Should Scots Catholics Support Forthcoming “Couple Retreat”?

Should Scots Catholics Support Forthcoming “Couple Retreat”?


19-20 July, Glasgow

Turnbull Hall Glasgow University Catholic Chaplaincy

13-15 Southpark Terrace G12 8LG

Happy relationships don’t grow on trees – Inspire your Marriage!

 The “I+YOU=WE” couple retreat, consisting of lectures,

workshops and individual dialogue, will lead you

through the six steps from routine to joy in marriage

£70 per couple includes:

– detailed teaching materials

– tea/coffee and refreshments

– lunch and dinner

– e-coaching after programme

Retreat Master: Fr Jarosław (“Jay”) Szymczak,

Institute of the Holy Family, Warsaw, Poland

For more information and to register contact Anna and Armin at: tel: 07999 025 963 or 07856 639 016


If anyone feels motivated to go along to this course 19th – 20th July please feel free to report back to us – we’d be more than interested to publish your findings, good and/or bad.

After a fairly quick skim however,  I think it’s safe to say that anyone who clicks on the link to the Family Support Foundation website and studies the content of the courses for both the engaged and those serving life sentences (!) in marriage, there are several danger signals. Can you spot them?  Or, is this a course that Scots Catholics might comfortably support? Should we encourage couples, married and those who are engaged to be married, to attend? 

Comments (122)

  • Petrus Reply


    What would worry me about this course is that there seems to be a huge emphasis on humanist values. I see lots about “my feelings” and “disappointment” but almost nothing about Catholic teaching on Marriage.

    The second worrying aspect is that they draw on the research in “Catholic Anthropology” by Pope John Paul II. Anything written by this pope should be enough to make a Catholic wary.

    Once again we see the writings of modern popes, no matter how bizarre (Theology of the Body?), being treated as infallible and anything written before Vatican II considered worthless. Somehow I doubt Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s “Three To Get Married” won’t feature in this retreat, never mind the encyclical Castii Connubii.

    I am also sceptical when I see that elements of the course are guided by the presenters’ “personal experience”. When discussing the Sacrament of Marriage, there’s plenty of good, solid material which explains the Church’s teaching. As a married man, that’s what I’m interested in.

    July 5, 2014 at 8:03 am
    • editor Reply

      Perfect response, Petrus. Absolutely excellent. Not long ago a young married Catholic mother told me that she gave a present of Fulton Sheen’s “Three to Get Married” to one of her sisters as part of her wedding present. I doubt if those marriage “presenters” have even heard of it. I noted that they had two or at most three children each. Of course that could be perfectly in order, I don’t know, and I suppose, anyway, that the couples with seven or eight children are too busy taking care of their families to go scuttling around the world talking about anything!

      Anyway, a crystal clear response, Petrus. We’d be happy to adverse any marriage course which YOU organised. What about it?

      July 5, 2014 at 9:49 am
      • Petrus


        I’m sure my wife would point out that I should be the very last person to run a marriage guidance course! I’m In need of attending one….but not this one!

        I think it’s strange that anyone would feel confident and competent at running such a course, especially when it’s advertise that a chunk of the content will be based on “personal experience”. In my opinion, a good, traditional priest should be running such a course, perhaps using a little input from experienced, married couples.

        I have found that there’s often anti-celibacy bubbling under the surface with courses like this. How often have we heard “what can a priest tell us about marriage?” Well, I think a well educated priest can tell us a lot about the Catholic teaching regarding marriage.

        July 5, 2014 at 10:49 am
      • Josephine


        I agree about the “personal experience”. I’ve been on courses where the presenters are there to “share” their experiences and it is always an “experience” which leads them to think the Church is wrong about some teaching or other and they got it right, and then they call it the “sensus fidelium”.

        July 5, 2014 at 10:14 pm
    • Miles Immaculatae Reply

      The idea of having to listen to someone else’s marital ‘experiences’ terrifies me and grosses me out. If I was married, I wouldn’t want to know about anybody else’s marriage (or sex life, yyyyyyyyyyyyuk!)

      July 6, 2014 at 7:10 am
  • Summa Reply

    After reading the latest Catholic Truth newsletter, I went to the archive and have read most of February’s edition too, which mainly concerns Catholic Education. I was struck by one of the articles about Catholic marriage, family planning and offspring. There was a refreshing tone of larger families and bringing up a Catholic household centered on God, not economics.

    Again, as Petrus makes out, there aren’t a lot of specifics to critique, from what I can see. Certainly none that stand out. Perhaps you only find out what you’re in for when you arrive: like an insurance or time-share seminar 🙂

    On digging though, the blog has links to the underlying philosophy of the courses which is premised on the work on the family of Pope Paul VI and Humane Vitae

    The Family Support Foundation’s “Love and Life Programs” draw heavily on his teaching, which goes to the very heart of love in marriage. Fr. Jarosław Szymczak has lectured on “Humane Vitae” for almost 30 years now and devoted lifetime to translating this outstanding document into the language of practice in daily life.

    July 5, 2014 at 9:01 am
    • editor Reply


      Yes, they do include Paul VI and Humanae Vitae but there is quite a bit we could critique about that encyclical. I’ll leave that to others.

      However, Petrus made the key point about the tactic of Modernists to only quote from or cite post Vatican II popes, in line with their apparent belief that the Church began in 1962, with Vatican II.

      July 5, 2014 at 9:52 am
    • Josephine Reply


      I think where Humanae Vitae went wrong was in accepting the concept of “family planning” which I think was a sop to the liberals who were expecting the pope to change Catholic teaching on birth control. It resulted in Catholics now speaking about “starting a family” and so on just like everyone else, instead of accepting whatever children came along in a spirit of supernatural faith. That, to me, is the biggest problem with Humanae Vitae. It gave the impression that it was OK for Catholics to plan their families, as long as they used NFP, but that’s never been the teaching of the Church. So, it’s not surprising that this group organising the course, is happy to use Humanae Vitae.

      July 5, 2014 at 10:20 pm
      • Petrus

        Spot on, Josephine. Couldn’t agree more. As a father of four young children, I can assure everyone that there’s no “planning” involved in Catholic family life. When human beings try to “plan” a family, there’s likely to be some sort of trouble ahead. God will not be mocked.

        July 5, 2014 at 11:20 pm
      • Miles Immaculatae

        Your children are blessed. How weird must it be to know one was ‘planned’ into existence. Not very dignifying, is it?

        July 6, 2014 at 7:13 am
      • Athanasius


        I don’t think we can really say that Humanae Vitae “went wrong” in accepting the concept of natural family planning. The document does after all represent the infallible moral teaching of the Magisterium. Indeed if I’m not mistaken, Pope Pius XII also spoke on this subject. The clue is in the word “natural.”

        The difference between NFP and other methods of birth control is that NFP makes use of a natural female cycle that God Himself created. Therefore, it does not interfere with God’s will or with nature in the way that deliberate contraception does. The “rhythm method,” as it’s called, is always open to the possibility of conception and so those married couples who make use of it, rather than of more certain forbidden methods, are clearly leaving the ultimate decision to God.

        July 6, 2014 at 1:17 am
      • Josephine


        It’s a long time since I read Humanae Vitae but there can be no doubt that NFP was promoted in it as an alternative to contraception and that Catholics use it to speak about planning their families the same as everyone else. That never was Catholic teaching. You don’t just exchange one system of birth control for another. Catholics are supposed to accept children as a blessing from God and NFP is only permitted for a limited period of time and in extreme circumstances. Does Humanae Vitae say that?

        July 6, 2014 at 8:16 am
      • Petrus


        I think you are absolutely spot on. Humanae Vitae is certainly “vague” when it comes to the morality of using NFP. This is what it says:

        “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. (20)”

        You will note that it does not state that Catholic moral teaching states that the use of NFP should only be in extreme circumstances and for a very short time. Serious medical conditions and serious financial hardship being the only two acceptable reasons. The Church has never absolutely approved NFP, it merely tolerates it in exceptional circumstances.

        It has to be said that the use of NFP can be mortally sinful. The general understanding today is that it is “Catholic contraception”. This is wrong and to use NFP for selfish reasons is completely wrong and highly immoral. I would say that any Catholic who deems their situation so serious as to merit the use of NFP should discuss the matter with a traditional priest, perhaps in the confessional.

        July 6, 2014 at 10:26 am
      • Athanasius


        It’s not often we disagree on such serious issues but I profoundly disagree with you on this. HV is anything but vague, it is infallible Magisterial teaching that chimes perfectly with the moral teaching of the Church, so much so in fact that the liberals were besides themselves with rage when HV appeared.

        The quotation you gave us from HV in no way departs in any substantial way from what Pius XII said. Again, this is about intent. Clearly, if the intent of Catholic couples is both selfish and malicious, i.e. they don’t want children because they’re too in love with each other and their worldly goods and pleasures to be bothered with offspring, then yes that could constitute mortal sin. But if it happens that couples are placed under enormous financial hardship and the consequent stress that results, this is just one example, then no, the use of NFP would not be a mortal sin. God reads the hearts of people in such matters.

        I think since the Church has not clearly delineated particular circumstances regarding NFP, which is after all not against nature as human contraception is, then we ought to be careful not to be too condemnatory of others, too quick to assume mortal sin on their part. There must be malicious intent for mortal sin to be present. It is quite evident where human contraception is used, but not at all certain in couples who use NFP.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm
      • Nicky


        I don’t think it’s about condemning people – it’s about condemning the sin. The fact is that marriage courses routinely cover this topic, and the presumption is that couples will delay having children until they have enough money to “afford” a family.

        The people I hear saying they can’t afford children seem able to afford cars and holidays. It’s about priorities.

        About the Church not “delineating” – I think the Church has done that by setting out that it is an exception to use NFP. Nobody could expect the Church to cover every possible situation for people and we’re not supposed to judge on external things anyway, but I think most couples would know when it was due to selfishness or real necessity that they wanted to space births. The real problem is today that many if not most couples see nothing wrong with planning their families as everyone else does. Maybe you don’t think that’s a problem?

        July 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm
      • Athanasius

        “…I think most couples would know when it was due to selfishness or real necessity that they wanted to space births…”

        Precisely! And I think we should leave it to God who alone can read the hearts of men.

        “The real problem is today that many if not most couples see nothing wrong with planning their families as everyone else does.”

        I’m not sure how you know this. But assuming you’re right, would these young people be culpable before God if their parish priests were impressing on them an over-generous application of NFP that the Church never intended?

        If it is a post-conciliar abuse being spread by clergy to all and sundry then, yes, this would certainly be a great scandal and an affront to God. But look, we should not rule out also the enormous financial pressures that most Catholic couples face, particularly those with children already and only one wage coming in. We cannot rule out of the equation our Godless government which has been at pains to financially punish all those who marry and try to raise a family in the traditional Christian manner. Absolutely everything is constructed to prevent the Christian family from thriving in this atheistic country.

        July 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm
      • Fidelis


        Are you unaware of the dramatic decline in Catholic families? Are you unaware that Catholics do plan their families like everyone else, most of them using artificial contraception, but even those conservative Catholics who use NFP have the same “contraceptive mentality” that was condemned by Pope John Paul II? It isn’t rocket science – it’s obvious that Catholic couples are using birth control to not have children just because they don’t want a big family. I notice that the people on this course who are to be the personal experience presenters, only have a couple or three children. How many Catholics do any of us know with more than three or four children?

        I’m also amazed at your comments about Catholic couples and financial hardship. It was always financially hard for Catholic couples to have children but they did it just the same. You seem to understand this when you observed that it is godless governments which are doing all they can “to prevent the Christian family from thriving in this atheistic country.” Yes, but there are some families who do make all the sacrifices necessary to remain faithful to God’s law and to have children without having the finances in place first. They are nearly always poor financially, but they don’t make that a reason to prevent births.

        Forgive me if I am overstepping the mark here but I suspect that you have friends or family who use NFP and that you are afraid that by condemning the abuse of it today that you are condemning them. I have friends who are the same about “condemning gays” because they have one in their family. One friend of mine who has a son who is gay, now argues that it can’t be wrong as God wouldn’t have made him that way.

        BTW I also have a friend who uses NFP and will have to always use it due to a serious health issue. She is entitled. I have no problem with that. As it happens, they’d love to have several more children.

        July 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm
      • Athanasius


        Please be assured that I am not aware of family or friends who are practicing NFP. And since I am a single man myself, you can take it I’m not writing as one with a guilt complex.

        Our observations here must be restricted to what the Church teaches in fact, and in fact the Church does not unilaterally condemn NFP in the way she condemns human methods of contraception. Perhaps further clarification by the Magisterium on the limits of use of this natural cycle method are necessary today in light of the modern apostasy of nations and the implications this unprecedented return to pagan culture has for the Catholic family.

        In this regard, it is by no means clear that John Paul II had those who make use of NFP in mind when he remarked on the “contraceptive mentality” now so prevalent in the world today. It’s possible he meant to include them, but it is by no means certain.

        I think the best any of us can say from what is known to us by Church teaching is that human methods of contraception are at all times immoral and mortally sinful, whereas NFP is only sometimes immoral and not always mortally sinful. I’ll let the Church delineate in due course just exactly where the boundaries lie with NFP. I’m not personally qualified to do that.

        July 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm
      • Athanasius


        Editor makes a very good summary of comments and opinions below. We now risk, as she says, going around in circles here, so I’m happy to move on from this one as I’m sure you will be when you read that summary. It’s one of those emotive subjects which, in the absence of further clarification from the Church, is open to all manner of interpretations. I don’t think any of us can add further to our opinions and observations at this point in time.

        July 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm
      • Petrus


        The disagreement was bound to happen one day! 🙂

        I don’t think HV departs from the teaching of the Church at all. I do think it is vague. The fact that you have acknowledged that the Church will perhaps spell out what constitutes “grave reasons” or what a “short time” may be, surely proves this point. By then, go knows what damage will be done.

        There has to be limitations on NFP. That’s crystal clear. It cannot be used because a mother wants to climb the career ladder or the father wants to have an exclusive golf club membership.

        This isn’t about condemning anyone. It’s about Catholics not understanding this crucial issue properly and being left to their own devices. I’m sorry but I’m not prepared to wait until the pope and bishops get their finger out and decide to spell things out for me.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm
      • Athanasius


        I wish I knew how to put one of those big ear to ear grins on with my posts. No, don’t tell me how, I would only get carried away with smiley faces!

        On a more serious note, I think the last sentence of your post is pretty dangerous. If we’re not prepared to wait for the Church to explain in more detail what precise restrictions she wishes to place on NFP then we are likely to start making up our own restrictions, and that would be bold indeed.

        The best resolution is to leave each soul to God in this matter, who reads the hearts of men. That SSPX priest you quoted has the right approach. He knows that some NFP cases may be sinful and others not, but he’s not prepared to go further than that. This should be our approach also. Otherwise we risk becoming our own magisterium.

        July 6, 2014 at 3:36 pm
      • Petrus


        You misunderstand me. What I mean is (I’m writing on a mobile phone from the Lake District) that we don’t HAVE to wait for the pope and bishops to spell things out. Our Catholic sense should tell us that there has to be sensible restrictions on NFP.

        It’s not about judging or attempting to read hearts and souls. It’s about communicating the teaching of the Church. To use NFP for selfish reasons is sinful. Pope John Paul II tells us this, but it should be pretty obvious.

        Now, it is not for us to decide what genuine reasons are on a case by case basis. Absolutely not! We can, and must, speak in general terms. It is for an individual married couple, ideally under the direction of a sound priest, to make the decision.

        July 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm
      • Athanasius

        Ah! So that’s where you are? I hate happiness! Ok, only kidding! Enjoy your holiday, Petrus. By the way, I hope you remembered to set the normal holiday agenda for yourself and the clan. I think it’s called natural family planning!!! Yes, very droll, I know.

        July 6, 2014 at 10:25 pm
      • Athanasius


        The distinction I was trying to make was in regard to intent. It is clearly not the intention of those who use the rhythm method to interfere with the creative power of God, as is the case with human contraceptive methods. Those who abide by the divine and natural law, leaving matters ultimately to God, are clearly not malicious in their intent. Therefore, no malicious intent = no mortal sin.

        As for the limitations placed on the use of NFP, these have never been defined within particular parameters. We don’t know how limited a limited period of time would be, nor can we say what would constitute extreme circumstances. Pius XII did not enhance on this particular set of rules, so it’s best we lesser mortals don’t speculate. Given that HV is infallible, not part of it but all of it, and given that NFP is not opposed to the natural law, it’s probably best that we omit any condemnations of the practice based on our own personal interpretations or inclinations. The Church will doubtless clarify the matter at some point in the future.

        The real evil at this time is the use of human interventions that frustrate the creative power of God, offending against both the divine and natural laws. The Church is absolutely clear in her condemnation of these.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:01 pm
      • Nicky


        I think that it’s important not to speak about the “rhythm method” as that was discredited and used to mock Catholic teaching on birth control. This article explains the difference between the “rhythm method” and the Billings Ovulation Method.

        As you will read on that link, the rhythm method had a high failure rate in preventing pregnancy, whereas Billings is very successful and so easily understood that Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to teach it to illiterate women in India, who couldn’t have kept the kind of written records which the rhythm method entailed.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm
      • Athanasius


        Thank you for that distinction. I’m not particularly clued up in the matter of NFP, different names, methods, etc. The point I was trying to make is that NFP is not objectively sinful in itself, it all depends on the intent and circumstances of those who make use of it. And since we cannot know the intent of Catholic couples who do make use of it, we should refrain from being too willing to condemn those who use it as being guilty of mortal sin. The Church has not given precise parameters by which we can discern who is and who is not abusing NFP.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm
      • Petrus


        Whilst I agree with a lot of what you say, the fact is that a lot of Catholics are using NFP or immoral means. I read a lot of Catholic forums and the ignorance out there is astounding. I’ve also met numerous couples with two or three children who used NFP to regulate their families because the mother wanted a career and the family had to have their large car and huge mortgage in the leafy suburbs. Using NFP in these circumstances is immoral.

        I’ve just finished reading an article on a SSPX website about NFP , which says that NFP is sometimes not sinful, sometimes a venial sin and sometimes a mortal sin. Having discussed this matter with a sound SSPX priest in the past, this certainly makes sense to me.

        Now for a question, what makes all of HV infallible? It’s infallible in so much as it reiterates the teaching of the Church, but can we really say with absolute certainty that the entire document is infallible?

        July 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm
      • Nicky


        That is exactly right, and I would answer your question by saying that the same rule applies to HV that we have to apply to everything else in the conciliar Church, i.e. what is part of Tradition is infallible and anything which is ambiguous or new cannot be infallible.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm
      • Athanasius


        To deal with your question first. HV is infallible precisely because it reiterates the moral teaching of the Church. There is no such thing as a partially infallible document in the strictest sense, since this would clearly lead to confusion and dissent according to the disposition of individuals. If we permit the possibility of error in the Church’s infallible statements then who’s to say what is infallible and what is not. No, when the Church declares infallibly she leaves no room for question.

        As regards the rest of your comment, particularly what the SSPX priest said about NFP, that is precisely the point I was making. It all depends on circumstances and intent. And since we are not in any position to know either for certain, we should really not get too caught up in discussing what the Church permits and does not permit in respect to NFP. The guidelines have never been articulated to any great extent by the Magisterium, so we really need to let God be the judge of those who make use of NFP and not get ourselves bogged down with issues that we cannot possibly resolve, much less make judgments on. I will say again, though, that NFP is not like human contraception in that it is written into nature and always subject to God’s will.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm
      • Nicky


        It is because the intention is to prevent pregnancy, even for good reasons, that the Church does not allow NFP to be used all the time, as a form of birth control. Pope John Paul II spoke about the need to combat the “contraceptive mentality” and that affects Catholics like everyone else. I’ve met NFP instructors who didn’t know that, and thought it was OK to substitute Billings for the pill. They thought the only rule was not using artificial means of preventing birth whereas it is wrong to deliberately set out to prevent births by whatever method, unless there is a very good reason, such as health of the mother.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm
      • Athanasius


        With respect, the Church has not defined her restrictions on NFP to just the health of the mother, although I have no doubt this would be one reason. My understanding of the Church’s teaching is that NFP is permitted in circumstances where there may be physiological and/or psychological grounds. This could take into consideration financial hardship and a whole host of associated troubles of mind and body. There is without doubt much more stress on people today than there was fifty years ago, for example, and stress is a very destructive illness.

        I would also say that it is completely false to call NFP Catholic contraception since there is nothing truly “contra” about it. As long as the creative power of God is not obstructed by deliberate human means, as with contraception proper, then NFP cannot be truly called contraception. If we go down that false road then we would have to declare that God wrote contraception into the natural reproductive cycle of women. No, it’s not contraception to make use of a natural phenomenon that ultimately leaves matters in God’s hands.

        July 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm
      • Josephine


        I forgot to say that if used as an alternative to contraception, NFP does interfere with God’s will, we only use the natural cycle for short time in extreme circumstances. Also, with respect, the “rhythm method” went out a long time ago. NFP instructors teach the Billings Method which does effectively show women how to use their natural cycle either to conceive or avoid pregnancy.

        July 6, 2014 at 8:18 am
      • Athanasius


        I’m sure you will agree with me that whether it’s called the rhythm method or the Billings method, it is, as you say, “a natural cycle” that God made part of female reproduction. And, as I have pointed out already, NFP is not a guaranteed method of pregnancy prevention, God is still to produce life if He so wishes. Those truly intent on not having children, for whatever reason, would not use NFP, they would use more certain human methods. It is this difference that distinguishes intent.

        July 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm
  • Margaret Mary Reply

    I agree that this is not a course for Catholics, engaged or married. I certainly won’t be recommending it to my relatives. In fact, from what I’ve learned about Turnbull Hall, Catholic Chaplaincy, I wouldn’t recommend anything they put on. Isn’t that sad. We can’t trust a university Catholic Chaplaincy.

    July 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm
    • editor Reply

      It is, indeed, sad that we have to be very wary and scrutinise anything advertised at Turnbull Hall. It is also very worrying because the students will be subjected to these notices about forthcoming events and become involved in them in one way or another. In this way, they are being exposed all the time to Modernist influences.

      It will be interesting to discover how many couples go along to that course.

      July 5, 2014 at 11:43 pm
  • No one you know... Reply

    The priest running it, Fr Szymczak, is quite excellent, and I only wished I had a wife so I could go.

    Secondly on NFP, there’s nothing in HV that is heretical. It is drawing upon the teachings of Pius XII on the issue who first taught on it in an allocation to mid-wives. He raises certain conditions on which it can be used and I know that where it is taught these conditions are always taught with it

    July 6, 2014 at 5:55 am
    • Petrus Reply

      No One You Know,

      I don’t think HV is heretical. In parts, it is infallible. The problem is that it’s vague.

      It’s interesting that you would want to go along and hear married couples talking about their marriage. Personally, I’m not interested in any marriage apart from my own. I think I’d learn more by staying at home and watching Eastenders than going to this course.

      July 6, 2014 at 10:31 am
  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    I am not married, but I find this obsession conservative (as opposed to Traditional) Catholics have with ‘Theology of the Body’ and the intricacies of NFP a bit creepy. This whole ‘bring God into the Bedroom’ thing is creepy as well.

    Sex is the most boring aspect of theology in my opinion, a Catholic ought know the theology of sex as much as is practically necessary to live chastely, but these Theology of the Body types, well, they don’t half go on about sex (in my experience).

    If I was married, I know I would just hate one of these talks.

    July 6, 2014 at 6:54 am
    • Petrus Reply

      I couldn’t agree more. I would hate to sit n a room and talk about sex with other Catholics.

      Although I must say, I have known a “Traditional” Catholic who was always keen to discuss sexual matters and even suggested writing a graphic article on this for a Catholic publication. The editor of the publication was wise enough to out the brakes on this. Seriously weird.

      July 6, 2014 at 10:36 am
      • Athanasius


        I just couldn’t help thinking of Les Dawson’s Cosmo Smallpiece being present at that meeting. I know I’m bad, but the thought was hilarious.

        July 6, 2014 at 3:55 pm
      • Petrus


        That made me laugh out loud!

        July 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm
      • Athanasius

        I thought it might!

        July 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm
  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    That’s what I meant to say, these conservative Catholic types gush over JPII’s ‘theological anthropology’ as it’s being called, but it’s not particularly thrilling stuff. As I said, sex is the most boring part of theology, but they seem to relate sex back to everything in Theology, well, that’s the impression I get. Am I missing something here?

    July 6, 2014 at 6:58 am
  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    I remember CTS published a booklet recently recommending married couples to pray before sex. The Daily Mail thought it was amusing and wrote an article on it

    I mean honestly, you can pray before sex if you want to, but don’t tell anybody else about it. Gross. Keep quiet. And seriously, don’t even write or talk about it.


    July 6, 2014 at 7:05 am
    • Petrus Reply


      I just don’t understand the need to discuss sex constantly either. The Church’s teaching, when explained properly, is not hard to understand.

      July 6, 2014 at 10:37 am
      • Nicky


        I actually think it’s seriously sinful to talk about these things. St Paul actually said Christians should not enter into such talk. It’s opening the door to letting the devil in. That’s what he uses more than anything else, impurity. Some things should only be talked about between husbands and wives, if they need to be talked about at all.

        July 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm
  • editor Reply

    I’m just catching up with this discussion about birth control and since at a skim it looks like we’re set to move into the “going round in circles” stage, allow me to try to sum up briefly where I think we’re at, as our USA cousins say (although they seem to have disappeared from the blog – where ARE you Yanks?!)

    I don’t think Petrus and Athanasius, that you two are in disagreement at all. For the following reasons:

    I think we all recognise that NFP is different from artificial contraception although – obviously – as has been intimated above, the mentality may be the same in some cases. There are women who admit to using NFP because they don’t want to use drugs or devices long term – I once worked with someone who packed her husband off for a certain operation for that reason! She was a Catholic teacher in a Catholic school. The contraceptive mentality is endemic now, tragically. But – back to NFP – just because some people mis-use it, doesn’t mean that NFP is not acceptable when permitted. And those who are abusing it will, like us all, for our various sins, be called to account by God in due course.

    Which brings me to Athanasius’s point about not judging. Of course (and Petrus made clear his agreement about not judging) as with everything, we must not take it upon ourselves to judge individuals or in this case particular couples. I had a beloved relative, now deceased, who was married and they never had any children at all, because it just didn’t happen and they were both heartbroken about it. I suppose some people speculated that they were breaking God’s law but if so, they were spectacularly wrong. Same in cases where a couple only have two or three children. That’s all that God sends them, sometimes. I’m one of only four and believe me, if my mother had been planning our family, she’d have made sure I never appeared; I would definitely NOT have been part of the plan – that’s a given 😀

    So, we’re all agreed that, as with everything else, we cannot point the finger and make personal judgments about particular couples.

    All of that being said, then, I think it is clear that there is a problem within the Catholic community. I’m sure Athanasius recognises that, as well. I remember having email exchanges with one of the leading laymen in the south of England, (he’s a lawyer so I won’t name him in case he pursues me in the courts! I don’t want to end up best pals with Andy Coulson!) As I was saying, I once had email exchanges with a fairly well known layman in England, considered to be a “conservative-traditionalist” type of Catholic and he argued that NFP could be used by couples getting married because the house prices in the south of England are sky high and they needed to keep working to get the finances to buy a home. That is the contraceptive mentality writ large. There’s no law says we need to buy a home, but the secular mindset has taken root in even some of the most Catholic minds and “family planning” is the sad result. The “standard of living” test is set before the traditional Catholic attitude of trusting Divine Providence in the Gospel spirit of “do not worry about what you are to eat, or what you are to wear…God knows that you need all of these things…”

    I’ve spoken to a lot of “traditional” Catholic parents and they all marvel at the truth of the above Gospel passage. Thinking like God, not thinking like the world, is what makes a difference to our judgements in all things, including the issue of birth control and NFP.

    To sum up my summary then (!) we’re all agreed that NFP is allowed in certain circumstances, identified in a few posts above, and we’re all agreed that it is wrong to abuse this and that too many Catholic couples are either contracepting or using NFP as a contraceptive-substitute, when it is not really permitted. We’re also all agreed that none of us may point to particular couples to make judgments about their particular situation although – as with everything else – we are permitted to make a general observation about the fact that Catholic families are generally smaller than they used to be and that one possible reason for this is the abuse of NFP (perhaps out of ignorance – or some other well-meaning motive – which is why we may not judge particular cases).


    After Mass this morning, over a cup of tea in the hall, a very nice gentleman (one recent newcomer) told us a story that made us shiver. It was a true story about two friends of his, both called John. One of them was diagnosed with cancer and told he only had a few weeks to live. They were all very taken aback at this news but none more so that the second John who was horrified. Second John kept asking First John how he could live with this news, it was terrible. First John said he had no option and had to get on with things as best he could, and prepare for the end. Second John talked about little else and constantly expressed his shock horror at First John’s impending death. Then, a few days later, Friday (of the first week after hearing First John’s news) Second John was knocked down by a bus and killed. The bus ploughed into a bus stop where Second John was standing. First John attended Second John’s funeral.

    I thought you would find the above true (and quite recent) story, helpful in reminding us all that “death comes like a thief in the night”… Just in case “Do not worry about what you are to eat” etc. didn’t do the trick!

    July 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm
    • Athanasius Reply


      I’ll go along with your summary of comments, but I’ll never to go near a bus stop again!

      July 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm
      • Petrus

        Having read Athanasius’ points I agree with the editor that we don’t disagree at all. We’ve argued our case and come out on the same side. Is this a first for the blog??? Haha.

        July 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm
      • editor

        “I’ll never to go near a bus stop again!”

        😀 – me neither!

        July 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm
  • 3littleshepherds Reply

    It’s best not to assume that a couple uses NFP because they only have a few children. We also had six miscarriages and I know other couples who have had even more miscarriages.

    July 6, 2014 at 7:33 pm
    • Petrus Reply

      I couldn’t agree more. I try not to jump to any conclusions. However, some conservative Catholics are quite open about their use of NFP. I found this to be prevalent in Opus Dei. “Yes, we have two children…. But we used NFP” said the millionaire banker!

      July 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm
      • editor


        Don’t suppose that millionaire banker is widowed yet? 😀

        July 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm
      • Athanasius

        I wouldn’t mind being one of his weans. Right, I’m up for adoption!

        July 6, 2014 at 10:05 pm
    • editor Reply


      That’s a very good point about miscarriages and one that I had meant to make myself. Darn!

      July 6, 2014 at 9:13 pm
  • Frankier Reply

    How many marriages today are not “mixed”?

    I really don`t think there will be much discussion on this subject in most marriages performed in Catholic churches nowadays.

    July 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm
    • Petrus Reply

      Part of the problem, of course, is that most priests are either too cowardly to mention this subject to those preparing for marriage or just don’t have a problem with contraception.

      July 6, 2014 at 9:10 pm
      • editor


        The problem of clergy ducking the issue, for whatever reason, is a key problem in dealing with it.

        Anyway, I take nobody is keen to go along to the Turnbull Hall “couple retreat”? Reading this thread, I think several of you could liven it up no end!

        July 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm
      • Athanasius

        Or, and this is perfectly possible, they haven’t got the foggiest idea what the Church teaches in the matter!

        July 6, 2014 at 10:08 pm
    • editor Reply


      Another good point and again one that I had meant to make myself. It is a particular cross for some Catholics that their non-Catholic spouse may be resistant to the Church’s teaching about openness to children.

      July 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm
  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    Does our economic system encourage large families? I don’t think it does. At secondary school, we learned that in developed countries, children are an ‘economic burden’. If that is the case, then that is a sign that our current economic model is flawed.

    I firmly believe it is possible for an economic system where humans can have large families, earn a decent living wage, and be able to afford their own property, and have a decent standard of living. God has put enough resources in the world to make this possible. After the Triumph of Our Lady, Catholic rulers will adopt Catholic Social teaching, like in Rerum Novarum and there will be a just economy that will help eradicate the contraceptive mentality.

    July 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm
  • Athanasius Reply

    I managed to get hold of the following information from an SSPX priest concerning the marriage act. This is used as Catechetical instruction for those planning to marry. It clears up many misunderstandings concerning the Church’s teaching on what is called today NFP.

    Teaching of the Catholic Church on Birth Control and Periodic Continence

    See 1) “Moral Theology, A Complete Course”, Vol. 2, by John McHugh O.P. and Charles Callan, O.P., 1958, pp. 607 – 622; 2) Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives of Oct. 29, 1951; and 3) Pope Pius XII’sAllocution to the National Congress of the ‘Family Front’ and the Association of Large Families, of Nov. 26, 1951).

    1. There are Three Ends (Goods) of Marriage:

    a.Procreation and education of children. The state of marriage imposes upon husband and wife the obligation to bring forth children to conserve the human race, according to their ability to raise and educate them responsibly.

    b.Conjugal love and fidelity between husband and wife.

    c.The Sacrament of Matrimony, i.e., Sacramental grace and the indissoluble bond.

    2. The Obligation to Render the Marriage Debt:

    a.St. Paul says, in I Corinthians 7: 3-5,“The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”

    b.The duty to render the marriage debt is one of justice since it arises from the contract of marriage.

    c. This duty is normally binding under the pain of mortal sin, in view of the seriousness of the marriage contract by which children are assured for the continuation of the human race, and also because of the danger of serious sin if it is refused (e.g., incontinence, infidelity, harm to the marriage and family unity, etc.). However, it would be a venial sin if the request is not imperative, or if the denial is infrequent and without danger of incontinence.

    *Note:St. Paul says, in I Timothy 2: 12-15, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed; then Eve. And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression. Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continues in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety.”

    3. Cessation of the Obligation to the Marriage Debt:

    In general, a spouse is excused from the obligation to render the marriage debt when:1) the right to make the request has been lost, or 2) when the request is unreasonable.

    a. The right to the marriage debt is lost by mortal sins such as adultery, drunkenness, illicit drug abuse, domestic violence, spousal abuse (physical, mental,verbal, emotional or economic), child abuse, etc.

    b. The request to the marriage act is considered unreasonable and not binding:
    1)when it is immoderate,excessive, insistent against one’s free will, etc.
    2) when the husband fails to support his wife and children.
    3) when there is a serious medical or health condition(physical, psychological / mental, emotional)
    4)when it is seductive, i.e., when it invites sinful behavior, such as Onanism (see Genesis 38:9)

    4. The Obligation to Request the Marriage Debt:

    a. There is no strict obligation to request the marriage debt, since one may lawfully decide not to enjoy one’s right and not use what belongs to oneself.

    * Note: It is also lawful for married people to mutually agree to abstain temporarily or permanently from marriage relations for a good cause, e.g., for the sake of health, economy, mortification or holiness. Also, by mutual consent, they may make a vow of chastity or virginity, as was done by St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    b. However, in practice, there can be an obligation of requesting the marriage debt in order to demonstrate love and affection between spouses, and to avoid the danger of incontinence.

    5. Artificial Birth Control and Contraception:

    Artificial birth control (artificial contraception) in all its forms is a mortal sin according to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, because it is contrary to the natural order established by God for marriage. Artificial contraception refers to the use of all those artificial devices and means that place a positive obstacle to the natural use and completion of the marriage act. Additionally, the grave sin of Onanism, or withdrawal, is also condemned—by God Himself—in Sacred Scripture (see Gen. 38: 9).

    6. Is Natural Birth Control Ever Lawful?

    a.Natural birth control to limit the number of children in the family refers to: (1) the complete abstinence from the marriage rights or (2) periodic abstinence during those times of the month when the wife is not fertile to conceive. All artificial means of contraception are considered unnatural, i.e., against the natural order established by God.

    b.The limitation of the number of children by use of natural means is not unlawful in itself, and sometimes is even a duty, as when the wife is in very poor health (physical, emotional ormental), or when the family is unable to properly take care of more children. The Catholic Church encourages and admires large families. However, She does not teach that parents should have as many children as possible, but rather as many as they can raise and educate properly, especially in view of preparing their souls for heaven. The Church insists on responsible parenting for the common good of the family and society.

    c. The objection that husbands cannot restrain themselves is really an insult to God’s grace and is contradicted by numerous facts. The virtue of chastity applies to all states of life, including the married state. For even in marriage, both husband and wife must practice the virtues of chastity and modesty to avoid becoming slaves of lust and passion.

    d.Perfect or complete abstinence is counseled but not commanded, since it involves heroic sacrifice which makes it all the more meritorious and praiseworthy.(Allocution of Pope Pius XII, 1951).

    e.Periodic continence(i.e., Periodic Abstinence), which is sometimes called the rhythm method, is also lawful when certain serious (grave) conditions are present. Periodic continence is the deliberate avoidance of conception by restricting the use of the marriage rights to those days in the month when the wife is naturally infertile.

    * Note: Some writers use the term Natural Family Planningto signifyperiodic continence, but they often fail to men-tion the necessity of existing serious conditions to permit its use.

    f. All Catholic theologians agree that the use of marriage during the wife’s sterile period is lawful in itself, for the marriage act is performed in the natural way and no positive obstacle is placed to prevent conception. In addition, mutual love and the quieting of temptation are fostered.

    g. Since the married state imposes upon husband and wife the duty to have children to conserve the human race, it follows that to prevent conception by using the marriage act continuously without serious reason only during the wife’s infertile periods would be a sin against the married state.

    7. Teaching of the Churchon Periodic Continence:

    a. Vatican Office of the Sacred Penitentiary, decree of 1853:

    Question submitted by the Bishop of Amiens, France: “Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when (in the opinion of some doctors) conception is impossible?”

    Answerof the Vatican: “After mature examination, we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed [or disquieted], provided they do nothing that impedes generation.”

    *Note: the expression “impedes generation” refers to a positive obstacle used against conception, e.g., the sin of Onanism (withdrawal), condoms and other means of artificial contraception.

    b. Vatican Office of the Sacred Penitentiary, decree of June 16, 1880:

    Question: “Whether it is licit to make use of marriage only on those days when it is more difficult for conception to occur?”

    Answer: “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.”

    c. Vatican Office of the Sacred Penitentiary, decree of July 20, 1932:

    Question: “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.”

    Answer: “Provided for by the Response of the Sacred Penitentiary of June 16, 1880.” (See point “b”).

    d. Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951:

    (1) “If the carrying out of this theory means nothing more than that the couple can make use of their matrimonial rights on the days of natural sterility, too, there is nothing against it, for by so doing they neither hinder nor injure in any way the consummation of the natural act and its further consequences.”

    (2) “If, however, there is further question—that is, of permitting the conjugal act on those days exclusively, then the conduct of the married couple must be examined more closely. . . Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called ‘indications,’ may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.”

    e. Since Pope Pius XII, there have been further confirmations of this doctrine by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, and by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, and in many other statements.

    8. Doctrinal Summary of the Teaching of Pope Pius XII:

    1)Serious motives (grave necessity) must be present to justify the practice of periodic continence, i.e., medical, economic, social (domestic) or eugenic necessity. When present, the necessity can justify for a time, or even permanently, the practice of periodic continence in marriage:

    – medical necessity, i.e., a serious danger to health (physical, psychological/ mental, emotional)
    – economic necessity, i.e., serious financial difficulty or impossibility
    – social (domestic) necessity, i.e., a serious danger to the unity of marriage or family life
    – eugenic necessity, i.e., the danger of passing down genetic disease (blindness, deformity, insanity, etc.)

    2)Periodic continence, or the rhythm method, by mutual consent and in the case of necessity, is lawful provided there is no danger of sin on the part of the spouses.

    3) Without a serious necessity, the practice of periodic continence would involve some degree of sin. This sin could be mortal by reason of grave danger of incontinence, serious marriage discord, etc.

    9. Application of the Teaching of Pope Pius XII by Catholic Moral Theologians:

    1) Married couples who use their marriage rights have a general duty to have children.
    2) This duty to have children is binding under the pain of sin.
    3) There are, however, serious reasons that can excuse married couples from having children temporarily or even during their entire married life.
    4) The sin of using periodic continence without a serious reason does not consist in the exercise of the marriage rights during the infertile periods, but rather in the disobedience to the obligation of the married state by intentionally refusing to make their positive contribution to human society by children.
    5) The sin of unlawful periodic continence is not against the sixth commandment, but against the seventh commandment, i.e., against social justice – by not contributing to the common good of human society.
    6) Unlawful periodic continence constitutes only one sin for the whole period of illicit abstention during the fertile periods. (Thus, each use of the married rights during this time is not an individual sin).
    7) Moral Theologians commonly hold that it would be a mortal sin to continuously practice unlawful periodic continence for five or six years with a total exclusion of children and frequent use of marital rights.

    July 7, 2014 at 10:57 am
    • Eileenanne Reply

      Any couple reading that before or after their marriage will probably decide to stay single. It would certainly have been enough to put me off.

      July 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Obviously after marriage it would be too late to decide to stay single, but it would certainly deflate all passion and physical atrraction.

        July 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm
      • Josephine


        I totally disagree with your two posts at 3.19pm and 3.20pm.

        It used to be commonplace for couples to see the priest before the wedding and he would explain Catholic teaching to them on marriage. Married people have to abide by God and his laws, the same as the rest of the population. Single people do not rush out to marry because they are “put off” having to abstain from sex all the time so there is something wrong with your logic there.

        The teaching of the Church did not stop generations of people from marrying in Church. In fact, it is only nowadays that people are not marrying in Church.

        July 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm
      • Frankier


        All very well but how many ordinary Catholics knew, or even knows, the intricate teachings of the Church on marriage? I have never heard it mentioned often from the pulpit or even at school.

        July 7, 2014 at 10:01 pm
      • editor


        From time to time, various well-meaning friends who read this blog, suggest that I should create a fictitious “trouble-making” user to stir things up when the discussion is a bit quiet. My reply is always the same. I wouldn’t do that, even if I felt tempted, and anyway, we already have such a “stirrer” – she’s called Eileenanne.

        Behave yourself, wummin 😀

        July 7, 2014 at 10:29 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Let me make it clear, as I have in other discussions, that I believe every doctrine / dogma of the Catholic Church and try to live according to her precepts.

        I recoiled from Athanasius’s post, not because of its content,, but because of its manner of expression.

        Am I the only one here who would not have been encouraged to live out my married life as I should by words like
        …an obligation of requesting the marriage debt…
        .. And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression. Yet she shall be saved through childbearing;
        or …a spouse is excused from the obligation to render the marriage debt when…

        If I had been presented with that during my marriage preparation, I would have been strongly tempted to give up on either marriage or the Church!! I imagine any non-Catholic planning to marry a Catholic would also run a mile faced with such a technical and niggardly view of Church teaching.

        The Church is often accused, wrongly in my view, of an obsession with sex, and a tendency to poke its nose into the marriage bed inappropriately. I have never felt that accusation to be justified, but having read this I can’t help wondering…

        Very interesting, though is paragraph 6b, which allows for NFP to be used for economic reasons. The need to consider whether they can educate a larger family seems to be a legitimate reason for a couple to practice NFP. This might be especially true in places or at times when Catholic Education – or any education – has to be paid for.

        BTW Editor, I’m flattered that I sometimes come into your conversations away from the Blog! I must be doing SOMETHING right. 🙂

        July 8, 2014 at 10:09 am
      • Petrus


        I’m sure you agree that a priest preparing a couple for marriage has an obligation to educate the couple on these matters.

        Now, I don’t think for one minute that many priests would use the language you object to in a cold and insensitive manner. A good, traditional priest, like any good teacher, would explain these things in an imaginative and accessible way.

        Now, as Athansius said above, it’s not often that we both disagree but on this occasion I have to say that I disagree completely, but respectfully, with some of his comments. Yes we must have “mercy” when dealing with specific individuals. However, it is not at all “unmerciful” to speak plainly and clearly in general terms.

        I am interested that the (excellent) extract Athanasius posted above states that to use NFP for around “five or six years” would be sinful. If, as Athanasius pointed out, the Church has never really defined “a short period of time” then where does this “five or six years” come from?

        As I have said, we all, to a large extent, agree on this. NFP can be used morally for grave reasons and for a period of time. I said right at the beginning that my opinion is that a Catholic couple who feel the need to use NFP should do so under the direction of a priest. I don’t think there’s a lack of mercy or anything contrary to Catholic doctrine in that.

        July 8, 2014 at 10:25 am
      • Eileenanne


        Athanasius said, “This is used as Catechetical instruction for those planning to marry

        My point was exactly as you have said, that the method of delivery is crucial with regard to whether or not people embrace the message, and the Church’s teaching should NOT be delivered in those words..

        July 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm
      • Athanasius


        I fail to see what other way the message can be delivered. It all seemed really balanced to me.

        What I think you’re really trying to say is that people generally rebel against God’s law and Church teaching today, so the Church should pander to their sensitivities and, well, smother the truth so that everybody feels happy. This is already the norm in the average parish to the extent that NFP is now taught without the qualifying teaching of the Church. In other words, as a method of contraception without the baggage of conscience.

        I am reminded here of Our Lord’s own words: “let your yes be yes and your no, no.” There’s only one way to keep Catholic consciences right and that’s to give them the full picture, including the bit they might not want to hear.

        July 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm
      • Petrus

        Spot on, Athanasius!

        July 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm
      • Eileenanne

        What I think you’re really trying to say is that people generally rebel against God’s law and Church teaching today, so the Church should pander to their sensitivities and, well, smother the truth so that everybody feels happy.

        No that is not what I was trying to say at all. As I explained, and Petrus as a teacher understood perfectly, the method of delivering the message is crucial. That does not mean the message has to be changed or watered down.

        It may all seem very balance to you, but you are hardly a typical Catholic twenty-something contemplating marriage. Heavy theological language is not appropriate to marriage preparation.

        July 10, 2014 at 10:19 am
      • editor


        Just as well you don’t see the syllabi for school exams. Teachers, like priests preparing couples for marriage, are expected to have the brains and common sense to translate the work into understandable terminology AND to teach the meaning of technical terminology where necessary – without altering the meaning. Any teacher will tell you that young people love learning new words and new things generally. The “this is what you already know” experiential approach bores them silly. I suspect engaged couples attending a marriage preparation course will be exactly the same.

        July 10, 2014 at 11:20 am
      • Eileenanne

        No teacher / priest . instructor worth his or her salt would present the Church’s teaching on marriage in the words of Athanasius’s post. It is his / her job to make the material understandable and to ensure people acceot it. I was a teacher too, mostly working with students with learning difficulties, so I am aware that how information is presented to learners is crucial. I’m sure we all accept and understand that.

        If you were teaching about marriage, would you use the words Athanasius quoted?

        July 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm
      • editor


        I have copied an extract from Athanasius’s post to show you how the material he quotes from various Catholic sources might be used in teaching about birth control in a Catholic school.

        Obviously, the subject would be taught within the context of Catholic marriage and would be taught differently to different ability levels but ALL should have the same basic information – that pills and devices are OUT, but that women can learn how to understand their own body signs to know when they are fertile and may, for serious reasons, use that time to abstain from the marriage act. Basic worksheet with suitable graphics (not just the 2.5 children presently pictured in books and worksheets about marriage, even in Catholic schools) and language tailored to age and ability, makes this very easy to present, and related issues to deepen understanding should be used to make sure that pupils have the answers to the worldlings who will be telling them elsewhere in the school that contraception is OK and, in fact, right and good.

        For more senior students, especially in 5th and 6th form, however, it is possible (and exciting) to use more challenging materials, so here’s one way of teaching the subject using some of the Catholic content from Athanasius’s post since I don’t have time to cover the entire content. At the outset, let me say that I have, in the past, used various formats, e.g. quizzes, to present the most difficult teachings and terminology and I’ve never known any student to complain about learning new and very difficult words.

        I’ll presume a suitable introduction etc from the teacher and go straight to materials. I’d have a number of sheets or cards prepared and divide the class into either pairs or groups… EG…


        1) What do YOU think is the purpose of marriage?
        Brainstorm & discuss using a variety of approaches. (VERY short spell on that)

        2) Study the sheet/card # 1 : “The Purpose of Marriage – What the Church Teaches…”

        Highlight any words you don’t understand or are not sure about. At end of the session, be prepared for someone in your group to come out and write those words or phrases on the board or to hold up small whiteboards with any words written that you don’t fully understand.


        1. There are Three Ends (Goods) of Marriage:
        a. Procreation and education of children. The state of marriage imposes upon husband and wife the obligation to bring forth children to conserve the human race, according to their ability to raise and educate them responsibly.

        b. Conjugal love and fidelity between husband and wife.

        c. The Sacrament of Matrimony, i.e., Sacramental grace and the indissoluble bond.

        END OF SHEET / CARD # 1.


        1) What is a “debt”? List 3 ways people get into debt

        2) Why do customers have an obligation to repay debts, e.g. credit card debt or another loan? (VERY short spell on that to bring out concept of “contract”)

        3) Now Study sheet/card no. 2: Read St Paul’s words in the section entitled THE MARRIAGE DEBT and be ready to explain what you think he means:


        St. Paul says, in I Corinthians 7: 3-5,“The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”

        NOW… to explain what you think St Paul means, underline the words in the lists below to create a sentence which shows why husbands and wives should not deny each other intimacy… (the Church teaches that it is a matter of JUSTICE due to the fact that marriage is a CONTRACT)

        To deny sexual intercourse in marriage is unkind / immoral / unjust / unfriendly / cruel because the two people who married have made a promise / contract / suggestion that they will share sexual intimacy.

        END OF SHEET / CARD # 2.

        Now, that’s been thrown together very quickly, Eileenanne (we don’t get sunshine very often in Glasgow and I’ve been making the most of it today with the result that I am racing to catch up on other things) but I hope it suffices to show how using what the education experts call the “technical terminology” can be very helpful in developing and deepening students’ understanding of the issues/teaching of the church.

        In that short extract above, there is a lot of potential for discussion and enabling students to see that it’s not as simple as the big bad old Catholic Church says “no pills or devices” – there’s loads of potential, in other words, for forming sound and committed Catholic parents of the future in there. I can see it – I’m sure you can, too. Obviously, the above lesson(s) can be further developed – e.g. when the students in Group A reveal the words they don’t understand, there has to be some system in place to take that forward; the teacher may reveal the words and meanings in a heads and tails exercise (i.e. to match the correct meanings to the words) or in some other way see to it that students learn the definitions of the terms they don’t understand and learn them in some imaginative way. It’s working out how to help students learn, that makes teaching exciting. And remember, one of the world’s most famous psychologists, whose name escapes me at the moment, said that there is absolutely nothing that pupils cannot be taught, as long as the teacher puts sufficient care and effort into preparing the work. Teachers who have tested that hypotheses (including with those deemed to be poor ability children), testify to its truth.

        Anyway, that’s the best I can do for now. And no, I do NOT want to be the first ever Minister for Education in an independent Scotland 😀

        July 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm
      • Petrus


        The key here is the method of delivering the content. I dont think it would be appropriate to simply recite what Athanasius and that is not what he suggested. Having heard him speak in public, i know that he uses the correct terminology in an imaginative way, making it accessible for all.

        It does no harm, in fact it is beneficial, to use the correct terminology. I will give you an example. When I was studying Music I was mesmerised by “Sonata form”. I asked my teacher about it and she said, “Yes – exposition, development and recapitulation.” These words meant very little to me but I was desperate to know more. We then say at the piano and she gave me an example of each. I was spellbound and immediately started to listen for this in other pieces of music.

        I think it is a very poor teacher who constantly avoids tricky terminology for fear of the audience not understanding. A good teacher will present even tricky material in an accessible way.

        July 10, 2014 at 10:36 pm
    • Josephine Reply


      That is a really fantastic explanation of the holiness of marriage and marital relations (which is a much more dignified way of speaking about sex, BTW.)

      Thank you for posting it.

      July 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm
      • Athanasius


        You are most welcome and so right. My thanks to the SSPX priest who provided this excellent guide.

        July 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm
    • editor Reply


      I second (and even third!) all the other “thank you” posts – as the others have more or less said – cheek of them – the above explanation is an even better summary than mine, tying up the various strands of the Church’s teaching on this subject.

      July 7, 2014 at 10:26 pm
      • Athanasius


        Pay rise, please!

        July 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm
    • Summa Reply

      Thanks Athanasius for such an informative post.

      July 7, 2014 at 10:43 pm
      • Athanasius

        Most welcome, Summa.

        July 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm
  • Margaret Mary Reply


    That’s a great help to the topic of birth control and it just ties together everything the others have been saying. It shows what a great Catholic sense exists on this blog, as nothing in there contradicts what has been said already except the SSPX mention “rhythm” method but I suppose that is because it was published before the Billings method was discovered. It is so much easier now for women just to observe their mucus changes using the Billings method and so the temptation to use it a lot is much greater. It is a really clear statement. I think the SSPX will be used to re-educate everyone, as well as to lead the teaching of the Mass in seminaries when the crisis in the church is over.

    July 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm
    • Athanasius Reply

      Margaret Mary,

      Yes indeed, I agree completely.

      July 7, 2014 at 4:41 pm
      • Petrus


        Thank you very much for posting that information. It is exactly what I was saying and exactly what I was told by the SSPX priest who counselled us.

        The key is that NFP is not immoral in itself, unlike artificial contraception, but there has to be “grave reasons” for having recourse to it.

        July 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm
      • editor


        Another neat summary. Is this a competition or what? 😯

        July 7, 2014 at 10:27 pm
      • Athanasius


        It could become a competition if you’re prepared to put a worthy first prize up for grabs!

        July 7, 2014 at 11:17 pm
      • Athanasius

        Indeed, Petrus. But it was interesting that amongst the “grave reasons” for using the natural cycle, the following was included:

        – economic necessity, i.e., serious financial difficulty or impossibility
        – social (domestic) necessity, i.e., a serious danger to the unity of marriage or family life.

        Ultimately, as I said, it’s all about balance in accordance with the grace of God. I’m sure that once presented with the information above, most couples will understand the limitations and act accordingly. It’s just getting the right message across in a merciful and compassionate manner that can be difficult, especially since the subject seems to be so emotive.

        July 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm
      • Fidelis


        Actually, I’m scandalised that “economic necessity” is included in that list of reasons for using NFP. I think most couples, including my own parents, could have used that argument to prevent births. We were very poor, as were the parents of many of the Church’s great saints, and yet they accepted children when God sent them, at great personal cost. I have relatives who had ten and even thirteen children, and they were poor. Were they lied to by the Church? Was there no need to have accepted all the children God sent?

        I had a look at the sources of this teaching and it seems to be from allocutions, or talks, by Pius XII to midwives and family groups. I’m therefore forced to agree with your earlier words about the Church needing to give more clear guidance on this, because I doubt if a pope’s private talks to particular groups is guaranteed to be infallible and if some couples are allowed to plead poverty to prevent births, then all couples should have that option. We need to know. .

        July 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm
      • Petrus

        Yes, I have to agree with this. Catholic couples need to be generous when it comes to the size of the family they have. Many things that are judged to be “essential” today were luxuries in the past.

        There seems to be a muddying of the waters in this thread. No one is suggesting we should start pointing the finger at families. It’s about general guidelines. The Church encourages is to be generous, so anyone using NFP for selfish reasons will, as editor pointed out, answer for that one day.

        To be honest, I’m quite baffled that we have had to go round and round in circles. What was said at the very beginning of this discussion is exactly what has been said at the end.

        And with that, I will go back to the calendar and thermometer (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it 🙂 )

        July 8, 2014 at 7:21 am
      • editor


        “And with that, I will go back to the calendar and thermometer”

        Well, it sure beats trying to find a ceilidh band at 2 in the morning!

        Seriously, I think the article on NFP which first appeared in Christian Order and which Rod Pead (Editor of CO) kindly gave me permission to publish in edited form, is important to read in the context of this discussion. Click here and scroll to page 4.

        The simple fact is, that – as with many other things today – churchmen have been too keen to show the Church in a way that is acceptable to the world. It’s the same (false) “mercy and compassion” that Pope Francis wishes to show towards the divorced and remarried, that has driven the NFP movement to the point where it is now routinely regarded as the Catholic alternative to contraception – when that is NOT its purpose.

        In Pope Pius XII’s Address to Large Families he describes the large family as “those most blessed by God and specially loved and prized by the Church as its most precious treasures,” who “accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God – their children – in whatever number it may please Him to send them,” and who testify to “the physical and moral health of a Christian people; a living faith in God and trust in His Providence; and the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage.”

        July 8, 2014 at 10:30 am
      • editor


        I have a friend who has 14 children, and many relatives who have seven or eight, who could not have “afforded” them in the modern sense of the term. So, I, too, am puzzled at the inclusion of “economic” among the reasons to justify NFP. Of course, the Church has always allowed couples to abstain, as long as they both agree (neither can deny the other their conjugal or marriage “rights”) so that may be a reason to abstain from the marriage act for a time, if parents wish time to save money for the family etc. However, to use the infertile phase for this purpose over a long period of time cannot be morally licit, generally speaking.

        In another talk, his Address to Large Families, Pope Pius XII describes the large family as “those most blessed by God and specially loved and prized by the Church as its most precious treasures,” who “accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God – their children – in whatever number it may please Him to send them,” and who testify to “the physical and moral health of a Christian people; a living faith in God and trust in His Providence; and the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage.”

        That sums up the truly Catholic attitude to children within marriage. Of course, as already stated on this thread, God may not send any children at all, or only two or three, so we may not ever judge particular couples. In whatever number, however, the Catholic attitude is to welcome every child as a gift from God. I tell my mother that all the time. But she won’t listen 😯

        July 8, 2014 at 10:44 am
      • Athanasius


        I don’t mean this to be offensive in any way, but perhaps you need to let go your own opinion and adopt the opinion of the Church, which takes into consideration the mercy and compassion of Our Lord.

        I’m not referring here to that mercy and compassion that the Modernists use to extremes to the point of indifference to sin, but rather that genuine Christian understanding of the times in which we now live, times marked by much greater financial burdens and stress on individuals and families.

        Pius XII recognised these new pressures on the faithful, even as regards their being forced to work on Sundays for fear of losing their employment. We live in a totally Godless world now in which governments, financial institutions and employers have become hostile to the old Christian values of the past. This development has placed enormous and unprecedented pressures on young couples who want to do the right thing but are living under constant threat of losing their livelihood, property and possessions. It’s not quite as clear cut as you imagine, then. The Church, extending God’s mercy and compassion to those under such burden, has simply responded in a caring way to this new situation, offering sound and wise advice depending on individual circumstances. We should not, therefore, act as the Pharisees who placed heavy burdens on all across the board in the name of the letter of the law.

        The advice of the Church is perfectly sound for these times, distinguishing clearly between acceptable use and unacceptable abuse of what God has written into the nature of the female cycle. I don’t see anything in her teaching that should give rise to complaint or dissent. I advise a second read at that teaching.

        July 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm
      • Fidelis


        No doubt you do not meant to be offensive but you appear to be calling me a Pharisee for saying what Catholic teaching has always been until now, as if by doing that I am putting unnecessary burdens on to married couples.. I’m sorry but if it is a case of the natural moral law then new circumstances don’t make any difference. If they do, then that should apply to women and abortion and divorce and remarriage as well. The teaching has to remain the same or we have to accept the evolution of dogma and morality. We can’t have it both ways. There is definitely a case for better teaching of married couples to make sure they know what is right and that they cannot just apply NFP as a replacement for contraception, but we can’t say that life is more difficult now so you can use NFP more frequently. I can’t see that anywhere in what Pope Pius XII said, but in any case his comments to audiences when giving talks are in the same non-infallible category as Pope Francis’s comments in talks and interviews.

        You seem to share Pope Francis’s view of the world as needing a more “merciful” approach as if the Church hasn’t always been merciful.

        I apologise for contradicting you but I do think that is it very much as clear cut as it always was. Yes, life is very difficult for young people getting married but it was always so. Only the reasons have changed. I’m the last person who would want to make life even more difficult for married couples.

        I take on board what you say about unemployment etc. but I, personally, don’t know many families who don’t have a car, a TV, a washing machine etc. including some who are unemployed or in part time employment. My parents had none of these things until we were all grown up and even then, they still had no car but used public transport.

        I agree with your final paragraph which is all any of us have said all along. Periodic use of the female cycle is permitted in times of difficulty but, what is happening nowadays is an abuse. I found the Christopher Gawley article in the Catholic Truth newsletter, taken from the Christian Order article, very clear on the subject and that was written by a married man who knew the teaching of the Church and didn’t fear to condemn the way NFP is being abused in this day and age. What did you think of that article?

        You are completely wrong to talk about the Church’s teaching as being the letter of the law. As I said, this is what the modernists say about the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage and other issues of sexual morality. I am sorry to have to disagree with you on this, but I am afraid I do profoundly disagree.

        July 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm
      • Petrus


        I think that’s a very good response. I see nothing in any of your posts that contradict the teaching of the Church.

        I do not know many families I’m extreme financial hardship. Even families where both parents are unemployed, I see money being spent on cigarettes, alcohol, nights out, holidays, concerts etc. I know professional couples who claim they can’t afford a second child because they have a huge mortgage, enjoy two or three foreign holidays a year, have two cars and are season ticket holders at a certain football ground. So, I take tales of financial hardship with a pinch of salt.

        True financial hardship must exist, but I grew up in a very working class area and now live in a very working class area and I see an obsession with materialism is the main cause of ” I cannot afford another child”. Of course we shouldn’t place a burden on those who truly cannot afford more children, but we cannot avoid the reality. Quite simply, a large proportion of those citing financial hardship as a reason not to have a large family do so out of a lack of generosity.

        I repeat, if genuine reasons exist then a couple may have recourse to NFP. It is their business and no one (I hope!) is in the habit of sticking their nose into a married couple’s business.

        A lot has been said about the “Church’s teaching”. This is clear and concise. Nothing that you have said, Fidelis, contradicts the Church’s teaching. Pope Pius XII’s address to midwives is useful for us and nothing you have said contradicts what the pope said in that address.

        As Athanasius said earlier, the Church has never defined what “grave reasons” are or what “a short time” is. So, as useful as Pope Pius XIi’s address is, I don’t think it can be defined as “the teaching of the Church”. I think we have to follow our Catholic (and common) sense. NFP is an option for those who truly need it, provided it is not used for selfish reasons.

        July 8, 2014 at 8:54 pm
      • mikidiki

        Although Athanasius opines that he does not wish to cause offence, I feel I must state that I, personally, found his tone and admonition particularly uncalled for and, indeed, bordering on objectionable, which is a pity since he is usually a fount of good natured rectitude.
        And where he advises for you a second read of the Church’s teaching, I in my turn would wish him to reappraise, and rephrase, his response to you.

        July 8, 2014 at 9:01 pm
      • Athanasius


        There are times when certain truths cannot be re-phrased and presented in a way that completely preserves the sensibilities of those we correspond with.

        I said at the time, and I say again, that my remarks were not intended to cause offence to Fidelis. The observation I made concerning the danger of falling into a harsh and Pharisaical attitude towards others is a valid one. I weigh it in respect to my own judgments all the time and I always advise other Catholics to do likewise. We cannot ever rule out the possibility of our own pride getting in the way of objective reasoning.

        A very real danger exists for all of us Traditional Catholics. It is that our duty to oppose destructive post-conciliar innovations in the Church, a duty that should always be carried out fearlessly, but in the spirit of Our Lord with patience and charity, can so easily turn into a consistently negative view of things so that we find ourselves questioning or denying even the teaching of the Church pre-Council.

        Now, the post I put up on July 7 @ 10.57am contained the Traditional Catechetical teaching of the Church in relation to the use of the natural female cycle. It was generally received well, as I would expect on a Traditional blog. But then Fidelis wrote that she was scandalised by the part that excuses Catholic couples who use NFP for the grave reason of financial hardship.

        Fidelis rejects this part of the teaching of the Church and goes on to say that it’s not actually infallible teaching anyway, just the opinion of Pius XII and a few others. Petrus, I’m sorry to say, agrees with this view of Fidelis and so we now have a situation where even the pre-Council teaching of the Church is being questioned. This is quite wrong and I stated the fact as clearly and as respectfully as I could.

        In reality, that teaching which is rejected as non-infallible is actually infallible, since it was confirmed by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. Additionally, it can be shown that the same consistent moral teaching has come down from Pius XII through Paul VI and John Paul II. It hasn’t altered one iota.

        Given this consistency, it is not for us to pick and choose which parts suit our own opinions and which parts do not. If the Church includes financial hardship as a “grave reason” that justifies for a while the use of the infertility cycle, then it is not for us either to reject what the Church teaches or to pontificate that there really is no such thing as poverty today, just selfish people who want to enjoy the pleasures of modern living at the expense of having children.

        Whether this kind of fraud is commonplace or not is besides the point, God knows who they are. The point is that many people do suffer very great financial poverty and it has very serious, often debilitating effect on their lives. The Church allows for this in her mercy, so we should not do less.

