Natural Family Planning and Luke 11:46

October 16th, 2016

The Gospel reading for Wednesday, October 12, 2016, was Luke 11:46, and it reminded me why I became involved with teaching natural family planning.  In fact, if it were not for that verse, I might never have had the pleasure of knowing many of those who will read this blog.

It all started with the dissent from Humanae Vitae in the summer of 1968.  When I read the encyclical, I thought it was good, but it didn’t get me excited.  But when I read the dissent, I was appalled.  The dissenters leaned heavily on the majority report of the Papal Birth Control Commission which the Pope had received in 1966.  Briefly, its rationale for saying that the Church could and should approve of contraception was fatally flawed.  It could not say a firm NO to sodomy.

In that light, I thought that Pope Paul VI should have taken about one day to read and digest the reports and then one week to prepare a logical rejection.  Then he should have announced that the arguments used by the proponents of marital contraception could not say NO even to sodomy and were therefore completely unacceptable.  I thought he should have said that all speculation that the Church could change its teaching on these matters should cease, and I think he should have promised a more complete response in the near future.  But, unfortunately, he waited many months, and the proponents of contraception continued to prepare Catholics for the change they wanted and expected.

My response to this situation was to write a book that not only defended the teaching of Humanae Vitae with a positive, covenant understanding of the marriage act but also analyzed the arguments of the dissenters.  I found them worthless from the perspective of Christian discipleship.  Alba House published it as Covenant, Christ and Contraception in the spring of 1970.

Then, from somewhere in the depths of my memory the text of Luke 11:46 arose and confronted me.  “Woe also to you, scholars of the law!  You impose burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them..”  I had done my best to affirm what many were calling a great burden.  I don’t think I had previously given any thought to providing the practical help of NFP, but now I knew I had to do something.

Providentially, Sheila was already working on her book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and we had learned about the cross-checking sympto-thermal system from an article by Dr. Konald A. Prem.  We met with him in June of 1971, and that fall we founded the Couple to Couple League and began teaching.

We thought we were done teaching some 32 years later when we and the League separated in 2003, but the next year we saw CCL beginning to make significant changes.  Within a few years, they rejected all three of the founding charisms—ecological breastfeeding, the covenant theology of the marriage act, and Dr. Prem’s version of the STM.  That’s why we formed NFP International and continue with the original teachings on which CCL was founded.

If you have ever been helped by any of those founding charisms, please join me in thanking the Lord Jesus for teaching as he did in Luke 11:46.  And please help us to continue those teachings through the work of NFP International at

John F. Kippley, October 13, 2016

Natural Family Planning: “Sex and the Marriage Covenant”

October 9th, 2016

I wish I could say I enjoyed reading John Kippley’s book, Sex and the Marriage Covenant, the first time I read it.  Instead, I found it painful to read, because I became aware that I had not been following the teaching of the Church for at least ten years of my own marital life.  While we rejected artificial contraception after the second year of our marriage, I was not aware, or maybe I was culpably ignorant, that “withdrawal” was also considered an immoral practice.  This was a humbling, indeed humiliating discovery and it marked a turning point in my marriage.

It is depressing to report how the priest responded when I confessed these past sins.  He said: “So you want to take the high road?”

The discovery of the fullness of the Catholic teaching on sexual matters, I can honestly say, has increased the pleasure of marriage (which in our case has produced six children).  It has deepened the love between me and my wife.  Self restraint increased the pleasure of the marital act and it deepens love.  Kippley’s book can be summarized in a single word: rationality.

I have referred to Sex and the Marriage Covenant in my teaching and writing.  The author is learned, and his discussions of birth control in the New and Old Testaments are extremely valuable.  Moreover, the anecdotes he offers from his engagement with modern Catholic exegetes, who are not too supportive of the Church’s teaching, offer to me final proof that exegesis without presuppositions is an impossibility.  Modern exegetes simply ignore or misinterpret the Scriptural evidence for the immorality of contraception.

I strongly endorse this book and thank God for it. (Anonymous)

Natural Family Planning and Humanae Vitae

October 2nd, 2016
John’s response to a petition in support of Humanae Vitae:
John F. Kippley
Natural Family Planning International, Inc.
MA Theology, MAT Applied theology, MA Industrial Relations
Honorary Dr. of Ethics from Franciscan University of Steubenville, 2008
Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005)
I also want to register my disappointment that the practical support to live the teachings of Humanae Vitae referenced only the fertility awareness based methods (FABM) and made no mention of Ecological Breastfeeding.  It was the abandonment of breastfeeding in general and especially of the frequent suckling pattern of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding that led to the phenomenon of having two babies in 12 calendar months.  That in turn led to a sort of panic and resort to unnatural forms of birth control.  Every year new benefits of breastfeeding are published, but the Catholic Church is doing almost nothing to make ordinary Catholics, even those attending FABM classes, aware of these benefits.   That simply must change.
I also think that more attention should be paid the concept of the marriage act as a renewal of the marriage covenant.  It is my understanding that I am the first to introduce this concept in writing among Catholic writers (1967), and that gives it absolutely no theological legs, so to speak.  However, in his 1994 Letter to Families, St. John Paul II used this phrase, and that makes a difference.  It is terminology that he did not use in his magisterial Theology of the Body.
John F. Kippley