Dear Ross Douthat: Don’t be so worried about the church

Ross Douthat at the ‘Civility in America Part 1: Religion’ event held at The Sheen Center in New York, Dec. 13. (Photo: America/Antonio DeLoera-Brust)Ross Douthat at the ‘Civility in America Part 1: Religion’ event held at The Sheen Center in New York, Dec. 13. (Photo: America/Antonio DeLoera-Brust)

In Ross Douthat’s telling, the Catholic Church is in existential peril. A war raging between liberal and conservative factions within the magisterium could lead to the unraveling of the 2,000-year-old institution.

The proximate cause is a disagreement over whether divorced and remarried Catholics may be readmitted to Communion without first getting an annulment. In To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, the New York Times columnist writes that there is a deeper question, however, “about the authority of Scripture generally, and whether the church’s past teachings on any moral issue can be considered permanently reliable, or whether all things Catholic are subject to Holy Spirit-driven change.” (Father Thomas Rausch’s review of the book can be found here.)

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The permanence and constancy Douthat invokes to prove that the church’s teachings cannot be changed are also why she cannot be defeated.

Pope Francis’ goal of jettisoning legalistic interpretations of age-old strictures in favor of a more merciful, pastoral approach is being pursued, Douthat says, in the face of tenacious opposition from within the College of Cardinals and the larger body of Catholic faithful. Since many feel it is impossible for the church to openly flout her own doctrine on the nature of marriage, he calls this a “full-scale theological crisis” that may before long cause a rupture in the church.

But his apocalyptic outlook is misplaced. The permanence and constancy he invokes to prove that the church’s teachings cannot be changed are also why she cannot be defeated.

Douthat brings a shrewd political observer’s eye to his discussion of the recent synods on the family. A liberal cabal, he writes, under marching orders of Pope Francis, machinated to loosen the church’s ban on the remarried receiving the Eucharist. They were rightly rebuffed by a critical mass of more tradition-minded cardinals, so the pope opened a loophole himself, via ambiguous language in “Amoris Laetitia,” which some onlookers have interpreted to mean that anyone who asks can and should be readmitted to Communion.

The book highlights two earlier instances when the church flirted with heresy. In one, “stubborn bishops and laypeople” beat back the Arian view that Jesus was less than fully divine. In the other, the Vatican crushed Jansenism, a philosophy holding that the human soul is utterly corrupt. In the first example, the more orthodox view triumphed against a group pushing a “common sense alternative” to a seemingly intractable mystery. (How can someone be at once God and man?) But in the second debate, the losers were the traditionalist camp, the old guard resisting a Jesuit movement they saw taking theology in a vacuous, feel-good direction.

Douthat wishes to decipher which will provide the template for the post-Pope Francis era. He analyzes the two modern factions’ strengths and weaknesses and games out scenarios based on questions such as how long the current pontiff will live and how many cardinals he will therefore be able to appoint.

Either way, he concludes, Pope Francis has put the church on a path to possible destruction. If he is succeeded by an orthodox pope who tries to turn back these efforts, it will spark among Francis’ followers “a series of rebellions that would leave Catholic institutions broken and bankrupt.” Meanwhile, if we continue in the direction pushed by Francis, “conservative resisters, like similarly situated believers in certain Protestant denominations, [will] either depart for some schismatic alternative or remain as an unhappy church-within-the-church.”

In Douthat’s view, the “resilience” of the church’s teaching on divorce, “its striking continuity from the first century to the twentieth, is also a study in what makes Catholicism’s claim to a unique authority seem plausible to many people, even in a disenchanted age.” I admit I am sympathetic to that argument. It is similar to the one that saved me from the siren’s call of secularism.

Like many—far too many—poorly catechized cradle Catholics, the drift began immediately upon my leaving home. I went away to college and stopped attending Mass. Precepts of the faith that I had never before questioned suddenly felt absurd, and I ceased identifying as a Christian. Much of what I saw happening around me seemed morally troubling, but without a story about good and evil in which to ground a worldview—a story about humanity’s longing for the first and its history of settling for the second nonetheless—I was helpless to say why.

I came to understand that the Holy Spirit is at work in the church, which possesses the keys to heaven and thus to the peace I sought.

Humanae Vitae” brought me home. Its anticipation of the consequences of the birth control pill, particularly its erosion of the “reverence” due women by men, startlingly prefigured the toxic sexual culture that 50 years later exerted a relentless pull on my life. As Elizabeth Anscombe wrote, it is silliness to think the only arguments for living chastely are utilitarian. Yet I was gripped by the conviction that, in Anscombe’s words, “If Christian standards of chastity were widely observed”—and Christian teachings in other areas, as well—“the world would be enormously much happier.”

I came to understand that the Holy Spirit is at work in the church, which possesses the keys to heaven and thus to the peace I sought.

“There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years,” G. K. Chesterton wrote in Why I Am a Catholic. “Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.”

Chesterton answered the implicit question in the title of that essay with four words: that Catholicism is true.

History suggests the church is stronger than Douthat thinks. For 2,000 years it has endured.

Douthat writes, “Catholicism cannot both be a ship of Theseus in which every single part can be replaced and also be the church founded by Jesus Christ, the embodiment of a perfect and eternal Godhood.” That Catholicism is true is why he is sure the church will break apart or wither away rather than let a pope change a core doctrine on marriage. And it is how I know he is wrong to be afraid.

History suggests the church is stronger than he thinks. For 2,000 years it has endured. Though the Holy See was often attended by all manner of appalling corruption and lechery, the church survived. Through invasion and persecution, schism and plague, it survived. Despite Arianism and Jansenism, and a Jesuit order mocked by Blaise Pascal for “telling men that they may frequent brothels so long as they have some vague intention of converting the fallen women therein” (and this was the winning side in that controversy!), it survived. Is this finally the crisis that will bring down what Archbishop Michael Sheehan in Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine called “a living miracle of God”?

Catholics need not cast about for an answer. “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” said Jesus, “and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

We already know how the story ends: with Christ victorious. If any of Douthat’s worst fears come to pass, it will be because something in his conception of what Catholic doctrine requires is mistaken—or because everything we think we know about God’s power on earth is false.

“Often have her children heard the demons’ exultant cry that, at last, she was whelmed in the wave of death,” Archbishop Sheehan said of the church. “But the tempest passed, and day broke anew, and the eyes of man beheld her still firmly fixed as of old on the rock of Peter, triumphant amid the wreckage of her enemies.”

Douthat should look to the pope of his childhood and take comfort in the words for which St. John Paul II was known: Be not afraid. Do not be afraid.

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J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

The author said Chesterton answered the implicit question in the title of that essay with four words:

that Catholicism is true.

I occasionally go to a Latin Mass near us. One of the lines in the Latin during the Mass is

the one true Church

This is not anywhere I ever heard in the English Mass.

But then reading what a lot of Catholics seem to be saying is that the modern Church is more like "Anything Goes." It depends on how one understands scripture.

The Pope just said there is no such thing as hell. So literally "Anything Goes!" But the vatican denies he said it. Or did he and they are covering for him.

Michael Barberi
6 months 3 weeks ago

I agree that the Catholic Church will survive through our trouble times just as it has for the past 2,000 years. While I do not embrace Douthat's extreme criticism and speculation, I do think he raises important points.

First, as St. JP II has saId: we live in a divided Church and in a crisis in truth. This is not new. History tells us that the Church has survived many schisms, 3 popes that claimed to be the one true pope, and the Reformation. We will move on from our current moment, guided by the Holy Spirit, and become a more merciful, welcoming and loving Church.

Second, Amoris Laetitia (AL) did not change doctrine. As Cardinal Schoenborn said in paraphrase, AL changed nothing but it also changed everything. For the first time, the pastoral application of doctrine did change by making more explicit what has been true for centuries, namely, the role of an informed conscience, discernment, mercy and forgiveness for those in impossible circumstances who wish to repent, be reconciled before God and receive his body and blood in the Eucharist. AL is pastoral pathway, not a "get-out-of-marriage card" for everyone remarried. Such a comment reflects an ignorance of AL as well as the difficulty of interpreting Scripture. For example, there is a long history of theological disagreement over Matthew's exception clause, as well as Pauline exceptions. If anyone took the time to read and understand the arguments, one would not be so 'absolutely certain' what Christ, Matthew or Paul meant. As for the argument that the doctrine on marriage has been taught as truth for centuries, please remember that while many teachings were taught as truth for centuries (by popes and councils), many of these teachings were eventually reformed (e.g,, usury, slavery, freedom of religion).

Third, Douthat's view that Pope Francis is causing the Catholic Church to lose its moral bearings, violate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Laws of the Church, is not intellectually persuasive to most Catholics. Loving God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself remains the best moral compass to eternal life.

Lisa Weber
6 months 3 weeks ago

Interesting that Humanae Vitae brought the author back to the Catholic Church, but it has driven many others away. I think it is the principal reason I was away from the church for 40 years.

Barry Fitzpatrick
6 months 3 weeks ago

I am not among those who feel that Douthat raises some valid points. He compares the Pope to Trump. And we are to take him seriously? I think not. Douthat’s recent book is peppered with inaccuracies, analyses that stretch credulity, and a world view grounded in centuries long passed. His view of the faith is not one of a living and developing organism, rather it is a narrow -minded, compliance - driven, and moribund adherence to dogma. Honestly, he no longer deserves the platform he is given as he has now resorted to petty and questionable arguments to promote his thesis of doom for the Francis - led Church. Douthat is fine with a smaller, nostalgia - laden Church which holds fast to the truth according to Douthat. This isn’t a debate, this is grievance airing by a writer who simply fails to read the Gospel as a transformative document. I know what he’s afraid of. So, let’s play along and stop listening to him.

Harvey Milk, MD
6 months 3 weeks ago

Brilliant ending, Stephanie! At home we have the music CD album of Pope John Paul II. On it he states in many languages: be not afraid. I love how you closed the article by using that very phrase

As for Douhat, et al..... big yawn. I have been hearing of “schism” for > 50 years. And yet here we have a wonderful Pope who is the only global leader of us all. The only thing that has changed for the worse is the creation of the internet. Now everyone has a spotlight to scream. It would be more profitable if they showed humility. But Pride is the mother of all sins which brings us to the hate online

We shall know them by their fruits. There are many beautiful fruits in our city including our wonderful parish

Blessed Good Friday to all

Pax

Bill Niermeyer
6 months 3 weeks ago

The Christian Church shall always prevail. We have Jesus to thank for that. The form will definitely change just like it has throughout the centuries.

GONZALO PALACIOS
6 months 3 weeks ago

"Douthat should look to the pope:" Ms. Slade's excellent article should have ended there, no need to go back to the pope of his childhood, his adolescence, or middle age. Our Lord, not the popes. is the source of our Faith, clearly revealed from His Cross when He assured the man next to him that he was already in Paradise.
Regarding the divisions and fears that Humanae Vitae has inflicted and continues to do so, please read the following comment:
PAUL VI AND HUMANAE VITAE by Gonzalo T. Palacios, PhD
“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil…Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.
Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal… ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come’ (Luke 17:1)” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2284-2287.

Avoiding conception is not birth control. If conception has been avoided, no human being exists in utero beginning life whose birth may be controlled. Birth control(s) apply only to the living, i.e., from conception to death. No conception, no birth nor death.
Blessed Pope Paul VI’s controversial and divisive encyclical Humanae Vitae (Rome, July 25, 1968) will soon celebrate its golden anniversary. Since last year when Pope Francis created a commission to do a “historical review” of this document, many articles, books, and symposia have begun the task assigned to the Commission, that of revising the theological and philosophical opinions expressed in the late Pope’s Letter on birth control.
It is with profound respect and allegiance to the authority entrusted by Our Lord to His Church that I write these lines, attempting to clarify one of many misunderstandings contained in the encyclical. May Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words guide me and my readers in this effort:
“A small mistake in beginning is a big one in the end, according to the
Philosopher in the first book of On the Heavens and the Earth.”
Authors citing these introductory words of Aquinas’ essay, On Being and Essence, frequently stop with this sentence. However, given the numerous controversies that preceded and followed the publication of Humanae Vitae, it behooves us to keep in mind Aquinas’ complete thought: “Thus, to avoid making mistakes out of ignorance of them, and to become familiar with the difficulties they entail, we must point out what is signified by the words being and essence. And how they are found in diverse things, and how they are related to the logical intentions.”
SMALL MISTAKE 1, THE TITLE.
ENCYCLICAL LETTER
HUMANAE VITAE
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
PAUL VI
TO HIS VENERABLE BROTHERS
THE PATRIARCHS, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS
AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE,
TO THE CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE WHOLE CATHOLIC WORLD AND TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL.
ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH

The title and subtitle of Pope Paul VI’s divisive Letter, “Humanae Vitae” and “On the Regulation of Birth” manifest a not so “small mistake”: equivocating the terms “conception” and “birth”. Given its location at the opening of the document, it is evident that this parvus error was made deliberately. In the English version, the title, “About Human Life,” is contradicted by its sub-title, “On the Regulation of Birth.” Pope Paul VI’s intentions are clear in the original Latin which, while announcing an Encyclical Letter “about human life”, nonetheless defines its goal: “about ordering correctly the propagation of human offspring”.
If the Pope was presenting his personal opinions on “the transmission of human life” (HV, opening words), the sub-title should assert such views. Instead, it announces the saintly pontiff’s real intentions, i.e., to ban various means of preventing conception, not birth, and to declare such methods immoral and unnatural. It becomes evident that the Encyclical has nothing to do with human life and everything to do with the Church’s imperfect teachings on contemporary birth control systems (contradicting Genesis 1:24-28). This small mistake published on July 1968 became a big one, in fact, it became a scandal, dividing the faithful into those who accepted Humanae Vitae as “definitive teaching” from the Pope (which it was not), and those who did not (and thereby were led to do evil as erroneously defined in the papal directive).
The 2018 attack by five Dominican monks against one of their own, Father Adriano Oliva, OP exemplifies the scandalous nature of Humanae Vitae:
“Oliva’s astounding claim has nothing to do with Aquinas, the Catechism of Trent or Vatican II. Rather, it follows straight from his misinterpretation of Aquinas on marriage, a misreading that continues in his use of various magisterial texts. He even appeals to Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (paragraphs 8-10) to argue that the exercise of sexuality by a legitimately married couple is separated from the necessity to pro-create. In other words, Pope Paul VI teaches that sex need not have anything to do with babies. We find this claim to be simply outrageous.” [in Aquinas & Homosexuality | Various | First Things].
I cannot pass judgement on Amours, Dr. Oliva’s latest theological work, but his academic credentials and his previous publications render “outrageous” the emotional criticisms by his confreres (“Oliva’s astounding claim has nothing to do with Aquinas”). Oliva’s theology is obfuscated by the dismissal of what was to be the essence of Blessed Paul VI’s Letter (i.e., the life of the Mystical Body, not that of our carnal parents). The introduction of extraneous elements in the five Dominicans’ study such as a pre-sacramental definition of marriage, labeling as “misinterpretations” more up-to-date readings of Aquinas’ texts, and simplistically judging opinions other than their own as “ Yet this is clearly absurd,” invalidate their criticism of Fr. Oliva’s book, Amours.
One more “Small Mistake.”
As to whether or not Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae teaches that “sex need not have anything to do with babies,” we should remember what this controversial Pontiff asserted when he promulgated Gaudium et Spes in 1965:
“they [married couples] should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God, the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty [cooperating with God’s love] with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.” (#50)
Forty years later, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI explained that sharing in “the creative power and fatherhood of God,” refers NOT to the reproduction of the flesh, but to the Incarnation of Love: Jesus is Life (Ph 1:21, Col 3:4, John 11:25, Ga 2:20). Jesus and Our Blessed Mother revealed to us that the transmission of human life implies an intimate, loving relationship with Our Father. All humans inherited that Love from the Virgin Mother and her Divine Lover (“Behold your mother”); what we do with that Love, defines Who (sic) we are. Our vocation, Jesus told us, is to be perfect as Our Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5: 48).
Why was Humanae Vitae written? What forces played a role in Paul VI’s decision to publish such a divisive document? To understand those forces and how they came together in the Pope’s mind, historians and theologians will need a more accurate psychological profile of this man. Inexplicably, Blessed Paul VI’s forthcoming canonization does not negate his dubious political experience, his family’s Machiavellian heritage, his well-publicized homosexual peccadillos, nor his protection of the corrupt founder of the Legionnaires of Christ. Paul VI’s personal history clearly shows that Humanae Vitae was not a manifestation of his spiritual life but the result of temporal currents, that end up in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “scandal.”
Author's Bio
Dr. Gonzalo T. Palacios, studied architecture at the Catholic University of America and at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He studied philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome where he obtained a Licentiate in philosophy (PhL). He obtained his PhD also in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Dr. Palacios lives in Maryland with his wife; he may be contacted at gpgpalacios@gmail.com .
Most recent work: Mary the Unwed Mother of God, to be perfect is to have changed often, J. H. Newman. June 2017. www.xulonpress.com

GONZALO PALACIOS
6 months 3 weeks ago

"Douthat should look to the pope:" Ms. Slade's excellent article should have ended there, no need to go back to the pope of his childhood, his adolescence, or middle age. Our Lord, not the popes. is the source of our Faith, clearly revealed from His Cross when He assured the man next to him that he was already in Paradise.
Regarding the divisions and fears that Humanae Vitae has inflicted and continues to do so, please read the following comment:
PAUL VI AND HUMANAE VITAE by Gonzalo T. Palacios, PhD
“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil…Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.
Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal… ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come’ (Luke 17:1)” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2284-2287.

Avoiding conception is not birth control. If conception has been avoided, no human being exists in utero beginning life whose birth may be controlled. Birth control(s) apply only to the living, i.e., from conception to death. No conception, no birth nor death.
Blessed Pope Paul VI’s controversial and divisive encyclical Humanae Vitae (Rome, July 25, 1968) will soon celebrate its golden anniversary. Since last year when Pope Francis created a commission to do a “historical review” of this document, many articles, books, and symposia have begun the task assigned to the Commission, that of revising the theological and philosophical opinions expressed in the late Pope’s Letter on birth control.
It is with profound respect and allegiance to the authority entrusted by Our Lord to His Church that I write these lines, attempting to clarify one of many misunderstandings contained in the encyclical. May Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words guide me and my readers in this effort:
“A small mistake in beginning is a big one in the end, according to the
Philosopher in the first book of On the Heavens and the Earth.”
Authors citing these introductory words of Aquinas’ essay, On Being and Essence, frequently stop with this sentence. However, given the numerous controversies that preceded and followed the publication of Humanae Vitae, it behooves us to keep in mind Aquinas’ complete thought: “Thus, to avoid making mistakes out of ignorance of them, and to become familiar with the difficulties they entail, we must point out what is signified by the words being and essence. And how they are found in diverse things, and how they are related to the logical intentions.”
SMALL MISTAKE 1, THE TITLE.
ENCYCLICAL LETTER
HUMANAE VITAE
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
PAUL VI
TO HIS VENERABLE BROTHERS
THE PATRIARCHS, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS
AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE,
TO THE CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE WHOLE CATHOLIC WORLD AND TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL.
ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH

The title and subtitle of Pope Paul VI’s divisive Letter, “Humanae Vitae” and “On the Regulation of Birth” manifest a not so “small mistake”: equivocating the terms “conception” and “birth”. Given its location at the opening of the document, it is evident that this parvus error was made deliberately. In the English version, the title, “About Human Life,” is contradicted by its sub-title, “On the Regulation of Birth.” Pope Paul VI’s intentions are clear in the original Latin which, while announcing an Encyclical Letter “about human life”, nonetheless defines its goal: “about ordering correctly the propagation of human offspring”.
If the Pope was presenting his personal opinions on “the transmission of human life” (HV, opening words), the sub-title should assert such views. Instead, it announces the saintly pontiff’s real intentions, i.e., to ban various means of preventing conception, not birth, and to declare such methods immoral and unnatural. It becomes evident that the Encyclical has nothing to do with human life and everything to do with the Church’s imperfect teachings on contemporary birth control systems (contradicting Genesis 1:24-28). This small mistake published on July 1968 became a big one, in fact, it became a scandal, dividing the faithful into those who accepted Humanae Vitae as “definitive teaching” from the Pope (which it was not), and those who did not (and thereby were led to do evil as erroneously defined in the papal directive).
The 2018 attack by five Dominican monks against one of their own, Father Adriano Oliva, OP exemplifies the scandalous nature of Humanae Vitae:
“Oliva’s astounding claim has nothing to do with Aquinas, the Catechism of Trent or Vatican II. Rather, it follows straight from his misinterpretation of Aquinas on marriage, a misreading that continues in his use of various magisterial texts. He even appeals to Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (paragraphs 8-10) to argue that the exercise of sexuality by a legitimately married couple is separated from the necessity to pro-create. In other words, Pope Paul VI teaches that sex need not have anything to do with babies. We find this claim to be simply outrageous.” [in Aquinas & Homosexuality | Various | First Things].
I cannot pass judgement on Amours, Dr. Oliva’s latest theological work, but his academic credentials and his previous publications render “outrageous” the emotional criticisms by his confreres (“Oliva’s astounding claim has nothing to do with Aquinas”). Oliva’s theology is obfuscated by the dismissal of what was to be the essence of Blessed Paul VI’s Letter (i.e., the life of the Mystical Body, not that of our carnal parents). The introduction of extraneous elements in the five Dominicans’ study such as a pre-sacramental definition of marriage, labeling as “misinterpretations” more up-to-date readings of Aquinas’ texts, and simplistically judging opinions other than their own as “ Yet this is clearly absurd,” invalidate their criticism of Fr. Oliva’s book, Amours.
One more “Small Mistake.”
As to whether or not Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae teaches that “sex need not have anything to do with babies,” we should remember what this controversial Pontiff asserted when he promulgated Gaudium et Spes in 1965:
“they [married couples] should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God, the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty [cooperating with God’s love] with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.” (#50)
Forty years later, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI explained that sharing in “the creative power and fatherhood of God,” refers NOT to the reproduction of the flesh, but to the Incarnation of Love: Jesus is Life (Ph 1:21, Col 3:4, John 11:25, Ga 2:20). Jesus and Our Blessed Mother revealed to us that the transmission of human life implies an intimate, loving relationship with Our Father. All humans inherited that Love from the Virgin Mother and her Divine Lover (“Behold your mother”); what we do with that Love, defines Who (sic) we are. Our vocation, Jesus told us, is to be perfect as Our Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5: 48).
Why was Humanae Vitae written? What forces played a role in Paul VI’s decision to publish such a divisive document? To understand those forces and how they came together in the Pope’s mind, historians and theologians will need a more accurate psychological profile of this man. Inexplicably, Blessed Paul VI’s forthcoming canonization does not negate his dubious political experience, his family’s Machiavellian heritage, his well-publicized homosexual peccadillos, nor his protection of the corrupt founder of the Legionnaires of Christ. Paul VI’s personal history clearly shows that Humanae Vitae was not a manifestation of his spiritual life but the result of temporal currents, that end up in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “scandal.”
Author's Bio
Dr. Gonzalo T. Palacios, studied architecture at the Catholic University of America and at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He studied philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome where he obtained a Licentiate in philosophy (PhL). He obtained his PhD also in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Dr. Palacios lives in Maryland with his wife; he may be contacted at gpgpalacios@gmail.com .
Most recent work: Mary the Unwed Mother of God, to be perfect is to have changed often, J. H. Newman. June 2017. www.xulonpress.com

