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Humanae Vitae: Heroic, Deficient - Or Both?
Latin Mass Magazine ^ | John Galvin

Posted on 06/09/2002 5:12:50 PM PDT by JMJ333

Intro By Fr. James McLucas:

The great encyclical of Pope Paul VI, many would argue, was the catalyst that brought the Modernist Revolt within the Church out into the open. Catholics presently are living amidst this insurgency within the Church. It is, therefore, impossible to write a competent and dispassionate history at present. However, not a few have already asked, and are investigating, how the Modernists breached the bulwark of the Church's defenses with such effortless rapidity. It is becoming apparent that the present agony was long in the making. Little embraces of a "new theology" led, step by step, to an initial distancing from and eventual hostility toward traditional Catholic theology. A good Catholic memory recalls that in the emotional flush immediately following the Second Vatican Council, the "New Pentecost" paradigm ushered in an era that embedded the impression that every nook and cranny of the Church's life must be rethought and reconsidered in a novel light. Catholics committed to the traditional theology of the Church have not infrequently remarked that the post-conciliar environment created the notion that historical development prior to 1962 (the year the Council opened) was either suspect, irrelevant, or insufficient for the needs of the modern world. This phenomenon (contemptuous of 2000 years of historical organic growth) has contributed to the inorganic development of both ecclesial structure and theology (especially in the areas of liturgy and ecumenism).

Mr. John Galvin, in the following article, suggests that even what many would consider to be the greatest of Pope Paul's encyclicals, one that he knew would antagonize the very modern world that he longed to affect, was itself a victim of this milieu.

Interestingly, Mr. Galvin's thesis echoes remarks made by Fr. Stanley Jaki, the great Benedictine man of science, concerning a puzzling vacuum present throughout the entire body of documents from Vatican II. He observes that the most decisive aspect of human history has been the "monumental struggle against the powers of darkness." Though this is the precise language employed in Gaudium et Spes, Father Jaki raises a troubling question: "Why is it that a Council, whose documents occupy at least twenty thousand lines, had only six lines for what according to the Council itself is the most real aspect of human history?" In other words, it's not that what was stated is wrong, but that the scope of the discussion, so critical to the understanding of humanity, is severely deficient.

The Latin Mass questions neither the heroism nor the orthodoxy of Humanae Vitae. We offer Mr. Galvin's thesis because it's an intelligent articulation of what appears to be a growing conviction among Catholics who have suffered through 40 years of the "autodemolition" of the Faith: namely, that a sober reassessment of documents emanating from the Magisterium, issued amidst the heated turmoil of ecclesial and cultural revolutions, will be integral to the Catholic Restoration. The fact that an obviously well-informed Catholic father of eleven children would have the temerity to include Humanae Vitae as a candidate for this re-evaluation is itself telling.

Due to the seriousness with which we undertake this discussion, Mr. Galvin's article is followed by the responses of two prominent defenders of the encyclical, Dr. Janet Smith, one of the world's foremost authorities and commentators on Humanae Vitae, and Dr. Ronald McArthur, President Emeritus of Thomas Aquinas College and a Contributing Editor to The Latin Mass.

A received wisdom exists among both liberals and conservatives regarding Humanae Vitae: "In opposition to 'the spirit of Vatican II' which otherwise prevailed in the Church at that time, Humanae Vitae was a strong reaffirmation of the Church's traditional teaching on birth control. Liberals were dismayed to see the Church return to a 'pre-Vatican II' approach, while conservatives were pleased to see a period of experimentation brought to a halt."

The purpose of this article is to determine what correspondence, if any, exists between reality and this accepted history. When we examine closely the actual text of the encyclical, do we find that it indeed reinforces the constant teaching of the Church? Or is it possible that it repudiates nearly everything taught by Pope Paul's predecessors? What if Humanae Vitae was not a stabilizing influence at all, but instead was a radical new element in the history of Catholic moral doctrine?

We may begin by noting that amidst the many disputes regarding Humanae Vitae, one fact is indisputable: the encyclical has absolutely failed in its mission to teach and to persuade Catholics. Statistics show that contraceptive usage is ubiquitous. Widely available data indicate only five percent of women of childbearing years are refraining entirely from the use of artificial contraceptives. The total effect of contraceptive usage by American Catholics has resulted in a birth rate far below the replacement level, correlating with data from virtually every Catholic country in Europe - most notably Italy, which has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that fertility rates remained "much higher" for Catholics than for Protestants "until the late 1960s" (when Humanae Vitae was released), but since that time they have plummeted to levels even lower than those of Protestants. The proportion of Catholics using birth control is so large that it could not possibly be any larger even if Humanae Vitae had come out and repudiated the Catholic teaching. As John Kippley, founder of the Couple to Couple League, explained: "With a continuation of the status quo [1991], a parish priest can expect that about 97% to 99% of his newlyweds will be using unnatural methods of birth control."

How then do we explain such an abject failure of the teaching authority of the Church? For three decades liberals have claimed that the low acceptance rate of the encyclical indicates that it must be wrong. These dissidents have no difficulty establishing a prima facie case: "How could a teaching of the Church be so utterly rejected if it is indeed true?" But this argument is self-referential: "The teaching is false because I reject it, and I reject the teaching because it is false."

Counterpoised against this tautology is a massive amount of evidence concerning the lethal effects of contraception, spiritually as well as physically. Everyone has seen statistics describing the skyrocketing incidence of pornography, masturbation, fornication, adultery, divorce, homosexuality and abortion since 1968. These "leading cultural indicators" demonstrate that the much touted "sensus fidei" may be nothing more than mass apostasy.

At a more fundamental level, for a believing Catholic, rejecting this teaching amounts to rejecting the Faith. For this moral doctrine has been taught repeatedly and dogmatically, not by one pope, but by every recent pope, not just in recent times, but throughout the history of the Church. If the teaching on contraception is false, then the authority of the Magisterium is empty. As Fr. John Hardon, S.J., has said, "Professed Catholics who practice contraception either give up the practice of contraception or they give up their Catholic faith."

Meanwhile the Church apparatus has clung with equal tenacity to the belief that there is no problem with Humanae Vitae. On this issue they have reacted as they have to so many other problems in recent decades: a resolute head-in-the-sand approach. While the liberals' approach amounts to discarding the Faith, the approach of the hierarchy means despairing of the faithful. For this position essentially says, "We recognize that virtually all Catholics are living in a state of serious sin, but there is nothing we can do about it, so we wash our hands of responsibility."

This responsibility will not be shrugged off so easily. As Fr. Hardon's writings point out, contraception is not only "fatal to the Faith," but "fatal to salvation" as well: "The practice of contraception is a grave sin. Those who indulge in the practice are in danger of losing their immortal souls…. Christianity has always held, holds now, and always will hold, that contraception is a serious offense against God. Unless repented, it is punishable by eternal deprivation of the vision of God, which we call eternal death."

It is intolerable that the Church should stand by passively as the vast majority of its members - amounting to hundreds of millions of souls - lead lives that must come to eternal perdition. Isn't it likely that the failure is not only on the part of those listening, but also on the part of those preaching as well? This is where we must consider a third alternative: "The doctrine is true, but the presentation has been fatally flawed."

By "presentation" I do not mean rhetorical style; it is not simply a matter of saying the same things in a different way. Rather, Humanae Vitae needed to say very different things if it wished to present the Catholic teaching on birth control in all its fullness and beauty and with the requisite persuasiveness. It is the abandonment of Sacred Scripture, of Catholic tradition, of Catholic doctrine, and of Catholic philosophy that has rendered the encyclical incapable of convincing the faithful and has left the Church unable to cope with the moral breakdown that has afflicted virtually every Catholic country in the world.

As the noted natural law philosopher J. Budziszewski said in the journal First Things: "Though addressed not only to Roman Catholics but to 'all men of good will,' Humanae Vitae is both diffuse and elliptical; its premises are scattered and, to non-Catholics, obscure. Though the encyclical letter is magisterial in the sense of being lordly, it is not magisterial in the sense of teaching well. It seems to lack the sense, which any discussion of natural law requires, of what must be done to make the self-evident evident, to make the intuitive available to intuition, to make what is plain in itself plain to us."

Below I explore in detail nine specific problems that have rendered Humanae Vitae impotent and resulted in the rejection of its conclusions.

1. Bureaucracy and Delay

By the time the encyclical Humanae Vitae was released, it was quite literally a "dead letter." Opposing viewpoints had been released to both Catholic and secular media in a steady stream. Rebuttals to the Church's position had been prepared and signed, only awaiting the moment of the encyclical's release for them to be submitted for publication. In hindsight, Humanae Vitae appears quite naïve when it makes the statement, "We believe that the men of our day are particularly capable of seeing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle."

Now that three decades have passed, isn't it time that we as the Church started taking responsibility for our own failings and stopped bemoaning the fact that the encyclical was never given a fair hearing? The decision to appoint a "Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population and Birth Rate" sealed the fate of the encyclical in three ways.

First, the decision to place the fate of a crucial Church doctrine in the hands of a commission can only be considered an act of imprudence. Janet Smith, who has researched the background of Humanae Vitae more extensively than anyone else in the world, says, "It is not possible to find a published statement that makes clear the purpose of this commission."

In the actual event, the creation of the Papal Commission turned out to be a major disaster. The commission released to the press a "Majority Report" that advocated a change in the perennial teaching of the Church. A seemingly authoritative document from the Vatican was now widely available in the press, signed by nine cardinals and archbishops, which said "responsible parenthood" could include the use of contraceptives. This viewpoint had the field all to itself for more than two years, sufficient time to garner increasing support and to turn public opinion away from the teaching of the Church.

Secondly, the appointment of the Papal Commission occasioned a delay of many years. The Pill was introduced in 1958. Vatican II opened in 1962. The study commission was appointed by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and later expanded by Pope Paul VI. The topic was covered in the 1965 Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, but in only a cursory manner because Pope Paul VI had reserved this topic for himself, awaiting the recommendations of the commission. There is evidence that the Vatican II document only worsened the situation; upon the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, a Congress of theologians released a statement saying, "The Encyclical does not meet the expectations aroused by the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes."

These expectations were fed a steady diet of articles from various theologians, pundits and experts. Already by 1966, Richard McCormick, author of the compendium "Notes on Moral Theology" in Theological Studies, wrote that contraception had become "the major moral issue troubling the Church," and that the literature in the previous six months was "voluminous." Note that Humanae Vitae still was not to appear for two more years.

It was during these crucial years that the consensus of society turned away from the Church. It was during these years that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Griswold vs. Connecticut decision invalidating state restrictions on the dispensing of contraceptives. It was during these years that contraceptive usage rates began to skyrocket, forcing the Church into the position of requiring people to cease doing something that had become an integral part of their lifestyle, rather than merely maintaining the status quo.

This result can only be compared to the difference between driving a train and righting a train that has gone off the tracks. One requires virtually no effort, so little in fact that one might be tempted to take one's eye off the track. The other requires the coordinated efforts of thousands of men and even then is not guaranteed success.

Lastly, this bureaucratic approach dealt a fatal blow to Humanae Vitae itself, since it leads off with an admission that the Papal Commission reached an opposite conclusion. The message of the encyclical is thus crippled by a description of conflicts within the teaching authority of the Church. Readers of Humanae Vitae find that the well has been poisoned before they even come to the Church's point of view, a defect that will always remain a permanent part of the encyclical.

2. Lack of Context on Christian Marriage

At the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Church of England approved the use of contraception by married couples, the first time such a thing had been permitted by any Christian denomination. Pope Pius XI was faced with a serious crisis, arguably as serious as the crisis faced by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s. Birth control usage became widespread among Protestants following this historic event, and fertility rates among white Protestants soon entered a period of decline from which they have never recovered. So the stakes were high.

The response of Pope Pius XI was immediate, since he realized that delay would sow doubt and confusion in the minds of the faithful. Fortunately he was able to release the Catholic response in the same year, 1930. His response did not require any panels, commissions or committees; it was dogmatic and magisterial.

Most notable about his response, however, was the fact that his encyclical was titled "On Christian Marriage," not "On Birth Control." He responded to the Anglican challenge by reaffirming the entire Christian view of the married life. Certainly he was firm and unambiguous on the issue of contraception - much more so than Humanae Vitae despite the latter's focus on this single topic - yet he was equally firm and unambiguous on several other controversial topics.

What Casti Connubii presents to the faithful is an entire Catholic way of life, one that must include fidelity, permanence and fruitfulness. Marriage may not be attempted on an a la carte basis; one does not pick and choose individual items. When you make the choice for Christian marriage, then you buy the whole package, including generosity in accepting children from God. This approach was magisterial, systematic, logical, and - not least - successful.

In contrast, Humanae Vitae presents only a short synopsis of Catholic teaching on marriage. The general discussion of Christian marriage is contained in sections 8 and 9, little more than a dozen sentences combined. Personalist concepts of marriage such as "fully human" and "total" are each given their own paragraphs, while the three traditional foundations of marriage - fidelity, permanence and fruitfulness - must together share a single paragraph.

There is another way in which the lack of Catholic marriage doctrine has contributed to the failure of the encyclical: by disowning the virtue of obedience. Humanae Vitae actually quotes from Ephesians chapter 5, but commences with the very next verse (Eph. 5:25), deliberately excising St. Paul's instruction, "Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22-24).

Casti Connubii, in contrast, united Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium as it explained the truth of Christian marriage: "Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that 'order of love,' as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: 'Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.'"

During this era in which the Church has maintained a vow of silence on the virtue of obedience in marriage, the crisis over Humanae Vitae has continued and has been characterized most often as a crisis of obedience. The period immediately after Humanae Vitae's promulgation was marked by massive defiance and dissent. Theologians openly defied the Vatican; many bishops' conferences issued statements implying that Catholics could use contraception in good conscience.

Pope Benedict XV would not have been surprised by the way a devaluing of the virtue of obedience in the family has resulted in the abandonment of obedience in the Church. He pointed out the natural connection in his first encyclical (Ad Beatissimi 1914):

"The unrestrained striving after independence, together with overweening pride, has little by little found its way everywhere; it has not even spared the home, although the natural origin of the ruling power in the family is as clear as the noonday sun; nay, more deplorable still, it has not stopped at the steps of the sanctuary."

Humanae Vitae has thus contributed both directly and indirectly to a crisis in which we have gone from losing the battle on birth control to losing the very concept of obedience itself.

3. Natural vs. Artificial Methods

Defenders of Humanae Vitae protest against a "misreading" that views the encyclical merely in terms of a contrast between "artificial" and "natural" methods of birth control. But this is not a misreading at all; this is the stated message of Humanae Vitae. Consider first the title of the encyclical, "On the Proper Regulation of the Propagation of Offspring." The question is already settled before the discussion has begun: there should be a "regulation"; the issue to be discussed is using "proper" methods.

In fact, the encyclical step by step builds a case for birth control. First it discusses the "serious difficulties" of population, conceding the argument to the population control advocates. Then it speaks of "responsible parenthood," commending a decision to "avoid new births." Then it evaluates means to achieve this goal, condemning "artificial methods" while praising "legitimate use of a natural disposition."

The title of the advisory commission is enlightening: "Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population and Birth Rate." Family, population and birth rate have now become "problems"; they are no longer bona, "goods." The encyclical starts off with a dire warning about overpopulation, and later refers readers to Pope Paul VI's prior encyclical, Populorum Progressio, where we find even gloomier statements about "depressing despondency" caused by "population increases."

Section 20 of Humanae Vitae tells us that the job of the Church towards the faithful is to "strengthen them in the path of honest regulation of birth" while comforting them "amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples." In other words, "People are miserable, so we will help them regulate births that there might be fewer people to be miserable."

This is a far cry from the attitude of generosity displayed in documents from Pope Paul's predecessors, who continually strove to enlarge the appreciation of fruitfulness. Pope Pius XII's 1958 "Address to Large Families," for example, is a masterpiece that every Catholic family should read and ponder. Compare Humanae Vitae's pinched, meager attitude with Pius XII's lyrical poetry in praise of new life when he calls for "esteem, desire, joy, and the loving welcome of the newly born right from its first cry. The child, formed in the mother's womb, is a gift of God, Who entrusts its care to the parents."

The new goal established by Humanae Vitae is "responsible parenthood" rather than "generosity towards children." Living out the message of the encyclical "undoubtedly requires ascetical practices," and "perfect self-mastery," Humanae Vitae claims. "Responsible parenthood" means that before deciding to have a child, a couple must "recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct hierarchy of values." Humanae Vitae offers no explanation of these duties, leaving couples to wonder if adding to population growth could likely be a violation of their obligations.

No longer does there exist a presumption in favor of fertility, with any type of birth control - even natural means - reserved for extraordinary cases. Now the "decision to raise a numerous family" must be "deliberate"; it is no longer a natural and spontaneous outgrowth of the marriage commitment.

We find reasons for avoiding a new birth as basic as "harmony and peace of the family" and "better conditions for education." These reasons can "derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions," while an earlier section had listed "physical, economic, psychological and social conditions." In other words, one is hard pressed to imagine reasons that would not qualify. Later on, Humanae Vitae lowers the bar even further, citing merely "plausible reasons" to seek "the certainty that offspring will not arrive."

All one need do is "take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions." The encyclical repeatedly differentiates between "artificial" birth control and a "natural" disposition. For example, when Humanae Vitae famously predicts the harmful results of widespread adoption of contraception, it refers to "the consequences of methods of artificial birth control." It thus defines the problem as being one of methods that are artificial, not a lack of fruitfulness, a failure of generosity, etc.

Ironically, despite repeated emphasis on "the path of honest regulation of birth" through "the use of marriage in the infecund periods only," Humanae Vitae achieved a result directly contrary to what it intended. Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, founder of Human Life International, and a leading teacher and proponent of NFP in the 1960s, has reported, "With Humanae Vitae, NFP more or less died in the USA. I did 9 international symposia and many weekend conferences on NFP in various parts of the USA. No bishop encouraged me."

4. Missing References to Scripture

Vatican II called for a renewed effort on the part of the Church to investigate and reinforce the scriptural basis for its moral teachings. It is ironic that Humanae Vitae, one of the first encyclicals released after Vatican II, should have taken just the opposite approach and stripped all the scriptural foundation from its arguments. Humanae Vitae makes no reference to any of the standard texts that have been cited for millennia.

In a recent symposium in the journal First Things, Gilbert Meilaender and Phillip Turner described the fundamental importance of Scripture, especially for reaching across denominational lines:

"As theologians representing the Lutheran and Anglican churches who seek a common mind with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, we think it most appropriate for us to direct our attention to the first of the questions posed for this symposium: 'Do you judge the argument of Humanae Vitae with respect to artificial means of contraception convincing?' Our answer in brief is no … Though the first three chapters of Genesis are generally cited as loci classici for beginning a discussion of marriage and sex, they are not discussed in Humanae Vitae. Had more adequate reference been made to Holy Scripture, it might indeed have proved to be the case that 'a teaching rooted in natural law' would have been 'illuminated and made richer by divine revelation.'"

The scriptural supports for the Church's teaching are numerous and compelling, sufficiently so that all Christian denominations shared the Catholic position until 1930. First of all there is the commandment to "Increase and multiply and fill the earth" found in the very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1:28).

Moreover, God gives this commandment not only to Adam, but He repeats it in every case where He makes a covenant with man. God speaks the same words twice to Noah (Genesis 9:1 and 9:7). God tells Abraham to be fruitful when he changes his name from Abram (Genesis 17:4-6). God gives the same instruction to Jacob when he changes his name to Israel (Genesis 35:10-12). God confirms his covenant with Moses in the same way (Lev. 26:9). The commandment to be fruitful surely must take priority as not only the first given by God to man, but also the one most often emphasized by God.

