Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2019’ Category

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


Natural Family Planning: The German Irony, part 2

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

As the Sixties unfolded with more and more attention being given to the birth control Pill, Dr. G. K. Doering saw the need to test the effectiveness of the Calendar-Temperature system.  In his first system, he predicted that post ovulation infertility started by the evening of the SECOND day of sustained thermal shift.  I do not know what effectiveness he found, but he was surprised at the number of surprise pregnancies.  He changed his post-ovulation infertility rule by adding one more day.  The post-ovulation infertile phase was thus predicted to start on the evening of the THIRD day of sustained thermal shift.

In third-day study, he analyzed two groups.  One group abstained from the marriage act from the beginning of menstruation until the evening of the third day of elevated temperatures. In this group, he found a pregnancy-avoidance effectiveness of 99.2%.

The other group considered the early part of the cycle as infertile, using a calculation based on the thermal shift pattern in previous cycles.  In this group, he found a pregnancy avoidance effectiveness of 96.9 percent.  In both groups he included pregnancies that are now called imperfect-use pregnancies.  This included marriage acts during the fertile time and even at least one pregnancy from a couple using his previous second-day rule.  You can read the entire study at This is the only English language translation of which we are aware; we hired a Professor of German to do it for us.

The IRONY.  This study was published in a German medical journal on June 9, 1967.  That’s 13 months and two weeks before the publication of Humanae Vitae.  At this time, Pope Paul VI was struggling with the birth control issue.  Seeing this research would have given him great encouragement about the current level of effectiveness of this natural system of avoiding pregnancy.  But did he ever see it?  I have to wonder.  With hindsight we know that the German bishops at that time as a whole did not accept the Traditional Catholic teaching against the use of unnatural forms of birth control.  That seems to be the case also today.  Germany is home of one of the original researchers regarding natural family planning, home of the Catholic priest who invented the Calendar-Temperature form of NFP, home of Dr. G. K. Doering who developed a highly effective Temperature-only system, and also home to the bishops who were highly non-supportive of Humanae Vitae.

As Jesus experienced his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James and John kept falling asleep.  As the Church today is experiencing its agony of sexual sins, too many bishops seem to be proving themselves to be the descendants of the Apostles, asleep at the hour of need.  Dear reader, please pray for our bishops that they will wake up and realize what great helps the Lord has given his people to live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

Tomorrow:  The Covenant Theology

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant