Pontifications

Pontifications


Humanae Vitae at 40: The sound of one hand clapping?

posted by David Gibson

The most remarkable thing about last week’s 40th anniversary of the release of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s watershed encyclical upholding the ban on artificial contraception, is how little comment it aroused.
That’s because birth control is at once a major issue and a non-issue. It is a major issue for those in the hierarchy, starting in Rome and extending to many bishops who like to make the topic a signature issue. And for many conservative activists, the rejection of encyclical is an all-too easy scapegoat for all the ills that have ever struck the world since 1968. (For a prime example of this view, see this First Things essay, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” by Mary Eberstadt.) And activists on the other side, namely the “Catholics for Choice” folks, tried to use the anniversary as a flashpoint for debate by publishing a half-page ad in Italian papers calling for the teaching’s reversal, and blaming it (and the church, natch) for overpopulation and AIDS. [See note below]
But for the vast majority of Catholics–practicing or not, orthodox or not–and priests, Humanae Vitae is simply not a pressing concern. Pope Paul’s encyclical was considered so unexpected, and its reasoning so abstract and its teachings so difficult for everyday Catholics to follow that almost everyone at the time, from cardinals to the folks in the pews, simply disregarded it–and they continue to do so. Cardinal John Heenan of Westminster called Humanae Vitae “the greatest shock the Church has suffered since the Reformation” and bishops conferences and church leaders everywhere told Catholics they could in good conscience disregard the enyclical if they had sufficient cause.
(I highly recommend the chapter “Sex and the Female Church” in Peter Steinfels’ book, “A People Adrift” for a discussion of this “dead letter” encyclical and its ongoing effects. See also this excellent Richard McBrien column on the 40th anniversary.)
And it is this gap–this chasm, really–between “official church pronouncements and actual Catholic practice that is the real legacy of Humanae Vitae, and one that continues to hurt the church, no matter where one stands on the issue of birth control. It was not just that the Vatican didn’t “enforce” the encyclical properly, or bishops and priests didn’t toe the line, or the faithful were just rebellious children. It’s that the encyclical’s teaching didn’t make sense for the sensus fidelium–the sense of the faithful.
Indeed, the interlocking issues of authority and power and obedience have proven as problematic for conservatives as they have for liberals. The recently-deceased William F. Buckley, considered by many the Catholic conservative par excellence, disagreed with the Vatican’s stance on birth control (as he did with the pope’s on war and peace, and most social justice issues), and such views continue with today’s conservatice Catholic pundits, like Fox’s Sean Hannity (who was called a “heretic” for his birth control views last year by a well-known pro-life activist, Fr. Tom Eutener).
In fact, one can find an almost daily stream of dissent from self-styled orthodox Catholics on issues ranging from birth control to the death penalty to just war and a host of other social justice issues. Rather than engaging these issues and debating them openly, Catholics of all stripes seem free to make a separate peace, and Rome too often seems trapped in a mode of reflexive reiteration of principles.
The principal comment on the anniversary came in an op-ed by John Allen, National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican expert, and one of the keenest and best-informed expositors of the Vatican’s positions. One disagrees with John at one’s peril, but in his column, “The Pope vs. the Pill,” I see several problems.
One is that John recounts predictions that the teaching would “collapse under its own weight,” and “might well bring the “monarchical papacy” down with it. “Those forecasts,” he says, “badly underestimated the capacity of the Catholic Church to resist change and to stand its ground.” Yet the teaching has collapsed, one could argue, given some estimates that just 4 percent of even observant Catholic couples of child-bearing age follow the teaching.
Moreover, John tends to identify the Church with the Pope and the Vatican; the Vatican has held out against changes it said were “eternal” for much longer than 40 years, only to develop those teachings as Roman views caught up with the rest of the “Church.”
Also, blaming a rejection of Humanae Vitae for the demographic crisis in Euope and parts of the West is akin to blaming the promotion of Humanae Vitae for AIDS and overpopulation elsewhere. It doesn’t wash.
In the end, the enyclclical has not shown a “surprising resilience,” and indeed the debates and issues surrounding it are far more complex than such commentary would indicate. For one thing, at the end of the day, for a teaching to be considered authentic or even close to infallible, it must be “received” by the faithful–in effect a kind of populist imprimatur. It is clearly not. The Mirror of Justice blog as discussions on the topic, and the problem of the teaching not being received by the sensus fidelium.
The greatest fear regarding changing the birth control teaching in 1968 is that it would undermine the authority of the church and the papacy by casting doubt on the consitency of the church’s magisterium. But Paul’s rejection of the advice of a special commission to change the teaching, or recast it, wound up doing the same thing–and not just on birth control. As a noted Italian author put it. sometimes everything must change for everything to remain the same.
NB: The correct name above–now corrected–is “Catholics for Choice.”



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Paul

posted July 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm


I think you’re assuming your own interpretations of what sensus fidelium means as a premise to your argument, even though you must be aware that this is a matter of debate.
Some would argue, of course, that it isn’t a matter of debate, and that your interpretation is simply wrong. Rather than go there, I’d just suggest googling the term.
Re Humanae Vitae, it strikes me, listening to people I know and people in the media, that there is far more sympathy and respect for the traditionalist critique of “modernism” and the “sexual revolution” than there once was, and I think the discussion here misrepresents that. People want to have room to say that unfettering sexuality wasn’t necessarily an unmitigated good, to think about how sexuality has unfolded in their life and reflect.
It’s difficult to find room to do this, though, when on the one hand you have people who saying that the church is whatever its individual members want it to be on any given day and, on the other hand, you have people like Robert George telling you that, until you can bring yourself to actually believe every word of the catechism entirely and without reservation, you aren’t just wrong, you aren’t even a Catholic.
The tragedy to me is that this debate appears to be pushing the Church towards reducing the space that should be there for people to examine their individual conscience in an adult and reflective way, and any space whatsoever for organic reform of the Church’s institutions, in an effort to defend against demands for *primacy* of the individual conscience.



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il postino

posted July 28, 2008 at 1:16 pm


I think your interpretation may be partly a result of a fairly insular Catholic social circle. My peer group (late 20s/early 30s, so child-bearing years) in our parish in the Archdiocese of Denver generally agrees with Archbishop Chaput and the Pope on this issue. Most of the “Mass-attending” Catholics I know use either NFP or nothing, and our parish has active ministries ranging from preschool-aged kids to senior citizens.
On a wider level within the archdiocese, speakers like Christopher West–an expert on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body–draws crowds of high-hundreds to low-thousands. All of the young priests coming out of the seminaries in Denver seem to be big supporters of Humanae Vitae, and they are preaching it from the pulpit. When people my age have the opportunity to hear this teaching, they seem to be responding positively to it. So maybe John Allen (who lives in the Archdiocese of Denver as well) has a different data set to draw from than you.



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John

posted July 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm


I was a teenager in Washington Diocese when Humanae Vitae came out. I watched as a cardinal tried to make priests and faithful toe the line. What happened? When confronted, people left the church. When not confronted, people ignored the teaching and continued to attend.
As a teaching, Humanae Vitae is a failure.
The last numbers I heard on mass attendance was something like 23% among U.S. Catholics. If we assume that all those practicing NFP are among those attending church, we still end up with it only touching 1 in 6 Catholics.
Another point to consider is that Pope Paul VI was Pope for a decade after Humanae Vitae. He never published another encyclical.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted July 28, 2008 at 1:53 pm


David,
You’re showing your age.
“il postino” has previously discussed the growing interest among younger Catholics in JPG’s “Theology of the Body” in Colorado. I see something similar here in the New York City area.
You seem preoccupied with the issue of whether the Church’s position is popular or not. But shouldn’t you be focusing on the more important question: does it conform with the truth and the good? Frankly, that’s all that matters.
Yes, of course, McBrien and the other professional dissenters keep kvetching about Humanae Vitae, but as they get older their views matter less. The future belongs to the younger Catholics that I saw visit NYC in April for the Papal visit and the ones from our parishes and my home diocese who traveled to Sydney for WYD. These young ones are not interested in public opinion polls, only the truth.



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Bob Nunz

posted July 28, 2008 at 2:20 pm


As usual here, folks are talking out of their own (limited) experienc eand preconceptions.
A word on John Allen -I think John has become what the Vatican wanted Fr. Reese to be -someone who would put foward the official position, note in some way criticism of it, but never criticize it himself.
So he is close to the halls of power.
Phillip Hedges on CSPAN had am interesting word for reporters who love to be close to the center of power and are thus influenced by them(he was excporiating the Washington political media): “courtiers.”
I think the term has become appropriate for John – too bad.



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David Gibson

posted July 28, 2008 at 3:05 pm


Reaganite: I think your point about whether something is true or not being the ultimate test is correct. On the other hand, I’d say there is ample room to disagree on HV, from the highest levels on down to the papacy. A central point which isn’t addressed is how “dissent,” if we want to put it that way, has become operative everywhere in the church, for those who support HV and those who don’t.
As for a renewal of popularity/appreciation of the teaching, I don’t think it’s my age showing! I just put on glasses and can read the numbers.



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Jack Picknell

posted July 28, 2008 at 3:08 pm


It’s all about Primacy.
You either give God Primacy or you don’t.
If you do, then you understand the wisdom of Human Vitae.
If you don’t, then you have elevated the internal dictates of your individual conscience to a position of authority that surpasses that of the authority of His Spouse, the Church.
Jesus said “follow me”. He did not say “follow your conscience”.



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Paul

posted July 28, 2008 at 5:08 pm


David: By the way, when I suggested googling the term, I was speaking to your readers. I assume you know what the debate is here, I’m just suggesting that you’re reducing it to something simpler than it is.
Jack: Can there ever be any space between the extremes we are presented with here, ie., between complete submission to the authority of an institution that we believe to be divinely constituted but which appears to be governed by human beings, on the one hand, and the belief in the absolute primacy of the individual conscience that you (rightly, I think) reject, on the other?



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Anonymous

posted July 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm


Jack: I would suggest reading Cardinal ratzinger’s own writings and pornouncements on conscience, which, following Newman, he says is something that can never be violated, not even by the church. Of course, someone’s conscience could be wrong.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted July 28, 2008 at 6:17 pm


David Gibson: “Reaganite: I think your point about whether something is true or not being the ultimate test is correct. On the other hand, I’d say there is ample room to disagree on HV, from the highest levels on down to the papacy. A central point which isn’t addressed is how ‘dissent,’ if we want to put it that way, has become operative everywhere in the church, for those who support HV and those who don’t.”
David, you use words very artfully, one must note. When you qualify the use of the word “dissent” by asking, “if we want to put it that way”, I reply, what other word would you use?
You then disingenuously suggest that those who both support HV and those who don’t are engaging in “dissent” when of course that cannot be the case. Only those who opposed HV (and continue to do so) engage in “dissent.” If it’s not that, then it would have to be the other way around. But it can’t be both sides at the same time.
I read McBrien’s article on the 40th anniversary of HV. If he were to honestly argue WHY the arguments supporting HV (as well as subsequent Papal writings, including the Wednesday Angelus “theology of the body” lectures by a later pope, JPII) are bad theology, then I would take an interest. His argument against the teachings of HV, unfortunately, rest on their reported unpopularity with large segments of baptized Catholics … as well as with certain non-Catholic Christian denominations. I assumed Fr. McBrien was a theologian, not a pollster. What he tells us we already knew. His article adds nothing.
Yes, the only question worth pursuing is whether HV and the church teachings in this area conform to the truth and to the good. In this regard, one single person with a good, clear argument is worth more than an entire Catholic university theology deparment whose members engage in little more than “pack scholarship” (as in “pack journalism”).



