Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2018’ Category

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

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Pope John Paul II and Humanae Vitae, October –Nov 1984

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.)

7 November 1984: The periodic abstinence of natural family planning should not be thought of as a mechanical application of biological laws. What makes it truly natural is at the deeper levels of personhood wherein the person has developed the virtue of continence and the resulting freedom of self-mastery:  “ The virtue of continence in its mature form gradually reveals the “pure” aspect of the spousal meaning of the body. In this way, continence develops the personal communion of the man and the woman, a communion that cannot be formed and developed in the full truth of its possibilities only on the level of concupiscence” (414-415).

28 November 1984: This was the last talk of the five-year, 129-lecture series. Pope John Paul II noted that “the catechesis which I began over four years ago and which I am concluding today can be summed up under the title: ‘Human love in the divine plan,’ or more precisely, ‘The redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage.’ The catechesis can be divided into two parts”(419).

The first part was based on a study of Christ’s words about the indissolubility of marriage, about concupiscence, and about the resurrection of the body (420).  The second part “was dedicated to the analysis of the sacrament based on the Letter to the Ephesians (5:22-23)” which in turn refers to the biblical beginning of marriage in Genesis 2:24 (420).28

The Pope went on to note that the term “the theology of the body” was used extensively in both parts of the catechesis and that the fifteen talks dealing with Humanae Vitae constitute the final part of the overall catechesis dealing with the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage. In short, there can be no authentic catechesis about marriage without an affirmation of the truths expressed in Humanae Vitae (420-422).

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




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

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Pope John Paul II and Humanae Vitae, September-October 1984

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 September 1984: The international press took note that in this talk the Pope noted that natural family planning can be abused:   “The use of the “infertile periods” for conjugal union can be an abuse if the couple, for unworthy reasons, seeks in this way to avoid having children, thus lowering the number of births in their family below the morally correct level.  This morally correct level must be established by taking into account not only the good of one’s own family, and even the state of health and the means of the couple themselves, but also the good of the society to which they belong, of the Church, and even of all mankind” (402).

“Responsible parenthood [is] in no way exclusively directed to limiting, much less excluding children; it means also the willingness to accept a larger family “(402).

Finally, the Holy Father quoted Humanae Vitae to show that what is at issue is not just a technique, but “an attitude which is based on the integral moral maturity of the persons and at the same time completes it” (403).

3 October 1984: The Holy Father noted that in Humanae Vitae, “the view of married life is at every step marked by Christian realism”(405). That is, it both recognizes the difficulties of living a chaste, non-contraceptive marriage, and it also places those difficulties in the light of the narrow gate of life and the thought of eternity. Furthermore, the encyclical points out the necessity of prayer, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Penance. “These are the means—infallible and indispensable—for forming the Christian spirituality of married life and family life”(406).

10 October 1984: John Paul II squarely faced what has been deliberately avoided in most of the 25 years of the modern debate about birth control. The difficulty of the Christian Tradition against marital contraception and other abuses of sexuality “arises from the fact that the power of love is implanted in man lured by concupiscence: in human subjects love does battle with threefold concupiscence (cf. 1 Jn 2:16), in particular with the concupiscence of the flesh which distorts the truth of the ‘language of the body.’ And therefore love, too, is not able to be realized in the truth of the ‘language of the body’ except through overcoming concupiscence” (407).

24 October 1984: With this talk, Pope John Paul II opened a series of three lectures dealing with the virtue of continence, a virtue which needs a “clear perception of the values expressed in the law and the consequent formation of firm convictions” plus the proper “disposition of the will” (408).

Whereas “concupiscence of the flesh . . . makes man in a certain sense blind and insensitive to the most profound values that spring from love,” (409) the virtue of continence enables a couple to practice many “manifestations of affection” (410) that build and can express their marital communion.

While the virtue of marital chastity first of all enables the couple to resist the concupiscence of the flesh, it goes beyond that to “progressively enrich the marital dialogue of the couple, purifying it, deepening it, and at the same time simplifying it” (409). In other words, marital chastity helps a couple to enrich their social intercourse so that their sexual intercourse will be a fitting reflection of their marriage covenant and ongoing relationship.

31 October 1984: In this talk, the Pope made a helpful distinction between excitement and emotion.  “Excitement seeks above all to be expressed in the form of sensual and corporeal pleasure. That is, it tends toward the conjugal act which (depending on the “natural cycles of fertility”) includes the possibility of procreation.  Emotion, on the other hand, is a much broader response to another human being as a person even if conditioned by the femininity or masculinity of the other person. It does not per se tend toward the conjugal act. But it limits itself to other ‘manifestations of affection’ . . .” (413).




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

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II: 1984, March-August

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.)

