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 Its unorthodox approach immediately caught the attention of the Catholic world, and the Imprimatur was promptly withdrawn by the American bishop in charge of such things in the USA.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 New Evangelization

I think it is certain that the Synod on the Family will address preparation for marriage and will probably do this in the context of Humanae Vitae. What is not at all certain is how they will do this. Considering what came out of the first Synod meeting of October 5-19, it would not be surprising if there will be at least some effort to portray the teaching of Humanae Vitae as requiring heroic virtue of everyone. Along with that there could be considerable emphasis on the dissenting priests and the numbers of couples ignoring the encyclical and practicing various contraceptive behaviors including the use of drugs and devices with abortifacient potential. Such an approach will not be helpful to the teaching Church or to the laity.

In my opinion, the teaching of Humanae Vitae needs to be placed in the context of Christian discipleship and the New Evangelization, and that term needs to be clarified. As I recall, when Pope John Paul II began talking about the New Evangelization, he was emphasizing that what was “new” was that it would be directed to those already wearing the Catholic label and that it would seek to show us Catholics that Jesus himself is the author of the teachings of the Church including its difficult moral teachings.

The New Evangelization addresses a very basic and important question. “Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches about love, marriage and sexuality—or, for that matter, about anything?”  Doesn’t every Catholic have to deal with that question? Doesn’t every separated Christian have to deal with that question regarding his own denomination? Can’t the Synod Fathers make an appeal to the gospels, an appeal so basic that it will make sense to all Christians who really believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises? Allow me to offer a brief practical example of how this can be done by simply quoting from page 12 of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.  What follows occurs in Chapter 1, Section 5 titled, “Why NFP only? The moral and religious reasons.”

“Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches?

“The fundamental reason for believing what the Catholic Church teaches is that Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church to keep alive his way, his life and his truth. “God developed the Church of the Old Covenant upon Abraham, and through it for 2000 years prepared the way for Christ the God-man. Christ established the Church of the New Covenant upon Peter and promised at the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church for all ages.  Jesus keeps his promises.

“A familiar example of common Christian faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the Nicene Creed professed at Sunday Mass in Catholic Churches and also professed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches and many Protestant communions. This profession of faith did not just happen to drop out of heaven. In the early fourth century of the Christian era there were controversies about the very being of Christ and his relationship with God the Father. The bishops at the Council of Nicea made the profession of faith now called the Nicene Creed, and all who accept it as true do so because they believe that the Holy Spirit guided those bishops as Christ had promised.

“There are many excellent books about the Catholic faith. An easy and very readable one is Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, converts to the Catholic Church. While still Protestants and studying in a Protestant seminary, they accepted Catholic teaching on birth control.”

* * *

That’s a very basic and simple way of explaining the basis for Catholic faith. Any priest in the world can sit down with his engaged couples and review this and explain things more fully. But the bottom line is that we either believe that Jesus can and does keep his promises to send the Holy Spirit, or we don’t. And if we believe that the Holy Spirit enabled the bishops at Nicea to get it right about something so difficult as the very nature of Christ, then it is no great leap of faith to believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church during its 2000 year history of condemning contraception and reaffirming such teaching in Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio when the doctrine was being attacked within the Church as well as from the outside.

John F. Kippley, November 15, 2014 also at www.nfpandmore.org where you can find related material including blogs.

Next week: Love, marriage and sexuality in the context of Christian discipleship.

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.

The Synod and Cardinal Suenens

My previous comment on the Synod noted the huge importance of attitude in receiving or refusing authentic Christian teaching regarding love, marriage and sexuality. It closed with a reference to Léon Joseph Cardinal Suenens who wrote a small but important book on these matters in 1959, Love and Control, published in 1960 and revised for a 1962 printing. My quotes are from the English translation of the 1962 edition; the bold-face emphasis is mine.

Relevant to the controversies mentioned at the Synod, Cardinal Suenens had this to say:

“No one denies that a man’s first obligation is to his conscience. But that is just the point: if a man follows his conscience and remains in the Church, then he should also follow his conscience and accept the Church’s teaching. There is no place for conscientious objectors in the Church who accept only part or reject part of what she teaches. Heresy means a withdrawal. Taking or leaving doctrines as one chooses is a basic denial of the essential meaning of the Church and her divine foundation. As Father Congar has said, the faithful must be free within the Church, but not with regard to the Church” (29).

The Cardinal, who was Archbishop of Malines-Brussels when he wrote this book, waded head-on into sex education. “At all costs, we [the Church] must take the lead in apostolic activity and sex education, otherwise all her work will come to nothing” (32). “Men have to be taught control over their sexual instincts. This is the only really humane and Christian answer to the problem of love” (34).

“For today’s Christian, the word “love” is a defeat whose losses must be recouped. The fact is that no other word has been so weakened and muddled by modern literature and the jargon used by television, radio, films and advertising. . . ‘Love’ is put forth as the one excuse which makes any sort of behavior blameless, and which is its own justification. . . Our job is to restore to real love its pristine and sacred meaning” (36-38).

The question of teaching morality in courses on natural family planning has been raised several times over the years. Cardinal Suenens addresses this: “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” (53).

On the need for sexual self-control: “Everyone has to have sexual control and no one can begin to develop it too soon. For a married couple, however, it is doubly essential and it has a special marital aspect which needs considering” (66).

Should NFP programs say anything about family size? The Cardinal quotes from the Family Code, an authoritative document of the Union of Malines which says among other things, “If, however, some indication must be made of the social minimum of procreativity, it could be said that an average of less than three children per home would mean the death of society by suffocation” (93).   Perhaps marriage instructions should teach, “Three to survive; five to thrive.”

On the need to provide practical help: “We have no right to demand that men obey this law [the Church’s teaching against contraception] without, at the same time, doing everything we can to make obedience possible, without straining all our energies to make the way clear” (150).

“Anything which can ease the burden of enforced continence by making it last for a shorter time is an inestimable help in keeping souls in the state of grace” (152). Then the Cardinal goes on to praise the work of Ogino, Knaus and Smulders in the Thirties and the more recent work of Drs. Holt (1959) and Doering (1957) using temperature-based systems.

Next week: Humanae Vitae, preparation for marriage, and NFP instruction.

John F. Kippley, November 10, 2014; also at http://www.nfpandmore.org.

Cardinal Walter Kasper and Artificiality re NFP

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marriage Problem—What Can Be Done?

When Pope Francis was returning from South Korea, he was interviewed en route. The subject was the Islamic attack on Christians in Iraq and Syria, and he was asked point blank, “What can be done?” Pope Francis replied that it would be legitimate to use force to stop the unjust aggression of those who are committing the rampant murders of Christians and other minorities in Iraq.

More recently, on September 10th, Cardinal Francis George blasted the Obama administration and allies of the pro-sodomy movement for forcing a “public creed” on Americans, compelling all to accept “gay marriage” and other “sexual anomalies.” Again, what can be done? I have previously blogged (e.g., 8/17/2014) on the direct relationship between accepting marital contraception including marital heterosexual sodomy and the consequent acceptance of homosexual sodomy parading as “marriage.” Unfortunately, the record of the last 46 years does not reveal great leadership by our bishops and Cardinals in support of Humanae Vitae and providing understandable theology and practical help. In fact, I can testify to the exclusion I experienced for many years by priests who did not accept Humanae Vitae and/or my efforts to teach natural family planning in the context of Catholic doctrine.

The Pope and the entire Church are faced with a similar problem with the number of Catholics who have married validly, then divorced, then remarried in a civil ceremony, and now would like to receive Holy Communion without the repentance of living as brother and sister. The question is overwhelmingly obvious: “What can be done?” Among the answers that have been offered is the concept of better preparation for marriage.

Well, yes. But what does that mean? For more than 40 years we have had an army of services to help couples have better marriages, but the Catholic divorce rate remains very close to the secular rate of one in every two marriages. So it seems that something more than communication skills and money management is needed, important as those are.

The one group that does better than the average marriage-wise is that small group of couples who practice natural family planning. This has long been known, and that’s undoubtedly why the US Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices urged, back in 1989, that every engaged couple be required to participate in a full course on natural family planning, not just an hour or two NFP presentation in a weekend pre-Cana conference.

That raises a further question: is it sufficient to learn just about fertility awareness? Or should NFP instruction prior to marriage be seen as an unrepeatable opportunity to evangelize engaged couples? I stress unrepeatable because preparation for marriage may be the only time a parish priest will ever be in a one-and-one-couple situation in which he can talk frankly about the Lord Jesus and discipleship and salvation. Too many of his engaged couples are not active in parish life or even in Church every Sunday. To repeat, this may be his only opportunity to evangelize them on a personal basis.

In our organization, Natural Family Planning International, we see marriage preparation as that unique opportunity. We put this conviction into practice right in the first pages of our user’s manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach. The three-page Introduction is titled “Where Faith and Science Meet.” It’s next-to-last paragraph sums it this way: “The time has come to return to the biblically based faith that sexual intercourse is intended by God to be exclusively a marriage act, and that within marriage it ought to be a renewal of the self-giving love and commitment of the couple’s original marriage covenant. For many, this realization of the meaning of the marriage act has been a life-changing experience.”

