Cardinal Walter Kasper on “Artificial” Birth Control

I grant that there are some today who erroneously refer to unnatural forms of birth control as “artificial contraception,” but no one today is arguing that the evil of marital contraception is its use of an artifact. 

In the online edition of the Telegraph (UK) on September 19th, Religious Affairs editor John Bingham reported that Cardinal Walter Kasper “hinted at the possibility of a reinterpretation of the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception.”

He said it was “the responsibility of the parents” to decide how many children they should have. Almost no informed orthodox Catholic will disagree with that if it is rightly understood as decisions made in the light of the divine call to generosity in the service of life and family. A church of only one-child and two-child families is doomed to self-extinction.

According to Bingham, the Cardinal said that “so-called natural family planning, which is promoted by the Church as an alternative to contraception, also has an ‘artificial’ element.” Bingham notes that some representatives of natural family planning will be at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and then adds, “But the Cardinal argued that natural methods have an ‘artificial aspect’.”

The Cardinal simply has to know that “artificial” has nothing to do with the birth control issue. Almost everything we do today has an artificial aspect. The alarm clock that wakes us in the morning. The central heat that goes on automatically at a preset time. A thermometer used to check body temperatures. None of this has anything to do with being contrary to nature.

Cardinal Walter Kasper is 81 years of age. That means that he was 35 when he witnessed the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and the explosive dissent from it including the German bishops’ lack of support for it. As a theologically interested priest, he would have also read the two conflicting reports from the Papal Birth Control Commission. He would have seen that the “conservative” report pointed out that the “liberal” paper could not say “no” to sodomy, and he would have seen that the “liberals” replied that such activity was against human dignity, an assertion of their personal opinions but not based in logic. Over the years, he would have seen that homosexual activists say, or assume, that sodomy is in accord with human dignity and, sometimes, even call their organizations “Dignity.” In the ensuring debate, he would have seen that researchers found that Martin Luther called the “Sin of Onan” a form of sodomy.

I grant that there are some today who erroneously refer to unnatural forms of birth control as “artificial contraception,” but no one today is arguing that the evil of marital contraception is its use of an artifact. After all, when married heterosexuals practice fertility awareness, and then engage in the contraceptive practices of sodomy, or mutual masturbation, to avoid abstinence during the fertile time, they are using their own organs, not anything artificial. The Cardinal has to know that the traditional argument has been that marital contraception is contrary to nature, and he has to know that the argument from natural law is criticized in certain quarters. But as a theologian, he also has to be aware that some, or many, now argue that the essence of the sin of marital contraception is its contradiction of the marriage covenant. The act of marital contraception pretends to be a marriage act, but it says, “I take you for better, but definitely NOT for the imagined ‘worse’ of possible pregnancy,” thus contradicting the “for better and for worse” of the marriage covenant. That’s why St. John Paul II affirmed that in the marriage act, couples are called to confirm their marriage covenant, and why he taught repeatedly that marital contraception is dishonest.

It may be that Cardinal Kasper, and many others, have not kept up on the theology that supports Catholic teaching affirmed by Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. But he simply has to know that “artificiality” is not in the discourse.

John F. Kippley About John F. Kippley

John F. Kippley is Co-founder and president of Natural Family Planning International. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He married Sheila (Matgen) Kippley, and they have five children and ten grandchildren. He earned a B.A. in philosophy at St. Paul Seminary; an M.A. in industrial relations from University of Minnesota; an M.A. in theology from the University of San Francisco; an M.A.T. in applied theology from the School of Applied Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; and an Honorary Doctor of Ethics from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has authored several books, including: Battle-Scarred: Justice Can Be Elusive; Birth Control and Christian Discipleship; Marriage Is for Keeps; Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality; and multiple articles and brochures dealing with Catholic sexual morality, natural family planning, and related issues. All the books and many of the articles are currently available at, the website of NFP International.


  1. Pray for our bishops and priests. The vast majority are in mortal danger due to their support and or silence on contraception.
    57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. [ Matthew, XV, 14.] Casti Connubii

  2. The salient point that has been overlooked here is that other than barrier methods (condoms & diaphragms) all of the birth control systems other than NFP, employ abortifacients. Couples that rely upon the pill, patch, et al are self-aborting a fertilized ovum. Perhaps the Cardinal has not done enough work to truly understand what is at issue..

    • Very true. Those things absolutely need to be brought out in any article about birth control in general. The only point I was making is that the Cardinal’s comment about an “artificial aspect” of NFP was unhelpful. I suppose that would include not only the use of a thermometer but also the use of pencil and paper for charting, to say nothing of using charting apps. It might be worth noting that the European theologians generally seemed ignorant of the abortifacient properties of hormonal birth control for years, preferring to look at them only as anovulants.

    • Avatar Michael Giocomo says:

      You are profoundly correct here… ” …European theologians generally seemed ignorant of the abortifacient properties of hormonal birth control for years, preferring to look at them only as anovulants.” Giving these theologians the benefit of the doubt is admiral, BUT, they need to “get-with-the-program” and come on board with the Pope(s), adhering, supporting & promoteing all papal directives about this topic. No fence-sitting allowed here.

      • How can these bishops, presumably educated men, plead ignorance of the mechanism of hormonal contraceptives when the INVENTORS of HBC, Gregory Pincus, Carl Djerassi and Frank Colton, described in detail how the oral “contraceptives” work?
        The Bible addresses those who maintain wilful ignorance.

  3. The Cardinal must know, the words “artificial and natural” have little to do with Church Teaching on contraception. All forms artificial are not sinful because they’re artificial; they’re sinful because all artificial means are either contraceptives or abortifacients.
    He also should know the meaning of the word “contra-ception” means “against the beginning”. A couple who contracept within the marital act, act against the beginning of a human life to enjoy the pleasure of it and are not fully giving themselves to each other. This is very different from a couple who having fertility awareness, abstain from relations. If we run down the Ten Commandments we see that it breaks the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th and possibly the 9th; it also sins against the couples Marriage Vow, while not completing what the 2 were called to in marriage.
    He should also know that abstinance is 100% effective, and today with science and observation, a couple can have awareness of when the wife’s fertility begins and when it ends 99%.
    He should also be aware of all the destructive behaviors that have sickenly flourished within contraceptive cultures. Confusion in 1968 is in some ways understandable, but not today.
    How could he possibly not know All of this !?

    • I agree that in 1968 it may have been possible to be confused at the promulgation of Humanae Vitae but today, you only have to look at the disastrous effect on the secular culture and the catastrophic effect it has had on the Church, to see how contraception has inevitably led to abortion and also to the public acceptance of active homosexuality. In 50 years it has become a crime to assert an opinion that such acts are immoral and that for thousands of years such acts were regarded as unnatural and destructive of individual and social morality. All this has come about because the sexual act which was generally accepted as being best confined to marriage has become separated from procreation and so the primary purpose of sex is pleasure and this is accepted by a majority of people ( even within the Church). I read today that a powerful ethics committee in Germany has suggested to the German government that incest should be decriminalised since even if any children were to be conceived they could be aborted so avoiding any disability caused by too close a genetic connection. “By their fruits ye shall know them” -this is as true of actions and policies as it is of people. Cardinal Kasper is a dangerous man; he won’t be the first prominent churchman to damage the Church and we cannot hope he will be the last. I believe it is important to write to those at the Synod so that they are in no doubt that the faithful are NOT clamouring for reform of divorce, contraception, women priests and married priests. Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae and The Theology of the Body are in the authentic mainstream of the Church’s teaching and I can vouch for the happiness that comes from having followed that teaching faithfully without, I may say, any encouragement from most of the clergy and almost all of the bishops under whose care I have lived. Quite the contrary, one would think that being faithful to that teaching was being sinful rather than striving to live otherwise. Who said, ” No good deed goes unpunished?” It is certainly true that trying to live as a prolife Catholic brings down opprobrium and a certain isolation in its wake in most Catholic situations.

      • Societal acceptance of practices that for nearly 2,000 years of Christianity were nearly universally (ignoring the Gnostics) understood to be grossly immoral have no end until the worst abuses of rank paganism are restored to full acceptability.
        Even within marriage practices that formerly many whores would not do, such as oral-genital contact, anal-genital contact, and various forms of mutual masturbation are now almost completely acceptable. Even many Catholic teachers approve of, even encourage, such ABOMINATIONS as proper behavior in foreplay.
        An atheist website makes the claims that it was atheists and near-atheistic Deists, and a few nominal Christians, who sponsored “advancements” in society such as divorce and remarriage, woman suffrage (rebellion), cross-dressing by women,
        I think it telling that the atheist “ethicist” Peter Singer is cited as one of the progressive thinkers of the fraternity. He proposes evaluating each newborn for suitability to join the collective, and the unsuitable to be put to death. An improvement over burning your firstborn to Molech?