        Finally, the reason I advised Fidelis to re-read the aforesaid Catechetical instruction is that it is so clear, balanced and Catholic that I felt sure she must have misread it the first time. There should be absolutely no questioning of that teaching from Traditional Catholics. I expect liberals to challenge it because for them it will certainly be too harsh. But Traditional Catholics challenging it because they think it’s not harsh enough is worrying.

        July 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm
      • Fidelis

        I’m sorry but I am not accepting your setting yourself up as the only real Catholic here with the rest of us rejecting the “pre-Council” teaching of the Church, when the pre council teaching was NOT to make NFP something normal. It was only ever permitted as a dispensation, as Christopher Gawley points out in his excellent article on the subject – I have copied this extract from the Christian Order website for you and please note the quote he begins with from Pope Pius XII which has to be the context for his other comments re. a dispensation in cases of real need:

        “Now the value of the testimony offered by the parents of large families lies not only in their unequivocal and forceful rejection of any deliberate compromise between the law of God and human selfishness, but also in their readiness to accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God — their children — in whatever number it may please Him to send them.” – Address of Pope Pius XII to the Directors of the Associations
        for Large Families of Rome and of Italy (Jan. 20, 1958)

        The Proposed Solution:
        Responsible Parenthood and Natural Family Planning

        In the wake of the destructive onslaught against the family by a contraceptive anti-culture, Church leaders have groped for a solution in the post-Conciliar world. Consistent with the spirit of the Council, they have sought to strike a middle ground — one that meets modernity on at least some of its terms. They have conceded that there is something to the modernist objections that we have to be concerned about demographic growth, taxation of limited physical resources, the rights of women, and the social difficulties posed by feeding and educating too many children. As it related to the question of when and how often to bring children into the world, she seemed to agree that control over fertility was a good thing with the only caveat seeming to be that such control should not be obtained by the use of artificial means. Instead, modern Church leaders enlisted periodic continence (i.e., limiting conjugal relations to a woman’s naturally occurring infertile periods) or “Natural Family Planning” (NFP) as the definitive counter-measure to oppose the ease and control afforded by artificial contraception.
        The history of NFP cannot be divorced from artificial contraception. In the context of condemning birth control, Holy Mother Church has taught that NFP, as a dispensation from the normal relations between husband and wife, can be morally acceptable; the Venerable Pius XII in his Allocution to Midwives:

        “The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life. Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.”

        Later in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI reiterated that NFP was acceptable albeit again subject to certain moral qualifications.

        Obviously much as changed since 1968: What essentially began as qualified dispensation from normal marital relations and obligations has morphed in recent years into something very different in the minds of the Church leaders. A negative — that is, a permission to deviate from the norm for grave reasons, has been transformed into a positive.

        Indeed, it is now fair to say that NFP has become a de facto teaching as the way in which married couples ought to relate to one another — a holy good in and of itself.

        According to current material published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), NFP “reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.”

        Mr Gawley, married with a large family, has got it right. What began as a dispensation before the Council is not to be regarded as something good in itself. That is the point I have been trying to make, unsuccessfully.

        You have to decide if you think NFP is a good in itself, to be used as a normal part of married life, or a dispensation for grave reasons. We have already agreed that nobody should judge or query those reasons so please do not keep on about my own reservations about “economic” – my reservations are because people use that as their excuse not to have children, both those who contracept and those who use NFP. but that really is not the core point. The core point is that you seem to think the Church has always allowed NFP as a positive good which is not true. It’s always been a dispensation.

        I am also amazed at the way you bandy words like “harsh” around – that is very insulting indeed. I am not at all harsh to anyone about anything. I have already explained that very clearly indeed, so I am sorry that you refuse to accept my word. Perhaps when you read the whole of Mr Gawley’s explanation of how the emphasis on NFP changed in the post-conciliar years, you will realise that it is not quite accurate to say that the teaching has been handed down exactly as before. It’s not been. I think I have already shown that very clearly but you do not take anything into account that I’ve said, just keep on saying the same thing, which is to view NFP in the most positive light. You are the first Catholic I’ve met in the past ten years at least who does not realise there is a problem with Catholic families which are no bigger than any other families, for the most part. You can’t just say “I am not judging them” – observing a phenomenon is not judging in the sense of the Gospel.

        I would ask you to withdraw your insulting claim that Petrus and myself are questioning pre-Council teaching. That is absolutely false and to be honest, I will lose all respect for you if you refuse to withdraw that lie.

        July 9, 2014 at 12:27 am
      • Fidelis


        I forgot to say that your last words about some of us challenging Catholic teaching “because they think it is not harsh enough” is outrageously insulting. The Church’s teaching on large families is not at all harsh and the Catholics who have followed it for years speak about their joy at having lots of children, they don’t find it harsh. You really should read that Gawley article. The Church’s teaching is not harsh and I can see nothing in Petrus’s posts which are harsh, and I have explained in my other post that I am not a harsh person so please choose your words more carefully.

        July 9, 2014 at 12:31 am
      • editor


        I have read all the posts on this subject and I can see that you are neither harsh nor un-Catholic in your comments.

        Please don’t take offence at anything said by Athanasius, who, I am confident, means no harm.

        All that can be said has been said, so I suggest you leave the matter there. I note that you have given links to the article by Christopher Gawley, himself a married man with, I think, about 7 children, so his article is very important to read – I’m sure Athanasius will do so.

        You are right to highlight the fact that NFP is permitted only as a dispensation and it is quite clear that it is not taught as such. I know that from at least one NFP teacher who admitted that she had not realised herself that it was only permitted as an exception. She thought it was the Catholic answer to contraception, and since none of her colleagues had told her differently, we can take it as read that very many, if not the majority, of contemporary Catholics interested in NFP do not know that it is an exception. Clearly, then, there is a problem.

        Having said that, we’re not going to solve it here! So, I suggest we let the matter drop now, and pray for the people attending the Turnbull Hall conference because if there’s confusion on this blog about the Church’s teaching on birth control, there will be utter confusion on that “Couple Retreat”. Big time 😀

        July 9, 2014 at 1:11 am
      • Athanasius


        There is no reply button above your comments so I’ve used the reply on my own previous post, which may alter continuity in exchanges.

        “I’m sorry but I am not accepting your setting yourself up as the only real Catholic here with the rest of us rejecting the “pre-Council” teaching of the Church…”

        I don’t believe my comments could in any way be construed as setting myself up as the only real Catholic here. At no time have I accused everyone here of rejecting the pre-Council teaching of the Church. I made the observation that you alone were rejecting that part of it which rules financial hardship as one of the “grave reasons” that may justify NFP. Petrus agreed with your assessment, maintaining that generally speaking true financial hardship is rare today. But at least he conceded that where some genuine cases. You did not make any such qualifying statement, so it was your position alone that I was taking issue with.

        “…the pre council teaching was NOT to make NFP something normal.”

        Agreed. No one said it was. You certainly won’t find in my comments any suggestion that NFP should be something normal.

        …It was only ever permitted as a dispensation, as Christopher Gawley points out in his excellent article on the subject – I have copied this extract from the Christian Order…”

        I don’t doubt that it was permitted as a dispensation so I suspect that Christopher Gawley’s article can enhance in any way on what has already been posted as the teaching of Pius XII, the Holy Office, Paul VI and John Paul II. These are sufficient authority for me.

        “…Mr Gawley, married with a large family, has got it right. What began as a dispensation before the Council is not to be regarded as something good in itself. That is the point I have been trying to make, unsuccessfully.

        You have to decide if you think NFP is a good in itself, to be used as a normal part of married life, or a dispensation for grave reasons…”

        Perhaps you should re-read all my comments from the beginning, Fidelis. You will not find anywhere in them an argument that NFP should be a normal part of married life. My one and only disagreement with your point of view throughout is that you have appeared to reject throughout the Church’s teaching that financial hardship is one of the “grave reasons” that may permit a dispensation in respect to the use of NFP. You said you were “scandalised” by the inclusion of financial hardship as one of the Church’s “grave reasons” for permitting NFP. That’s the only difference between us in respect to what the Church teaches. I simply commented that you should not discount financial hardship when the Church says it CAN be a real obstacle to having children in certain cases.

        “…I forgot to say that your last words about some of us challenging Catholic teaching “because they think it is not harsh enough” is outrageously insulting…”

        That comment was based on your rejection of financial hardship as one of the Church’s “grave reasons”. How else was I supposed to interpret this rejection other than that you think the Church is over-indulgent by including it, which is harsh on your part?

        We’re now going around in circles again so I’ll state my position this last time to prevent further confusion or misrepresentation of my views.

        It is absolutely without doubt that the Church permits the use of the natural female cycle as a dispensation for “grave reasons” and not as a normal practice, although it may arise that some reasons are so grave that a lifetime dispensation may apply.

        Where grave reasons are absent, those who practice NFP are most likely committing mortal sin, or at the very least venial sin. This determination is dependent upon reasons and circumstances. If it is for purely selfish reasons, excepting genuine ignorance of the Church’s teaching in the matter, then mortal sin is certain.

        It has never been the teaching of the Church that Catholic couples have to produce large families, even if this is desirable. Rather, the teaching of the Church is that Catholic couples make certain to raise the children God sends them, regardless of number, in the true faith with a view always to their eternal salvation. In other words, it has never been about quantity but rather quality. In this regard, it may be that the quality of raising children for heaven could be adversely affected in the event that other children are added to the burden of the parents. This could be a temporary issue for parents or a permanent one. The Church lays out her “grave reasons” for such eventualities, financial hardship being one of them, allowing dispensation for a more or less lengthy period of time to use the infertile cycle.

        This cycle is a natural one and therefore not at all on a par with artificial methods of birth control, which are always mortally sinful. Nevertheless, the Church does not permit the use of the natural cycle under normal healthy circumstances as this would offend against the 7th Commandment.

        July 9, 2014 at 1:46 am
      • Fidelis


        I cannot be blamed for feeling initial shock on seeing “economic” reasons among the reasons for NFP and I stand by that, because it is true that Catholics following the Church’s teaching on being open to new life, very often do suffer financial hardship but they have the example of the Holy Family to sustain them, and God’s grace is not lacking to them. The fact is also that Pope Pius XII did not expand on what he meant by “economic” reasons. He could have been thinking of the poor women in India who Mother Teresa taught Billings to, not people in the UK or USA who are two car families. I honestly cannot believe that any pope would consider what we call “relative poverty” (unable to afford material gadgets etc) as a reason for spacing births. I exclude Pope Francis from that statement as he is very liberal, even speaking sympathetically about divorced Catholics in “second marriages”

        You keep on about this as if by expressing my reservations about this I am denying “infallible” teaching. That is not the case at all. What is infallible in this matter is the repeating of the teaching that artificial contraception is forbidden. That is the only infallible teaching in Humanae Vitae. NFP is a recent discovery so is not part of the teaching handed on. I believe you said yourself at the beginning of this discussion that the Church needs to explain more clearly what is meant by “grave reasons” to justify NFP.

