men and women sign up again and again to live their lives on the narrow path of Christian discipleship, an adventure that we know involves the daily cross of saying no to ourselves and then the joy of saying yes to the Lord Jesus.

Next Sunday, May 10th, is Mother’s Day.  John F. Kippley, May 2, 2015

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

Catholic school teaching contracts: are they adequate?

The spring of the year is the time when teachers sign contracts for the school year starting next fall, and special attention is being drawn to contracts in Catholic schools. Because some teachers in the past have been fired for publicly advocating or practicing behaviors contrary to Catholic moral teaching and then sued, some dioceses have tightened up their contractual language.

In San Francisco, the efforts of Archbishop Cordileone to make his Catholic schools more Catholic have stirred up a huge amount of controversy that amounts to the Left saying, “We are all for freedom of religion and freedom of speech except when it comes to the Catholic Church wanting its schools to be Catholic.” It should be noted that the Archbishop has made it clear that he is not requiring Catholics employed in Archdiocesan schools to actually believe and act in accord with Catholic moral teaching about sexuality, only that they do not publicly express their dissent. Reports are that some 800 Catholic school teachers have signed a letter of protest.

Here in Cincinnati, the revised contract lists a number of specific unacceptable behaviors but  omits contraception from the list. The Cincinnati Enquirer carried a major editorial against the contract on Sunday, March 22, and on March 27th it published a number of letters on the subject. One of them called attention to the “glaring absence from the list of a cardinal Catholic ban: the use of contraception.” Yes indeed, a glaring omission.

In other words, in both of these archdioceses, the official policy will allow the employment of Catholic dissenters to teach Catholic doctrine. I suspect the policy is widespread.

This raises a huge problem. A Catholic dissenter can recite Catholic moral teaching about birth control word for word and then simply contradict everything she has said simply by rolling her eyeballs. Another tactic used by dissenters was told to me more than 40 years ago. A student in my course at a Catholic college told me, “Mr. Kippley, you are the first person I have ever heard say a good word about Humanae Vitae. “ She continued, “In my Catholic high school the teacher showed us the little Humanae Vitae booklet and then showed us a stack of books written by people who didn’t agree with it.” When I asked her where she went to high school, she declined to say but added, “It wouldn’t make any difference. I’ve talked about this with the girls in the dorm, and they all had the same experience.”

For 45 years, Catholic students in some or many Catholic high schools and colleges have been taught to dissent. Many have never heard the case for the real Catholic teaching. Is it any surprise that surveys show a huge discrepancy between Catholic teaching and actual practice?  The real question is this: How can the Catholic Church survive in this country if it continues to hire teachers who contradict and undermine Catholic teaching right inside Catholic schools?

Holy Week provides an excellent time to pray that all of our Catholic schools will become fully Catholic. Next week: the logic of birth control vs the logic of human nature.

John F. Kippley

“Flee immorality,” Church Unity, & Right to Life March

It’s a big week. January 18, 2015 is the first Sunday of the Church Unity Octave. The second reading at Mass on this day is from 1 Corinthians 6 starting with verse 13c. Last week Pope Francis reaffirmed the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical of Bl. Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed 20 centuries of teaching against marital contraception. January 22 marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade and will see the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. These things are not unrelated.

If there is one contemporary issue which is a big dividing point between the teaching of the Catholic Church and that of most Protestant ecclesial bodies, it is birth control. I have heard or read statements that the membership in some of the newer Protestant communions is largely former Catholics, and I suspect that the general Protestant acceptance of unnatural forms of birth control has played a major part in Catholic dropout and re-alignment. It wasn’t always this way. Martin Luther called the contraceptive sin of Onan a form of sodomy; John Calvin called it a form of homicide. In the United States, the late 19th century Federal and State laws against contraception were passed by essentially Protestant legislatures. Catholics had almost no legal influence at that time.

This is a point of division that needs to be healed and is a good reason to pray every day during this octave for the unity of all Christians once again. We also need to pray for unity within the Catholic Church, for the very real conversion of the dissenters, the cafeteria Catholics, and those in high places who seem to be confused about the Church’s traditional teaching about the demands of love, marriage, and sexuality.

The word currently translated as “immorality” in the text read in Church was translated as “fornication” in some previous texts. The real subject of St. Paul’s teaching here is every form of sexual immorality. His explanation is truly theological as contrasted with pragmatic considerations such as disease and non-marital conception. The Apostle to the Gentiles teaches that sexual sins are sins against your own body. You do not own your own body. You do not have a right to do anything you please with your body. You and your body belong to God. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you… You have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”

When the bishops of the Church of England voted to accept marital contraception in August 1930, they listed only two options for those couples who felt a need not to have more children—either total abstinence or contraception. In February 1930 a German medical journal carried the work of the Japanese research doctor, Kyusaku Ogino, that made calendar rhythm a reality. To be sure, it needed improvement, but it offered a way out of the dilemma posed by the Anglican bishops and their contraceptive-minded advisors. But they ignored it, and they also ignored the warnings of their own conservative bishops that the acceptance of marital contraception would lead to the acceptance of sodomy. So true.

