Natural Family Planning and Humanae Vitae: Part 2

January 15th, 2017

Some of the stuff that happened in the summer and fall of 1968 was just ridiculous.  We were living in Regina, Saskatchewan, and I was selected to present the pro-HV side of a debate about Humanae Vitae.  The organizers couldn’t find a priest in the area willing to publicly support the encyclical!  My opponent’s argument was that she was a loving person by nature and therefore her acts were acts of love.  It was immediately clear to me that she was claiming a divine attribute.  There are, after all, only three persons in this universe who are loving by nature, and their names are Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Out of false kindness, I refrained from pointing out the absurdity of her claim, and I have regretted it ever since.

At any rate, I wrote a book to defend the teaching and to show the errors of the dissenters. (Now expanded as Sex and the Marriage Covenant, 2005.)  When it was published in early 1970, from somewhere in the depths of memory, the words of Jesus in Luke 11:46 hit me very hard.  Jesus was criticizing the doctors of the Law for laying burdens on men’s backs but not doing anything to lift the burden.  I had done my best to affirm what so many were calling a huge burden, so what was I going to do to help lift the burden?

In 1970, my wife had already researched and published a book titled Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing.  So we knew that the right pattern of breastfeeding could space babies, but there was a lot that we didn’t know as well, so she surveyed breastfeeding mothers and published the results in a nursing journal in 1972 (at website).   Her research showed that mothers who followed the pattern of frequent nursing that we call Ecological Breastfeeding experience, on average, their first postpartum period between 14 and 15 months postpartum.  At the same time we became aware of the calendar-temperature system as presented by Dr. Konald A. Prem, then a full professor of OB and Gyn at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  We met with him and started an organization to provide a three-fold support:  Ecological Breastfeeding, the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal Method of natural family planning (NFP), and a theology based on the marriage covenant.  We call this the Triple Strand approach to NFP.  How I wish that you and your spouse had been able to have this sort of support.  How much I wish I had been able to offer this support when I was a lay evangelist at St. Clare’s.

John Kippley’s letter continues next week.  Thanks for reading and please come back.

Natural Family Planning and Humanae Vitae: Part 1

January 8th, 2017

John’s recent letter to a man who does not accept Humanae Vitae follows.  The letter (November 2016) will appear in 4 parts.
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Thanks for including me among the recipients of your letter to signers of a letter of support for Humanae Vitae.  As I read your background, I was struck by how much we have in common.  Born also in 1930, I earned my BA in philosophy in 1952 and stayed in the seminary for one year of theology.  Then I did a drafted stint in the Army, having a great time, especially at Fr. Lewis.  Did an MA in Industrial Relations and kicked around the business world for a few years before getting back to theology.  While working as a lay evangelist in Santa Clara and East Palo Alto starting in 1963, I listened to a talk by Michael Novak one Saturday morning in a church in Palo Alto where he was working on his Ph.D at Stanford.  I found his approach so unacceptable that I wrote my first article in support of the received tradition; it was published exactly 15 months to the day before Humanae Vitae—“Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital.”

The only surprising thing about that encyclical was that Pope Paul VI failed to mention the acceptance of sodomy in section 17 when he correctly prophesied a number of negative effects following the widespread acceptance of marital contraception.

I also share your frustration with the bishops as a whole.  You criticize them for supporting Humanae Vitae; my criticism is that as a whole they do not take it seriously enough and certainly do not do enough to provide the right kind of support, both practical and theological.

I appreciate your personal situation perhaps more than you might have guessed before sending me your letter.  I recall a young mother of a relatively large family.  She was only 30 and had obvious varicose veins.  She wondered what they could do about birth spacing and/or limitation.  At that point, I didn’t know much about natural family planning, only that our landlord had told me that he and his wife had practiced the OK (Ogino Knaus) method with 100% success during their fertile years in the Thirties, having only three children.  But I didn’t know about the calendar-temperature system that was highly effective but rarely known.  I mumbled something about calendar rhythm but was unable to provide practical help.

Where we separate in our thinking has to do with matters of truth and practical help.  For me, the big question about Humanae Vitae when it was issued was, “Is it true?” That leads to questions about why we should believe it is true.  In turn, that leads to questions about the credibility of the arguments of those who argued for the acceptance of marital contraception.  I read those arguments, and they have nothing to do with Christian discipleship.  They are essentially utilitarian.  The so-called Majority Report certainly can’t say NO to sodomy.  In fact, as I read their report, I thought Pope Paul VI should have taken about one week to digest it, then waited one more week to cool down, and then he should have announced to the world that the reasoning of the pro-contraceptive side in accepting contraception also logically accepted any other sort of sexual union that was a matter of mutual consent.

John Kippley’s letter continues next week.  Thanks for reading and please come back.

Catholic Nursing Mothers League: Breastfeeding Support

January 1st, 2017

The Catholic Nursing Mothers League is a much needed ministry nowadays when careers are often glorified as more important than motherhood, and formula feeding is sometimes seen as equivalent to breastfeeding.  Because society sends mixed messages and even family members are sometimes not as supportive as they should be, nursing moms need a place to go for support.  One way to meet this need is to have smaller support groups within a faith community; that is why the Catholic Nursing Mothers League (CNML) exists.

The CNML ministry provides emotional and spiritual support and good breastfeeding resources and information to nursing moms within the context of the Catholic faith.  The especially nice part of a CNML meeting is that prayer is not only allowed but encouraged.  Also, natural family planning, sacramental preparation for children, and spiritual growth for moms among others are regular topics of discussion.  Although many secular breastfeeding support groups give great breastfeeding information, prayer and faith related topics are often taboo, and also many immoral topics are readily discussed nonchalantly.  The currently 15 and growing number of Catholic Nursing Mother League groups around the country not only provide trustworthy breastfeeding information, but they also help Catholic moms grow in their faith – a winning combination!

Any interested  mother  who wants to start a CNML chapter in her parish, can contact CMNL or get more information via the CNML’s email,  catholicbreastfeeding@yahoo.com.

Sheila Kippley