Archive for 2013

Natural Family Planning: The Right Kind of Course

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

I offer the following suggestions about the kind of NFP course that will assist the pastoral and teaching roles of the Church.  I stress the “right kind” of NFP course because an inadequate NFP course may lead to continued marital unchastity and a lack of appropriate generosity in having children.

1.  The right kind of NFP course must be education in Christian discipleship.  The course must place Jesus as the reason for fidelity to the Christian marriage covenant and all that it entails.  Mutual self-giving, fertility awareness, generosity, and chastity must all be taught in the light of Christian discipleship.  The right kind of NFP course must teach that Jesus is the reason for chastity within marriage as well as outside of marriage.  The Church cannot “sell” chaste natural family planning on purely natural grounds.  Yes, the natural methods are more than adequate as a form of birth control, but it takes more than fertility awareness to say NO to temptations to sexual sins during the fertile time.  It takes an open heart and a real spirit of Christian discipleship and self-control.

2.  The right kind of NFP course must be required as a normal part of preparation for marriage.  It is not sufficient to “encourage” attendance at an NFP course.  In the United States we have had 40 years of “encouragement” and the results are apparent.  About two-thirds of Catholic married couples were still obedient to Catholic teaching on birth control a few years prior to Humanae Vitae, but probably only two percent are currently faithful to that teaching today.

3. In the right kind of NFP course, the call to generosity in having children needs to be strongly affirmed.  Marriage is for family.  Having more than two children is not just “nice.”  In most cases it is obligatory for the practical survival of the Church.  Priest friends who went to Ars for the Year of the Priest also went to Paris, and one of them observed that the Arab women were carrying babies while the westernized women were carrying briefcases.  One of those priests recently closed his Catholic parish school, and he sent a letter to his parishioners and his bishop stating clearly that the practice of contraception, including sterilization, was the root cause of the school closure.  Parish-supported schools need sufficient numbers of tuition-paying students to have teachers.

4.  In the right kind of NFP course, the language of serious reason (seriis causis in H.V. 10 and gravia in H.V. 16) needs to be used.  In English, the language of justae causae easily becomes “just ’cuz,” that is, “just because” we feel like it.  Recognizing that the use of justae causae, probabiles rationes, and justae rationes in section 16 seem to soften the language of seriis causis, I suggest, and have used for many years, the term “sufficiently serious reason.”  I can witness that for many NFP-user couples, the most difficult part of using systematic NFP is making the decision about another child.  This problem does not exist or is greatly reduced among couples who decide to use ecological breastfeeding as their exclusive or primary means of spacing babies.

5.  In the right kind of NFP course, the anti-contraception teaching of Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and the Letter to Families needs to be strongly affirmed.  Please note that in his 1994 Letter to Families Pope John Paul II did not suggest that ordinary couples study his massive Theology of the Body.  Instead he wrote: “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant. (12.12)” My wife and I have been teaching in our NFP instruction for forty years that “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.”  People of good will can and do grasp that simple statement almost intuitively.

6.  In the right kind of NFP course, ecological breastfeeding needs to be explained and encouraged during the preparation for marriage as part of a required NFP course.   God Himself made woman in such a way that frequent suckling by her baby at her breasts postpones the return of fertility for more than a year in most cases.  This is not an old wives tale.  We have done the research and have published the results.  Mothers who practice the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding experience an average of 14.5 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation).  That means that if they get pregnant during the first complete cycle, they will average about two years between childbirths.  Of course, an average is an average, and there is a range from very short to very long durations of amenorrhea.  Only seven percent experience less than six months of amenorrhea, and one-third were still in amenorrhea at 18 months.  About 70 percent experienced between 9 and 20 months of amenorrhea.  On the other hand, breastfeeding-in-general with its cultural components of pacifiers, bottles, babysitters, early introduction of other nourishment, and infrequent suckling episodes has almost no effect on the delay of fertility.  That is why we stress that the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding must be taught, as follows:
1. Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life.
2. Pacify your baby at your breasts.
3. Don’t use bottles and pacifiers.
4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
5. Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
6. Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules.
7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.

