Archive for January, 2019

Natural Family Planning: Mucus-only Systems

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Recently I saw a blog that raised my concerns about mucus-only systems.  First, some background.  The late Fr. Paul Marx OSB conducted an NFP symposium every summer in the Seventies.  I attended these from 1971 through 1978 and heard Dr. John Billings give his talk each year.  He was such a convincing speaker that he would leave me wondering why we taught the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal system.  That question evaporated when I realized that there was at that conference another meeting to which I was not invited.  The Ovulation Method (OM) teachers would get together to discuss real-life situations.  They were finding that in real life things were not as simple as in the talks by Dr. Billings.  The temperature sign can be a  tremendous help and especially when the mucus signs are ambiguous or difficult to interpret.  By the way, Fr. Paul Marx was a supporter of NFP International.

At the talks by Dr. Billings, I heard him say two things that are troubling to this day.  In one talk he explained why he and his associates had dropped the temperature sign.  He said it was too easy.  It was so easy to use and interpret the temperatures that their Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) users were getting sloppy with their mucus observations.  Thus, his method systematically deprives his mucus-only users of the very-easy-to-use temperature sign.  Our answer to this problem is to point out that each sign is very important, especially in some situations.  If a couple decides to use only one sign, that’s their business, but we strive to give them the freedom to choose.  I strongly object to the deliberate withholding of this information, the deliberate reduction of couples’ freedom to make informed choices.

I also heard Dr. Billings explain that his system does not teach the teachings of the Church regarding birth control.  He used the word “crutch” in saying that his method stands on its own merits as a method of birth control and does not need the “crutch” of religion.  The Hilgers system likewise advertises that it is open to people of all faiths.  He certainly doesn’t encourage any immoral behaviors, but his system does not explicitly teach Catholic teaching on unnatural forms of birth control.  A Hilgers user-couple once told us that such a lack of specific teaching led them to practice masturbation during the fertile time until they somehow got our materials.  In our manual’s witness chapter, one gentleman says he and his spouse used our 1996 manual for self-instruction but skipped the sections on morality and resorted to masturbation during the fertile time. They finally read those sections and repented.  I am sure that these cases are not at all exceptional.  In the mid-Seventies, a secular fertility-awareness book openly recommended oral sodomy although it condemned anal sodomy on grounds of being unsanitary.  I think it is imperative to state the specific unnatural forms of birth control.

Perhaps when the Billings dropped the teaching of morality, there were no immediate bad consequences because the users were made very much aware of the fullness of Catholic teaching by their Catholic education and parish priests.  Certainly that cannot be counted on today.

I am more convinced than ever that it is imperative to teach the covenant theology of the marriage act simply because it is so easy to grasp.  It also makes it very easy to understand the dishonesty of “marriage acts” outside of marriage.

Lastly, the Billings method of birth control is not as effective as it is sometimes claimed to be.  Right after Humanae Vitae, the U.S. bishops founded the Human Life Foundation to assist couples to live the teaching of the encyclical.  The Foundation persuaded the NIH to conduct an impartial study to determine the relative effectiveness of the STM and the OM.  It was published in 1981, stating that there were approximately twice as many surprise pregnancies in the OM group.  Drs. Billings and Hilgers criticized it at length even though they had been consultants to the study.  For example, they found fault with the study’s inclusion of unmarried couples.  Does anyone have good reason to think that unmarried couples are less motivated to avoid pregnancy than married couples? The bottom line is that the US Bishops through their Human Life Foundation sponsored a study which gave the above results, but many or most dioceses have ignored those results. In other words, while the OM may be very good, the comparative study showed that it is second best.

Couples have a right to know all the common signs of fertility, ecological breastfeeding, and the covenant theology of the marriage act.

For readers interested in what we teach at NFP International, go to and purchase Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.

John F. Kippley


Those First 3 Years Are Really Crucial

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

The book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters by Erica Komisar (Penguin Random House, 2017) is an informative book for every mother to read. Whether you are a stay-at-home mother or work part-time or full-time as a mother, this book stresses the importance of prioritizing those first 3 years for every child you may have.  Mothers in any of those situations I listed in the first sentence can neglect their young one.   The author works with mothers who have troubled children, and she offers excellent advice for being a better mother.  I would encourage new parents or parent-to-be to read this book.  If you can’t afford it, ask your local public library to stock it.

I don’t agree with everything she says, especially her sleep advice.  However, she offers ways to show an interest in your child.  If you get a nanny, she has a list of questions that a mother should consider asking during an interview.  She describes how mothers have improved their relationship with a troubled child.

Today it is difficult, almost impossible, to find a book emphasizing how important the mother’s presence  is for her child’s healthy development.  It is not the father’s presence that’s needed.  It’s the mother’s presence and her involvement and care for her baby or little one that is much needed.

The research supports the fact that problems with children “are often related to the premature separation of children from their mothers.”   The research, the statistical evidence, and the case experiences by her and her colleagues make a “strong argument that as a society we are failing our children.”

One sentence I highlighted in her book is the following:  “For the past thirty years, researchers have been studying mothers and children across different cultures, and their findings have confirmed what I and my fellow psychoanalysts and therapists have seen in our practices: that infants and toddlers who have the constant and consistent presence of an attentive and sensitive mother are more likely to be emotionally and psychologically healthy children and adolescents.”

Sheila:   Ecological breastfeeding provides the presence of an attentive and sensitive mother for a considerable amount of time after childbirth.  God’s plan of breastfeeding is not limited to the first 6 months.  His plan can last for at least two years and two years of breastfeeding has been promoted by St. John Paul II, UNICEF and WHO.  God’s plan of breastfeeding offers long-term health and emotional benefits to both mother and baby.  More information on the crucial first 3 years is available at NFPI.


The Importance of the First Three Years

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

In 1994 Sister Maria Corazon Cruz Gonzales, E.m.m. wrote “Caring for and Educating a Child from Conception to Three Years Old in the Teachings of the Church.”  This is her doctoral dissertation at the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family.  I want to quote a few sentences from her paper.

“Each newborn infant carries within himself life’s greatest promise: a new hope for the world.  For each tiny baby has the potential to love and be loved, to value himself yet care for others, to develop his unique abilities and talents and one day become a human being who can help change the world—for the better!”

“Love prevails as the vehicle in the development of the child’s sense of trust in others and in himself, an essential in the growth process to produce emotionally stable individuals.”

“The power of love is so strong in the early years of a child’s life that it can make sick babies well, as its absence can make well babies sick.”

In 1991, the Bishops in the Philippines stated “the Christian family is the first school of discipleship and evangelization where the father and the mother are the first catechists of the children.”

And in 1981 when visiting the Philippines, Pope John Paul II taught that the family is the first seminary.  “The family is the ‘Premium Seminarium,’ the first seminary where the faith is nourished and priestly religious and missionary vocations have their origin.  The family has a special charism for transmitting the Faith…”

(Sheila: The power of love and the wellness described above is easily achieved naturally with the oneness of mother and baby with breastfeeding.)