Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Humanae Vitae, Father Maurizio Chiodi, and Natural Family Planning

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Almost a month after Fr. Maurizio Chiodi made a controversial presentation at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on December 14, reports reached the internet news media.  As I read the report on LifeSiteNews, I could not help but thinking, “It’s been 52 years but some things are unfortunately the same.”  In 1966, Father Jozef Fuchs, S.J. was a theologian at the Gregorian and was also a member of the papal birth control commission.  In the summer of 1966 I participated in a moral theology course taught by Father Fuchs at the University of San Francisco.  I asked a lot of questions in those classes attended mostly by clergy and religious.  At least one priest appreciated my efforts.  “John, you ask good questions.  Keep it up.”  Apparently Father Fuchs didn’t think so; the next summer he taught the same course but attendance was limited—no laity permitted.

Later that year Fr. Fuchs submitted the majority report which advocated that the Church should accept marital contraception.  Fortunately, they spelled out their reasons, and it was clear that the arguments used for the acceptance for marital contraception cannot say NO to sodomy whether within heterosexual marriage or by same-sex persons.  Five years later, Theological Studies, a generally liberal journal, published my article, “Continued Dissent: Is It Responsible Loyalty?” (March 1971) in which I showed that the decision-making principles of archdissenter Fr. Charles Curran could not say NO even to spouse-swapping.  No one accused me of creating a straw man.  The liberals have long known what is entailed in their acceptance of marital contraception.

Fr. Chiodi, who teaches moral theology at the Northern University in Milan, tries to make two points.  First, he asserts that there are “circumstances—I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8—that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.”  Amazing.  I thought he would go on to make a sympathy-earning case for a couple with a large family and for whom their particular method of systematic NFP was not “working,” or a couple who had an alleged irrepressible sexual attraction to each other during the fertile time, etc. etc.  But no.  Instead he posits a situation in which “responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”

This is an assertion, not an argument.  The situation he suggests is of the kind described in Humanae Vitae —a couple having “just reasons” for seeking to avoid pregnancy.  I grant there can be situations in which a couple decide that God is not calling them to have more children, but that in no way justifies falsifying the marriage act.  Instead, it provides a reason to practice fertility awareness and systematic natural family planning.  Unfortunately, Fr. Chiodi’s assertions sound like Fr. Jozef Fuchs revisited.

The second major point of his lecture seems to be made in this statement.  “My thought is to take up the anthropological meaning of the norm of Humanae Vitae…  it’s not a matter of abolishing the norm, but of demonstrating its meaning and truth.”  In the LifeSite commentary, Fr. Chiodi sees an anthropology of marriage built on “four fundamental aspects”: the relationship between sexuality and sexual difference; the relationship between human sexuality and the spousal covenant; the relationship between marital communion and generation; and the meaning of responsibility in generation.  In the LifeSiteNews  opinion, that probably means responsible parenthood.

In my opinion, the key item among the four is the second one—the relationship between human sexuality and the spousal covenant.  Here I want to interpret Fr. Chiodi as calling for more emphasis on the meaning of sexual intercourse.  I submit that there is covenantal meaning that God has built into human sexual intercourse.  What makes the human sexual act different from the sexual intercourse of high primates?  The distinctly human difference is that while animals can “have sex,” only human persons can engage in an act that is intended by Almighty God to be a renewal of the faith and love and commitment of their marriage covenant—and which the couple can consciously intend to be such a renewal.

This is illustrated in Sacred Scripture with its condemnation of a number of specific kinds of human sexual acts.  In alphabetical order, adultery, bestiality, contraception, fornication, incest, masturbation, prostitution, rape and sodomy are all condemned.  (I consider the Onan account to condemn both contraception and masturbation.)  Each of these has its specific evil or form of injustice.  But, what is most significant is what they all have in common—none of them is a true marriage act.  About each one of these behaviors, consequentialist questions have been raised.  For example, what’s wrong with adultery or any of the other forms of biblically condemned behaviors if both parties are okay with it and use efficient contraception when doing sex with heterosexual partners?  It is that sort of consequentialist thinking that has led to the current degraded societal sexual morality which has only two criteria—legal age and mutual acceptability.

I submit that the biblical condemnations plus almost 2000 years of Catholic teaching on these matters leads to the conclusion that in God’s plan, sexual intercourse is intended to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.  That means two things:  Sexual intercourse ought to be exclusively a marriage act.  Then, within marriage, the marriage act ought to be a true marriage act, one that affirms the love and faith and commitment of their marriage covenant, for better and for worse—including the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.  The body language of the contracepted marriage act says, however, “I take you for better but positively NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy.”  It pretends to be what it is not.  It is intrinsically dishonest.

Of great interest to those of us who teach natural family planning is Father Chiodi’s reference to contraception as technology.  Contraceptive behaviors have been with the human race since the beginning of recorded history with some records going back to 3000 BC.  Condoms and withdrawal have been used for centuries.  The development of latex condoms in the 19th century might be considered a form of “technology,” but I suspect that most moderns would think only of the modern developments as “technology.”

