Will the 2015 Synod Bury Church Teaching on Contraception?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the new Questions Aimed at a Response to and an In-Depth Examination of the Relatio Synodi – the Vatican’s solicitation for opinions in preparation for next October’s Synod – is not what questions are included, but the surprising absence of a question one might have expected in such a document. Among the forty-six questions, not one has anything directly to do with contraception.

Stunning. How can a Synod dealing with the pastoral treatment of marriage and the family today totally exclude any question having to do specifically with an issue that has been central to those matters for fifty years?

This omission simply cannot be by chance. Contraception has undeniably had a serious impact on the institution of marriage. Some may argue a positive impact, but surely no one can reasonably say it’s a marginal concern. And yet here we have a document that never directly mentions it. It has some general questions about encouraging generosity toward life and the essential relation between marriage and openness to life. And that’s all to the good. But it never touches the obvious relationship between contraception and the fact that many marriages are closed to both.

The document mentions demographic “change,” and asks “are people aware of [its] grave consequences,” it steers clear of stating what this change really is, and thus avoids more serious descriptions such as “demographic suicide” or “demographic winter,” the latter term used by St. John Paul II himself.

In Humanae Vitae, this “change” was understood to be tremendous population growth, but that is not the case today. How important can this issue be if it merits a single sentence in question 43? The countries of Europe are in a demographic free fall, and the document has one vague sentence and no mention of contraception here or elsewhere?

But it is not just a demographic crisis that merits at least some mention of contraception and the contraceptive mentality. Surely, it was a central insight of Blessed Paul VI and especially of St. John Paul II that the practice of contraception within marriage is destructive not only of the procreative meaning and purpose of marriage, but also of its unitive dimension.

Yet the seeming unconcern related to contraception clearly implies that the crisis of marital instability and family breakdown has little or no relation to the fact that vast majorities even of Catholic couples use contraception.

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Moreover, there’s palpable obtuseness in not understanding the failure of catechesis and marriage preparation throughout the world on the moral evil of contraception. And yet while the document has questions related to catechesis and marriage preparation, for instance on the indissolubility of marriage, there’s no question related to the proper catechesis and marriage preparation when it comes to contraception – unless you believes that referring to “openness to life” covers it, which is absurd.

So what is going on here? For a half-century, large segments of the Church’s leadership, priests and bishops alike, have gone silent, to put it mildly, when it comes to contraception and marriage preparation. And ditto for the confessional. It’s been a quiet revolution. They couldn’t change the doctrine, so they just ignored the teaching.

Does this explain the silence of the Synod document? This teaching cannot be changed, and Pope Francis has confirmed that fact clearly. And yet it seems clear that many Church leaders continue to be blind to the truth of the teaching of two great popes, that contraception is a poison pill for marriage and for society as a whole.

So what is the solution? You do what many have been doing for decades now; just bury the issue in silence. You talk vaguely about “openness to life” and “generosity” in marriage, but don’t specify that contraception causes people to be either closed to life or selfish about having children. It’s comparable to a medical panel speaking about AIDS, without mentioning that promiscuous sex has a lot to do with its transmission.

The old “European Alliance,” which was so powerful at least in the early stages of Vatican II, may be back in power in this Synod. The central advocates of contraception at Vatican II were mainly European theologians and bishops who were part of the European Alliance so well depicted in The Rhine Flows into the Tiber.

Names have changed, but the basic rejection of the Church’s teaching on contraception remains. Pastoral “sensitivity” demands that if the people want contraception, then they must have it. That’s certainly not the aim of the Synod, but it’s an issue that won’t go away. If the Synod remains silent on this issue, it will almost certainly be taken to mean that the Church has abandoned this issue on the “pastoral” level.

The tragedy is that this Synod could have a very positive impact, not only for the renewal of marriage, but for the rescue of a European continent bent on self-destruction. If contraception is not dealt with, up front and in a positive way, the coming Synod will have little ultimate impact on the renewal and stability of marriage, and Europe along with America and much of the rest of the world, will continue on its way to demographic suicide, not through weapons of mass destruction, but by tiny, yet powerful, pills.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary, a former contributing editor of Triumph magazine, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

  • givelifeachance2

    There is also an obtuse neglect of IVF and an abandonment of adoption as a church ministry, which solved for ivf and adoption in the past.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” as George Weigal calls it, when the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitæ and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy?

    In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document was issued that was intended to be definitive.

    In both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten and argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question. In the Jansenist case, peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least, from the pulpit.

    The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was enormous resistance, with bishops and priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

    Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?

    • EWaughOk

      You are alone. Absolutely alone.

    • Murray

      Am I alone in my sense of deja vu? Haven’t you posted (or rather, pasted) this exact comment on several other occasions? Is this some kind of elaborate Turing test?

      • Howard Kainz

        You just passed MPS’s Turing test. Congrats.

    • quisutDeusmpc

      Don’t hold your breath

    • T.A.H. de Ruyter M.B. Ch.B

      Would it help if we started with asking fundamental questions ?
      Father, is the condemnation of mechanical contraception AN ARTICLE OF FAITH ? If so, please quote met its NUMBER, so that I can look it up in DENZINGER.
      Example: German pocket book for parish Priests ( in nineteen twenties) stated that:
      Position of woman on top, position ‘a tergo’, sitting and standing are all SERIOUS VENIAL SINS. Foot note says that some eminent theologians consider the mentioned positions to be really mortal sins.
      In a hand written pocket book for parish Priests, was in 13th century, (before Gutenberg) the recommended penance for the aforementioned sins was given.
      Furthermore: manual or oral genital caresses of wife (as foreplay) are: SWINISH, LOATHSOME and OBSCENE. Remember: 40% of wives have to learn to climax. St. John Paul II taught that husbands are selfish if they do not help their wives to a climax. How are they going to do that ? Perhaps by saying three Hail Marys together ? This fifteen centuries old teaching was as a ‘DEFINITE TEACHING’ in Denzinger. Eventually abrogated sometime in the nineteen fifties. It apparently RUINED THE LOVE LIFE of my uncle and over the centuries of hundreds of millions of other fathers and mothers of the domestic Church.
      When my uncle heard of the abrogation (his wife had already gone to Heaven) the exclaimed: ‘If we had only known this’, buried his face in his hands and started sobbing !
      Oops….., a little mistake, but what is a little mistake, which damaged the love life of millions, between friends ?
      LIMBO:
      Ever since the CHURCH FATHERS, spontaneous miscarriages could not see the Beatic Vision of God: never ever for all eternity not. What happened to them instead was a matter of conjecture. Some time in the past one Pope called theologians, who merely started to wonder if they MIGHT perhaps go to Heaven, more ore less damned heretics. Another Pope said it was SHAMEFUL to start wondering about this ‘never ever in all eternity not’. Comes the year 2007 and Pope Benedict says in effect: “who knows, the little ones MIGHT in the end go to Heaven, your opinion is as good as mine”.
      Both positions cannot be true at the same time. Either Pope Benedict was teaching ERROR or the Church Fathers, the subsequent hundreds of eminent theologians and those two Popes were pushing FALSEHOOD unto the faithful. This falsehood caused great sadness to millions of fathers and mothers of the domestic Church, particularly the mothers. The H. Spirit is never with falsehood, thus for one thousand and five hundred years the H. Spirit was (in this particular matter) not with the Clergy (often referred to as : The Church, The Church).
      Again: “Oops……. a little mistake, but what is the suffering of millions of the faithful between friends, eh ?”
      Are you surprised that I start wondering: WHAT ELSE HAS NEVER BEEN TRUE ?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Condemnations of contraceptive drugs and practices occur in writers of the 2nd & 3rd centuries. I am no scholar, but I can point to

        The Didache 2.2; 5.2,
        Barnabas 19: 5, 20,
        Justin, Apology I 29,
        Athenagoras, Legatio 33, 35,
        Clement, Stromata 3.7.58; 3, 2, 714,
        Tertullian, Apology 9, 8 and De Anima 37, 2 and Exhortation on Chastity 12
        Hippolytus, Elenchos 9.12. 25.

