Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: November 2011

November 2011

The Ringing of Revolution

The Declaration of Independence states unequivocally, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”

If one of these unalienable rights is the “right to life,” which is endowed by the Creator, why is this passage from the Declaration not used to rule out the so-called right to abortion? The right to life is pre-eminent to the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If there is no life, there can be no liberty and no happiness.

If our Founding Fathers based our independence on these rights, endowed by the Creator, and which are unalienable, then no government or governmental body has any basis for recognizing a right to destroy any or all of these rights. The federal government should be at the forefront in protecting the right to life. Otherwise, as the Declaration states, “When­ever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles….”

It seems to me that we, as a nation, have failed to live up to the ideals of our Founding Fathers. If our nation is to continue to exist, we must return to these ideals.

William F. Brna

St. Mary's Catholic Church

Monongahela, Pennsylvania

Latin Was the Vernacular

The trio of New Oxford Notes concerning the Tridentine Latin Mass and the new Vatican instruction on its use, Universae Ecclesiae (Jul.-Aug.), were thought-provoking. I am an adult convert to the Catholic Church and attended my first Eucharist after the introduction of the vernacular Mass. I nonetheless respect those faithful who prefer the Tridentine Latin Mass and agree that it should be offered where there is a stable group desiring it.

Those who think that the Tridentine Latin Mass should be the only form of the Mass should keep in mind some history. At the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, our Lord most likely prayed with His Apostles in Aramaic, their native tongue, and Psalms were sung in Hebrew. Within a few years, as St. Paul and others preached the Gospel to the gentiles in Asia Minor and Greece, the language of the sacrifice of the Mass became Greek. Indeed, all the books of the New Testament were originally written in Greek, and the very word Eucharist is Greek. As Christianity spread and eventually became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the non-Greek-speaking Christians wanted Scriptures and the Mass in the vernacular of the people, Latin. Thus, the Latin Mass was born of the desire to have the prayers of the Mass said in the language understood by the masses. Note as well that St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Scriptures was known as the Vulgate because it was in the “vulgar” tongue of the common people.

Today, the Catholic Church is enriched by a number of differing liturgical rites. Not only do we have the Tridentine Latin Mass and the vernacular Mass of the Roman rite, we also have others, including the Byzantine, Maronite, Syro-Malabar, and Ge’ez (Ethiopic) rites, all in union with the Roman pontiff. There is indeed unity in diversity.

Clarke N. Ellis

John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family

Bethesda, Maryland

Freedom to Speak the Truth

Jane Kodack (letter, Sept.) suggests that the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is really meant to prepare general society to accept homosexual acts as normal.

Be that as it may, her letter revealed a common thread that must be understood and emphasized in the current culture wars: The ultimate freedom is the ability to state that 2+2=4. That is, freedom consists in the ability to tell the truth. Her letter gave two current examples in which it is difficult to tell the truth. The first concerned Harry Truman’s executive order eliminating race discrimination in the military.

President Truman was old enough to have remembered that, prior to 1912, there was significant integration in the U.S. military. The Navy was integrated at the lower levels; likewise there were significant fighting units of Negro soldiers. Approximately one-quarter to one-third of the U.S. troops who stormed San Juan Hill under Theodore Roosevelt in 1898 were Negroes. Gen. John J. Pershing was originally nicknamed “N- – – – -r Jack” because he appreciated the fine qualities of Negro troops. For obvious reasons, his nickname was changed to “Black Jack” Pershing.

By 1912 there was significant progress toward societal integration as well. The federal civil service, for example, was merit-based with minimal discrimination against Negroes. This all changed in 1913 when Wood­row Wilson, a Southern racist, under the influence of misunderstood Darwinian evolution, deemed that Negroes in the civil service were to be segregated for their own good. This president set back race relations at least until after World War II.

Truman knew his history and, whatever his reasons, when he signed his executive order in 1948, he was merely reactivating policy that had been destroyed 35 years earlier.

For some strange reason, these horrible acts of President Wilson have been shoved down the memory hole. It should be common knowledge that Wilson was a vicious racist who followed his progressive instincts.

A similar act of suppression of truth concerns the late Ted Kennedy. In 2007 Sen. Kennedy effectively quashed the nomination of Dr. James Hol­singer for surgeon general. Dr. Hol­­singer’s crime was that he provided the medical effects of homosexual behavior as requested by the United Methodist Church over 15 years earlier. It turns out that telling the truth about the physiological and pathological effects of homosexual acts is “anti-gay.” (On the flip side, the accusation is never made that it is anti-heterosexual to state that frequent fornication with multiple partners leads to surprise pregnancies and/or venereal disease.)

These are two clear examples in which the cultural left denies the truth. In polemics with the left, one needs to emphasize facts and truth. It is tyranny if one cannot say that 2+2=4.

William M. Selenke

Cincinnati, Ohio

Heroism & Humility

Some time ago I ran across a picture of Witold Urbanowicz, with a brief description of his incredible exploits as a fighter pilot during the Second World War. Reading Clara Sar­rocco’s article about this unusual Polish patriot and “ace” pilot (“The Hidden Heroism of Witold Urbano­wicz,” Sept.) gave me new insight into the man, especially his self-effacing humility after an extraordinary career as a fighter pilot in Europe.

Sarrocco’s account brings to light that aspect of Urbanowicz’s life with which most people who know about his war exploits are unfamiliar. His quiet family life in the simple home he chose in Queens, New York, where he settled down after the war, was a revelation to me. Sarrocco’s account, especially intriguing because of her personal connection to the Urbanowicz family, presented a man who lived out his life as a true Christian, committed to the Church and the values instilled in him by his Polish-Catholic parents.

There should be some way to bring the life of this extraordinary man and his courageous exploits during the war to the attention of the general public. Perhaps a television documentary is in order.

Anne Paolucci

Beechhurst, New York

Evangelizing With NFP

John F. Kippley’s article “Natural Family Planning & the New Evangelization” (Sept.) is a valuable attempt to restore sanity to a morally bankrupt and now suicidal culture by appealing to first principles — viz., by “seeing” the beauty found in the sexual bonding of a married couple sans contraception. Here one further contemplates the natural and divine laws. Utilizing Bl. John Paul II’s “theology of the body,” Kippley argues that from the start, and with every coital action thereafter, the private beauty of the marital act relates an interpersonal trust between the husband and wife that not only forms a bond, a covenant of love, but helps to continue that covenant into the future. Kippley further argues that any and every attempt to thwart this love via chemical and/or artificial contraception not only violates the covenant of marital love but also that of the natural law and, by connection, the divine law, and is hence a sin: “When a man knows the right thing to do and does not do it, he sins” (Jas. 4:17).

In view of a secularized and declining population, Kippley makes the crucial point that every diocese owes to young couples a complete course on natural family planning (NFP). We stand amidst a demographic winter in which only seven Catholic dioceses in the U.S. (out of 195) have made this course mandatory. These bishops “get it.” Couples need more from the Church than a short segment of talks during a Pre-Cana weekend.

Mea culpa: I too have been remiss in instructing couples who are preparing for marriage in NFP. Lately, however, I have added a special meeting on NFP to my own marriage-preparation courses using the Kipp­leys’ manual NFP: The Complete Approach. All that is missing now is the moral weight and will not only of my bishop but all the U.S. bishops to require a full NFP course for engaged couples.

In 2010 I requested my bishop’s permission to close our 100-plus-year-old grade school because it was no longer viable. In my letter I said that the final cause of closing the school was that we had no students, but that the first cause was that Catholics have been aborting, con­tracepting, and sterilizing the Church into dust. And so I say to all bishops: Heed John Kippley’s prophetic article and make an NFP course a required part of Pre-Cana teaching. In short, you cannot have a new evangelization if there is no one to evangelize. If you dislike closing schools, you are really going to hate closing parishes.

Fr. Timothy J. Sauppé, Pastor

Westville, Illinois

Citing the dismal statistics of the National Survey of Family Growth that Catholics of reproductive age who use natural family planning (NFP) number about one percent, John F. Kippley (article, Sept.) has put his finger on one of the great disconnects in Catholic life today: that between professing Christ and following the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood. As an NFP pioneer and founder of the highly successful Couple to Couple League and NFP International, Kippley has the authority to speak on what constitutes a good NFP program. His great insight early on that the conjugal act is designed to be a renewal of the marriage covenant situates his teaching in what is now called the “new evangelization,” a renewal of Catholic life through the fostering of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer, worship, and the sacraments. Combined with that approach, he has increasingly emphasized “appropriate” generosity and “ecological” breast­­feeding in NFP teaching.

For so many years Kippley has been a voice “crying in the wilderness.” It is hoped that the new evangelization, inspired in great part by John Paul II and his prophetic “theology of the body” discourses, will form a new generation of laity, supported by their priests, to live this life-giving countercultural vision and begin to transform our culture from within.

Mary Shivanandan

Washington, D.C.

John F. Kippley tells us that “some ninety percent of Catholic fertile-age couples seeking to avoid pregnancy are contracepting right along with the rest of secularized Christians and the unchurched.” He says that “chemical birth-control methods affect the inner lining of the uterus in such a way as to make it very difficult for a newly conceived baby to implant.” He refers to this as the “abortifacient potential” of the Pill and other forms of chemical birth control.

The Catechism tells us that “for­­mal cooperation in an abortion con­stitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (no. 2272). Catholic women using abortifacient birth control often are not fully aware of how the medication works and, because of this ignorance, they certainly would be spared the Church’s ultimate canonical penalty. It also seems that most clergy don’t want to disturb the status quo, as the issue almost never gets mentioned from the pulpit or at any other Catholic public forum. Unfortunately, natural family planning, a morally acceptable alternative means of limiting births, seldom is mentioned either.

Kippley tells us that “only 1.1 percent of Catholic women are using any form of natural family planning.” This dismal usage rate certainly would improve if Catholics were better informed about the serious moral and medical hazards attached to the use of abortifacient contraceptives. Catholic clergy, and pro-lifers in general, must do a much better job of spreading the word.

Charles O. Coudert

Sherborn, Massachusetts

“Women are too stupid to learn natural family planning.” Or so said a local lady recently while discussing budget cuts to Planned Parent­hood. What a contrast to what a lady engaged to be married who attended a local NFP International class recently wrote to us: “We really enjoyed the class with all the information you have given us and we have decided to do NFP; we love the whole concept.”

John F. Kippley is a delightful personification of the “Little Engine That Could.” He continues on and on in his joyful desire for the laity to live the teaching of the Church on married love. He has seen firsthand how couples’ relationships and marriages are transformed through his approach and he wants to share this rewarding work with everyone.

We are one such couple who went from using all sorts of artificial family planning to using systematic NFP plus eco-breastfeeding to pleasingly space our seven living children over 18 years. We challenge each of your readers to download the materials at the NFP International website, www.NFPandmore.org, and use them in small group discussions, at family meetings, with their healthcare providers, or one-on-one. Few will be disappointed with these well thought out writings.

“We think it is good to have taken this class to get a new aspect on how to plan our family,” another of our recent class attendees told us. As very satisfied instructors using NFP International’s materials, we share John’s vision that it is not too late for the Church to be re-evangelized. We think she can, we think she can, we think she can — especially because John’s materials have a proven track record of success. Thank you for publishing this optimistic piece.

Steve & Ann Craig

Robstown, Texas

John F. Kippley’s otherwise fine article shows that he doesn’t really know how bad the situation is. Even the 1.1 percent of Catholics who use NFP don’t all use it for appropriate reasons. Besides all the material that Kippley rightly states should be taught in the Church’s marriage-prep­aration courses, couples need to be taught the God-ordained purpose of marriage. Or better yet, way back in second grade, when children learn to identify the seven sacraments, holy matrimony should be known as the one for couples to live together and raise children for the Lord.

We usually don’t know why a couple chooses to have no children, nor do we usually ask, but I happen to know of several couples who have remained childless for five years, and ten years, and even throughout their entire fertile periods as they pursue education and careers and other things they apparently consider more valuable than children. But they each feel justified because they are achieving their goals — and remaining childless — not by using artificial contraceptives but by employing Church-approved NFP!

I am old enough to remember when the “rhythm method” was only to be used if and when a couple felt that their resources were insufficient to care for more children than they already had — and only then with the permission of their confessor. Perhaps the name “natural family planning” is responsible for this situation. The term “family planning” came from Planned Parenthood, and carries with it all of Margaret Sanger’s godless baggage: that we cannot leave childbearing up to “blind chance,” that we must “take control” of our fertility, and be “responsible” about parenthood. Man, not God, is to determine the number of children he has.

We need to change the name. Perhaps “natural child spacing” would underline the fact that it is to be used deliberately only when there is at least one child already present, and that the first instance of the “method” would be simply to accept the God-given, natural side effects of appropriate breastfeeding.

Anne Cherney

Ann Arbor, Michigan


My thanks to Fr. Timothy Sauppé for now including a special session on NFP in his marriage-preparation course. He seems to be saying that the bishops really don’t have a choice anymore; it’s either evangelize or go out of business. I certainly agree. My point is that the right kind of NFP course can be a vehicle of evangelization that can reach every engaged couple — that is, if they are required to take it.

I agree with Anne Cherney that NFP instruction needs to be much more than merely biological. To be an agent of evangelization it needs to transmit the teaching of Humanae Vitae that marriage involves the obligation to have children and the overall call to generosity. Her idea that “natural family planning” carries unhappy overtones because it uses Sanger’s “family planning” terminology has been raised more than once within the NFP movement, but there has not yet been any sort of widespread agreement in favor of a particular change. My wife’s first book on breastfeeding used “natural child spacing” in its title. The providential­ist voice needs to be heard within the Church, provided that it is coupled with the call to accept natural spacing by means of ecological breastfeeding, and that is Cherney’s position, but the concept of actual planning with systematic fertility awareness is also part of the picture, provided that the reasons are sufficiently serious. In my opinion, the discernment of God’s calling in this matter is not infrequently the most difficult part of systematic natural family planning or child spacing.

I am glad that Charles O. Coudert fingered not only the clergy but pro-lifers. It seems to me that there is a real difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life. All too often the anti-abortion message remains simply at that level, and it fails to address the great cause of the sexual revolution — the acceptance of unnatural forms of birth control by both Christians and the unchurched. I don’t think we will see the defeat of legalized abortion until there is a significant religious and social conviction that sexual intercourse is intended by God to be exclusively a marital act, and that it ought to be a renewal of the marriage covenant. In other words, we will have to reverse the sexual revolution. I think it was Alan Guttmacher of Planned Parenthood who said that the way to create the market for abortion was to give young people what currently passes for sex education. So it seems reasonable to me that we have to counter that with a proper Catholic understanding of love, sexuality, and marriage.

The Craigs closed their comments by thanking the NOR for “publishing this optimistic piece.” I think they meant “hopeful.” I can’t write with optimism except about something as certain as the sun rising in the morning. However, I try to live and write by the Christian virtue of hope. First, there is the theological virtue of hope that gives us certainty that the Church will continue to teach the truth and raise up sufficient priests and prophets to keep her moral teaching alive and available for all who are willing to look and listen with an open heart. Then there is the kind of human hope that is engendered by conversion stories. The Craigs are one such story, and just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of receiving the following e-mail from a young Canadian woman:

“Dear John and Sheila,

“Thank you for all the things you’ve written about NFP! I started looking into NFP just over three years ago because I was unhappy using the Pill — it just didn’t feel right. I come from a Protestant background and I hadn’t really questioned the morality of using artificial birth control before I came across your website. At first I was really skeptical about NFP because I had heard that it was just a good way to become pregnant accidentally, but once I started reading more, it seemed more and more like the best, most loving, and Godly option out there. I started talking to my husband about it, and after we had done some reading together we decided to take a course through Serena Canada. We’ve been gratefully practicing NFP ever since. In fact, reading your book Sex and the Marriage Covenant thoroughly convinced me of the Catholic Church’s teachings on this subject, and I began to wonder that if the Catholic Church had it right on this subject, there might be more things that I could learn. I started attending an RCIA class at the church near me, and I have since joined the Church.”

In subsequent correspondence, I learned that this woman found us by Googling “NFP.” Then she obtained and read our NFP user’s manual, which was written to be an agent of evangelization. Wanting face-to-face instruction, she and her husband took the SERENA course. Convinced that what we had said about the biology of NFP was true, she went further and read my theological defense of Humanae Vitae and was “thoroughly convinced” about Catholic teaching on birth control. That, in turn, aroused a certain sense of obligation to see what else the Church might be right about, and now she is Catholic and hoping for a baby. That process has long been our plan and our hope. My whole purpose during my 40 years in the so-called NFP movement has been to evangelize, so this e-mail gives me renewed hope that a combination of an open heart and the availability of faithful and understandable theology can help bring people to the fullness of faith and practice.

Lastly, in light of the above, Prof. Shivanandan, with her comments about a voice “crying in the wilderness,” might be pleased to learn that John the Baptist is my primary patron saint, followed by St. Francis de Sales for prudence.

An Overwhelming Read

Though our home overflows with books, Anne Barbeau Gardi­ner’s review (Sept.) led us to purchase one of the finest books we’ve ever read: Roads to Rome: A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day by John Beaumont. The variety of conversion experiences described is just overwhelming, and the countless reasons given for entering the Church makes one realize anew what a priceless treasure is the Catholic faith.

Can you make room for more such reviews? Hers alone is worth far more than your annual subscription cost!

(Name Withheld)

Wrightsville, Georgia

Ed. Note:

Roads to Rome is available from St. Augustine’s Press (P.O. Box 2285, South Bend, IN 46680; phone: 574-291-3500; website: www.staugustine.net). The author is presently working on a companion volume: a guide to notable American converts.

A Prison Scholar's Special Plea

Thank you so much for providing me with a free subscription to the NOR. I have received the first issue and am enjoying it as much as I anticipated. I look forward to future issues.

After reading the notice on page 7 of the July-August issue that explains how such subscriptions are funded [and which appears again on p. 19 of this issue — Ed.], I found it interesting that it is called a “Scholarship Fund,” and was inspired to write to you again regarding a much more substantial request. Although I realize that the Scholarship Fund is intended solely to provide subscriptions to the NOR to people who cannot afford to pay for them, I am hopeful that your readers might be able to assist me.

In October 2010 I was accepted to the graduate theology program offered via distance education by Fran­ciscan University of Steuben­ville. Due to my incarceration, however, I am relying on contributions to pay for tuition and textbooks, which average out to approximately $750 per course. So far, after over a year of seeking donations, I have only been able to raise $500. (Funds are being received and administered by St. Joseph Cafasso Prison Ministries, a lay Catholic organization.) I am praying that I will receive at least $250 so that I may finally begin the first course toward my master’s degree. Of course, continuing contributions will be necessary for me to continue my education after completing the initial course.

Should any of your readers be able to assist me, tax-deductible donations, however large or small, made payable to St. Joseph Cafasso Prison Ministries, may be sent to:

 Richard J.T. Clark Scholarship Fund
St. Joseph Cafasso Prison Ministries
12460 Crabapple Rd., Ste. 202-213
Alpharetta, GA 30004

I would be very grateful for any assistance whatsoever. Thank you.

Richard J.T. Clark

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