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Iris Alantiel

posted July 28, 2008 at 7:11 pm


Jack,
Jesus said, “Follow me”. And he did not say, “Follow your conscience”. Right on both counts.
I just never read anywhere that he said anything about artificial birth control.
Cheers,
Iris



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Paul

posted July 28, 2008 at 8:04 pm


Iris:
Sure, but we’re not protestants, so it isn’t just about what’s in the bible and how we personally choose to interpret it, is it? He followed up the reference to the Bible by a statement making it pretty clear that he was thinking about God speaking through the Church and its bishops.
If you disagree with the concept that there is a teaching authority in the Church beyond the conscience of individuals and the scripture, then it’s hard to reconcile that with a vast swath of what the Church you (may) belong to actually teaches. So why not be Episcopalian? Honestly, in most places the translations of the liturgy and the music are nicer and the readings are basically the same.
What frustrates me about Jack is that he assumes that it is self-evident as a matter of natural law the extent to which HV is the infallibly authoritative teaching of the Church, leaving no room for interpretation or evolution or the individual conscience. This is actually a complicated theological discussion that could take place within Catholicism. It isn’t.



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Paul

posted July 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm


I meant to say: “It isn’t here.”



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elmo

posted July 29, 2008 at 10:59 am


As for a renewal of popularity/appreciation of the teaching, I don’t think it’s my age showing! I just put on glasses and can read the numbers.
I’m a Denverite like il Postino and can vouch for every word in his/her post. The young are the ones who study and discuss John Paul II’s ideas on the “theology of the body”, the beautiful and profound philosophy of sexuality that is too rich for the media to be bothered with. We eschew contraceptives because we know they are a barrier to life, and without life man and woman are two breathing corpses using each other to gratify themselves. For a celibate man, John Paul II knew what makes sex truly good.
I don’t know where you get your numbers but I don’t think they are reliable. Maybe initially Catholics rejected Human Vitae, but people in my cohort (30s-40s) and younger are getting it, and thanks to Christopher West, the laity are embracing sex that reflects the love of God in the Trinity.



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elmo

posted July 29, 2008 at 11:02 am


The last sentence in the above post should have read, ” … thanks to Christopher West for popularizing the pope’s theology of the body” …
Sorry!



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Perplexed

posted July 29, 2008 at 11:46 am


Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings on conscience assumed an informed conscience, formed by Church teaching, not just someone desperately “thinking” his/her way through a moral morass.
Mr. Gibson: just once, I’d like to see someone who claims to speak in the name of the Catholic Church actually endorse Church teaching.



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jjkans

posted July 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm


There are a lot of people who don’t want to see “Humanae Vitae” for what it is: a call to a renewed personal responsibility. And since we live in a culture that frowns on discipline and personal responsibility, those voices usually drown out those who champion these virtues. Even those who supposedly are talking from a Catholic perspective (ie, the writer of this column) seem more akin to the current culture, than the Church and her teachings.



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Iris Alantiel

posted July 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm


Thanks for responding to me, Paul, and for doing so quite respectfully (especially given the topic, which can get fairly hot-button). You guessed correctly that I am Catholic, but I have a very difficult time reconciling myself with Humanae Vitae and the prohibition on birth control.
I think the message of personal responsibility that many people see in the contraceptive ban is a beautiful message. I struggle, though, because I also see many situations where the most responsible and loving thing may actually be to choose contraception. Even the Church acknowledges that this may be true in some situations: that’s why they permit NFP. I always thought of that as “Vatican roulette”, but I’ve got some friends using NFP who aren’t pregnant yet, so it must be somewhat effective for at least some people. (Or else my friends should head to Vegas on the asap.)
I recently completed marriage preparation classes through my parish, which included a brief introduction to NFP with a couple who teaches the Billings method in depth. They offered their e-mail addresses so couples interested in the more in-depth lesson could arrange a meeting. I e-mailed the husband (who is a medical doctor), explained that I have a couple of medical issues that make my cycles screwy, and asked if it was possible for me to do the Billings method and if he could help us learn. That was in February; I don’t think he’s going to e-mail back. Was it something I said? Or is it that some people are just hard cases? And if that’s the case, does that undermine the rhetoric about how God made this message so his people wouldn’t need ABC, so we could work with the natural order of things? Apparently my natural order is chaos!
Based on what I’ve seen so far, I can’t help thinking the contraceptive ban is an idealistic approach that fails to take into account the real-life circumstances of real people who don’t always fall into the parameters of the ideal.



