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The Scandal and the Lampstand

I submit that Humanae Vitae and dissent need to be on the table at the February meeting.

(Image: Marko Blažević |

The priestly sex-abuse scandal has had so much publicity that it’s hard to imagine what more can be said. But what’s amazing to me is that almost nothing has been said about the relationship of the Scandal and the dissent from Humanae Vitae. Rarely mentioned, if ever, is the Totality Thesis of the dissenters. So I propose this imaginary dialogue.

Mr. X: “This whole thing about the sexual abuse of minors and seminarians is completely off base. It’s no different from parents exercising their authority to persuade their kids to eat their veggies.”

JFK. “Such a statement is based on a hugely false assumption—namely, that there is no intrinsic meaning to the human sexual act.

Mr. X: “Even if there is such a meaning, it doesn’t apply all the time. When bishops muddied the waters post-Humanae Vitae by writing about licit dissent, the whole issue of marital sexuality became a matter of personal decision-making not bound by the teaching authority of the Church.”

JFK: “The bishops made a horrible mistake. There is no such thing as licit dissent from Humanae Vitae. Such dissent will legitimate any imaginable sexual behavior between consenting persons of legal age. In fact, an enthusiastic dissenter wrote approvingly after Humanae Vitae that the organized dissent entailed the acceptance even of bestiality (Michael Valente, Sex: The Radical View of a Catholic Theologian [Bruce, 1970]). Also, I wrote in 1971 that the decision-making principles of archdissenter Fr. Charles Curran could not say “no” to spouse-swapping, and no one responded in disagreement. (“Continued Dissent: Is It Responsible Loyalty?” Theological Studies, March 1971).

When the principles of dissent allow bestiality and spouse swapping, it’s time to get back to basics. The reality is not complicated.

Who put together in one act what we call “making love” and “making babies?” A theist has to reply, “God Himself.”

What is contraception except the effort to take apart what God has put together in this one human act? That’s it precisely.

What did Jesus teach about the indissolubility of marriage? That’s very straightforward: “What God his put together, let no one take apart” (Mt 19:6).

Can we also say that about the marriage act itself? Yes. St. Pope Paul VI specifically taught indissolubility in Humanae Vitae. First, he reminded us that “the Church…teaches that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life” (n. 11). Then he affirmed the basis for that teaching in section 12:

That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive and the procreative meaning.

Indissoluble and inseparable are Latin-derived synonyms; both mean unbreakable.

Does this have any particular importance at this time in 2019? Pope Francis and the heads of episcopal conferences around the world are meeting in Rome on February 21-24 to address the sexual abuse scandal. If they confine themselves to the horrible reality of the sexual abuse of children, the meeting will be a tremendous waste of time because that problem has already been well addressed.

Bishops need to ask themselves, “Why did some priests think that they could do this?” I submit that at least some of them were following the logic of the dissent from Humanae Vitae. Dissent from the received teaching was in the theological winds during the late 1950s, and it became rampant in the 1960s after the FDA accepted hormonal birth control. Articles and pamphlets by Catholics argued that the Church could change its teaching on birth control and still claim that it never changed a serious moral teaching of the Church.

Rarely mentioned in discourse about Humanae Vitae is the precise theological error to which it was addressed—the Totality Thesis. This was the idea that acts of contraception in an overall fruitful marriage would take their morality from that fruitfulness. That’s why the Pope had to state that “each and every act” must remain open to the transmission of life (n ll). He reaffirmed this in the closing sentence of section 14: “Consequently, it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble of a fecund conjugal life.”

That is certainly clear enough, but it was seriously undermined by the lack of support from episcopal conferences. The U.S. bishops responded on November 15, 1968 with Human Life in Our Day, which generally upheld the encyclical. However, it undermined itself by including a section titled “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent.” That was a disaster. Certainly, the prime subject of public dissent from Humanae Vitae was marital sexuality, but people of same-sex orientation were reading the papers too.

Bishops need to put themselves into the shoes of priests and others with same-sex attractions. Given the apparent acceptance of the idea that married couples could licitly contradict the explicit teaching of the Church, is it not understandable that people with same-sex attractions might think that the teachings of the Church on sexuality were no longer binding? Is it any wonder that some of them may have rationalized that with the Totality Thesis the morality of acts of sodomy would take their morality from most-of-the-time chastity? Or even that such acts were good? And if they could be “good”, is it so strange that some would persuade themselves that it would be “good” to share their behaviors with minors, even children? As one radical organization blatantly proclaimed, “Sex before eight or it’s too late.”

