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Being Co-Creators with God: Resources for the Church’s teaching on Human Sexuality and Fertility Care

Matthew Harrison

Sunday, August 3, 2008

CNS/Catholic Press Photo
July has come to a close, but an important anniversary passed by without our mention. On Friday, July 25th, marked the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, by Pope Paul VI.
It's no secret that Humanae Vitae was poorly received. And pages and pages could be, and probably have been, written as to why that was the case. But while people bicker about that, life continues on, and truths remain the same.
For me, as a young engaged Catholic I want to learn about why the Church says what She says. During marriage preparation my fiance and I have spent time learning not only about what the Church says about human sexuality but why. And that is the key: to understand why the Church says what She says and to take it to heart. To be able to regurgitate facts and quote paragraphs may be great if you're writing an exam, but to truly incorporate the teaching into your life you must let it penetrate your heart. For us, John Paul II's Theology of the Body was key. It opened our minds and hearts and made so much sense to us -- we were understanding human sexuality as something amazing, and not something sleezy or cheap.... and with that knowledge the ideas and concepts presented in Humanae Vitae make sense. We don't want to use contraception because the Church says we can't and we don't want to go to hell, but we don't want to use contraception because we see the sacredness in the sexual embrace, we see the beauty in life, and we see that we are worth much more!
And so, a week removed from the 40th anniversary, I present to you a list of links so you can learn more about the Church and her teaching on sexuality.
Perhaps the best place to begin are links to the Theology of the Body. Keep in mind this isn't just for engaged or married couples -- but it's for single people, for priests, for religious. And for those of you who may have been exposed to TOB -- review more, read more, let the teaching transform you, and allow it to continue to transform you!
  • Christopher West's website: Christopher West is one of the leading speakers on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body -- he presents the information in a very down to earth and accessible manner. He has DVD and CD series available and I would certainly recommend any books by him. You can check any big online book retailer for his work -- two come to mind: he has a shorter book introducing the concepts of Theology of the Body and a great question and answer book too, the Good News About Sex and Marriage.
  • Catholic Organization for Life and Family: Canada's COLF is sponsoring a Theology of the Body seminar in Quebec City this November. The website contains information on the conference and provides other handy information for family life.
  • Articles from Dr. Janet Smith: Dr. Smith is a fantastic speaker who has been giving her powerful talk "Contraception, why not?" for years. This link to the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, where she is the Chair of Life Ethics and Professor of Moral Theology, provides a listing of her published articles; she has a section dedicated to Humanae Vitae.
  • The Theology of the Body Channel from Catholic Exchange: The Catholic Exchange is an American website with many Catholic resources and articles, and the particular focus here is -- surprise, surprise -- Theology of the Body!
  • Humanae Vitae: Why not read the entire encyclical? My fiance and I sat down one afternoon and read through it together, it was a great experience to reflect on and discuss what was written.
Now onto the practical.
If the Church says no to contraception, does that mean that families are suppose to have a dozen children? Of course not! The Church still calls on responsible parenthood and encourages the faithful to participate in natural family planning (NFP) or fertility care. Keep in mind NFP is not a form of contraception. It is a completely different mindset! A priest, Fr. Francis Ching, told me in a Focus interview on NFP, that it's not so much a method but a "lifestyle of following God’s plan and design." Here's a few links exploring natural fertility care:
  • Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre: Based in Toronto, the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre is home to the Creighton Model for natural family planning and for fertility care. The Creighton Model and Billings Method are two of the more popular forms of NFP.
  • Pope Paul VI Institute: You could consider this the 'home base' of the Creighton Model. This site provides information on the development of the method, but also a link to which provides contacts for fertility centres in the United States as well as Europe.
  • 40 Years of "Humanae Vitae" Interview: Zenit news presents this two part interview with Dr. Thomas Hilgers, the co-developer of the Creighton Model. This is part one, but part two can be linked to in the related information section.
  • WOOMB Canada: This website from the World Organization of the Ovulation Method (Billings) contains information on the Billings method, as well as links to centres and qualified teachers in Canada.
  • Couple to Couple League: This website promotes the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning.
Enjoy the links and discovery!

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