The story of Onan is another Old Testament reference that directly condemns birth control in the strongest possible way. Despite some modern opinions, all classical Jewish commentators, St. Augustine, statements of popes, and even all three of the major Protestant founders agree upon the plain meaning of the text: "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it."

As Pope Pius XII noted, the Old Testament abounds in additional references to fruitfulness: "With what delicacy and charm does the Sacred Scripture show the gracious crown of children united around the father's table! Children are the recompense of the just, as sterility is very often the punishment for the sinner. Hearken to the divine word expressed with the insuperable poetry of the Psalm: 'Your wife, as a fruitful vine within your house, your children as olive shoots round about your table. Behold, thus is that man blessed, who fears the Lord!', while of the wicked it is written: 'May his posterity be given over to destruction; may their name be blotted out in the next generation.'"

My own favorite is Psalm 127, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."

The New Testament as well is not lacking in scriptural supports for the Church's teaching. Pope Pius XI, for example, again unites Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, "St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to Timothy when he says: 'The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation: "I wish," he says, "young girls to marry." And, as if someone said to him, "Why?," he immediately adds: 'To bear children, to be mothers of families."

Another New Testament reference is Galatians 5:19-21, a catalog of sins that St. Paul condemns as "works of the flesh." Among them in the original Greek is pharmakeia, which is usually translated as "sorcery" but which in the first century A.D. specifically referred to the mixing of potions for illicit purposes, including the prevention of pregnancy. Two additional references to pharmakeia (Rev 9:21, 21:8) indicate a similar usage linking it with sexual sins and with murder. St. Paul says, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

5. Missing References to Tradition

Catholic theology has never been something that can spring full-blown from the brow of Zeus, but rather should manifest beliefs that have been held "always and everywhere by all the faithful." Humanae Vitae stands in stark contrast to the papal pronouncements of Pope Paul's predecessors, by ignoring the history of its controverted teaching, claiming only its own authority, and making use of few sources more than a decade old.

This despite the fact that the teaching on contraception is almost unparalleled for the vast range of traditional sources supporting the teaching of the Church. The theologian John T. Noonan was a member of the Papal Commission who supported the recommendation to overturn the Church's teaching. Yet in 1965 he wrote the following:

"In the world of the late Empire known to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, in the Ostrogothic Arles of Bishop Caesarius and the Suevian Braga of Bishop Martin, in the Paris of St. Albert and St. Thomas, in the Renaissance Rome of Sixtus V and the Renaissance Milan of St. Charles Borromeo, in the Naples of St. Alphonsus Liguori and Liege of Charles Billuart, in the Philadelphia of Bishop Kenrick, and in the Bombay of Cardinal Gracias, the teachers of the Church have taught without hesitation or variation that certain acts preventing procreation are gravely sinful. No Catholic theologian has ever taught, 'Contraception is a good act.' The teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever."

Listing even a fraction of the traditional sources would require an article of its own. Here is just a sampling of quotations that indicates the unbroken tradition going back to apostolic times and encompassing every period of the Church's history:

In 195, Clement of Alexandria wrote: "Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).

St. Augustine: "Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born."

St. John Chrysostom made numerous references to contraception, including this one: "Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well.... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation" (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).

A medieval source, the Penitential of Vigila of Alvelda (c. A.D. 800), stated: "A woman, also, who takes a potion shall consider herself to be guilty of as many acts of homicide as the number of those she was due to conceive or bear."

St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Next to murder, by which an actually existent human being is destroyed, we rank this sin by which the generation of a human being is prevented."

This tradition did not gradually taper off, but continued to evoke unanimous consent until the very day of Vatican II's commencement. The same Notes on Moral Theology that previously documented the voluminous discussions occurring in 1966, was able to say in 1962, "Since theological discussion of the annovulant drugs began some four or more years ago, moralists have never been less than unanimous in their assertion that natural law cannot countenance the use of these progestational steroids for the purpose of contraception." He declared that the moral status of the pill was a "theologically closed issue."

Why is all this tradition missing from Humanae Vitae? Writing in Fidelity magazine, Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, SVD, a priest serving in Japan and an ardent defender of the Church's teaching, explains "Why Aquinas Was Kept Out of Humanae Vitae":

"St. Thomas made the welfare of the human race pivotal for his rejection of contraception. Yet we do not find his name in the text of Humanae Vitae, except in footnote 9, which really does not allow him to speak. Why did the Vatican exclude the pivotal argument of Aquinas from Humanae Vitae? I once had an experience at the Vatican which suggests to me that he was purposefully excluded... It was not yet politically expedient in 1968 to use Thomistic argument. The argument of St. Thomas about the need to preserve the race might have backfired. At any rate, when we were editing the book Natural Family Planning for the 1980 Synod of Bishops, [Father Gustav Martelet's] contribution, which contains the fear of public reaction against the natural law argument even as it is in Humanae Vitae now, generated scruples in one or the other of our staff."

6. Missing References to the Magisterium

Sir Isaac Newton was arguably the greatest genius ever to live, yet he was humble enough to claim that his achievements were possible only because he "stood on the shoulders of giants." Until recently, a similar attitude was a hallmark of papal teaching. Every pope was careful to demonstrate the continuity between his own teaching and that of all his predecessors.

Pope Pius XI, for example, while not neglecting any aspect of the patrimony handed down to him, gave pride of place to his predecessor Pope Leo XIII: "We follow the footsteps of Our predecessor, Leo XIII, of happy memory, whose Encyclical Arcanum, published fifty years ago, We hereby confirm and make Our own, and while We wish to expound more fully certain points called for by the circumstances of our times, nevertheless We declare that, far from being obsolete, it retains its full force at the present day."

To what advantage might Pope Paul VI have made use of passages from Arcanum such as this one: "God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time." Or this passage from Pope Leo's most famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum: "No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God's authority from the beginning: 'Increase and multiply.'"

No such acknowledgement is found in Humanae Vitae. Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI are entirely missing; neither is named in the document itself. Pope Leo is included in one footnote, among a long list of sources. Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii is footnoted four times, in all four cases in shorter or longer lists that include documents from at least one other papacy. In no instance is there a direct quotation.

Instead there is a section which describes "the various changes that have taken place in modern times," "changes in how we view the person of woman and her place in society," and the "stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature." Humanae Vitae says that since we have a "new state of things" with a new "meaning which conjugal relations have with respect to the harmony between husband and wife," then we "require that the Magisterium of the Church give new and deeper consideration to the principles of moral teaching concerning marriage." Thus Humanae Vitae commences by making sweeping claims to invalidate the applicability of all prior pronouncements.

Unlike his predecessors, Pius XII does appear twice in the encyclical, and he is footnoted several times. But when one investigates more closely, it is apparent that his views are not represented. The quotation below represents a key passage from Allocution to the Italian Midwives that shows how Humanae Vitae took a diametrically different approach from Pope Pius XII:

"Now, on married couples, who make use of the specific act of their state, nature and the Creator impose the function of providing for the preservation of mankind. This is the characteristic service which gives rise to the peculiar value of their state, the bonum prolis. The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life."

Here in one paragraph are so many of the items that are missing or attenuated in Humanae Vitae: we have the "matrimonial state," we have its "characteristic service," we have the "bonum prolis," we have "the order established by God," we have "fruitful marriages," we have "primary duty," we have "the very nature of married life"; in short, we have the structure of Natural Law as articulated by the Magisterium of the Church.

While Humanae Vitae does refer to the documents of Vatican II, we need to consider two points when evaluating these references in the context of magisterial tradition:

First, when Humanae Vitae refers to Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, Inter Mirifica, Apostolicam Actuositatem, and Populorum Progressio, we are reminded that they were "solemnly promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI." The preponderance of documents from his own pontificate, rather than demonstrating continuity of Catholic tradition, indicates a focus on the present to the exclusion of the two-millennia history of the Church.

Second, all the discussion of marriage and family in Vatican II amounts to one chapter of Part II of Gaudium et Spes, a document designed to deal with all the issues of "The Church in the Modern World." So the Council cannot contribute an extensive amount of doctrine. Moreover, this is the very place where Pope Paul VI intervened to insist on significant changes to the description of birth control and the purpose of marriage. When Humanae Vitae cites the following statement from GS: "Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents," it is quoting words interjected into the document at the behest of Pope Paul VI himself.

7. Reliance on Consequentialist Philosophy

Section 17 of Humanae Vitae lists four consequences that will ensue upon widespread acceptance of contraception. This section is not overstated, and even more extensive claims could be supported. The problem with the consequentialist arguments is the undue reliance placed upon them due to the weakness of Humanae Vitae's other arguments.

Human beings are not capable of perceiving all the ultimate consequences of their actions. The causal links between an action and its consequences are always tenuous. More importantly, consequentialist arguments cannot establish the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of a moral action. Bad consequences do not make an action wrong, and good consequences do not make an action right. A discussion of consequences can only reinforce a position that has been established on a solid moral basis.

Since the publication of Humanae Vitae, the defense of the Church's position has relied almost entirely on examining the social consequences since 1968. Janet Smith, for example, is the foremost defender of Humanae Vitae in the United States, perhaps in the world. Although she is a professor of philosophy with a Thomistic background, she relies primarily on consequentialist arguments when giving her many presentations on the topic.

The most notable defense of Humanae Vitae in the United States in the last few years has come from a pastoral letter from a well-respected American bishop. Oddly, however, the document complains about the "terms of academic theology" used in Humanae Vitae, as though our problems would be solved by means of even greater ambiguity and imprecision! Humanae Vitae itself is quoted only in reference to its prediction of consequences; not another line from the encyclical appears anywhere in his pastoral letter. What does it say about the intellectual status of the Church when the best defense of Humanae Vitae offered in many years (Janet Smith calls it "arguably the very best to date") relies on moral reasoning such as this: "Few couples understand their love in terms of academic theology. Rather, they fall in love. That's the vocabulary they use. It's that simple and revealing. They surrender to each other. They give themselves to each other. They fall into each other in order to fully possess, and be possessed by, each other. And rightly so."

Three decades of experience have shown that consequentialist arguments are unconvincing unless the person has already decided on the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of birth control. That's why we see them used so frequently by those who already agree with the teaching of the Church, with so little effect on those who do not. To make any headway, we need to abandon our reliance on consequentialist arguments, except as anecdotal evidence, and begin again to teach the faithful how to distinguish right from wrong.

8. Reliance on Personalist Phenomenology

The entire argument of Humanae Vitae rests upon the sentence, "That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning."

In the entire history of the Church, has the magisterium ever put forward as a dogmatic statement such a bare assertion? When Humanae Vitae refers to "That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium" it means the prohibition of contraception - which certainly has been "often set forth." But when it speaks of an "inseparable connection" between "the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning," Humanae Vitae is creating out of thin air a concept that has never before existed in any form of Catholic doctrine.

After this breathtaking act of bare assertion, the encyclical gives virtually no support to its novel concept. Why are there two meanings and not more than two or less than two? What makes them inseparable? Such fundamental questions are left unanswered. A strained comparison between contraception and marital rape represents Humanae Vitae's only attempt to elucidate this new formula. Nor is it going out on a limb to say that virtually no one, whether defender of Humanae Vitae or dissident, has found this explanation convincing.

We must recognize that this new formulation stands in sharp contrast to the justification offered by traditional Catholic theology. The substitution of the new concept "meaning" in place of the traditional language of "end" or "purpose" represents a radical restructuring. This transformation is like taking a house, moving it down the road and placing it onto an entirely new foundation. Philosophers may then debate whether it is the same house at all. The walls and the roof are the same, but can you call it the same house when it has a different foundation in a new location?

How did the magisterium come to discard the natural law explanation of such a fundamental institution as marriage and replace it with a novel and untried philosophy? The answer, in a word, is "Personalism." Soon after its release, Cardinal Wojtyla (now Pope John Paul II) offered an extended testimony to the thoroughly personalistic nature of Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul himself confirmed that he relied on the new personalist philosophy in writing Humanae Vitae: "We willingly followed the personalistic conception that was characteristic of the Council's teaching on conjugal society, thus giving love - which produces that society and nourishes it - the preeminent position that rightly belongs to it in a subjective evaluation of marriage."

Pope Paul VI thus confirmed the opposition between Humanae Vitae and the dogmatic pronouncements of Pope Pius XII, who only seventeen years before had said, "Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it."

Pope Pius was insistent that this was not just his personal opinion but the received teaching that he was unable to alter or deny, "We Ourselves drew up a declaration on the order of those ends, pointing out what the very internal structure of the natural disposition reveals. We showed what has been handed down by Christian tradition, what the Supreme Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and what was then in due measure promulgated by the Code of Canon Law" (n.b.: still very much in force in 1968).

Rev. John R. Waiss of the Tilden Study Center succinctly expresses the difference between personalism and natural law: "In his encyclical Paul VI moved the Catholic Church away from the traditional natural law arguments that were based on an 'objective' teleology, i.e., one that emphasizes the causal link between sex and procreation or the natural law arguments by design. Humanae Vitae (and subsequent interpretations by John Paul II, especially his theology of the body) has taken Catholics and other people of good will in another direction. The encyclical develops the natural law in regard to the meaning of the marital union. It tries to get us to ask: what does the marital union say? What does contraception say? How does contraception affect what the marital union says? Humanae Vitae develops the natural law argument based on a 'subjective' teleology" (emphases in the original).

It is apparent that Humanae Vitae acted as a springboard by which personalism could launch its new philosophy of marriage, displacing the traditional teaching. Since that time, it has replaced all the customary supports of the Church such as history, tradition, authority and hierarchy with an impenetrable philosophy of interpersonal relationships that has proven disastrous in practice. Mustn't we consider the following questions?

How should we evaluate the phenomenological underpinnings of personalism as a sufficient basis for building a Church? Is it possible to reconcile personalist phenomenology with teleological natural law theory and practice? What is to become of 1960 years of prior history and tradition - are they to go down the Orwellian memory hole? What happens to doctrines like obedience that don't fit onto the procrustean bed of personalism? What shall we do with personalism when the next pope introduces his own brand of philosophy - "Catholic deconstructionism," for example? And what are we to make of previous magisterial judgments of the Church, such as this one by Leo XIII, when upon concurring with the testimony of a long line of predecessors, he concludes with the words of Innocent VI: "[St. Thomas Aquinas'] teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error."

9. Without Teleology there is no Natural Law

Our final reason for the failure of Humanae Vitae is last in order, but first in importance: the denial of teleology. Teleology incorporates two principal aspects: design and purpose. Just as eyes are designed to see and fish are designed to swim, we have been designed by our creator for a purpose. Specifically, teleology means that our sexuality, the conjugal act itself, and the institution of marriage have all been designed by God to achieve a purpose, His purpose.

The absence of teleology has affected Humanae Vitae on two levels. On a practical level, the absence of a "primary purpose of marriage" has been the most often noted element of Humanae Vitae's new approach to marriage. On a more fundamental level, the absence of teleology means that the encyclical can have no coherent approach to natural law.

We have already seen examples in which the primary purpose of marriage was spelled out clearly in the past, but was excluded from Humanae Vitae. To summarize and conclude, here are the words of Pope Pius XII from his Allocution to the Italian Midwives in which he specifically rejects personalist language (i.e. "reciprocal gift and possession"), and then describes the "great law" of marriage:

If nature had aimed exclusively, or at least in the first place, at a reciprocal gift and possession of the married couple in joy and delight, and if it had ordered that act only to make happy in the highest possible degree their personal experience, and not to stimulate them to the service of life, then the Creator would have adopted another plan in forming and constituting the natural act. Now, instead, all this is subordinated and ordered to that unique, great law of the 'generatio et educatio prolix,' namely the accomplishment of the primary end of matrimony as the origin and source of life.

Those who proselytize on behalf of Humanae Vitae recoil from such natural law language due to a widespread belief that people cannot understand it. But the historical evidence all comes down on the other side. Here follows an example of the type and quality of teaching that was once presented to average Catholic laymen and women starting out on their marriages:

Since Catholics maintain that the primary purpose of the generative faculties is reproduction, they have always prohibited the deliberate exercise of this drive outside of marriage. [Note how the same argument applies against fornication, adultery, sodomy, etc.]… Happiness and success in marriage can result only from the fulfillment of God's plan in establishing marriage. We want to know, therefore, what God intended when He created man "male and female," and blessed marriage as the union of "two in one flesh," saying, "increase and multiply" [Beginning Your Marriage, Cana Conference of Chicago, 1957].

In simple marriage manuals once handed out to newlyweds we find a level of discourse that has virtually disappeared in the Church today. We see teleological natural law arguments presented in a way people could immediately grasp. And we must be struck by the success of this method compared to the methods of Humanae Vitae. At the beginning of this article we documented the precipitous decline in fertility rates among Catholics that started in the late 1960s.

It is indisputable that the Church was extremely successful during the years that it believed and taught natural law. It is equally indisputable that the Church has failed in this important task during the years that it has abandoned this philosophy. Some say that this is only a coincidence, that one cannot claim post hoc, ergo propter hoc. But what possible reason could there be to stick with a methodology that has been such a failure, and what possible harm could there be in using the method that was so successful? Is it because we're so concerned about losing that last one to three percent? Or is it simply an unwillingness to examine ourselves humbly, to confess our mistakes, to admit defeat, and to retrace our steps?

Now we can now see why the absence of teleology has crippled the philosophical coherence and integrity of the encyclical. We can understand the reason Budziszewski said, "Though the encyclical letter is magisterial in the sense of being lordly, it is not magisterial in the sense of teaching well. It seems to lack the sense, which any discussion of natural law requires, of what must be done to make the self-evident evident, to make the intuitive available to intuition, to make what is plain in itself plain to us."

Back in 1968, and during the intervening years, many commentators expressed their appreciation for the absence of teleological arguments. They were certain that this medieval method and language was holding the Church back from making progress in the modern era. Most of all, they thought that this holdover from the pre-Reformation Church was limiting our ability to engage in ecumenical dialogue.

From our vantage point of hindsight, we know that abandoning natural law did not bring about an ecumenical reunion, but it did cause a new schism. This result is not surprising to participants in the newly reinvigorated discussion of natural law, which includes such prominent philosophers as Alasdair MacIntyre, John Finnis, Germain Grisez, Robert George, Russell Hittinger, and Ralph McInerny. They have demonstrated that the only way we can engage in meaningful dialogue with other moral systems is through the instrumentality of teleology. The Rev. David K. Weber expressed this well in First Things:

If we conclude that rival moral systems are closer to a serious and fruitful encounter, it is because these rival systems are becoming more teleological in a Thomistic sense…. While they may explicitly reject a teleologically fixed moral order, they must, in giving a public account of their moral philosophy, smuggle in such an order to render their philosophy intelligible. So, for example, no moral system can speak of moral progress unless it articulates the direction and goal of that progress.

This revival of interest in natural law is often dated to the publication of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue (1981). Gilbert Meilander, in describing the world as seen by MacIntyre, could just as easily be describing the Church after Humanae Vitae:

What we had lost was a teleological understanding of human life. The moral duties and virtues that traditional morality commended made sense only if they were understood as depicting the means by which we could get from our present self-interested and sinful state to a quite different state: human nature in its flourishing condition, as it could be if its telos were realized…. Only if understood as the way from our present corrupted nature to our promised flourishing nature could these precepts make sense. Ripped from that setting, traditional precepts were bound to seem arbitrary and hard to defend - with the flavor of inexplicable taboos.

Could there be a better description of society's failure to appreciate Humanae Vitae's condemnation of contraception, a precept "ripped from" its setting in Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium and teleological natural law? Doesn't popular opinion view it precisely as an "inexplicable taboo"?

The participants in this "school" of natural law are still far from reaching consensus, and there is disagreement about moral issues, contraception included. But since the main thesis of Alasdair MacIntyre's book was that the loss of teleology had made meaningful moral discourse impossible, the fact that there are important moral theologians who are able to talk to each other again is a sign of hope.

