Archive for the ‘Priests & Parishes’ Category

Natural Family Planning and the Teaching of Morality

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

The history of the Church’s teaching on this issue of chaste abstinence during the female cycle goes back to 1853.  About 1850 French veterinarians realized that mammals have a fertility cycle, and they speculated about humans.  (They speculated that the time of menses was the fertile time.  They could have been spared that error if they had paid any attention to the biblical rules against the marriage act during menses and then another five days.)  Despite the factual error, the issue reached the Vatican, and in 1853 the Sacred Paenitentiary stated that it was morally permissible for spouses to abstain during the fertile time for purposes of avoiding pregnancy provided they had serious reasons and did not engage in immoral activities during the time of abstinence.  The issue as raised again in Spain, and in 1880 the Sacred Paenitentiary reaffirmed its 1853 statement.  In Casti Connubii Pope Pius XI not only condemned contraceptive behavior but also mentioned “virtuous continence which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent…” (n. 53. Dec 31, 1930).

With regard to intent, I cannot think of any action, physical or spiritual, that cannot be made bad by a bad intention.  That’s why it is important for dioceses and parishes to require that NFP instruction provided under their auspices should include Catholic moral teaching including the call to generosity.  NFP instruction that is essentially just an amoral organ recital is seriously deficient.

John Kippley



Natural Family Planning and the Teaching of Morality

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Without the teaching of Catholic morality in NFP instruction, what results is most likely just non-hormonal contraception during the fertile time.  Without learning the specific teaching of chastity, how can ordinary folks be expected to be practice chaste periodic abstinence?  I suspect that a lot of bishops think that their NFP course is teaching chastity, but it may not be.  To find out, just take a look at the various NFP manuals.  It is not difficult to be specific.  Check out our manual.  And, of course, the other moral issue is Catholic teaching about the call to generosity and the need for sufficiently serious reason to use NFP for avoiding pregnancy.  Dr. John Billings said at one of the Collegeville summer symposia that he deliberately does not teach morality because his method stands on its own as a birth control method without any need for Church authority.  He certainly believed that teaching but thought that referring to the authority of the Church would undermine the value of the method.  I think he was mistaken, but that may still be the thinking in a significant part of the NFP movement.  Also, the social-spiritual environment has deteriorated in the last 40 years, and assumptions made in the 70s may not be valid today.

Authority.  Granted, we all have limits on what we can say, but the bishops have real authority.  And if they want the couples to learn chaste NFP, then they need to use NFPI almost exclusively or require every provider to have such teaching in their manuals and to teach it.  It is not difficult, except for the FEAR factor— fear of not being liked, fear of losing clients and money, etc. What we all need by way of motivation is not only love for God and neighbor but also a healthy fear of offending God by being afraid to teach his truths about love, marriage and sexuality.  Call it evangelphobia—fear of evangelizing.

Church leaders need to know the realities and what organizations are teaching specific morality and which ones are avoiding the subject.  In Chapter 7 of our NFP manual we include the witness of a couple who used their form of “NFP” with fertile-time immoralities for 23 years before somehow running into our material and changing to chaste NFP.  How many other  couples are there with similar experiences simply because their NFP provider failed to teach chaste periodic abstinence?

I think that it is impossible to have authentic renewal within the Church without nearly universal acceptance of Humanae Vitae and that’s also true regarding every parish marriage program.

John Kippley

Natural Family Planning: Church experiences with breastfeeding

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

A positive and two negative experiences with local parish Churches.

“Our story began in 1980 with a NFP class at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Houston Texas.  It was strengthen by a pediatrician that prayed over our little baby and assured me that if we went to the Folk Mass at St. Ann’s no one would try and take my little baby girl to the nursery and I could even nurse her comfortably at the back of the church (the church gym) where all the moms hung out with their infants and toddlers.  We weren’t even Catholic, but my body knew that I needed my baby and she needed me so I could discover the kind of mother I wanted to become.
And, fast forward, on June 1, 2019, our son and 5th child of 6, became a Roman Catholic Priest!  Thank you for helping us stay on the path towards holiness.  We want to be saints.”


From a deacon in formation who once taught eco-breastfeeding in the NFP classes with his wife.  When their NFP organization dropped the teaching of ecological breastfeeding, they stopped teaching NFP.   Here are his comments on promoting eco-breastfeeding in his Catholic community.

“I am trying to bolster my arguments that there is a positive moral obligation to breastfeed.  When I have brought up ecological breastfeeding (EB) and the moral obligation to breastfeed in the moral theology courses and the seminar on NFP, my comments were met with not only incredulity but sometimes down-right derision.
“Concerning the resistance to that we have encountered, I will give you a couple of anecdotes.  We have six children, all of whom have been raised with EB. The youngest three were born after we moved.  The other deacon candidate (I’ll call him “X”) from my parish is a providentialist, and X and his wife are adamantly against breastfeeding because in their words ‘couples are supposed to have as many children as possible to populate the Earth and give glory to God.’  They have had 7 children in 8 years and practice what I call “detachment” parenting—little mother-child bonding whatsoever and refusing to give in to the “whims” of their babies by soothing them when they cry.  Since we are both deacon candidates, we are both on the parish council.  At one of our meetings, X stated that he was disturbed that so many of the new mothers in our parish were using the cry room to breastfeed.  He felt uncomfortable being in the room with his children because he did not want to “expose” them to breastfeeding.  He also mentioned how public breastfeeding is inherently immodest, and that mothers should especially not breastfeed in Church.  He demanded that our pastor either put a stop to the breastfeeding in the cry room, or provide him with another space to be with his children when they acted up.  He suggested that my pastor wire the church hall (in the basement) with a live video feed.  My pastor (who is nationally known from EWTN) actually was open to the request and in fact made several disparaging remarks about women breastfeeding in public, including how immodest lit was, etc.  The only thing that stopped the conversation from going any further was a question that I posed to my pastor:  Did he realize that my wife had breastfed 3 children in the front pew of the Church, in front of the ambo, for the last six years?  Well, you can imagine the embarrassed expression that came over his face.  To make a long story short, the idea was dropped.
“Another anecdote involves the diaconate formation program itself.  We have been discouraged from bringing any children with us to the gatherings that the wives are required to attend.  Well, this was problematic, since our second youngest daughter was just over one year old when I was accepted for formation.  We more or less ignored the advice and brought her with us anyway, including to my entrance interview, with no problems.  However we were required to attend a retreat and were told in no uncertain terms that our little one was not allowed to come.  If we brought her, we would be told to leave.  We made the anguished decision to leave her with a babysitter for the weekend.  What a disaster!  While we had tried for 2 months to prepare her for the time apart, including trying to wean her, she was not ready to be ap-art for that long.  This led to an  angry confrontation with my director of formation.  While the program has backed down, last September my wife and 4-month old were not allowed to attend the annual retreat.  I was told by the director that some of the candidates and their wives had told him that they felt it would be too distracting to have a breastfeeding baby there.  At least my wife wasn’t required to attend, but she could have easily done so with minimal distraction.  However, I have resigned myself to the fact that the program feels that ecological breastfeeding is just too “countercultural,” even though we have proven time and again that our babies are well-behaved and quiet in public if they are with mom.
My wife wanted me in particular to make sure to thank you for all the work that you have done.  Our children have told us that they lovingly remember their nursing years.  You have truly been an inspiration to us, and your work has made a tremendously powerful and positive impact on our marriage and family life.  We are constantly sharing your books with the young couples and families in our parish, and we are both glad that you have decided to continue your work with NFPI.”

Sheila Kippley
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