Wednesday, October 01, 2008
THE BIRTH CONTROL COMMISSION
TURNING POINT by Robert McClory - chapter 16
In this chapter McClory describes the aftermath of H.V.
Is this non-reception or disobedience or what?--Yves Congar, O.P.(p. 147)
WhetherHumane Vitae is indeed a finger in the dike against rampant immorality or is itself a contributor to promiscuity by reason of its unbending rigor, the fact is that most Catholics show no interest in its teachings. (pp 147-148)
Could it be, theologian Yves Congar has asked, that this encyclical is the rarest of breeds--a doctrine that is "not received"" Congar and others have argued that no Church teaching has validity unless it is received and accepted by the Church. (p. 149)
Jesuit Avery Dulles is among several moderate theologians who have written on the subject. In 1986 he noted that in past history a consensus by the people has overturned opposing belief and won full Church acceptance. One example he cited was "the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist," acclaimed by the faithful in opposition to official Church authority in the ninth century and later accepted as an absolute dogma....He quoted Cardinal Newman's dictum that "infallibility does not belong either to the hierarchy alone or to the believing people alone" but to the "remarkable harmony of the Catholic bishops and the faithful." Without mentioning birth control, Dulles warned that Church officials will fail miserably if they try to force a belief or a doctrine on the faithful that doesn't make sense: "Church history affords several instances in which the 'non-reception' of devout believers or Church authorities has been a factor in overturning the teaching of popes and councils." (p. 150)
Paul VI never wrote another encyclical, though he reigned for another ten years. After Humanae Vitae he entered "a period of dark night, of depression, of deep agonizing over his stewardship," according to his biographer Peter Hebblethwaite. (p. 150)
The Pope may have felt some relief in 1972 when Cardinal Suenens, the very embodiment of the progressive forces in the Church, moved out of his life. Suenens had repeatedly stirred the Vatican Council in the direction of reform and most recently had publicly criticized the Pope for not dealing with birth control in a more collegial way. But now, he told Paul, he had discovered the Charismatic Renewal Movement and was virtually pleading to leave these old battlefields to march with an altogether different (and less troublesome) army. Paul promptly responded by charging Suenens with the mission of "accompanying" the movement henceforth, almost like the Pope's personal representative, and thereby getting the energetic Belgian off his back. (p. 151)
In 1978 Archbishop Karol Wojtyla enters the picture. As Archbishop, Wojtyla is listed as a member of the commission, but he did not attend the sessions according to McClory.
As Pope John Paul II, he immediately took an agressive stance onHumanae Vitae, practically making it the foundation stone of his papacy. He has been greatly aided in this by a curial staff of cardinals including Silvio Oddi of the Congregation of the Clergy (who stated that anyone disagreeing with Humanae Vitae is automaticaly out of the Church), Edouard Gagnon, head of the Committee for the Family (who has insisted the encyclical is infallible) and, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (a younger, more articulate reincarnation of Cardinal Ottaviani). Full and explicit agreement with Humanae Vitae (as well as opposition to women's ordination) became a prerequisite for anyone nominated to become a bishop. (p. 152)
If all of the bishops appointed by JPII were in agreement with H.V., why has there been only silence on the topic? Could it be assumed that the agreement was merely given lip service, as in that "don't ask, don't tell" policy proposed by the commission?
...argued Ratzinger: these negative reactions were largely due to the ideas spread by Curran and his sympathizers. Among these sympathizers on record were some seven hundred other U.S. theologians, the Catholic Theological Society of America and his colleagues at Catholic University.(p. 152)
Was Curran responsible? Or is it more likely that the encyclical is lacking in justification for the prohibition, and thus has failed to convince, containing as it does approval of one form of contraception which uses mechanical means, while disapproving of other forms of contraception on the grounds that they are not natural?
Chastened by the Curran banishment, theologians, especially those at Catholic institutions, have been exceedingly reluctant to even raise the subject of birth control unless they support it.(p. 153)
What about the claim that the appointment of bishops under JPII was conditioned upon the acceptance of H.V.? There was some pressure to support it, but those bishops did not do so.
An attempt to bring the subject back into the open was made by JPII in 1980, when bishops were asked to talk to the laity and then come to a top level meeting during the synod.
On the first day of the synod, Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, head of the U.S. bishops conference, arose and said Catholics, "men and women of good will," do not "accept the intrinsic evil of each and every act of contraception....The fact that in practice the widespread non-observance of the teaching is coupled with widespread reception of the Eucharist and that in the realm of theory a notable body of theological opinion reinforces dissenting practice, means that the moral issue as such has been resolved by many." Quinn also implicitly criticizedHumanae Vitae itself by stating that in the future magisterial documents ought to be written "in a language which would be directly comprehensible to a moderately educated people in today's world." The synod, he said, must address the problem by initiating a dialogue between the Holy See and theologians including "both those who support the Church's teaching and those who do not," with the talks based on the principle that "the Church has nothing to fear from the truth." (p. 153)
To the best of my knowledge the suggestion was not take up.
Cardinal Basil Hume of Westminster said married people are the best theological source for solving the dilemma, "first because they are the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony and, second, because they alone have experienced the effects of this sacrament." These couples, he said, "cannot accept that the use of artificial means of contraception in some circumstances is intrinsically wrong as this matter has been generally understood." Cardinal G. Emmett Carter of Toronto then noted that since the living Church seems to be moving away fromHumanae Vitae, we may be seeing here a manifestation of the sense of the faithful. Ignoring it, said Carter, would be to "run the risk of speaking in a vacuum." (pp 153-154)
Since procreation was deemed permissible only through the natural intercourse of husband and wife, artificial insemination, even that between spouses, was ruled immoral....One exception was allowed: couples having difficulty conceiving normally could collect the husband's sperm with a syringe after intercourse and aspirate it toward the ovum. But this could only be done morally, said the Vatican, through the use of a perforated condom that would allow some sperm to escape, so that the integrity of the marital act was preserved. (p. 155)
What happened to "natural" in this instance? I can't conceive of anything less natural than taking time to perforate a condom before applying it in the midst of the marital act. Even if the perforation were accomplished before the act began, we are still faced with approval of the use of a condom. With this as precedent, the argument for "natural" goes out the window on wings. With this kind of bizarre logic, is it any wonder H.V. has been ignored?
The dissent was growing.
The Church, wrote John Paul, is no longer facing "limited and occasional dissent, but an overall and systematic calling into question...of traditional moral doctrine on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions."(p. 155)
When an impossible demand is made in the name of morality, and that impossible demand is buttressed by illogical arguments, is it any wonder that the laity began to question the validity of other demands being made? Again I harken back to the dispute between St. Peter and St. Paul over circumcision--a dispute not won by the first Pope. A decision was made against St. Peter in the name of not driving the faithful away. It has never been reversed, so apparently the first Pope had gotten it wrong. Today we are seeing another decision made by a Pope against the advice of the majority of the advisers he had hand-picked, that has sharply divided the Church.
JPII's encyclical, Splendor Veritatis, "intended to guarantee once and for all that the sort of uprising that almost happened at the 1980 bishops synod would not happen again. (p. 155)
John Paul addressed the encyclical not to the general public but to the bishops of the world. The Pope told them to adopt "appropriate measures to ensure that the faithful are guarded from every doctrine and theory contrary" to his teaching.(p. 156)
What would have happened if St. Peter had imposed his will his dispute with St. Paul and any male deciding to join the Church would have had to undergo circumcision? Would it have killed the growth of the Church among the Gentiles as St. Paul speculated?
If natural family planning were to become 100 percent effective (as Church officials have long hoped), a Catholic couple could practice conjugal relations in good faith and with the blessing of the Church, even though they do not intend to conceive and know there isn't the slightest possibility of doing so. They could do this because the Church would regard their conjugal acts as theoretically "open to the transmission of life" and "possessing a baby-making ordination."[Comission member John] Hellegers and most of his colleagues viewed this rationale as absurd at the time, and, despite the volumes on the library shelves, the debate hasn't moved any distance since. (p. 157)
Monsignor George Kelly of New York wrote a series of books lamenting the permissiveness that had come to the Church.
In Kelly's view, the Commission was the victim of a "coup" by "contraceptionists" who persuaded weaker and inept Commission members to tread where they should never have stepped. Non-theologians like the Crowleys and Potvins should not have been on the Commission in the first place, he argued, because they could have nothing to contribute to the discussion.(p. 157)
That statement is patently absurd. The Crowleys were the founders of a worldwide movement for families and conceived four children. The Potvins were the founders and leaders of a clinic devoted to the teaching of the rhythm method. What makes a celibate priest more knowledgable of the inner workings of marriage than a married couple who have been faithful followers of the teachings of the Church? What does a celibate have to contribute to a discussion of the marriage act?
NFP is a less effective form of birth control that current Church doctrine would insist must be used to prevent conception in the face of medical treatment known to harm a fetus--treatment that could even encompass the use of the drug Thalidomide to treat cancer. Is it any wonder married couples ignore H.V.?
We can see today that H.V. has divided the Church. We can see it in the empty seminaries which were full at the time of H.V. We can see it in closing churches and schools. We can see it in the growth of "Catholic but not Roman Catholic" congregations. And we can see it in the wholesale rejection of the Sacrament of Confession. The trend isn't showing signs of turning around.
If a pope wanted to destroy the Church, a possible strategy might be to impose an impossible requirement and stand the papacy on this requirement. In light of the tragedy of sexual abuse of the laity's children and the cover-up that followed, it looks like there has been an attempt to destroy the Church.
Chaos generates an open field for change. We have chaos in the Church. As I've noted in quotes from Randy Engel, posted below, Pope Paul VI was a student of those who wanted to generate a change from belief in God to belief in man. Proponents of such a change have not gone away, and this controversy over H.V. is fueling their cause. What is one to make of that?