Archive for the ‘Marriage Covenant’ Category

Dissent from Humanae Vitae and the Sexual Scandals

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

I have been involved in the effort to uphold and explain Humanae Vitae for the last 50 years, and I am writing this to place the scandals of priestly sexual sins in context. Nothing of what follows should be seen as an effort to whitewash or downplay the evils that have been done. However, convicting ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and other clerics and putting them into solitary confinement for the rest of their lives will not solve the problem.

The problem is that for 50 years all too many in the leadership of the Church in North America and elsewhere have been silent about Humanae Vitae, the teaching document of Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the Traditional Christian teaching that using unnatural forms of birth control is the grave matter of mortal sin. They have also ignored the widespread dissent against this teaching, a dissent movement led by clergy.

What they were dissenting against was the key teaching of Humanae Vitae. “The Church…teaches that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life… That teaching…is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act; the unitive meaning and procreative meaning” (n 11 and 12).

Let’s put that into ordinary language.

Who put together in one act what we commonly “making love” and “making babies”?
Those who believe in the Creator God have to say, “God Himself put together in one act what we commonly call ‘making love’ and ‘making babies’.”

What are contraceptive behaviors except the effort to take apart what God Himself has put together? That, of course, is precisely what contraception is all about.

Now, note four things very well. 1) The last 50 years of dissent have been based on the unprovable assertion that modern man can take apart what God Himself has put together in the marriage act; in the wider culture, this has been expanded to the acceptance of any imaginable sexual act between two persons who give mutual consent and are of legal age.

2) That assertion cannot be limited logically to unnatural forms of birth control. If married heterosexuals can tell themselves that they can ignore some 3,000 years of biblical teaching against contraception, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that those with same-sex attraction can tell themselves the same thing with regard to the biblical teaching against sodomy.

3) This was pointed out when there was discussion in the papal birth control commission about these matters in 1966, but the pro-contraception group said that they did not accept sodomy. I take them at their word, but that was only their personal preference, not the logic of their argument.

4) What was their argument for accepting marital contraception? They said that contraceptive acts should be judged by the fruitfulness of the marriage as a whole. That was called the principle of totality; it was a big-picture morality that initially looks attractive—until you think about it. That would also be attractive to a person tempted to engage in adultery who could try to rationalize that the immorality of those acts is covered by the big picture of his or her fidelity the rest of the time. And certainly a cleric could try to rationalize sexual sins as covered by his fidelity to his vocation the rest of the time.

Pope Paul VI contradicted that big-picture morality by teaching, as we have seen, that each and every marriage act must be left open to the transmission of life. He responded further to the big-picture morality as follows: “Consequently, it is an error to think that a marriage act which is deliberately made sterile and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble [totality] of a fertile married life” (n.14).

Note that phrase, “intrinsically dishonest.” Blessed Pope Paul VI could have said “intrinsically evil” but he chose to use “dishonest.” That implies that there is an “honest” marriage act, one that is true to its God-given meaning. And there is. From sacred scripture and Tradition we can summarize it in 17 words.

“Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be, at least implicitly, a renewal of the marriage covenant.”

That is, the human sexual act can be morally good only within marriage. Within marriage, it ought to be a renewal of the fidelity and love and affection and commitment of their marriage covenant. It ought to say, “We take each other once again for better and for worse including the imagined ‘worse’ of an unintended pregnancy.” The contraceptive marriage act says, on the other hand, “We take each other for better but NOT for the imagined ‘worse’ of possible pregnancy.” Such acts contradict the marriage covenant. They are intrinsically dishonest.

Do our individual or married actions affect anyone except ourselves? Do they affect the Church as a whole? Yes. St. Paul puts it this way as he describes the various members of the body of Christ: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is called the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. If you and I are living in the state of grace and do good things by way of prayer and helping the less fortunate, we are helping to build up the body of the Church beyond those immediately affected by our good works. It’s a spiritual thing that helps everybody a little bit. On the other hand by our sins, we hurt everybody a little bit.

Surveys show that a huge majority of Catholics in their fertile years are using unnatural forms of birth control. I think this has a negative effect on the Mystical Body of Christ and makes fidelity even more difficult for many priests. I think it has helped some of them to fall. So if you or I point a finger at a fallen priest, it is good to remember that three fingers are pointing at ourselves.

The time has come for all Catholics to accept and to live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae. This applies to all Christians. After all, Humanae Vitae simply reaffirmed what all the Protestant churches taught before August of 1930. Need help? Come to Natural Family Planning International at www.nfpandmore.org. You and your friends and relatives can take the NFPI Home Study Course at your own home and pace.
John F. Kippley

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