Fourteen Married Couples Among 253 Participants at Synod on the Family

The Vatican has published the names of the 253 persons who will participate at the Synod of Bishops on the Family, October 5-19. Among them are cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious, 14 married couples and representatives of the other Christian churches.

Since this is an Extraordinary General Assembly of the synod—only the third of its kind since Paul VI established the synod as an organ of collegiality in the wake of the Second Vatican Council—the rules for participation are somewhat different from that of an ordinary synod, and the number of participants less.

Advertisement

According to those rules all bishops’ conferences should be represented by their president but, as the list released by the Vatican reveals, at least 7 of the 114 conferences will be represented by their vice-presidents. Ireland is a case in point: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin will participate for the Irish bishops. On the other hand, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, will attend as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

As envisaged by those same norms, the heads of all the Oriental churches will participate in the synod—13 in all. So too will the 25 heads of the Roman Curia offices. The members of the Council of the Synod have a right to attend, and nine will this time as the other members are present in different roles; among the nine are the American cardinals Donald Wuerl and Timothy Dolan.

The Union of Superiors General has a right to have three representatives and they have chosen: Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, Father General of the Jesuits, Fr. Mauro Johri, Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, and Fr Mario Aldegani, Superior General of the Congregation of St Joseph.

Pope Francis is the synod’s president. He has appointed 26 persons to this assembly, including four distinguished theologians: Cardinals Walter Kasper (Germany), Angelo Scola (Italy), Godfried Daneels (Belgium) and Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez (President of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina) who was theological advisor to the future pope at the important assembly of the Latin American Bishops Conferences (CELAM) held at Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. The papal nominees also include Fr. François-Xavier Dumortier, S.J., Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., chief-editor of the prestigious Italian Jesuit review, "La Civiltà Cattolica.”

The secretary-general of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (Italy), who has already revised the way this body functions, will of course be present. And following normal practice, the pope will be assisted by three president-delegates who chair the plenary sessions: Cardinals Andre Vingt-Trois (France), Luis Antonio Tagle (the Philippines) and Raymundo Damasceno Assis (Brazil).

The Hungarian cardinal Peter Erdo has been assigned the important role of Relator (Rapporteur) to the synod: he will give the keynote address at the beginning, at the midway stage and at the end. He is assisted by the Italian theologian Archbishop Bruno Forte, who has the key role of Secretary, and by Mgr. Fabio Fabene (Italy).

Fourteen married couples from the different continents will attend, including one couple from the U.S.: Jeffrey Heinzen, Director of the Natural Family Planning in the diocese of La Crosse, and his wife, Alice, who is a member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the U.S.C.C.B.

Sixteen experts (including a married couple) together with 38 men and women auditors will participate in the synod. A total of 25 women will participate in the synod, including one woman religious: Sister Margaret Muldoon from Ireland, the Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux.

Eight “fraternal delegates” from the other Christian churches will also attend. They represent the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Orthodox Coptic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Anglican Communion, the World Lutheran Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Baptist Alliance.

192 of the synod’s 253 participants are considered “synod fathers.” They have a right to vote. Most of them are bishops.

The synod will issue a message at the end of its two-week deliberations, and the two persons appointed to oversee this task are the Italian cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (President of the Pontifical Council for Culture) and Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez (Argentina).

It should be remembered that this extraordinary synod is part of a long process, decided upon by Pope Francis. It began with a worldwide consultation in dioceses and parishes in the last quarter of 2013. This was followed by a first major sounding at the Consistory of Cardinals, last February. Further discussion is expected to take place at diocesan and parish level next year in the light of the feedback from next October’s synod. The process will conclude with an ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015 and the publication of an Apostolic Exhortation by the pope sometime after that, probably in 2016.

Note: The full list of participants can be found on the Vatican website at: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2014/09/09/0620/01369.html

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
ed gleason
3 years 5 months ago
The Synod appointed a couple from So Africa who co-ordinate Retrouvaille , a program for troubled marriages.. and it works too.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
I think the bishops should hear from couples who have struggled in addition to NFP teachers. It's one thing to promote a hard teaching; we are Christians, hard teachings are part of being a Christian. The Church shouldn't compromise on teachings because they are hard. But it is another thing to cover over hard teachings and pretend that the vast majority who don't accept it just do so because they "don't know" or "haven't been taught well enough" or need to "try harder" or "use a different method" or "visit a NaPro doctor for your illness" or whatever other lines get used to dismiss couples and women who find this teaching difficult to impossible, or who follow it with great suffering. The Church also needs to hear the voices of women who - fully in compliance with Humanae Vitae - have used the Pill for health reasons and benefited immensely from it. We need to open up again to having honest conversations about marriage and family life, especially when considering how to help families from a pastoral point of view.
Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago
A good suggestion from Abigail Woods-Ferrera. As an overarching principle that might possible assist in dealing with the many issues facing families today, I echo the thoughts of Bishop Bonny of Belgium. These ideas are not new but began with the Second Vatican Council and continue into our present day. 1. Collegiality: Since Humanae Vitae was published most priests, bishops, theologians and the laity have become more and more aware that important questions surrounding relationship, sexuality, marriage and family constitute a very discordant domain within the Church community. Many of the faithful were no longer able to agree with dogmatic texts and moral statements coming from Rome. The gulf did not shrink with time, but grew broader and deeper. The faithful became less and less inclined to address their personal questions to the Church's bishops, theologians and pastoral workers. During the Vatican II there was a good sense of collegiality. A high level of consensus was built so that the many documents of the Second Vatican Council could be issued and endorsed. However, after the encyclical Humanae Vitae this collegiality almost vanished. The bond between the collegiality of the bishops and the primacy of the bishop of Rome significantly waned. During the papacy of JP II, the authority of the conferences of bishops were seriously curtained. Any decree, document or communique from a conference of bishops had to have the express approval from Rome. All authority was not only centered in Rome but dramatically expanded. The voices of bishops, reflecting their flocks and priests, must come forth in the upcoming Synod on the Family, without any threat or reprisal, implicit or explicit from Rome. This would be a good start. 2. Conscience: This Synod on the Family should restore conscience to its rightful place in the teaching of the Church in line with Gaudium et Spes. This will not solve every problem, but many questions should be addressed. How one's conscience arrives at a reasonable decision is from from simple. What is a well-informed conscience? How can it know the law that God has placed in our heart? How does conscience relate to the teaching authority of the Church, and vice-versa; how does the teaching authority of the Church relate to conscience? How can conscience account for the 'law of gradualness' and the pedagogy of gradual growth progress none of us can escape? How can conscience practice the virtue of "epikeia" when the letter and spirit of the law find themselves at odds with one another? The Synod will not answer all of these questions, but I hope they will devote appropriate attention to them. 3. Natural Law: Natural law cannot be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves 'a priori' on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making a decision. It does not consist of a list of definitive and immutable precepts. It is a spring of inspiration always flowing for the search for an objective foundation for a universal ethic. In short, the Christian ethic needs more space to judge and decide compared to a static or apodictic engagement that one interpretation of the concept of natural law permits. 4. The Sensus Fidei: The Spirit guides the people in truth and leads it to salvation. God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith, which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression. We need the Synod to find a way, a formal process, where the voices of the faithful can participate, in some way, in the formulation and revision of doctrine and teachings. 5. Moral Theology Schools of Thought: The Church must not become exclusively associated with a specific moral theological school, built on a particular interpretation of natural law. Representatives of other interpretations of natural law or other moral theological schools of thought such as the personalistic and relationalistic schools, should not be consigned to the corner as suspicious and avoided. These include the works of highly meritorious theologians such as Josef Fuchs, Bernhard Haring and L. Janseens, as well as many contemporary theologians. These schools of moral theological thought are aware of what is humanly possible in fragile and complex circumstances in which the options are not clear cut. The Church must create space for growth and development in the turbulent course of our personal human narratives. It must revisit and rethink moral method especially those impacting sexual ethics.
Barry Hudock
3 years 5 months ago
Note that there are actually two married couples from the United States, not one, who will participate. In addition to Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen, there is also Steve and Claudia Schultz of International Catholic Engaged Encounter. (They're roughly 15 places below the Heinzens on the list of participants offered at the link Mr. O'Connell provides.)
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
There also needs to be attention paid to renewing the spirituality of married couples and of family life, to making it more integrated. One thing that has always blown me away about the Eastern Orthodox is how seamlessly and beautifully they integrate marriage, sex, and love into Christian spirituality; even with recent efforts like the Theology of the Body (which I have read, all of it), Western moral and spiritual teaching on marriage remains woefully abstract, disjointed, incomprehensible, and irrelevant to many, if not most Catholics. That's a tragedy. What really struck me was how central the unitive meaning of marriage is in Orthodoxy, and how the procreative meaning flows from that, not the other way around. When I look at the struggles of families in our society I can't help but think how essential that realization is to healing family life in the modern world. There can't be any renewal of the family until we focus on creating a society first that fosters love between husbands and wives - we need stable economic life for people of all socioeconomic classes, time for leisure with each other, the ability to effectively space children, and help nurturing relationships. My mom (who is a long and happily married protestant) told me that the unitive meaning MUST come first in marriage. Be good spouse to be a good parent. Our pediatrician told us the same thing when we took our first born in for her first checkup after birth; "The most important advice I give to new parents is this," he said, "have each other's backs. Always put each other first." I have found this the most invaluable advice. It makes me sad as a Catholic that it seems all of the best advice for marriage and family life is coming from outside of my church. I would love if the Church offered a deeper spiritual path for married couples that truly engaged and embraced concrete life. But there is such a focus on the procreative meaning of marriage and sex, often isolating it from everything else, down to the technical minutiae of family planning. (I still haven't figured out how sorry I have to feel about taking an anovulant for other health reasons, even though the intention to avoid more children would be totally OK if I was using mucus and a calendar. I asked my husband if we would welcome a "surprise" baby and he replied, "We're Catholic, of course!" I brought it up once in confession and was told to talk to a "NaPro" doctor. Lord, help me.) But the procreative meaning should flow from the union and love of the couple. And it is about more than just individual sexual acts; there is pro-creative meaning to all of life together, from the building of the home to careers to not only making children, but raising them. Marital spirituality needs more holistic development and to embrace the entire creative economy of married life, flowing from the unitive meaning and returning to it as its end, like the Trinitarian economy flows from and returns to the Father. I don't think we should throw Church teaching out the window and embrace the sexual revolution. Christians need to stand for the fullness and beauty of love, sexuality, and family life. Young people especially need a concrete, modern framework for relationships that satisfies their longing for love. I know from my own experience, both single and married, the possibilities and rewards of chastity as modern young woman. An honest conversation, in union with the Church, taking the experiences of sincere Christian couples and other perspectives from the Christian spiritual and theological tradition into account, would be very welcome. But I don't feel like we are really having that conversation openly and honestly, not yet. There are assumptions of bad faith on all sides; couples assume the Church only wants to oppress them and deny them sexual freedom, the Church assumes couples are either ignorant, selfish, or immersed in a "Culture of Death" and incapable of our own discernment. We talk past each other. The only married couples that are heard are those who have not questioned anything and who can be shockingly callous to the struggles of others. NFP instructors often have a personal and professional stake in maintaining the status quo of the conversation, even at the expense of honesty. It is not only hurting the Church on the inside, it is hurting the Church's ability to engage and evangelize the culture. I'm trying to have hope for the synod, but that hope is cautious.
Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail, Well put and very insightful. The so-called inseparability principle (the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act must never be separated for any reason) was never a constant teaching of the Church. No pope, bishop or theologian ever wrote about an inseparability of meanings until Karol Wojtyla wrote about it in his 1960 book Love and Responsibility. I will not go into a lengthy discussion that it was Karol Woltyla, and not the theologians of the Papal Birth Control Commission or other theologians, who was most pivotal in influencing Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae. For a host of reasons, Humanae Vitae must be developed. A Church profoundly divided over birth control that continues to repeat a moral rationale that does not ring true to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of most Catholics, must change. You are correct that love comes first, not procreation in a marriage. Procreation is a gift, but biological reproduction is not the only way in which a human person give life....rearing children requires giving life beyond the biological to the emotional, spiritual, psychological and cognitive dimensions...it is a responsibility larger than procreation. The unitive or love dimension of sex is more than procreation, it is a often a sign and expression of gratitude, reconciliation, spiritual and physical bonding, appreciation, affection, caring, self-giving...the list goes on. Love does not turn into a false, evil and destructive love because of a choice of birth control. For faithful practicing Catholics that cannot have children or do not want children for good reasons, or for those who take the anovulant pill for fertility regulation in the practice of responsible parenthood, does not make their marriages any less loving and fruitful in the eyes of Christ.
Douglas Fang
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail and Michael, I would like to thank you two for these honest and well articulated thoughts and experiences on the subject of birth control. “A Church profoundly divided over birth control that continues to repeat a moral rationale that does not ring true to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of most Catholics, must change” I can testify the truth of this statement with my own family, and other Catholic families that I personally know. From relatives to friends, from devout to nominal Catholics, etc., none of them really pay any attention to the teaching of the Church on this subject. I just want to make a quote from the essay shared by Mikhail Epstein, who is the Samuel Chandler Dobbs Professor of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature at Emery University (USA) and Professor of Russian and Cultural Theory and Director of Centre for Humanities Innovation at Durham University (UK), in the recent book title “Evolution and the Future”. ‘…What comes to the fore in Dawkins here is the most ascetic and conservative Catholic doctrine, preaching that spousal intimacy is justified only by the objective of conception, whereas in all other cases it is merely sinful. All major Christian confessions, including Catholicism and Orthodoxy, have already renounced such a narrowly utilitarian approach to the mystery of marriage, pointing out that spousal intimacy in itself, apart from the purpose of child bearing, has a spiritual and moral value: “that two should be one flesh”’. Abigail – you are so right – it seems that Eastern Orthodox has a much better understanding about the relationship between marriage, sex, and love in the light of Christian faith.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
Even in his comments on Humanae Vitae a week later, Paul VI discusses his pastoral concerns about married life and the need for the teaching to be deepened and developed. (It's his address from July 31, 1968, which is easy to remember because July 31 is the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, and my wedding anniversary :) You can really get a sense of his struggle over it, and the need for it to be further developed along the lines of his concerns. Maybe integrating an Eastern perspective, especially works from some of the Eastern fathers who were more positive on marriage, would be a step in that direction? Sort of a "ressourcement" for marriage and family? I'm always struck when reading anything by the Paul VI how thoughtful and pastoral he was. Even if I have some issues trying to intellectually reconcile some of the technical parts of Humanae Vitae with each other, the overall spirit of the document is pastoral, especially when taken in light of his previous encyclicals, and I think it is a shame that Paul VI never wrote another one afterward.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
The inseparability principal only can make sense in light of the entire marriage, when the unitive and procreative meanings are considered holistically. It makes no sense when referring to isolated sexual acts, as human nature and biology separates the two already. Although the church teaches that it is OK to take the Pill for health reasons, as I do, it is hard to separate this from the intention to have or not have a baby. Thinking that you can suss those two apart completely ignores a holistic understanding of a woman's anthropology, and puts women in what feels like twisted moral situations. These are the kinds of things that need to be faithfully discussed to make the teaching on the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage and sexuality more comprehensible and workable in real life.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail - As I understand the Church's teaching, there is no moral obstacle whatsoever to using a hormonal treatment for a real medical condition as long as there is no better medical treatment and the motive does not include a contraceptive intention. So, there should be no cause for guilt on account of Church teaching. It seems to me that Pope St. John Paul II finds the middle way (like Thomas Aquinas often did) between a view that puts all the priority in either the procreative or the unitive good of conjugal love. A biological (Natural Law) analysis will prioritize the procreative end whereas a psychological (personalist?) analysis will prioritize the unitive. My understanding of JPII is the genius of avoiding a separation of these goods in his Christian conjugal analysis, which does indeed prioritize the unitive in order time and intention (love and marriage should come first), without cutting the unitive off from the procreative good and the openness and love for future children. As often happens in Church history, doctrine is more exactly defined only in response to a new external challenge to the faith. The Anglican decision in 1930, and the invention of the Pill helped refine the understanding. Maybe, there is still more refinement to be discovered in this area, although refinement is not reversal and Humanae Vitae is well established as part of our faith, by several popes, as they exercised their Petrine power to bind all the faithful to this doctrine. Furthermore, the negative consequences of a widespread contraceptive mentality for our society are all around us, where the procreative good has been completely severed from the unitive.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
That is the Church's teaching - but how do you apply it to life? I've taken Orthotricylcen since I was 18. There is an almost completely celibate decade in there where I was on the Pill for health reasons. I was on it all through my undergraduate years, all through the time I was considering religious life, with no "contraceptive" intention, so I hardly just made this up for a loophole. I'm not primarily using it for contraceptive reasons. But I can't lie. We don't intend to have more children. We would welcome a "surprise" - of course! While another baby wouldn't exactly be prudent, it wouldn't be a disaster either. We have no serious health or economic reasons that would make a baby difficult. My pregnancies are healthy and our babies are CUTE. But our intention is to have a low probability of having more babies, so we can bring pro-creative life into the rest of our nuptial economy, an economy which includes raising our born children, building our home, nurturing our relationship, and pursuing our careers. If I had no health reasons for the Pill we would be using NFP, all with a fully "against conception" mentality. I would be lying if I said I'm not thankful to not have to deal with that. So am I not using the Pill with a teeny bit of the intention to avoid more babies? Without the Pill I would be avoiding babies with NFP, with the same intention. I think NFP is...ew...so I'm not exactly sad to missing out on it. But I'm on the Pill for legitimate health reasons that I've had for years, and going off it would be harmful to my well being. I don't know how to pretend away an intention. It feels like a spiritual chinese finger trap. It wouldn't be absurd to me if like 98% of other young Catholic couples I decided I just decided to not care about what the Church teaches about this issue, but that isn't an option for me. I do care. I care deeply. I care because I love the Church. I don't want to reject Humanae Vitae as irrelevant to my life; I want to engage it and understand it. This is all, honestly a very painful place to be. It's painful to not only struggle with a teaching, but to not even know how to honestly follow it in one's circumstances. I disagree that John Paul II finds a middle way; besides, what is needed is not a "middle way" or a compromise, but the truth and about marriage and the dignity of married people and their Christian ability to discern and steward their gifts. John Paul might have been holy, he might have been very intelligent, but he wasn't a genius; he was a flawed man, who often believed what he wanted to believe despite evidence to the contrary. That doesn't mean he is not a saint. I remember my mother, who is an interior designer, once said that you know an authentic Persian rug because it always has a flaw, and that flaw in something beautiful is meant to be a reminder that only God is perfect. The mistakes and short sightedness of saints and the Church I think are the same thing - reminders that only God is truly perfect. All saints have flaws to remind us that they only point to God, but are not gods themselves. I think there is much more refinement that is needed in this area. That refinement I think must involve some change, just as Humanae Vitae was a change, and as many other church teachings have often gone through change. Change doesn't mean capitulation to the culture or losing the deeper meaning of a teaching, but it does mean engagement with it, and engagement with the difficult issues, rather than brushing them aside. It must at least involve the input of a diverse range of marriage people who are permitted to speak the truth without fear of censure or punishment. There has to be a better way of presenting the unitive and creative meanings of marriage without reducing couples to moral semantics.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail - thanks for a very honest, real (fleshy) and witty response. I do totally disagree with your interpretation of JPII (I believe the depth and originality of his multiple writings clearly show the strength of his intellect, and his leadership on the world stage was truly historical) and I also agree that the mistakes in governance (dealing with Maciel, the child abuse crisis and dissident theologians) do not of themselves reflect on his sanctity. Furthermore, I do believe that the witness of those who knew him personally outweighs the judgment that is possible based on what we read in the media, with all the biases and agendas. Of course, the miracles are a witness of the Holy Spirit that trumps other evidence. Your Persian rug analogy is a great one and most saints failed in some area of life (St. Francis was a terrible manager, according to the history books). Your comment on Liberation Theology might suggest HV is not the only place where you have a problem with Church teaching but I will try to confine my next comments to your main topic. 1. Historical Perspective: We only have had the Pill since the middle of the 20th century, so Christian couples for nearly 2 millennia had to deal with marriage, sex, abstinence and rough periods with non-medicinal "natural" means. They had no recourse to epidurals, analgesics, anti-emetics etc. and indeed faced a real risk of death, infection and other complications of pregnancy and the likelihood some or most of their children would not survive to adulthood. So, however you describe the present challenges, you may not get much sympathy when you meet your faithful ancestors in heaven and tell them how bad you had it. 2. The Pill. For the first time in history, a simple, cheap and generally safe method is readily available to completely sever the procreative from the unitive. While the Anglicans tried to confine their initial approval to married couples with substantial health or economic reasons, it of course never stayed within those bounds, and neither did the Anglicans. In fact, their "modest" theological deviation from the uniform Christian tradition (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) pre-1930 has, like a ship getting a little off course, morphed today into a further divorce of sexual intercourse from both marriage and sexual pleasure. Many Protestant denominations have now bought into divorce, premarital sex, in vitro fertilization, abortion and gay sex, and they barely pay lip service to the sin of extramarital sex. Sex-selection abortions are now a major cause of female mortality and Down syndrome is a capital crime, with over 90% getting the axe in our thoroughly "modern" mindset. There are also major demographic and disease (AIDS, venereal disease epidemics) trends which look very bad for the world. While some argue that the Pill is not connected to these problems, I do not think that is credible. 3. NFP: On an aesthetics level, I completely agree with the messiness of mucosal monitoring, and also agree that some people could practice NFP with a contraceptive mentality, although I think God will forgive them for trying so hard to be faithful. We are probably not too far off from technology that will detect ovulation (might send you a text or ring a bell on an Apple watch?) which could change NFP completely. But, that might make the contraceptive temptation harder to resist. 4. Development of Doctrine: Whatever refinement the true Church discovers, it has to take into account all these issues. Since the Holy Spirit of course always knew of the technological possibilities, its inspiration of the Magisterium, at any time in history and in the future, will have taken this into account. In the meantime, this world still remains a "vale of tears." Death and suffering are still all around us, even if technology gives us a temporary respite. 5. Fidelity: As individual Christians trying to be faithful (as you obviously are), we have to deal with the practical situations that are in front of us as best as we can, following our conscience and getting pastoral advice. I think we step over a line when we go from our individual "difficulties" or challenges and assume a charism we do not have as individuals - making demands on the Church to change doctrine in return for our fidelity. The Church moves slowly in any case and any changes will likely never satisfy the much more rapid cultural train-wreck that is our secular culture. Being a faithful Catholic will always demand a counter-cultural decision and the Church will always be unfashionable. Almost every Catholic will enter heaven with a list of complaints about the Church as they found it in their time and place, but I think the heavenly perspective might quickly alter some of those judgments.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
Thank you for a very charitable and honest response, and for acknowledging what a difficult issue this is.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
Hi Abigail. Thank you too for your kind remarks. I do understand that struggles in our relationships and with chastity in general are very difficult for most people, although I think there are many much harder challenges to the faith, including say, what is going on to Christians oppressed by ISIS or Boko-Haram, or parents whose children have terminal illnesses or have been abused by Catholics. While it was not your point, I want to address the idea of "sensus fidelium" as a process for resolving these controversies. The term is very misunderstood, even by many who would consider themselves advocates of the teaching of Vatican II. Here is how VCII defines it: (LG 12): "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life." Notice the required unanimity and obedience and the unwavering adherence to the faith given once and for all. Pope Benedict (speech to ITC Dec 7, 2012) reminded us that "Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.” - this is exactly what Vatican II's Lumen Gentium (#12 & 18). One example from history. Protestant denominations thought they could replace the Catholic Magisterial teaching process with their own “sensus fidelium" (they meant it a sort of vox populi, as some Catholics also misunderstand it to be) to test doctrine and arrive at the “truth.” Ironically, this became their Achilles' heel. They didn’t just split into a few factions, but shattered like glass. They have only been around for 500 years and already there are many thousands of dueling doctrinal factions. And, even earlier, Arianism was at one time much more popular than Trinitarianism and yet it was wrong. I hope we can all pray that the Synod bishops listen to the various disparate voices coming from their flocks, but that they listen above all to the Holy Spirit, and not be swept away by anything that is not fully consistent with the will of our Lord.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
See, I don't think this is Protestant's Achilles heel; I think it is their strength. While there are many technical "denominations", most protestants belong to only a few larger bodies or traditions that share fellowship, communion, and culture with one another. The protestant "denomination" I grew up in, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, is part of a larger communion that includes almost 80 million members, which is also in communion with Anglicans, another 80 million. Most mainline Protestants share communion with one another to some degree or another. Growing up, I remember going to Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches with friends or when on vacation and never being out of place or cut off from communion. Similarly, evangelical Protestants, while being divided into different denominations or "non-denominational" churches, have a pretty vibrant shared culture - for example groups like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Fellowship and the huge, shared evangelical media. After I became Catholic I remember hearing that there are "40,000 different protestant denominations" and that that was evidence of how divided and broken they were, and thinking what a misunderstanding of Protestant culture and theology that showed on the part of Catholics. And I don't think Catholics are any less divided at heart, even if we aren't formally divided in structure. Also, because Protestants have a lot of choice and say in their religious beliefs and structures, they tend to have a great sense of ownership and engagement with them. This spills over into liturgical engagement. Protestants are far more engaged in their worship and liturgy. This kind of participation is definitely also common in many evangelical churches, as is deep knowledge and engagement with the scripture. There is a lot I love about the Catholic Church, and at this point could not imagine not being Catholic, but on many comparisons with Protestants, Catholic life at the parish level fares very poorly, and Catholics are just as divided at heart as Protestants. But because there isn't a lot of freedom to wrestle openly with those divisions, many Catholics just drift away apathetically. It is BECAUSE of, not in spite of, the Protestant openness and ownership of their own communities that Protestant communities are often so vibrant, and often so quick to respond to the needs of families and members of their communities. Protestants are definitely not perfect; they have their flaws like anyone, and they could especially benefit from a greater sense of history and engagement with tradition, but I think Catholics could learn a lot from Protestants about active participation in church life and liturgy, and about engaging families and married couples.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
I'm sure there are many Protestants who have a deep and close relationship with Jesus (I personally know many who do) and no doubt the community life is more fulfilling for them than for many Catholics. However, when we get to holding onto the faith that Jesus and His Apostles gave us, and of leading a moral life and worshiping as God wants, where in the Protestant world can one go? Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist or just symbolically? What is the role of good works in salvation life? Who is a real bishop? What is the role of sanctifying grace and how does one get it? Should women and practicing gays be priests? Is it wrong to kill an unborn child? Is it good to practice contraception or engage in gay sex? Where in the Protestant world does one even think of going to find the Truth on any of these and many other questions, assuming that one has already committed oneself to follow the Lord? I suppose you could say you pick the Church that you feel most comfortable with, but, that does not address the truth question. One is left with an agnosticism or indifference on a host of many issues vital to leading a moral and devout life and having access to sacramental grace? Even Calvin wrote that Protestantism would be a failure if Protestants couldn't show unity on faith and morals? In your own background, is the LCA or the ELCA faithful to the teaching of Jesus? While this blog confirms your point that many individual Catholics do not hold to everything the Catholic Church teaches, in belief or practice (and we all fail in practice), that is very different. Even when one says they flatly do not accept what the Magisterium teaches on a specific doctrine, they are still, by their rejection, dealing with Truth with a capital T.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
While of course the validity of Lutheran sacraments is debatable from a Catholic perspective, I grew up believing in the Real, Bodily Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. And while the Catholic Church offers the best answers to many of these questions you pose (particularly on the nature of grace), I would argue that the divisions between Catholics stem from the how unsatisfactory the Church's current answers to these questions are to many people. Also, you neglect that being Christian isn't just about believing a set of doctrines, its about communion and loving engagement with the world. I do think Lutherans and Protestants are deeply faithful to that. I do think the ELCA, like many Protestant denominations is faithful to many aspects of the doctrinal teaching of Jesus, less faithful to others. But the Catholic Church also is always developing towards greater truth, and there is always room for improvement in understanding and articulating the truth. I became Catholic not because I she has absolute and static answers, but because I believe in the unity of the Catholic Church's communion and believe her and her structures - the sacramental communion, the theological academy, the cultural diversity, the amazing and sometimes messy dialectic of tradition and engagement with the best thought of every age - embodies the living, dynamic, and always developing body of Christ in history better than any other Christian community. Any Church that can house Aquinas, Beth Johnson, Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, Jacques Maritain, Thomas Merton, Sandra Schnieders, Gustavo Gutierrez, Leo XIII, Theresa of Avila, John Paul II and all the others under one roof gets my loyal vote. And I have total faith that this Catholic Church, the church of the Living God, can, if given the opportunity for open and honest discussion and engagement with her tradition, develop teachings that fully answer the questions and concerns her members pose to one another. My difficulty with Humanae Vitae isn't because I think the Church is wrong; it is because I think the Church can do better with her tradition to articulate a teaching that holds the unitive and procreative ends together in a way that makes better sense in light of the relationship they have in nature.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail - I certainly agree that the Catholic Church has an amazing variety of people under its roof. I like James Joyce description "Here Comes Everybody." But, I think you underestimate the importance of the Truth in favor of community appeal. Certainly, Jesus made a big deal about it. He said the Truth would set us free, that He was the Truth, and He thought it important enough to give the keys of His kingdom to Peter and the power to bind and loose. But, it also has major consequences. Whether the killing of an unborn child is a blessing or a terrible evil is not a difference than can be trivialized or subjectivized. Also, gay sex cannot be a blessing and a curse. As to the Real Presence in Lutheran services, the Catholic belief is that their ministers (way back) cut themselves off from the power to consecrate, so the more accurate and ironic description of their communion is that it is symbolic. So, truth matters immensely. As to self-improvement, I'm sure we all could do better. But, to know what the better is in your phrase "the Church can do better," you have to have a yardstick to measure the "better" beyond your feelings or personal opinion. I don't think you or I or any bloggers (or even theologians) have the charism to make that determination. But the Petrine ministry does, If one believes what Jesus promised. Finally, there is a big difference when an individual Catholic dissents or rejects a Church teaching. To use a biologic analogy, an individual's error dies with the individual, and he/she alone faces the issue on Judgment day (hopefully with mercy and the excuse of our conscience). Whereas, when an institution makes the same error, the error is passed along to the subsequent generations, like a genetic mutation.The leaders of the institution must bear the consequences for the effects on the many coming after them. I'll end with a piece on the amazing longevity and resilience of the RCC, from the Anglican historian Macauley: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/macaulay/ranke1.html. God bless.
Bill Taylor
3 years 5 months ago
I have made the difficult journey through St. Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body several times and find it unconvincing. 1) Above all because it was a vision developed without dialogue between the Pope and the people most affected by his teaching. We do not come to the truth by sitting in our room with St. John of the Cross, our philosophy books, and our memories of distant times spent with young college students who had not struggled long and hard with the key issues of married life. Pope John Paul was not the sage on the top of the mountain with all the answers, although he has been treated as such. 2) He calls his work a "study," but it is more of a meditation based on a flawed understanding of the "in the beginning" passages that ground his thoughts. For instance, even though he gives a nod toward modern biblical studies, he treats Adam and Eve as if they were two real people, and imagines that Genesis helps us observe the unfolding of two actual lives. But what we are really reading is a kind of parable composed and eventually written down within the Patriarchal world of early Judaism. 3) Adam and Eve were both naked and felt no shame. Like many a theologian, Pope John Paul turns this small sentence into a huge theological edifice, where people were not disturbed by the longings of the body, until Original Sin struck, and left them with the dark residue of concupiscense. Somehow, "in the beginning," sexual intercourse was, as St. Augustine imagined, unaccompanied by the discomfort of irrational passion. But is this what the author in Genesis meant? If the Pope had talked to real married people, one of them might have had the courage to point out to him that people who are in love can be naked together with no sense of shame. Maybe that was all the author meant: They looked at each other, were utterly entranced, and followed the blissful way of passion.
Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago
Bill, Sorry for the delayed response, but after rereading your comments, I have to say Bravo. I too have taken that difficult journey through JP II's Theology of the Body. I read, with amusement, when one seminary student remarked: going through JP II's Theology of the Body (TOB) was like spending time in purgatory. This student also had a difficult time accepting JP II's philosophical anthropology. As you know Karol Wojtyla-JP II was a mystic, and his TOB was an expansion of his philosophy and theology on marriage, sexuality and procreation as explicated in his 1960 book Love and Responsibility. This blog is not the forum for a lengthly analysis, but it was Karol Wojtyla and the misinformation of his closest advisor, Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a survivor and victim of the Ravensbruck Nazi concentration camp medical experiments, that formed the basis for the infamous inseparability principle found in Humanae Vitae. I liked your take on Genesis. While you did not explicitly state this, but I assume you would agree, that JP II had a very narrow and misinformed understanding about women, marriage and conjugal love within the context of responsible parenthood.
OurNFP Stories
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail, I'd really like to hear more about your story if you are willing to share. Email me at ournfpstories@gmail.com
Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago
Abigail and Douglas, Thanks for your comments. When the subject turns to marriage and family, such questions cannot be answered by pointing to one period, one pope, one school of moral theology, one language group, one circle of friends, or one ecclesial policy. Every component is important and no single component can comprise or replace the whole. As I mentioned, the natural law cannot be presented as an already set of rules that impose a priori on the moral subject; rather it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making a decision. Not every teaching of the magisterium is the absolute moral truth with certainty either. When it comes to Humanae Vitae, the CDF, a pope or all the bishops gathered together have not definitively declared this teaching infallible. Within the theological community this issue has been debated for the past 45 years and remains unresolved. The truth about what is morally right in a given set of circumstances is constantly evolving. Consider that the Hebrew Bible contains chapters full of regulations governing many issues. The writings of the Church fathers continued this process. At one point, bishops and theologians taught that marital sexual intercourse was only morally permitted for procreation, sex during menstrual times was immoral, sex during pregnancy was forbidden and sex has only one licid position. These so-called teachings have since been abandoned for good reasons. To claim today that God's procreative plan is written in the language and grammar of the body, in the fertility-infertilty nexus, is symbolic speculation. No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty. To further argue that "what is" is "what ought to be" is the naturalistic fallacy. The inseparability principle of Humane Vitae (HV) is a moral absolute according to the magisterium. This means that under no circumstances can a person separate the unitive and procreative meanings of the martial act. However, it was only in 1968 that the doctrine on marriage was changed from the "ends of marriage" (that had been constantly changing over the centuries) to two so-called "narrow meanings of marital sexual intercourse". According to the teaching HV, a married woman whose life is threatened by another pregnancy cannot safeguard her life by sterilization or the tying of her fallopian tubes, or even to take the pill. She must practice a lifetime of sexual abstinence regardless if this will destroy her marriage or impose an unreasonable, excessive and unachievable burden on her and her family. If one argues that there can be some exceptions to HV, then it cannot be a moral absolute. This is only one example why the teaching must change. As long as there is no convincing moral theory that rings true to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of faithful Catholics, the non-reception of HV will continue. At present, about 80% of worldwide Catholics practice some form of birth control condemned by the magisterium as immoral; and 40% of U.S. priests do not believe that contraception in a marriage is a mortal sin. Many bishops also want to change this teaching. The Synod of the Family is not expected to deal with doctrine, only pastoral theology and counseling. However, I hope they will serious consider the important principles underlying the Church's philosophy and theology on the many teachings about marriage, sexuality and family matters. As mentioned and explicated in my previous blog comment below they are in part: conscience, natural law, moral theological schools of thought, and collegiality.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
Thank you also, for your comments. I followed your lead and read the Belgian Bishop's letter. What truly strikes me is how open and real this conversation was 50 years ago, how diverse the bishops and theologians were and how engaged with families. It's exciting to see bishops try to reignite that kind of engagement after decades of silence. I think the synod is going to be interesting. I don't know if it will be radical, but I think it is going to let in a little fresh air.
Michael Barberi
3 years 5 months ago
One of the most striking parts of Bishop Bonny's letter was the following insightful quotation concerning conscience and the Declaration of the Belgium Bishops on Humanae Vitae (note: many similar Declarations were published by other Conferences of Bishops throughout the world). I was particularly moved by the reply that the traditional bishop Andre-Marie Charue, that Paul VI respected and trusted, gave to a question that Paul VI asked of him. Classical and cautious as these words concerning conscience may have been, they were not fully appreciated by the supporters of Humanae Vitae. On the contrary, they were written off as desertion, as apostasy towards the pope, as a gate to relativism, permissiveness and libertinism, and they were consciously set aside. This represented a turning point in the relationship between Pope Paul VI and the Belgian bishops. An anecdote concerning André-Marie Charue, bishop of Namur, testifies to this. During the Second Vatican Council, a deep bond of mutual respect and trust had grown between Charue and Pope Paul VI. Charue was in fact a traditional bishop to the core. Less than a year after Humanae Vitae he was received in audience by the pope: ‘who expressed his dissatisfaction with the Declaration of the Belgian Bishops on Humanae Vitae in no uncertain terms. He even went as far as to say: ‘And you, Bishop Charue, now that you are aware of all this, would you still sign the Declaration of the Belgian Bishops?’ Charue answered: ‘Yes, Holy Father,’ and started to cry. This bishop, a man of enormous intellect and honesty, suffered under the tragedy with which many Catholic theologians were familiar in those days, torn as they were between their honest attachment to a great humanistic pope and fidelity to their convic- tions. Amicus Plato...’.20 Many bishops opted thereafter for silence rather than polemic.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 5 months ago
I nominate Abigail to be added to the list. And I do not think it is too late. I am suspicious of those who are nominated who have been spouting the party line all these years.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 5 months ago
I like the reply option in the blog. But it becomes difficult to follow when one has to search for the reply even though it is recent. Even my post here appears at the top. Whereas it might be more apt at the end. At any rate that is for the editors to mull over. I find Tim Oleary's doctrinal approach to be an Empire church kind of thing coupled with a Council of Trent defensiveness. Trent wanted to place the vernacular in the liturgy. But stopped short because it seemed they were bending to the Reformation. Circle the wagons. Abigail has it right when she talks about community as the most important. The obsession with the real presence and the efficacy of the sacraments has led to a superstitious church which has absolved itself of proclaiming the word energetically. Instead there is the complacent "we have the truth approach and you can find us if you need us." Also led to the sacralization of the clergy which has shown in the pedophile cover-up to be non-responsive to justified and constructive criticism. The Spirit has not been present here. The fact is that many of the Separated Brethren have led better lives than many clerics in the RCC. The emphasis is on the Beatitudes. Not doctrinal eliteness and ermine conscious grandiosity.
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 5 months ago
I wouldn't say that doctrine is not important, but that communion, love, and relationship is the primary thing that makes someone a follower of Jesus, and all doctrine exists precisely because of its relationship to communion and love, and it develops as our understanding of how to love and live in relationship with Jesus grows and develops in history. Protestants aren't perfect (or else I would still be one :), and I think that Protestant communities often don't engage the larger tradition of the Church as well as Catholics do, which is a weakness. But they do seem to often be more open to engaging and really drawing the everyday experiences of their laity - especially families - into their spirituality, in a way that Catholics have difficulty with. And perhaps the Catholic difficulty comes precisely because we have to negotiate a more complex tradition. Developments and experience always has to be reconciled in some way with what has gone before. This can be a great strength of the Catholic Church, protecting the communion and the authenticity of the faith, but it also can make her slow to respond to the experience of the faithful and to what might be authentic developments. I think a "fortress" or "culture warrior" mentality can make response particularly challenging, something which John XXIII sensed and which Vatican II was a response to. What came out the council was remarkable for being not only deeply engaged with tradition, but also fresh and open to modernity. My hope is that the Synod will be a similar "opening of the windows" to let some fresh light shine on the teachings on the family so that we can creatively, and in union with the tradition, respond better to the needs of families in the modern world.
michael mohl
3 years 5 months ago
I really appreciate some of the honest comments and intelligent debate that I am reading in these comments regarding the contraceptive issue (no matter how off topic it is to the article :) . I apologize in advance for the wandering rant to follow... I have personally struggled a lot over this issue as a young adult male convert to the Catholic Church who took nfp classes with my fiance, waited to have sex until marriage, had to obstain for the first month of marriage due to unclear fertility signs (including the honeymoon), and whose wife got pregnant 3 within months of marriage despite following the NFP method exactly as we were taught, leading to a halt in my wife pursuing her masters degree, then came the 13 months of totally unclear fertility signs while breastfeeding.....followed by another child and 8 months of unclear fertility signs while breastfeeding.... I love my wife and kids, but i certainly hope that the destructiveness of month after month of abstinence combined with guilt ridden sex whenever you cave and break the church's pharisaical rules on this topic will be discussed at this synod...but i am not that confident it that will be discussed after reading about the married couples chosen to participate in the synod since they are super-duper nfp promoters. NFP is great for some but does not work for all, or for all seasons of life (thinks breastfeeding). I hope someone is able to stand up at the synod and point out that the natural separability of the unitive and procreative aspects of sex is what makes human sex unique to the animal kingdom, as we are designed to be able to have sex when not in heat and even when the body inhibits fertility due to lactation, illness, or menopause. For humans, sex is more about bonding and communication than darwinian hormonal urges to spread our seeds and eggs when in heat... Either way it is no fun to feel like a guilt ridden 'cafeteria catholic' now all the time, despite enjoying daily mass, rosary, reading the saints, chaplet of divine mercy, regular confession, singing in the choir, and occasional liturgy of the hours... I've been somewhat consoled lately by realizing that if I were to agree with 100% of what the Magisterium officially taught on paper on all faith/moral issues and lived in the past, i would have found myself believing that: heretics deserve to be tortured and receive the death penalty, that religious freedom should be banned for all non Catholics, that freedom of the press should be prohibited, that one should be allowed to purchase and sell other human beings as a slaves, that geocentrism is a matter of religious doctrine, that popes have universal political power to depose any emporer and donate any aboriginal land to the monarchs of their choosing, and that all interest charged on any loan is intrinsically evil and contrary to the natural law. Why don't the ardent defenders of humanae vitae also feel the need to defend those good old "traditonal" positions anymore? Or better yet, why were those positions open to development, while the contraceptive issue is supposedly not? Did I miss an ex cathedra statement or ecumenical council canon somewhere? No, instead i am told it is an issue of the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium, but weren't those other infamous teachings once held with an even greater universality and conviction? What am I missing? (Please don't tell me its that same 'immutable' natural law which was selectively interpreted in the past to support numerous of the past teachings mentioned above.)
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 4 months ago
Be easy on yourself :). Humanae Vitae was a development of doctrine itself, and it is certainly open to further development. Even Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict had a pastoral view of the issue, as something a couple should not be reproached over, but as something that "ought to be discussed withone's spiritual director, with one's priest, because they can't be projected into the abstract." (That sounds like it is getting awful close to "oikonomia"). I hope you get some support.
michael mohl
3 years 4 months ago
Thanks. As you know, a loud minority does not believe the issue to be open to further development. I often find the following quoted as proof that the magisterium has infallibly settled the issue: PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY VADEMECUM FOR CONFESSORS CONCERNING SOME ASPECTS OF THE MORALITY OF CONJUGAL LIFE "The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life [Vademecum for Confessors 2:4" ...not very encouraging....
Abigail Woods-Ferreira
3 years 4 months ago
I would avoid people who use isolated quotes as "proof texts" for anything. That aside, I don't think overturning teachings is what is under discussion at the Synod (or here), but rather clarifying, developing, and adapting to pastoral practice. An important part of adapting something to "pastoral practice" in your own life involves getting a good spiritual director and confessor who can help you in your struggle. Don't ever lose sight of Christianity as a relationship with Christ, one that is a long process of growth. I think sometimes people who enter the Catholic Church as adults (often called "converts", though not technically such if already baptized) often tend to over intellectualize faith and struggle with scrupulosity. Consider the overall spirit of teachings, their context in the hierarchy of truths and the history of the Church, and take into account principals such as conscience, the sense of the faithful, and oikonomia that - without setting aside hard truths or the authority of the Church - engage the truth in light of reason and mercy. Read the Gospels. Keep in mind when you encounter "pharisees" that people who lack mercy for others often show no mercy to themselves either. Unhappy people tend to want to spread their unhappiness. Keep them in your prayers and ask them to pray for you. If you want good "intellectual" sources that give context to how the Church develops teachings and how the faithful engage them, I would consider reading, in addition to the major documents of Vatican II, "Magesterium" by Avery Dulles, "Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church" by the International Theological Commission, and, for a historical perspective specifically on contraception, John Noonan's classic book "Contraception". Here is the best short explanation of the concept of "oikonomia" I could find online. Oikonomia is an eastern concept but, as such, has deep roots in the tradition of the Church, and is currently being much discussed in the west in the context of the upcoming synod and pastoral approaches to difficult issues: https://theo.kuleuven.be/apps/doctoraltheses/69/ John Meyendorff gives a good Eastern perspective on oikonomia and birth control in his book on marriage.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Some replies to those who have mentioned me or my arguments. I do not believe in an Empire Church and look at the Eastern Roman Empire as a bad consequence of that marriage. My read of history is that popes behaved worse when they had temporal power (I note our amazing string of saintly popes recently). I do believe in a truthful Church (the mystical body of Jesus Christ) and understand why Protestants have a more "personal choice" way at resolving doctrinal disagreements, whereas the Catholic Church is protected by the Holy Spirit and they are not (witness the long march away from orthodoxy in the Anglican/Episcopal world). I sympathize with Michael Mohl's predicament but strongly disagree with his categorization of the historical controversies as if they were all equivalent doctrinal statements. In any case, HV is established Catholic doctrine (confirmed by all popes since and every synod and official doctrinal statement). I note that its teaching was in continuity with the whole Christian tradition. It was the Protestant Churches, and many Catholics, who departed from the Tradition after a medicinal/mechanical novelty. It also seems every proponent of artificial contraception ends up a proponent of gay sex/marriage and a growing host of other departures, so there is likely some connection that should give those faced with hard cases some pause on where this will end up. For those who complain about the limits of NFP, I have two suggestions: 1) the technique is in its infancy and it is very likely that ovulation will be predictable to the hour in the very near future. So, it just might be wiser to spend time and effort improving NFP (while avoiding the nefarious effects of a contraceptive mentality on our relationships & society) rather than trying to change the teaching of the Church. 2) many Christians around the world today face death, discrimination, and other horrors, and our ancestors faced horrible rates of maternal and infant mortality, so put your sufferings in context.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
I sympathize and largely agree with Michael Mohl. To set the record straight, I offer these short comments. 1. The encyclical Humanae Vitae was not a constant teaching of the magisterium, in particular the inseparable connection between the so-called unitive and procreative meanings of marital acts. This was the philosophy of a single Cardinal (Karol Wojtya), the misinformation of his closest advisor, Dr. Wanda Poltawska, and the conclusions of a single commission in a single country in Central Europe during a time when the Catholic Church was still under persecution by a communist government that supported policies in which contraception hand abortion we're readily available to the entire population. A major study on this issue will be published shortly. Additionally, there is no evidence of a teaching by any pope, bishop or theologian. mentioned or written before 1960 about the inseparability of two meanings of the marital act, nor is this principle found in the Pontifical Birth Control Commission documents. 2. Cardinal Wojtyla believed and wrote to Paul VI, 5 months before HV was published, that the temperature curve "allows us to recognize "exactly" the woman's fertile and infertile periods. This was not true in any stretch of the imagination. "…man can engage in acts that do not lead to conception, provided that their biological structure remains intact in its finality and meaning. …we now have a method of the regulation of births that is absolutely inoffensive. …It consists in abstinence from conjugal relations during the fertile phase of the woman’s menstrual cycle …the temperature curve allows us to recognize exactly the woman’s fertile and infertile periods." 3. Contradictory is the claim that Natural Family Planning (NFP) does not separate the unitive and procreative meanings of marital acts. It clearly does. The intentional and willful acts of temperature and mucus plotting are performed so that marital acts can be limited to infertile times, to ensure that all acts of marital sexual intercourse will not be procreative. It is no wonder that most Catholics find no difference between NFP and artificial birth control. Most, if not all, faithful Catholics who practice NFP or artificial birth control has the same intention and end/goal…to ensure that all acts of marital sexual intercourse do not result in procreation/conception. 4. Most, if not all, faithful Catholics who practice artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood, will quickly tell you that if birth control fails they would welcome a child-to-be into their families with unconditional love. They do not have a anti-life attitude as the magisterium claims. Nor will they resort to abortion. While it may be true that a few married Catholics who practice any form or birth control, inclusive of NFP, might resort to abortion if birth control fails...You cannot turn the axiom around and say that all or most Catholics who practice birth control will resort to abortion under its failure…as the magisterium claims. 5. Many teachings of the Catholic Church have been claimed as truth for centuries, only to be changed in later times... as Michael Mohl correctly stated. These issues have been debated in detail this year and we do not need do it again in this article.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
The central teaching of HV is that artificial contraception, medicinal or mechanical, is against the moral law. It is this teaching that has been consistent since the founding of the Church. A new argument, or an additional argument, or new evidence, etc. does not change the two millennium prohibition. All sides of the Reformation agreed with this teaching. NFP does not involve any mechanical or medicinal obstruction to fertilization. Voluntary abstaining from intercourse has always been an acceptable choice for married Christians.
michael mohl
3 years 4 months ago
This is all true, but might I add that it appears that the ban on usury was consistent for about 1500 years, the acceptance of slavery as a sad but acceptable part of society was consistent for about 1800 years, the acceptance of interrogatory torture was consistent for at least 1000 years, the ban on religious freedom for a consistent 1500 years, and the death penalty was acceptable in many cases for a solid 1900 years or so, etc... With all due respect, sometimes the Holy Spirit takes his time.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael - I do not disagree that there is a development in doctrine in some areas. But, in my read of Church history, the development comes from within the tradition, and is not a departure or a reversal. Otherwise, we could not be certain about any doctrine and the protection by the Holy Spirit of the Petrine ministry would be meaningless. For example, the Trinity could not mutate into a quadrinity, and abortion could not become a blessing. But, the balance between justice and mercy - regarding capital punishment (and torture in general) - can change (as it has), if society develops better ways to protect its society and reform the perpetrator (debatable). And, this could shift back again, if Law and Order breaks down. On usury, there has always been a prohibition against a harmful interest rate on a loan, which before modern economics was always huge and confiscatory, and failure to repay resulted in imprisonment or worse. Some statements were absolutist, but that was when no one was offering loans less than 20% interest. This situation has completely changed and the benefits of lower-interest loans has become evident in our new capitalist system. So, I see this more akin to the capital punishment case. So, for any of these cases to be similar to the contraception prohibition, it would have to follow a similar path in decisions and documents. I would look for overt positive (or negative) declarative statements in Councils or papal encyclicals or catechisms. Statements by theologians or even bishops or popes speaking for themselves have much less weight. Papal statements on slavery (vs. servitude of various types, prisoners, etc) in the past have always limited it from the actual practice at the time (to howls and objections from the laity at the time, who ignored the pope, as is happening with HV today) rather than defended it, but I agree it did take long time to get to where we are today. Society still has servitude for prisoners by the way, and most think this is moral (they are forced to work in prison, for example). It is worth reading the recent book by Fr. Joel Panzer: The Popes and Slavery.
michael mohl
3 years 4 months ago
