Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 63(3) August 2013

Humanae Vitae

From John F. Kippley, NFP International


Critics and supporters of Humanae Vitae may have something in their complaint that the encyclical seems a bit short in its explanation of "why" marital contraception is a grave moral evil. I have offered an explanation that some have found persuasive, namely, the renewal of the marriage covenant theology. In 17 words: Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.

Couple with childThat is, in God's plan for love, marriage, and sexuality, sexual intercourse is exclusively a marriage act. Within marriage it ought to affirm and renew, at least implicitly, the faith, love, and "for better and for worse" commitment of the spouses' original marriage covenant. Contraceptive behaviors, however, clearly say "I take you for better but positively NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy." Thus marital contraception contradicts the built-in meaning of the marriage act. It is dishonest and thus immoral.

The problem with Catholic teaching affirmed by Humanae Vitae is that it is fully Christian. It involves the daily cross of living the truth about love. Periodic abstinence involves the cross of sexual self-control. Unrestricted marriage acts will most likely bring the burden as well as the blessing of another child.

What has been largely missing from the discussion on conception regulation has been the role of breastfeeding in the natural spacing of children. My wife has written extensively on this, showing that women who follow the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding experience an average of 14.5 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea, with one-third still in amenorrhea at 18 months. In the last couple of months, an Irish mother has been writing weekly for The Open Door, about her experience with each of the Seven Standards. These are maternal behaviours that keep mother and baby together and assure frequent and unrestricted nursing.

Your correspondent was certainly correct in stating that, in effect, the modern sexual revolution can be dated to the acceptance of marital contraception by the Anglican bishops at Lambeth in August of 1930. Their conservative bishops claimed that the acceptance of contraception would lead to the acceptance of sodomy, and they were unfortunately correct but not heeded. Sexual immorality has been with us since the start of recorded history, but this was the first time that an organized Christian body accepted contraception as morally permissible.

Some of your readers might be interested in our website, at which a number of my articles are available.

John F. Kippley, NFP International