Archive for the ‘Priests & Parishes’ Category

Natural Family Planning and Humane Vitae #13

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Text from the translation:

  1. Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God” (13).

In section 13, St. Paul VI  makes two appeals to a common moral sense.  First he points to a common recognition, at least among Christians, that marital rape and other imposed sexual acts are not true acts of love.  That is, the marriage act is not automatically a good thing.  There are conditions.  The marriage act ought to be a true marriage act, one which reflects the love and commitment of their marriage covenant.  If someone admits that there are conditions for moral goodness, they cannot rule out the condition of the act being open to the transmission of life.

The second appeal builds on the first.  Once we recognize that there are conditions for the marriage act to be morally good, we ought to recognize that these conditions come from our Creator and that we are called to respect His order of creation.  Our bodies are not our own playthings; we are called to be stewards of creation, and that includes our sexual powers.

The famous statement of St. Augustine when his conscience finally forced him to admit that he was not his own god certainly applies here:  “You have made us for Yourself alone, O Lord, and our heart is restless till it finds it rest in you.”

The recognition that we should be looking for and following God’s plan runs against the spirit of secularism that has been so strong in Western culture for the last 60 years.  Thus it is all the more important for parents and educators to teach the basic lessons of being a creature of God and being a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Tomorrow: a close look at Humanae Vitae, section 14.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant


Natural Family Planning and Humanae Vitae #11

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

I want to draw attention to two points in section 11 of Humanae Vitae, so here’s the text from the website.  The translation is slightly different from the one published in 1968.

  1. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, “noble and worthy.” (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (12) (Boldface added.)

The first boldfaced sentence clearly refers to the basis of Natural Family Planning.  This natural spacing has two forms.  Readers of this blogsite may be inclined to think first of systematic natural family planning which is based on knowledge of the fertile time of individual cycles.  True enough.  But there is also another natural cycle and spacing—that of Ecological Breastfeeding which is an effort to replicate the pattern of baby care that spaced babies in past centuries but which was lost in the first half of the 20th century.

The key words in the second boldfaced are each and every marital act. 

As we will see in Section 14, the pro-contraception party wanted the Pope to accept a big-picture morality in which contraceptive acts would take their morality from the non-contraceptive act.  More on that in the next blog in this weeklong series.  The “each and every” terminology is part of his response to that argument.

Tomorrow: a close look at Humanae Vitae, section #13.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant

Natural Family Planning: The Covenant Theology

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

In our first years of marriage, I worked as a lay evangelist in Santa Clara, and one Saturday morning early in 1966 I attended a lecture on birth control by Michael Novak at a parish in Palo Alto.  I can’t remember a thing he said, but what stayed with me was the manner in which he answered questions; it certainly seemed to me that he was undermining faith in the received teaching.  I was doing my best to uphold this teaching, and his comments left me angry.

By the time I was home again, I was ready to write a defense and explanation of the received teaching that had been reaffirmed by Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii in 1930.  I began writing that afternoon and concluded my article late Sunday afternoon.  Never before or after have I been able to write like that.    Titled “Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital,” it drew a five-fold analogy between the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist and the worthy marriage act.

I will list them here very briefly and I urge the interested reader to read the article at

1. Both are the results of sacraments. The first requires the Sacrament of Holy Orders which enables the priest to act in the person of Christ to bring about the changing of the bread and wine into the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. The lawful marriage act requires that the spouses be married so that their physical union can be a marriage act. The Catholic Church teaches that a valid marriage between two Christians constitutes the Sacrament of Matrimony.

2. Both are the results of a sacrificial offering the first by the Lord Jesus on the cross, and the second by the spouses as they promise to love and to remain faithful to each other for better and for worse till death parts them.

3. Both embody a bodily gift of self. This is quite obvious in the case of the Lord Jesus, but also in marriage the act ought to be a gift of self, at least not in any way opposed to the gift promised in making their marriage covenant.

4. A renewal of the covenant. In receiving the Holy Eucharist, we implicitly renew our baptismal covenant with the Lord Jesus, both affirming our desire to walk with Him and asking for the strength to do so. In the marriage act, spouses are called to renew, at least implicitly, the faith and love and commitment of their original marriage covenant.

5. The manner in which each covenant was sealed. The New Covenant announced at the Last Supper was sealed by the total self-giving of the Lord Jesus on the cross the next day. The marriage covenant is sealed by the spouses’ first marriage act which is a symbol of the total gift of the spouses to each other. Does a contracepted act constitute a true marriage act for purposes of Canon Law? That question goes beyond my competence, but the question certainly has been raised.

This is all too brief.  I hope you will read the original article that was published on February 25, 1967, exactly 17 months before Humanae Vitae.

Tomorrow: a close look at Humanae Vitae, section 11.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant