The National Catholic Review

Today the Synod of Bishops issued a document that represents a stunning change in the way that the Catholic church speaks about the LBGT community. The Synod said that gay people have "gifts and talents to offer the Christian community." This is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable, from even the most open-minded of prelates--that is, a statement of outright praise for the contribution of gays and lesbians, with no caveat and no reflexive mention of sin.  And, regarding same-sex partners, the Synod document declared, remarkably, "Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners."  That any church document would praise same-sex "partners" in any way (and even use the word "partners") is astonishing.  

The Synod also asks questions, challenging dioceses and parishes: "Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"

This represents a revolutionary change in how the church addresses the LGBT community.  Nowhere in the document are such terms as "intrinsically disordered," "objectively disordered," or even the idea of "disinterested friendships" among gays and lesbians, which was used just recently.  The veteran Vaticanologist John Thavis rightly called the document an "earthquake."

The Synod's document also turned to several other important questions related to families, including birth control, here reminding the church of the "the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control," that is, the need to respect the personal conscience of the individual. And the Synod's document recommended the idea of "gradualness" when it came to "cohabitation." 

The document is just the mid-point summary of the bishops' meetings over the last week, and is not a final declaration. (Besides, the Synod has another session next year, after which Pope Francis will issue his final apostolic exhortation, which will be his own teaching on the Synod's deliberations.) But it is still revolutionary, as were some of the comments of the participants during the press conference today. Clearly Pope Francis's call for openness at the beginning of the Synod has allowed the bishops to listen carefully, to speak their minds and to be open to new ways of thinking.  As was the case at the Second Vatican Council, the participants may have gone into this Synod not expecting much openness or change, but the Holy Spirit is afoot.  

Follow America's full synod coverage here.

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rakhaa rca | 5/21/2016 - 7:13am

تعتبر العاب تلبيس من اشهر الانواع في هذا المجال وهي بدورها تتضمن عدة اصناف جميلة ويعشقها الكتير وخاصة البنات منها العاب تلبيس ومكياج التي تمزج بين التلبيس وكذلك الميك اب في آن واحد هذا الامر الدي يزيد من جمالها وتجعل كل من يلعبها يستمتع بذلك زد على ذلك العاب تلبيس باربي التي تعرف شعبية كبيرة لانها شخصية مشهورة ويعرفها الصغير والكبير ولهم ذكريات جميلة معها لانها اشتهرت في عالم الكارتون والان اصبح الامر كذلك في مجال الالعاب وغير هذا هناك كذلك نوع آخر مميز ايضا وهو العاب تلبيس عرائس فالجميع يحلم ان يقوم بتلبيسهما لانها تذكرهم بهذه المناسبة الجميلة الا وهي الزواج التي تعتبر اهم مرحلة في حياة الانسان وهناك انواع مغايرة لها جمهور كبير في كل انحاء العالم وهي العاب قص الشعر ليس هي فقط بل توجد ايضا العاب طبخ التي يمكن للجميع لعبها سواء كانوا اولادا او بناتا وهي الاكتر طلبا في النت ويحبها الجميع ومعها ايضا العاب باربي التي تكلمنا عليها بكل انواعها تتنوع العاب فلاش وذلك على حسب كل شخص ورغبته فهناك عدة انواع منها وهناك من هي خاصة بالبنات واخرى للاولاد وتعتبر العاب تلبيس من اكتر الالعاب انتشارا في الويب وهي محبوبة عند الجميع ولديها جمهور واسع كما انها سهلة اللعب والجميع يمكنه لعبها بسهولة تامة بدون صعوبات تذكر كما ان هناك انواع اخرى متل العاب طبخ والعاب اكشن ومكياج و سيارات الى غير ذلك فلك صنف جمهوره ومحبيه ولكن تبقى العاب بنات الاكتر انتشارا وشعبيتنا في عالم العاب الفلاش كما انها تحتوي على شخصيات معروفة وغنية عن التعريف متل باربي و سندريلا وشخصيات اخرى تركت بصمتها في هذا المجال لهذا اصبح يعتمد عليها كتيرا في صنف العاب تلبيس بنات الدي تحبه البنات بكترة خاصة في العالم العربي مما يجعل المواقع الخاصة بهذا النوع تزداد يوما بعد الاخر فذلك ليس عبثا ففي الحقيقة نوع العاب التلبيس من اجمل اصناف العاب فلاش بصفة عامة و العاب بنات بصفة خاصة
اليوم لقد اتيتكم بموقع رائع انا اعجبني شخصيا وهو يحتوي على باقة من العاب بنات جديدة ومتجدد دائما ولمن لا يعرف العاب بنات فهي العاب فلاش تلعب على المتصفح بدون تحميل وتلعب مباشرة والعاب البنات هي بدورها فيها عدة اصناف وهي العاب الماكياج وفي هذا النوع يجب وضع الماكياج للبنت الموجودة في اللعبة وهناك كتير منها ويوجد كذلك العاب طبخ وهذا الصنف عنده محبين اكتر من السابق بفارق كبير وهو المميز عند الجميع سواء كانو بناتا او اولادا وايضا الصغار يلعبون فيه كتيرا وهو الاكتر انتشارا في النت ومواقعه كتيرة ويوجد صنف آخر وهو اقل منه قليلا في الشهرة وهو صنف التلبيس هذا الصنف ايضا يعشقه كتير من البنات وعدد قليل من الاولاد وكل صنف من هذه الاصناف توجد به العاب خاصة بشخصية معينة مشهورة فمتلا باربي ستجدها في جميع هذه الاصناف متلا العاب تلبيس باربي او العاب طبخ باربي او العاب ماكياج باربي وهكذا وهناك شخصيات كتيرة في هذه الالعاب وهي الاكتر شهرة طبعا عن باقي الشخصيات الغير معروفة وهذا الموقع يقدم جميع هذه الاصناف التي تندرج تحت نوع العاب بنات فمرحبا بكم جميعا


Sandi Sinor | 10/22/2014 - 4:57pm

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In her blog at NCRonline, Phyllis Zagano posted a link to a Religion News service slideshow that clearly shows without words why the Catholic church's teachings on marriage, contraception, family and women are so far off-track. Be sure to click through the entire slide show.

Tim O'Leary | 10/23/2014 - 9:32am

Sandi - these are mostly pictures of Pope Francis (11 of 12), with some Cardinals in some of the shots. I suppose one can read what they want into any picture, like a Rorschach test ("why is the psychiatrist showing me all those dirty pictures?"). FYI, there were a dozen women at the synod, to recount their experiences and as auditors. I think the World Meeting on Families in Philadelphia next year should have a lot more faithful families, mothers, fathers and children. here is another picture that tells the real story of anti-family injustice.

Sandi Sinor | 10/23/2014 - 9:37pm

Yes, Tim, I saw the photos. I know they are mostly pix of Francis with the bishops and cardinals. I know that a handful of women were handpicked to be "observers" - handpicked women and couples chosen for their activism in NFP-related activities. They are as representative of most Catholic women as I am representative of most bishops.

You have again chosen to miss the point, Tim. And it IS a choice on your part. Those who do not wish to see, will not see. You choose not to see. But, you really do see - which is why you try so very hard to change the subject.

Others have no problem understanding exactly what is shown in those photos. And they aren't fooled by your transparent attempts to change the subject either.

Michael Barberi | 10/24/2014 - 6:25pm


Please don't be frustrated or upset with Tim's irresponsible comments such as:

> Self-absorbed….I can only assume he meant that you are self-absorbed…and not himself.
> Martyrs of today…I have no idea what this means…what does it have to do with the issue you raised?
> Evidently, Tim does not think you can find a common humanity with the Bishops….I guess if you think there is a problem with an all male celibate clergy you cannot have a common humanity with the bishops.
> Recists cannot relate to a common humanity because of a inferiority/superiority complex….does this imply that you act and think like a racist because you criticize or disagree with an all male celibate clergy?
> Radical feminists cannot accept Jesus as God….this is new to me. What exactly is "radical feminists" and are you being compared to them?
> You cannot identify with faithful Catholic women….really?…The last time I checked 80% of worldwide Catholics use artificial birth control and many of them are faithful Catholics. I guess if you disagree with some faithful Catholics you cannot identify with any of faithful Catholic women.

All of these comments deflect from your comments and are a back-handed way of being insulting….but then again, this is just my opinion.

Tim O'Leary | 10/25/2014 - 9:31am

Michael - If you want to come to bat, you have to do a little homework.
1. The link in my comment is to the photos that show pictures of real injustice, not faux injustice, coupled with self-absorbed indignation.
2. You have to understand what analogy is. I of course wasn't calling Sandi a racist.
3. Here is a radical feminist who thinks we can't know if Jesus was male (wonder what her motivation is?)
4. It was Sandi who implied that faithful Catholic women (who practiced NFP) couldn't represent her.

Michael Barberi | 10/25/2014 - 2:14pm

I am familiar with analogy Tim and I fully understand the photos of injustice. However your style of argument and words are another matter. 80% of worldwide Catholics practice some form of artificial birth control. Hence, on this matter, NFP Catholics cannot and do not represent them. I think you exaggerate and conflate what people say frequently. You think that your style of argument is always appropriate and on-point but this is often not the opinion of others.

Tim O'Leary | 10/24/2014 - 12:18am

Sandi - I didn't "miss" your point. I just see it as trivial and self-absorbed, compared to much more important points, like the martyrs of today. You could choose to identify with the common humanity of the Bishops, or common Christianity that you share with them, but you chose to see them as the Other that could not possibly represent you. Racists cannot see their common humanity in other races, as they are obsessed with a superiority/inferiority nexus. I suppose there are some radical feminists who cannot accept Jesus was God because he was a man, or that He insisted on calling God by the masculine name Father. Others can't get past the fact He was a Jew. You can't even identify with faithful Catholic women.

Were you really surprised that a Synod of Catholic Bishops were in fact all men? Is that really newsworthy or notable? Is that your choice? Did you notice a strange preponderance of red hats? Why not more green hats? Must be a conspiracy.

Michael Barberi | 10/22/2014 - 6:39pm


Thanks for this. In many ways, an all-male celibate clergy can be, and some say is, a problem. Perhaps under Pope Francis an all-male celibate clergy can start to deal with necessary changes in the application of teachings about family life, birth control (contraception), marriage, procreation, etc. After all the give and take, the issue seems to come down to an exaggerated fear of going against a teaching of a previous pope or tradition, and not giving sufficient consideration to the context, culture and knowledge of past and present times that have influenced many moral teachings. This does not mean that every past moral teaching is wrong, but (in my opinion) many teachings should be developed, and some changed and reformed in light of new scholarship regarding theology, science, human experience, Scripture, reason, et al. More importantly, the love that Jesus teaches us to have, is often lost by too much of a focus on certain rigid moral laws that are declared "moral absolutes" and even God's so-called plan for all of humanity. Many of these moral teachings are controversial.

Let's pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the Synod Fathers and Pope Francis in addressing the important issues facing families today, as well as the Catholic Church.

Tim O'Leary | 10/19/2014 - 5:05pm

I haven't seen this mentioned in the media so far but the ringing endorsement of the teaching in Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio in the final Relatio might be considered in some quarters to be Stunning!.
Paragraph 18 had 175 positive votes (placet) and 5 opposed (non placet). That is >97%.

(The final Relatio is available presently only in Italian

Carlos Orozco | 10/18/2014 - 6:16pm

My understanding of being a sinner has helped me avoid judging others. We all need compassion, and should practice it as well. However, the Church needs to speak clearly. It would do a great disservice if it did no call sin, sin. It would sacrifice charity and testimony of Truth for political correct language. Can you imagine the Lord or the Apostles worried about accommodating language for the men of their times? I cannot.

Michael Barberi | 10/18/2014 - 7:54pm


Thanks for your comments. I agree. The issue is truth and the use of birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood. The issue about sin is determined by a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation and in discussions with one's parish priest and the agent's informed conscience, etc. Complicating this is the fact that about 40% of priests in the U.S. believe that artificial birth control in marriage in seldom or never a sin. So do many bishops, most theologians and the majority of Catholics. Granted that the magisterium has the right to proclaim certain actions as intrinsically evil, but with respect to artificial contraception in marriage this issue is profoundly disputed among informed Catholics and theologians, priests, etc. This is an unfortunate state of affairs.

Michael Barberi | 10/16/2014 - 3:41pm

Moderate sexual pleasure was added to the ends of marriage a long time ago. Married couples are not required to separate the desire for pleasure from the so-called "narrow" unitive meaning of sexual intercourse or procreation that Humanae Vitae claims. It is one thing to solely desire pleasure devoid of love or procreation. It is another to claim, as JP II did, that married couples who use artificial birth control have a false, evil and destructive love… well as a utilitarian attitude and a diabolic love grounded in concupiscence. At the same time, JP II asserts that couples who practice NFP love each other as subjects and not objects, and have a true, good and lasting love. This is ridiculous, unsubstantiated, and absurd.

Humanae Vitae was written for married couples who want to regulate their fertility through birth control methods in the practice of responsible parenthood. To conflate Humanae Vitae with sexual intercourse among unmarried agents is missing the entire point of the teaching and the moral argument that Humane Vitae should be responsibly reformed.

Tim O'Leary | 10/17/2014 - 1:29pm

Michael - I am not sure what you mean by "Moderate" sexual pleasure? In any case, pleasure or self-gratification is not explicitly mentioned in Humanae Vitae. And married people are certainly not free of the temptations to self-gratification disorders I listed below.

You have called for a new look at the state of married life and procreation and my point below is that any new encyclical should also take into account the big elephant in the room - the pleasure of sexual love, which the world has been trying so hard to separate from the unitive bond and the procreative end. Each of the 3 aspects of sexual love - gratification, unitive, procreative - has a different primary direction - the self, the spouse, and the new life.

Since HV was written, there has been a much greater move in the secular world to separate all three from each other, whereas a Catholic understanding would unite all three. Also, since many have failed to understand or accept the profound theological and practical wisdom in HV, it might help for an updated version. For example, the definition of artificial contraception could be made more explicit to more clearly distinguish the radical difference between periodic abstinence from sexual intercourse and the interference of the physical process of procreation.

Michael Barberi | 10/17/2014 - 8:15pm


Your knowledge of the development of the doctrine on marriage, grounded in the ends of marriage, as well as your understanding of Humanae Vitae is severely wanting. Up until 1968, the doctrine on marriage was constantly changing (as demonstrated below) and its foundation was about the ends of marriage, not the so-called "meanings" of the marital sexual act. These are profoundly different concepts and teachings. Below is a short history about the ends of marriage. Note it was Pius XII that first added 'moderate pleasure' as a legitimate end.

1. Augustine:

concubitus propter solam procreationem. Sexual intercourse (in a marriage) is only for procreation.

2. Tradition (the moral handbooks):

Procreation and remedy for concupiscence.

3. CIC (1917/1918 - applied to marriage)

Procreation, mutual help, and remedy for concupiscence

4. Pius IX (1930)

Procreation, mutual help, mutual love, remedy for concupiscence

5. Pius XII (1951)

Procreation, mutual help, remedy for concupiscence, moderate pleasure

6. Vatical II (1965)

Human, total, faithful & exclusive, responsible parenthood

7. Paul VI (1968)

Procreative meaning and unitive meaning (switch from the ends of marriage to two so-called "meanings" of marital sexual intercourse)

Your assertion that there are 3 aspects of sexual love, gratification, unitive and procreative, conflates and misunderstands the current teaching (e.g., Humanae Vitae). As you know, gratification is not found in HV 12 where for the first time in the history of the Church's teaching on marriage something completely new was introduced. This was that the marital sexual act had two narrow meanings, namely, unitive love, and procreation that could never separated by man under any circumstances because it was claimed to be God's plan. Apart from the fact that no one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty, and that the term unitive love as multi-dimensional meanings in marital sexual intercourse, it is perplexing that you mention 'gratification' as though it is a third "meaning" of marital sex per Humanae Vitae. We do find this term in the teachings of JP II, where he asserts, without any existential or theological substantiation, that when a married couple uses artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood they have a utilitarian attitude…meaning, that they are having sexual intercourse solely for pleasure devoid of any love…apparently this also means that the pleasure of such sexual intercourse in a marriage is deemed selfish and immoral. At the same time, JP II asserts, without any evidence whatsoever, that married couples who practice NFP have a true, good and long lasting love…apparently this also means that the pleasure of sexual intercourse in a marriage is deemed morally permissible. This is, once again, ridiculous, unsubstantiated, and absurd.

You also seem to be arguing about an aspect of the secular world, namely the use of artificial birth control by some unmarried couples as thought it is in some way a reason justifying Humanae Vitae. I remind you once again that Humanae Vitae was written for married couples who want to regulate their fertility and use birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood. It was not written for unmarried couples.

You are forgetting an important theological principle here, abusus non tollit usum: the abuse of a thing does not take away its legitimate use. Examples from daily life abound. The fact that alcohol and drugs are abused by several million people does not mean that their responsible use by the rest of us should be forbidden. Similarly, the use of artificial birth control by unmarried couples does not take away from its legitimate use by married couples in the practice of responsible parenthood.

When you find a convincing moral theory in support of HV, let me know.

Tim O'Leary | 10/18/2014 - 11:51am

Michael – your reply again indicates you haven’t read my comment closely and fairly (for example, you say “ it is perplexing that you mention 'gratification' as though it is a third "meaning" of marital sex per Humanae Vitae” when I say this third component is NOT in HV), so it is not unreasonable to think you have done the same with the Church Fathers.

For example, your claim that “up until 1968, the doctrine on marriage was CONSTANTLY changing,” is a very strange statement, both in implying a completely fluid idea before 1968 and a completely fixed idea thereafter. And, your few quotes certainly are not sufficient to confirm that interpretation. Most fair minded viewers of the texts would say that an openness to procreation has always been seen as vital to a Catholic marriage, and never as the only benefit of marriage. Even St. Augustine wrote about the three goods of marriage: fidelity, children, and sacrament. See this review of the theologian William May from 2004 ( Here is a quote from St. Augustine that you can find on the New Advent website: “For faithfulness, it is observed, that there be no lying with other man or woman, out of the bond of wedlock: for the offspring, that it be lovingly welcomed, kindly nourished, religiously brought up: for the Sacrament, that marriage be not severed, and that man or woman divorced be not joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This is as it were the rule of Marriages by which rule either fruitfulness is made seemly, or the perverseness of incontinence is brought to order. Upon which since we have sufficiently discoursed in that book, which we lately published, on the Good of Marriage, where we have also distinguished the Widow's continence and the Virgin's excellency, according to the worthiness of their degrees, our pen is not to be now longer occupied.”(Book ix on Genesis c.7).

None of these goods of marriage St. Augustine taught so long ago (~401 AD) is no longer true. None has been reversed! What has been developed in recent times, according to William May, is the good of the spouses. I may be wrong, but I think the positive aspects of the pleasure of sex have not been fully considered. I agree St. John Paul’s writings get at this component, but you take this as a criticism of his work, as if every development for you is a change or departure from Tradition!

Just as contraception brought to the fore the modern attempt to sever the procreative from the unitive, I think recent philosophical movements (esp. the idea that sexual gratification apart from a spouse are good and healthy in themselves, the legalization of prostitution, homosexualism, internet pornography, etc.) that more directly sever sexual gratification (always known as a temptation related to concupiscence) from both the unitive and the procreative might require a response from the Church. This would always be a development of doctrine, never a reversal of doctrine. It cannot come from a synod but maybe from a future encyclical.

Michael - the more I read of your postings, the more I think your understanding of the Church’s complete teaching on marriage is deficient. I think many of your objections to Church teaching would evaporate if you listened to the Church’s teaching with a humble and open mind and heart. Especially a change or heart is needed. God Bless.

Michael Barberi | 10/18/2014 - 3:49pm


Your use of the term gratification as a third aspect of the marital act was indeed "perplexing" because your argument moved back and forth from HV to sex between unmarried couples, to some implicit immoral claim about the separation of gratification, love and procreation. My comments dealt with your confusion and conflation of issues by providing you will some facts. Anyone who reads my arguments can judge for themselves if I misread and misrepresent the Church fathers. I don't think anyone is surprised that you make such unsubstantiated statements as part of your style of argument.

My statement that up until 1968, the doctrine on marriage was "constantly changing" is correct. If this is not true, offer proof and criticism. I gave you a listing of facts regarding the doctrine of marriage from Augustine to Paul VI, you gave me mere claims and assertions. As for after 1968 to this present day, the teaching HV has been fixed and HV 12, the inseparability principle, that was never a constant teaching of the Church, has been governing sexual ethics for the past 46 years. Nevertheless, the teaching HV can be changed!

If you do not think that the ends of marriage is dramatically different than two narrow meanings of the marital act, then nothing I do will be able to persuade you. Witness the fact that you read my manuscript on HV last year (when I shared it with you confidentially) and it provided documented proof that the four principles that anchor the teaching HV was never a constant teaching of the Church, but you selectively choose to ignore the evidence or refused to accept it. You will never admit that the Church/magisterium can make a mistake because you believe that every magisterium teaching is protected by the Holy Spirit from error, while at the same time you refuse to accept that many teachings that have been proclaimed as truth for centuries were eventually reformed. This continues to be the major problem in our exchanges.

One might claim that there has always been a divine command that sexual intercourse must remain ‘open to procreation’ and that this established teaching is simply being developed and expanded in light of new insights into the ‘language of the body’. Such a claim, however, glosses over the fact that the expression ‘open to procreation’ had no role to play previous to Pius XI’s condemnation of any interference with the structure of the act of sexual intercourse. Previous to that time, it was thought that all acts of sexual intercourse were potentially ‘open to procreation’ because no one understood the process of insemination and conception. In fact, this phrase functioned as a euphemism for the process of insemination or the ‘deposit of seed in the vagina’, regardless of whether conception was possible.

If we accept that ‘open to procreation’ actually stands for the concept that an act of sexual intercourse known to be infertile is simply mimicking what might, in other circumstances, actually result in conception, we enter into a kind of double speak that clouds the issues being discussed. HV, 6’s claim that it was simply re-stating the ‘constant teaching of the Church’ might refer to the fact that the encyclical was not about to accept the legitimacy of using any artificial means for controlling fertility; but it cannot be established upon any grounds that there was a ‘constant teaching’ about the ‘inseparable connection of meanings’. Such claims are gratuitous and betray a profound misunderstanding, if not a certain ignorance, of the traditional teaching in conjugal morality.

Your claim that I am not listening to the Church's teaching with a humble and open mind and heart is being disingenuous at best and insulting at worst. I will let my fellow bloggers judge for themselves who has a more humble and open mind and heart, or lack thereof.

Tim O'Leary | 10/18/2014 - 4:28pm

Michael - you say "My statement that up until 1968, the doctrine on marriage was "constantly changing" is correct. If this is not true, offer proof and criticism." But, I showed that your reading of St. Augustine (before 1968) leaves out his three cardinal goods of marriage: the bonum prolis (offspring), the bonum fidei (fidelity), & the bonum sacramenti. I gave a link to William May 's 2004 (after 1968) excellent piece on the "good of the spouses." Perhaps, you didn't bother to read it. I also referenced St. John Paul's Theology of the Body, which went beyond HV, as you have previously criticized. There is also the most definitive statement of the Church's teaching, Familiaris Consortio ( which I am happy to quote if you do not think it develops on HV.In particular, FC highlights the rights of women beyond HV and the education of children (including sex education), the Charter of Family Rights.

Michael - you react to all this as if it were not evidence for at least some points. You have a closed mind to what you do not accept. Maybe, you have a humble closed mind, but would a humble person describe the writings of a saint as "ridiculous, unsubstantiated, and absurd"? That is a strange way for show how humble and open minded you are.

Michael Barberi | 10/18/2014 - 5:27pm


You totally and deliberately missed the entirety of my argument and the short pithy, but accurate, descriptions I provided about the doctrine on marriage. My short descriptions were not meant to be a lengthly dissertation on each of these teachings. My objective was to demonstrate that the doctrine on marriage was constantly changing from Augustine to Paul VI and the doctrine on marriage switched dramatically from the ends of marriage to two narrow meanings of the marital act where it was proclaimed in HV 12. The inseparability principle was never a constant teaching of the Church and since 1968 it has governed sexual ethics to this present time. The doctrine on marriage has changed, and HV can change as well.

I don't need to read William May because I have read most of his work. He is an apologist and traditionalist theologian in the same camp as Germain Grisez and others with whom I am very familiar with. As you know, I have read most of the works of the Church and its traditionalist theologians who defend its teachings. I also have read and studied the works of other theologians who disagree with HV and other sexual ethical teachings.

I also read the "Theology of the Body" (TOB) and I have referenced it in my essay. The TOB was an expansion of the philosophy and theology of Cardinal Wojtyla as articulated in his 1960 book "Love and Responsibility" and his Feb 1968 "Krakow Memorandum" sent to Paul VI five months before he issued Humanae Vitae (HV). This is why HV was essentially the philosophy and theology of one man, and the conclusions of one commission in Krakow that Cardinal Wojtyla established which was limited to Polish bishops and theologians. Shall I reiterate this in detail to you "once again" Mr. O'Leary? Further, Familaris Consortio is merely a repeat of the teaching HV and the TOB.

Hence, moving the argument to these works deflects from my argument and is merely a repeat of the teaching. Your remarks do not deal with the principles and philosophy that underpin the teaching HV. Nor do they deal with the subject we were discussing, namely, the doctrine of marriage as it was historical taught. Nor does it deal with the fact that the doctrine on marriage has been constantly changing.

Your tactics and style of argument has now moved from dealing with specific arguments to chastising your interlocutor (me). You denigrate my character and intention because I criticized something that JP II said….namely, that contraceptive couples who use artificial birth control have a false, evil and destructive love, a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love ground in concupiscence,... and NFP couples who use NFP love each other as subjects and not objects, and have a true, loving and long lasting love. This is indeed "ridiculous, unsubstantiated and absurd". There is no evidence in existential reality, whatsoever, that substantiates claim. If there is evidence Mr. O'Leary that you, William May or someone else has offered, please tell me. I have a very open mind and would appreciate being enlightened.

As to my comments, they are respectful because I am not denigrating the character of the person who said it (JP II)…I am constructively criticizing what he said and his lack of any evidence in existential reality.

You say I lack humility and have a closed mind and heart. Shame on you,Tim. You should take a long look in the mirror my friend.

Tim O'Leary | 10/18/2014 - 7:48pm

Michael - shame on you for repeating your "ridiculous, unsubstantiated and absurd" insult on St. John Paul because you claim there is no evidence for St. John Paul’s statements. Well, some evidence might be the divorce rate and the abortion rate among Catholics who use contraception and those who use NFP. So, let’s look at the numbers.

According to CARA, 28% Catholics (ever-married) and 39% of Protestants get divorced ( You claim that 80% self-identifying Catholics use contraception and you probably agree that the rate among Protestants is higher. In families that practice NFP, the divorce rate is <5%. ( That would suggest that family stability correlates with use of NFP.

Now, the abortion statistics. Contraceptive failure is reported in 2/3rds women who have abortions. Just after Pope Francis’ election, a Pew poll ( found that 76% of US Catholics supported contraception, 54% homosexual marriage and 53% of white Catholics (43% Hispanics) supported abortion. The Guttmacher Institute claims self-identifying Catholics abort about as much as anybody else. Abortion is unheard of among NFP families.

I am not saying that these data prove St. John Paul right but they are hardly absurd or ridiculous.

Michael Barberi | 10/18/2014 - 8:20pm


According to your philosophy, any theologian, priest, bishop or informed Catholic that disagrees with HV or any teaching of the magisterium is somehow disrespecting a pope, the hierarchy or the Church. It is a foolish statement for you to accuse me of insulting a saint in respectful debate, and there is no truth to your disparaging comments about my arguments.

A correlation is not a cause. The increase in the use of contraception might correlate with the increase in spousal abuse, but no one is claiming that contraception causes spousal abuse. Also, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the inconsistent use and lack of contraception accounts for the overwhelming percentage of women who have unintended pregnancies and abortions. Only a very small percentage of all married people have abortions. Clearly, any direct abortion is immoral but married Catholics that practice artificial birth control do not tend to abortion because of birth control failure…as Karol Wojtyla/JP II asserts. That is insulting to the majority of faithful married Catholics and there is no evidence, whatsoever, that supports such an outrageous conclusion.

Are we now going to list and ague over all the surveys on abortion, contraception and divorce? This is yet another of your deflective tactics in support of your illusion that my arguments are based on a closed mind and heart and are irresponsible and misguided.

My comments were directed to specific claims made by JP II and they are constructive, respectful and substantiated. So, don't accuse me of disparaging his name, his sainthood or his character.

Tim O'Leary | 10/19/2014 - 12:38am

There you go again, making claims without substantiation. Here is data indicating most abortions are committed by women who already have children, including up to 60% married women. and here Unfortunately, the contraceptive mentality leads a lot of people to abortion.

Here is another unfounded conclusion. I do not assume all people who think contraception is morally permissible are disrespecting a pope or a saint. One can accept that the Church has a coherent argument, and still disagree for a host of reasons, or because they disagree on first principles. But, Michael, you claim that holy, highly intelligent, wise people (Popes, bishops and saints) are contradicting themselves, as if they couldn't do simple logic, or are using "ridiculous, unsubstantiated and absurd" arguments, or you psychoanalyze their upbringing or in other ways disrespect them. I know this because you don't get my arguments either. And you forever claim I believe EVERYTHING a pope says must be true, whereas I do not. I think you are too emotionally caught up in the contraception issue, and can no longer even imagine that the Magisterium has the better arguments. More importantly, the Magisterium has the better protection from the Holy Spirit, than any layperson, or professional or amateur theologian.

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 7:03pm


Here are some facts from: Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States, dated August, 2011, The Guttmacher Report.

1. 54% of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among these women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method "inconsistently", while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.

2. 46% of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.

3. 8% of women who have abortions never used a method of birth control; nonuse is greatest among those who are young, poor, black Hispanic or less educated.

4. About 50% of unintended pregnancies occur among the 11% of women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy but are not using contraception. Most of these women have practiced contraception in the past.

The above supports my statement that: The inconsistent use and lack of contraception accounts for the overwhelming percentage of women who have unintended pregnancies and abortions. In other words, contraception (e.g., its consistent and proper use) does not cause abortions. Neither does contraception cause divorce.

As to your claim that holy, intelligent, wise people (popes, bishops, saints) are contradicting themselves…is not my words, but yours. I never said such a thing. I believe the JP II was misinformed about women, human sexuality and the consequences of using contraception.

When you find a creditable study by a prominent scientistic organization that concludes the following, let me know. These are the teachings of JP II.

1. Faithful Catholic married couples who use artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood have "a false, evil and destructive love". This means every married couple Mr. O'Leary who use artificial birth control.

2. Faithful Catholic married couples who use artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood have "a utilitarian attitude". Again Mr. O'Leary, this means all such couples.

3. NFP married couples love each other as subjects, and not objects (e.g., they do not have a utilitarian attitude). This means all such couples, Mr. O'Leary.

Do you honestly believe these statements are true Tim? The truth is that there is no credible evidence in existential reality that supports such assertions. Hence, this is why such statements, in my opinion, are ridiculous. They are in profound tension with human experience and reason.

The Holy Spirit may inspire and guide the magisterium, perhaps better than many, but this does not mean that every moral teaching of the magisterium, past or present, is the absolute moral truth with certainty or God's will.

If anyone is caught up emotionally with the Church's teachings, it is you my friend. I keep my emotions in check and strive to keep my arguments respectful and factual. Let's try not to attack my motivations, intentions, attitudes, personality or my dignity.

Tim O'Leary | 10/19/2014 - 7:15pm

Michael - can you provide a link to the writing of St. John Paul you are citing, so I can see its full context?

As to the data you present, the 54% who committed abortion and used contraceptives would of course be considered not to be following HV or NFP. That is a very high number of people using abortion as a back-up to contraception, which was my point. And totally different from NFP couples.

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 7:45pm


I sent you my manuscript of last year with many of these quotations. They refer to specific pages in Love and Responsibility and the Krakow Memorandum. Anyone familiar with the writings of Karol Wojtyla/JP II and his traditionalist theologians know these things very well. I also refer you to Christopher West's "Theology of the Body Explained" (Boston, MA: Pauline Books, Revised Edition 2007). See pages 29, 150-151, 159, 194, 445 and 529…among other pages. You can also find such statements by many traditionalist theologians who write in support of HV.

As for your other statement, you missed my point…once again. The consistent and proper use of contraception does not cause abortion. If someone does not use contraception or uses it inconsistently, and has an unintended pregnancy and resorts to abortion, they are acting irresponsibly and immorally. The point is that CONTRACEPTION DOES NOT CAUSE ABORTION!!!! It prevents unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Tim O'Leary | 10/19/2014 - 9:17pm

Michael - This pro-contraception site at gives failure rates for all forms of contraception. It is 8% for the pill, 15% for a male condom and up to 32% for a cervical cap. They define the failure rate as the % females who experience an unintended pregnancy during the 1st year of typical use. (their source is – US Dept. HHS). Maybe, you define all these failure rates as inconsistent, but that can be a post-hoc interpretation and is rather convenient. I can agree that complete contraception (like sterilization) will not result in an abortion.

You frequently attribute the phrase "a false, evil and destructive love" to St. John Paul (above and in the com box of America and Commonweal - just google the whole phrase, all the results are from you!). It is also in your draft manuscript (Section VI, last para) but without a specific reference. Your draft manuscript you sent to me has 40 references, with 3 to Pope John Paul (and 12 to Ted Lipien, Wojtyla’s Women), none of which get to the actual phrase in quotes that I googled. So, that is why I asked for a direct quote. My guess is that this specific phrase is yours alone and is not in any specific document by St. John Paul. If I am wrong, please give me the reference to the page. If it is a compilation based on the use sometimes of "false", sometimes "evil" and sometimes "destructive" then you should not use it as a quote.

Michael Barberi | 10/20/2014 - 8:19pm


A failure rate of any type of birth control method does not ipso facto mean that the couple will tend to abortion. That is my point. There is no evidence that a significant percent of married women who use artificial birth control will have an abortion if contraception fails. Clearly, some women will tend to abortion if contraception fails, but you cannot conclude that all, a majority, or a significant percent of women will do this.

You claim you know HV and the works of Karol Wojtyla/JP II, but you do not. You are clearly baffled that Karol Wojtyla/JP II and his traditionalist theologians say such things. I suggest you read Love and Responsibility. Do I have to provide you will all quotes from his book where he discusses the utilitarian attitude, a false love, etc? I am not on trial here Tim. However, here is what you missed…as usual.

L&R pages 171-172.
In the absence of chastity, the body is not subordinated to true love but... strives to ...subjugate love to itself; of mere carnal enjoyment ...then usurps the essential role in love …and destroys love.

> Does this not mean that married couples that use any birth control method other than chastity (e.g., NFP) subjugates love to themselves, of mere pleasure, and then usurps the essential role of love..and destroys love?

L&R pages 234-235, 241
The very fact of deliberately excluding the possibility of parenthood from marital intercourse makes ‘enjoyment’ the intention of the act. We need only to remind ourselves that what we call here ‘deliberate exclusion’ means quite simply prevention by artificial means.

> Here is another quote Tim. If the marital act excludes the possibility of parenthood (e.g., using artificial birth control or another birth control method rather than NFP), "enjoyment" or mere pleasure becomes the intention and end/goal of the act.

Krakow Memorandum pages 6-7
…the increased nervousness and even certain neuroses today flow, in large part, from contraceptive practices. …Contraception adds nothing to the personal rights of the woman. …He (man) will cease to hold her in esteem in the context of the transmission of life. She will become for him simply an occasion to enjoy …the woman can expect not only inequality, but very simply ‘sexual slavery’ …Parents who cannot master themselves [i.e. through PC], who cannot sacrifice their egoism to the good of the partner, will no longer be able to have generosity, patience, serenity and calm assurance in their relations with their children. They will love them to the extent that they bring them pleasure, that is, they will love them selfishly and not for themselves.

> Contraception makes the women simply an occasion to enjoy…the women can expect to be a sexual slave for the man…unless the couple uses PC (periodic continence or NFP) parents will only love their children to the extent they give them pleasure!!!

Need I keep providing you with quotes Tim? I am happy to do it because there are plenty of them in Love and Responsibility.

Honestly Tim, you don't know what you are talking about.

Tim O'Leary | 10/20/2014 - 11:47pm

Michael - you are baffling, while the quotes are not. These are all excellent quotes from St. John Paul. I have no problem with them. All the bad consequences he warns about (relating to the Yes to sex and simultaneous No to procreation) have these effects, at least in many relationships. That is why we have epidemics of infidelity, divorce, abandonment and abortion. You see, I do think contraception has a bad effect on relationships in general, even if some manage to avoid some of the worse effects. I also think you are in denial of the statistics I cite above. We can discuss them on another time as this string is getting way too long. But, I do have a problem with your previous misrepresentation of the JP II quotes.

To quote you exactly from an earlier comment above: "These are the teachings of JP II. 1 Faithful Catholic married couples who use artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood have "a false, evil and destructive love".

Where did you get the phrase you put in quotes "a false, evil and destructive love"? I think this is yours and is not from the saint. A scholar wouldn't put quotes around a phrase if it was their own, without a reference.

Michael Barberi | 10/21/2014 - 5:11pm


You see what you want to see. That is your continuing problem. Anyone familiar with the works of Karol Wojtyla/JP II understand his philosophy and theology on marriage, human sexuality and birth control. You do not. If I provided you with 10 more quotations, you will find some minor piece of nonsense to argue about and never admit to the truth about what he said.

Make no mistake about what I am saying. I do think you believe in what you say. However, it is not reality but the point of view of an extreme apologist who thinks the magisterium or a pope can never err. You will never admit that Karol Wojtyla-JP II's theology is based on misinformation, and an exaggerate view of women, human sexuality, marriage and birth control.

So, it seems you do agree that:

Contraception destroys true love. Only the chaste man and chaste woman are capable of true love (L&R 171). Parents who practice artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude (use sexual intercourse only for pleasure) and will only love their children to the extent they give them pleasure. These are ridiculous statements and there is no evidence in existential reality to support them. That is one of many reasons why HV and the many explanations about artificial birth control has not been received by 80% of worldwide Catholics, 40% of U.S. priests, most theologians and many bishops. I could go on, but you will only deflect from what is really being said here.

As for the statement that married Catholics who use artificial birth control have a false, evil and destructive love, this is an accurate interpretation of Karol Wojtyla/JP II's theology. When I say: false, it means as opposed to true (many of JP II's traditionalist theologians say this), evil because according to JP II it speaks to a utilitarian attitude and concupiscence when married couples use contraception, and destructive because it destroys true love. These statements are interpreted accurately with respect to Karol Wojtyla/JP II works….and the section in my essay that deals with these things are appropriately referenced. They are from Christopher West's Theology of the Body,..the definitive source on JP II's work.

My essay was vetted by a Board of Review of a prominent Catholic Theological Journal. It was also reviewed by 4 independent moral theologians and they recommended it for publication. I trust their expertise rather than your erroneous conclusions. Are you saying they are wrong and you are right, Mr. O'Leary? You will defend a teaching regardless of whatever scholarship someone puts before you in argument that challenges a teaching or the magisterium or in the interpretation of HV and Karol Wojtyla/JP II's works.

You are right about one thing…we have reach another point in our debate where further conversation would be unproductive. I am confident that those who follow our arguments will be able to judge for themselves where the truth lies.

Tim O'Leary | 10/16/2014 - 1:00am

Another quote from the synod (Instrumentum Laboris, #5) on Humanae Vitae:

"In the wake of Vatican II, the papal Magisterium has further refined the doctrine on marriage and the family. In a particular manner, Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae, displayed the intimate bond between conjugal love and the generation of life. Pope St. John Paul II devoted special attention to the family in his catechesis on human love, his Letter to Families (Gratissimam sane) and, especially, his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. In these documents, the Pope called the family the “way of the Church,” gave an overview on the vocation of man and woman to love and proposed the basic guidelines for the pastoral care of the family and the presence of the family in society. In specifically treating “conjugal love” (cf. FC, 13), he described how the spouses, through their mutual love, receive the gift of the Spirit of Christ and live their call to holiness." (

I would point out that faithful Catholic marriages last longer than all the rest. (

As to a possible future encyclical on human relations, I do think Humanae Vitae didn't give enough attention to sexual concupiscence (desire for pleasure or gratification) as the main motive for the sexual revolution of the past 50 years (contraception and abortion are the means to an end). It is not just a desire to separate the unitive from the procreative. There is even a stronger demand to separate the gratification from the unitive (the hookup culture, online sex, prostitution, polyamory, S&M, etc.) and the procreative. This is pretty much the basis of the widely popular pulp fiction (50 shades, etc.) and the massive pornography industry. All of this puts the self-gratification in the center, and the unitive gets short shrift, while the procreative is made completely subservient to the satisfaction of the couple (test tube babies, etc.) if not thrown out altogether. The distinctions in HV almost seem quaint when compared to what the devil has managed to bring to the fore. And yet, there is more distress, disease and depression than ever - at epidemic proportions.

When chastity is not ridiculed, it is seen as harmful to one's self-actualization. Even for those who want to be good, it is seen as impossible. But, God has promised that His grace is sufficient to permit us to be chaste. Do not despair.

Michael Barberi | 10/15/2014 - 6:28pm

Tim O'Leary quotes
Regarding Humanae Vitae:
"what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest. It is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods, which allow the living in a harmonious and aware way of the communication between spouses, in all its dimensions, along with generative responsibility. In this light, we should go back to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, which underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control."(para 54).

There is nothing wrong with NPF as a birth control method. However, ask the majority of faithful Catholics who use artificial birth control or NFP in the practice of responsible parenthood, and they will quickly tell you that if birth control fails they would welcome the child-to-be into their families with unconditional love. There is no evidence in existential reality, whatsoever, that supports the claim that couples who use NFP love each other as subjects, while couples who use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude (sex merely and solely for pleasure) and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence. Nor is there any evidence that concludes that married Catholics who use artificial birth control tend to abortion if birth control fails. In fact, the inconsistent use and lack of contraception accounts for the overwhelming percentage of women who have unintended pregnancies and abortion.

Granted, the some couples that use artificial birth control or NFP may have an anti-life attitude, but you cannot turn the axiom around and assert as truth that all faithful Catholics who use artificial birth control are anti-life. This is the unsubstantiated claim that JP II made that fails to be convincing nor realistic because it does not ring true to the deepest levels of one's mind, heart and soul.

Equally important; One does not disrespect the dignity of the person if one begins with a good motivation, examines the concrete circumstances of the person(s) who ascertain good ends that need to be accomplished to act responsibly, and subsequently consider all the behavior options that are appropriate, suitable and proportionate to the good in those ends, one lives and acts in an ethical manner. This has been the quiding ethical model for the social teaching of the church for more than a century. The fundamental impasse that has been created through the teaching Humanae Vitae on the use of contraception is one of using incompatible ethical models for guiding ethical decision-making.

Humanae Vitae, and/or the pastoral application of this teaching, must be responsibly reformed.

Anne Chapman | 10/15/2014 - 10:21pm


Unfortunately, the problem goes beyond simply deciding among different methods of birth control. The fundamental problem is the church's distorted understanding of marriage, and of the sexual relationship within marriage. It is also rooted in its ancient patriarchal views of women, and of the perceived relationship between women, sex and original sin. Augustine unfortunately introduced some ideas (as did some other church fathers), that have done great harm to this day, codified in church teachings on women, sexuality, and marriage.

The church reduces marriage to a purely utilitarian concept - it is for procreation. It reduces the woman to an object - an object to be used for procreation. By insisting on periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy, the woman's natural cycle of desire is thrown aside as of no importance. If a wife seeks the loving comfort of her husband through physical love during the time near ovulation, she is expected to deny herself this critical and important union. She is expected to be "available" according to the readings on a basal temperature thermometer and on the thickness of her cervical mucus - reduced to an object who must perform on demand and on schedule. Her husband is similarly reduced to an object by this teaching. "Natural" family planning is as unnatural a process as one can imagine and subverts the natural cycle of love day to day in a marriage.

The demand that marriage must be "open to life" - meaning procreation - is an insult to marriage. Procreation is not required for a marriage to be a sacrament - that is found in the love relationship between the spouses.

Procreation may - or may not- become an extension/expansion of the core love relationship, but procreation is not necessary to the core relationship. Not everyone would be a good parent and they can share their own gifts with the world in ways other than being parents. Instead of trying to force procreation on all who marry in the church, the church should devote considerable time to help couples reflect honestly on themselves and their gifts and ask themselves if they are well-equipped to become good parents rather than just parents, fulfilling a perceived "duty" to family and church.

The underlying fallacy must be corrected. Once it is corrected and the male celibates of the church understand that marriages may be holy and sacramental even when a couple chooses not to have children, the decision about birth control (NFP is one method of birth control and is listed as such by the CDC in its statistics) will reside where it should - with the couple themselves.

Michael Barberi | 10/16/2014 - 3:24pm


I largely agree with your point of view. My short comments were merely to address one or two assertions made in Tim O'Leary's quote. I wrote a 20 page essay that covered the pivotal fundamental philosophical and theological issues regarding Humanae Vitae that will be published shortly. It also went beyond your issues as well to other cases where Humanae Vitae becomes unreasonable and irresponsible.

For example, a married women with children is told by medical experts that another pregnancy will be life-threatening. According to Humanae Vitae, she cannot use the most prudent means to safe-guard her life and avoid another pregnancy such as sterilization, tying of her fallopian tubes or taking the pill. In this case, NFP is imprudent and far too risky to safe-guard one's life from a potential pregnancy. This women must practice a life-time of sexual abstinence. The magisterium sees this as one of life's difficulties where the agent must merely embrace "heroic virtue" regardless of the consequences. The hierarchy of values is turned upside down in this case because the most prudent means to safe-guarding one's life is being subordinated to the requirement that all sexual intercourse in marriage must be open to procreation. For a young woman with children and a husband, lifetime sexual abstinence will destroy or serious harm her marriage. It is unrealistic, impractical and unreasonable for the majority, if not all, married women. It is also unnecessary.

Tim O'Leary | 10/18/2014 - 11:57am

Michael - you say you "largely agree" with Anne, after she states that "The demand that marriage must be "open to life" - meaning procreation - is an insult to marriage." This seems a departure from your own thinking, where you have previously argued that as long as the whole marriage is open to procreation, not every sexual act need be. Since a refusal to be open to procreation for the whole marriage is valid grounds for an annulment, it means such a position is contrary to a Catholic marriage. Did you mean to deviate further from Catholic teaching in agreeing with Anne?

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 6:09pm


The Catholic Church does not require married couples to have children, or a specific number of children for the marriage to be valid. More importantly, please explain to us how limiting all acts of sexual intercourse in a marriage to infertile periods for a long time or "a lifetime" as Pius XII taught us provided we have good reasons …renders these marital acts "open to procreation".

Anne Chapman | 10/17/2014 - 9:34am

Michael, I have a friend whose wife died under the circumstances you describe. He is older than we are - in his 80s - and when he and his wife were young, the birth control options were fewer and less reliable than those of today. After three children in close succession, his wife's doctor told them she was at high risk for death if she had another pregnancy and he suggested that she have a hysterectomy. Perhaps neither vasectomy nor tubal ligation were available in that era. Being "good" Catholics, they consulted with their priest who told them it would be a mortal sin. Absolute abstinence turned out to be an impossible goal for this young couple and so they relied on the church's recommended birth control method of periodic abstinence. But she conceived again. She died of the complications predicted by her doctor, leaving a young husband and three young children. She was about 30 years old.

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 7:12pm


Thanks for sharing that with all of us. The magisterium knows about many moral dilemmas and concrete cases involving the teaching HV. However, it has refused to officially address them. In my opinion, the reason why they have not addressed the case you mention is obvious: they have no reasonable and convincing explanation why the most prudent means to safe-guard a women's life from another pregnancy must be subordinated to the requirement that every marital act must be open to procreation.

The magisterium claims that the only solution is Lifetime sexual abstinence in this case. This is unreasonable, impractical and unnecessary. It would severely burden the marriage, or in many cases destroy it, cause marital disharmony and pain, not only for the husband and wife, but for existing children.

Gene Van Son | 10/16/2014 - 11:03am


I'm not sure where your information on Church teaching on marriage comes from but some of what you say is not quite accurate. What makes marriage a sacrament is the grace that comes from Jesus Christ, not the love relationship between the spouses. Saying that marriage is only and all about "love" drastically alters the entire concept of Holy Matrimony. You might want to pull out the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read the section on the Celebration of Marriage -- 1621 to 1654. Reducing everything in life to "feelings" is denying the nature of God. You also might want to check out the website "The Way of the Lord Jesus" --

Anne Chapman | 10/16/2014 - 1:37pm

Thank you for your suggestions. I am very familiar with official church teaching on marriage. I disagree with some of them. I believe the church's understanding of matrimony is based on invalid premises and has produced false and sometimes harmful teachings that lead to such practices as denying marriage in the church to a couple who have chosen not to have children, and its teachings on modern contraception. Without love, marriage is simply a utilitarian business arrangement with the intended business outcome being to produce children. As we know, this was the case for most of history, and is still the case in some cultures.

Gene Van Son | 10/16/2014 - 4:44pm

Yes, it was kind of obvious that you were not in agreement. I struggled with the contraception teaching myself, but after continuing to read the encyclicals and what the different theologians had to say in an effort to try to understand the 'why' of the teaching, it finally became clear to me. The Church needs to do a better job of explaining the 'why.' Love is certainly a critical component of marriage, but saying marriage is ONLY about love is a slippery slope.

Anne Chapman | 10/16/2014 - 10:07pm

Why is basing marriage on love a "slippery slope"? Love is the foundation for marriage. There are other factors that must be considered besides love when deciding to marry, or when deciding to extend that love to children, but without love, the marriage would be simply a business contract. Love is the foundation for raising a family if the couple chooses to have children. It seems that marriages that are loveless are those that most often end in divorce. My husband and I have been married for 41 years. We married because of love, we chose to have a family because of love, and we are still married because of love. Without love, we would not have gotten married and if the love had died, the marriage would have also.

As far as the "why" of the church's teaching on contraception goes, it seems they convinced you. I have no problem with couples choosing NFP as their birth control method. But the majority do not find it the best choice for their own marriage. I understand the "why" of the teaching. I agree with Michael Barberi - I disagree on the underlying principles - on the historical underpinnings of the teaching. The hierarchical church has often been wrong in its teachings.

Michael Barberi | 10/16/2014 - 5:53pm


After 45 years of explanation, the Church/magisterium and traditionalist theologians have failed to articulate a convincing moral theory in support of Humanae Vitae (HV). What gives you the confidence that after 45 years of various explanations and profound debate there will be a better, more convincing explanation? If your answer is the Holy Spirit, I would say that the Holy Spirit leads us all to truth in agreement and disagreement as many teachings of the Church that had been proclaimed as truth for centuries were eventually reformed.

Clearly, there are some that agree with HV and I have no problem with such a judgment as one should never go against their informed conscience. However, those who agree with HV represent a very small percentage of Catholics. Witness that 80% of worldwide Catholics practice some form of artificial birth control, the majority of theologians want HV changed, 40% of U.S. priests (young and old) believe that contraception is seldom or never a sin, and many bishops agree that the teaching should be responsibly reformed. I agree that doctrine is not based on a democratic vote, but on the fundamental principles and theology that underpin the teaching. It is at this level where I disagree for good reasons.

Thanks for your comments.

Gene Van Son | 10/17/2014 - 1:57pm

Michael and Anne:

First off, you are mistaken when you say that “teachings” of the church have been overturned or that the Church has been wrong in its teachings. Church Doctrine has never changed. Ever. It’s important to differentiate between teachings (doctrine, such as three persons in one God) and practices (such as priests being allowed to marry).

Second, if “love” is the only component of marriage that matters, then if a married man and woman cease to love one another the marriage ceases to be. Also two men, two women, a brother and a sister, a whole group of people, a man and his dog, and so on, should all be allowed to marry providing the marriage is based on love. In effect it is your argument, Anne that changes marriage into a contract as opposed to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. You might want to visit the website I mentioned in my earlier comment and even visit Dr. Janet Smith’s website and maybe purchase her CDs on “Humanae Vitae and Conscience” and “Sexual Common Sense.”

Third, the moral theory that supports HV predates it. It starts with the teaching that there is a moral order to creation, that God is both a rationale and logical God, and that He put us here for a reason. Many of our beliefs as Catholics flow from this teaching. I’m 62 years old and I still don’t fully understand it all, but I’m trying. I can’t explain these teachings, all the nuances of Natural Law, or summarize Catholic thought in the area of Metaphysics in the course of these short comments. I read A LOT, and it’s only in the course of trying to understand the “why” throughout my 40+ years of marriage that I’ve come to the conclusion that contraception is “most likely” wrong. (I can’t say for certain because that would mean I know God’s mind and I seriously doubt any human being can say that with absolute certainty.)

I can say, however, that the devil is good at what he does and he has certainly managed to corrupt consciences and influence many people (including almost the entire entertainment industry!) to put their own wants and desires before what God wants.

All this being said, here is a link to a recent essay at EthikaPolitika entitled “Natures as Words Contraception as a Lie“ that touches on how this moral order thought develops:

I would encourage you both to try to prove to yourselves that you are right and Catholic Doctrine is wrong by reading everything you can. I have links to over 70 Catholic websites in my browser and at least two dozen books on my bookshelf on the Catholic faith, so there is plenty of material out there. And, unfortunately, that, as I alluded to earlier, is part of the problem. The Church really does need to do a better job of educating the laity not just on beliefs but on the whys of our beliefs.

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 6:01pm


I never said that the teachings of the Church have been "overturned". I said that many teachings of popes and the magisterium that have been taught as truth for centuries were eventually changed. Some of these teachings were reformed, and not merely developed, such as slavery, usury, the negative injunction against the freedom of religion, etc.

As to the moral theory that predates HV, it is true that we believe in a moral order but it is one thing to assert with a truth about the moral order based on Scripture/revelation, and quite another to base it on symbolic speculation such a proclaiming God's procreative plan with moral certainty. For example, according to HV, NFP and the inseparability principle is God's procreative plan for us all. No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty and this is one reason why HV should not be declared a "moral absolute".

I do not have a so-called "proof" about HV and the absolute moral truth with certainty. Neither does the magisterium. However after 5 years of study, I have written a 20 page essay that was judged contributory by a prominent Catholic Theological Journal and will be published shortly. Based on my education and reflection, my informed conscience judges HV as a teaching that must be responsibly changed as a temporary judgment. This means I am always educating myself and open to new scholarship, new knowledge, and the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. God gave me a good faith, but also intelligence and practical reason. The moral sources of truth will always be: Scripture/revelation, Tradition, Human Experience and Reason. The truth is also known by connaturality and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as well.

As you rightly say, the Church needs to do a better job in educating the laity, not just about our faith but on the whys of our moral beliefs. We live in a divided Church and in a crisis in truth. Let's pray for God's grace and mercy as we strive to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strengths, and our neighbor as ourselves. We can disagree and remain faithful Catholics.

Tim O'Leary | 10/17/2014 - 6:54pm

excellent points Gene. But, I think Anne is correct that more reading on her part, or more study on Michael's part might not be sufficient to bring them to accept the Church's teaching. There are so many teachings that they do not accept, so the fault line goes deeper than reason can reach. Once the acceptance of authority is undermined, it is only a matter of time that one drifts further away. Grace is needed to accept the Church's authority, more than anything else. What amazes me is how some Evangelical Protestants have accepted the truth of HV.

Anne Chapman | 10/17/2014 - 6:08pm

Gene, you are entitled to your personal opinion, as we all are. You follow your conscience and others follow theirs. It is fruitless to go into a lengthy exchange on this subject and this is my last post on the subject on this thread.

I studied the birth control teaching extensively, tracing it back to its roots, over a period of about ten years. I have studied what the church says and I have read what interpreters such as Janet Smith have said. I still disagree. The teaching is rooted in ancient understandings that were accepted at one time in history but are no longer accepted by most. As one commentator put it recently, Humanae Vitae needs to join the Syllabus of Errors in the archives of historical church documents that have been proven by time to contain much error.

Michael has studied this issue in far greater depth than have I. Mine was an informal study, in-depth, but done for my own knowledge and understanding. Michael's is the scholarly work effort of one who has done research for many years. He is an expert on both HV and TOB, and either has already published his work, or will soon publish, in a peer-reviewed journal. So, please stop making the assumption that we are ignorant of church teaching - that we don't understand "why" the church teaches what it does. We do understand. We disagree.

Setting up strawman arguments (siblings marrying, bestiality etc) does not further the discussion.

Perhaps you also need to study a bit more, because the church has indeed changed teachings - not just disciplines. There are books on the subject and many, many articles available online. If you are unaware of them, it may be because you have limited yourself to specific journals, websites and blogs. The information is there if you wish to learn about it.

Peace to you.

Douglas Fang | 10/16/2014 - 12:30am

Anne and Michael,

I cannot agree more with you two. For me, HV looks like a product of some scholar with good will living in a palace far detached from the real life of ordinary people. It sounds good theologically and philosophically, etc. However, it totally ignores the complex multi-dimension of a real person: economic, biological, neurological, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, etc.

Based on my own observation, the number one reason for people to practice birth control is not because they are selfish hedonists, but because they cannot afford to have children more than they can, especially with such claim as the cost of raising a child now is now around ~300K! This amount of money is the difference between a decent live and a live of poverty. Similarly, the collapse of marriage in many societies, i.e. Japanese (just watch the BBC document “No sex please, we are Japanese”), can be seen as the result of a stagnant and uncertain economic condition. I can see this in the country where I came from. At my parent generation, a family with 5 or more children is the norm, whether they are Catholic or not. Now, a family with one or zero child seems to be common, whether they are Catholic or not.

From the daily Gospel of yesterday (Disclosure - I read the daily Gospel from the USCCB web site and meditate on it), I see the following statement from Jesus – ““Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” It reminds me the story of someone saying that he had to abstain from sex during his honeymoon because he tried to follow NFP!!!

Michael Barberi | 10/16/2014 - 4:34pm


Thanks for your kind thoughts. I enjoyed the story about the married couple on their honeymoon where they had to abstain from sexual intercourse because they were practicing NFP. As you know, until the couple has sexual intercourse, a marriage is not fully consummated. LOL.

Tim O'Leary | 10/16/2014 - 12:10am

Anne - I think you hit the nail on the head with this quote: "The demand that marriage must be "open to life" - meaning procreation - is an insult to marriage." While this has only become technically facile recently (apart from non-vaginal sex), it is certainly where much of the world is heading. This is why I do not think there will ever be peace between the Catholic Church and the spirit of the sexual revolution.

Anne Chapman | 10/16/2014 - 9:47am

Tim, do you believe that good and loving people who do not wish to become parents should not be allowed to get married?

Do you believe that married couples who do not wish to become parents should become parents?

Should marriage once again simply be a business contract, an enterprise set up primarily for the purpose of producing a product - children?This was the case for much of history, after all.