The National Catholic Review

The Final Report of the synod on the family revealed that the synod has closed no doors, all the main questions are still on the table, and an absolute majority of the synod fathers are with Pope Francis, in favor of a Church that like the Good Samaritan reaches out to care for all her “wounded children”.

At the same time it showed clearly that a significant minority totally opposes the admission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, and wants the Church to move with great caution in its pastoral approach to homosexual persons less Church teaching be compromised.

These two important and vexed questions got an absolute majority but not the two-thirds required to have the synod’s approval. But since the Pope has decided to make the whole report public and to send it to the Bishops Conferences worldwide for discussion at the local church level, it is clear that these two issues are still on the table.

All this became clear when Pope Francis, at the end of the two week synod, decided to release immediately the Final Report that contained 62 different paragraphs on each of which the 183 synod fathers present voted on October 18.  

Breaking with a 49-year old tradition, in a masterly move in favor of total transparency in the synod process, the Jesuit Pope decided to publish the votes for each of the paragraphs in the 17-page Final Report so that the local churches, the Bishops Conferences worldwide, and the Catholic clergy and faithful can see the level of support or opposition on each question. 

Thus, on the controversial question (n.52) regarding the possibility of the admission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, in particular circumstances, after undergoing a penitential path, 104 synod fathers voted in favor of further study of this question, while 74 totally opposed it. (5 abstained).  

Again on the question of the divorced and remarried, or persons living together, some favored that these persons be encouraged to make a “spiritual communion”, while others said then why can they not go to the sacramental one. It was proposed to study more deeply the two different forms and their connection with the theology of marriage.  This time the vote was 112 in favor, 64 against (6 abstained).

On the other hand, the synod approved by a vote of 143 to 35  (with 5 abstentions), the proposal for streamlining the process for the annulment of marriages, including the introduction of an administrative way for doing this.

There were many changes, also of a substantial nature, in the Final Report compared with the provisional interim-Report.  These resulted in a positive highlighting of Christian marriage and greater references in Part II of the text to the Scriptures, the Second Vatican Council and the teachings of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

These changes were most evident on the question of the Church’s approach to homosexual persons. The Final Report’s paragraph (n.55) that deals specifically with this question differs significantly from what the interim-Report said.  It looks at the question from the perspective of “some families” that “live the experience of having persons with a homosexual orientation with them” and asks what kind of pastoral attention is opportune when faced with such situations, and with reference to what the Church teaches.   It excludes equating same-sex unions with the plan of God for marriage and the family.  Nevertheless, it says “the men and women with homosexual tendencies should be welcomed with respect and gentleness” and adds that “every mark of unjust discrimination should be avoided”.    118 voted in favor, 62 against (3 abstained).

There were many new and positive additions in the Final Report including a strong focus on the plight of children and the drama of families as a result of broken marriages, violence, human trafficking, war, poverty and migration.  There was also a stronger affirmation of the dignity of women, and the insistence of the need of good preparation of couples for marriage, and accompaniment after marriage, the role of education in the families, and “the missionary” role of families.

The Final Report says “the Church is called to act with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher, in fidelity to the merciful self-emptying of Christ”.  Like the interim-Report it encourages pastors to identify and take advantage of “the positive elements” in civil marriages and cohabitation, with a view to leading the persons in these situations the Christian ideal of marriage.  It underlines the importance of “accompaniment”, with patience, of people in these and other irregular situations.

At present the text of the Final Report is only in Italian, but it is being translated and should be available in a few days. 

It should also be noted that on the morning of the closing day, October 18, the synod also approved an inspiring Message to families and in particular to Christian families.  That text can be found at this site:

Apart from the Final Report, the most striking feature of the closing session of the synod was Pope Francis’ awesome talk to the plenary assembly which I will report on in a separate article.


Tim O'Leary | 10/28/2014 - 9:52pm

Michael - You are forever saying you have no idea what I am talking about. But, that is because you do not read my responses closely. You just rush back to your favorite obsessions and claim you have won the debate, as if that was supposed to be persuasive. You don't even take the time to edit your comments. Here is a funny triple negative: "The truth is that no one who disagrees with a teaching of the magisterium cannot possibly put forth any argument that is persuade to you." Excellent!

Or, maybe, you don't even read my comments? I can't think how you missed the following: "the Commission agreed with Noonan that all Church documents, before this recent controversy, all historical evidence, from all times and places and all Councils and papal pronouncements, indicate an unwavering condemnation of contraception as immoral. This unanimity seems to be an application of the sensus fidelium." Since the sensus fidelium in many previous centuries accepted that contraception was wrong, do you disagree with the sensus fidelium, or is the sensus fidelium an unreliable guide to true doctrine?

Michael Barberi | 10/23/2014 - 9:33pm

The 2014 extraordinary Synod on the Family had about 250 participants including: 115 Presidents of Conferences of Bishops (an orthodox conservative group mostly appointed or approved by the past 2 popes), 13 Heads of the Eastern Catholic Church, 25 Vatican officials, 14 married couples, and others. This is a far cry from the a vote of confidence on the absolute moral truth regarding various teachings such as Humanae Vitae (HV) by 5,104 bishops throughout the world, most of whom did not attend the 2014 session. Most of these bishops, hopefully will be invited to the 2015 Synod on the Family.

HV was not a middle ground between the majority and minority papal birth control commission reports because it "permitted periodic continence or NFP". The teaching about a permissible program of periodic continence (e.g., NFP) was instituted in 1951 by Pius XII, and not by Paul VI in HV. From John Galvin, "Was Humanae Vitae based upon the Majority or the Minority Report of the Papal Commission",

The truth is that HV discovers an "entirely new" justification to maintain the prohibition of artificial contraception as:

"That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning."

This new principle was never mentioned or proposed or written about by any pope, bishop or theologian before 1960. As such it was never a constant teaching of the Church/magisterium. It cannot be found in the majority or minority reports or in any of the documents of the Papal Birth Control Commission. Hence, the inseparability principle, that governed sexual ethics since 1968 cannot be claimed to be "a middle ground" between the majority and minority reports.

The encyclical HV instituted a new understanding of responsible parenthood and a fundamentally new concept, namely the inseparability principle. HV claims that what is being proposed is a "constant teaching of the Church regarding the doctrine of marriage". The doctrine on marriage up until HV was never constant and it was always about "the ends of marriage" which was changing from the time of Augustine. The history on the doctrine on marriage was never based two narrow "meanings" of the conjugal act. Nor was such a concept ever proclaimed as Divine Law or "God's Procreative Plan" for humanity by any pope or the magisterium.

NFP or the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions is claimed to be God's plan. What the magisterium never has officially addressed is that NFP separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act by the intention and end/goal of the agents, through the willful physical acts of temperature and mucus plotting to ensure that all acts of marital sexual intercourse will not be procreative.

How can every marital sexual act limited to infertile times for a long time or a lifetime, for good reasons as Pius XII proclaimed, be "open to procreation"?

Tim O'Leary | 10/25/2014 - 12:55pm

Michael – who do you think selected the vast majority of 5,000+ bishops? It was JPII and BXVI over 35 years. So, the next synod is unlikely to be very different from this extraordinary one, in terms of its support of HV. But, it is important to note that the synod is only advisory. The Pope has praised HV as prophetic many times and beatified its author. He will decide what to do in the end, just as Pope Paul VI did, after hearing from his Commission on Birth Control. That is how the Magisterium works.

You say the inseparable connection in HV “between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive and the procreative meaning” was an "entirely new" justification to maintain the prohibition of artificial contraception, and you say “It cannot be found in the majority or minority reports or in any of the documents of the Papal Birth Control Commission.” But, the so-called “Majority Report says this: “Conjugal love and fecundity are in no way opposed, but complement one another in such a way that they constitute an almost INDIVISIBLE UNITY.”

I would add that this “Majority Report” fully endorsed periodic abstinence and came up with the term “contraceptive mentality,” saying it “has been condemned by the traditional doctrine of the church and will always be condemned as gravely sinful.”

You frequently quote John Noonan. He was a supporter of a relaxation on the Church’s constant ban against contraception. But he had to recognize it would be a deviation from Church teaching. Here is a quote from his 1965 book “Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists,” indicating the Church’s constant teaching: “The propositions constituting a condemnation of contraception are, it will be seen, recurrent. Since the first clear mention of contraception by a Christian theologian, when a harsh third-century moralist accused a pope of encouraging it, the articulated judgment has been the same. In the world of the late Empire known to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, in the Ostrogothic Aries of Bishop Caesarius and the Suevian Braga of Bishop Martin, in the Paris of St. Albert and St. Thomas, in the Renaissance Rome of Sixtus V and the Renaissance Milan of St. Charles Borromeo, in the Naples of St. Alphonsus Liguori and the Liege of Charles Billuart, in the Philadelphia of Bishop Kenrick, and in the Bombay of Cardinal Gracias, the teachers of the Church have taught without hesitation or variation that certain acts preventing procreation are gravely sinful. No Catholic theologian has ever taught, "Contraception is a good act." The teaching on contraception is clear and apparently fixed forever.”

Joseph Codsi | 11/1/2014 - 4:30pm

It seems to me that Michael Barbieri is correct when he writes:

The truth is that HV discovers an "entirely new" justification to maintain the prohibition of artificial contraception as: "That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning."

Tim O’Leary is also correct, when he says that contraception has always been condemned.

But, I am afraid, all this fails to recognize the formidable disconnect that exists between the official teaching of the Church and the overwhelming majority of the faithful. Statistics show that, in the United States, over 95% of Catholic women who are sexually active practice birth control. This proves that the official teaching of the Church has lost touch with reality. And this alone is a formidable condemnation of Humanae Vitae.

The alleged INDIVISIBLE UNITY between sexual intercourse and procreation must be condemned today as pious sophistry. The same thing must be said about the distinction between “artificial” and “natural” means of contraception.

Michael Barberi | 11/3/2014 - 7:29pm


Thanks for your comments. They reflect the sincere understanding of morality of most Catholics, a connaturalaity or natural innate instinct that God instills in us to discern the truth, and what is right and wrong in concrete human circumstances. As Thomas Aquinas has taught us, the natural law is the participation of the eternal law in the practical reason of human beings.

As you pointed out, many polls have demonstrated the profound non-reception of Humanae Vitae. Many polls have put the non-reception at more than 90% of Catholics. According to the latest worldwide poll, sent to the Synod fathers and Pope Francis, about 80% of all worldwide Catholics practice some form of birth control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil. The 80% includes all Catholics in all countries regardless of age. Hence, for married Catholics in their child-bearing years, it is not unreasonable to assume that 90%+ of Catholics use some form of birth control method that the Church condemns. For Catholics who attend weekly Mass, some U.S. polls have pegged the percent at around 65%. In 2007, Dean Hoge of the Catholic University of America found that only 8%-11% of Catholics said it is always morally wrong to use condoms or birth control pills. In other words, 89% to 91% said these birth control methods were morally permissible. However, doctrine and teachings are not based on polls numbers but on truth and the principles and philosophies that underpin the teaching. However, when a teaching is not received, as is Humanae Vitae, it is considered a dead letter and the teaching does not possess any power to change behavior.

The word 'contraception' is a relatively new term. Up until about 1850, the Church's teaching on birth control was focused on the negative injunction called coitus interrupts. Around 1850 when rubber was vulcanized and condoms became available, the teaching followed upon this same teaching, namely, that the male penis and seed must be placed in its proper place for procreation.

When science discovered the fertility-infertility nexus, the idea that a formal program of insuring that all marital acts were not procreative (e.g., natural family planning or periodic continence) were considered by many bishops and theologians as "an intentional manipulation" of natural rhythms to avoid conception. Suddenly in 1951, NFP was proclaimed by Pius XII as licid. As long as there were good reasons for not having children, NFP could be practiced for a lifetime. How could marital acts that are specifically intended to be "not procreative" and brought about by physical acts of temperature and mucus plotting be "open to procreation"? This remains the issue that the Church refuses to adequately answer. All they talk about is abstinence and neglect what is really going on.

It was only in 1968, that suddenly we see a new teaching emerge whereby the marital act has two meanings, unitive and procreative, that can never be separate by man under any circumstances because it is God's Will. This teaching is not found in Scripture or in Tradition. It was the philosophy and theology of one person, Bishop Karol Wojtyla, who wrote about it in his 1960 book Love and Responsibility and in his Krakow Memorandum that he sent to Paul VI five months before he issued Humanae Vitae. No pope or bishop ever mentioned or wrote about a so-called inseparability principle before 1960. Thus, HV 12 was never a constant teaching of the Church. It can and should be responsibility reformed.

Tim O'Leary | 11/3/2014 - 7:28pm

This is a rewriting of history, selected to justify birth control. See above for Noonan's more credible review of the Church's constant prohibition of contraception.

Michael Barberi | 11/3/2014 - 7:41pm

I know Noonan well and have given you quotations from his book on Contraception that accurately reflect his thoughts. I do not rewrite history to justify birth control nor do I misrepresent or distort the truth. Keep in mind that I do not disagree that Paul VI was not about to approve of artificial birth control. However, Humanae Vitae moved the teachings on marriage and birth control to a totally new teaching that governed sexual ethics ever since 1968, namely, the inseparability principle. This teaching was never a constant teaching of the Church. I have already given you accurate and compelling arguments for justifying the rethinking of Humanae Vitae and the responsible use of contraception in the practice of responsible parenthood. You are once again merely making unsubstantiated assertions about what I say. Let us not go around in circles once again. Please!!

Tim O'Leary | 11/2/2014 - 12:04pm

Joseph - the 95% figure has been debunked many times. It is probably true that a majority of self-identified Catholics (the term used by the polls) have used contraceptives some time in their lives (all post-menopausal sexually active women do not use it, nor do infertile women, nor do those trying to get pregnant, nor do those trying to be faithful to the Church, etc.). But, you will probably agree that nearly 100% of Catholics sin daily. The issue is not necessarily the practice but the belief. Sometimes it is an issue of insufficient education, and sometimes it is of non-acceptance. Most of those who do not accept the teaching are not as sophisticated in their disagreement as Michael is. They just want it, and that's that, as with many things. But, even if Michael is correct that the binding of the unitive with the procreative is a change (as change is being discussed at the present synod), a change that is a development is no less binding. The synod recognizes it has a big issue with education of HV. But, some of the very same polls of self-identifying Catholics also shows sizable proportions (some over 50%) do not accept Church teaching on the Real Presence, Sunday Mass, Divorce, Gay Marriage, Abortion, etc. None of this gets us to the Truth of the doctrine, which can never be determined by polls on the acceptability of it.

Michael Barberi | 10/25/2014 - 3:01pm


You missed my point once again. You implied that the limited number of bishops that participated in the 2014 session and supported HV was indicative of the full communion of 5,000+ bishops throughout the world. We will have to wait until the 2015 session to see exactly what "pastoral changes" spring forth regarding birth control, in particular the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis. In any case, the continuance of the status quo on birth control will not change the profound non-reception of this teaching. No one is expecting an epiphany in terms of a convincing moral theory in support of HV that will ring true to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of most Catholics.

As to the Majority Report: An "almost indivisible unity" does not mean that the unity of conjugal love an fecundity cannot be separated for any reason by man!!! The word "almost" does not mean "never" Tim. The inseparability principle is claimed to be a "moral absolute". Also, just because conjugal love and fecundity are not opposed to each other, but compliment each other, also does not mean that the conjugal act has two narrow meanings which cannot be separated. Nor does it mean that the inseparability of two narrow meanings of the martial act is God's plan!! Tim, you are grasping at straws once again and do not understand the teaching or its history.

Your selected quotations is called proof texting and you fail to understand Noonan. Noonan also said:

"Again, the question was presented, Who was injured by violation of the primary purpose [of marriage and the marital act]: self, neighbor, or God? If neither injury to self nor to neighbor appeared, the argument, to be successful, had to assert that in the institution of marriage God had set up an order inviolable even when violation would injure no man. Moreover, it was not evident how the primary purpose of marriage became the necessary purpose of every marital act [my emphasis-added]. Once it was admitted that no procreative purpose was required for lawful coitus, it became extremely difficult to find in the primary purpose doctrine any absolute barrier to contraception.

But the requirements of successful NFP must not be confused with the requirements of divine law…For the purpose of applying divine law, the norm of fertility need not be greater than four days [the maximum fertility window for couples is 4-6 days].

Finally. When it is said that this interpretation of Humanae Vitae is minimizing and reduces its impact to a small portion of a couple's married life, it must be answered it is scarily an objection that the scope of a law should be narrow. In general, Christians are called to liberty. Here, in respect to a pattern built into our biological nature by which we cooperate with God, we are asked to observe the unbreakable normal nexus of fertility and love. The teaching is surely not of a quantitative character [sexual intercourse on certain days]. Do we worship God less because we are called to worship him formally only one day in seven?"

Do we really want to start quoting theologians Tim?

The teaching on the purposes and ends of marriage, and the inseparability principle was never a constant teaching of the Church. As such, this teaching can and should be responsibility reformed.

Once again Tim, no cigar.

Tim O'Leary | 10/25/2014 - 8:37pm

Michael - HV does not use the word absolute, except in its condemnation of abortion. It is far more nuanced than you seem to understand. When it says (regarding the unitive and procreative) "This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act." - note that it believes to be in continuity with the teaching, not departing from it as you claim.

How on earth can you think the words "they constitute an almost indivisible unity" are so clearly less emphatic than "based on the inseparable connection"? So, you think inseparable is stronger than indivisible, or that connection is stronger than unity. Talk about grasping at straws!

Your own technique of proof-texting is to add words that are not there.It doesn't say "absolutely inseparable" that you claim. It doesn't use the word "never" that you impute to it. It doesn't have the phrase "cannot be separated for any reason by man." In fact, the very same document specifically allows for periodic continence (abstinence) and completely approves of coitus for married people who are infertile. You are missing something major in your interpretation, to be kind about it.

Your technique seems to be to take a word, absolutize it or use a definition unintended by the author, then declare you have caught the Magisterium in a contradiction. This is really not fair, not humble and not scholarly. It distorts the meaning intended by the author, a humble, holy man who by his office and charism was inspired by the Holy Spirit in a way the rest of us are not.

Michael Barberi | 10/26/2014 - 6:27pm


HV 12: Union and Procreation (Inseparable Connection)

This doctrine…is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent in the marriage act.

Once again Tim, you only see what you want to see. The quote in the majority report you refer to comes under the heading: Part I, Fundamental Principles, Chapter I: The Fundamental Values of Marriage. The statement refers to values of marriage; it is not HV 12. In Humanae Vitae 12, the words are "inseparable connection" refers to two so-called meanings of the marital act. The words 'inseparable connection' does not mean "almost indivisible unity" (emphasis on the word 'almost'). HV 12 says the two meanings/significances of the marital act cannot be separated….period, full stop, end of discussion. In other words, the two so-called meanings of the marital act are either inseparable or they are not!! They are either indivisible or they are not!! Something that is "almost indivisible" (referring to values or ends of marriage or two so-called meanings of the marital act) means that they can be divided. What specifically does the word "almost" followed by the words "indivisible unity" possibly mean? An 'almost indivisible unity' clearly does not mean an inseparable connection. You are ignoring the word "almost" and only focusing on the words "indivisible unity". You are grasping at straws and making a ridiculous argument!!

To summarize: The quote in the majority report you chose is called proof texting and this statement does not repeat, support or mean HV 12, in particular that the two meanings/significances of the marital act are inseparable; nor does this statement say that these two meanings of the marital act is divine law (God's Will and Plan). The majority report issued by the Pontifical Birth Control Commission justified and argued that artificial birth control in a marriage under certain circumstances was not immoral and should be morally permitted. 75% of the bishops of the papal birth control commission said that artificial birth control was not in contradiction with tradition, nor was it intrinsically evil.

Let me educate you Mr. O'Leary…if I may. My use of the phrase "moral absolute" is an accurate description of HV 12. I used these words to convey my argument to you. I did not say that HV 12 mentioned these words. In the theological community, a moral absolute means that there are no exceptions to a moral norm. In other words, there are no circumstances, ends or intentions that can morally justify violating the moral norm…such as the moral norm HV 12. Every theologian and bishop understands what a moral absolute is and you do not. Nor do you understand moral theology. You clearly are not familiar with the theological debate that have been raging for the past 46 years regarding HV. If you did, you would not make such a ridiculous accusation that HV 12 is not a moral absolute. HV does not have to use the words 'absolute' Mr. O'Leary…the words 'moral absolute' is an accurate interpretation of the negative injunction HV 12.

Your style of argument is an desperate attempt to prove a ridiculous point you are making or try to prove what I wrote is erroneous. You often put words in my mouth that I never said or wrote. This is an example of that time…once again.

Your only argument about NFP is that HV (and Pius XII) said this is the only licit form of birth control. You are merely restating the teaching….you are not answering my question and argument AGAIN. I will repeat my question to you:

How can all marital sexual acts that are limited to infertile times for a long time or a lifetime by the specific intention and physical acts of the agent, be "open to procreation"? In other words, how can marital sexual acts that are specially intended to be not procreative for a lifetime, be open to procreation? The answer Mr. O'Leary is not: The pope said so. The answer is not: abstinence is morally permissible. Such answers do not answer the question. I have an open mind and will await to be enlightened.

Tim O'Leary | 10/27/2014 - 12:38am

Michael - I know you say, in your characteristic style "Let me educate you, Mr. O'Leary" but you cannot do that by continuously missing the obstinate holes in your own position. Repetition of the same argument, with a ratcheting up of indignation, will not do. The quote I used, and the one you repeat at the top of your latest comment, also contains the phrase "man on his own initiative may not break." Periodic abstinence is not breaking anything. It is in harmony with nature and natural law, and Church law. A pill or a condom that intentionally interferes with (frustrates) the natural connection between coitus and conception does.

You insist above that no one on the Commission ever raised the inseparability of the unitive and procreative. So, here is another quote for you to think about. It is from Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, Secretary General of the Commission, in the Report on the Fourth Session of the Commission (25–28 March 1965). He quotes the French Jesuit Fr. De Lestapis as saying that "every conjugal act fundamentally signifies union and fertility. This fundamental double significance must never be falsified, even if the act is carried out in such a way [use of fertile/infertile periods] that only one of these ends is sought."

Many hundreds of moral theologians and lay people see this as coherent (J. Ford, G. Grisez, K. Wojtyła, J. Smith, C. West, W. May - see the book with multiple authors - "Why HV Was Right: a Reader), so do all the popes since HV was promulgated, so do at least 175/180 Bishops at the last Synod. You just repeat that it is incoherent. For you to make any headway, you will have to discover how all those highly intelligent and educated (and holy) people do find it coherent on its face, and then, after you understand their position, you can say how you disagree. It is not a defeat to say you disagree. It is not a win to say that all your opponents are incoherent.

Also, the Commission agreed with Noonan that all Church documents, before this recent controversy, all historical evidence, from all times and places and all Councils and papal pronouncements, indicate an unwavering condemnation of contraception as immoral. This unanimity seems to be an application of the sensus fidelium. So, if you cannot accept the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative, you should know you are disagreeing with the sensus fidelium of all previous centuries, even if that unanimity has broken down today.

I know many people do not accept HV. But, there have been many converts and reverts to the Church because of the power of the argument in HV. For some light relief, here is a humorous one: "Oh No, Not Humanae Vitae!!!"

Michael Barberi | 10/27/2014 - 7:59pm


Married couples who use periodic continence (PC) as a method to regulate fertility specially intend to separate the so-called unitive and procreative dimensions/meanings/significances of the marital act. You cannot intentionally limit "every" marital sexual act to infertile times for a long time or a lifetime and demonstrate how such acts are "open to procreation". By merely asserting that the Church/magisterium or HV morally permits PC does not demonstrate that every marital sexual act in PC is "open to procreation". When all marital acts are not procreative by intention and brought about by physical acts of the agents, as in PC, the so-called unitive and procreative meanings/significances are separated.

Your claims that "PC is not breaking anything" is a ridiculous argument without substantiation. As mentioned, PC separates the two so-called meanings of the marital and you cannot demonstrate how such acts are open to procreation. When you assert that the pill or condom intentionally interferes with the natural connection between coitus and conception, I say that both PC and artificial birth control do the same thing. Either PC and artificial birth control violate HV 12 or they do not. When I box you into a corner, such as during the last few exchanges over the words "almost indivisible unity", you do not address my arguments, but merely move on to argue about something else.

Your quotation of De Lestapis that "every conjugal act fundamentally signifies union and fertility"…and "this fundamental double significance must never be falsified, even if the act is carried out in such as easy (use of fertile/infertile periods) that only one if these ends is sought"….makes my point. These words are NOT HV 12. The word "falsify" does not mean that the two so-called two meanings of the marital act cannot be separated by man…and the second quote admits that in PC only one end is sought (not procreation!!!). Thus, by De Lestapis own words, he says that in PC the unitive and procreative dimensions/meanings/significances of the marital act have only one of these so-called meanings!!! PC separates these two meanings Mr. O'Leary!@! You are grasping at straws and are stretching the truth. You do this every time you are boxed into a corner.

To summarize: De Lestapis's statements do not assert nor do they recommend that the unitive and procreative meanings/significances of the marital act cannot be separated by man…nor do they say that this is Divine Law (God's plan or Will). You see what you want to see Mr. O'Leary.

I repeat: no pope, theologian or bishop has written or asserted as a teaching an inseparability principle (e.g., HV 12) before 1960 other than Bishop Karol Wojtyla in his 1960 book "Love and Responsibility". An inseparability principle is not found in any of the papal birth control documents, in particular the majority and minority reports. Thus, HV 12 was never a constant teaching of the Church.

As for those theologians and bishops who agree with HV, I discuss all the major arguments in support of HV in my essay which is soon to be published. More importantly, I deal with the 4 major principles of HV that underpin the teaching. Mr. O'Leary, you do not have to agree with me. However, your arguments fail to be persuasive. Most informed Catholics, most theologians, many bishops and a significant percentage of priests believe HV should be responsibility reformed. I focus on the facts, principles and underlying philosophies that are used by the magisterium in support of demonstrate how these underlying principles, philosophies, et al, do not ring true theologically or to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of Catholics.

You claim that the Church has historically taught that sexual intercourse in marriage must have as its purpose 'procreation' is not the issue. The issue is that HV did not use Genesis 38 and the Onan story as its justification (a highly controversial teaching), nor did HV specially explain how the method of natural law condemns the separation of two so-called meanings of the marital act regardless of the reasons or circumstances, nor did HV explain how HV 12 is God's procreative plan for all of humanity. Paul VI may not have wanted to approve the pill for birth control, 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.

I think we have reached another point in our constant debate Tim where further exchanges will not be productive. I will leave those who follow our argument to decide for themselves where the truth lies.

Tim O'Leary | 10/28/2014 - 12:22am

Mr. Barberi - you conveniently ignored my question regarding sensus fidelium, preferring repetition of the same argument again and again, when it is clear your argument fails to persuade. You seem to think passive abstinence is inseparably connected to active interference, as if it were an almost indivisible unity. Just because I refuse to be as repetitive with my arguments as you does not mean I have given up or am in a box. I look forward to your article and seeing the reception it receives.

Michael Barberi | 10/28/2014 - 7:35pm


We need to stop our unproductive exchanges for now because they are going nowhere. I have no idea what you are talking about when you claim I have not answered your question about the sensus fidelium. First, such a question has nothing to do with the issues we have been discussing. Second, you are constantly moving away from the points in our argument and bringing up one issue after another to deflect from answering my questions or answering my rebuttals to your assertions. That is why our exchanges go around in circles.

The truth is that no one who disagrees with a teaching of the magisterium cannot possibly put forth any argument that is persuade to you. So, your claim that my arguments are not persuasive is not a big surprise to me. This is blatantly clear to the many bloggers who debate with you. You clearly do not like it when I make the stronger argument, even in your illusion that you are winning the so-called debate. People who follow our arguments are wise enough to determine by themselves where the truth lies.

You clearly do not understand the teaching of HV especially when you say to me "you seem to think that passive abstinence is inseparably connected to active interference, as if it were an almost indivisible unity". Frankly, I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. Nevertheless, I have no issue with abstinence as I have said to you many times. However, you have an huge problem is seeing and admitting that PC separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act…as I have explained to you in more ways than one….many, many times.

As to my essay, the reception that it will receive is not the point. It will receive a good reception by the great majority of open minded theological scholars, clergy and informed Catholics. It will not receive a good reception by the minority of traditionalist theologians, clergy and informed Catholics who support every teaching of the magisterium. What is most important is this: My essay will become part of the worldwide historical theological record for the review and reflection of current and future scholars. This is no small task for someone who does not have a Ph.D in theology.

Since you think you know everything, why don't you write an article yourself and try to get it published in a respected Catholic theological journal? Trust me, if you send them the type of nonsense you blog to me about it will never see the light of day.

Enough for now Mr. O'Leary. God bless.

Tim O'Leary | 10/28/2014 - 8:24pm

Answered the substance above. Don't worry about not having a doctorate. It might go to your head. Some people will forget to address you as doctor in any case. But, if you want to end the conversation, you can take the lead.

Michael Barberi | 10/29/2014 - 7:27pm


Your snide remarks are part of your style of argument and are insulting to most people who blog with you. You may think you answered the substance of my comments, but you are deceiving yourself.

As I said, further exchanges with you for now will not be productive. So we should end it.

Tim O'Leary | 10/30/2014 - 10:40am

Michael - you are forever misinterpreting what I say. I was dryly referencing your insistence on calling me Mr. O'Leary when you know I am a medical doctor. Not that I mind very much, but it seemed ironic when you brought up the PhD deficit. peace and God Bless.

Michael Barberi | 10/30/2014 - 5:47pm


My calling you Tim and sometimes Mr. O'Leary is being respectful. The reference to my PhD deficit had to do with the fact that it was not a small task for me to get something published in a prominent Catholic theological journal, as only about 5% of manuscripts by theologians with PhDs in theology have their works accepted for publication. I am humbled by it and thank God for his blessings. You clearly misunderstood and misinterpreted what I said. This is not a surprise to me or to the many bloggers who debate with you or follow our arguments.

Our exchanges have once again become unproductive. Let's end them for now. God bless.

Tim O'Leary | 10/20/2014 - 7:16pm

I do not know what the Synod will determine in 2015 but I am confident of two things: we will be surprised and it will be faithful to the Church's teaching. The Holy Spirit is in charge. Recall that Humanae Vitae was a sort of middle ground between the Majority Report and the Minority report, using the style and many of the arguments of the Committee (and almost none of the Minority report) to allow NFP (periodic continence within marriage). It seems to me the Holy Spirit will allow man the freedom to use new arguments for new challenges and even new steps but hold the line on anything that will introduce error. Here is an interesting article on this from the Traditionalist side:

I am surprised not to find an article on the beatification of Pope Paul VI on America? Especially since Pope Francis seems to have so much respect for this holy man. Moreover, the synod has just given a ringing endorsement of his teaching in Humanae Vitae - >97% for the Relatio's para. 18 had 175 positive votes (placet) and 5 opposed (non placet). A huge majority, by any standards. Here is a news report from the Vatican.

One also has to thank Blessed Pope Paul VI for the many converts to the Church motivated by his encyclical. Scott and Kimberly Hahn converted from Protestantism and here is a link to one from an atheist (Jennifer Fulwiler)

Michael Barberi | 10/19/2014 - 7:29pm

Well, at least Pope Francis would like to see a 2/3rds majority on such issues facing the family. Paul VI had a 75% majority of his bishops in favor of contraception in a marriage for good reasons, but choose to say in HV 6 that he did not accept the majority report conclusions because there was not complete agreement among the members (e.g., there was not a 100% agreement among the members/bishops of the Pontifical Birth Control members). In contradiction, With respect to Humanae Vitae, Paul VI choose to accept the philosophy and theology of one man, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, in particular his inseparability principle that was never mentioned by any pope, bishop or theologian before 1960 when it appeared in Wojtyla's 1960 book "Love and Responsibility". This is a far cry from a 67%, 75% or 100% majority vote of bishops.

We will have to wait until late 2015 to find out what Pope Francis will do with the final report of the Synod on the Family. My predication is that we will see the ban lifted on the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Reception for the divorced and remarried, as well as some other pastoral changes governing the other issues under consideration.

Tim O'Leary | 10/19/2014 - 2:33pm

Why would Gerald O'Connell assume that a vote for more study was a vote in favor of some preordained outcome? Or, why would he assume that a vote in one direction was a vote for Pope Francis? The Pope may well have not made his mind up on what exactly he will decide. Moreover, Pope Francis urged all the bishops to speak their mind. Didn't he mean it? Surely he wants to be informed fully before he prays for the Holy Spirit to protect him from making an error, even if a pastoral one. Blessed Pope Paul VI had a majority advise him and then, after prayer and inspiration by the Holy Spirit, he wrote HV the way he did. This article is a very political way of looking at the synod, as if these things could be decided by majority vote. The Catholic Church is not the Anglican Church. We are not orphans. The Holy Spirit is in charge, no man is.

From his remarkable final speech, I note two things in two quotes: 1) he thanked the Bishops for expressing themselves as the Holy Spirit moved them, and 2) he noted they have a year of spiritual discernment to determine what should be done.

1) "Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners."

2"Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families."

Gene Van Son | 10/19/2014 - 12:14pm

It's called 'spin.' There are subtle but obvious distinctions in how Mr. O'Connell treats this story and how it is treated over at NCR. When I was in j-school (many, many years ago), we were taught that objectivity in reporting was the golden rule. Today j-schools teach that the reporter's role is one of helping to improve society. This only shows how liberals/progressives have managed to 'transform' education in the U.S.

Timothy Scott | 10/18/2014 - 7:58pm

Why do you keep saying "totally opposed"? They voted against a proposition; there are all kinds of motives. Perhaps they found it too restrictive rather than too permissive.