Chapter 1 is an example of the New Evangelization, and by that I mean the effort to help Catholics understand that the teachings of the Church, including its challenging moral teachings, are ultimately the teachings of the Lord Jesus. A short section titled “Why should I believe what the Catholic Church teaches?” reminds the reader that Christ at the Last Supper promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to guide the Church in its teaching. We use the example of the Nicene Creed that Mass-attending Catholics recite every Sunday, implicitly believing that the bishops at Nicea got it right because they were led by the Holy Spirit. Our treatment is brief, but it opens the door for the parish priest or deacon to elaborate on this and to teach what it means to believe that Jesus keeps his promises.

A section titled “The Bible and Church teaching on contraception” briefly treats of the Sin of Onan, other sexual sins, the Theology of the Body, and the covenant theology of sexuality. We also include the brief but important teaching of Pope Benedict XVI about the importance of the heart, not just the intellect, in following Jesus. This section also conveys Catholic teaching about specific immoralities such as masturbation and marital sodomy. These things are nobody’s favorite subjects, but they need to be taught because we know that some or many engaged and married couples engage in these behaviors, sometimes without ever knowing they are wrong because they were never taught these specifics.

Chapter 7 is written by user couples ranging from a woman who was a truth-seeking atheist when she first stumbled upon NFP and the covenant theology, a man who used “NFP” wrongly, a woman who learned and practiced ecological breastfeeding, another man who found us through my theology book that he found “painful” to read because it led him to the truth which he had not been practicing, and a wife who, with her husband, was gradually led into the Catholic Church through ecological breastfeeding and the NFPI form of NFP and theology.

The last chapter of the manual opens with two short paragraphs encouraging chastity and noting that the ultimate purpose of human relationships is to help the other person on the path to heaven.

The point is obvious. In this manual, parish priests and deacons have texts that provide an easy way to evangelize their engaged couples on these sensitive matters. They have a theology that works with couples with open hearts.

Every priest and deacon doing marriage preparation ought to have a copy of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach on his desk, and I recommend the spiral-bound edition because it lies flat and is thus easier for sharing with couples. I think they would do well to insist that their couples obtain a copy themselves, whether in print or as a freewill-offering download.

The Lord Jesus teaches us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30). God NEVER teaches that love is easy. The Lord tells us clearly that being a disciple involves being yoked to Jesus, but compared to the other difficulties of life and the self-inflicted burdens of sin, the yoke of discipleship is easy and the burden is light. We do ourselves and others no favor by teaching them that following Catholic moral teaching is easy. For very good reason the Lord Jesus gave us the sacraments and his mother urges us to pray the rosary. For all of these reasons, chaste NFP needs to be taught in the context of Christian discipleship.

To return to the opening paragraph, in the current war against basic Christian morality, it is surely Christian prudence to require engaged couples to participate in the right kind of NFP course as a normal part of preparation for lifelong marriage. In most localities, the easiest way to do this is to have the couples take the NFPI Home Study Course via email. They will be amazed at how much they learn. On the other hand, fertility-awareness-only courses are not helpful for the evangelization task at hand. For more on the right kind of NFP course, see http://nfpandmore.org/the_right_kind_of_NFP_CW.pdf

John F Kippley, September 20, 2014

At the NFPI website, www.nfpandmore.org , you can find registration for the Home Study Course, Sheila’s weekly blog, and Your Right To Know what’s involved in NFP education.

 

 

Radiating Jesus in Our Parishes, 5

This is my fifth and last commentary on The Church in America.

What can ordinary lay people do to make their parish one that truly radiates Christ?

First of all, they need to make sure they are on board with full Catholic teaching. I recently had an email from a couple who had been practicing sexual immoralities during the fertile time for some 23 years in their misunderstanding of NFP. They said they were never told that abstinence meant CHASTE abstinence.   That is, their NFP program and teacher never told them that chaste abstinence entails sexual self-control and that cuddling should not proceed to climax, masturbation or marital sodomy etc.

Second, they can and should pray for their parish priests to do what only they can do. Third, they can also talk with their priests and ask them to do everything they can to preach and teach marital chastity.

Third, they can support the teaching of Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.” This makes sense to people of faith and good will. It is so simple and so obvious once people learn and believe it that they can use it to explain and support Catholic teaching. Ordinary lay people can also promote and teach chaste Natural Family Planning including ecological breastfeeding and generosity in having children. It cannot be forgotten that the Church needs at least three children per family for long term survival.

The bottom line is this. When the teaching of Humanae Vitae is accepted and lived by the majority of fertile-age married couples in a parish, that parish will have healthy-sized families, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the basis for being a community of small communities. Then our parishes will truly be radiating the Lord Jesus and attracting men and women of good will.

Not to be ignored, when a diocese is filled with believing parishes, it can have a significant influence in the election of representatives who are truly pro-chastity, pro-family, and pro-life.   The truly Catholic parish and diocese will be counter-cultural. Thus it can and will make a difference. Amen.

John F. Kippley, August 31, 2014