Affirming Humanae Vitae with our Lives
I am writing from St. Mary of the Lake University in Illinois where I am attending a seminar dealing with deliverance. The demand for addressing the rampant evil in the world today has never been greater in my lifetime. The primary antidote for eradicating and delivering individuals from the grasp of evil, has always been prayer. In response to the current repulsive scandal, I encourage you to commit to praying daily, and fervently, for healing in the Catholic Church. Pray for its leadership in America, as it seeks to weed out the likes of Cardinal McCarrick and those who enabled and covered-up his treacherous and oppressive homosexual behavior for so long.
Fidelity is the only adequate response to infidelity, and Holiness the response to sin and corruption. Just as there should be no room in the priesthood or the episcopacy for those who would harm young men, there should also be no room for those who are determined to live corrupt double lives. God always seeks to draw good out of evil, and throughout Church history, he has shown this time and again. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. Let us continue praying to St. Michael to deliver us from all evil while staying prayerfully aware of what is transpiring in our Holy Catholic Church. It is our Church and we have a responsibility to hold it accountable. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And now here is the final of three reflections, drawn from the National Catholic Register website, describing the embrace of (and dissent from, by some) the Papal Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, by Catholic clergy from the get-go. Back in November 1968, Fr. Francis Murphy wrote: “The document [Humanae Vitae] started a serious crisis within the Church, the proportions of which are only beginning to be revealed.” This sentiment was shared on all sides. Even the sternly traditional Jesuit, Fr. Sebastian Tromp, the ghostwriter for Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis Christi (1943), stated in the fall of 1968: “The crisis through which the Church is now passing is more serious than the Reformation.” Even Protestants were swept up in the momentum. On Oct. 11, 1968, a Christian Science Monitor editorial stated that “nothing on the face of the earth can stem or reverse” the rejection of Catholic teaching on birth control.
Dissent and De Facto Schism: The massive worldwide theological disagreement with Humanae Vitae gave birth to a novel form of utilitarian reasoning in Catholic thought called “Proportionalism”, which argued that good ‘ends’ can justify evil ‘means’. And, thanks to Proportionalism, not only was the Church’s definitive teaching on contraception rejected, but so, too, was almost the entire corpus of traditional teaching on sexuality. Between 1970 and 1990, virtually all academic Catholic moral theologians and a large majority of seminary instructors adopted some form of this “proportionalist” reasoning. The theologians…protected professionally as they were by “academic freedom”… were at the forefront of advocating for this “brave new Catholic morality”. Following in the rearguard, more cautiously (but no less avidly), were the scores of priests and bishops who quietly supported the revolution in sexual ethics from the inside.
For nearly 50 years, including through the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, despite the popes’ efforts to curb the dissent, this resolute and obstinate rejection of definitive Catholic teaching on matters pertaining to marriage and sexual morality has characterized a majority of baptized Catholics. “The Catholic Church has thus existed for decades in a condition of objective and grave disunity over matters of de fide doctrine. Another way to say this is that the Catholic Church has existed in a de facto state of schism.” In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 87% of Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly believe that the use of contraception is acceptable. And yet the same report stated that 83% of Mass-going Catholics oppose abortion.
Our Task for Today: Why the differing opinions on these two issues? Because most people can see that killing small children is wrong, but can not see…that certain types of illicit consensual sex acts are wrong. The reasons for this epistemic blindness are complex. But the blindness is undeniable… so much so that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was led to say back in the 1990s that Human Reason seems to have lost its ability to grasp the truths of the natural law, especially in the area of sexual ethics; that the evidential character of universal moral norms has collapsed.
So, the task before us today is to help make evident the moral truths affirmed and defended in Humanae Vitae. Notice I didn’t say “remake,” since I don’t think most Catholics ever really saw lucidly the wrongness of contraception, however faithful they were. On this issue, the obedience of most was legalistic — “I do this because the Church teaches it, and that’s what a good Catholic does.” If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have lost the argument on contraception so quickly and decisively after Humanae Vitae. Good arguments alone will not suffice, although we can’t do it without them. We need to testify with our lives to the union-procreation paradigm affirmed in Humanae Vitae; we need to trim the tree, as it were, of Church teaching on sexual ethics with married lives of manifest good works and of joyful endurance of the daily sufferings of family life, and, in all things, pray for grace to quite clearly witness to the truth, beauty and goodness of that despised reality… that sex is only for marriage, and marriage is for babies and bonding. Paraphrasing what has been attributed often to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel of the sanctity of Marriage, and… if necessary…use words.”
Hopefully this three-part reflection on the critically important document [Humanae Vitae] has been enlightening. It clearly defines our Catholic Faith as regards Contraception, and states that sex is meant only for the Sacramental Marriage of one man and one woman…no matter what secularist and dissident clergy may proclaim. Please take the time to obtain a copy of Humanae Vitae accessible from the Vatican website so that you can clearly comprehend the unambiguous Catholic Church teaching on these elements that pertain to our sexuality.
Praying for unity in the embrace of Catholic doctrine,