Archive for 2015

5. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have a Right to Know

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

4.  The call to generosity in having children.  Systematic natural family planning is not “Catholic birth control.”  Please note that first word, “systematic.”  It is necessary to distinguish two entirely different forms of natural family planning.  The oldest is what we call “ecological breastfeeding,” and that form of NFP does not require any sort of justifying reasons.  Breastfeeding infertility is simply a very natural side effect of frequent suckling, and I will describe that later.

True systematic NFP is based on fertility awareness and chaste abstinence during the fertile time.  There are several signs of fertility and infertility.  What are frequently called different methods of NFP are simply different systems of using one or more fertility signs to designate the fertile and infertile times of the female fertility cycle.  The term “Systematic NFP” refers to the different systems of fertility awareness.

Humanae Vitae sections 10 and 16 make it clear that couples need a sufficiently serious reason to use systematic NFP to postpone pregnancy or to limit their family size.  In our NFP text we quote both sections, and we use the term “sufficiently serious” to combine their meanings.  We also quote directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches that spouses have the “duty to make certain that their desire [for spacing or avoidance] is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood” (CCC 2368).

Couples have a need and a right to know the actual teaching of the Church about the call to generosity and the need for a sufficiently serious reason to use systematic NFP.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —

4. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have a Right to Know

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

3.  Specific moral teaching that deals with the temptations to which abstaining couples are tempted.  In the context of chaste systematic Natural Family Planning, the method for avoiding pregnancy is chaste abstinence during the fertile time.  Experience indicates, however, that some couples practice fertility awareness with immoral fertile-time sexual actions such as masturbation and forms of sodomy.  For example, a woman called my NFP office and asked if we had a priest on staff.  Since we didn’t, she told me her story.  She and her husband had been doing mutual masturbation during the fertile time.  They had taken an NFP course in which nothing was said about these things.  They had been doing this for eight years, and then she read our book on natural family planning where she learned that the Church teaches that these things are immoral.  She wanted to go to confession by phone because she was so active in her parish that she knew the priest would recognize her voice.  She was happy to hear my advice to confess in another parish where she was not known.

In another case, an enthusiastic user of his own form of “NFP” was trying to persuade another man to practice “NFP” and told him that abstinence is no problem because you can just masturbate.  The other gentleman told him, “That’s immoral.”  The first man and his wife were self-taught using a book written by my wife and me, and they have written that they had “skipped the chapters on the moral aspect and what made NFP different from contraceptive methods.”  They repented and became NFP teachers.

In another case, an email letter informed me that the writer had just recently read our book on natural family planning and was surprised to find that the Church teaches that masturbation and other activities are immoral.  She said that she and her husband had taken an NFP course 23 years previously, never heard anything about such things, and had been practicing fertile-time immorality for that entire time.  They changed their behavior.

The problem is that many or most NFP programs say nothing about these specific immoral behaviors to which abstaining couples are tempted.  It is completely insufficient to instruct couples simply to avoid genital contact.  Experience shows that such a generality can be interpreted solely as a means to prevent the transmission of semen, but no one has ever become pregnant from oral-genital copulation.

The NFP course and text do not need to spend much time and space on this subject.  In our text, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach (NFPTCA), we quote section 14 of Humanae Vitae.  First, it condemns abortion.  Then it continues:  “Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.  Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

Our text then asks, “What are the other behaviors that seek to render procreation impossible?” We answer:
“ Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragm, foams, and jellies
The intrauterine device (IUD)
Hormonal forms of birth control (the Pill, Shot, Patch, implants)
Masturbation, whether mutual or singular
Withdrawal and ejaculation (Onanism)
Marital sodomy (anal sex and oral sex)” (Kippley and Kippley, NFPTCA, 18).

I use this quotation simply to illustrate that it does not take much space to convey this sort of teaching.  We do not harangue; we simply report.

Our text then asks, “Why do we mention masturbation and marital sodomy?”  We reply: “It’s because we listen and read.  People have told us [ as indicated above]…  We have read in the papers that in some parts of the United States about half of high school teenagers have experienced oral sex, that is, oral sodomy.  It take no genius to figure out that if they somehow attend an NFP course and hear ‘abstinence’ during the fertile time, they may start thinking in terms of their previous behavior unless they learn that it’s immoral.  Chaste abstinence is the pregnancy-avoiding ‘method’ of true systematic NFP.”  Couples have a God-given right to know specific sexual morality that applies to marriage.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —

3. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have a Right to Know

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

2.  A theology of the marriage act that supports Humanae Vitae In today’s context, it is obvious that couples need to hear that Christian marriage is permanent.  That means that they need to see marriage as part of the Divine Covenant, not just a contract that can be broken by mutual consent.  They should also realize that every one of their marriage acts ought to be a reminder of their marriage covenant.

Here I propose that it would be helpful for couples to learn and internalize a simple theological statement about the marriage act:  “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.”  St. Pope John Paul II used this covenant-renewal concept in his 1994 Letter to Families.  This covenant understanding gives positive meaning to Catholic biblical teaching about the marriage act.   It states first of all what sexual intercourse ought to be—exclusively a marriage act and then, within marriage, a renewal of their marriage covenant.  It also explains why the same anatomical act that is the serious matter of mortal sin outside of marriage can be a serious good within marriage.  Outside of marriage, there is no covenant commitment, and thus sexual union is essentially dishonest.  Within marriage, the marriage act can be and ought to be a true renewal of the faith, love and commitment of their wedding day promises even though some marriage acts are something less than that.

The covenant statement also invites an explanation of the Christian biblical covenant of marriage.  A covenant of God’s making.  A covenant that the Lord Jesus makes clear is binding until death.  A covenant of self-giving love.  All of this is important for engaged couples to understand.

The natural family planning course can affirm the unconditional character of the marriage covenant by pointing out that contraception contradicts instead of affirming the marriage covenant.  The marriage act ought to say, “I take you once again for better and for worse until death do us part.”  The body language of the contraceptive marriage act says instead, “I take you for better but definitely NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.”  It is essentially dishonest and thus immoral.  Couples have a need and a right to know these things.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —