Natural Family Planning: Should NFP Instruction Include Basic Sexual Morality

October 19th, 2014

Unchaste behaviors fly in the face of the spirit of practicing chaste NFP, and I make no claims as to the number of couples who practice “NFP” in this way.  It is one thing for a couple to come to an NFP course already motivated to live according to the norms of Catholic teaching.  It is quite something else for a couple to be in such a course solely for pragmatic reasons such as fear of the Pill.  And there is a third group—engaged couples who are there solely to satisfy a diocesan or parish requirement of pre-marriage instruction.  Some of these couples may have been practicing sodomy since high school.  After all, a survey of high school students a few years ago showed that more than half had already experienced “oral sex.”  It is quite probable that when they hear abstinence, they may be thinking sodomy.

My point is that all of these couples will benefit from hearing and seeing a clear statement of Catholic moral teaching that these behaviors are seriously immoral.  Some will just be reaffirmed and others will be challenged, especially if they have at least some desire to walk with the Lord Jesus.  So why not teach these things clearly to everyone in every NFP course?  It only takes a few lines of print and a couple of minutes to make such an affirmation.   Since we can assume that almost everyone today is aware of these perversities, we can also assume that some or many will interpret the omission of such teaching as tacit acceptance.

John F. Kippley


Natural Family Planning: Importance of Chastity

October 12th, 2014

Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday (August 31) by Fr. James Reidy:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross…Whoever lose his life for my sake will find it.

Dear Friends in Christ,

We see martyrs in these words of Jesus, those who take the cross and lose their lives for Him in the past and as now in our time in the persecutions perpetrated by Islam in Iraq and elsewhere. We also see ourselves in these words as taking up the cross and making the sacrifices we have to make in order to be faithful to the Lord each day in prayer, obedience, patience, and all the rest—there is much denying ourselves in this and in losing the sinful life we are prone to. In our reading from St. Paul today, we see one most particular way of carrying a cross and losing a life. It is when he says, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God” and then “Do not be conformed to this age.”

To offer our bodies to God means to be chaste, which in our language today means to offer our sexuality to God. To offer it is to control it so that it serves the purpose for which our Creator gave it. That might be an offering in the way of celibacy or virginity if that is God’s purpose for us, to forego marriage for the religious life or for the sake of serving God’s people in the priesthood. Otherwise in God’s plan, it is to offer sexuality to God for the purpose of married love and family.

It is a “living sacrifice,” St. Paul says, because in order to do this, we have to live in a sacrificial way, that is, by self-denial, by resisting what our fallen human nature is always pulling us toward—toward impurity which is the abuse of our sexuality. So Our Lord tells us about losing our life. That means losing the life that would go that sinful way rather than surrendering to His will in being chaste. This “living sacrifice” can seem like a martyrdom sometimes because it is losing a life that because of our fallen human nature we are so prone to.

So that’s the losing, but we do it with the assurance that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What life do we find? The one we truly want, our true life where we are at peace with God and our conscience and where we can be free to serve Him in the way of life He calls us to. It’s chastity for the sake of love; that is our principle. The Church is said to be against sex, to be so repressive. But the Church is all for sex in its true purpose of love in marriage and the bringing forth of new life. Chastity is not repressive; it is protective of a great and beautiful gift. And it means freedom. It frees us from vile habits and addictions like the addiction to pornography, frees us for love, and God, and heaven. The weight of chastity we bear, the saints say, is like the weight of feathers a bird carries—you wouldn’t want to free him up from all those feathers because then he couldn’t fly.

The cross of chastity is especially one for the young today, in this age that is awash with sex, when even the word chastity itself is hardly known; much less is the virtue held in any esteem. Impurity is now called being “sexually active,” and this is looked on as normal and all right so long as the proper precautions are taken. It must seem to us very apt to hear St. Paul in our reading today follow up his call to us to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” with these words: “Do not be conformed to this age”—our age. So it will be the cross of chastity for our young people, a saying no to all that is around them that is so blatantly contrary to purity and decency. And they will know that it is not a losing of anything but a false and unhappy kind of life and the finding and keeping of the life Jesus offers, the life of virtue, freedom, and real love. They know that it is chastity for something, for love and for marriage.

Then we have to consider chastity within marriage. This means two things. The first is the spouses being faithful in the marriage and making the sacrifices for love that this entails. And then chastity within marriage means being open to children. This is an offering of sexuality for the sake of love because it entails a total self-giving of the spouses and with that is a self-giving for the sake of new life. It is sexuality serving both the unitive purpose of marriage—the mutual love of the spouses—and the procreative purpose of this love. It is surely one plain meaning of “offering your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God” not to practice contraception which is a serious sin.

Any mention of this truth of marital chastity must include something about natural family planning. I quote the Catholic Catechism: “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observations and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and [make for] authentic freedom.” Freedom again—God’s will means freedom for us in this and every aspect of our life.

Finally now, how do we achieve it, chastity for love? Not be ourselves. We must be always looking to Our Lord who said “without me you can do nothing.” So with Him and only with Him are we capable of this living sacrifice. He said, “He who abides in me and I in him, he is the one who bears much fruit. For without me you can do nothing.” How do we abide with Him and in Him? It is a matter of faithful prayer each day and receiving the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. It is prayer to our Blessed Mother, our “Mother Most Chaste” as we say in the litany. Jesus promised us that His “yoke is easy and His burden light”—even this of chastity, because He is always with us saying to us as He did to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And with this virtue above all, we want to remember and rely on what St. Paul calls “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe.”

Offering our bodies as a sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, taking up the cross of chastity, and losing a life, the unhappy life prone to sin, to find our real life in the love of God that leads to eternal life—we plead to God for this. We ask for the grace of chastity in each of our individual lives and in every marriage. We pray with St. Augustine who fought so hard to attain this virtue, that beautiful prayer of surrender and trust: “You have commanded chastity, Lord. Grant what you command and command what you will.”



NFP: Effects of Breastfeeding and Non-Breastfeeding in a Community

October 5th, 2014

In going over my old files, I found one mother’s view as written to me in 1971.

“I happened to grow up in a small, rural Catholic community. I saw the first baby totally bottlefed when I was 14 years old. The custom was to nurse a baby for at least 16-18 months. When the parish held its centennial in the early 1950s, they set a lot of records: no divorces in 100 years, only one crime, vocations per family as high as any in the nation (one family had 3 priests and 4 nuns), strong tie between parents and children.

Today in the same town a totally bottlefed generation is making the scene. The change has produced drastic results. There is no longer the strong bond between parents and children. Over half of the young mothers work outside of the home. They appear to lack the strong maternal feelings of their own mothers who would never leave their babies with sitters. Today one doesn’t see many babies or smaller children at public functions like weddings, church functions, neighborhood gatherings like in the past. More and more they are confined to the home and the parents go out alone. Many parents throw their hands up in the air when talking of their teenage children. Drinking and reckless driving has gotten out of hand completely among their teens, they say. There hasn’t been a religious vocation in the last couple of years. On the surface this parish seems to be having more trouble than most with the children. I know there has been many changes in living to account for some of these troubles but I STILL wonder if the switch to bottlefeeding didn’t lay the ground work especially in the area of family unity? I forgot to mention that at one time breastfeeding was the only method of birth control. When bottlefeeding became popular more couples were reluctant to use rhythm; for a while some couples had a new baby every 11 months or babies very close — like 8 in 7 years. Once rhythm became popular and the ONLY alternative for these Catholics, the younger couples began to rebel (20 to 30 years of nothing but rhythm seemed ridiculous) so today they are switching to contraceptives.

I realize that in this day that breastfeeding alone isn’t the whole answer in controlling births, especially if a small family is desired. However, in talking with young Catholic students, I found them more receptive to the Church’s teaching on birth control when breastfeeding with its natural spacing factor was added to the list of Church approved methods. Most of them had no idea that breastfeeding had anything to do with infertility.

I realize that my views on breastfeeding are very subjective but I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak out and to work in this area. One might say I am angry for God’s glory.”

(PS: This mother had a brother-in-law who worked in Peru among the Indians. She said that the Indians there nursed for 3-4 years and the mothers didn’t offer any liquid from the cup. The children just imitate when ready. Also he said the missionaries and French nuns discouraged breastfeeding past one year because they felt the children should be more aggressive like American children. This mother has then wondered since then how much bottlefeeding and violence go together and has written letters requesting a study be done on sex offenders, drug addicts, hippies, etc. to find out how many were nursed for a year or longer. She uses a year as a starting point to eliminate all restricted forms of nursing.)