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

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

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 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.