Well said Tim O'leary. I agree in essence but remain somewhat confused about the nature of development vs infallibility of the ordinary magisterium since all the changed positions that I mentioned have at least a few papal bulls or encyclicals to back them up, and some seem like reversals, and in general there appears to have been a more universal acceptance of those past teachings than with the two encyclicals on contraception, but I remain open to correction and new understanding... In the mean time I do hope to practice NFP again in the future since the Church might be right about the issue, but I can't say that I completely regret using occasional contraception over the past 9 months of lack of fertility signs due to lactation... In my subjective experience, when newlyweds must 'live like brother and sister' in order to responsibly space births, they may also start to feel like 'brother and sister' and the situation feels like more of a departure from God's design than the act of contracepting. However, feelings are often deceiving, so pray for me and Lord have mercy.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
I will indeed pray for you, Michael. Please do also for me, as I will be hoping more for mercy than justice on judgment day. I do think (or at least I hope) that trying (some days more than others) to follow what the Church teaches, along with a contrite and humble heart, will suffice.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, The central and pivotal principle underpinning HV is the inseparability principle that governed sexual ethics for the past 45 years. The only teaching previous to HV was that the male seed must be placed in its proper place for procreation grounded in Genesis 38 and the Onan Story that describes an act that is commonly referred to as coitus interrupts. HV does not rely or is grounded in Genesis 38 (a controversial teaching) or Casti Connubii which never approved of a deliberate program of abstinence regulating fertility as a means of birth control to ensure that marital acts are not procreative. It took another 20 years for NFP to be approved by Pius XII. Artificial birth control does not physically interrupt the marital act. The male seed is being placed in its proper place for procreation. That was the moral dilemma and argument when the anovulant pill was discovered and used as a means of regulating fertility in the practice of responsible parenthood. This is why a Pontifical Birth Control Commission was established to study this issue….. a commission of 72 members from 5 continents inclusive of an executive committee of 16 bishops including 7 cardinals from 11 countries. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the members (including 75% of the bishops) did not oppose artificial birth control as a means of birth control within marriage. Equally important, the bishops of the executive committee answered the following questions: > Is contraception intrinsically evil? 9 said no, 3 said yes, 3 abstained. > Is contraception, as defined in the Majority Report, in basic continuity with tradition and the declarations of the magisterium? 9 said yes, 5 said no, 1 abstained. For the past two millennium the doctrine on marriage underwent development, but its develop was about "the ends of marriage". It was only in 1968 that HV defined a new moral principle, defined to be a moral absolute, that was not about the ends of marriage, but about a totally new concept whereby "two meanings of a marital act" could not be separated under any circumstances. This principle is totally different than the ends of marriage. The inseparability principle was the philosophy of "one Cardinal" named Karol Wojtyla. No bishop, pope or theologian before 1960 ever wrote about or mentioned an inseparability of two so-called narrow meanings of the marital act. Nor did anyone proclaim that such a principle was 'God's Procreative Plan'. What you also fail to understand is the definition of contraception (HV 14), which is "excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation, whether as an end or means". Any action is not solely defined as mechanical or medicinal…it is any action of the agents. NFP is not merely about abstinence. NFP consists of two actions: abstinence from sexual intercourse for a period estimated to be the fertile time during each month; and the specific intentional, willful physical acts of temperature and mucus measurement and plotting to determine infertile times so that sexual intercourse can be limited to these times to ensure that every marital act is not procreative. Therefore such means-acts are specifically intended to achieve the end-goal of the agents which is to ensure that marital acts are not procreative. In other words, married couples are intentionally separating the so-called unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act when they practice NFP or use artificial birth control. Either NFP and artificial birth control violates HV or they do not. Your understanding of the history and philosophical and theological principles that anchor the teaching HV is at a 50,000 foot level and not correct.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael Barberi - You are a supporter of the theory of the development of doctrine and the emphasis on the bond between the unitive and procreative aspects could fit that development. However, I think you must concede, as Michael Mohl does, that the Roman Catholic Church has continuously taught that contraception is against the moral law. It has never wavered in that teaching. The role of Bishop Karol Wojtyla in HV was like that of the bishops attending this synod - to be an advisor to the pope. it was the same role as the Commission - strictly advisory. After he received all this advice, he prayed and meditated on it and was inspired by the Holy Spirit. That is how the Petrine ministry is supposed to work - not by a show of hands or majority rule. The anovulant pill is a medicinal interference with conception (it is contra-conception). The Church teaches that NFP is totally different. It is using the knowledge of the fertility cycle and abstaining from intercourse during fertile times - NOT having intercourse and interrupting it by mechanical or medicinal means before, during or after. If your conscience has a problem with NFP, then you can avoid it. But, you do not have the authority to impose your private belief on others who are trying to follow the specific teaching of the Church.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, We are debating the history and principles that anchor the teaching HV. Your foolish remark "that I do not have the authority to impose my private belief on others" is indicative of your style of argument. I offered a scholarly and respectful defense of my argument after many years of study and research. I am published and my only objective is to move the conversation forward towards a better understanding of truth. I do not "impose" my private beliefs upon others. I leave such decisions and judgments to my fellow bloggers. Your comments are not an argument because you are simply repeating the teaching and not engaging the issues under consideration. The RCC may have not wavered in its prohibition about contraception or birth control, but the RCC can and should rethink HV and it has the power to change a teaching for good reasons. HV is not an infallible teaching. Admittedly, there are traditional theologians that argue that HV is infallible, however, the CDF, the Roman Curia or any pope has never "officially" or "authoritatively" proclaimed HV to be an infallible teaching. Your arguments always come down to your belief that every teaching of the magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit and is the absolute moral truth with certainty, save for a minor development and not a change. You also never, ever, acknowledged that many moral teachings of the Church have been proclaimed as truth for centuries, only to be changed in later times. We have debated these issues at length, and regardless of the evidence, you will never admit to it because you would find yourself in a inescapable moral dilemma. You also cannot bring yourself to acknowledge that the Church teaches a one-sided view of NFP. Nor have you ever adequately addressed the issues I have argued herein, as many theologians have argued as well. Take a long look in the mirror Mr. O'Leary and you will see that if anyone is imposing their belief upon others, and irresponsibly chastising others who legitimately disagree with HV, for good reasons, it is you my friend. There is still much hope for the RCC for the Holy Spirit blows where it wills and guides us all to the truth. This might take time, but in the meantime we should give thanks to God for his grace and for the authority of a properly informed conscience, the pastoral guidance of our parish priests and moral mentors.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael Barberi - I didn't use the word "foolish", so that would be your style, not mine. If you read my comment more closely, you would see that I objected to you trying to teach faithful Catholics that their practice of NFP is a form of contraception, when the Church teaches otherwise. I also do not impose my beliefs at all as what I defend is not mine, and I claim no authority, scholarly or otherwise. I do not impose even those beliefs but defend them from what I see as inept attacks, off-the-point criticisms or misuses of science, as if science knew anything about faith and morals. I am sure others (esp. those even further away from the Church's teaching than you) find your arguments persuasive or at least like them but to me they are not, no matter how many times you repeat them. You seem to have a campaign to discredit the Church's moral teaching in so many areas. You have said that you do not expect the Church to change its doctrinal teaching, so all your efforts can lead to is doubt and discord. Why is this a good use of your considerable intelligence and efforts? Life is too short and Judgment Day too near. I think you believe much of what the Church teaches, Have you ever thought about defending that and leaving your doubts and dissents to the private sphere and your own conscience?
Douglas Fang
3 years 4 months ago
Tim - I found it extremely strange that you claim that NFP is NOT a form of contraception!!! According to Wikipedia, “Birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, are methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_control If it is not a form of birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancy, that what else it should be? Why should people even try to practice NFP? Are you playing with words academically now? Go out to the trench, live in the field, smell the sheeps – and you can understand why most Catholic couples naturally and instinctively reject or ignore NFP.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Doug - Wiki might not be the best place to get the distinction, since abstinence and breast feeding (and travel, and old age) will also prevent conception (contra-conception). For brevity I didn't keep repeating my distinction (earlier comment above) between obstructing the process and abstaining when knowing one is fertile. the Church says abstaining (even well-informed abstaining like NFP) is not against the moral law, but medicinal and mechanical interference while engaging in intercourse is. It has always taught this. And, I have not heard some defend the Pill but oppose the condom. The interference can be before, during or after. I also agree that many/most Catholics do not practice NFP. But, many Catholics also miss Mass, get drunk, get divorced, have sex outside of marriage, have abortions, tell lies, cheat, ignore the poor, vote Democrat, etc. Most polls of self-identifying Catholics indicate they reject a whole host of teachings, many more egregious than OC. By no means is NFP the most important thing. As Pope Francis said, the Church is like a field hospital and in a field hospital one rightly triages for the severest wounds. I am much more exercised about abortion and sex abuse and family breakdown, but the conversation came to here, so I took it up.
Douglas Fang
3 years 4 months ago
