This mesmerising presentation about Pastoral Care in Family Planning was given by Mother Teresa in 1978 at an international conference in Melbourne.
This paper was originally given at the Humanae Vitae International Conference, University of Melbourne, 1978.
The transmission of life is quite paradoxical. We know with certainty that the link which relates parents to children is at every moment a material link, for we know it is from the encounter of the female cell (the ovum) and the male cell (the spermatozoon), that a new individual life will emerge. But we know with the same degree of certitude that no molecule, no individual particle of matter enclosed in the fertilized egg, has the slightest chance of being transmitted to the next generation. Hence, what is really transmitted is not the matter as such, but a specified conformation of the matter, or more precisely, an ‘information’.
The medical research which led eventually to the recognition, development and refinement of the Billings Ovulation Method® began in Melbourne in 1953. At that time, now nearly 50 years ago, the only natural methods of regulating fertility were the Rhythm Method and the Temperature Method, but there was not yet very much interest in the Temperature Method. The gynaecologists showed little interest at all in natural methods except a few Catholic gynaecologists who taught the Rhythm Method.
Exercising parenthood is to exercise parental function, from the child’s conception until its required education. And exercising it responsibly means thoughtfully, seriously, taking into consideration the consequences of its actions.
The concept of “responsible parenthood” has been used by the Church for half a century, namely for the first time in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council.
Paul VI Humanae Vitae #10
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself,
his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does
not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.
(Redemptor Hominis, 10).
Some might argue that nobody lives just on love, that love is not enough to have a
fulfilling life, that we should concentrate on producing; love would be the luxury of some,
something beautiful, but which would not go beyond a romantic ideal. However, John
Paul II, in his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis, showed us that a life without love is
meaningless. In love, man finds his fullness and accomplishes his vocation. Jesus Christ
summarizes all the law in the love of God and thy neighbour (Mk 12, 29-31), and St. Paul
reminds us that he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled all the law (Rm 13, 8)
On one of the occasions when Pope John Paul II spoke with us he said, ‘When you teach, always teach in the context of Marriage’, and then he added with a smile, ‘I know you always do.’
If the precepts of the Billings Ovulation Method® are followed, it means that all the principles guarding life are followed. This means that abortion is rejected, as the Billings Ovulation Method® teaches love for the child. Euthanasia is also rejected for the same reason; in fact, the Billings Ovulation Method® teaches respect for temporal life from conception to natural death.
“Why teach natural family planning in marriage preparation courses? We don’t teach it in our program.” Often such a question is asked as a challenge – perhaps it is viewed as inconsequential compared to other aspects of marriage, or it is viewed in its narrowest sense as merely a means to achieve or postpone a pregnancy, or perhaps one is looking for a real reason to teach it in one’s own parish or diocese. In reality, the teaching of Natural Family Planning (NFP) responds beneficially to many of the major needs and challenges the engaged couples bring to a marriage course, and contributes considerably to the holistic formation of the couple preparing for marriage.
This paper was presented by Marian Corkill and Marie Marshell on behalf of Dr Evelyn Billings at the Pontifical Lateran University, 9 May 2008, at a Congress to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae.
“When John and I began to travel and teach out of Australia in 1969, the Ovulation Method of natural fertility regulation had reached its definitive point as far as scientific verification of Rules went, but we had much to learn about the teaching, and much to observe about its value to individuals, marriages and the wider culture. We were to see attitudes change, from the contraceptive one of “no babies” of Planned Parenthood, to the acceptance of the child in full understanding of the Billings Ovulation Method® with Rules that mean what they say.
I accept with gratitude the Honorary Degree of this highly esteemed University Tor Vegata, very mindful of the honour bestowed on me. Even greater is the honour because I share it with John.
It was in 1953 when it was recognized in Melbourne by the Reverend Maurice Catarinich that some natural way of helping couples regulate their fertility must be found. The Venerable Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne had invited Fr Catarinich to assist married couples because he had seen in his visits to the schools that there were many unhappy children. He realized that these unhappy children came from unhappy homes.