Natural Family Planning: The Relative Merits of Old and New

After dinging the former CCL program in its December efforts to promote its new program, CCL issued a more kindly treatment of the traditional program in January.  “Since the old program served us faithfully and well for more than 30 years,” CCL teachers should be “thoughtful” when they discuss “the relative merits of the old course versus the new.”  Should some CCL teachers venture to this blogsite, here is my effort to be thoughtful on this subject.  Since the former course was built on the foundation of the Triple Strand approach, my comparison in this comment will focus on those changes.  Since “old” and “new” have connotations, I will use “Kippley-Prem” to designate what we founded and “The New CCL” to designate the program developed under the new CCL management.

Ecological breastfeeding
Kippley-Prem.  Ecological breastfeeding is an important part of the NFP program.  Ecological breastfeeding IS a form of natural family planning.  With its Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, it is the only form of breastfeeding that provides breastfeeding’s natural, extended infertility.  Its baby-spacing effect is the only reason it belongs in an NFP course.  The promotion and teaching of ecological breastfeeding distinguishes the Kippley-Prem approach from all the other NFP programs.  It continues to play an important part in the teaching program of NFP International. 
The New CCL.  The term “ecological breastfeeding” has been dropped entirely.  In their program it is NOT a form of natural family planning.  Breastfeeding is taught solely for its health benefits.  Mention is made of “exclusive breastfeeding” for the first six months in the Student Guide, but its description is seriously erroneous because it fails to state that the infertility of exclusive breastfeeding during those first six months can be assumed only as long as the mother is in amenorrhea.  Aside from that mistake, this approach makes CCL basically the same on breastfeeding as the other NFP programs. 

The covenant theology of human sexuality
.  The covenant theology can be stated simply and briefly.  “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.”  I first put that concept into writing in 1967 and incorporated it into a short book published in 1970.  That publication was a principal reason why I co-founded CCL as a means 1) to provide practical help to live out the Church’s teaching that I had tried to defend and explain in that book and 2) to provide that explanation and support for Humanae Vitae.  Sometime in the early Eighties, the 1981 edition of the 1970 book found its way into the hands of Scott and Kimberly Hahn who credit it for helping them to accept Catholic teaching on birth control while they were still Protestants (and he was a strongly anti-Catholic Presbyterian at the time.) 
     We used that concept in the NFP course to help couples understand Catholic teaching against marital contraception.  The idea that the marriage act ought to be a renewal of the marriage covenant was never in writing before 1967, so I am told by well read people.  It is now common.  The concept is perfectly compatible with the “Theology of the Body” of Pope John Paul II.  In 1994 the Pope incorporated this concept into his Letter to Families (n.12).  In 2006 Tracy Jamison, PhD, in an article published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, showed how the covenant theology is perfectly compatible with the papal TOB.  (This article is available at our website.)  The covenant theology is readily internalized by people of good will; ordinary people “get it” easily. 
The New CCL.  The covenant theology has been completely dropped.  In 2006 CCL Board member Fr. Richard Hogan publicly dissed and dismissed the covenant theology as deductive, objective, and principled; he did this twice, once on EWTN and once in the National Catholic Register.  He failed to respond to my requests for an explanation of what he means.
     On the other hand, a priest who earned his doctorate in Rome wrote my wife as follows: “Thank God that you are being true to the charisms of your founding which are to bring couples into God’s plan and providence through the use of God-given reason and faith.  May God Bless your endeavors with the Catholic nursing mothers and international natural family planning. I saw an article summarizing John’s marriage covenant theology, and it is about time it received more attention.  As you know, at the time I was a consultor to Bishop Myers in Peoria I recommended every seminarian read the book [Sex and the Marriage Covenant], and Myers gave copies to them to read so that as future parish priests they would appreciate Holy Matrimony. It is signficant that John was ahead or at least in line with two other major theologians of our time — John Paul II on the theology of the body, and Scott Hahn on the theology of the covenant – and that John has synthetically brought these two lines of doctrine together and in his application of them to the sacraments of Holy Matrimony and its relation to the Holy Eucharist.  As I told John, this is one of the major developments of the theology of Matrimony in the history of theology.”

The systematic method taught
Kippley-Prem.   A choice-oriented system that gives the couple freedom to choose different morally acceptable systems and rules.  Recognizes different situations and uses four different Sympto-Thermal Rules to arrive at both the most conservative rule and also the earliest indication of Phase 3 in accord with the available evidence.  We do not like advising couples to “wait another day” when it is not necessary because waiting another day can mean waiting another week when one of the spouses travels.  Also teaches single-sign systems and rules including one rule for coming off the birth control pill. 
The New CCL.  Claims to be a simplified system that teaches only one rule.  That rule, however, doesn’t cover everything so it becomes in fact three rules, depending on the situation.  Also teaches three different rules for coming off hormonal birth control.  Proponents acknowledge that sometimes their rule delays the start of Phase 3 by at least one day.  Doesn’t it bother them to advise “wait another day” even though experienced teachers know that the traditional rules would give them less abstinence?   In addition, CCL dropped two fertility signs in their regular class teaching.

There are a number of other changes of which some are more important than others and most of which can be called the bath water.  The bottom line is that the EXTREME MAKEOVER has thrown out the baby with the bath water.  The core elements on which we founded CCL and that made CCL what it was for 36 years have been deleted.  The new CCL program is a substantially different program.  That is, the substance has been changed.  This is not the column in which to argue which program is better.  My primary point is simply that interested parties need to recognize that the three core elements of the CCL teaching program are no longer there.  The EXTREME MAKEOVER is truly extreme.   It is radically different from the program that “served us faithfully and well for more than 30 years.”
NEXT WEEK:  More on CCL’s Extreme Makeover. 

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius)
Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book, online at

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