Tuesday, September 16, 2008


TURNING POINT by Robert McClory - Chapter 6

This chapter discusses the second and third meetings in 1964 of the commission.

Since the Birth Control Commission was not Pope Paul's idea, he could have simply let it lapse after its first, inconclusive meeting. But there is evidence he sincerely wanted its guidance....

The Pope approved a second session for the Commission for April 1964, with seven new members added to the original six, among them Redemptorist Bernard Haring.
(p. 47)

Haring, then fifty-one, perhaps the best known Catholic moral theologian in the world, was invited personally to join the Commission by Paul himself when Haring preached a retreat for the Pope and top Curia officials in early 1964. His liberal tendencies were no secret... (pp. 47-48)

[Haring] shared his own growing concerns and ideas in a wide-ranging presentation. To say the "end of intercourse" is procreation (the union of sperm and egg) when most of the time such a union is physiologically impossible, declared Haring, seems to be an illogical position....it is not important that each and "every marital act be procreative but that the marriage in its totality should be." Haring took issue with theologians who claim that couples who commit a single contraceptive act sin mortally, while those who use natural family planning selfishly and have no children or very few do not sin--or do so only venially. That mentality, said Haring is "simply absurd." He emphasized that the virtual disappearance of arranged marriages in the developed, industrial world had altered the nature of the institution, pushing the importance of mutual, sustained love into the foreground.

In any event, said Haring, he could not see how the use of the pill could be considered intrinsically evil and thus always and everywhere forbidden regardless of circumstances.

Jesuit Fuichs took issue with Haring....After all, he noted, the essence of marital consent is the mutual "exchange by man and woman of their rights to sexual activities apt for procreation."....Haring's comments about the critical importance of love were affirmed by others in the group, so much so that several Commission members felt the old distinction between primary and secondary ends of marriage should be scrapped. A vigorous though restrained exchange followed concerning what is natural, and therefore inviolable, and what isn't. Famine and disease are natural, someone pointed out, yet no one questions the validity of scientific intervention to stem the consequences. The question wasn't asked but seemed to be implied: Why does the marriage act merit such extraordinary immunity from interference even when the gravest reasons for interference seem to be present?
(p. 49)

British Jesuit Thomas D. Roberts, the retired archbishop of Bombay, India, declared in an interview in the Times of London that he could find no rational argument to prove that contraception is wrong. He threatened to argue his case during the next session of the Vatican Council....

In an expansion of his thesis, Roberts said, "On the grounds of reason alone, one can conceive of many cases in which a husband and wife might, after having examined their consciences, decide that contraception was the only means for preserving the health of one or the other spouse, or for preserving the marriage itself. If that is so, then with the most spiritual of motives such a husband and wife might be convinced that contraception was necessary for the growth of holiness which is the aim of the sacrament of matrimony."

If his was an erroneous position, Roberts challenged Church officials to provide rational arguments to refute it. The Church has always claimed that the intrinsic evil of contraception was evident from reason and was not a matter of divine revelation; so, said Roberts in effect: prove the point or abandon it....

...at the end...[ of May] Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the pro-prefect of the Holy Office, entered the fray.
(p. 40-51)

McClory states that he believes the turning point came at the June 1964 meeting when Belgian theologian Pierre de Locht moved beyond the strictures of relevant encyclicals and traditional theology.

He suggested that in order to move forward, the old terminology about the ends of marriage and acts "apt for procreation" and the demands of natural law had to go in favor of new terms and new understanding. The newcomer Lambruschini protested that new terminology would cause confusion among the faithful. Economist de Wilmars interjected that terminology is not the real problem but the ideas behind the terminology.

Someone then asked de Locht, "Aren't you really raising questions of fundamental theology? Are we supposed to be raising such questions?"

"Yes," said de Locht, "why not?"

The discussion came to a dead stop. Said Dr. Marshall later, "It seemed like we were seeing the real task for the first time. I believe that moment was a turning point."...

After three days though, all was still in a state of flux, and the Pope's questions remained unanswered. De Riedmatten...concentrated on the pill and put two questions to a vote, the first votes since the Commission was formed: Is the pill morally acceptable for contraceptive use? Nine said no and five said they were unsure...Six suggested that [Pope Paul] say nothing whatsoever on birth control at this point.
(p. 53-54)

The question arose, "How much are we supposed to sacrifice to protect the integrity of the act?" (p. 55)

Some have speculated that the Pope had decided by this time that contraception was indeed intrinsically evil--pill or no pill--and in his own mind the book on the subject was closed. If that was the case, why did he place such [sic] much hope (and pressure) on the Birth Control Commission and why in the months ahead would he expand the group, more than tripling it in size so that laypeople would constitute the majority? Perhaps he genuinely believed the Holy Spirit would provide wisdom through this unique assembly. On the other hand, the ongoing existence of the Commission--his personal and very private Commission--would justify keeping the volatile issue of birth control out of the unpredictable hands of the bishops during the very public proceedings of the Vatican Council--which was scheduled to take up the subject at its next session in four months. (p. 55-56)

It was at about this point in the book that I began reflecting on the fact that Randy Engle makes a case that Pope Paul VI was a homosexual. If she is correct, a homosexual man (who arguably might not have been originally eligible for ordination in the first place) was holding to himself the right to determine the morality of actions he not only didn't engage in, but actions he had no inclination to engage in. It takes a leap of faith to conclude that such a man would make a correct decision.

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