Tim – you surprised me again as you say that “vote Democrat” is equivalent to get drunk, get divorce, cheating, lying, etc. It seems that you let your political viewpoint severely impairs your judgment here. Are you trying to demonize more than half the voters who voted Democrat? especially the minorities such as blacks (90% +) and asians (70%+) ? It reminds me about the following article that I just read yesterday: ”Why people believe things you don't believe” http://boingboing.net/2014/09/30/why-people-believe-things-you.html. This is why I believe only the power of God can change people minds. No words or arguments can change someone mind. In a debate, you have to accept that your point of view may not be acceptable by others in a very legitimate way. It is just the human nature. This is why I love pope Francis so much– he who challenges us to go out to the fields, to live in the trench, to smell the sheep, to go to the peripherals, … Disclosure – As someone lives in a blue state, I have a pretty low view about those red states.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Doug - the remark on voting was half tongue-in-cheek, although, to be fair, getting drunk might be far less damaging than voting for someone who is pro-abortion etc.. My bigger point was that many self-identified Catholics are unfaithful to many Church teachings so majorities practicing contraception is of no help in adjudicating what the faith really means. Jesus was of course wise to not leave decisions on how the faith should be interpreted to majority vote. Only Protestant churches do that. Sensus fidelium requires two things, faithfulness and fidelity to the Magisterium.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Doug, Good points. Mr.O'Leary does not want to understand the definition of contraception as defined in HV…as "excluded is every action…." (see the fuller description in my previous blog comment). Every action does not solely mean medicinal or mechanical action but any physical action of the agents that is deliberatively intended to prevent the marital act from being procreative. As such, the physical intentional and willful acts of temperature and mucus measurement and plotting "in NFP" ensures the separation of the unitive and procreative meaning of the marital act. In NFP, all martial acts are not procreative. The magisterium refuses to address this issue. All they have done to date is focus on one aspect of NFP, abstinence, while not acknowledging what is really taking place, namely, the deliberate physical actions the agents are performing to ensure that all marital acts are not procreative. Additionally, it is perplexing to most Catholics that NFP can be practiced for a lifetime for good reasons (Pius XII in his 1951 Address to the Midwives), yet for the same good reasons Catholics cannot practice artificial birth control. If the RCC does not mandate how many children, if any, married couples should have, and leaves such decisions up to each married couple, then the decision of responsible fertility regulation, or birth control, should their decision as well. There is no anti-life attitude of most Catholics who practice contraception as the magisterium claims. Most married Catholics will quickly tell you that if birth control fails (NFP or artificial birth control), they would welcome the child-to-be into their families with unconditional love.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, You should follow your own suggestions Mr. O'Leary. Your specific comment I referred to was "foolish" because nothing I have ever written could ever be characterized as irresponsibly "imposing my beliefs on others". More importantly, such a comment is unsubstantiated. In your mind, any legitimate and scholarly argument that is in tension with a magisterium teaching (and you have no adequate or convincing response for) are somehow immoral, misguided, erroneous and characterized by someone with an evil intention to defame and irresponsibly criticize the RCC. When you say you "defend" the magisterium teachings, this often is only a repeat of high level arguments. You never enter into a respectful and direct debate on the specific points I have ever raised, save for the infrequent few. This is often the problem with our exchanges. You claim your arguments are not yours but the magisterium's, but what you are really doing is trying to irresponsibly chastise and silence a faithful theological debate. You like to claim that my arguments are "inept attacks, off-the-point criticisms or misuses of science" but when I challenge you respectfully you deflect, ignore and never confront the points in my argument or demonstrate in any way how my comments are inept, off-the-point or misuses of science. The last string of your irresponsible comments, on a different article, was to attack my knowledge and expertise with respect to scientific studies when "you had no prior understanding" of my education and professional experience. When I enlightened you about my considerable education and experience with respect to publication and statistical bias in scientific studies (a minor deflecting point you raised), it was clear that your remarks were both irresponsible and wrong. My so-called campaign (your words, not mine) to discredit the Church's moral teachings is blatantly false and misleading. When you cannot refute my respectful arguments, you resort to this type of negative and degrading assaults on my character, intention and dignity. You ignore my constant reminders that my goal is simple…to move the conversation forward towards a better understanding of truth. My arguments are for reflection and I do not "impose" them on anyone. I leave the quality of my personal comments based on years of study and research to those who read them. I disagree with many teachings, but this is from a scholarly theological perspective. I guess you consider all theologians that argue like I do as people who are "leading faithful Catholics to doubt and discord". I have always said that changes in magisterium teachings will take time, but this does not mean that anyone who argues for responsible change should simply give up. Nor does it mean that a scholarly debate ipso facto leads to doubt and discord. If there is legitimate doubt, so what? It has been in disagreement that many teachings taught as truth for centuries were eventually changed. Respectful and scholarly debate and disagreement is good for our Church because the Holy Spirit leads us to truth in agreement and disagreement. I reflect on anyone's respectful arguments and enjoy a good give-and-take, but not irresponsible and unsubstantiated attacks about my comments, character or intentions.
Tim O'Leary
3 years 4 months ago
Michael – there you go again, claiming that I “never confront the points” in your argument and “never” provide “specific” counter-arguments. I will spare the readers a repeat, but note arguments from me below regarding abstinence vs. interference, Petrine ministry vs. advisory (Karol Wojtyla);. papal decision vs. synodal voting; the holiness of Blessed Pope Paul VI and his other writings; proper development of doctrine (re unitive/procreative, capital punishment, usury, slavery); continuity of Catholic teaching on contraception vs. Protestants’ recent abandonment; the bad effects of papal temporal power; future advances in NFP; more severe burdens than fertility; contraceptive mentality, biases other than statistical in science; the limits of science; etc., etc. One more highly specific response. You claim the definition of contraception in HV 14 specifically excludes the “two actions” involved in NFP (abstinence and testing for an infertile period), and you say I “fail to understand” the HV definition (or, to Doug, that I do "not want to understand the HV definition"!). But, you forget/fail to read the document in its totality. Pope Paul VI directly rules out your misinterpretation, meaning you cannot legitimately draw that equivalence, since it is decidedly not the meaning the author had. Here is the direct quote from HV 16 (capitalizations are mine for emphasis): “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NATURAL CYCLES immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. “NEITHER THE CHURCH NOR HER DOCTRINE IS INCONSISTENT when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the latter practice may appear to be upright and serious. IN REALITY, THESE TWO CASES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the latter they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are READY TO ABSTAIN FROM INTERCOURSE DURING THE FERTILE PERIOD as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.” I strongly recommend that readers re-read HV. It is not long and a reread will avoid this kind of misunderstanding, even if one doesn’t end up accepting the teaching.
Michael Barberi
3 years 4 months ago
Tim, The points I continue to make that you fail to specially address are the interpretations of HV 12 and 14. I have not failed to read the entire encyclical HV in its entirety as you erroneously claim. Honestly Tim, your remarks are both disingenuous and highly misleading to readers when you say such a thing, because you know specifically that I shared with you, in confidence, an early draft of my essay about HV where I dealt with the primary sources, namely, each of the 4 pivotal principles that anchor the teaching. I analyzed and thoroughly argued against them in detail. You quote HV 16 (lawful birth control methods which the Church says is NFP) but this is only a statement made by Pius XII that was continued in HV. Up until 1951, no pope ever approved of such a method. Let us be clear...I have no problem with NFP as a means of birth control. However, it is a contradiction compared to HV 12 (the inseparability principle) because NFP separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act since the physical acts of temperature and mucus measurement and plotting are intentional and willful actions performed by the agents so that sexual intercourse can be limited to infertile times to ensure THAT ALL MARITAL ACTS ARE NOT PROCREATIVE. How can these marital acts be "opened to procreation" when the physical acts of the agents are specifically performed and intended to ensure that they are not procreative? The ends and intentions of NFP couples are the same as the ends and intentions of couples who use artificial birth control in the practice of responsible parenthood. I do not deny that abstinence is also practiced in NFP. However, the magisterium (and you Mr. O'Leary) fail to acknowledge that there is much more going on here. You and the magisterium are only describing one view of this reality. You cannot define NFP as "abstinence only" because there are deliberate, intentional and will physical acts being performed that will ensure that all marital acts are not procreative. This violates HV 12. You don't have to agree with me, but this does not take away from the strength of my argument…an argument that many theologians have made over the years that the magisterium has not adequately addressed. NFP is also contradictory to HV 14 where the encyclical describes what is prohibitive…namely, "excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse (the marital act), is specifically intended to prevent procreation, whether as as an end or means". The words "any action" is not defined in the encyclical as medicinal and mechanical action only, as you erroneously assert. You are putting words in an encyclical that are not there in order to support your defense of HV. You also cannot claim with any credibility or substantiation that the words in the encyclical mean anything else than what is evident by their meaning. I am dealing with the principles and philosophies that "underpin" HV. You are repeating assertions in HV to claim that HV is correct. In other words, according to your philosophy and belief (and the magisterium's), if a pope says something is true, it is true regardless of the reasons. You cannot point to an statement in HV and then claim your argument is right. This is not debating the principles but repeating the teaching. This is part of the problem I have with you in debate. I could have argued about the other principle in HV that anchor the teaching, namely, that NFP and the inseparability principle are "God's Procreative Plan", but this would mean a much longer argument and debate. Frankly Tim, no one knows God's Procreative Plan with moral certainly, especially when it is based on philosophical anthropology and symbolic speculation. I also suggest everyone read HV. However, claims that are made in HV must be fully understood as to their origin, history and development. Most importantly, readers also should educate themselves on the theological debate that has been waging for the past 46 years concerning HV. This is what I have done, namely, I have read more than 80 books and articles concerning moral theology and the issues involved in the formulation of HV. I have sought several moral theologians as mentors on both sides of the debate. This means I have studied the argument for and against HV for many years and continue to do so. My work will be published shortly as it was found to be contributory…not an easy task considering that the debate has been going on for 46 years and only about 5% of manuscripts submitted by theologians with doctorates see their works published in prominent theological journals. I will let those that follow my arguments to make up their own minds as to whether HV is the absolute moral truth with certainty, and the other issues we continue to disagree upon.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

February has been one of the most violent months in the seven years of conflict.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 25, 2018
Asia Bibi's husband and her daughter Eisham arrive in the Vatican prior to a private meeting with Pope Francis. (Credit: Vatican News)
The pope said Rebecca Bitrus and Asia Bibi are models for a society that today has ever more fear of suffering.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 24, 2018
(Nick Ansell/PA via AP, archive)
Recent allegations about one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known charities has driven increased demands from some quarters that overseas aid be reduced, if not abolished completely.
David StewartFebruary 23, 2018
Students who walked out of classes from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland protest against gun violence in front of the White House on Feb. 21 in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
The desire for stronger gun control may not translate into more caution with gun storage among owners of firearms.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2018