Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2018’ Category

Natural Family Planning, St. John Paul II and Humanae Vitae: Summary

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II: 1988  Summary

Excerpts from J.F.Kippley, Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005, Chapter 7.  References are in the endnotes of Chapter 7.)

This is the last of our blogs for NFP Awareness Week in 2018.  It starts with the last presentation of St. John Paul II in 1988; part of this was in the last blog.

12 November 1988.  Theologians are accustomed to terminology about a hierarchy of truths, for example, that belief in the Blessed Trinity is more of a central core teaching of the Church than, say, its teaching about Purgatory. The theologians at this conference would be well acquainted with the efforts of various dissenters to treat the teaching of Humanae Vitae as peripheral­—way, way down on the hierarchy of truths, having nothing to do with God Himself and not too relevant to the contemporary concern for enhancing the dignity of man. In that light, the following text is of great significance as the Pope teaches that it is not a peripheral teaching but involves a central teaching of Catholic faith.
“Here a central point of Christian doctrine concerning God and man is involved. If one looks closely at what is being questioned by rejecting that teaching, one sees that it is the very idea of the Holiness of God. In predestining us to be holy and immaculate in his sight, he created us “in Christ Jesus for good works . . . that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). Those moral norms are simply the demand—from which no historical circumstance can dispense—of the Holiness of God which is shared in the concrete, no longer in the abstract, with the individual human person.
Furthermore, such negation renders the Cross of Christ meaningless (cf. 1 Cor 1:17). By becoming incarnate, the Word entered fully into our daily existence which consists of concrete human acts. By dying for our sins, he re-created us in the original holiness which must be expressed in our daily activity in the world.
Moreover, such negation implies, as a logical consequence, that there is no truth about man which is outside the course of historical evolution. To render void the Mystery of God results, as always, in rendering void the mystery of man, and the non-recognition of God’s rights results, as always, in the negation of man’s dignity (n.5).”54

In his manner of speaking and in his repetition, John Paul II has left no room for doubt that the doctrine of marital non-contraception reaffirmed by Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio must be believed and put into practice. He has taught:

― that to hold out for exceptions as if God’s grace were not sufficient is a form of atheism (17 September 1983);

― that denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is “equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation” (10 April 1986);

― that it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion (5 June 1987);

― that it is a “teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine” and “a truth which cannot be questioned” (14 March 1988);

― that it is a teaching which is intrinsic to our human nature and that calling it into question “is equivalent to refusing God himself the obedience of our intelligence” (12 November 1988);

― and finally that “what is being questioned by rejecting that teaching . . . is the very idea of the holiness of God” (12 November 1988).

During the 1990s, John Paul continued to speak on the subject of birth regulation, including breastfeeding. He also issued two major teaching documents relevant to the birth control issue, Veritatis Splendor in 1993 and Evangelium Vitae in 1995. Between these he issued Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II in 1994. All of these are referenced in other chapters, and you will find significant quotations from these and other documents in Chapter 18.

No Pope in the history of the Church has taught more clearly and consistently, in season and out of season, about marital love and sexuality and the immorality of unnatural methods of birth control than Pope John Paul II. “His mind and will in the matter” are obvious. He has used a formal teaching document, Familiaris Consortio, has repeated the teaching both in Rome and in his world travels, and has used clear and very strong language. He has amply fulfilled all the requirements of Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, 25) for the clear and authoritative teaching by which the believing Catholic must form his or her conscience.

There are two conclusions.
1. The person who is Catholic in any meaningful sense of that word has to recognize that God is keeping alive—even today—the unchanging truths about human love, that God is teaching these truths through the prophetic office of Peter, an office personally established by Christ. The teaching is unchanging because it is rooted in our human nature. The only thing that has changed is this: through modern natural family planning, this teaching is incomparably easier to follow than it was in 1930 or at any previous time. The first conclusion is that Catholics must give religious assent to the teaching against marital contraception and act accordingly.

2. The second conclusion is that non-Catholic Christians as well as Catholics must recognize the truth of the pre-1930 universal teaching against marital contraception. They must recognize that this is no more of a Catholic-Protestant issue than abortion. Just as in many cases they must reject their own Church’s permissive stance towards abortion, so also they must reject a permissive stance towards contraception. Everyone is called to live according to the truth.

My thanks to Ignatius Press for making these teachings, and much more, available in Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for MoralityI am not aware of any other easily available source of this documentation. –John F. Kippley.





Natural Family Planning, St. John Paul II and Humanae Vitae

Friday, July 27th, 2018

Pope John Paul II and Humanae Vitae, 1987-1988

Excerpts from J.F.Kippley, Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005, Chapter 7.  References are in the endnotes of Chapter 7.)

5 June 1987: The Pope addressed the participants in a study conference on responsible procreation and made several very strong statements about the certainty and truth of the teaching reaffirmed by Humanae Vitae including this:  “The Church’s teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error.31
                …A grave responsibility derives from this: those who place themselves in open conflict with the law of God, authentically taught by the Church, guide spouses along a false path. The Church’s teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error.”46 (Boldface emphasis added.)

16 September 1987: While making a tour of the United States, John Paul II addressed the bishops of the United States in Los Angeles. Referring to reports that large numbers of Catholics do not adhere to the sexuality teaching of the Church and yet appear to receive the sacraments, the Pope said,  “It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a “good Catholic” and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the Bishops of the United States and elsewhere.”32

14 March 1988: To participants in the Fourth International Conference for the Family of Europe and Africa, the Holy Father repeated the previous teaching. First, he noted that the “doctrine expounded in the encyclical Humanae Vitae thus constitutes the necessary defense of the dignity and truth of conjugal love.” Second, he said that “It is first of all married couples themselves who are responsible for their conjugal love, in the sense that they are called to live it in its entire truth.” Third, he continued, the Church helps them: “The Church assists them in this task, enlightening their consciences and assuring them, with the sacraments, of the strength necessary for the will to choose good and avoid evil.”

However, he continued, “there are problems.  Still, I cannot pass over in silence the fact that many today do not aid married couples in this grave responsibility of theirs, but rather place significant obstacles in their path . . .  This can also come about, with truly grave and destructive consequences, when the doctrine taught by the Encyclical is called into question, as has sometimes happened, even on the part of some theologians and pastors of souls. This attitude, in fact, can instill doubt with regard to a teaching which for the Church is certain; in this way it clouds the perception of a truth which cannot be questioned. This is not a sign of ‘pastoral understanding,’ but of misunderstanding the true good of persons. Truth cannot be measured by majority opinion.”33

On Monday, 24 October 1988, the Holy Father addressed the bishops from the U. S. ecclesiastical provinces of Cincinnati and Detroit.  “As we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the “prophetic” Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, we see ever more clearly today how relevant and positive it is.  In a world that often reduces sex to the pursuit of pleasure, and in some cases to domination, the Church has a special mission to place sex in the context of conjugal love and of generous and responsible openness to parenthood.”

On Monday, 7 November 1988, the Holy Father addressed a meeting of the Bishop Presidents of the Commissions for the Family of the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world; the meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family to mark the twentieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae. After noting that “it is extremely urgent to revive awareness of conjugal love as a gift,” the Pope concluded his talk by placing Humanae Vitae in the context of the well-being of the family and society.  “The future of a more human society as well, because it is inspired and sustained by a civilization of love and life, depends largely on the moral and spiritual ‘quality’ of marriage and the family, and depends on their ‘holiness.’
This is the supreme end of the Church’s pastoral action for which we bishops have the primary responsibility. The twentieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae reproposes this end to all of us with the same apostolic urgency of Paul VI who concluded his Encyclical by addressing his brothers in the episcopate with these words: “We implore you to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, the better to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection. Look upon this mission as the most important work and responsibility committed to you at the present time” (Humanae Vitae, n.30).”35