These are simple-to-grasp maternal behaviors, but they can be difficult to practice in certain cultural and socio-economic conditions.  Nevertheless, they need to be taught so that the couples can make a more fully informed decision about the form of baby care they will give their children.

7.  In the right kind of NFP course, all the common signs of fertility and infertility need to be taught.  God Himself made woman in such a way that she experiences a discharge of cervical mucus and physical changes in the cervix before ovulation and an elevated temperature pattern after ovulation.  All of them are important.  Couples must be given adequate information about all the signs so that they can make an adequately informed choice.

8.  The right kind of NFP course must teach explicitly against the sins of marital unchastity to which couples will be tempted during times of abstinence.  I refer specifically to masturbation, whether mutual or solitary, and to marital sodomy whether by oral or anal copulation.  Please bear in mind that oral-genital copulation during the fertile time has been recommended by a secular book on natural birth control.  Please also be aware that according to a survey of U.S. east coast teenagers, almost half had engaged in that perversity.  Since some of those same people may find themselves in a diocesan-sponsored NFP course, it is truly imperative that such courses teach the sinfulness of such activities.  People have witnessed to us that before they took our instruction, they were using their own form of “NFP” with mutual or solitary masturbation during the fertile time.  One couple who took an NFP course taught under Catholic auspices but with no mention of marital chastity practiced mutual masturbation for eight years before they read our book and changed.  It is easy to teach against withdrawal and condoms on the practical grounds of the risk of pregnancy, but only spiritual motivation will help the couple to avoid the other sins of unchastity.  I have been informed by a well placed source that most of the teachers in most of the NFP programs in the United States do not feel comfortable talking about these sins of marital unchastity.  These sins are definitely not my favorite subject either, but we can teach what needs to be taught in only a few lines of text, as one can see from our manual listed below.

9.  The right kind of NFP course must affirm the role of the Magisterium in teaching the truth and the need for Catholics to practice the obedience of the Lord in accepting the teaching of the Church on love, marriage, sexuality and responsible parenthood.  In some quarters, obedience is downplayed as if all we need is fertility awareness or as if obedience doesn’t apply to adults.  On the other hand, while the Lord Jesus practiced all the virtues, the only virtue of Jesus that is specifically mentioned in Sacred Scripture, to the best of my knowledge, is obedience.  Further, he showed us that obedience is not only applicable to dependent children but also to mature adults even at the price of life itself.

10.  The right kind of NFP instruction needs an adequate text that incorporates all of the factors listed above.  Our manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, was written to fulfill these requirements.  (part of letter, October 19, 2010)

John F. Kippley

The Seven Day Bible Rosary

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Every year we use the Nativity decade from The Seven Day Bible Rosary for the week of Christmas.  Here are some comments John received this year for this book.

The Seven Day Bible Rosary has brought such freshness and insight to my life.

The Scripture references that are applied to each station have been ideal for meditation and even useful in apologetics.

I lead the rosary at weekly Mass and The Seven Day Bible Rosary provides an incredible dynamic when reciting the Rosary, by painting a clear picture of the highlights of each mystery.

We have been praying The Seven Day Bible Rosary daily.  We love it! And it has transformed my life!

I enjoy using this book.  Most times I had problems with meditation until now.  Thank you.

From The Seven Day Bible Rosary…..Jesus is born in Bethlehem:  The angels announced the birth of the Savior as “good news of great joy.”  In taking on our human nature, God the Son poured himself out for us, and from this we learn that joy comes from the giving of self.  Another message of the angels is that joy comes from personal acceptance of Jesus as our Savior.  The proud can never experience this joy, for they refuse to admit their need for salvation; or they pursue a futile quest for joy in pleasures and possessions. We give thanks that the Son of God came to save us.

Our Father
1. [While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for the census,] the time came for her delivery.
Hail Mary
2. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.
Hail Mary
3. She laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
Hail Mary
4. There were shepherds in the same region, living in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Hail Mary
5. And behold, an angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of God shone round about them, and they were very much afraid.
Hail Mary
6. The angel said to them: “Do not be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people.
Hail Mary
7. “Today in the town of David there has been born to you a Savior who is Christ the Lord;
Hail Mary
8. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Hail Mary
9.  Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God,
Hail Mary
10. And saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will.”
Hail Mary
Glory be
Reference: Luke 2:1-14

The Seven Day Bible Rosary by John F. Kippley is available for $5; 3 for $12; 5 for $15 including shipping.  It is a great little gift and can be easily included in a card envelope for birthdays, confirmation, hospitality, ordinations, a special thanks, etc.

Pope Francis’ Best Answer for the Poor

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Pope Francis continues to draw the curiosity of the world’s elite and the poor alike.  Among orthodox Catholics there is even a bit of nostalgia as we think back to the early years of the pontificate of soon-to-be Saint Pope John Paul II.  I think it is fair to say that he made Humanae Vitae the focus of the first ten years of his pontificate.  This is pretty well documented in Chapter 7 of Sex and the Marriage Covenant from which I have lifted the following on page 148 of the 2005 edition:

“In his manner of speaking 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 (September 17, 1981);
•    denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is “equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation” (April 10, 1986);
•    it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion (June 5, 1987);
•    it is a “teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine” and “a truth which cannot be questioned” (March 14, 1988).

On the other hand, despite all of the reaffirmations by Pope John Paul II, the use of natural family planning continued to drop all throughout the Eighties, probably bottoming out in the Nineties, and still so very low that it can hardly get lower.  I mean, there are a certain number of people who simply “get it” and recognize that unnatural forms of birth control are truly “unnatural” and will not have anything to do with them.  A certain number of mothers similarly “get it” regarding ecological breastfeeding that some of them discover on their own simply because it is so natural.

Somehow or other, however, Pope John Paul II didn’t seem to get through to most of the bishops in North America and Europe that they need to take Humanae Vitae seriously and do everything within their power to teach it and provide the practical help to live it.  I do not know what effects his affirmations had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but I have never seen anything to indicate they were much better than the morally declining West.

So maybe Pope Francis has seen all of this and is looking for a different approach.  I found one sentence in his October 30th America interview to be intriguing.  It is preceded by these sentences:  “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.  The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”  Then he says: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Some have been disappointed in these few sentences, but I find a reason for hope in that last sentence.  Maybe he sees that the abortion and same-sex issues (and also the widespread sex-as-sport attitude with its ramifications in fornication, adultery, and prostitution) are not disjointed but all stem from the acceptance of marital contraception.

Just about 100 years ago Margaret Sanger began her very public campaign to legalize contraception.  Within a few years, she had influenced the progressives so much that they were spelling out the logical consequences of the contraceptive lifestyle, and it was widely practiced in the “Roaring Twenties.”  Secular humanist Walter Lippmann wrote in 1929 that they were following the logic of contraception but not the logic of human nature.

The baby born out-of-wedlock has two-strikes against him, and the likelihood of poverty is one of them. Perhaps Pope Francis will be the international leader who points out the connection between the acceptance of marital contraception and the whole unhappy rest of the sexual revolution — and that the poor are the ones who suffer the most from it.  Maybe he can be the one to lead the other ecclesial leaders to recognize that God does have a plan for love and sexuality starting with the basic fact that the marriage act ought to be a true  marriage act that reaffirms the faith and love and “for better and for worse” openness to life of the marriage covenant.

So please pray for Pope Francis.  He has a great opportunity.  And please pray for the continued efforts of NFP International.  Next year we will begin a transition process that will certainly need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so we ask your prayers.

We remain in the fight.  Please help us first of all with prayer for the NFPI apostolate.  Second, please help us financially as you see fit.  Every gift is important whether it’s $5 or $500 because every gift is a vote of confidence, and that’s something we need.

Third, please help us with your ideas.  What more can we do to get our message to those who need and are open to what we have to offer?   If there is something you think we should do and can do, please let us know.

Lastly, check out the NFP website blogs every week and share them as you can.

Your gift will be matched by a donor up to $10,000 total.  May God continue to bless you for whatever help you provide.

John F. Kippley
NFP International is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, and gifts are tax-deductible.