Modern technology would perhaps include tubal ligation and vasectomy, but more commonly it would refer to hormonal forms of birth control.  Here I do not use the word “contraception” because the hormonal methods of birth control are not just contraceptive but also have the abortifacient potential of denying implantation of the newly conceived baby.  The hormonal methods are also the ones that can cause blood clots and breast cancer and a whole list of other health problems.

If an atheist would talk about technological contraception without adequately treating of the serious problems with those technologies, that would be unethical.

If a Catholic moral theologian talks about technological contraception without adequately treating of the serious health problems with those technologies, that would also be unethical.  But if he should also say it might be “required” in some cases, that is so strange that it should be unthinkable.  The most charitable interpretation I can place on this is that such “moral theology” is missing one of the key elements of any bio-theology—the scientific facts.

Furthermore, anyone doing any form of moral theology dealing with human sexuality should be required to read Mary Eberstadt’s sociological gem, Adam and Eve after the Pill (Ignatius, 2012).  It is hard to understand how any informed moral theologian, having become aware of the negative sociological effects from the societal acceptance of contraception, could write as Father Chiodi has done.

John F. Kippley
January 11, 2018

Breastfeeding and Theology of the Body

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

What others are saying….

The Theology of the Body is most often applied to the relationship between man and woman, but it also applies in a special way to the nursing relationship between a mother and her baby.  Through the act of breastfeeding, a mother gives of her very self to her baby, giving not only food but love and comfort as well.  This giving relationship reflects the donative meaning of the body.  Our bodies make sense only in light of giving them and using them for others.  And a nursing mother constantly gives her body — her arms, her breasts, her eyes — to her baby.  She is rewarded when her baby begins to smile at her, caress her, and even kick with joy as she prepares to nurse him or her….
The delicate interplay of nutrition, love, and comfort involved when a mother nurses her baby can also provide the benefit of natural postpartum infertility.  There is a form of Natural Family Planning called Ecological Breastfeeding, or eco-breastfeeding.  Eco-breastfeeding is, in fact, the original form of NFP, which often kept the birth interval at 3-5 years in primitive societies.

Maureen Armendariz
NFPI Teacher
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A mother writes:  I read Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood about a year ago and it brought so much peace as it reaffirmed my beliefs about the importance of this bond. Lately I have been trying to research my vocation as wife and mother so that I can cooperate fully with God in my vocation.
I have been saddened by books by good Catholic authors, but they seem to be folks who have children sleeping through the night soon after birth, a modern common parenting theme. This seemed to influence their parenting advice which I didn’t feel fully comfortable with. In my continued research regarding my vocation I was excited to come across works on Theology of the Body and felt this should also be explored with regards to breastfeeding.
I began to read some articles on this theology and ran across a stumbling block that caused me to research more. But after tears and frantic research, I pulled out Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood again and here Sheila so eloquently put into words all that God had led my heart to in my search to resolve this issue. And it seems to boil down to this: that an interpretation of the Theology of the Body which is not applied to Ecological Breastfeeding is certainly incomplete.
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What every woman, man, and Catholic bishop and priest need to know about God’s plan for spacing babies.

Breastfeeding is God’s plan for the nurturing and nourishing the baby.

Breastfeeding protects the baby from certain diseases.  If baby gets sick, it is usually milder with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding protects the mother from certain diseases.

Mother and baby are one biological unit during pregnancy and also during breastfeeding.  Like pregnancy, the breastfeeding keeps the mother with her baby.

The Church promotes systematic NFP through its many programs.  The Church should also promote the natural spacing of births with ecological breastfeeding.  This is the preferred method for couples to space their babies.  Unlike systematic NFP, you do not need a serious reason to use this most natural family planning method which usually requires little or no abstinence.  It’s a win-win-win-win situation with so many benefits involved for the mother and baby, for society, and for the Church.  And it’s following God’s plan!  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get the message out there!
Sheila Kippley

 

 

 

7 Breastfeeding and Theology of the Body

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

. Both acts have two orders: the order of nature and the personal order. In Love and Responsibility, Pope John Paul II also speaks frequently of the marriage relationship. His discourse on the sexual relationship between husband and wife may also apply to the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child. The Pope discusses two orders involved in the sexual relationship: the natural order and the personal order. These two orders, he says, cannot be separated because “each depends upon the other.” The Pope says that the natural order in the sexual relationship has reproduction as its object. The same can be said about breastfeeding, which also has as its object the completion of the reproductive cycle.

Remember that the reproductive cycle ends with breastfeeding, not after childbirth, because the baby’s total dependence upon the mother’s body for protection and nutrition occurs both during pregnancy and during the early months of breastfeeding. In addition, reproduction depends upon the fertility-infertility cycle of the woman. The infertility of the woman during pregnancy continues during breastfeeding for months or a year or two.

The personal order of the sexual relationship between husband and wife has love as its object, and this love is expressed between the two persons involved. The same personal order also applies to breastfeeding. The personal order of the breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby has love as its object, and this love is expressed between the two persons involved.

Thus, the two orders — the natural order and the personal order — of the sexual relationship between man and woman are also present in the breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby. In God’s plan, both relationships have a natural order and a personal order that depend on each other; the objects of each order, for the marriage act and for the breastfeeding act, are reproduction and self-giving love.

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
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