I submit that Humanae Vitae and dissent need to be on the table at the February meeting. There is no such thing as licit dissent from Humanae Vitae. De facto acceptance of marital contraception is truly a Pandora’s Box and has led to the de facto acceptance of sodomy.

When the leaders of the Catholic Church from the Pope to local pastors return to teaching the biblically based song of love, marriage, generosity, and sexuality taught by the Tradition, the Church will once again be seen as truly a light to the nations. This Tradition is not an esoteric teaching. It has been reaffirmed in the last 88 years by Casti Connubii, Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II, and numerous talks and writings by St. John Paul II.

Properly implemented, a consistent effort to teach the Tradition and to provide the right kind of practical help will bring about a remarkable turnaround in the Church. Such teaching is a lamp on the lampstand.

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About John F. Kippley 2 Articles
John F. Kippley has been active in the effort to uphold Humanae Vitae and provide practical help since it was published. In 1968 he wrote Covenant, Christ and Contraception published by Alba House in 1970. This has been revised and is now available from Ignatius as Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (2005). In 1969 his wife, Sheila, published her ground breaking book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing subsequently published by Harper and Row in 1974. In 1971 the Kippleys founded as organization to provide the practical help of systematic natural family planning and Ecological Breastfeeding plus doctrinal support with the covenant theology of the marriage act. They continue that work in Natural Family Planning International.


  1. J Kippley identifies the inherent nexus of conjugal act and the entire spectrum of morality. Perhaps moreso inherent as I define it. Paul VI in Humanae does address that forecasting a general breakdown of morality. Human love Man and Woman is specifically ordained by the divinity to outline the benevolent character of social interaction highlighted by the act’s transmission of life. Divorce that transmission artificially and the inherent character inevitably losses first function then its benevolence. The reason is now emphasis is on a more self indulgent character. That is the entre to moral promiscuity affecting the entire spectrum of sexual activity. Homosexuality is the added dimension that’s increased since, due to what’s said and the concept of unrestricted Liberty [see Justice A Kennedy Opinion Casey 1998]. As all indications show the Feb Synod is already an abject failure due to resistance by Pope Francis to address the bedrock issues underlying the moral insult affecting both Church and society. Recent actions/statements by Cardinals G Mueller, R Burke, Bishop A Schneider are necessary to counter this.

  2. A priest has pointed out one flaw in Humanae Vitae. That Encyclical introduced a new ‘teaching’, that is, the “Regulation of Births” appears in the very title of the Encyclical. In 1958 Pope Pius XII had praised large families. Now ten years later, the Limitation of Births or Responsible Parenthood became the mantra. Did this Encyclical inadvertently contribute smaller families, usually limited to two children? Certainly there are other causes of the West’s low Birth Rate, but this opened the door for Catholics to avoid the sacrifice required in marriage? Here is learned talk by a priest that I stumbled upon: Thanks. From Canada.

    • Why do you think this encyclical “inadvertently” led to smaller families rather than purposefully introducing one of the Modernist heresies into the teaching on marriage? After all, the Modernists controlled Vatican II and every document from that Council is filled with enough ambiguity and cause for one to doubt the truth of anything the Church has taught. That, in fact, was their goal as should be obvious over 50 years later when certain settled teachings have been and continue to be questioned, and all we have seen is constant “revisions”, “reforms”, and changes that “by their fruits, ye shall know them” have served to destroy the faith of millions.

  3. Perhaps there was a flaw in Humanae Vitae. In the very title to the Encyclical is the phrase “Limitation of Births”. Ten years earlier Pope Pius XII praised large families, but only 10 years later, ‘Limitation of Births’ and ‘Responsible parenthood’ became the mantra. A priest at a conference gave this insightful talk:

  4. Mr Kippley illuminates the critical moment of cognitive error, as perhaps no one else yet has. But just as scarce however is the deeper conversation about lust and chastity. Sexual faculty comes to be rationalized, by grace of maturity, as a divine instrument. But what happens when that faculty becomes (mal)formed before the right understanding of meaning and purpose arrives? Undoing what the body writes in the transit of puberty becomes an almost imponderable problem, supposing a vast recovery that would threaten to consume the rest of ones life. Rather than admit the hard way of resisting malformation, many have decided that “genetic basis” and “born this way” must win out, as rationalization of deformity, a mercy to the malformed.

