Catholic debate over contraception sparks scholarly duel

What’s old is new again.

That is the argument being levied by a group of Catholic theologians against a report by other theologians who argue that the Catholic Church’s prohibition on artificial contraception is not rooted in Scripture or theology. That perspective was presented at a symposium on Sept. 20 about international aid held in conjunction with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

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In August, the U.K.-based Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research published a report in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical banning the use of contraception. The statement, signed by more than 150 Catholic scholars, argues, “The choice  to use contraceptives for either family planning or prophylactic purposes can be a responsible and ethical decision and even, at times, an ethical imperative.”

According to the group’s website, the full report was “made available to all U.N. departments and development agencies who are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Catholic Church teaches that any sexual acts that are closed to pregnancy are morally illicit and bans the use of condoms, hormonal birth control pills and sterilization. On Tuesday, another group of Catholic theologians released their own statement in support of that teaching.

Their statement, signed by more than 500 scholars and presented at a press event at the Catholic University of America, says the Wijngaards statement “repeats the arguments that the Church has rejected and that numerous scholars have engaged and refuted since 1968.”

It says those pushing for the church to lift its ban on artificial contraception have failed to take into account findings from the past five decades that, they say, show contraception harms women and destabilizes relationships.

“Abundant studies show that contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, can cause serious health problems for women,” the statement says.

“The widespread use of contraception,” it continues, “appears to have contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women, to declining marriage rates as well as to declining population growth in many parts of the world.”

Miriam Duignan, communications director for the Wijngaards Institute, rejected those claims and called access to contraception a social justice issue, especially for women in the developing world.

“We are not advocating population control; we are not advocating abortion; we are not condoning anything that leads to promiscuity,” she told America. “We want to open up a discussion about the use of contraception for family planning and to show that the use of contraception falls squarely within papal teaching for responsible parenthood.”

John S. Grabowski, an ethics professor at the Catholic University of America and a co-author of the statement supporting the church’s ban on contraception, told America that it is important for U.S. Catholics to know that there are many in the scholarly world who stand by the church’s teaching.

“People might stop and reconsider what we know now compared to 1968,” he said.

A 2012 Gallup Poll found that more than eight in 10 U.S. Catholics think using artificial birth control is moral. Another poll two years later by the Spanish-language television network Univision found large majorities of Catholics in countries in Latin America, Europe and the Philippines also approved the use of contraception. By contrast, fewer than half of those Catholics polled in Congo and Uganda said it was morally permissible.

The church, of course, is not a democracy, and the 1968 ban promulgated in Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” and supported by subsequent popes still stands. Married couples who wish to delay pregnancy are encouraged by some Catholic groups to use Natural Family Planning, which tracks a woman’s fertility cycle to determine when she is least like to conceive.

Critics of the church’s ban on condoms and birth control pills contend that the intent of both artificial contraception and N.F.P. is the same, thus the ban does not make sense. But the Catholic University statement rebuffs this criticism.

“Couples using these methods make no attempt to thwart the power of acts that could result in the procreation of new human persons,” the statement says. “They respect God’s design for sexuality; they help individuals grow in self-mastery; they have the potential to strengthen marriages and respect the physical and psychological health of women.”

Duignan said the Wijngaards Institute made its report available during the U.N. symposium because some international aid agencies have expressed frustration to her group that faith-based organizations stymie efforts to make contraception available in the developing world. She said her organization wanted to show that not all Catholics are against contraception and indeed some see it as a social good.

“We’re really trying to help tackle the injustice for people who live in countries where the Catholic Church has the authority and power to impact healthcare,” she said.

She pointed to instances of women with many children living in extreme poverty who do not wish to get pregnant but either cannot afford contraception or do not have access to it, as well as couples where one partner is infected with H.I.V.

“It’s not just a theory or philosophical debate,” she said. “This is a life or death matter for people.”

Grabowski, on the other hand, said that he and his colleagues have heard a different story, one more in line with pronouncements from Pope Francis who has repeatedly condemned “ideological colonization,” which some interpret as criticism against international aid packages that include money earmarked for contraception. (The pope has also suggested, however, that there may be special cases in which couples have understandable reasons for wanting to limit family size.)

“What we’re hearing from people in the developing world is that they’re grateful that Catholic scholars are speaking out on issues like this because they’re dealing with contraception imperialism from the U.S. and other countries that link aid to contraception,” Grabowski said.

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

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Chris Sullivan
1 year 2 months ago
“Couples using these methods make no attempt to thwart the power of acts that could result in the procreation of new human persons,” This quote seems to illustrate the inability of theologians opposing contraception to make a coherent case. Of course couples using Natural Family Planning thwart the power of the sexual act to procreate because they time intercourse to thwart conception. The point is that some methods of preventing conception radically alter sex and some don't. God Bless
Crystal Watson
1 year 2 months ago
The church's doctrine that contraception is immoral is a joke - after Humanae Vitae came out, hundreds of theologians and numerous bishops conferences world-wide dissented from that teaching, the pope's own commission on birth control recommended it be acceptable, and you would be hard pressed to find a Catholic couple who doesn't use it today. There's no coherent theology behind the teaching, and to stick with it in the face of the poverty caused by a lack of effective and cheap contraception (think the Philippines) is just wrong.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 2 months ago
If its a joke, why aren't you laughing, Crystal. The philosophical and sociological defense of Humanae Vitae is stronger now than ever. Yes, it is rejected by many Catholics, who are having few children, divorcing and even aborting at rates similar to the secular world, and are otherwise reaping what they sowed. Mary Eberstadt's book recounts this in great detail "Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution." Of course, you have been in comments a proponent of abortion and gay sex, two very radical consequences of a break between the unitive and the procreative, so I don't expect you to see the truth of HV. But, the real question within Catholic circles is: can pro-contraception theologians stay faithful on the more radical departures? As the Wijngaards Institute shows, they cannot.
Crystal Watson
1 year 2 months ago
You might ask 'faithful to what'? The doctrine is made from whole cloth, with no scriptural basis. Our church is supposed to care about what Jesus had to say, not about what a medieval scholastic thought a Greek philosopher believed.
Gerard H
1 year 2 months ago
Catholic Doctrine doesn't require a Scriptural basis, That idea is made from whole cloth. If you want Sola Scriptura, there are thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations that all interpret Scripture in a subjective way to do what they want. But if you are looking for a reference in scripture, in the book of Genesis the sin of Onan is a sin of contraception.
Gerard H
1 year 2 months ago
Natural Family Planning is only to be used when there are grave circumstances. And it is about refraining from sex during the most fertile period, not having sex for it's own sake as an aerobic exercise. Contraception is about having sex during the fertile period and any other time and thwarting nature. If someone is using NFP simply because they don't want kids and they want a new boat or home theater or simply don't want the bother, they are sinning in the area of impurity of thought by adopting the contraceptive mentality.
John Schoonover
1 year 2 months ago
I'd be fascinated to learn under what conditions or in the face of what grave circumstances NFP might be allowed. I would not want to be turned away at the Pearly Gates having been condemned because I thought like a contraceptionist.
William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
Will Fr Matt be making the position known on behalf of America Magazine at the upcoming General Congregation?
Michael Barberi
1 year 2 months ago
I have read a summary of the report by the Wijngaards Institute and agree with its conclusions and recommendations. I have studied moral theology for more than 5 years and have been fortunate to be mentored by both a prominent traditionalist theologian and a prestigious revisionist theologian. As a result, I have studied both sides of this argument for and against Humanae Vitae (HV). For those who want the latest scholarship on HV which was considered 'contributory' by a prominent Catholic Journal of Theology, please read my published essay entitled: "The Origin of Humanae Vitae and the Impasse in Fundamental Theological Ethics". It was published in December 2014 even though the edition of Louvain Studies was the Winter 2013 (they are 1 year behind reflecting the difference between the edition date and the publication date). I would be happy to send anyone a copy of this essay by email. In short, my essay is important because, unlike other essays, it deals with the 4 principles that underpin HV, and equally important the origin of its most central tenet, namely, the inseparability principle. It also deals with both sides of the argument fairly, comprehensively and historically. Without going into a lot of detail, and entering into protracted arguments with some America Magazine bloggers, I concluded after years of study and research that HV should be responsibly reformed for good philosophical and theological reasons. To be clear: I respect those Catholics who use NFP and those Catholics who support HV. Nevertheless, I respectfully disagree with this teaching especially the assertion that NFP is God's Procreative Plan and contraception is intrinsically evil regardless of the agent's ends, intentions and circumstances. Both NFP and contraception separate the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act ensuring that all martial acts are not procreative. You don't need to understand moral theology to know that if one limits marital acts to infertile times for a long time or a lifetime, as permitted by the magisterium, such martial acts can never be 'open to procreation', nor are the ends and intentions of NFP and contraceptive couples (both do not want more children nor do they want their martial act to end in conception). However, the overwhelming majority of Catholic married couples will tell you that if their birth control methods should fail, they would welcome the child into their families with unconditional love. Therefore, any claim that most couples who use the pill for birth control are 'anti-life' is not supported whatsoever by existential reality. Many surveys have demonstrated that not only do 78% of worldwide Catholic practice some form of contraception, but that many theologians and priests believe that contraception is seldom or never a sin. While poll statistics are never considered in the formulation of doctrine, collective human experience is one of the factors that is considered in the development or reform of teachings. I hope Pope Francis and the Curia will reconsider how this teaching can be responsibly reformed, and I pray that clergy, theologians and the general laity will be enlighten by the Holy Spirit in truth.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 2 months ago
To posit this as a dispute between two groups of Catholic scholars is an erroneous characterization. A brief study of the Wijngaard Institute website reveals that they dissent from a host of doctrines beyond HV. They oppose the concept of Natural Law, advocate for the morality of homosexual sex, promote women priests, dissent from the teaching of Councils (e.g the VCI teaching on infallibility) and generally disrespect the authority of the Magisterium. They even question the divinity or knowledge of Jesus because He chose only men for His apostles (implying that we can depart from his teaching if we think He was limited by His culture). This has consequences for the doctrine of the Incarnation. It seems to me that the initial dissenters on HV back in the 1960s believed that the rest of Catholic doctrine would not be weakened or distorted by permitting contraception in certain circumstances. They wouldn't have dreamed that the consequences of a change in HV would impact the very nature of marriage, and of homosexuality. Where have all these single-issue opponents gone? I know of no theologian who is steadfast on the rest of Catholic doctrine but argues for contraception only for married faithful couples. This is only one piece of evidence for how prophetic this document was.
Michael Barberi
1 year 2 months ago
It is time that Catholics stop resorting to denigrating language in describing those who disagree with certain sexual ethical teachings as 'dissenters'. You can respectfully disagree for good reasons and still remain faithful Catholics. What is critically important is not to resort to ad hominem criticism but to respectfully engage in legitimate scholarly arguments focused on the principles and philosophy that underpin teachings. The Wigngaard Institute's report on contraception is well-reasoned scholarship that should be seriously considered by Pope Francis, the Curia, moral theologians and all Catholics. Some Catholics may disagree with Wigngaard Institute Report, but what does not promote a better understanding of truth is to shut the door on dialogue and debate by irresponsible tying the credibility of a disagreement with one specific moral teaching to a disagreement with another moral teaching. The arguments for and against each moral teaching must stand or fall on their own theological merits. We live in a divided Church and in a crisis in truth. The way forward is through respectful and responsible dialogue, not to classify those who disagree as 'dissenters' or to use any other inappropriate name-calling. The Holy Spirit moves all Catholics to the truth in agreement and disagreement. It was disagreement that lead to the reform of other teachings that were taught as truth for centuries. Today, we need the doors of dialogue to remain open, not closed and to avoid the use spurious arguments.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 2 months ago
Michael - It is not ad hominem to point out that departure from orthodox and well established teaching on HV can lead to departure on other doctrines. Catholic theology is more like an interwoven tapestry than a set of isolated moral teachings that "must stand or fall on their own theological merits." It is especially hard for specialists in theological subjects to see the interconnectedness. It doesn't really matter how many years one engages in theological study if one is using erroneous foundations. Certainly, the protestant "reformers" and their descendants accumulated hundreds of thousands of hours of scholarly study - but that didn't help their return to the truth, because they started with a foundational error of sola scriptura and rejection of papal authority. You often end with the phrase that the Holy Spirit is leading through disagreement. But, that is a foundational error, in my opinion. The Holy Spirit doesn't adjudicate debates. It protects the Church, through the Magisterium, from departing from received and revealed teaching. HV has been validated and confirmed by all subsequent popes since 1968, and by many theologians and bishops, by individuals in their private lives. But, most importantly to me, those who initially supported contraception only for married couples, and only under certain limited circumstances, have now changed their beliefs on the very idea of marriage and the norms of sexuality. Like a ship that went slightly off course in the beginning of a journey, they are now far away from the bark of Peter on many, many issues. Notice that the Anglicans began with a similarly narrow acceptance of artificial contraception in 1930, at their Lambeth conference. Their ship has long departed even from the reformers. They need to recover a Christian compass. So, does the Wijngaards Institute.