        Similar condemnations continue in every age, in the churches of East and West, Catholic and Reformed, down to the 20th century.

        Is what we find in these Ante-Nicene Fathers and Ecclesiastical Writers from the churches of Syria, Greece, Egypt and North Africa a reversal of the teaching of the Apostolic age, all trace of which has now been lost, or a faithful representation of it?

  • Chris in Maryland

    I agree with givelifeachance2 about the abandonment of adoption as a church ministry. It is the path that progressives took in Boston so that they could surrender and move on to “contemporary ministry” like global warming. Thus do progressives de-sanctify the faith, and sanctify their politics.

  • Manfred

    Thank you for an excellent article, Father. For Traditional Catholics, which is to say, true Catholics, contraception is a MORTAL SIN. It may be mitigated by circumstance, but a single act, unrepented, could cause a soul to be damned for eternity. In the New church, mortal sin has been replaced by the vague term “grave matter”. Today neither term is ever mentioned as Fr. Robert Barron has assured us that while we must believe that Hell exists, we do not have to believe any souls are there. He has been quoted as saying privately that 98% of souls will be saved!
    The bishops in that Country in Mittel Europa which brought the world Protestantism and Naziism are now going to bring a schism in the church. If anyone wants knowledge of what the short-time future will bring, they have only to look up Our Lady of Akita Prophecy. You will learn the Third Secret of Fatima; that satan has infiltrated the highest realms of the hierarchy of the Church in Rome. Our Lady tells this to the seer Sister Agnes Sasagawa.
    Cdl Ratzinger, as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, has written that this prophecy, which occurred in 1973, is worthy of credence.

  • luceroct

    What does “open to life” mean, Father? Is there a canonical definition for it?

    • “Open to life” in the context of marriage for husbands and wives recognizes and accepts the fruits of marriage are children. Begin with this truth without succumbing to the culture of death and divided spousal lives and attitudes. Spouses who are truly one in body and spirit understand.

  • I quote: “Does this explain the silence of the Synod document? This teaching cannot be changed, and Pope Francis has confirmed that fact clearly. And yet it seems clear that many Church leaders continue to be blind to the truth of the teaching of two great popes, that contraception is a poison pill for marriage and for society as a whole.”

    I may be mistaken but I know of no other priest in my diocese who is “vocal” or outspoken on the evil of contraception except myself. I hope I am wrong although I was disciplined for a homily I gave on the subject several years ago. I have read that 98% of our population including Catholics practice artificial birth control. In one personal example I can reference I had initiated a “TeenStar” program encouraging natural family planning for the right reasons where more than 400 parents of teenage children in the parish were invited to participate. In the first year twenty three teenagers participated. In the second year less than a dozen registered for classes which did not meet the minimum number of students for two classes and the effort was abandoned.

    Until the clergy, bishops and priests, preach and teach Humanae Vitae and the truth and beauty of marriage the silence will continue and I shiver to think how God will visit his chastisement on our society.

    • Patti Day

      Father, Thank you for your faithful teaching. I have never heard a teaching on NFP or contraception at my church. One time I spoke up against contraception at a meeting of our parish’s ladies group after one of the women brought up a television commercial for a contraceptive implant (the one with a darling but mischievous little boy whose mother can’t decide whether or not to have another child). I was told by the parish queen bee that while the ladies group supports our church’s pro-life efforts, a woman is entitled to her own opinion on contraception. The wall of silence I met that day said clearly that no one cared to discuss the issue. I expect it’s that kind of hostility, or at least indifference, that keeps many otherwise faithful priests from preaching or teaching on contraception.

