6. Natural Family Planning and Sex and the Marriage Covenant

In Familiaris Consortio Pope John Paul II has asked theologians to illustrate “ever more clearly the biblical foundations, the ethical grounds, and the personalist reasons” behind the teaching against marital contraception. Furthermore, he said, “Thus it will be possible, in the context of an organic exposition, to render the teaching of the Church on this fundamental question truly accessible to all people of good will” (emphasis added). I believe that “an organic exposition” means treating the morality of birth control in the context of other sexual behaviors such as fornication, adultery and sodomy.

The covenant theology of human sexuality is 1) almost identical to the papal “theology of the body” applied to the marriage act.  In addition, the covenant theology of sexuality fulfills the requirements for a useful theology as noted by the Pope (biblical, ethical, personalist).  In the rest of this chapter I will address each of these criteria plus several others that I think are necessary for a theology to be useful today. In short, I propose to show, very briefly in most cases, that the covenant theology of sexuality is 2) simple, 3) biblical, 4) ethical, 5) personalist, 6) theological, and 7) ecumenical. Furthermore, it lends itself to “an organic exposition,” and thus 8) it distinguishes between marital and non-marital sex. 9) It provides a key for understanding not only the evil of contraception but also the evil of adultery, fornication, sodomy and other sexual behaviors condemned as objectively sinful by the Catholic moral tradition. I believe that the covenant theology of sex is also 10) realistic. That is, it provides a terminology that avoids the sometimes-austere quality of previous theological terms, and it also avoids the subjective mushiness and inaccuracy of much of contemporary talk about sex, love and marriage. 11) It provides both a norm and an ideal.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant

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