Michael Barberi
1 year 2 months ago
Tim, You are entitled to your opinion but not the facts, especially when you say "It is especially hard for specialists in theological subjects to see the interconnectedness (that Catholic theology is a tapestry and moral teachings do not stand or fall on their own theological merits). Moral teachings have been debated for centuries by theologians with expertise in this subject, especially on HV and sexual ethics in the 20th and 21st centuries. They debate these issues on the merits of arguments that are reasoned and scholarly, as well as in accordance with Scripture and Traditioon, when appropriate. You continue to believe that anyone who disagrees with a moral teaching is somehow misguided and in need of a moral compass because as you say they are now far away from the bark of Peter. Such assertions are not substantiated and are insulting to those informed Catholics and theologians, bishops and priests who sincerely love Christ, the Pope and the Church, but disagree with HV. Popes and Councils have confirmed for centuries many teachings as truth but were eventually reformed. I truly believe that HV will be reformed. Notice that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried will be permitted under certain circumstances in accordance with the discernment process in Amoris Laetititia (AL). I am sure you know that within the past week that Pope Francis sent a letter to the Argentina bishops approving their interpretation of AL by allowing Holy Communion for some divorced and remarried Catholics. Let's see how many other bishops around the world do the same. I offer my educated and faithful views for reflection. I do not claim that others who agree with HV are misguided, or are far from the bark of Peter, or are like the Protestant reformers with their erroneous foundations. Nevertheless, I do believe that HV should be reformed for good reasons. It would not be productive for us to have further exchanges. Let us leave my viewpoints and your remarks to those who read our exchanges and make up their own mind.
William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
Like I said elsewhere, nothing on the "Expert Voices" webpage section of the America Magazine website that gives any background of O'Loughlin and any membership in the North American Province Society of Jesus today? Need to understand what qualifies as a voice in America. Can one assume that this is proxy for America Magazine (i.e. Interpretation), or a spur to further discussion and if so, for what purpose other than to sway the larger Society of Jesus settled position which is to my knowledge strongly in favour of Humanae Vitae? More Clarity would help quality of ongoing discussion in my opinion. in Christ, Please let us readers know
Tom Poelker
1 year 2 months ago
Note the “weasel words” and subjectivity of the traditionalist arguments instead of engaging the Wijngaard positions. “We hear from” people already on their side. “[C]an [not does] cause serious health problems “ which is irrelevant to theological definitions based on Natural Law. “Appears to have contributed” from their point of view with no proof or statistical study. “Many in the scholarly world who stand by the church’s teaching” whose continued employment at Catholic institutions depends on them doing so.”They help individuals grow in self-mastery” sounds like the old Manichean approach to the body as being a lesser part of humanity to be controlled instead of a valuable element of the complete person. In short, America Magazine could do US Catholics a great service by listing the Wijngaard position point by point and printing a point by point response by one of the opposing theologians mentioned in the article. I suspect that what would be revealed is that they cannot agree on the underlying principles applicable to the situation, specifically whether Natural Law is intrinsic to Catholic theology or just one theory among many. As it stands this article can be reduced to “Theological schools still disagree over the underlying principles of Humanae Vitae.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 2 months ago
One more gripe I have about the Wijngaards Institute. It is well known that the U.N. has been hostile to Catholic services across the world. So, rather than humbly submit their "new Research" (is there any new thinking?) to Pope Francis, they try to strong-arm the Church to change its doctrine using a non-Catholic (even anti-Catholic) powerful agency.
Michael Barberi
1 year 2 months ago
