Sunday, September 2, 2012

Canon Ripley on NFP: Believe It or Not!

Over at Tantamergo’s blog last week, I found this interesting excerpt from This Is The Faithby Canon Francis Ripley, written around 1950. (I like Ripley's thinking, but I can’t help saying “Believe it or not” to myself every time I read “Ripley”!)

So…Tantamergo says he is ripping off Ripley, and here I am ripping off his ripping off of Ripley…Be sure to read Tantamergo’s post – he interspersed his own commentary, and makes some very good observations.

A word also needs to be mentioned about Natural Family Planning and periodic continence. Each method of limiting the birth of children relies on the use of the reproductive faculty only during the woman’s infertile periods, thus avoiding pregnancy. The use of the term “Natural Family Planning” has come under sharp attack from traditional Catholic writers in recent years because it implies the right of the couple to “plan” their family; whereas the Catholic norm is to let God plan one’s family and to accept the children when (and if) God gives them – as a blessing from Him on the marital union and on society.

Except for the use of NFP for fertility reasons (i.e., to aid in a legitimate way in conceiving a child), the planning aspect of NFP would appear to reflect acceptance of the neo-pagan practice of “family planning” – albeit using “natural” as opposed to artificial means.

The end purpose of NFP – that is, “planning” one’s family – is not acceptable in principle, being against Natural Law and the teachings of the Church. A couple does not have the right to “plan their family” even though the means used are those of NFP and do not violate the Church’s proscriptions against artificial birth control……..

….The control of births, therefore, should always be the exceptional situation in marriage, never the normal.

Further, “The modern Catholic couple must be reminded that parenthood is the business of marriage. This is their vocation………You should want children; and parenthood, God willing, should be more than an incidental experience in your married lives. If you have a truly Catholic conscience and a love of children, you will find that alleged obstacles can be overcome. Far from losing happiness, you will gain great long-range satisfaction.” (this last bit from the Catholic Marriage Manual, 1958).

As for the last two sentences, I’m already hearing some groaning and gnashing of teeth.
...through Christ,
who gives me strength.


But I like the approach in that old Marriage Manual. Telling people that “alleged obstacles can be overcome” seems to me like a much more positive approach than constantly suggesting that there all manner of reasons NOT to have more children. The Church wants children. Always has. Always will. That is perfectly clear.

And, contrary to some popular opinions, overpopulation is a myth, and the world needs more children. That is perfectly clear, too.


  1. Hi, Jay--I came across this post and thought it might be helpful to point out that the "NFP" section of "This Is Our Faith" actually originates circa 2002 with the *publisher*, Thomas A. Nelson, and not with the original 1951 text authored by Canon Ripley. Nelson inserted this section himself, and says so on p. xix of the "publisher's preface." Thought you should know this. God bless, Deacon JR

  2. Thanks, Deacon JR. I appreciate your letting me know!


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