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Jeff Miller

posted July 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm


By the way this teaching requires at the minimum “Religious submission of mind and of will” according to Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium. Though it is actually a Ordinary and universal teaching of the Church and requires the assent of faith. Even if you don’t accept this as infallible according to the ordinary magisterium you still have to give it “Religious submission of mind and of will” and I don’t see a lot of that going around here.
So I guess progressives can talk about Vatican II all day and not actually follow the text.



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il postino

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:27 pm


Iris,
I’m sorry your NFP teacher failed to e-mail you back, but don’t get too discouraged if you really are interested in learning more about it. I don’t know much about the Billings method, but my wife and I are pretty familiar with the sympto-thermal method taught by the Couple to Couple League and it works very well even with irregular cycles (we know from experience). CCL has at least a few teachers in most parts of the country, and I think you can find the nearest teaching couple at their website: www dot ccli dot org. The “i” stands for international, btw.



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Coblentz

posted July 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm


Well put, Mr. Gibson. I am especially glad to hear someone respond so insightfully to Allen’s piece in the New York Times. I only wish your perspective could have been published alongside his so that the public would not be mislead by his personal bias. Thank you–



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Reaganite in NYC

posted July 30, 2008 at 8:14 am


Coblentz: “I only wish … the public would not be mislead by his [John Allen’s] personal bias.”
That comment is entirely unfair to John Allen, who gets criticized by both Catholic conservatives AND (now) Catholic liberals. Allen is one of the hardest-working Catholic journalists and while I don’t always agree with his analysis … I think it’s cheap to dismiss his views as reflecting “personal bias.”
Coblentz, what evidence do you have of “personal bias” on the part of John Allen that is to any degree greater than the “personal bias” exhibited by David Gibson or any other Catholic journalist?



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Iris Alantiel

posted July 30, 2008 at 9:49 am


Thanks, il postino. My situation is a bit more complicated than just irregular cycles: when I go off the Pill, which my doctors have given me as a medication for this problem, my cycles will gradually disappear altogether. There are other medical complications, too. I’ve always felt that the doctor was very interested in helping couples whose circumstances didn’t challenge his views, but mine was just too hard to reconcile. I know it is. I tried really hard for a very long time. I love being Catholic, but I can’t accept that contraception is inherently selfish or inherently wrong.



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Paul

posted July 30, 2008 at 1:33 pm


Iris:
Hopefully this thread isn’t too old for you to read this.
Let me start by thanking you for your %100 respectful response to my slightly less than %100 respectful response to your post. Since you’ve given me some personal background, maybe some personal background of my own would help.
I am a former lapsed Catholic somewhat recently returned to the Church after coming to the conclusion, one day, that what I once thought I’d believed about the world and all that is in it, including sexuality, was deeply flawed. So in some ways the premise of my faith, at the moment, is personal humility vis a vis the teachings of the Church.
Note that I do not perfectly follow the teachings of the Church, of course, but that’s a confessional matter. The issue is whether I accept and submit to them as rules governing my spiritual life in the manner required of me by canon law.
Re contraception.
Obviously, there are circumstances in which it might be “better” for married couples to be able to defer procreation until their circumstances make it comfortable financially and so forth to have a child. It may be “better” in a psychological sense to allow them the unitive experience of sexual intercourse without the risk of “premature” procreation. It might be “better” for Catholicism in a public relations sense to abandon teachings that are disregarded by a large portion of its members, e.g. the teaching that masturbation is not just a sin but a *mortal* sin. There are counterarguments. But is this really a process that should be guided by our personal judgment? All this assumes that we get to make a utilitarian decision about what is best, based on a complete and rational assessment of the circumstances.
I’m 43 and childless, so far as I know, thanks to, among other things, certain utilitarian decisions that people made regarding contraception that seemed responsible and loving at the time. Am I better off than I would have been having a child twenty years ago? Is the world a better place? That’s the sort of question you can’t really answer, isn’t it?
It also assumes that we know what God wants for us. Does he want us freely to make individual “responsible and loving” decisions about whether to use contraception? Where in the Bible does it say that? Or does he want us to do what the Church teaches? To the extent that I incline increasingly towards the second, it’s not because I’m %100 convinced it’s correct, it’s because *I don’t know* what the answer re what God wants us to do about contraception.
It’s annoying that the proponents of the Church’s teachings have the “religious submission of mind and will” bit to fall back on, because it isn’t much of an argument. But they’re right – we are members of a religion that demands obedience to authority. You can always fall back on arguing about the minutiae of how that authority is expressed and the quality of assent demanded and so on and so forth (see “sensus fidelium”, above). But, as I lawyer, I can promise you that the people who make the rules are always going to win an argument about the rules.
Re your situation, all I can say is that the natural order is mysterious.



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Dawn

posted August 3, 2008 at 8:30 am


There are really two groups of Catholics out there: those who wish to be transformed by Christ, and who follow the Church’s teachings because the Church speaks with His voice; and those who wish for nothing more than to appear slightly “spiritual” without any real demands on their spirit. This author seems to think the small percentage of Catholics avoiding contraception is proof the teaching itself is flawed. He never even tries to interview couples whose marriages have been renewed and transformed by embracing the Church’s teachings against contraception. I don’t understand why those who hold a secular worldview consider themselves the appropriate expert to report on religious issues.



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Paul

posted August 4, 2008 at 12:18 am


People who accept the use of artificial birth control and reject the teaching of Humanae Vitae quite simply reject the irreformable Catholic and Apostolic faith received from the Apostles.
This is a teaching which is part of the deposit of faith – it’s not ours to change, any more than we can permit divorce or abolish hell. These are simply moral realities which no Papal definition can or will change.
Since it has been proclaimed by the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium, it requires full submission of intellect and will. Anything less is a rebellion against Christ’s Church.
The idea that teachings of the Magisterium require popular assent is absurd – completely unsupported by any Catholic teaching. If we were to suppose it were true, would that mean that only “modern man” must accept the teaching? What about all those billions of Catholics for two millenia who accepted the condemnation of contraceptive acts? This ridiculous “Spirit of Vatican II” has to end. The Council didn’t found a new Church or invent a new faith. To a young Catholic, this hermeneutic of rupture – the idea that the faith has now changed – is downright bizarre.



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Jumbo JAL

posted August 4, 2008 at 11:20 pm


Conscience and Catholicism: Vatican II
The church calls all of her children to have well formed and informed consciences. We Catholics therefore need to know the catechism of the Church and be able to give a defense for our joy when challenged.
Sadly, many in today’s Catholic church are poorly informed, poorly catechized and easily misled. In addition and even worse, there are some informed Catholics making the mistake of regarding Vatican II’s instructions on the role of conscience as it relates to sin in the world today as an instruction to relativism. It is due to this relativism that some of our brothers and sisters whom we still love dearly refuse to call the use of contraception a sin because they feel that by doing this they are condemning their friends that use it.
The following is what we all need to know. First, by standing with the church on this issue, no one is so empowered as to be a judge of other souls. This is the business of God our Father. No, we who stand with the church and her teachings are not the ones who condemn anyone. In fact, by standing with the Church we may serve our friends in a gentle correction for a behavior that is of grave nature to our souls.
The twist is that by not standing with the church on this matter, we are playing the role of God declaring for ourselves what is good and what is evil. We are free but in our freedom we do not have the power to declare what is good and what is evil. The nature of our actions whether they are good or evil has been set up by God at the foundation of creation as an outpouring of God’s nature. Jesus gave us His Church to be for us these 2000+ years teachers of this nature guiding us all down the straight and narrow path that leads to righteousness and salvation.
Why is this so important to all of us. We may very well be held accountable for the loss of the souls that we should have helped by informing them about the will of God on this very important matter of our Catholic Family. The following link will take you to an excellent explanation of this very matter. May you be blessed in reading on the following link. The most relevant material is found under the heading No Primacy of Conscience.
Using the following link will take you to a great statement given by By + Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney on this very matter. Please use this link http://www.sydney.catholic.org.au/Archbishop/Addresses/200433_853.shtml



