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
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
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
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.