        However, I think Mr Gawley has identified the real problem with NFP, that it has encouraged the “contraceptive mentality” among Catholics and, in fact, most Catholic couples use contraception. Who can blame them if the message they are getting is that they have to be responsible parents?

        I offer another extract from Mr Gawley’s article:

        “Why Natural Family Planning Has Failed

        While NFP, if used properly, is undoubtedly a licit dispensation according to Holy Mother Church, its use as an affirmative counter-cultural movement has been a spectacular failure for a variety of reasons. Polling data confirms the anecdotal: Catholics use contraception at very high rates and evidently have little moral qualms about it. If results matter, and they should, NFP as a movement has utterly failed in its intended mission to present a viable alternative to a contraception-crazed world.

        Why should that be? Because by emphasising the exception and what essentially is a negative — as opposed to the rule and what is essentially the positive — we have given unnecessary credence to the contraception zealots. By conceding the argument that we should be “responsible” parents — impliedly by limiting the occasion of our parenthood for whatever good that comes to mind — we have conceded our very best and even divine argument that Christians should bear the burden of sacrificing for large families and, paradoxically, find much greater joy here and now because of it. Instead of attacking the banality of the contraceptive concept of “responsible” parenthood by juxtaposing it with “heroic” Christian parenthood, we lost the battle before it ever began by essentially advertising “contraception-light” as a way to keep up with the Joneses.

        The emphasis on NFP as a positive has created a creeping contraceptive mentality that is suspicious of grace and faith. NFP is ultimately distilled to the faithful as a natural way to obtain the same results as our contracepting neighbours — a couple of kids, jobs for mum and dad, two new cars, a vacation to Disneyland and a white picket fence — albeit wrapped in a soft and cosy mantra of “prayerful consideration.” One has to ask why the discovery of “responsible parenthood” and the wonders of NFP have been revealed during only the second half of the twentieth century — and in first-world countries at that? Historically speaking, there have never been fewer grave reasons not to have children as there are in the United States today given its sheer material and economic wealth. One cannot help wondering whether NFP has been devised precisely in response to the ennui and selfishness of that rich culture in the first instance: i.e., only in cultures like the decadent post-Christian West could NFP have even been dreamed up as a positive development.”

        It is very obvious that Mr Gawley has described exactly what is happening today. I am surprised that you have dismissed Christopher Gawley’s article and say you prefer to follow the popes. I follow the traditional teaching of the Church on this as on everything else, but where there is legitimate discussion, I will consider the views of other people who are more expert in the matter than me. Gawley is a lawyer and a father of a large family, so he is likely to know what he is talking about. I think the above extract is exactly accurate. I would be interested to know if you agree.

        July 9, 2014 at 10:44 am
      • Athanasius


        I am not in disagreement with you about abuses of NFP, usually due to modern priests not giving the teaching of the Church in its entirety.

        However, it seemed to me that you were even taking issue with the information I posted from the SSPX priest, which is perfectly in line with the teaching of the Church. Unless I misunderstood, you reject from that teaching any indulgence to married couples who may use NFP as a result of financial hardship.

        That’s what I meant about putting personal opinion before the Church’s wise and merciful teaching. We have to be very careful of that because it can lead us to make overly harsh judgments on others.

        I have absolutely no issue with the Traditional Catechetics posted earlier from the SSPX priest, even the part about financial hardship. Those who have suffered real financial hardship in their lives know exactly how debilitating it can be on the mind, the nerves and the emotions.

        July 8, 2014 at 10:51 pm
      • Fidelis


        I did take issue with the mention of “economic” hardship in the SSPX document, because I was very taken aback at seeing it there, since large Catholic families were at one time the norm and they were usually poor. I know that this is the most common reason given by people who contracept and use NFP these days – that they are being “responsible parents” because they can’t afford more children. But I’ve never heard it accepted in any Church document until you posted that SSPX document. These people can afford cars and holidays, and plenty of other luxuries. I’m not making harsh judgments just going by what they say themselves. So, yes, I do take issue with that part of the SSPX statement. I prefer Christopher Gawley’s talk of “Heroic Parenthood” rather than the modern talk, now adopted by the Church, of “responsible parenthood.” The former requires trust in God’s providence, the latter is about self-reliance. I’m sorry to have to disagree with you on this but I do see this as a clear departure from Catholic Tradition. I’m amazed that the SSPX doesn’t.

        Anyway, I do not wish to keep on about this – it is obvious we are not going to agree, so I suppose we could leave it there, as long as you understand that I am not at all putting myself above the church, but as Gawley points out, the church authorities have moved with the world on this one, replacing heroic parenthood with “responsible” parenthood. Traditional Catholics that I know are sticking with the original teaching, despite the financial hardship it brings. I don’t know any rich traditional Catholics but the ones I know seem to be contented with their lot.

        My final word is that I definitely do not judge anyone – it’s not something that has ever been raised as a topic of conversation in my presence and I hope it never is, because it’s not my business. I’m only putting my tuppence worth in here because it’s a general discussion, not about real people. I hope that reassures you about my attitude towards others. Even if someone did tell me they felt they had to use NFP for whatever reason, I wouldn’t feel I could judge them. That’s between them and God. I’m only talking about the general rule of thumb which for Catholics has always been, accept children as a blessing from God and trust him to provide for them. I hope that puts your mind at rest.

        July 8, 2014 at 11:31 pm
  • Frankier Reply

    I don’t know if Ed will allow it but this talk about the rhythm method reminds me of the story of Mick, the father of a large family, who was advised by his parish priest to use this method if he so wished.

    That’s all very well father, he said, but where do you expect me to get a ceilidh band at two o’clock in the morning.

    July 7, 2014 at 10:10 pm
    • editor Reply


      Allowed. Hilarious in fact! 😀

      July 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm
    • Athanasius Reply


      I don’t want to turn this into a joke thread, but since we’re on priest jokes I thought I might tell this one: Father comes out of the parish church and sees Murphy, the local drunk, staggering along on the opposite side of the street. “Drunk again Murphy,” he shouts. “Aye, me too Father,” comes the reply.

      July 7, 2014 at 11:21 pm
      • Frankier



        July 8, 2014 at 12:00 am
      • Summa

        That reminds me of an incident that happened in the wee village we lived in in Donegal, years ago, but to save the blushes of anyone who I might inadvertently identify, I’ll leave you all in ignorance 🙂

        On a more sober note, but mildly related, I was reading tonight about the Third Order of Saint Pius X. They mentioned taking an oath of sobriety. Does that mean (as it has two meanings) complete abstinence from alcohol, or remaining sober ie moderation?

        July 8, 2014 at 12:05 am
  • Theresa Rose Reply


    As to the taking an oath of sobriety mentioned by the Third Order of Saint Pius X. There is an organisation
    “The Pioneers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” which has been in existence for more much more than 50 years.
    An oath is taken not to partake of alcohol. A daily prayer is offered up for alcoholics and sins committed as a result of drinking the stuff. The prayer can be found somewhere on the right hand side of the page.

    Sorry editor, I know its off topic,

    July 8, 2014 at 7:06 am
  • Summa Reply

    Thanks Theresa Rose
    I was wondering about the terminology of sobriety relative to the 3rd Order of SSPX and whether or not it was like the pledge or rather an oath of moderation. I know about the pledge as a few members of our wider family have taken it.

    July 8, 2014 at 7:38 am
  • mikidiki Reply

    It may be of interest to mention that lifesitenews printed the following article in July 2014. It illustrates that condemnation of contraception is not confined to Catholics

    July 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm
  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    What peace those with a celibate vocation must have!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:39 am
  • Summa Reply

    Seems to be plenty of teachers on here 🙂
    This should make us sympathetic to the plight of priests who have difficult material to teach.
    As a teacher, the creed was know your students! which in a packed class of teenagers, some challenging to say the least, wasn’t too easy.
    Priests nowadays don’t have the luxury of familiarity with their marriage students, if they ever did, so making a difficult job even more so.

    July 11, 2014 at 12:05 am
    • editor Reply


      I’m afraid, during my own career, I used to tell my new pupils/students that I was going to give the popular “ice-breakers” a miss because it was in the teaching and learning process that we would get to know one another. And so it came to pass…

      Sometimes, knowing too much about people can be a handicap to teaching. For example, the widespread breakdown in marriage and family life has led far too many priests and teachers to avoid even speaking as if the nuclear family were – or should be – the norm.

      I think that’s wrong – big time. It’s quite possible to communicate the fact that we all have marriage breakdowns in our families – hardly a family has been untouched by this tragedy – and still explain that lifelong marriage is the “right way” because it’s what God wants. One of my former colleagues produced an excellent worksheet/quiz which listed all the various types of “family” these days, including same-sex partnerships and “reconstituted families” (where divorced “partners” bring their respective sets of children into the new partnership or “marriage”) and students were asked to discuss and identify which they thought the best model for happy couples and families. Without fail the majority always chose “father, mother, married for life, living with their own children in same house”. Without fail.

      So, while, of course, up to a point it sure helps to know one’s students, there’s a sense in which a teacher can sometimes do more good by presuming certain things. If Miss Goody Two Shoes, for example, wants to teach about the immorality of stealing, she doesn’t need to know about particular students who are thieving terrors! She can do more good by presuming that nobody here would steal and so let’s discuss the issues surrounding theft…

      I’m rambling! Time for me to set out for the pubs and clubs again!

      July 11, 2014 at 12:34 am
      • Summa

        Hi Editor
        Fair point 🙂 I was however referring (ambiguously) to “knowing how your students learn”.
        The irony here is that I didn’t communicate that well 🙂

        July 11, 2014 at 12:54 am
      • editor


        Irony noted – and thoroughly enjoyed 😀

        July 11, 2014 at 10:18 am
  • Christie Gregor Reply

    I find the thread of discussion here very healthy, informative and surely thought-provoking…indeed it will serve both intents and purposes for the ones reading it… just made me remember…the first law of God is put things in order and He is only the true Judge who can see beyond our intentions and read our hearts…surely there is a pressing need to fervently pray for all married couples that everything they will do for their family will always be according the Holy Will of God as husbands and wives.

    The sacred calling to married life is a challenging task yet rewarding too… and all the more, there is a great need to put God in the center of the married life to be able to weather anything and finally be victorious for the glory of God!

    May the Holy Family continuously intercede for all the spiritual and material needs of all married couples including their children to become worthy of the calling of God as all His children. Amen. Say It With God’s Word

    July 31, 2014 at 7:20 am
    • Petrus Reply


      Thank you for that lovely post. Very well said.

      July 31, 2014 at 9:53 am
      • Christie Gregor

        Hi Petrus,

        Appreciate your kind acknowledgment. God’s blessings and peace to you and to your family. Most of all, “to God be the glory!”

        cheers and God bless us all! 🙂

        July 31, 2014 at 4:43 pm
      • editor


        Thank you for your lovely posts – you are most welcome and I hope you will contribute to future discussions.

        God bless you.

        July 31, 2014 at 7:39 pm

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