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Robert Helfman

posted August 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm


Can any of you justify the Inquisition as coming from the Apostles? How one must I suffer the insults to my intelligence wrought by these?
Show me where the apostles would justify murder and torture and the abuse of minors in today’s church? And yet you would have me believe that my obedience to religious authority, even one with a history both diverse and given to extremes of virtue and vice is required without discernment, and without prior consent of conscience.
More a threat to peace of mind and mental health than any other on the net, is this kind of psedo-religious fanaticism. It is unChristian, borne of fear, and the work of the devil.
We are all sinners. To give unquestioning obedience to religious authority is to conspire with opression and assent to the crimes committed by the Church, past and present.
I am ashamed to say I belong to a church that enables this kind of religiousity. And I am encouraged by any honest voice that tells the truth and is giving voice to the work of the Spirit, which heals, unifies, loves, forgives, and liberates.
Unfortunately, there are many disciples of the Prince of Darkness in the church, who know not what they do. And I think the unloving, self-serving self-interested spirituality expressed by this kind of hypcorisy merits condemnation. This goes for some of these so-called ‘APOSTLES” who are bishops in today’s church. You ought to be ahsamed of yourselves.



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Sunday School Mom

posted August 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm


Thank you for your thoughtful article. As a practicing Catholic who teaches the party line at CCD, but suffers with it at home, it is helpful. I teach in a parish that is connected to three other in California. The masses, volunteers and CCD are almost entirely made up of women and children – until after children receive their first holy communion. After then, the parents tend not to bring their kids anymore. We hear this repeatedly from moms who will bow down to older generations, but then refuse to continue the paradox of the church towards women. Birth control enters the dialogue about fifth grade and that is the near end of children in our churches.
You can find the 73% of Catholics who I attended church with in the sixties through eighties at the Mormon church, the Episcopal Church – where the even offer classes on ‘Catholic Lite;’ a transition – they say – to the true faith of Jesus and away from the hipocracy of the Roman Catholic Church, or the local big-box televised church. My cousins in Ireland have all attened the new missions that are popping up all over Ireland – they are Mormon. As Ireland has the highest suicide rate, obesity rate and alcoholism rate in Europe, it seemed the time was ripe for someone to bring an alternative form of ‘salvation.’
I am not disputing The Vatican’s position within its interpretation of God’s will and Jesus’s direction to Simon Peter about this or any issue. It seems the Vatican however will hold the respect for staying with the ship from its empty churches and missions throughout the US, Europe and Austrailia much the same as the captain of the Titanic. I am not leaving the mother ship. But, will join the few remaining as we all go down together and humankind seeks Jesus through other faiths. The choice will be the Vatican’s whether or not it is able to reach out or close out.



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Doc Angelicus

posted August 13, 2008 at 6:09 pm


There’s a lot that could be said about the article. All I’ll say is this: How antiquated can you get?
The cutting edge of theology is orthodox, and this fellow is way behind it. What tired old arguments against the encyclical. What passe appeals to a “populist imprimatur.” These arguments are SOOOOO 60s, and even back then they were rehashes of ancient errors. Here it is the 21st century! Get with it, Mr. Gibson!
By the way, the determination of a just war is a prudential judgment. I can agree with the Church’s just war theory and still end up supporting this or that war, while someone else concludes differently. There is no doctrine prohibiting war altogether. Likewise, capital punishment. There is no doctrine prohibiting capital punishment altogether. I can agree that capital punishment is regrettable and largely avoidable, but also maintain that this or that criminal ought to be put to death. What tired old ways to batter “self-styled orthodox Catholics” into agreement with you, by making them feel guilty about something which is totally within the realm of prudential judgment. Contraception is intrinsically (always and everywhere, with no justifying circumstances) evil, whereas war and capital punishment are not intrinsically evil and may even be necessary (though still regrettable) in some cases.
Oh, and BeliefNet: What a joke, calling this the “Catholic” channel. Yeah, and I’m a member of the Roman Curia. Claiming it doesn’t make it so.



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Anonymous

posted August 14, 2008 at 1:58 pm


Just another fogey whistling past the graveyard…While we young, virile upstarts are out there populating the Church every chance we get.



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