Five days later, on Saturday, 12 November 1988, Pope John Paul II addressed about 400 theologians at the Second International Congress on Moral Theology in Rome celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae.  “It [the teaching of H.V.] is not, in fact, a doctrine invented by man: it was stamped on the very nature of the human person by God the Creator’s hand and confirmed by Him in Revelation. Calling it into question, therefore, is equivalent to refusing God Himself the obedience of our intelligence.36  It is equivalent to preferring the dim light of our reason to the light of divine Wisdom, thereby falling into the darkness of error and resulting in the undermining of other fundamental principles of Christian doctrine (n.3).”51

Then the Holy Father proceeded to teach that it is wrong to make an appeal to conscience as a way to escape the obligation to form your conscience according to the truth taught by Christ through the teaching office of His Church:   “During these years, following the contestation about Humanae Vitae, the Christian doctrine on moral conscience itself has been questioned by accepting the idea of creative conscience of the moral norm. In this way, that bond of obedience to the holy will of the Creator, in which the very dignity of man consists, is radically broken. Conscience, in fact, is the ‘place’ where man is illuminated by a light which does not come to him from his created and always fallible reason, but from the very Wisdom of the Word in whom all things were created. ‘Conscience’, as Vatican II again admirably states, “is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et Spes, 16).

From this some consequences are drawn which are to be stressed.

“Since the Magisterium of the Church was created by Christ the Lord to enlighten conscience, then to appeal to that conscience precisely to contest the truth of what is taught by the Magisterium implies rejection of the Catholic concept both of the Magisterium and moral conscience. To speak about the inviolable dignity of conscience without further specification runs the risk of grave errors. There is a great difference between the person who falls into error after having used all the means at his or her disposal in the search for truth, and the situation of one who, either through simple acquiescence to the majority opinion, often deliberately created by the powers of the world, or through negligence, takes little pains to discover the truth. The clear teaching of Vatican II reminds us of this: ‘Yet it often happens that conscience goes astray through ignorance which it is unable to avoid, without thereby losing its dignity. This cannot be said of the man who takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin’” (ibid.).
“The Church’s Magisterium is among the means which Christ’s redeeming love has provided to avoid this danger of error. In His name it has a real teaching authority. Therefore, it cannot be said that the faithful have embarked on a diligent search for truth if they do not take into account what the Magisterium teaches, or if, by putting it on the same level as any other source of knowledge, one makes oneself judge, or if in doubt, one follows one’s own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure teaching of the Magisterium (n.4).”52

John Paul II then reaffirmed the teaching of “no exceptions” that he had made five years earlier:  “Closely connected with the theme of moral conscience is the theme of the binding force of the moral norm taught by Humanae Vitae.

By describing the contraceptive act as intrinsically illicit, Paul VI meant to teach that the moral norm is such that it does not admit exceptions. No personal or social circumstances could ever, can now, or will ever, render such an act lawful in itself. The existence of particular norms regarding man’s way of acting in the world, which are endowed with a binding force that excludes always and in whatever situation the possibility of exceptions, is a constant teaching of Tradition and of the Church’s Magisterium which cannot be called in question by the Catholic theologian (n. 5).”53

JFK: To be concluded tomorrow.

Natural Family Planning, St. John Paul II and Humanae Vitae

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Pope John Paul II and Humanae Vitae, 1985-1986

Excerpts from J.F.Kippley, Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005, Chapter 7.  References are in the endnotes of Chapter 7.)

My incomplete files do not show any statements of Pope John Paul II dealing directly with the contraception issue during 1985. On January 28, however, the official Vatican newspaper published an article by Archbishop Edouard Gagnon, Pro-President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, commenting upon the series of talks the Holy Father had concluded the previous November 28th. Archbishop Gagnon noted that “In the preface to the Polish translation of Humanae Vitae he [John Paul II when he was bishop of Krakow] wrote: ‘The doctrine concerning the ethics of marriage has been transmitted and defined with precision by the authority of the Magisterium of the Church in Humanae Vitae. Therefore, after the promulgation of this document, it is difficult, as far as Catholics are concerned, to speak about inculpable ignorance or about error in good faith.’”