  • Karen Hall

    Well, we’ve just been told to stop breeding like rabbits. So…

    • Elizabeth

      So, what? What is your point?

      • Karen Hall

        I watched the video of the pope telling the story of how he rebuked the woman who was expecting her 8th child. I then watched it again with the sound off. The pope’s contempt for this woman was appalling. He upholds Catholic teaching in official speeches, and then he gets on planes and says “Who am I to judge?” or he tells the story of the “irresponsible” woman expecting her 8th child. I do not trust him at all when it comes to upholding Church teaching. The synod was horrible. At a time when Catholics could really use a synod on how to live as a family in such times as these, the synod was about the “gifts” of homosexuality and communion for divorced Catholics. I dread the rest of the synod. Somewhere in there is my point.

    • sneakierbiscuit

      No, the media was told that it is *not* Catholic teaching that Catholics are required to “be like rabbits” and procreate without any regard for responsible parenting.
      Because, yes, a lot of people thought the Catholic prohibition of contraception as immoral and an intrinsic evil between spouses meant they had to have as many children as biologically possible, no matter what the circumstances.

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    Maybe it’s time for Priests to start teaching and preaching what Mortal Sin is and what it consists of and remind Catholics that sin has dire consequences and that Hell is real and being in Mortal Sin will land one there if they do not repent and follow Christ and the teachings of the Church. I think many do not do this for fear their churches will empty. Well then let them be empty of the rebellious souls who refuse to live by the Truth and teachings of the Church. People today want God to abide their own will, they want God to conform to their way of seeing and thinking. They want things to be easy. Jesus said we must pick up our cross and follow Him. Clear teaching and consequences for sin is what brought me back to the Catholic Church.

  • George Sim Johnston

    “Open to life” means that the couple is not performing an act–taking the Pill, using a condom, etc.–which thwarts the procreative end of sex. Contraceptive sex is anti-procreative, whereas a couple using NFP for a good reason are respecting the procreative mystery of sex. The teaching of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is true and so will never change. There has been a huge failure of nerve among bishops, priests and laity on this issue.

  • Antonja Cermak

    Most Pre-Cana courses include at least a section on NFP don’t they? I think you’re confusing lack of catechesis with lack of obedience on the part of the laity. I mean, in the wake of the Bishops standing up against the ACA due to contraception coverage, I don’t think anyone who does not know what the Church teaches on this is trying hard not to know.

    But the fact is all the church can do is teach. It can’t coerce and individual priests can’t even know which parish members are using contraception and which are suffering from infertility or using NFP, so they can’t confront any given parishioner. The confessional is supposed to be used for this if I understand correctly, but with only 10% of parishioners (and even less young enough to be fertile penitents) availing themselves of it, what should the Church do in the fact of this revolt?

    • ron a.

      It should talk about it—again and again. Pre-Cana courses are not the only forum for conversation on this subject. or for the destructive ancillary issues that have made so many, simply, ‘nominal’ Catholics. For most, the basic attitude is material, not spiritual, and the Church has done little since V2 to correct that.

    • MIKE

      Do you believe that most Priests tell those in pre-Cana courses that:
      1) Contraception and voluntary sterilization are MORTAL SINS, and that they may not receive Holy Communion while they are in the state of Mortal Sin?
      2) That when they marry it is for LIFE,
      and the main job on the part of each spouse is to help each other and their children get to Heaven?
      3) That they should read a Catholic Bible and the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition’ regarding their required responsibilities to each other and to children?
      4) That pre-marital sex is fornication and a Mortal Sin, and that no one can receive the Eucharist and Sacrament of Matrimony while in the State of Mortal Sin ?

      • Antonja Cermak

        Yes, I do believe they teach that. However, I’m not sure the laity believe in Mortal sin, Hell, or Natural Law. Nor are they apt to “waste time” reading the catechism. But, this problem of lax laity is being solved. Have you not noticed the decline in Catholic weddings? This means that those there now are probably more apt to actually believe the Church teachings.

