Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] “Humanae vitae”, Paul VI’s secret survey
Posted on 07/10/2018 7:50:56 PM PDT by ebb tide
Paul VI, in October 1967, during the first Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican, had the Cardinal Secretary of State ask for an opinion on contraception in view of the publication of the encyclical. Only 26 of the 200 bishops present produced a written response. Of these, most said they were in favor of some opening to the pill, while 7 were against. But Pope Montini, who had already removed the subject from the Council discussion and had listened to the opinions of a commission of experts (the majority of whom were in favor), did not believe that there was any reason to change the position held up to that moment by his predecessors and promulgated a few months after his Humanae vitae, which came out in July - fifty years ago - lacking however the chrism of infallibility, as some would have liked.
This is one of the new elements that emerges from the research of Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, author of the book La nascita di unenciclica. Humanae vitae alla luce degli Archivi Vaticaniˮ (Birth of an encyclical. Humanae vitae in the light of the Vatican Archives) published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana; a search in the light of never consulted before documents, which allowed to reconstruct the genesis of the encyclical, its various drafts, the corrections made by Paul VI. A painstaking work, which clears the field from imaginative reconstructions or assumptions based on individual testimonies that are not always well-balanced. A work that also rids the field of the self-absorbed lucubrations of certain anti-papal publications based on invectives and anonymous signatures, which had recently attributed to Marengo (as executor of papal directives) the intent to revisit and then change Montinis encyclical.
That synodal survey
During the First Synod of Bishops in autumn 1967, and precisely on 4 October, Paul VI had Cardinal Jean Villot invite all the Synod Fathers to send him their reflections and suggestions on the theme of birth regulation. The news of the Popes desire to consult all the members of the synodal assembly is very important - Marengo points out- because one of the most repeated accusations, after the publication of Humanae vitae, was that the Pope had decided in solitude, in a non- collegial way. However, little more than 12% of the bishops (the total number of members of the Synod was almost 200) answered, between 9 October 1967 and 31 May 1968. Most them was for the lawfulness of the use of contraceptive methods: only seven asked the Pope to pronounce on its unlawfulness: Marengos book includes the list of communication exchanges, in total 25: some, however, wrote several times, while others sent individual documents with more than one signature.
Favorable to the opening were Cardinals Suenens (Brussels) and Döpfner (Munich), American Cardinals and Bishops Shehan (Baltimore), Krol (Philadelphia), Dearden (Detroit), Wright (Pittsburgh); Cardinal Renard (Lyon), Bishop Martinj (Nouméa in New Caledonia), on behalf of the bishops of the islands of southern Oceania; Cardinal Legér (Montreal), the apostolic administrator of Toronto Phocock, Bishop Hurley (Durban); Bishop Lorscheider (Brasilia); Cardinal Darmojuwono (Semerang), on behalf of the Indonesian Episcopal Conference; Bishop Martensen (Copenhagen); the adviser to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Melkites, Edelby; Bishop Flahiff (Winnipeg); Bishop Beck (Liverpool); Bishop Dupuy (Albi a Philippe). While there were 7 opponents in all: the American Fulton Sheen, Bishop of Rochester; Cardinal Santos (Manila); Cardinal Tappouni, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians: Cardinal Siri (Genoa); Bishop Attipetty (Verapoly, India); Apostolic Vicar Hartl (Araucanìa, Chile); Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow.
The pro-pill reasons
Among the many interventions that in various ways called for a change in the terms of the Churchs teaching on birth regulation, the author of the book notes that the most outstanding were those of Cardinals Suenens and Döpfner. The Belgian cardinal, great electorate of Paul VI (the new Pope had him standing next to him at the window, at the end of his first Angelus, Sunday 23 June 1963) had sent three texts. Knowing well Paul VIs concern to keep in line with the Magisterium of his predecessors, in the first text he tried to show how Pius XIIs decision to judge lawful the use of the Ogino-Knaus method, while introducing an element of novelty with respect to Casti connubii, could not be understood as discordant with the Magisterium of Pius XI. The same would have happened if the thesis claiming that, under certain conditions, the spouses could use the contraceptive pill, had been accepted. In a third letter, Suenens instead examined the Popes decision to remove from the Council the discussion on the methods of birth regulation; reiterating his dissent, he proposed to put the subject on a forthcoming Synods agenda, judging dramatically dangerous for the good of the Church, the Holy Father should assume, on his own, the role of defender and guardian of faith and morals and present himself to the world evidently cut off from the college of bishops, clergy, and the faithful. Döpfner had pointed out the opinion of the majority of the German bishops, was in favor of openness. Therefore, close to the publication of the encyclical, he had invited the Pope to postpone the decision, expressing his concern and foreseeing disastrous consequences.
...and those of the opponents
Among those who, instead, had spoken in harmony with the intention of Paul VI, only Wojtyła had gone beyond the simple request that a future document of the Magisterium reaffirm what Pius XI and Pius XII had already affirmed. The future John Paul II had in fact sent, presented as a Votum in the name of the bishops of Poland, the so-called Memorial of Cracoviaˮ. The annoyance towards the conservative positions - Marengo writes - emerges in the first part of the Memoir, where he shows his dissatisfaction with the way in which they argued about the value of the ecclesial magisterium with regard to natural law, with a special emphasis on the infallible continuity of his teaching. Two critical elements have been expressed. The first was of a methodological nature: that the refusal of contraception belonged definitively to the infallible ordinary Magisterium of the Church could not be taken for granted, precisely because the Pope had considered it necessary to re-examine the problem (through the Pontifical Commission itself).
The paper grasped the limits of the positions of the minority that, taking for granted the authoritative profile of the ecclesial teachings already produced, considered useless any approach to the question that went beyond the mere repetition of the data traditionally present in the doctrinal patrimony of the church. For this reason, the theologians of Krakow highlighted the limit of this position which, invoking the authority of the Magisterium, did not care to develop an argument supporting the theses, with particular regard to the philosophical and theological profile of the category of natural law. From the research published in the book it emerges that Wotyła had some important contributions (the most famous being the Krakow Memorial of February 1968), but these did not influence the writing of the encyclical. The sources do not allow to affirm - Marengo writes - that these texts have been used in a significant way in the drafting of Humanae vitae.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.