    • David says: He also should know the meaning of the word “contra-ception” means “against the beginning”. A couple who contracept within the marital act, act against the beginning of a human life to enjoy the pleasure of it and are not fully giving themselves to each other.

      Me: But isn’t NFP also ‘AGAINST” the beginning of Human Life. Isn’t that the purpose of all this charting? To make sure that no human life ensues from the marital act?
      Because if you are not against life beginning, why select which times of the month you are going to engage in the marital act?
      I was very much pro NFP before but the more I thought about it, the more it did not make sense.
      Sure you are not using anything artificial. But basically the aim is the same: to go against the beginning.
      This is why the Church teaches that it should only be employed for grave reasons.

      • Avatar Michael Giocomo says:

        Marcus: YOU are 100% correct here: (“But isn’t NFP also ‘AGAINST” the beginning of Human Life. Isn’t that the purpose of all this charting? To make sure that no human life ensues from the marital act?”)
        Blessed Mother Teresa encouraged NFP, BUT only to those 3rd world countries dealing with extreme poverty, starvation, etc. (grave reasons), and in order for them to gain emotional, and physical wellness.

      • The original “grave” reason was as a less anti-life, immoral alternative to Onanism. At least NFP sometimes “fails” and procreation results.
        But, uhh, doesn’t Onanism “fail” more often? When discouraging Onanism in favor of more modern methods its “failure” rate is given as 18%. If that is true, it’s more “open to life” than the 98+% effectiveness ascribed to NFP.

  4. Oy … this is the same prelate who thinks that there might be some wiggle room on the permanence of marriage, and also the sinfulness of entering into a second “marriage” if the first one is still presumed valid.
    Indeed; we all need to pray!

  5. anne cherney anne cherney says:

    Confusion doesn’t help here. It is perfectly appropriate for Cardinal Kasper–as wrong as he is about certain other things–to refer to “unnatural forms of birth control” as “artificial contraception.” “Contraception” simply means what the words “contra” and “conception” mean when put together. Look in a dictionary. My “American Collegiate” just says “the prevention of conception by deliberate measures, in order to prevent childbirth.” Of course NFP is, in a way, a “not doing something”…but it is also definitely a “deliberate measure.” Using calendars and thermometers and mucus checks and making subsequent behavioral decisions–natural or not– is definitely “a deliberate measure.” I notice the article refers to “unnatural birth control”, which leads me to assume that we agree that NFP is a form of “birth control.”
    “Contraception” equals “birth control” equals “deliberate measures”…and includes NFP. The Church approves of “birth control” only if the method is NFP…and only if there is adequate reason! For besides the Church being against the use of pills and barriers and all that, as John Kippley insightfully says, render the marital act merely sodomy, the Church is also against the use of even NFP…unless there is a grave reason. When we treat NFP use as though it were a virtue in itself, we, tragically, reject Church teaching and severely limit our families and our future.

    • Mrs. Cherney, in the short article that I read, the author used the term “artificial contraception” but the Cardinal was not quoted as using it. We can be assured that Cardinal Walter Kasper was not using a secular English dictionary for his understanding of contraception. Rather he would know that Catholic teaching on contraception is focused on the marriage act. He would have in mind the teaching of Humanae Vitae as follows: “Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.” It is certain that Paul VI did not include the use of natural family planning as a form of “contraception.” After all, he encouraged couples to teach it to other couples.
      It seems to me that what the Cardinal did was to introduce a red herring—a distraction—and that you followed it. To refer to natural family planning as having an “artificial” element was not appropriate because in the context it could sound as if the Church’s teaching had to do with “artificiality,” and that simply is not the case. Unfortunately, his short remarks triggered precisely that sort of speculation.
      Catholic teaching against marital contraception is not the same thing as its teaching that marriage is oriented to having children. The former is a negative absolute teaching, but the latter is a positive obligation, and none of us can judge whether any particular couple is fulfilling their obligation before God. It is obvious, however, that a parish filled only with one- and two-child families is a parish on the way to extinction, and that applies also to dioceses and entire national churches.

  6. anne cherney anne cherney says:

    But Cardinal Kasper, for all his mistakes, is not making one with his word choice. Paul VI himself did not exactly use the term “contraception”. In HV 14 he wrote of “contraceptive intercourse”…meaning being obvious. In HV 16, he spoke of “arificial birth control”, which obviously means “artificial contraception.”
    Dictionaries merely reflect popular understanding. We need to use words that people understand. “Artificial contraception” is understood to be pills and devices, while “natural birth control”, you used the term “unnatural birth control” yourself, obviously means NFP.
    Where Cardinal Kasper is going wrong is in deliberately trying to confuse people! And where he is really wrong is in being blind to the POSITIVE Church teaching on the subject…which you so appropriately pointed out! God bless you!

  7. anne cherney anne cherney says:

    You need to know where poor Cardinal Kasper is coming from. I’ve just come back in a state of shock from three weeks in Germany. They say only 10% of European Catholics go to Sunday Mass. Is it that many? You search websites and drive miles and go to different churches every day–and even then you can’t get to daily Mass. And the Masses are said by a handful of elderly priests moving around between those churches!
    I have two granddaughters there, the older a very intelligent good student, nearly 14, who attends an academically good Catholic high school. She had never heard of Communism….or Purgatory!…and didn’t know she was going to a Catholic high school! The government gets high taxes, between income and sales and a mandatory church tithe, about 60% of your income…and then doles it out to support the church you attend. The Catholic parishes only teach a year of catechism before First Communion and another year before Confirmation. The rest of “catechism” the children learn in the public school! In the public school, the same teacher teaches religion to the Catholic students out of one book and to the Evangelical students out of another. My almost twelve year old granddaughter goes to a public school where she is taught her religion by an Evangelical lady who lives with her boyfriend! The little girl’s catechetical knowledge is very limited!
    I know a Catholic couple there who divorced and were actually told by diocesan officials that, because annulments take so very long, they should both go ahead and get married again OUTSIDE THE CHURCH!
    \The state doesn’t allow an adult to have intercourse with a minor, but seems to think it’s fine between two minors. And there is presently a move to change a law and allow incestual intercourse between siblings–just because that should be a matter of personal choice!
    I used to think the German Church got all mixed up from its rejection of Humanae Vitae. Now I think it must go back long before that…or it wouldn’t have made that rejection. Thank God Benedict is old enough to have been preserved!

    • Avatar St Donatus says:

      anne cherney, in Europe they have very few good Bishops, they are no longer Shepherds to their flock unless you call leading them to a cliff Shepherding. In areas of Europe where there are holy reverent bishops who uphold church teaching and set an example of holiness, encouraging reverent and holy liturgies, there is actually an increase in Mass attendance. We have seen this in the US as well. Those diocese in the US ‘shepherded’ by liberal bishops like Cardinal Kasper have almost no seminarians while orthodox bishops have in diocese after diocese have large seminary enrollments and later ordinations. Just a few examples of orthodox diocese are Lincoln 47, Wichita 59, Phoenix 27, Arlington Virginia 38, FSSP 80. What about liberal diocese. Here is just one example for the statistics under one liberal bishop Hubbard in Albany NY:
      Number of Parishes: 207; 196; 127. (a 40% decline – there are more parishes than priests)
      Diocesan priests: 426; 255; 106 (and 90 retired priests). (a 75% decline)
      Elementary schools: 106; 44; 19. (an 84% decline)
      High schools: 25; 7; 4. (an 84% decline)
      Total number of students attending Catholic schools, K-12: 51,131; 12,261; 4,527. (a 91% decline)
      Total number of religious brothers and sisters teaching: 1,595; 91; 8. (a 99.5% decline!!!)

      God only blesses those diocese who follow his sons teachings, our LORD Jesus Christ. Pray for our faithful bishops.

  8. Dr. Kipley, Thank you for your lifetime of good work for marriage. My wife and I taught your program for about five years.

  9. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    All the arguments against “birth control” are based on the natural law. Few people have any sense of what Catholic teaching on the natural law means. For those serious about evangelization, is there not a great need for developing a new understanding of natural law that 21st century people can understand?

  10. “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” (CCC) –

    CCC: ” 2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception). ”

    CCC: ” 2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.
    These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom.
    In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:
    Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other.
    This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”
    Unfortunately, far to many Diocese Bishops and their Parish Priests do not encourage literate Laity to read the CCC.

    • Onanism hardly makes procreation impossible what with its claimed 18% “failure” rate. Condoms break, fall off and, if supplied by Planned Parenthood, likely have holes. Why aren’t they “open to life”? And how about sponges, diaphragms, foams, gels, pastes, etc.? They are not abortifacients and have higher “failure” rates. Why aren’t they “open to life”?

  11. anne cherney, confirming anyone in Mortal Sin is NOT pastoral, nor charitable, nor merciful.
    A major problem in Europe is that most Diocese Bishops do not encourage the literate Laity to read a Catholic Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition.
    Just a few years ago, the German Bishop’s Conference had been publishing pornography until it got world wide publicity.
    And these same Bishops have declared that if anyone does not contribute to the Church through their government tax contribution they are automatically excommunicated.
    (You can find this info on the internet.)

    The lack of accurate teaching, and the actions or inactions (commission / omission) of the Bishops and their Parish Priests drive people away from the Church.

    ” My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
    because you have rejected knowledge,
    I reject you from being a priest to me.
    And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
    I also will forget your children. ” – Hosea 4:6.

  12. Avatar St Donatus says:

    But remember Cardinal Kasper speaks for the Pope as he himself testified. Why did Pope Francis appoint him to speak before the Bishops and bring up the benefit of Communion for those in unrepentant adulterous relationships. I fear that this papacy will be a disaster for the Church and God’s teachings. We know that the Gates of Hell shall not overcome the Church but really, haven’t we had enough of all this the last fifty years.
    1960 Catholic Mass attendance 80%, Catholic divorce rate 5%, Catholics faithful to all the teachings of the Magesterium 90%, number Catholic priests and women religious up 10% over 1950.

    2010 Catholic Mass attendance 25%, Catholic divorce rate 50%, Catholics faithful to all the teachings of the Magesterium 20%, number Catholic priests and women religious down 50% over 1960. .

    2020 (Post implementation new ‘pastoral’ rules of Pope Francis on Communion for unrepentant adulterers, ‘pastoral’ legalizing of birth control, ‘pastoral’ implementation of civil blessing on same sex unions, etc)
    Catholic Mass attendance 5%, Catholic divorce rate 60%, Catholics faithful to all the teachings of the Magesterium 5%, number Catholic priests and women religious down 20% over 2010, Catholic Church finances ‘bankrupt’

    • Avatar Gary Westgeest says:

      I’m very disturbed that Pope Francis pointedly had Cardinal Kasper address the bishops not once but twice. And all this so shortly after the reign of St. John Paul the Great who gathered vocations by challenging young people to give themselves with abandon. Not one of the sixty young couples with whom he went camping in Poland ever divorced. Hmmm…what exactly could he have been teaching them? We don’t need to compromise with lukewarm Catholics who abandon their marriage vows. Much has been made of the Theology of the Body and the phenomenological analysis of the marital embrace which concludes that contraception is “a lie” spoken by the bodies of the spouses, but we also need to realize that marriage is God’s institution and He has rights within it. It is He who made the gift of this magnificent embrace to us men, but within that gift He has reserved a right to create new persons and has instructed his beautiful creatures to multiply and fill the earth. It is He who does the heavy lifting of creation. It is not we human beings who create an immortal soul at the moment of conception, it is God Who does this. In any case, Lord save us from irresponsible clerics whose “leadership” has driven their Catholic populations into the ground. I am not impressed with Pope Francis and his ambiguities.

  13. These statements by Cardinal Kasper are disturbing. Contraception, like acts of sodomy, is something that has been condemned by virtually all popes, saints, doctors, and theologians from the very beginning – as in there’s not single pope, saint, or doctor who has voiced support for these things if not explicit condemnation, and only a small minority of dissenting theologians – all of which come in the last century. I find it amazing that Kasper has been so silent on the issue, instead leaving us with ambiguous statements that can be interpreted to point to a more liberal/hedonistic attitude towards sex and marriage.

  14. So I guess Cardinal Kasper thinks the Church is wrong, and he is right. Someone thinks that theologian can exist without Magisterium.and be right. Throw away the Church and you will end up with straw theory, alone, without words of eternal salvation. No Eucharist, no life.

  15. We have to understand the root cause of failure of family. In my thinking, it is the society which changed dramatically from 1960’s which caused all these problems. Reacting to the current issue every time, we have to target the root cause, which is loss of family value, and concept of Christian family. I think Card.Kasper and other liberal leaning cardinals, bishops and priests are the products of such culture and they cannot be blamed for that. So the church need to concentrate good catholic families instead of liberalizing everything or watering down of doctrines.


  1. […]   Crd. Kasper on “Artificial” Birth Control […]

  2. […] An update:  Is there something “artificial” about natural family planning?  See John’s response to Cardinal Walter Kasper at Homiletic & Pastoral […]

  3. […] you read Pis IX’s Casti Connubii (1930) and Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (1968), here is a brief explanation by John F. Kippley which will help defuse a very common liberal objection: “[N]o one today is arguing that the […]