Archbishop Gagnon continued:  “Today, after the Synod on the family, after the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, and above all after the Pope’s brilliant catecheses, there can no longer be doubts about the authoritative doctrine of the Church and about the unacceptability of dissent.”29

10 April 1986: John Paul II has delivered some of his strongest words about sexual morality to groups of moral theologians gathered under orthodox auspices in Rome. (The heterodox or heretical theologians avoid such congresses.) His address to the participants in the International Congress of Moral Theology (7 to 12 April 1986) forms an important part of that pattern. He started by noting the importance of living the truth “to which the Church is called to give witness” by quoting Matthew 7:21: “Not every man who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

He then noted that the “essential linkup of Truth-Goodness-Freedom has been lost to a large extent by contemporary culture. Therefore, to lead man to rediscover it is one of the particular requirements of the Church’s mission today for the salvation of the world.”

Noting the dangers of moral relativism he said:  “Indeed, an even more serious thing has come about: man is no longer convinced that he can find salvation only in the truth. The saving power of truth is questioned. People are entrusting to freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, the task of deciding autonomously what is good and what is evil. In the field of theology, this relativism turns into distrust of the wisdom of God, who guides man by means of the moral law. Against the prescriptions of the moral law are opposed the so-called concrete situations, with people no longer holding, basically, that the law of God is always the only true good of man.”

Recognizing that moral relativism is at the heart of alleged exceptions for contraception and abortion, the Pope said:  “To reduce the moral quality of our actions, regarding creatures, to the attempt to improve reality in its non-ethical contents would be equivalent, in the last analysis, to destroying the very concept of morality. The first consequence, indeed, of this reduction is the denial that, in the context of those activities, there exist acts which are always and everywhere in themselves and of themselves illicit. I have already drawn attention to this point in the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (cf. n.17). The whole tradition of the Church has lived and lives on the conviction contrary to this denial. But even human reason, without the light of Revelation, is in a position to see the grave error of this thesis.
It is the result of deep and serious presuppositions which strike at the very heart not only of Christianity, but also of religion as such. That there in fact exists a moral good and evil not reducible to other human goods and evils is the necessary and immediate consequence of the truth of creation, which is the ultimate foundation of the very dignity of the human person.”

The Holy Father then went on to apply these principles to two pressing issues of the day:  “Man bears a law written in his heart (cf. Rom 2:15 and Dignitatis Humanae, 3) that he does not give to himself, but which expresses the immutable demands of his personal being created by God . . . This law is not merely made up of general guidelines, whose specification is in their respective content conditioned by different and changeable historical situations. There are moral norms that have a precise content which is immutable and unconditioned . . . for example, the norm that prohibits contraception or that which forbids the direct killing of an innocent person. To deny the existence of norms having such a value can be done only by one who denies the existence of a truth about the person, of an immutable nature in man, based ultimately on the creative Wisdom which is the measure of all reality (emphasis added).”

The Pope also recorded his rejection of the appeal to the numbers of Catholics who practice contraception or who say they see nothing wrong with it.   “To appeal to a “faith of the Church” in order to oppose the moral Magisterium of the Church is equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of Revelation. Not only that, but one can come to violate the fundamental right of the faithful to receive the doctrine of the Church from those who teach theology by virtue of a canonical mission and not the opinions of theological schools.”

Finally, the Pope reminded the theologians of their obligation in charity to oppose those who dissent and teach false doctrine:  “The scholar of ethics today has a grave responsibility, both in the Church and in civil society.
The problems he faces are the most serious problems for man: problems on which depend not only eternal salvation, but often also his future on earth. The word of God uses words in this regard that we ought continually to meditate upon. Love for whoever errs must never bring about any compromise with error: error must be unmasked and judged. The love which the Church has for man obliges her to tell man how and when his truth is being denied, his good unrecognized, his dignity violated, his worth not adequately appreciated.
In doing this, she does not simply present “ideals”: rather she teaches who man is, created by God in Christ, and therefore, what his true good is. The moral law is not something extrinsic to the person: it is the very human person himself in so far as he is called in and by the creative act itself to be and to fulfill himself freely in Christ.
With humility, but with a great firmness, you have to give witness to this truth today. In recent years we have seen the growth of an ethical-theological teaching that has not lived up to this . . .”30