  • guest

    Absolutely adore the EWaughOk moniker!

  • Murray

    The old “European Alliance,” which was so powerful at least in the early stages of Vatican II, may be back in power in this Synod.

    And who put them back in power? Who appointed them to positions of great influence over the direction of the Church? Who lauded their proposals with effusive praise, things like “theology done on one’s knees?” Who allowed the Europeans to bring settled church teaching into question?

    It is a great mystery. Apparently we are to believe that the European Alliance just happens, through a series of odd coincidences, to have found itself back in power, and with its men firmly in control of the Synodal preparations. How immensely fortunate for them! I guess they just had a series of lucky breaks, eh?

  • givelifeachance2

    I believe this explanation is a subterfuge related to the Church’s taking of government funds – there should be nothing preventing a Church agency from arranging adoptions using money solely derived from pew donations. Or if even that is prevented, the Church should fight rather than flee the issue. Or even fold its tax-exempt claim if necessary.

    • Oscar Fishman

      All adoption agencies must be state licensed. If an agency won’t place with homosexuals the state will deny it a license. No subterfuge. Tax exemption has nothing to do with it.

      • givelifeachance2

        Perhaps you are right…what made most of us miss this cataclysmic effect of homosex “marriage” was the way the Catholic hierarchy, media, and other professionals, including lawyers, downplay and ignore this adoption crisis. What if a state denied a hospital its license if it would not perform euthanasia, a crisis pregnancy center get shut down if it refused to perform abortion, a Catholic school unaccredited if it refused to teach Satanism? Would these cause a diocese to shut down the unit, with tail between legs, or to fight to the Supreme Court?

        • Oscar Fishman

          Point well taken.

  • MIKE

    What surprises me most is that the Bishops are looking for solutions outside of themselves.
    What is the biggest source of the current problems within the Church? – lack of complete Catechesis.

    Sacred Scripture (Catholic Bible) contains the speech of God in entirety.
    “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition” (1997) contains the Doctrine of the Faith in entirety.
    Yet, how many Bishops worldwide actively encourage the Literate to read both of these at home?
    Does your Bishop, and does he tell his Diocese Priests to do so?

    How many Diocese Bishops in the USA have prominent links to the CCC from the Vatican web site on their Diocese and Parish web sites ?

    The problem is not society. The main problem is the lack of complete and accurate teaching on the part of far too many Bishops and their Priests.

    The answer is so simple when it comes to the literate.
    Two books and its all there.

    • Paul Vander Voort

      IMO it’s not a “lack of complete Catechesis” it’s a rejection of the teaching. The source of all problems within your Church is that there is a false Church within your Church.

      • MIKE

        Many (but not all) Diocese Bishops do not promote the reading of Sacred Scripture and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition” (1997) at home.
        The CCC provides the teaching and the reasons.
        Most Catholics have no clue for the reasons which is essential for understanding.

        There are heretics within the Catholic Church (wolves in sheeps’ clothing). Unfortunately, to know the truth one must read the Bible and also the CCC.

        • Paul Vander Voort

          I do not disagree with you that there is a problem with Catechesis in your Church. I disagree with the argument though, that you and others seem to be making which is: properly teach the faith and these problems will go away. Again, these Catholics disobeying the Church do so because they don’t agree with the Church not out of ignorance of the teaching it seems to me. The problem is they wouldn’t leave the Church so therefore there is a false Church inside your Church. What is the size of this false Church in the Western World? I’ve seen reports ranging anywhere from a small minority of practicing Catholics to as high as 50% of practicing Catholics are heretics. If you take into account baptized Catholics then a vast majority of Catholics are heretics.

  • MIKE

    CCC: ” 2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).”

    CCC: ” 2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.
    These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom.
    In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:
    Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . .
    The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. “

  • Robert A Rowland

    Before Vatican Council II infallible doctrines were set in stone, and every Catholic believed Jesus was present in the Eucharist. After VCII they seemed to be under challenge, and 75 percent of Catholics are now apostate because they don’t believe He is there. Why do we need a synod to confirm infallible doctrine?

    • Billy Bagbom

      Because the Catholic Church is not a democracy?

      • Robert A Rowland

        What does democracy have to do with infallible doctrine that is already confirmed by the Magisterium?.

  • ssoldie

    Before Humane Vita, there was Casti Canuubie 12/31/1930 Pope St Pius XI
    Compare the two.

  • ssoldie

    doctrine, or opinion, one is truth ‘dogma’ the other are like noses,every body’s got one

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    In Evangelii Gaudium there is no mention of the Eucharist. The doctine of the Eucharist is intimately related the the most fundamental teachings of the Church, the Trinity and the Incarnation. I would assume that the goal of evangelizaation is the bringing of all peoples into communion with Our Lord, first in the Eucharist, which is in the words of St. Thomas, ” a pledge of future glory”, and finally to eternal life itself. So, the lack of any reference to contraception in the Synod questionnaire is just another case of amnesia of a fundamental aspect of the subject.

  • Jerry Rhino

    The following quote, from the Winnipeg bishop’s conference, has never been
    addressed by any pope since it was published. De fide divina et catolica implies
    a catholic, or universal view (including Canada).
    26.
    Counsellors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find
    that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them
    a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and
    responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the
    health of the mother. I accord with the accepted principles of moral theology,
    if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of
    conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assure that,
    whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good
    conscience.

  • George Sim Johnston

    Technically, the Church’s teaching on contraception is not “infallible”. The Church does not solemnly define moral teachings, even that on abortion (read carefully “Evangelium Vitae”). The content of Humanae Vitae is an irreformable teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium as spelled out in Lumen Gentium #25. Dissidents like Charles Curran confuse matters when they say that since the teaching on contraception is not infallible, it is therefore “fallible”. But the teaching is true, period, by virtue of the conditions defined in Lumen Gentium (which itself is a dogmatic document).

  • givelifeachance2

    I don’t know that the mandates pertain to privately funded agencies but if they did they should have their day in court. The fact that a child has a right to a mother and a father means that homosex marriage is discrimination based on sex and this argument alone could be used to swat away such mandates. But even if this approach, vigorously pursued, didn’t pan out, I would rather see Church real estate sold than children’s birthrights.

  • Joe DeVet

    Mr Johnson–it was my impression that one could argue for infallibility by Lumen Gentium 25. It speaks of 3 ways a teaching may be infallible, one of which is ex cathedra pronouncement. But one of the two others is that a teaching be a consistent teaching of the pope in union with the bishops. Seems to me the teaching against contraception, for all the recent silence, fits this criterion.

  • Tarzan

    I can’t speak for others, but as for my wife and me, our sex got better once we understood what the Church’s teaching actually was and practiced it as both unitive and procreative. I now view my wife with more respect than I did before. True, we have sex less often and we have had to give up oral sex and mutual masturbation as a substitute for intercourse. But when we do have sex it is better and more respectful of our mutual human dignity. And so, I have concluded that the Church’s teaching is actually based on truth.

    • Tanyi Tanyi

      God bless you Tarzan, for this courageous witness and sharing from your life. My prayers go with you and your wife.

  • George Sim Johnston

    Joe DeVet: Some decades ago, a group of conservative moral theologians went to Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Holy Office, and asked that the teaching on contraception be defined “infallibly”, and Ratzinger replied that that was not going to happen. The reason can be found in his book “The Nature and Mission of Theology” (Ignatius Press) pages 111 – 113, where he warns against reducing “the living organism of the doctrine of the faith to the skeleton of infallibility … More important than the concept of infallibility is … that of ‘auctoritas’, which, nevertheless, has well-nigh disappeared from our thoughts … For a community [i.e., the Church] which is based essentially on common conviction, ‘auctoritas’ is indispensible …”

    In HV, Paul VI does not point to any solemn definitions but to the fact that this has been the “constant teaching” of the Magisterium (sec. 6). This would dovetail with the discussion of the Church’s teaching authority in the first paragraph of Sec. 25 of Lumen Gentium.

  • accelerator

    Mr Johnston: “Ratzinger “warns against reducing ‘the living organism of the doctrine of the faith to the skeleton of infallibility ‘”… Really what on earth is he talking about? If a highly contested doctrine cannot be proclaimed with authority, what is the point in authority? This seems like the same nonsense where we are warned over and over again that revelation is not a proposition but a person. When in fact any sane Christian knows it is both, or we might as well scrap Scripture.

  • George Sim Johnston

    accelerator: You seem to misunderstand the words “infallibility” and “irreformable”. The teaching about contraception is in the latter category, which means it is true and cannot be changed. This should be clear to any Catholic (or non-Catholic) paying attention. Once the pope starts to solemnly define a moral teaching like this, where does he stop? People would have the impression that they did not have to pay heed until a moral teaching was solemnly defined. The Magisterium rightly resists this. And yes, revelation is a Person before it is anything else. We belong to the mystical body of Christ; that is the primary reality.

  • Rosemary58

    Is it possible that there is a neo-euthansia element in the episcopal faction in Europe? This is not a rhetorical question. I am truly wondering if this is so. How else can one explain the silence on contraception and abortion by so many European (and most American) bishops. I hope I am wrong but the similarities are remarkable. What better way to destroy the Church than to support those who contracept Her? We can draw a very straight line between contraception and the closing of parishes in wealthy North American and northern European dioceses.

  • I think they’ve gone silent because there is a disconnect in logic. If the church advocates NFP as a form of marital relations to avoid breeding like rabbits, to quote our recent Holy Father, then what is the difference between using contraception that is not abortifacient to NFP? It makes no sense. The will and objective of both NFP and non abortifacient contraception is to avoid pregnancy.

    • Rosemary58

      Which contraception is “non-abortifacient”? Almost all of them are. With NFP there is no “contra” ception; but rather, abstinence from coitus. It may seem like a small difference but the object very different as are the circumstances and the intentionality.

    • Burger Fan

      Few Catholics really understand the contraception issue. It’s really about obeying God and allowing Him to have His proper place in procreation. We have the power to let Him in or shut Him out. So first, I would say the church permits NFP – it does not – or at least should not – ADVOCATE it. Maybe there is a problem there in how some parishes are promoting it and that’s a separate issue. But as far as the difference between NFP and Artificial Birth Control (ABC), it’s true – the objective with both NFP and ABC is to avoid pregnancy. But for me the main point is that NFP is not interfering with God’s design for sexuality by altering the marital act. You are doing the same action as you would any other time, the kind God approves of, between a husband and wife, you are just choosing the time when you do it. The infertile period is there naturally, as part of the design of human sexuality. We are not directly messing with God’s design for sexuality, which is what ABC does by either chemically or physically changing the sexual marital act. Procreation is a cooperation with God. He has designed the way sexuality and procreation work, and we need to respect what part of sexuality is under His sovereignty and what part we have dominion over, such as choosing the time when we are going to be intimate. I know that it is possible to practice NFP in such a way where it can actually be sinful or disobedient to God. But changing the sexual act by artificially altering it chemically or physically from what God has ordained is always wrong. That is why NFP is permitted and ABC is not. NFP can be conformable to God’s will but ABC can not.

      • Condoms are not chemically altering the procreation process. It’s actually akin to NFP.