If it would be impossible to surpass the strength of the statements made in 1983, the Pope would still manage to make a unique emphasis in 1984. On March 1, speaking to a group of priests participating in a seminar on responsible parenthood, the Holy Father emphasized that the teaching of Humanae Vitae expresses the truth of human nature. He asked, “When, in fact, is the human conscience ‘reconciled,’ when is it deeply at peace? When it is in the truth. … Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, in fidelity to the Church’s tradition, have taught the truth of conjugal love, inasmuch as it is a communion of persons.” And again: “The moral norm taught by Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio is the defense of the entire truth of conjugal love, since it expresses the absolutely necessary demands of this love.”23 (In this and subsequent quotations, all emphasis was in the original English text.  References are found in Chapter 7 of Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Ignatius, 2005)

A bit later in March the Pope reaffirmed the teaching against contraception and sterilization while receiving the ad limina visit of bishops from Costa Rica.24 Then on 22 March 1984, the Bishop of Rome met with the Episcopal Council and the presbyterate of the Diocese of Rome. Referring to Humanae Vitae, he noted that “it was certainly a prophetic voice of the Church and especially of Pope Paul VI. It says ‘yes’ to responsible motherhood and fatherhood; it says ‘no’ decisively and clearly.”25

In June, while speaking to two congresses on marriage, family and responsible procreation, he addressed the importance of providing the practical help of natural family planning instruction:  “The Church is extremely grateful for what you are doing . . . The teaching of natural methods is extremely vital for the human and Christian well being of so many couples, and hence it must never be something purely technical. It must be rooted in true science and in a complete view of the human person.”

In July of 1984, Pope John Paul II opened an unprecedented teaching effort regarding love and sexuality. On July 11, he began the first of a series of 15 talks to uphold the teaching reaffirmed by Humanae Vitae.  These talks are now published in a 603-page book, The Theology of the Body, and subsequent parenthetical references such as (TB 386) or simply (386) are to page numbers in that book.27

11 July 1984: The Pope opened the series of talks with a special reference to sections 11 and 12 of Humanae Vitae and this explanation:  “The considerations I am about to make concern particularly the passage of the encyclical Humanae Vitae that deals with the ‘two significances of the marriage act’ and their ‘inseparable connection.’ I do not intend to present a commentary on the whole encyclical, but rather to illustrate and examine one of its passages. From the point of view of the doctrine contained in the quoted document, that passage has a central significance (TB 386).  …The moral norm, constantly taught by the Church in this sphere and recalled and reconfirmed by Paul VI in his Encyclical, arises from the reading of the ‘language of the body in truth’” (TB 388).

18 July 1984: “The Encyclical Humanae Vitae, therefore, contains the moral norm . . . Acts in conformity with the norm are morally right, while acts contrary to it are intrinsically illicit . . . This norm is in accordance with the sum total of revealed doctrine contained in biblical sources (cf. HV, n.4) . . . It seems to be totally reasonable to look precisely in the ‘theology of the body’ for the foundation of the truth of the norms that concern the fundamental problematic of man as ‘body’: ‘the two will become one flesh’ (Gen 2:24)” (TB 389).

25 July 1984: In this talk the Holy Father taught that Humanae Vitae is truly pastoral, not abstract and indifferent to human conditions. “Pastoral concern means the search for the true good of man, a promotion of the values engraved in his person by God” (TB 392).

1 August 1984: The Pope made the first of several affirmations that natural family planning should not be used selfishly. “The concept of ‘responsible parenthood’ contains the disposition not merely to avoid ‘a further birth’ but also to increase the family in accordance with the criteria of prudence” (TB 394).

He then went on to make an indirect reference to the language of the body, noting that the relevant principle of conjugal morality is, therefore, “fidelity to the divine plan manifested in the ‘intimate structure of the conjugal act’ and in the ‘inseparable connection of the two significances of the conjugal act,’” (TB 394), i.e., the unitive and the procreative meanings.

8 August 1984: The Pope noted that Humanae Vitae recognized that couples using unnatural methods of birth control “can be motivated by ‘acceptable reasons’ for postponing pregnancy; however, this does not change the moral character which is based on the very structure of the conjugal act as such” (395). Then, he noted that “the theology of the body is not merely a theory, but rather a specific, evangelical Christian pedagogy of the body,” deriving from the nature of the Gospel which “reveals man’s true good, for the purpose of modeling . . . man’s earthly life in the perspective of the hope of the future world” (396).

22 August 1984: The Pope focused on the responsibilities inherent in being a human person: “Man is precisely a person because he is master of himself and has self-control. Indeed, insofar as he is master of himself he can give himself to the other” (398).

Then, he noted that the very language of the body signifies both love and potential fecundity and that both “pertain to the intimate truths of the conjugal act.” However, contraceptive behavior denies one aspect of this truth. “Therefore, in such a case the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth, because artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love” (398).

Continuing to sharpen the focus on the true meaning of the conjugal embrace, the Holy Father noted how contraception violates the truth of self-mastery and of the reciprocal gift of each other. “Such a violation of the interior order of the conjugal union, which is rooted in the very order of the person, constitutes the essential evil of the contraceptive act” (398, emphasis added).

28 August 1984: The lectures of this week and the next focused upon the proper attitudes and use of natural family planning. Humanae Vitae “underlines that a right and lawful regulation of fertility demands above all from husband and wife a definite family and procreative attitude . . . It requires ‘that they acquire and possess solid convictions about the true values of life and of the family’ (HV 21)” (TB 399). What is at stake, moreover, “is not merely a matter of a definite ‘technique’ but of ethics in the strict sense of the term as the morality of conduct” (400).

Thus, “in the case of a morally upright regulation of fertility effected by means of periodic continence . . . it is a case of living by the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:25)” (401). Why? The virtuous right use of natural family planning “is determined not so much by fidelity to an impersonal ‘natural law’ as to the Creator-Person, the Source and Lord of the order which is manifested in such a law” (401).