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Humanae Vitae Part II

Today I continue with the reflection, begun last week, not only on the brilliance and prophetic faith-filled courage of, soon to be canonized, Pope Paul VI, as expressed in his Encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (The Regulation of Birth), but also reflecting on the intense hostility he faced from the ominous liberal factions within the Church…and without. The division that ensued, prior to and subsequent to the issuance of this morally sound encyclical, has intensified throughout these 50 years, and today shows it’s face in the confusing attempts by many shepherds to reclassify intrinsically evil immoral lifestyles and behaviors as moral and good. Defending the Faith, our Church Doctrine, is a responsibility of every Catholic, of you and me, no matter from what level the heretical initiative emanates.

Enemies from Without: The Catholic Church had been an obstacle, as it’s definitive teachings still stood in the way of this growing “anti-natal”, or “birth-preventing” ground-swell. So, it’s not surprising that her adversaries sought to influence (change) Catholic opinion, much the same as pro-gay prelates, today, are trying to sway Church teaching to include acceptance of homosexuality and sodomy as normally ordered behavior. The scholarly and saintly Msgr. George A. Kelly (1916-2004) wrote that, “by 1962, Planned Parenthood extended [its] forays deeply into Catholic territory.” It sent senior staffers to the 1962 National Catholic Family Life Convention in St. Louis to “open” Catholic minds. Its representatives sought meetings with leading Catholic family-life directors throughout the country or made trips to Europe seeking dialogue and understanding from leading Catholics in the ancient citadels of Christendom.

“It was obvious,” Msgr. Kelly wrote, “that Planned Parenthood expected support for its objectives” from those inside leading Catholic universities (e.g., Louvain) “and within the Vatican itself.” For Planned Parenthood’s Catholic outreach, 1963 proved to be a banner year. This Planned Parenthood, founded by the notorious Margaret Sanger, sponsored a 200-page book entitled,“The
Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor’s Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control”. Dr. John Rock, the author, was an early abortion defender, a pioneer in contraceptive research, a long-standing Planned Parenthood member, a distinguished Harvard professor of gynecology, and he was widely touted as being a “devout Roman Catholic,” Msgr. Kelly opined that he quite seriously doubted that claim.

Dr. Rock’s book was enormously influential on Catholic opinion during the deliberations of the Vatican Council. In the year that the Vatican II Council finally concluded its deliberations, Dr. Rock, under sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate, publicly proclaimed that he had “complete confidence” that the Catholic Church would indeed change its teaching on birth control. Enemies from Within: The pressure to adapt was not only from hucksters on the outside, but from respected Catholics at every level within the Church. Influential theologians such as Fr. John Courtney Murray, powerful prelates such as Cardinal Leo Suenens, and widely read Catholic periodicals such as Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter, all supported, or gave the impression of supporting, cultural accommodation toward birth control.

Subversive conferences were convened at Catholic venues to undermine Church teaching. These included a series of secretive meetings on population at the University of Notre Dame held from 1963 to 1967 under the leadership of George Shuster, special assistant to the university’s president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, and jointly sponsored by the two population-control giants, the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation.

The meetings brought together liberal Catholics, foundation representatives, Planned Parenthood activists and public officials. Political historian (and former Notre Dame professor) Donald Critchlow wrote that their purpose was plain: “to encourage liberal opinion within the Church.” At one of the meetings, Fr. John O’Brien of Notre Dame, an activist priest, and Cass Canfield, a Planned Parenthood official, agreed to hold a national conference on population at the then, prominently Catholic university. Shuster’s biographer stated that all conference attendees, Catholic and otherwise, knew the aim was “to create an oppositional voice within the Catholic Church on the issue of family planning.”

Vatican II: During the Council years (1962-65), Redemptorist Fr. Francis X. Murphy, using the pseudonym Xavier Rynne, notably shaped popular opinion of the Council members through his widely read “Letters From Vatican City” published in The New Yorker. His most enduring contribution was to frame the Council as a Marxist-like conflict between farsighted liberals and neolithic conservatives. The bishops at Vatican II were keenly aware of which way the societal winds were blowing. Whisperings about the new “pill” could be heard throughout the meeting rooms of St. Peter’s Basilica, especially the chambers where the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World was being discussed. Was the “Pill”, contraceptive, as well, in the morally relevant sense? After all, it didn’t interrupt sex, nor stand as a physical barrier between the couple.

In April 1963, Pope John XXIII created a small commission of six members to discuss issues that pertained to family and population, including the problem posed by the advent of the “pill.” Pope John died in June of that year. His successor, Pope Paul VI, expanded the commission to 72 members in early 1964. It included bishops, theologians, physicians, sociologists, economists, biologists, statisticians and married couples. In 1966, a majority of the members of the commission (64 of the 69 who voted) urged Pope Paul, in a working document known as the “Majority Report”, to change the Church’s teaching. Three bishops and four theologians argued against the majority’s reasoning; one bishop, Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, was prevented from attending the vote by the Polish Communist Party.

In April 1967, the National Catholic Reporter published confidential documents leaked from the commission. Going into 1968, virtually everyone believed that the Church, was indeed, about to “change it’s teaching” on birth control. Priests illicitly presumed it in the confessional, and married couples acted upon this erroneous presumption. After all, what “CEO”, in the business world, would dare to go against the recommendations of his own “senior leadership” and “trusted advisers”? So, when Pope Paul VI, explicitly taught in “Humane Vitae -14” that taking the pill to render sex sterile was immoral; was gravely sinful, as was “any action which… either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse…is specifically intended to prevent procreation … whether as an end or a means”…this ignited an inferno of heated liberal dissent.

I will conclude this 50th Anniversary Humanae Vitae review next week. In the interim I highly recommend that you access this encyclical from Pope Paul VI, on-line, and refresh your knowledge of the wisdom and the rationale for steadfastly defending the sanctity of Marriage and the marital “good” of always being open to the procreation of children… which always goes hand-in-hand with the 2nd marital “good”… generating unifying love between husband and wife.

Yours in prayer for a United Church,