Why then should the post-conciliar Church, as represented by Humanae Vitae, abandon its patrimony of teleological realism at the very time when the rest of the world is re-discovering its glories? (MacIntyre, for example, was previously a Marxist.) Should we not instead return like a Prodigal Son to the philosopher whom Pope Leo XIII described as "likened to the sun, for he warmed the whole earth with the fire of his holiness, and filled the whole earth with the splendor of his teaching"?

Only when she returns to her "perennial philosophy," only when she reclaims the teleology that has stood the test of time, only when she abandons philosophical fads, only then will the Church once again speak with authority, with the conviction of Truth, with logic, precision and consistency, and with the ability to move the hearts of both the faithful and "all men of good will," as she desires to do.

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; latinmass; tradition
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1 posted on 06/09/2002 5:12:51 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
Bookmarking this for reference.
2 posted on 06/09/2002 5:25:05 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Salvation
3 posted on 06/09/2002 5:31:08 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: Catholic_list
4 posted on 06/09/2002 5:32:59 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: Sinkspur
5 posted on 06/09/2002 5:34:07 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333; patent; siobhan; sinkspur; maryz; sitetest; neocon
I think some of this author's conclusions are terribly presumptuous on his part, and Janet Smith helped debunk some of his thesis in the same issue of Latin Mass Magazine.

For the entire sordid tale, (particularly Janet Smith's Response and Ronald McArthur's Response) see the timeline of the controversy at the Seattle Catholic web site.

My conclusion is that Humanae Vitae is to Castii Canubii what the Novus Ordo Missae mass is to the Tridentine Latin Mass, i.e., yeah, its Catholic, and it teaches Truth, but like the new mass, it ain't always pretty, and it ain't necessarily an improvement on what came before it.

The fact that the two most significant acts of Pope Paul VI were the promulgation of the New Mass and the publication of Humanae Vitae, somehow links these two important developments in my mind.

The poor theology related in the vernacular translations of the Latin (but not, necessarily in the Latin itself!) of the Novus Ordo Missae has lead to decreased belief in the Real Presence, and decreased awareness that the mass IS the Supreme Sacrifice. In my opinion, it also increased the rate of falling away from the faith that accompanied this post-modern, post Christian moment, ushered in by the sexual revolution, which in turn was enabled by the introduction of the Pill in 1959/1960.

So a critical examination of Humanae Vitae is indeed a legitimate endeavor, and in such examination, if Humanae Vitae seems to come up lacking, it is still no less authoritative than the new mass itself, if we are to believe the Gates Shall Not Prevail.

6 posted on 06/09/2002 5:51:56 PM PDT by Polycarp
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To: JMJ333
Thanks for posting this! I'll read it in the morning. I'm burnt out as I just attended a "start-up meeting" at my parish for a social group for the middle school kids. We were (all 5 mothers and the nun starting it) talking about how to incorporate our faith into the social group, and all the nun talked about was "Jesus as a friend" - I can't take that tripe anymore!!! I mentioned that we might want to start a little "Catholic Library" or travel into Boston to the Holy Cross Cathedral (seat of Catholicism in Boston, a beautiful, "old fashioned" church built by our immigrant ggrandparents) or maybe attend the one approved Latin/Tridentine Mass in Boston one day to expose our kids to our Catholic Tradition... and the nun was appalled! She said "Not the Latin Mass!" I dunno, is it me?
7 posted on 06/09/2002 7:38:04 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: american colleen
You're welcome. I'm burned out as well from defending myself and other Catholics on this forum against people who hate us so deeply. Its tiring. I am glad we have decent people like you on the forum.
8 posted on 06/09/2002 7:45:06 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: american colleen
I dunno, is it me?

Why would you take middle school kids to a Tridentine Latin Mass? Seriously. Is a 13 year old going to have any clue about the significance of a Mass that has not been the norm in forty years?

9 posted on 06/09/2002 8:43:33 PM PDT by sinkspur
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To: sinkspur
There is nothing wrong with learning Latin. It is a beautiful language and worthy of being taught and passed on. Some of us enjoy hte latin mass. Do you have any comment on the article? I know that you have quite a different view of contraception and tradition in general and was curious as to what you thought.
10 posted on 06/09/2002 9:28:57 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
I know that you have quite a different view of contraception and tradition in general and was curious as to what you thought.

The article is very perceptive and accurate.

The first mistake was forming a commission. The second was allowing the commission to come to a consensus, have that consensus signed off on by nine cardinals and archbishops, then wait TWO YEARS before responding with an encyclical that reversed the commission.

Once the commission's opinion hit the press, the argument was over. Humanae Vitae was, by the time it came out, an afterthought.

Once the pope assented to the regulation of births, the method became incidental.

11 posted on 06/09/2002 10:25:09 PM PDT by sinkspur
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To: sinkspur, JMJ333, Polycarp
Once the pope assented to the regulation of births, the method became incidental.

Excepting that any sort of *chemical* methodology necessarily induces actual, post-conception abortions, is it not true?

In other words, even if we grant that "Once the pope assented to the regulation of births, the method became incidental", would that still not ONLY apply, morally, to the question of "NFP" versus "Barrier" methodologies?

In the question of "NFP" versus "Barrier" methodologies, we are talking about the matter of "proper regulation of births". That's a debate that is going to get tied up on whether Onan's sin was in his Action, or in his Intention.

OTOH, in the matter of any kind of chemical "contraceptive", we are talking about abortion-murder. That's a Decalogual issue... absolutely foundational stuff.


12 posted on 06/09/2002 10:42:00 PM PDT by OrthodoxPresbyterian
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To: sinkspur
Why would you take middle school kids to a Tridentine Latin Mass? Seriously. Is a 13 year old going to have any clue about the significance of a Mass that has not been the norm in forty years?

Why should we teach middle school kids about Apostolic succession, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Saints and Scripture? Seriously, why bother teaching children any history of the Church established by Jesus Christ. Two millennia of truth is nothing but minutia to these kids anyway. Let's teach them moral relativism since that appears to be the norm here and now.

13 posted on 06/10/2002 3:40:49 AM PDT by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: JMJ333
Bookmarked for later reading.
14 posted on 06/10/2002 4:37:38 AM PDT by pegleg
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To: sinkspur
Why would you take middle school kids to a Tridentine Latin Mass? Seriously. Is a 13 year old going to have any clue about the significance of a Mass that has not been the norm in forty years?

For some reason, I knew you would reply to me on this issue!

Just because it might not be the "norm" doesn't make it irrelevant or useless. It has meaning and beauty and is a part of our Catholic heritage and tradition. Some things that are accepted as the "norm" today are unacceptable to Christians - like abortion, euthanasia, etc.

