Archive for the ‘Covenant Theology’ Category

Sex and the Marriage Covenant

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Sex and the Marriage Covenant
Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Fall 2006
Reviewed by Thomas P. Scheck, Ave Maria University

John Kippley has been courageously defending traditional Christian sexual ethics in a Roman Catholic context since 1963. In this second edition of his book, Kippley argues that since self-giving is the essence of marital love, contraception contradicts the very essence of the marriage covenant. What too many people are unaware of is the reality set forth in the opening statement of the book: “Up until 1930, Christian churches had been unanimous in teaching that it was immoral to use unnatural methods of birth control” (vii). The Church of England was the first to break with traditional teaching, and was followed by all Protestant denominations. The Catholic Church has never caved in to this departure from traditional sexual morality. After the Anglican innovation, Pope Pius XI reaffirmed the previously universal teaching against contraception in his encyclical Casti Connubii (1930). Paul VI did the same in Humanae Vitae (1968), and John Paul II in his persistent teaching. These popes were simply affirming what all Christian churches had previously believed and defended up to 1930: namely, that it goes against natural law to use contraceptive drugs, procedures and behaviors.

The present book is divided into five parts. In Part One: The Covenant Proposal, the author discusses the theological meaning of covenant and its implications for human sexuality. Here Kippley articulates and explains his thesis, that God intends sexual intercourse to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant. From this it follows that the marriage covenant provides the criterion to evaluate the morality of every sexual act. Kippley’s theological contribution here is creative, but not innovative; he is thought provoking, but not abrupt. However, in my view, Kippley seriously understates his own qualifications and stature as a Catholic theologian. No one who reads Kippley’s critique of the weak and intellectually bankrupt arguments used by dissenting theologians to defend contraception will gain any respect for their learning, in spite of their doctoral degrees. It is simply impossible for a reader of this book to conclude that Kippley is less academically qualified than revisionist scholars, still living in 1968, who want us to believe that the Popes of the Catholic Church have been theological dilettantes. Part Two: Conscience deals with fundamental aspects of forming a correct conscience and the question of infallibility. Part Three: Pastoral Considerations covers Natural Family Planning, practical pastoral policies, hard cases, and sterilization. Part Four: The Context of the Controversy discusses the history of birth control controversies in the 20th century and a critique of the arguments for contraception. Finally, Part Five: The Historical-Traditional Teaching lays out the biblical foundations and ecclesiastical documentation for Catholic sexual ethics. In brief, there is very little in this book that is not intensely relevant to anyone interested in marriage, sexuality and family issues.

My favorite anecdote in the book occurred in Kippley’s discussion of Genesis 38.10 and the account of Onan. The scriptural text says that Onan practiced withdrawal, spilling his seed on the ground, in order to prevent pregnancy from occurring. The Bible then states: “What he did was evil in the sight of the Lord, and [the Lord] slew him” (Gn 38.10). Until very recently in the history of biblical exegesis, an anti-contraceptive interpretation of this passage was universal. Both Catholic exegetes as well as the Protestant reformers, Luther and Calvin made this very clear. Luther went so far as to say that Onanism (contraceptive behavior) was “worse than Sodomy.” But in recent times, a “Levirate-only” interpretation of this passage has emerged, i.e. the view that Onan’s only sin was his failure to comply with his duty to raise up offspring for his deceased brother. Kippley endeavored to determine when the change in interpretation occurred. He reports that he consulted by phone a modern Scripture scholar and asked him when the anti-contraceptive interpretation was dropped from the discussion of Onan. The nameless scholar did not answer the question, but simply pontificated: “We just don’t do it that way anymore.” Kippley comments: “It would be hard to imagine a reply that gave more evidence that the Levirate-only interpretation is without merit, an interpretation of expediency” (p. 331).

To conclude this brief review, I will say that this book is exceptionally clearly written and easy to read. It is filled with information and documentation. This book should be required reading for Catholic (and Protestant) couples preparing for marriage. Indeed, I wish I had read this book fifteen years ago in my own pre-marital preparation. The back cover of Kippley’s book carries an endorsement by William E. May, one of the Catholic Church’s leading moral theologians, who calls it a “must read for anyone concerned with marriage, sexuality and the family.” It is also worth noting that Scott Hahn reports that his reading of the first edition of this book played a big role in his conversion to the Catholic position on the issue of contraception. That in itself is a significant legacy for Kippley’s book [Sex and the Marriage Covenant] and a strong recommendation.

The Covenant Theology of Marriage

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

My own remedy for a stop to abortion is ecclesial.  First, the titular leaders of the Catholic Church should stop being ashamed of its biblically-based teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control and against all forms of sexual intercourse outside of marriage.   They should have a campaign to educate and solicit cooperation from non-Catholic churches to spread the covenant theology of the marriage act.  Every sexual act ought be be exclusively a marriage act.  Within marriage, the marriage act ought to be a TRUE marriage act, a renewal of the faith and love and permanence of the marriage covenant, for better and for worse—including the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.

If this were taught loudly and widely to students beginning in their adolescence, they would see that there is real meaning in the human sexual act.  They would see that it is dishonest to engage in that act outside of marriage.  And they would also see that unnatural methods of birth control are essentially dishonest because the contradict the “for better and for worse” of the marriage covenant.

When the out-of-wedlock pregnancy rate drops to what it was in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised the issue of the black family that had an illegitimacy rate of 24%, eight times higher that the white rate of only 3%—when that happens, the repeal of Roe v Wade may be possible.  When the illegitimacy rate drops to what it was about 1940 or so when the black rate was lower than the white rate, then there would be no perceived “need” for abortion, and repeal of Roe v Wade would be certain, and state laws would become effective once again.  That, of course, would still leave New York, California, and Kansas with liberal abortion laws on the books, but those laws would soon be changed by a relatively chaste culture.

John Kippley
NFPI President and Volunteer

 

8. Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Conclusion
It is the task of anyone who hopes to shed light on a problem not to construct a theory to support his sympathies but rather to show by reason, example and analogy the inner unity of the entire Christian faith. Thus it is that this analogy between the Holy Communion of the Eucharist and the holy communion of married intercourse must reach its conclusion, namely, that in order for marital sexual intercourse to be a valid expression of marital love and thus a means toward growth in holiness, it must at least be free from abortive, sterilizing and contraceptive impediments to the transmission of life.

The comparison has been made that the two communions are similar because they are both the results of sacraments, both the result of sacrificial love, both an expression of bodily love, both a renewal of the covenant, both covenants sealed with a death to self.  Because of this, just as each reception of the Eucharist is in itself a sacred reality signifying complete acceptance of the covenant, likewise each act of married sexual love is a sacred reality. It entails a renewal of the marriage covenant, an acceptance of each other regardless of the circumstances, even if this renewal should lead to sickness or to poorness or even to death itself. That degree of self-giving is certainly going to require a supernatural faith, a deep and abiding realization that only he who loses his life for the sake of Christ will find it, and that he who seeks his life will lose it.

The Christian must come to realize that it is only through a constant, ever-increasing gift of himself to God and neighbor that he can arrive at the true development of himself.  The married couple must come to realize that their desire to increase their mutual love and self-development can be fulfilled only through the self-giving which they signified through their exchange of marriage promises.

In this manner, with every act of intercourse a renewal of the marriage covenant in which they pledged undying fidelity to each other regardless of the situation, the married couple enter into a truly holy communion, a true source of grace and the occasion of the fullness of married love.

[1] Pope Paul VI thoroughly rejected the totality thesis in Humanae Vitae. He concluded his argument against the “totality” argument in this way: “Consequently it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble of a fecund conjugal life” (n.14).

This full article is available at
http://www.nfpandmore.org/Holy%20Communion%20-%20Eucharistic%20and%20Marital.pdf with the introduction explaining why John wrote this article back in 1966.