Monday, September 15, 2008
THE BIRTH CONTROL COMMISSION
TURNING POINT by Robert McClory - Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 4 describes the mood in the Church at the beginning of the 20th century, noting that
Church was seen as essentially a vertical structure with the truth coming down from above: from God to the Pope, from the Pope to the bishops, bishops to pastors, and pastors to laity.(p. 28)
That changed with the development of Catholic Action under the leadership of Canon Joseph Cardijn and his "see, judge, act" methodology. The Crowleys were instrumental in that movement. Parents of four natural children and fourteen foster children, the Crowleys founded the worldwide Christian Family Movement for which they were awarded a papal medal:
...the Crowleys and their four children attended the first convention of the Latin American branch of CFM, with delegates from most South American countries and Cuba. By then suspicion about the Cardijin method had been resolved: CFM was almost universally regarded as a loyal, orthodox arm of the institutional Church--a model of "lay participation in the apostolic mission of the hierarchy." In October 1957 Pope Pius XII awarded Pat and Patty Crowley thePro Ecclesia and Pontifice medal, a kind of ecclesiastical distinguished service cross, during the World Congress of the Faith in Rome.
What Church officials may not have realized was that CFM and its cousins, YCW and YCS, were training great numbers [of] Catholics, especially young Catholics, to critically scrutinize the institutions of society, including the Church. It was teaching them as members of the One Body of Christ to observe, judge, and act--to value and trust their own experiences and insights on everything relevant to their lives. The Church as conceived by Pius X was fading into the past, perhaps never to return. (p. 37)
"See, Judge, Act" methodology, of course, is closely tied to the Sillon in France, and is still active today. Roots of this organization can be found in the Gallican Church of occultism, proving once again that ideas have consequences.
In chapter 5 McClory introduces Belgian Leo Joseph Suenens, a man raised to cardinal by Pope John XXIII:
The person most responsible for the creation of the Birth Control Commission was Leo Joseph Suenens, the archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Belgium. An extremely pastoral man, Suenens had long been concerned about the prohibition against "unnatural birth control,"...and the distress it created among Catholics of child-bearing age. In 1956 Suenens wrote a book...in which he strove mightily to reconcile the Church position with common sense, natural law, theory, and the experience of the people in the pews....(p. 38-39)
However, when he began examining some of the subtleties of the prohibition, he became troubled and unsure. For example, priests were supposed to explain that wives whose husbands insisted on coitus interruptus would not sin themselves if they remained "passive" during intercourse. Suenens said wives found it meaningless and "repugnant" to define something as passivity that necessarily involves a certain amount of activity. The difficulty of communicating to ordinary, good-willed Catholics such moral nuances raised in Suenens's mind the thought that there might be something wrong, not with Belgian parishioners, but with the traditional doctrine itself.
In the late 1950s, Suenens launched a series of yearly informal conferences at the University of Louvain...Among those participating from the beginning was Dr. John Marshall...
Marshall, a married man and father, was
working with the London-based Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, which was attempting to scientifically validate the effectiveness of rhythm.(p. 39)
He was involved with the testing of the temperature method, and claimed this method "was not the Vatican roulette its critics claimed, nor was it as good as its enthusiasts would have wanted it to be." (p. 39)
Swiss Dominican priest Henri de Riedmatten was also a participant in the conferences. He is said to have been "a kind of roving ambassador and observer on behalf of the Holy See in a variety of venues including the United Nations headquarters in Geneva." (p. 39)
According to McClory it was Suenens who approached Pope John and persuaded him to form the Birth Control Commission which met for the first time four months after Pope John died.
The Commission was aware that there might be a possibility that the pill was an abortifacient at this time, but the facts were not conclusive. The commission saw as their mission helping the Pope "interpret teachings, basically accepted by most Catholics, to the diverse nations and cultures that would be gathered at the United Nations. At least, that was the impression they were getting from de Riedmatten." (p. 43)
At this point theologian Edward Schillebeeckx waded into the picture with his "ladder of values in marriage with love at the top and biology at the bottom". (p. 44) He even went so far as to state that if for solid reasons a couple should not have more children, "they might be 'morally obligated' to use the pill in preference to rhythm, simply because the pill is the 'more efficacious' and effective means of preventing pregnancy." (p. 44)
These passages demonstrate once again that the seeds of dissent were first sown over birth control.