Thomas Farrelly
6 months 3 weeks ago

I don't doubt that the Roman Catholic Church will survive in some form, but it may become a less and less important force in the world. That certainly has been its history. It "lost" the Orthodox around the 11th century. It "lost" much of Northern Europe in the 16th. It is currently losing influence in both Europe and the US, and is suffering mass defections in Latin America.
A great deal of these losses is due to incompetence, mismanagement, and corruption, and a failure to update both teachings and liturgy. As a sacerdotal Church with a disastrous decline in priestly vocations, and passive acceptance of this by the Papacy, it will be barely recognizable fifty years from now. And by the way, the idea that Humanae Vitae has attracted people to the Church is the worst kind of wishful thinking.

Terence Dunn
6 months 2 weeks ago

The Gospel of Matthew outlines, to me, one of the most approachable and "livable" versions of what it means to be Christian--that is, what it means to be Catholic. Especially relevant to the questions of divorce and whether those who have not received annulment is the Sermon on the Mount, spanning Chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew.

In it, Jesus reminds us of the sanctity of marriage and that unlawfully violating that sanctity can lead both former spouses into sin. But shortly thereafter, He admonishes us not to judge one another, and that we should be concerned first with our own sinfulness rather than disapproving of others for theirs.

Now I realize we are also called by numerous other passages and traditions to lead one another away from sin, and we are instructed it is inappropriate to receive the Eucharist when we have grave sin on our souls. But, the judgement of sin is God's and His alone, and we are called to celebrate the Eucharist as a visible means to invite God into our hearts and lives. The instruction to abstain is a human rule that reflects tradition but may not be God's intent, which is unknowable to us. And presuming to honor human rules above God's laws is itself a sin, a willful turning away from God.

Francis' statements are repeatedly misrepresented. His intent is to counter CENTURIES of "faith" that really had more to do with concentrating and maintaining secular power in the church by intimidating and controlling humans (Catholic, Christian, or otherwise) and less about honoring God and bringing us to his Grace and eternal peace. Francis is doing exactly what his Society of Jesus framework calls him to do: meeting sinners where we are, accepting and loving them unconditionally, guarding and uplifting their dignity as the highest creation of God, and leading them to Him.

BTW: Francis has NOT said "hell does not exist." Rather, he has (rightly) stated that, in essence, hell is the willful, self-inflicted and eternal separation from God, who is the sole source of love and peace. What hell looks like, nobody can really say, nor will it necessarily be the same for each person. Just as what your brain interprets as "green" may in fact not look exactly like what "green" is in my brain. Rather than argue over what we cannot really know, and rather than directly disobey Our Lord, perhaps we should be less concerned about others' states of sinfulness and instead do our best to help them achieve Heaven.

James Haraldson
6 months 2 weeks ago

The reason the gates of hell will not prevail is because there are enough Catholics who, in responding to the Holy Spirit, resist the idiocy that would characterize the authentic mercy of immutable moral absolutes as "legalistic" while pursuing a corrupt phony false "mercy" as an alternative to God's gift of truth, a false mercy that has no mercy for the victims of sin.

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 Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa checks out the name badge of Nathanael Lamataki, a youth delegate from the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Souraphiel highlighted the role globalization plays in connecting young people in unjust ways.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 18, 2018
The pope said he would visit North Korea “if an official invitation arrives.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 18, 2018
Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, comforts a woman while distributing Communion during Mass on Oct. 15 with the Colectivo Solecito near Veracruz, Mexico. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, University of Notre Dame)
The women seeking justice for vanished loved ones in Veracruz, Mexico, won the Notre Dame award for human rights. University President John I. Jenkins co-celebrated a Mass near the unmarked graves of drug war victims.
Jan-Albert HootsenOctober 18, 2018
Salvadorans widely celebrated St. Romero as the Central American country's first saint. St. Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in March 1980 and remains a reviled figure for some on the political right.