Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2020’ Category

8. Natural Family Planning and Sex and the Marriage Covenant

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

The covenant theology of the marriage act is simple.  Any two people who are mentally and spiritually capable of committing themselves to marriage are also capable of understanding the covenant theology of sexuality and marriage. In fact, if a couple either cannot or will not understand or admit the elements or beliefs involved in this concept of marriage and sex, it is questionable whether their proposed union should be called a Christian marriage. What are these elements or beliefs?

1) God the Creator has created us, loves us and knows what is good for us.

2) God has created the human relationship of marriage and has told us that marriage lasts for a lifetime. In short, God’s creative love has determined the basic rules of marriage.

3) Christian marriage is a covenant, and that is much more than a contract. The whole purpose of human contracts is to spell out very definite limits to what is covered, and they can be changed by mutual consent. However, a covenant entails unlimited liability and promise. This has been traditionally stated in the marriage vows as “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, and for better and for worse.”

4) When you marry, you make no pledges about having romantic feelings toward your spouse, either always or occasionally. Rather, you are promising to exercise self-giving, caring love of the kind described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 13: “Love is patient and kind…”

5) Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be a sign of your marriage commitment, your pledge of self-giving, caring love for better and for worse. It symbolizes both the covenant relationship that God has created and your own personal entry into that covenant with each other and with God.

It needs to be said in connection with the fourth point that although one cannot pledge that he or she will always “feel” well disposed to the other spouse, each does have an obligation to invite and nourish such feelings as much as is reasonably possible. Indifference, not hate, is the common opposite of love within marriage, so each spouse is obliged not to be indifferent but to try to feel good about his or her spouse and to encourage such feelings in return by, for example, thoughtful anniversary and birthday gifts and by frequent compliments.

Each of the previous five points is basic for understanding Christian marriage and could be elaborated upon at length, but in their brevity everyone capable of entering marriage should easily grasp them.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant

7. Natural Family Planning and sex and the Marriage Covenant

Friday, July 24th, 2020

The covenant theology of human sexuality is nearly identical to the papal theology of the body when the latter is applied to the marriage act.  The Pope has given us at least two statements that are not formal parts of the overall theology of the body but which apply it to the marriage act.  The longer statement is in Familiaris Consortio, his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation on the Family.

In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to reciprocal “knowledge” which makes them “one flesh” does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new person.  Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.

He wrote a shorter statement in 1994, ten years after he finished the lectures that constitute the “theology of the body.”  In his Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II, he said this about the marriage act:  In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant.

For comparison, here once again is the basic statement of the covenant theology of sexuality:  Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.

In both statements, the key is that the marriage act really ought to be a true marriage act.  That is, it ought to confirm and renew the commitment, the fidelity, the love, the gift of self that they pledged in their marriage covenant. Both statements focus on what the spouses have done.  It is they who have entered into the lifelong covenant of marriage.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant

6. Natural Family Planning and Sex and the Marriage Covenant

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

In Familiaris Consortio Pope John Paul II has asked theologians to illustrate “ever more clearly the biblical foundations, the ethical grounds, and the personalist reasons” behind the teaching against marital contraception. Furthermore, he said, “Thus it will be possible, in the context of an organic exposition, to render the teaching of the Church on this fundamental question truly accessible to all people of good will” (emphasis added). I believe that “an organic exposition” means treating the morality of birth control in the context of other sexual behaviors such as fornication, adultery and sodomy.

The covenant theology of human sexuality is 1) almost identical to the papal “theology of the body” applied to the marriage act.  In addition, the covenant theology of sexuality fulfills the requirements for a useful theology as noted by the Pope (biblical, ethical, personalist).  In the rest of this chapter I will address each of these criteria plus several others that I think are necessary for a theology to be useful today. In short, I propose to show, very briefly in most cases, that the covenant theology of sexuality is 2) simple, 3) biblical, 4) ethical, 5) personalist, 6) theological, and 7) ecumenical. Furthermore, it lends itself to “an organic exposition,” and thus 8) it distinguishes between marital and non-marital sex. 9) It provides a key for understanding not only the evil of contraception but also the evil of adultery, fornication, sodomy and other sexual behaviors condemned as objectively sinful by the Catholic moral tradition. I believe that the covenant theology of sex is also 10) realistic. That is, it provides a terminology that avoids the sometimes-austere quality of previous theological terms, and it also avoids the subjective mushiness and inaccuracy of much of contemporary talk about sex, love and marriage. 11) It provides both a norm and an ideal.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant