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IS NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING A 'HERESY'? (Trads, please take note)

Posted on 07/04/2004 9:29:46 AM PDT by Polycarp IV


by Brian W. Harrison

When we hear the Church's teaching on the transmission of human life coming under attack, the attackers are usually those who want to justify contraceptive practices. They denounce especially the alleged "rigorism" or "obscurantism" of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who have continued to insist, like all their predecessors in the See of Peter, that it is always gravely sinful for spouses to manipulate, pervert or interfere with the conjugal act in such a way as to impede the possibility of procreation.

However, in recent times there has also been a growing tendency among some traditionalist Catholics to attack the encyclicals of the above Popes from the opposite direction. There are now quite a few magazine articles, booklets, and websites which loudly complain that recent papal teaching on this subject is not too severe or rigoristic, but too lax and permissive. They denounce Paul VI and John Paul II and "the post-conciliar Church" for explicitly permitting and encouraging those procedures now known generically as 'periodic continence' or Natural Family Planning (NFP). As is well known, these expressions refer to the identification and exclusive use of the naturally infertile period of the wife's cycle for having conjugal relations, in circumstances where a married couple has sufficiently serious reasons for wanting to avoid the conception of a new child. Ironically, such traditionalists often join forces with those at the opposite end of the theological spectrum – the liberal 'Catholic' dissenters – in claiming that there is no moral difference between NFP and the use of condoms, pills and other contraceptives. Using the self-same epithet employed by many of their liberal arch-enemies, they refer sarcastically to NFP as "Catholic contraception", claiming that if the Church were logically consistent she would either allow all methods of birth regulation (the liberal proposal) or forbid all methods (the traditionalist proposal).

This 'traditionalist' criticism of NFP exists in various degrees. And I should begin by acknowledging that, in its milder forms – that is to say, when it is directed more against some modern pastoral policies and practices rather than at the Church's authentic doctrine about NFP as such – the criticism seems to me reasonable and just. From what I have seen and read in my years as a priest, I agree with such critics that, among those promoting NFP, there is sometimes a one-sidedness or lack of balance. Married or engaged couples are often taught the legitimacy and the technique of the ovulation or sympto-thermal methods of NFP, but with little or no mention of that other part of the Church's teaching which insists that couples need "just reasons" (Humanae Vitae, 16; Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], #2368) for using NFP if they wish to be free from blame before God. (Indeed, quite frankly, I think we really need now from the Magisterium some less vague and more specific guidelines as to what actually constitutes a "just reason".) Very often, such couples hear nothing at all of the fact that "Sacred Scripture and the Church's teaching see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents'generosity" (CCC no. 2373). Still less frequently are they informed that, according to the Magisterium, merely temporal or worldly considerations are in themselves inadequate criteria for deciding when NFP can be justified: "Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny" (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, no. 51, cited in CCC no. 2371). Taking into account the whole spectrum of biblical and Church teaching in this area, I personally think that we need to bring back the word "grave" into the discourse about family planning. That is, we should be teaching that the temporal or worldly problems to be anticipated by another pregnancy and birth (mainly of health or poverty) need to be really grave in character before a married couple is entitled to conclude that they have a "just reason" for them to use NFP. (I said "bring back" above, because, as I shall show in this article, that key adjective, "grave", has in fact been used by the Magisterium in this context, in certain decisions that have been generally forgotten, but by no means repudiated.)

Having said that, we must now go on to point out the serious error of those Catholic "traditionalists" who go much further than simply to rebuke an unduly lax, permissive and one-sided pastoral approach to NFP, and who claim that the practice is, in principle, immoral, and that it also stands condemned by the previous ordinary (or even extraordinary) magisterium of the Church. Never has the use of quotation marks around the word "traditionalist" been more apt than in this case, because, as we shall see, there was never at any stage a Catholic "tradition" – not even a lower-level, 'non-infallible' tradition – against the use of periodic continence. Practically as soon as the first rudimentary methods of estimating the infertile period arose, with the advance of medical science in the mid-19th century, the See of Peter immediately and explicitly gave its blessing to this practice!

Ignorant of this fact, not a few "traditionalists" are now claiming that, from an orthodox Catholic viewpoint, the very notion of "regulating" or "planning" births and family size is an affront to God, and betrays a lack of trust in his loving Providence. They claim that married couples are always morally obliged either to engage in regular conjugal relations without any intention of "planning" their family size (and so leaving that entirely up to God's Providence); or, if they are really convinced there are grave reasons for avoiding another pregnancy, to abstain totally from conjugal relations for as long as that situation lasts, without making any attempt to identify, and make use of, the naturally infertile moments of the wife's cycle.

Perhaps the most outspoken and uncompromising proponent of this pseudo-traditional view is Mr. Richard Ibranyi, a prolific 'sedevacantist' writer whose booklets, bulletins and website articles ceaselessly denounce the "apostate" Church of Vatican II and the "anti-Popes" who lead it. Ibranyi has recently published a 32-page booklet1 whose conclusions are nothing if not forthright and unambiguous. He declares: "All those who use Natural Family Planning commit mortal sin. There is a natural law upon all men's hearts and the practice of NFP violates the natural law. Pope Pius XI [in the encyclical Casti Connubii] teaches there are no exceptions and no excuses. No exceptions, even if your priest or bishop says it can be used."2

Well, did Pius XI in fact teach this doctrine in his 1930 document? To answer that question, we first need to set Casti Connubii (CC) in its historical context, since that encyclical was by no means the first statement coming out of the Vatican on this subject.

At this point we need to open a little parenthesis in order to clarify what sort of document does in fact constitute a genuine Vatican intervention. This is because some "traditionalists", including Ibranyi, refuse to accept as official, or even as authentic, any Vatican statement which is not published in its official journal, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS). Many readers will be aware that in recent years there has been something of a revival of the late Fr. Leonard Feeney's rigorist interpretation of the dogma "outside the Church, no salvation". And those who have kept abreast of this controversy will probably be aware that one of the main Feeneyite strategies is to deny the official character, and even the authenticity, of the famous 1949 Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston. Since this Letter, which rejects Fr. Feeney's doctrinal position, was never published in the AAS, his followers claim that it simply doesn't count as an authentic intervention of the Magisterium. (The Fathers of Vatican II obviously thought otherwise, since they cited it along with other magisterial sources in the Council's most solemn document.3) In another of his many publications, Richard Ibranyi, who happens to be a Feeneyite as well as a sedevacantist, refers to this document as "the so-called Holy Office Letter against Fr. Feeney" and brands it (in large, bold type) as "fraudulent".4

The Feeneyite error on this point is evidently based on a misapplication of canon 9 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (paralleled by canon 8 in the 1983 Code), which states (among other things) that "universal ecclesiastical laws" must be promulgated in the AAS in order to be binding. Now, "ecclesiastical laws" are exercises of the Church's governing office. They are above all 'practical' decisions, establishing that something specific is to be done, or not to be done. Such decisions need to be carefully distinguished from those of the Church's Magisterium, or teaching office, which are above all concerned with the 'theoretical' task of clarifying the difference between true and false doctrine. Now, the 1949 Holy Office Letter clearly fell into the latter category. It decreed no penalty for Fr. Feeney or his 'St. Benedict Center', and issued no command to the Archbishop of Boston to take any specific action in this case. It limited itself to distinguishing authoritatively between true and false interpretations of the dogma under discussion. So there was absolutely no requirement for this Letter to be published in the AAS in order to be both genuine and official.

The fact is, as anyone familiar with standard Vatican procedures knows, that ever since the AAS was established by Pope St. Pius X in 1909, there have always been a great many official statements and decisions of the Popes and Vatican Congregations, including doctrinal documents from the Holy Office and Sacred Penitentiary (in moral questions especially relevant to confessors in the Sacrament of Penance), that never get to be published in the aforesaid journal. Often they are first sent privately by Rome to bishops, and perhaps only years afterwards (as in the case of the 1949 Letter) get published in some Catholic journal or other. The fact that such a journal is not itself an official Church publication by no means implies (as Feeneyites often claim) that the Roman document which it publishes is unofficial. Apart from "universal ecclesiastical laws", which do indeed have to be published in the AAS, the inclusion or non-inclusion of other types of papal and Vatican statements in the AAS is a measure, not of their "official" or "non-official" character, but rather, of the degree of public importance which the Holy See attaches to them.5

Let us now return to the subject of Natural Family Planning. It was first necessary to clarify the question about the necessity or non-necessity of AAS promulgation, in order to forestall a ready-made 'traditionalist' objection to the argument that follows below. For it so happens that several key magisterial documents approving NFP were never published in the AAS. And since they were never even published in the English-language version of Denzinger (a key source of pre-Vatican II doctrine for laymen such as Mr. Ibranyi, who has publicly admitted his own ignorance of Latin), these decisions have apparently remained unknown to those Catholics who denounce NFP as a recent 'modernist' aberration or heresy. At least, I have never seen any of those decisions cited, or even referred to, in 'traditionalist' attacks on the use of periodic continence.

The first time Rome spoke on the matter was as long ago as 1853, when the Sacred Penitentiary answered a dubium (a formal request for an official clarification) submitted by the Bishop of Amiens, France. He asked, "Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when (in the opinion of some doctors) conception is impossible?" The Vatican reply was, "After mature examination, we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed [or disquieted], provided they do nothing that impedes generation"6 By the expression "impedes generation", it is obvious the Vatican meant the use of onanism7 (or coitus interruptus, now popularly called 'withdrawal'), condoms, etc. For otherwise the reply would be self-contradictory and make no sense.

The next time the issue was raised was in 1880, when the Sacred Penitentiary on June 16 of that year issued a more general response (i.e., not directed just to an individual bishop). This time the Vatican goes further: not only does it instruct confessors not to "disquiet" or "disturb" married couples who are already practising periodic continence; it even authorizes the confessor to take the initiative in positively suggesting that method, with due caution, to couples who may not yet be aware of it, and who, in his prudent judgment, are otherwise likely to keep on practising the "detestable crime" of onanism. One could not ask for a more obvious and explicit proof that already, more than eighty years before Vatican II, the Holy See saw a great moral difference between NFP (as we now call it) and contraceptive methods (which Catholic moralists then referred to globally as 'onanism' of different types). The precise question posed was this: "Whether it is licit to make use of marriage only on those days when it is more difficult for conception to occur?" The response is: "Spouses using the aforesaid method are not to be disturbed; and a confessor may, with due caution, suggest this proposal to spouses, if his other attempts to lead them away from the detestable crime of onanism have proved fruitless."8 The editorial notes in Denzinger indicate that this decision was made public the following year (1881) in the respected French journal Nouvelle Revue Théologique, and in Rome itself in 1883 in the Vatican-approved series Analecta Iuris Pontificii.

Now, this was the doctrine and pastoral practice that all priests well-formed in moral theology learned in seminary from the mid-19th-century onward. So before Pius XI was elected, Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X and Benedict XV all clearly approved of this status quo established by their own Sacred Penitentiary, and never showed the slightest inclination to reverse its decisions of 1853 and 1880. The future Pius XI himself was not born until 1857, four years after the initial Vatican permission was given for periodic continence. So, like all other obedient and studious priests of his era, Fr. Achille Ratti would have learned and accepted this authentic Vatican-approved teaching which allowed NFP as a means of avoiding offspring. Hence it is seems most unlikely a priori that after being elected Pope he would have had any intention of condemning that practice. It is well known that the main thing prompting him to speak out about contraception at all was the fact that the 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglicans had scandalized all morally upright folks by teaching, for the first time ever in the history of those claiming the name "Christian", that unnatural practices, i.e., 'onanism', could be morally acceptable. Periodic continence simply was not the issue in 1930, and in fact, Pius XI did not choose to address that issue in Casti Connubii.

The clearest proof that Richard Ibranyi's interpretation of CC – namely, that it condemns NFP as just another form of contraception – is incorrect is the fact that Pius XI himself very obviously did not interpret his own encyclical that way. Only a year and a half after it was promulgated, the Sacred Penitentiary yet again issued a statement on periodic continence, dated July 20, 1932. (Quite possibly this was because someone, somewhere, was trying to give an Ibranyi-style rigorist interpretation to CC.) This time the ruling, which simply referred back to the same dicastery's previous and positive response of half a century earlier, was eventually made public in the Roman documentary journal Texta et Documenta, series theologica (vol. 25 [1942], p. 95). The decision reads as follows (my translation):

"Regarding the Exclusive Use of the Infertile Period

"Qu. Whether the practice is licit in itself by which spouses who, for just and grave causes, wish to avoid offspring in a morally upright way, abstain from the use of marriage – by mutual consent and with upright motives – except on those days which, according to certain recent [medical] theories, conception is impossible for natural reasons.

"Resp. Provided for by the Response of the Sacred Penitentiary of June 16, 1880."9

Now, it would clearly be preposterous to plead that perhaps Pius XI "never knew" about this 1932 decision, right up to his death seven years later! In all probability he was the first to know about it! Certainly, it was made right under his own nose in the Vatican, and would have been mailed out promptly to the bishops of the world for the benefit of their moral theologians teaching future priests in their seminaries! How could the only Catholic bishop in the world not to know of this 'heretical distortion' (in Ibranyi's view) of his encyclical be the Bishop of Rome himself? Approved moral theologians everywhere continued to teach this settled and authentic doctrine about the legitimacy of NFP for just and grave reasons.10

If we look at what Pius XI actually says in CC, it is clear why he himself saw no contradiction whatever between his own encyclical and the settled doctrine of the Sacred Penitentiary decisions, both before and after the encyclical, which approved NFP. To begin with, if the Pope had wanted to get through a clear message to theologians and the Church in general that he was reversing the doctrine of his four predecessors, i.e., condemning that NFP which they had all permitted, he would never have used the language that he does in fact use in CC. He would almost certainly have used, for the sake of clarity, the accepted language of the theologians of that time, which was practically universal in speaking of sinful onanismus on the one hand (sub-divided into "strict" or "natural" onanism, meaning 'withdrawal', and "artificial" onanism, meaning condoms, chemical means, vaginal sheaths, or any other such 'appliances'), and on the other hand, continencia periodica or usus exclusivus temporum agenneseos, to refer to what we now call NFP. The Pope would have stated unambiguously that the latter, as well as the former, was now to be judged sinful and unacceptable.

It is interesting to note the difference between what Ibranyi says in order to expound his personal (and un-Catholic) doctrine on this matter, and what Pius XI says to expound the true and Catholic doctrine. Ibranyi's doctrine11 again and again repeats words like "plan" and "goal". It is summed up on p. 7, where he says that the essence of sinful contraception (defined by Ibranyi so as to include NFP as well as 'withdrawal' and condoms, pills, etc.) is "the desire to have marital relations while having deliberately planned to prevent conception". But nowhere does Pius XI stress "plans" or "goals" to avoid having children. He does not teach that such a "desire", or such a "deliberate plan", is essentially sinful. What the Pope brands as sinful is "frustrating the marriage act"12, that is, "frustrating its natural power and purpose". But when couples carry out conjugal acts on the infertile days exclusively, they are not "frustrating" the "natural power and purpose" of those acts which they perform on those days. For those particular acts do not have any "natural [procreative] power and purpose" to begin with! You cannot "frustrate" a non-existent power or purpose – or a non-existent anything!

The point comes through clearly in the most solemn (and, in my judgment, infallible) passage of the encyclical. After referring to the recent decision of the Anglicans to permit contraception (though without mentioning them by name), Pius XI declares:

The Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and the purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately deprived of its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.13

The above is for the most part the standard English translation of this passage. However, I have used the words "deprived of" at the point where that translation uses the words "frustrated in". This makes the Pope's true meaning a little clearer. The Latin verb which he uses here is destituere. And as Latin dictionaries show, this verb, when used with the ablative, as in this case (naturali sua . . . vi), means precisely "to deprive of", "to strip" or "to rob". In such constructions, the accompanying noun in the ablative case is that thing of which the rightful owner has been "deprived", or which has been "stripped" or "robbed" from him. Now, of course, you cannot "deprive" anyone of something he never possessed to begin with. You cannot "rob" a man with no money, any more than you can "strip" him if he is already naked. Likewise, since conjugal acts carried out precisely in the infertile period do not, by the very nature of the case, have any natural procreative potential to begin with, it is obvious that they cannot be "deprived" or "robbed" of that potential.

Hence it is clear that Pius XI's solemn censure cannot be referring to NFP (periodic continence). He must be referring only to those conjugal acts which, if it were not for the unnatural intervention of one or both spouses, would have retained the said "natural power to generate life". In other words, the Pope's condemnation applies exclusively to conjugal acts carried out during what the spouses understand to be the wife's fertile period, but which they deliberately pervert (whether by 'withdrawal', condoms, pills, or any other technique) so as to deprive them of that fertility. They thus dare to raise their hands, as it were, against the approach of the Creator Himself; as if they were traffic policemen with the right to signal orders to the Lord, obliging Him to take a detour: "Stop! Halt! Go back! Not now! No entry allowed here for you!" Couples using NFP, on the other hand, are not guilty of any such presumption. They are respecting God's sovereignty over human life and death, and are simply following their God-given instincts, and using their God-given conjugal right, at those times when the Creator Himself has already made it clear, by the way He has fashioned human female biology, that He has no will to use their spousal love in order to create new life.


Pius XI's successor, Pope Pius XII, confirmed yet again the moral acceptability of NFP, for "grave reasons", in two allocutions of 1951 (on October 29, to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives, and on November 26, to the National Congress of the 'Family Front' and the Association of Large Families). Since then, of course, we have had still further confirmations of the same doctrine from Popes Paul VI (in Humanae Vitae) and John Paul II (in Familiaris Consortio and many other statements). We are looking here at a long and totally unbroken tradition by which the See of Peter has approved the use by spouses of periodic continence in order to avoid conception, when their personal circumstances truly constitute a just cause for that avoidance. That sort of Catholic tradition ought to be enough to satisfy any Catholic traditionalist.


1. R.J.M. Ibranyi, Natural Family Planning Is Contraception (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 2002). I here refer to Ibranyi as the author of this work, although his title page informs the reader that it is actually "by" the following array of divine and heavenly influences: "The Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, the Grace of the God of the Holy Catholic Church, the Mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Good Counsel & Crusher of Heretics, the Protection of Saint Joseph, Patriarch of the Holy Family [and] the Intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel". Only at the very bottom of this list of supernal (and clearly infallible) authorities does Mr. Ibranyi reveal that the little book was also produced with his own "cooperation". It is good to see that the virtue of modesty is still alive and well out in the town of 'TorC', New Mexico.

2. Ibranyi, op. cit., p. 32.

3. See Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, article 16, footnote 19.

4. R.J.M. Ibranyi, The Salvation Dogma (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 2003), p. 63.

5. Thus, all one can reasonably conclude from the non-publication of the 1949 Holy Office letter in the AAS is that the Holy See, and almost certainly Pius XII himself, who was personally at that time the Prefect of the Holy Office, apparently did not think the local storm which had brewed up in Boston around Fr. Feeney was significant enough to bring to the attention of the whole Catholic world in a high-profile way. That does not, of course, imply that the doctrinal question raised in the Feeney controversy was unimportant in itself. But it seems that all the rest of the Catholic world by that time was peacefully holding the less rigorous view of the 'salvation dogma', which had long been taught explicitly by approved theologians and which had also been briefly taught by Pius XII in his 1943 Encyclical Mystici Corporis (see Denzinger-Schonmetzer [DS], #3821). And so Rome, it appears, did not want to create the impression that this was an issue causing serious division, confusion and controversy throughout the whole Catholic world.

6. Quoted in J. Montánchez, Teología Moral [Buenos Aires, 1946], p. 654, present writer's translation.

7. See Genesis 38: 8-10, wherein we read that God slew Onan for the practice of spilling his seed on the ground in order to prevent procreation.

8. "Qu:. An licitus sit usus matrimonii illis tantum diebus, quibus difficilior est conceptio?

"Resp.: Coniuges praedicto modo utentes inquietandos non esse, posseque confessarium sententiam de qua agitur, illis coniugibus, caute tamen, insinuare, quos alia ratione a detestabili onanismi crimine abducere frustra tentaverit" (DS 3148, present writer's translation given above). This decision was published in Nouvelle Revue Théologique, vol. 13 (1881), pp. 459-460, and then in Analecta Iuris Pontificii, vol. 22 (1883), p. 249.

9. "De uso exclusivo temporum agenneseos:

"Qu.:An licita in se sit praxis coniugum, qui, cum ob iustas et graves causas prolem honesto modo evitare malint, ex mutuo consensu et motivo honesto a matrimonio utendo abstinent praeterquam diebus, quibus secundum quorundam recentiorum theoremata ob rationes naturales conceptio haberi non potest?

"Resp.: Provisum est per Resp. S. Paenitentiariae, 16. Iun. 1880."

10. For instance, Heribert Jone, Moral Theology (1st edition 1929), section 760; J. Montánchez (op. cit., 1946), p. 654; F. De Larraga, O.P., Prontuario de Teología Moral, (Madrid & Buenos Aires, 1950), p. 449-450, citing the 1880 Vatican decision; A. Tanquerey, Brevior Synopsis Theologiae Moralis et Pastoralis (Paris, Desclée, 1933), p. 653. The great Fr. Adolphus Tanquerey was the author of some of the most widely used and universally approved theological textbooks of the early 20th century. So it is particularly significant that he, less than three years after the promulgation of CC, could write the following (on the page cited above). After explaining the mortally sinful character of onanism ('withdrawal', condoms, etc.), Tanquerey asserts (with emphasis added here): "Ab onanismo omnino differt praxis copulam solummodo iis temporibus quibus conceptio raro accidit. . . . Talis agendi ratio non est peccaminosa ex S. Paenitentiaria (16 Jun. 1880)". Translation: "Totally different from onanism is the practice of having conjugal relations only at those times when conception rarely occurs. . . . Such a practice is not sinful, according to the Sacred Penitentiary (June 16, 1880)."

11. Ibranyi, 2002, op. cit., pp. 6-7.

12. "vitiando naturae actum" (DS 3716, = Dz 2239).

13. In this standard English translation of the passage (with emphasis added here), I have replaced the words "frustrated in" by "deprived of". The original Latin text of the emphasized words is "quemlibet matrimonii usum in quo exercendo, actus de industria hominum, naturali sua vitae procreandae vi destituatur" (cf. DS 3717 or Dz 2240).

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KEYWORDS: catholiclist; contraception; fertility; marriage; nfp
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1 posted on 07/04/2004 9:29:48 AM PDT by Polycarp IV
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To: .45MAN; AAABEST; AKA Elena; al_c; american colleen; Angelus Errare; annalex; Annie03; Antoninus; ...
There has been some serious debate on this subject lately here. This is definitely worth a look.

Ping. (As usual, if you would like to be added to or removed from my "conservative Catholics" ping list, please send me a FReepmail. Please note that this is occasionally a high volume ping list and some of my ping posts are long.)

2 posted on 07/04/2004 9:31:22 AM PDT by Polycarp IV (PRO-LIFE orthodox Catholic - -without exception, without compromise, without apology. Any questions?)
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian

You might be interested...

3 posted on 07/04/2004 9:33:20 AM PDT by Polycarp IV (PRO-LIFE orthodox Catholic - -without exception, without compromise, without apology. Any questions?)
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To: Polycarp IV
You might be interested...

Well, maybe a little (grin... I was actually reading the article by the time you posted Response #2, only then seeing your #3 Ping to my attention after refreshing the page)

4 posted on 07/04/2004 10:54:40 AM PDT by OrthodoxPresbyterian (We are Unworthy Servants; We have only done Our Duty)
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To: Polycarp IV

Very interesting. I appreciate the language used in describing why contraception is contrary to God's supremacy in the matters of life and death.

If only more people understood this. It's another way - and a very important way - of letting God "be God", of giving up trying to usurp His position of Lordship.

The culture in general has accepted that the use of contraceptives is standard normalcy, and all this does is degrade womanhood, manhood, motherhood, fatherhood, and the value of children. It has caused broken families, illegitimacy, turned girls into sluts and boys into exploiters. Sex without the touch of the divine is merely mutual masturbation techniques, and since by its very nature cannot satisfy the longing of the soul, has to be continually "spiced up" with every degradation and perversion people can think up. And that's called "freedom". Very sad.

That is one reason why I have a great deal of respect for sincere Catholics and the fact that the Catholic Church hasn't (and I pray it won't) budge on this important moral absolute.

