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The Theology of the Body: An Interview (Part II)
Fr Walter Schu, LC, on the theology of the body and the role of the family in God’s plan.

beautiful little family

The following is a continuation of Kelly Luttinen’s radio interview with Fr Walter Schu, LC, on the theology of the body. In this part, Fr Schu discusses the role of the family in God’s plan, and the differences between natural family planning and contraception.

11. Why does John Paul II say the future of society passes through the family?

That’s a very good question, and it helps show what a great vocation it is to be a father and a mother.  It shows how much parents are called to do with the help of God’s grace.  There are two basic reasons JPII says this.  Children are the future of the world, society and the Church.  The family is a “domestic” Church, a Church in miniature, where parents are the first ones to pass on the faith to future generations.  Also the family is the first school of humanity.  It’s where the children, the brothers and sisters, learn to relate with one another, to become members of that first society which is the family, so they can become members of a larger society. And all of the values and virtues formed in the family are precisely those virtues they will take with them.  If they are well formed, they can enrich society, but if they are not, they could even become a burden on society.  So much depends on the work of dad and mom with their children. Being a parent is a noble profession.  It’s every bit as noble as any profession and work in society itself. 

12. One of the first segments of your book is called “The Future of Humanity,” and you discuss the direct consequences for our society if it continues on its current path.  Can you give us a little synopsis of that, and why we need the Theology of the Body so much today?

The Theology of the Body is certainly a great defense of marriage and the family today.  And John Paul II sums it up very well with just one line in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio #86, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”  I think it’s very interesting that he doesn’t just say the future of the Church, but the future of humanity.  The family is not just a “domestic: Church, or a Church in miniature, but the basic and most fundamental cell of society.  Another line in the exhortation, which is very prophetic, says that unfortunately, many resources and organizations today seem to be dedicated to weakening the family.  Pope John Paul II does not go into detail very much, that’s one of the things the first part of my book tries to do.  It tries to look at these movements that are harmful to the family.  One of those movements is Planned Parenthood, and the whole movement for artificial contraception, and how that undermines married love and the gift of self between husband and wife. 

13. You mention in your book, The Splendor of Love, that the family is a mini-community.  You were the second of seven children, correct?  Did your family life affect your calling?  

Correct. I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Minnesota, near Walnut Grove Minnesota (interestingly, the setting of the Little House on the Prairie series.)  My dad was a farmer and had cattle and livestock.  My older brother Carl and I grew up helping him.  We went to a Catholic school, though it closed after I was in fifth grade, so I went to a public school through 12th grade.  I hadn’t really thought about the priesthood at all while growing up.  I was an acolyte at church, and I remember some of the Easter vigils that were very beautiful, especially the phrase from the vigil, “Oh happy fault that won for us so great a Redeemer!” That always kind of stayed with me.  I attended the University of Dallas in Irving Texas. They have a Rome program where you can spend one semester your sophomore year there.  That is how I met the Legion. We were in our very last week of classes, and a couple of young priests came over who said they were from the Legionaries of Christ. There was something about those two young priests that really struck me.  I met some of the LC seminarians, and that is the first time it ever crossed my mind that God might be calling me to be a priest like them.  I think that really confirms that the call to the priesthood for each person is unique. Some are called to the diocese to be parish priests, and some are called to the religious life, and for me the two were certainly synonymous.  I felt that call to the priesthood at the same time I met the Legion, so for me the priesthood always meant priesthood with the Legion of Christ.

14. Are large families fruitful for encouraging vocations?

The Legion has a school from 7th to 12th grade in New Hampshire to discern the priesthood.  We have found of those students, the average family size is six or seven children. It seems that larger families tend to produce more vocations to the priesthood.  This is an encouragement to parents in the virtue of generosity, when they discern with the help of God’s grace how many children they are being called to have. In the Second Vatican Council, numbers 47-52 of Gaudium et Spes, the Council affirms that parents who discern to have larger families are to be especially commended.

15. You are not in any way saying smaller families are bad, if parents cannot for some biological or financial reason or other reasons, have a larger family?

No, that is one of the beautiful things about Natural Family Planning, how the parents through their discernment can cooperate with God’s own providential plan for bringing children into the world.

16. There are enormous spiritual benefits to spouses who practice Natural Family Planning.  There is almost a zero divorce rate among couples who practice it, correct?

In fact there are new studies being done, but anecdotal evidence from those who teach NFP shows a near 1 to 2 percent divorce rate at the most.  Compare that to the fact that with Catholics who do not practice it, there is an almost identical divorce rate to our culture.  As Christ says in Scripture, by your fruits you will know them.  One of the beautiful things about natural family planning is that it increases that intimacy between spouses because they speak about what is central to their marriage, about whether or not God is calling them to have more children, and it allows them to develop other ways of being intimate outside the conjugal act, if they are not being called to have more children.  It shows the couple that acts of service and physical contact can be purely loving, and creates those honeymoon periods and freshness in married love.

17. In our culture there is a sort of contraceptive mentality that Theology of the Body and its defense of Humanae Vitae speaks so eloquently against. Today many people are confused and believe that artificial contraception and natural family planning are the same thing.  Can you discuss the differences between families that practice natural family planning and artificial contraception?

John Paul II speaks of a difference on the moral level and on the anthropological level.  He says there are two different visions of the human person here. Morally, he sums it up beautifully when he speaks about the language of the body. Certain acts we do with the body have an intrinsic inner meaning, because as persons, we are not just disembodied spirits.  We are both spirits and bodies in a unified whole, so certain acts of our bodies have a personal meaning. It’s easy to see with a couple examples – a handshake or a kiss is always a sign of friendship or intimacy between persons, while if you were to spit in someone’s face, it would always, regardless of the culture, be a sign of loathing for someone else. 

Where is the language of the body expressed the most fully and deeply?  It is precisely in that conjugal act between husband and wife.  The inner meaning of the marital embrace, on the one hand, because of the way God designed it, has the possibility of bringing about new life into the world, and that new life is an expression of the fruitfulness of the love between husband and wife.  The second aspect is the unitive meaning of the act, in which it is meant to be an act of love, of total self-giving.  What happens in the marital embrace?  A person says, “I give you my whole self, and I accept everything you are as a person, your whole self, in return.  What happens with contraception?  That innate language of self-giving is overridden by a lie.

Contraception is telling a lie with the body.  The husband should be saying to his wife, “I give my whole self to you,” but with contraception he is actually saying, “I give my whole self to you except my capacity to be a father.”  And the wife should be saying, “I give my whole self to you,” but is actually saying, “I give my whole self to you except my capacity to be a mother.”  So JPII asks, “Is it ever possible for a lie to be a true act of love?”  As so on the moral level, contraception not only closes husband and wife off to the possibility of new life, but it also takes away the true unitive aspect of love.

Interview continues here.



Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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