    The deeper error is the modern departure from the sermon on divorce. The crucifixion of lust is expensive. Chastity and purity are holy, but for some, they are costly in the extreme, especially in the case of the malformed. A misguided mercy wants to rewrite the truth so as to lighten the modern burden. But then there is no more journey to Calvary or to Heaven.

    Excepting the orthodox, what is seen today is a mass denial of the culture and addiction and compulsion, of sexual lusts, which when ‘wired’ deeply in the body and psyche, at early sexual ages (ie think stony heart), become the most formidable thing imaginable to overcome, to change. But “eunuchs made so by others” who have bravely chosen the arduous way, know better than all others.

    Satan is the author of lust. Some of the malformed refuse to see their sexual faculty as lust. Some in the Church want to defend those who “found themselves” as they are. Overcoming malformed sexual faculty is a total, physical, emotional and spiritual odyssey.

    But we, all, must choose the Father’s will. Jesus gives us this with utter clarity in the Gospel of Matthew.

  5. I hope HV is not on the table at the February meeting. You can say I’m a cynic, but there are ample reasons to believe the majority of the bishops (no all by any means) are defunct and need to be replaced at any cost as soon as possible. Their collective discussion of HV and its dissent at the meeting will only promote further confusion and doubt among the faithful that still listen to them. You can’t get blood out of a turnip or fervor for orthodoxy where there is none.

  6. Dissent against HV is simply one result of the false teachings of the conciliar church on many things, such as the primary ends of marriage, which was codified in JPII’s Code of Canon Law; a direct contradiction of the perennial teaching of the Church on the primary purpose of marriage.

    For example, the perennial teaching of the Church as expressed by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Casti Connubii, On Christian Marriage, points out that:

    — “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children.”[20]

    20. Cod. iur. can., c. 1013 7. (Code of Canon Law prior to JPII’s.)

    JPII’s Code of Canon Law changes this truth into:

    Can. 1055 §1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.

    This now makes the “good of the spouses” on par with procreation and education of offspring which is false.

    It is also the clear intent of the “leaders” of the conciliar church, through silence and omission, to indoctrinate the Catholic into its Modernist errors. That is why in their man-invented liturgy, certain passages of Sacred Scripture were completely omitted, or, the pastor (rarely called priest) waters down the true teaching so that it is utterly discarded as an eternal truth.

    For example, does the average pewsitter in a Novus Ordo service ever hear these passages from Sacred Scripture and then taught their true meaning? (I doubt it)

    25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: “Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband,”[28] express not only a law of justice but of charity.

    28. I Cor., Vll, 3.

    26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that “order of love,” as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: “Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.”[29]

    29. Eph., V, 22-23.

    27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband’s every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.

    28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact .

    29. With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church.”[30]

    30. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.

    30. These, then, are the elements which compose the blessing of conjugal faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience, which are at the same time an enumeration of the benefits which are bestowed on husband and wife in their married state, benefits by which the peace, the dignity and the happiness of matrimony are securely preserved and fostered. Wherefore it is not surprising that this conjugal faith has always been counted amongst the most priceless and special blessings of matrimony.

    • It seems to me that criticisms of the Novus Ordo and Vatican II distract from the real issue. Sometimes it is helpful to realize that the Church has approved the practice of periodic abstinence during the fertile time for purposes of avoiding pregnancy ever since 1853 when the Sacred Paenitentiary (Vatican office dealing with confessional matters) accepted “NFP” in principle even though the biological speculations at the time were erroneous.
      Also it may be helpful to realize that in addition to thoroughly condemning unnatural forms of birth control, Casti Connubii also taught about other demands of marital love.
      “This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life…(n 23).”
      And then this: “This mutual inward molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and educaton of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof (n.24).”
      Paragraph 24 was omitted for years in the English translations that were printed in the United States; thus the sections were not numbered.

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