        • Burger Fan

          Condoms physically change the action you are doing. “I love you honey. Just let me get my barrier in place now, so we can make love… Don’t worry, it’ll still feel almost the same … at least for you.” … Not exactly the way God designed sex, is it? No, it’s not “natural” and it is not in any way akin to NFP.

          • So? It’s contraception. Of course God didn’t design it that way. And yes it is akin to NFP. Both attempt to have sex without fertilization.

          • Burger Fan

            Well, no, it’s not contraception. I don’t know how to make it any clearer. Maybe you don’t really want to see what I’m saying? With NFP you don’t “attempt” to have sex, you HAVE sex – the exact same way you would have it any other time. With contraception you change the actual activity you are doing. You are basically having perverted sex. And that’s a mortal sin. Meaning it’s gravely offensive to God. I can see not being able to understand the difference. And if you want to understand, you really have to start from a place of faith, faith that the Catholic church represents the actual teaching of Jesus Christ. If you believe that, it is easier to see the sense of it. If you don’t believe that, then it is very easy to see only what you want to see. It is possible to understand it without faith, if you have a truly open mind. But you don’t. You’re obviously invested in one point of view here. And so you’re prejudiced. If you’re prejudiced, and you also do not have Catholic faith, you are going to have a lot of trouble understanding the teaching on contraception, because the indoctrination of the culture is way, way louder than anything you are ever going to hear in church. If you are even going to church that is.

          • I hear what you’re saying. That’s where we disagree. NFP is a means of having sex without conceiving. That’s birth control. I don’t find the distinction of “having sex the same way” as all that meaningful. The intent is to by pass reproduction.

        • Actually condoms, especially those that are chemically treated with spermicides, contribute to cervical erosion in the woman which can lead to pre-cancer. All the contraceptives involve a price and it almost always is paid in the physical health of the woman. Study the history of contraception. The Dalkon Shield was removed from the market it was so dangerous. It became embedded in the uterus and many women had to have hysterectomies as a result. NORPLANT was also difficult to remove from the inside of the arm and among its complications were strokes and blood clots which is also true of the pill. A number of young women have died suddenly of strokes after applying the contraceptive patch. Read the contraindications of the pill. The flyer that comes in the packet is about six feet long with warnings. The CDC calls it a first class carcinogen and certainly that helps explain the explosion of breast cancer among women in the past fifty years.

          • Well, I’m not referring to that type of condom. I’m referring to the traditional condom with no chemicals. They still exist.

    • I’m an (inactive) NFP teacher. We always taught in our classes that NFP was about planning to have families, but there are legitimate serious reasons to postpone a pregnancy. I myself went through one of them when I had cancer and was on chemotherapy which attacks the fastest growing cells, hence a likely danger to a baby. But NFP makes perfect sense. Just because the goal is the same doesn’t make the means the same. We all need money to buy what we need to live. Is robbing a bank to get it the same as getting a job? Marital intercourse is a form of “body language.” There are times when we should be silent of voice. Is it the same thing to cut out our tongue or exercise the discipline to not speak? Contraceptives are the equivalent of putting duct take on your mouth or stuffing it full of cotton balls. That’s one way to prevent speaking but certainly not the same as choosing silence. Those couples who choose silence during the fertile time for serious reasons are using a moral means to postpone pregnancy – not to mention one that does not endanger the woman as so many contraceptives do. Having said that, NFP can be used immorally but it is not by nature immoral. Most moral things can be used immorally. An arsonist can use fire to burn down his enemy’s house, for example. I see NFP as a gift to the Church, one that has a proven track record in helping married couples to live a holy life giving 100% to each other including their fertility.

  • Roland Mayer

    What is the difference between using non-abortifacient contraception and NFP, Manny? I would say that NFP enhances the unitive purpose of marriage: positively by requiring more communication between the husband and wife, thus blessing them with mutual respect; negatively by eliminating the many unhealthy and harmful effects for the wife of artificial contraception, thus blessing her with great peace of mind.

    • So if my wife and I communicate on the use of condims, it will be alright?