First off, understand the situation. These are kids (ages probably 11 - 14) who hopefully will join this group and keep membership through HS. There is no Catholic HS or middle school that they can attend. The parish has done nothing but run CCD classes that all the kids hate attending because they are boring and noisy. The CCD books used are silly and could be used by any Christian group, they are the "hand-holding", Jesus loves you, love your neighbor type books. The overwhelming sentiment from parents and kids is that they will attend CCD until Confirmation and then stop coming. Recently, 47 kids from our parish who graduated this week were invited to a Baccalauriate Mass and Luncheon in the parish hall. Fully 6 of them attended. The Parish having meaning in their lives has been made irrelevant. That is the fault of us parents and the parish.

Our vision of this group is to do fun stuff geared toward being part of a "Catholic Community," these kids will be there because they want to be there, not like the CCD classes. We will be doing some community service (old age homes, unwed mothers program in a nearby city), some church service (tending the gardens, etc), some fun things (amusement parks, cookouts), and incorporating the "Catholic life" in these things, progressively, not immediately. You can't take the kids to a Latin Mass right away, it has to be part of an ongoing program, IMO, and there has to be some interest. I was just surprised that the nun jumped on that aspect in a negative way, right away, I almost expected her to hold up a crucifix to ward me off.

One of the saddest things I hear "on the street" and sometimes here on FR, is the former Catholics who say "no one ever told me that" or "I never learned that" or "we weren't encouraged to read the Bible" - that is just needless. I'm quite sure a lot of Catholic kids do not realize that the Bible is read extensively at Mass and that they hear it in its entirety in 3 years. Do many kids know what the rosary is or how to say it? Do they realize that Mass is exactly the same at every Catholic Church in the world? How about Fatima and Lourdes? How about an alternative to having sex while they are teenagers? Have many of them been in an "old fashioned" Catholic Church with altar kneelers and the Tabernacle on the center altar? WOULD they be interested in how the Mass was said for centuries until about 40 years ago? Do they know why Mass was said in Latin?

Catholicism didn't just spring up, we are part of a 2,000 year old Catholic Christian family, and that is something that kids should know. Otherwise, this sort of group could be run out of the local public schools.

15 posted on 06/10/2002 4:48:18 AM PDT by american colleen
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Why should we teach middle school kids about Apostolic succession, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Saints and Scripture? Seriously, why bother teaching children any history of the Church established by Jesus Christ. Two millennia of truth is nothing but minutia to these kids anyway. Let's teach them moral relativism since that appears to be the norm here and now.

Thank you Smedley. You hit the nail on the head. Last night I was just kind of defeated because this nun kept repeating " they have to know Jesus is their friend" and pap like that. The Latin Mass was kind of a reflex action on my part (and I'm sure the other mothers thought I was nuts as well) but as I outlined to Sinkspur a few posts ago, the Latin Mass should be a part of a whole Catholic education, IMO.

16 posted on 06/10/2002 5:07:18 AM PDT by american colleen
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To: Polycarp
So a critical examination of Humanae Vitae is indeed a legitimate endeavor, and in such examination, if Humanae Vitae seems to come up lacking, it is still no less authoritative than the new mass itself, if we are to believe the Gates Shall Not Prevail

Yeah, I guess so. But, the "critical examination" is to be performed by the schismatic right? I thought that "Roma Locuta est, Causa Finita est was "Traditonal" Catholicism." I thought that Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia was "Traditional" Catholicism. Now, we are being told by various and sundry groups with at least one foot in schism that THEY must critique the Encyclical because Rome has been the locus of all manner of revolutionary thought, masonic activity, poorly-reasoned Encyclicals, valid but poorly-theologised Masses, accepting of and promoting the "wrong" philosophy, blah, blah, blah.

The orientation this "reassessment" is built upon is private judgement. At one time, prior to 1960, "Traditional Catholics" would no more have taken upon themselves the "authority" to critique Encyclicals, Ecumenical Councils, Catechisms, Canon Law, and the Pope's philosophical orientation anymore than "The Federalist Society" would criticise the Constitution as deficient.

Richard Nixon once famously said, "We are all Keynesians now" after he rejected the Gold Standard. "Traditional Catholics" ought to admit "We are all protestants now" having abandoned "The Keys" given to the Pope as the gold standard of Catholicism.

"Traditional Ctholicsm" has been revolutionised since 1960 yet, in a pathetic irony, it is they who charge Rome with being the victim of all manner of revolutions while they, the mini-media of "dissident-orthodoxy" has preserved the limpid doctrine of "Traditional Catholicism" and their philosophical orientation is pellucid and irreformable."

Roma Locuta est - NOW, Hear "The Angelus," "Catholic Family News," "The Fatima Crusader," "The Remnant," The Latin Mass Magazine" to hear how Rome has gotten it wrong and how the gates of Hell WILL prevail unles you re-subscribe to our periodical today.

Their charges against Rome are but psychological projections. The "Traditional Catholics" appear to have lost the Faith. It really is that simple. They have no Faith in Divinely-constitued authority so they usurp legitimate authority and act like protestants while preening they are the only reliable source for truth.

It is as though Jesus were referencing the mini-media of the self-annointed and self-appointed, soi disant "Traditionalists" when He said "He who hears you hears me."

17 posted on 06/10/2002 5:40:12 AM PDT by Catholicguy
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To: american colleen
or maybe attend the one approved Latin/Tridentine Mass in Boston

My daughter is a grad student at B.U. and she went to the Indult High Mass at Trinity for Pentecost. She still prefers the normative Mass but loved the Church, altar, statues etc

18 posted on 06/10/2002 5:45:13 AM PDT by Catholicguy
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To: Catholicguy
That is great that she knew about the Tridentine Mass. Most don't. It is the only approved Latin Mass in Massachusetts as far as I know. I agree with your daughter, I love the "Tradition" of it all, but I don't think I'd want to attend every single week. But it is nice to know where we came from.

My kids don't really like it much - my daughter didn't like the manditory mantilla or receiving Communion kneeling down and on her tongue. I did have a 1962 Missal, so they could follow along. I just think it is important to expose them to it.

19 posted on 06/10/2002 6:04:37 AM PDT by american colleen
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To: JMJ333
Interesting analysis, although I think it's a little extreme. However, the author is correct when he states that the move away from teleology has resulted in much confusion. It is, I suppose, just another part of the general movement towards subjectivity that has afflicted every discipline, not only theology, over the last several decades.

Of course, the result in theology has been particularly dramatic, since it has reduced what was a science to a mere feeling. As american_colleen said, it's now become "Jesus is our friend" garbage, babbled about by people who should know better.

20 posted on 06/10/2002 6:19:25 AM PDT by livius
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