Bishop Nickless


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Bishop Nickless’ homilies

‘Humanae Vitae’ teaches on human sexuality

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Fifty years ago this month, I was a seminarian at St. Thomas Seminary College in Denver and I remember well the day (soon-to-be Saint) Blessed Pope Paul VI issued one of the most important encyclicals (papal letters) of the past two centuries.

“Humanae Vitae” (On Human Life) offered a clear defense of the church’s unchanging teaching regarding human sexuality, especially its cooperation with God’s plan for human flourishing. The key elements of that divine plan are well-known, albeit much maligned by our modern culture; namely, the reservation of sex for marriage only, the immorality of contraception and sterilization and the necessity of openness to life each time the sexual act is performed by a married couple, and the social and personal dangers of the “contraceptive culture.”

The Holy Father’s warnings about these dangers have proved to be true. We all suffer from the widespread failure or refusal to follow these never-changing truths.

Because of our fallen nature, we are all subject to concupiscence, that is, the attractiveness or sweetness of sin which tempts us. Sexual sins are potent temptations, because of the great goodness of human sexuality, as God designed it, and because of its emotional depth in our nature.

There has never been a time when no one fell into such sins. However, in our traditional, Christianized, culture of the West, the virtues of chastity, fidelity, and self-control were extolled and strived for. The high social status of marriage helped to uphold those virtues, and the church’s own commitment to chastity and continence for consecrated religious and priests likewise highlighted the same virtues. We often fell short of the goal, perhaps, but the goal itself was clear.

In the last two centuries, however, our culture has changed greatly. Our culture now rejects chastity, fidelity, and self-control, denying that these are virtues worth striving for, right and good in themselves, part of our imitation of and union with Christ our Savior. Our culture insists that they frustrate our freedom and self-expression and teaches relentlessly that the only necessary qualification for sexual activity to be right and good is consent.

In all this, our culture is gravely wrong. Just as Pope Paul VI recognized and predicted 50 years ago, the legitimization of divorce renders fidelity meaningless, and the ready availability and social acceptance of chemical and mechanical contraception render chastity and self-control meaningless.

Can we not see how this worshipping of vice is merely rebellion against God, an attempt (doomed to failure) to carve out another path than the one he has marked for us? Can we not see that those who reject chastity, fidelity, and self-control as virtues are committing a sin like that of Adam and Eve that lead to the fall?

God made us in a certain way, and, therefore, certain things correspond to what is good for us, for our flourishing and happiness, and indeed, ultimately, for our salvation. The opposite is also true; certain things can only harm us, cause us unhappiness and suffering, and possibly lead to our losing eternal salvation. We veer away from that divine plan at our peril, for God does not change, nor his plans, nor our nature.

The contents of “Humanae Vitae” are still the teachings of the church. They are right and good in themselves. The happiness of the few who follow them, and the unhappiness of the many who don’t, is proof enough of that. Pope Paul showed briefly in that document how these teachings derive from Biblical revelation and the teachings of Christ himself. As unpopular as they may be, they are necessary teachings for our flourishing and salvation. And Pope St. John Paul II, in his excellent “Theology of the Body,” elaborated on all these points at much greater length, and still more convincingly.

As G. K. Chesterton said, the modern world has replaced common sense with uncommon nonsense. Nowhere is this clearer than on this topic.

Especially in this anniversary year, I urge all of you to read “Humanae Vitae,” which is neither long nor difficult, despite its possibly unfamiliar vocabulary.

We must come to understand more deeply what these teachings mean, and how we can strive to live them out, and how we can try to defend them against the lies of the culture, inviting others also to recognize their goodness.

Above all, I urge you to remain faithful to the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist which gives us strength to follow wherever Christ leads, even when difficult, and penance, where we receive mercy and healing for our sins and weakness.

Christ has not laid upon us a yoke too heavy to bear, even in these teachings about sexuality. Trust him, and follow him, with the greatest possible fidelity, and you will see what virtue and happiness result. Pray for each other, just as I pray constantly for all of you.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


July 12, 2018: Humanae Vitae teaches on human sexuality

June 28, 2018: Two moral aspects of immigration issues: asylum requests and family separation 

June 14, 2018: Sacred Heart devotion reminds us of fundamental aspects of faith

May 24, 2018: Season of ordinations, graduations 

May 10, 2018:  May is the month to honor Mary

 April 19, 2018: God calls all people to holiness

March 22, 2018: Christ chose cross, so must we 

March 8, 2018: Turn to Christ to receive light

February 22, 2018: Christians must face moral evils

February 8, 2018: Journey of Lent leads to sacrificial love

February 8, 2018: Bishop asks for prayers, support of WYD pilgrimage

January 25, 2018: Bishop gives thanks to all who support Catholic schools

January 11, 2018: Listen to quiet voice of God 

December 21, 2017: Christmas should shine brightly in us, through us 

December 7, 2017: May Advent joy grow in our hearts

November 16, 2017: Be filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving

November 2, 2017: God must save us through his plan

October 19, 2017: Catechism express true church teachings

October 5, 2017: Be not afraid: Light shall overcome the darkness

September 21, 2017: Prayer humbles one’s pride

September 7, 2017: Catechizing children: Pass on a vibrant and meaningful faith

August 10, 2017: Fatima message emphasizes God’s love

July 27, 2017: Strive to love more perfectly

July 13, 2017: Called to be disciples of Jesus and lead others to follow him

June 29, 2017: Centering faith on Christ, called to be bold for him

June 1, 2017: Planned Parenthood closings illustrate a victory of prayer

May 18, 2017: Holy Spirit lives within each of us

May 4, 2017: Praise, thanks to God for all his gifts

April 20, 2017: Joy of Easter at heart of Gospel

 April 6, 2017: Easter’s joy awaits us

March 23, 2017: Lent calls faithful to greater discipline, renewal of sacrifice

March 9, 2017: Confession important opportunity of Lent

March 9, 2017: Give generously to Catholic Relief Services Collection

March 9, 2017: Bishop commutes Lenten obligation for March 17 

February 23, 2017: Lent is a time to pause, turn to God

February 9, 2017: Valuing the covenant of marriage 

February 9, 2017: Bishop releases immigration statement

January 26: 2017: Catholic Schools: Instruments to spread Gospel, do Lord’s work

January 12, 2017: Forming best plan to journey forward

December 22, 2016: Catholic Charities offers support, guidance

December 22, 2016: Welcome Christ into your hearts with joy and love

December 8, 2016: Faith, hope and love: Celebrate Christmas for the right reasons 

November 17, 2016: Pledged to be true servants of Christ

October 20, 2016: Rely on God’s mercy to avoid devilish influences

October 6, 2016: Worldly culture committed to lies cannot bring about peace, justice

September 22, 2016: Pastoral planning committee reviews, evaluates feedback

August 25, 2016: Spending deliberate time in prayer enhances other areas of our lives

August 11, 2016: Prayers for youth, adults as they prepare to go back to school

July 28, 2016: Voters must be Catholic first

July 14, 2016: Ordination offers opportunity to evaluate diocesan needs

June 20, 2016: Seeking the face of Christ in suffering 

June 16, 2016: Keep the faith this summer

May 19, 2016: Be aware of God’s presence

May 5, 2016: Pastoral care for families: God’s plan for marriage, family taught by Jesus Christ

April 21, 2016: Papal document affirms marriage

April 7, 2016: Pray, discern God’s will during pastoral planning process

March 24, 2016: Find joy in exultation of Jesus

March 10, 2016: No longer time to coast, Lent brings time for conversion

February 11, 2016: Trusting in Lord’s mercy, seek a deeper conversion of heart

January 28, 2016: Being a good disciple is giving a consistent witness to Christ

January 14, 2016: Pray, work more willingly for end to scourge of abortion

December 17, 2015: Jubilee Year of Mercy:  Birth of Christ opens door of mercy

December 3, 2015: Diocese of Sioux City promulgates safe environment program

November 19, 2015: SPOTLIGHT: Movie reminds us to be vigilant

November 5, 2015: GOD’S MERCY: Moving sinners to conversion 

October 15, 2015: Family life: Faithful families know hope and joy

October 1, 2015: Pope’s visit a joyful one

September 17, 2015: Pray for safe travels, success of family meeting and for pope

September 3, 2015: Families contribute to student faith, school success

August 6, 2015: Caring for the most vulnerable

July 23, 2015: Build laws on good laws and truth

July 9, 2015: SUPREME COURT DECISION: Rejecting four marks of natural marriage 

June 25, 2015: POPE’S ENCYCLICAL: Boldly confronts us about creation, bishop says

June 11, 2015: Being a disciple of Christ

May 14, 2015: United with Christ in this life

April 30, 2015: Prayers sought as priest changed implemented

April 16, 2015: Mercy asks to seek opportunities for forgiveness and healing of sin

April 2, 2015: Seeking full, perfect union with Jesus

March 19, 2015: Turning back to the Lord during Lent 

March 5, 2015: Celebrating the charisms of professed vocations

March 5, 2015: Diocese to take up collection for Catholic Relief Services

Feb. 19, 2015: SEASON OF LENT:  Time of contrition, penance

Feb. 5, 2015: Bishop comments on Pope Francis’s remarks on children, family size

Jan. 22, 2015: Uphold human dignity, recommit to light and mission of Christ

Dec. 18, 2014: Blessings of the Season: God wills each of us gifts of grace and holiness

Dec. 4, 2014: Embrace spirit of gratitude, humility this Advent Season

Nov. 6, 2014: Bishop asks for prayers for vocations

Oct. 16, 2014: Don’t lower the bar to achieve holiness