Archive for the ‘Covenant Theology’ Category

Natural Family Planning: “Sex and the Marriage Covenant”

Sunday, 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 the Marriage Covenant

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

The Covenant Theology of Marriage.  In the fall of 1981, I gave a copy of the revised title, Birth Control and the Marriage Covenant, to Pope John Paul II and to others in the Vatican, including then-Monsignor Carlo Caffara at the John Paul II Institute. Msgr. Caffara and I discussed the covenant theology, and he seemed genuinely interested.

Sometime in the mid-Eighties, the Hahns read the book and credit it for helping them to accept Catholic teaching on birth control when they were still Protestants. It was the concept of the renewal of the marriage covenant and its connection with the reception of Holy Communion that was decisive for Scott; I don’t know about Kimberly, but she read the book and accepted the teaching before he did.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II incorporated the renewal of the marriage covenant concept into his Letter to Families. “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant” (n. 12, para. 12, his emphasis). That concept was not in his Theology of the Body concluded ten years previously.

Christopher West expounds considerably on the Theology of the Body (TOB). When we heard his lectures here in Cincinnati some years ago, he concluded his replies to questions by saying, “Just remember, the marriage act ought to be a renewal of your wedding vows.” Again, the “renewal of the marriage vows or marriage covenant” does not appear in the text of Pope John Paul II in the TOB. Despite that, West has found that this very brief statement of the covenant theology of the marriage act is an excellent way to summarize the teaching of the TOB.

For all of the above reasons, I think the covenant theology of the marriage act is helpful and should not be discarded. I think it ought to be included in every NFP program as well as in other marriage classes.

Next week: Ecological Breastfeeding

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant



Natural Family Planning and the Covenant Theology

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

The covenant theology of the marriage act. The covenant theology of the marriage act can be stated in 17 words. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.”

Why do we teach this? It’s short enough that almost everyone can remember it. It lends itself to explaining and upholding much of the Judeo-Christian Tradition on love, marriage and sexuality. Upon learning it, many of our contemporaries say, “That makes sense. Why haven’t I heard that before?” It’s simple and eminently understandable.

Where did we get this idea? I think the idea is too good to have come just from my imagination. I am too ordinary and spiritually grubby to think that idea is anything but a gift of the Holy Spirit. During the mid-Sixties, I was a parish lay evangelist in Santa Clara CA conducting an Inquiry Forum in the years before the RCIA program. I was using the vomitorium analogy to explain the evil of contraception, but the liberals were trashing that idea. I wasn’t looking for an argument with them; I was simply trying to uphold the received teaching, so I looked for something else. Somehow, I don’t really know how, I started using the built-in meaning of the marriage act.

One Saturday morning early in 1966 I listened to Michael Novak give a talk at a parish in Palo Alto. It seemed to me that he was undermining the received teaching, and I came home truly angry in the good sense of that term. The anger gave me the energy to write “Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital” in the rest of that weekend. It was published in Ave Maria magazine on February 25, 1967, seventeen months to the day before Humanae Vitae.

Immediately after Humanae Vitae, I wrote a book to uphold its teaching. When Covenant, Christ and Contraception was published in the spring of 1970, I was suddenly hit by the memory of the words of Jesus to the teachers of the Law in Luke 11:46. “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” That laid a guilt trip on me: I had done my best to affirm what many were calling a burden so I had to do what I could to provide practical help to live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae. That led my wife and me to teach natural family planning in the fall of 1971 as part of my parish lay-evangelism efforts.

Next week: The views of others on the marriage covenant

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant