Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
This past week, the Diocese of Toledo – as part of its year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Church’s document on contraception – Humanae Vitae – held a conference with Dr. Janet Smith, an internationally known speaker on the wisdom of Humanae Vitae and the damage that has been done to society by the chemical contraception, especially the Pill, since it was introduced decades ago. Humanae Vitae was the document Pope Paul VI wrote in 1968, after much prayer and suffering, declaring that the Church cannot change it’s teachings and support contraception. I had the privilege of doing the live translation into Spanish during the presentations. So, an early transcript was sent to me mid-week, and I have been cramming for the last couple of days to make sure I had all the vocabulary down in Spanish – words such as fallopian tubes and pheremones. You all know what fallopian tubes are. Pheromones are colorless, odorless, hormonal chemical signals given off by the female body that causes attraction in males. I’m sure you can find the studies about them on the Internet. What’s ironic is that chemical contraceptives actually block pheromones. So you have single women out there on the pill so that they can hook up with any desirable man (supposedly without consequence), but in fact the pill they are taking stifles a significant chemical catalyst that causes attraction. Doesn’t make sense to work against God’s natural design, does it!? The more scientific data increases our knowledge about the psycho-sexual dynamics between men and women, the more amazed we become at God’s perfect design for their union in marriage!
So, Dr. Janet Smith’s presentation explained how it came to be that Pope Paul VI in 1968 declared that the Church cannot accept artificial contraception. Dr. Smith explained the obvious difficulties, such as the fact that it certainly can’t be healthy for a woman to suppress her own natural fertility cycle, by making her body think it’s pregnant, when she introduces artificial hormones with the Pill. Dr. Smith writes, “A woman literally changes her entire physiology, when she takes the Pill.” But, an equally serious problem with artificial contraception is the fact that the marital embrace itself gets stifled in its bonding power. Explained in the key of love, the marital embrace actually does not build up love as powerfully as it could, if it is a contracepted embrace, if it deliberately stifles the possibility of procreation. The body language of the marital embrace, which really cannot be re-engineered, even if we try… The body language objectively says “I give my all to you.” The marital embrace is so beautiful that it expresses a gift-love that is full, free, fruitful and faithful! To contracept this embrace is actually to undercut each of these adjectives in one way or another – full, free, fruitful and faithful. Isn’t it beautiful that God has designed man and woman so that in the marital embrace the body can actually coincide with what the heart means to say in marriage?!
Dr. Smith’s presentation also explained the great benefits of Natural Family Planning. This is a very advanced – scientifically supported – method by which a couple can know (based on the signs of fertility in the woman primarily) what is the very short span each month during which she is fertile. Although it takes some discipline to practice Natural Family Planning, there are so many benefits. And Natural Family Planning is more effective than the Pill, if one practices it accurately. It is not to be confused with the old “rhythm method”, where you just counted days in the month to determine when you are fertile. This method can handle irregularities!
I want especially our young people to hear that artificial contraception is not a healthy and wholesome approach to the marital embrace, which is so beautiful and so profound from the Catholic perspective, because of God’s very own design.
There is a connection between everything written here about human sexuality and our Sunday gospel of the last number of weeks. In John chapter 6 Jesus talks about his full, free, fruitful and faithful gift of Himself to his bride, the Church. And, this gift has everything to do with his Body. It’s not just spiritual, because Jesus is human and divine. He is body-soul composite. Jesus has been talking about how he is the Bread come down from Heaven. He has talked about how He is the true Manna sent from the Father. He has talked about how His flesh is the bread that we must eat in order to get to heaven. In other words, he is talking about the gift – including His body – that he will give on Calvary, by being crucified for us. But the night before he gives this gift, he gives us his flesh in the Eucharist as he institutes the Last Supper. In other words, so much of what Jesus is saying has to do with His Body given for you and me.
Jesus gives his body for his bride, the Church. Isn’t it the case that a man and woman in marriage give their body for each other in the marital embrace? And isn’t it an expression of the commitment their heart has already made to each other on the day of their marriage, and hopefully every ensuing day? And by the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, doesn’t a couple participate in the very gift of Jesus for his bride, the Church (cf. Ephesians, chapter 5)? Their love is one with His! There is a definite connection between the marital embrace and Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist. That’s why it is the case that the Eucharist sustains the bond of Holy Matrimony, the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Power always flows out from the Mass through the permanent, sacramental bond of Marriage to sustain a couple in their gift to one another.
Looking at the gospel scene in John chapter 6, where even many disciples of Jesus decide to stop following him, because what he is saying about his body seems too much to take in, I wish that they would look at the beauty of what Jesus has done – his miracles, the amazing way heaven opens up when he speaks wisdom, the way he shows mercy to sinners – I wish they would look at his beauty, and allow that beauty to get attract them to Jesus, so that he could lead them to understand fully the wisdom of God in the Eucharist. I wish they wouldn’t leave Him! Couldn’t Jesus bring them to a place of understanding that there is a greater wisdom (God’s wisdom!) that has ordained the Eucharist of His Body, such that people can receive the Body of Jesus in a way totally compatible with their nature, and therefore as a result experience the amazing power of his divine influence through that Body?
In a very similar way, can’t the beauty of Jesus Christ – and his infallible guidance of the Church in matters of morality and dogma throughout the centuries… Can’t the beauty of Jesus Christ draw couples at least to consider that there is a greater wisdom in His teaching that contraception actually is not the wholesome and healthy and holy way for couples to grow in love? A merely human/worldly approach leads disciples to leave Jesus when he teaches about his body in the Eucharist in today’s Gospel. A merely human/worldly view leads even many Catholics to reject Jesus and His church’s teaching regarding the gift of the body couples make to each other in the marital embrace. Can’t the beauty of Jesus bring couples at least to consider the truth about the marital embrace?
If you would like to learn about Natural Family Planning, go to the website for the Couple to Couple League (ccli.org) or go to the website of the Pope Paul VI Institute, with its NaPro Technology (www.popepaulvi.com). Or, certainly, call the office for an appointment with me in order better to understand the Church’s teaching on contraception and Natural Family Planning.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,