Today it is well known that the Anglican dilemma was false, perhaps even contrived. But regardless of the past, it is time for all Christian bodies to recognize that Luther and the conservative Anglicans were right, that marital contraception is a grave moral evil, and that natural family planning systems offer a way out of the dilemma that many couples still think exists today.

This week is a special week to pray for the return to unity on this issue.

It is also significant that Thursday of this week is the day of the annual March for Life in Washington D. C. The social and legal acceptance of abortion was another huge and horrible effect of the contraceptive sexual revolution. The U. S. Supreme Court based its erroneous pro-abortion decision of January 22, 1973 on its two previous erroneously concocted decisions to dismantle all the American anti-contraception laws.

Nothing will stop abortion as well as a rebirth of chastity all throughout the West, and that probably has to start with marital chastity.

John F. Kippley, January 18, 2015

Europe’s empty churches go on sale

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, the picture of skateboarders in the former Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands is worth ten thousand words about the state of the Church in the Netherlands and too much of the rest of Europe. I hope you can gain access at http://www.wsj.com/articles/europes-empty-churches-go-on-sale-1420245359?KEYWORDS=* .  The story appears on page 1 of the first section of the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, Jan 3-4 2015.  The caption under the photo reads “The former Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, one of hundreds of decommissioned churches, was turned into a skate park.”  You might be able to get a leftover copy at places such as drug stores and pharmacies that sell newspapers.

What is particularly timely about this article is that it illustrates the fate of the local Catholic Church when it fails to be fully Catholic in its teaching. The bishops of the Netherlands issued The Dutch Catechism in 1966. Its unorthodox approach immediately caught the attention of the Catholic world, and the Imprimatur was promptly withdrawn by the American bishop in charge of such things in the USA.

In 1968, the Dutch and German bishops took the lead in withholding their affirmation of Humanae Vitae. Apparently they thought that they would lose much of their flock if they proclaimed its teaching against marital contraception as true and binding. I am sure they were well intentioned, but another old saying is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The result is not just a few empty pews but empty churches—hundreds of them. Churches turned into skateboard parks, a high-ceiling practice area for trapeze artists, and shopping malls are a visible fruit of the local church going along with the contraceptive sexual revolution.

There is a certainly horrible irony in this. Two Dutch doctors and a German Catholic priest played a big part in the development of natural family planning in the 1930s, a system that was proven to be highly effective in the years before Humanae Vitae. Here are a few sentences from a short history of natural family planning we are developing for our teacher training curriculum:

“The Calendar-Temperature system. In 1926, Dutch gynecologist Theodore Hendrik van de Velde recognized that the rise in temperature was caused by ovulation and the corpus luteum. Based on his own research he asserted, with some reservations, that the rupture of the follicle (ovulation) occurred on the 11th, 12th, or 13th day of the cycle, always with the possibility of an earlier or later ovulation… Dr. Jan Nicholas Joseph Smulders, a Dutch neurologist, did so much work with the Ogino theory of periodic abstinence that Fr. Jan Mucharski says that the system should have been called the Ogino-Smulders system instead of the Ogino-Knaus system. (In 1965 our landlords told us of their 100% experience in the 1930s with the O-K system as they called it.). . . In 1935, Father Wilhelm Hillebrand, a German Catholic priest who simply wanted to help couples who had real needs to avoid pregnancy, used the temperature sign to crosscheck the calendar calculations for the start of Phase 3. He had first advised women about the Ogino and Knaus systems, but three unplanned pregnancies led him to look for something better. Recalling the van de Velde material of 1926, he collected temperature graphs from 21 women in 1935 and compared them with the calendar calculations. “A clear-cut, new combined calculo-thermal approach of controlling human fertility had been born” (Mucharski ,75). He devoted the next 24 years of his life to promoting this system. Eleven days before he died in 1959, the Albertus Magnus University in Cologne awarded him an honorary doctorate in medicine.”

When the local Catholic Church fails to stay fully Catholic in its teaching and instead sides with secular, anti-biblical morality, the result is captured in the WSJ page 1 photo.   Every bishop should have it framed for his daily desktop viewing.

The third old saying that I will quote is something I learned from the late St. Paul Seminary choirmaster, Fr. Francis Missia. Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. Today’s war is primarily spiritual. So for peace, we need to pray daily for the reconversion of Europe and Latin America as well as for the conversion of North America and Islam and the Jews.

John F. Kippley, January 5, 2015

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 https://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