5 posted on 07/04/2004 12:10:33 PM PDT by little jeremiah ( - a REAL conservative running for Congress!)
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To: Polycarp IV

An interesting article with some relevant sources that useful for future reference. However, the article is undermined by the fact that Fr. Harrison is so clearly trying to prove one side of the argument. His polemical approach causes the reader to assume that he is not presenting the arguments fairly and objectively.

With regard to the interpretation of Casti Connubii, he is clearly failing to present it in a balanced manner. He throws around a lot of verbiage to obscure the clear words of the document.

What Fr. Harrison really has here are 3 statements from the Sacred Penitentiary which support the use of periodic continence. These 3 statements are of great interest, and they create a history so that Pope Pius XII's statement in "Allocution to Italian Midwives" does not seem to come out of nowhere. All the rest of the article could be dispensed with, and he would have been more convincing if he had presented that evidence dispassionately.

6 posted on 07/04/2004 1:18:01 PM PDT by Maximilian
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To: Polycarp IV

Blah, Blah, Blah. NFP, and this article is just mans way of justifying seeking their own pleasure, and the Church assisting them.

IF using birth control is genuinely a sin, then so is NFP.

7 posted on 07/04/2004 1:44:48 PM PDT by Arguss (Take the narrow road)
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To: Arguss
IF using birth control is genuinely a sin, then so is NFP.

Its safe to assume you are a sedevacantist, then? Because NFP has been taught as morally licit in grave circumstances by quite a few recent Popes now.

8 posted on 07/04/2004 2:04:43 PM PDT by Polycarp IV (PRO-LIFE orthodox Catholic - -without exception, without compromise, without apology. Any questions?)
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To: Polycarp IV

...plan, plan, is not for US to plan.

9 posted on 07/04/2004 2:17:17 PM PDT by ethicgal
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To: little jeremiah
why contraception is contrary to God's supremacy in the matters of life and death...It's another way - and a very important way - of letting God "be God", of giving up trying to usurp His position of Lordship.


The culture in general has accepted that the use of contraceptives is standard normalcy, and all this does is degrade womanhood, manhood, motherhood, fatherhood, and the value of children. It has caused broken families, illegitimacy, turned girls into sluts and boys into exploiters. Sex without the touch of the divine is merely mutual masturbation techniques, and since by its very nature cannot satisfy the longing of the soul, has to be continually "spiced up" with every degradation and perversion people can think up. And that's called "freedom". Very sad.

Well said.

10 posted on 07/04/2004 2:25:02 PM PDT by ELS
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To: Polycarp IV; Maximilian; Canticle_of_Deborah; ultima ratio; AAABEST; Land of the Irish; ...
Not my field of expertise, but below is an essay by the Rev. Anthony Cekada against those condemning NFP, which I suppose is in support of NFP- as long as cetain conditions are met.

As background, Fr. Cekada was one of "the nine" Anerican priests expelled from the SSPX in 1983 by Abp. Lefebvre for continuing to offer the unadulerated rite of the traditional Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, i.e. pre-Bugnini. Fr. Cekada is curate to Bp. Dolan at Saint Gertrude the Great Church in the Cincinnati suburbs. They either hold that the see is impeded or the see is vacant due to pre-existing heresy by the one elected.

Tradtional Mass Articles

Saint Gertrude the Great Church

Natural Family Planning: On Recent Condemnations of NFP

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

NOTE: In Fall, 1998 the “Voice Crying in the Wilderness” newsletter, a widely-circulated traditionalist periodical, published an article condemning Natural Family Planning (NFP).The following is a letter to the Editor, written by Father Anthony Cekada. In addition to offering the traditional Latin Mass in Cincinnati and Columbus, Father Cekada is professor of canon law and pastoral theology at Most Holy Trinity Seminary, Warren, Michigan.

To the Editor:

This afternoon I spoke with a parishioner who was very upset over your article on Natural Family Planning (NFP).

I had to assure her (as I will probably have to assure others) that your comments were —and there is no diplomatic way to put this — presumptuous, ignorant and dangerous.

First, you have no business even offering an opinion on the morality of NFP, still less condemning it as sinful in a publication that you send out to tens of thousands of people.

One may indeed (as you do in other articles) catalogue, dissect and condemn the Modernists’ doctrinal errors, since so many of them are obvious and have already been condemned. But the morality of NFP is an issue for moral theology — the branch of theology which analyzes right and wrong, virtue and sin.

The subject matter of moral theology is vast and enormously complex, covering all the general principles of morality and all their particular applications. In the seminary moral theology is one of the major courses. It requires three or four years’ worth of classes conducted several times a week to cover all the material.

Despite the length of this course, it can only impart to the priest-to-be the mere “basics” for the confessional and counselling. Priests who wrote on moral issues before Vatican II — and it was only priests who were permitted to become moral theologians — always had advanced degrees.

Their books were carefully checked by their religious superiors and diocesan censors.

If moral theologians did any speculative writing, it never appeared in popular publications such as yours.

You have no training in, and no experience dealing with, a complex moral question like NFP. We traditional Catholic priests have studied moral theology and we apply it in the confessional and in counselling. Leave such matters to us — and leave our people alone.

Second, although moral theology manuals emphasize that NFP is not a topic one should discuss in sermons or mass-circulation publications, The Angelus, The Remnant, and your own publication have spread some dangerous errors on the issue, and it is necessary that someone correct them, lest Catholics wrongly conclude they are committing mortal sin.

The moral aspect of NFP and periodic continence may be summed up as follows:

1. General Principles.

Spouses are free to choose whatever time they want to exercise their marriage right or abstain from exercising their marriage right by mutual consent.

Conversely, they are not obliged to exercise their right during fertile periods, or abstain during sterile periods.

Deliberately to limit marital relations to sterile periods to avoid conception is morally lawful in actual practice, provided the requisite conditions are met.

Family limitation without good and sufficient reason involves a degree of moral fault.

Periodic continence is morally permissible because it fulfills the other ends of marriage (mutual love and fidelity, alleviation of concupiscence) and because it does not physically hinder the natural processes of conception.

2. Requisite Conditions.

Mutual consent or willingness of the spouses.

Ability properly to observe periodic continence without danger of sin.

Sufficient justification or cause, just and grave, either medical, eugenic, economic, or social, which justifications are outlined by various theologians.

3. Gravity of the Various Obligations.

The issues involved with NFP were not fully discussed by pre-Vatican II theologians.

The gravity of an obligation (if any) to exercise the marriage right during fertile periods was not clearly established.

Neither was the gravity of the unjustifiable use of periodic abstinence.

Do not presume that the defection of the post-Vatican II hierarchy gives you the right to settle all this, and then tell Catholic couples they are committing sin. Your article was ill-advised and very harmful. I suggest you issue a retraction and an apology to your readers.

— The Rev. Anthony Cekada
(September 1998)

11 posted on 07/04/2004 3:11:36 PM PDT by Viva Christo Rey
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To: ethicgal; Arguss; Polycarp IV
Blah, Blah, Blah. NFP, and this article is just mans way of justifying seeking their own pleasure, and the Church assisting them. IF using birth control is genuinely a sin, then so is NFP. ...plan, plan, is not for US to plan.


A Woman is undergoing a intensive pharmaceutical regimen (say, of Anti-Cancer drugs) which render her womb a chemically-hostile environment for any developing unborn baby.

Which is the most Morally-Licit course of action?

If I am correct in my understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, I believe that this type of scenario would describe the sort of "grave circumstance" in which the Pope has claimed the usage of NFP may be temporarily permissible and appropriate.

Well? What say you all??

Always Learning (or trying to, day-by-day), OP

12 posted on 07/04/2004 3:21:43 PM PDT by OrthodoxPresbyterian (We are Unworthy Servants; We have only done Our Duty)
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To: Polycarp IV

I don't understand the title of this article. NFP can't be a "heresy" since heresy involves denying a dogma of the deposit of faith. This is a moral issue only.

13 posted on 07/04/2004 5:12:53 PM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: ultima ratio
NFP can't be a "heresy" since heresy involves denying a dogma of the deposit of faith. This is a moral issue only.

So...saying that homosexuality is normal would not be heresy for a Catholic? Or saying adultery is not sinful would not be heresy for a Catholic?

Or...saying that CONTRACEPTION is morally licit is not heresy?

Remember, the deposit of Faith includes doctrines and dogmas concerning Faith and Morals. We are NOT discussing a mere matter of Church discipline here.

So, one may commit heresy in matters of Morals, if the opinion is contrary to a defined teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium.

Therefore, one may indeed commit heresy by maintaining that NFP is always sinful.

14 posted on 07/04/2004 5:22:15 PM PDT by Polycarp IV (PRO-LIFE orthodox Catholic - -without exception, without compromise, without apology. Any questions?)
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian

The silence is deafening. Thank you for commenting, OP.

15 posted on 07/04/2004 5:23:04 PM PDT by Polycarp IV (PRO-LIFE orthodox Catholic - -without exception, without compromise, without apology. Any questions?)
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To: ultima ratio
I don't understand the title of this article. NFP can't be a "heresy" since heresy involves denying a dogma of the deposit of faith. This is a moral issue only.

Mr. Ibranyi claims that Pius XII lost his office for contradicting a supposed Catholic dogma against periodic continence proclaimed by Pius XI. Obviously moral issues can be raised to the dogmatic level - Cardinal Journet commented after "Humanae Vitae" that the doctrine was so well established that a dogmatic definition of the matter was possible.

16 posted on 07/04/2004 5:58:28 PM PDT by gbcdoj (No one doubts ... that the holy and most blessed Peter ... lives in his successors, and judges.)
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian; Hermann the Cherusker
If I am correct in my understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, I believe that this type of scenario would describe the sort of "grave circumstance" in which the Pope has claimed the usage of NFP may be temporarily permissible and appropriate.

My understanding of the doctrine is that the use of NFP in itself is never sinful - what is sinful is the failure to provide for the social justice duty of having enough children to replace the current population and create some growth. In the situation you posit, there would therefore be no moral problem with using NFP. Hermann has posted some interesting stuff about this here before: here's one of the texts:

MORAL THEOLOGY: A Complete Course * Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities * By JOHN A. McHUGH, O.P. And CHARLES J. CALLAN, O.P. REVISED AND ENLARGED BY EDWARD P. FARRELL, O.P., Vol. 2"


2622. Is Birth-Control Ever Lawful? -- (a) If this refers to an * end * (viz., the limitation of the number of children or the spacing of their arrival), it is not unlawful in itself (see 2617) ; and it is sometimes a duty, as when the wife is in very poor health or the family is unable to take care of more.

But in view of the decline and deterioration in populations today, it seems that couples who are able to bring up children well should consider it a duty to the common welfare to have at least four children, and it should be easy for many to have at least a dozen children. The example of those married persons of means who are unable to have a number of children of their own, but who adopt or raise orphaned little ones, is very commendable. ...

Since the * Allocution *, the more common opinion in this country asserts that the Holy Father taught: 1) that married people who use their marital right have a duty to procreate; 2) that this duty is binding under pain of sin; 3) there are, however, reasons that excuse the couples from this obligation and, should they exist for the whole of married life, the obligation does not bind them at all; 4) the sin does not consist in the exercise of marital rights during the sterile periods; but in abstention from intercourse during the fertile periods precisely to avoid conception, when the couple could have and should have made its positive contribution to society. Sin is present when the practice is unjustifiedly undertaken; 5) the formal malice of illicit periodic continence is not against the sixth commandment; i.e., against the procreation of children or the use of the generative faculty, but against the seventh commandment, i.e., against social justice. The couple is not making its contribution to the common good of society; 6) from 4 and 5 above, it follows that the individual acts of intercourse during a period of unjust practice of rhythm do not constitute numerically distinct sins. Rather, granting the continuance of a single will act to practice rhythm, there is one sin for the whole period of illicit abstention during the fertile periods.

Since the Pope abstained from an explicit statement on the gravity of the sin, the controversy of whether the practice intrinsically is a mortal sin or not continued. The opinion in this country which holds the greatest authority states that mortal sin is involved in the ease of continued practice with a total exclusion of children and frequent use of marital rights during the sterile period.

Diversity of opinion has arisen as to the means of estimating when a serious sin has been committed. Some have used a temporal norm, e.g., unjustified use of rhythm for five or six years would constitute a serious matter. Undoubtedly most of the proponents of this norm would not accuse a couple of certain mortal sin if they already have one or more children; after that, indefinite use of the practice without excusing causes would not be a mortal sin. (This is admitted by most theologians.) Others have proposed a numerical norm as a basis to determine whether or not a couple has made its contribution to the conservation of the race. Concretely the proponents of this theory regard four or five children as sufficient to satisfy the obligation in such a way;

a) that the use of rhythm to limit the family to this number is licit provided the couple is willing and morally able to practice it;

b) that the limitation through rhythm to less than four requires a serious justifying cause. The intention involved to prevent conception would be seriously sinful in itself, since it causes great harm to the common good and involves in practice subordination of the primary to the secondary end or ends of matrimony. At the present time this opinion seems to be more favored in America than the first which places the gravity of the sin in the unjustified practice of rhythm for five years. (For a survey of recent opinion, see * The Conference Bulletin of the Archdiocese of New York *. Vol. XXXIV, No. 1, pp. 36 ff.)

On the other hand, some European theologians have denied that the practice constitutes a mortal sin in itself, independently of circumstances such as injustice and danger of incontinence.

17 posted on 07/04/2004 6:05:41 PM PDT by gbcdoj (No one doubts ... that the holy and most blessed Peter ... lives in his successors, and judges.)
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: OrthodoxPresbyterian
"I believe that this type of scenario would describe the sort of "grave circumstance" in which the Pope has claimed the usage of NFP may be temporarily permissible and appropriate."

To my knowledge, the Pope, or at least the Church in general has NOT claimed that NFP is only to be used in extraordinary circumstances. It is to be used until you want anoter child.

I fully understand the hardships involved in following the precepts of the Church, and I personally am not casting judgement. Here is truly a case for ones own conscience.

I'm just stating what I believe the orthodox rules are.

The Church recently bestowed Sainthood to a woman who gave up her own life so that her unborn baby might live.

19 posted on 07/04/2004 6:46:27 PM PDT by Arguss (Take the narrow road)
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To: Polycarp IV
"Its safe to assume you are a sedevacantist, then?"

Extremely poor form my man. What has the Popes apostacy have to do with sedevacantism? I thought you were a knowledgeable person, I guess I had you confused with someone else.

"Because NFP has been taught as morally licit in grave circumstances by quite a few recent Popes now."

Which Popes would that be? specifically

20 posted on 07/04/2004 7:35:35 PM PDT by Arguss (Take the narrow road)
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