It is an exaggeration and irresponsible to assert that the Wijngaard Institute's report on contraception is 'strong-arming' the Catholic Church, the Pope or the Magisterium. Anyone who has read the report or a summary of it, will notice how respectful it is, both in its conclusions and recommendations as well as in the reasons in argument for change. The CUA commentary does not deal with the point-by-point arguments of the Wijngaard Institute report. The CUA put forth the same old arguments that have never been convincing to most theologians, informed Catholics, and many bishops and priests. It is not my objective to make a point-by-point argument between the Wigngaard Institute report and the CUA commentary, for this would far exceed the boundaries of blog commentaries. My essay, for those who want to read it, covers this subject comprehensively. It would be a good idea, as Tom suggested, if America Magazine found an author who would fairly compare the pro and con arguments side by side. If this was done, then it would be obvious to most informed Catholics which argument rings true to the deepest levels of one's heart, mind and soul. The critical issue that is causing an impasse in fundamental theological ethics regarding HV is one of moral methodology, apart from the lack of credibility of the arguments in support of this teaching. Nevertheless, for those who believe that the encyclical HV is infallible, that NFP is God's Procreative Plan and contraception is intrinsically evil regardless of the agent's ends, intentions and circumstances, I respect such an opinion but 'respect' does not mean agreement. More importantly, I do not dissent, I respectfully disagree for good reasons and this means I do not assent at this time. This means I remain open to new scholarship and arguments in support of HV and well as new scholarship in support of a change in HV. I also pray daily, seek priestly and theological advice, and frequent the sacraments. However, after 48 years of debate the impasse in fundamental theological ethics and the common sense of informed Catholics and many bishops and priests continues to demonstrate that HV should be responsibly changed. As for the prophetic nature of HV, this is another specious argument that only deflect from the underlying principles that anchor the teaching. The increase in the use of contraception does not cause the increase in abortion or the increase in spousal abuse, et al. We can debate the many assertions made, but correlation is not a cause. No one in their right mind believes that the increase in spousal abuse is caused by the increase in contraception. Nor is it credible that the increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortion is caused by the increased use of contraception. Just the opposite, it is the lack of contraception which cause unwanted pregnancies and in some cases abortion.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 2 months ago
Michael - you keep proposing that we stop responding to each others' comments yet you keep writing responses to my comments not addressed to you. So, I guess you really want to continue. How is it not attempting to bully the Church by going to the UN? How is the UN the right place to adjudicate a Catholic doctrinal issue? The Wijngaard Institute reveals its heavy-handed method by the following: "Our findings and theological materials will also be made available to all UN departments and development agencies who are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals." What are they trying to get the UN departments to do to the Church? If nothing, then why send it to them? Keep in mind that HV was only a re-iteration of the Church's long-standing doctrine, with some development in the understanding of the unitive-pro-creative connection. I recommend all open-minded people listen to this video response to the Wijngaard Institute: http://www.catholic.org/news/national/story.php?id=71011 . As Mrs Mary Rice Hasson said (11 mins in), the pro-contraceptive argument implies that there is a design flaw with women and with their natural cycle of fertility, that can only be fixed by modern plastic, copper or other devices or chemicals. As to your denial of the prophesies of Humanae Vitae, here is a good summary of the four specific prophecies: https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/264/popepaul.htm. Note that Pope Francis has been very strong in his affirmation of HV and its protection of women, even in his most widely acclaimed Amoris Laetitia "From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life. A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for “he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift”, which is “the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents”."
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, I don't like to enter into lengthly direct replies to your comments. I do appropriately exchange with you but sometimes I prefer to enter a new comment as you do sometimes. However, when I do post a new comment I often want to make another point, as you often do. When I say further dialogue will be unproductive, I do mean it. However, when you continue to post things that I disagree with, I sometimes post a new comment. Lengthly replies that go on forever are sometimes lost by others who want to read newer postings. You and I differ on many issues of sexual ethics, and in this case it is contraception. What do you want to me to do, post a host of endless articles in support of a change in the encyclical HV, while you post things that are said by others who support this teaching? This does help moving the conversation forward toward a better understanding of truth because it does not directly address the principles and philosophy that underpin the encyclical HV. Posting an endless series of articles and videos or what other have said on the subject under consideration is boring and unproductive. I think it is AM policy that bloggers limit the posting of things of others, and use their own words in argument over with the issues under consideration. You quote Pope Francis, but we both know that the issue of contraception was not adequately addressed, nor was it expected to be adequately addressed, by the Synod Bishops on the Family or in Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (AL). Everyone who has been following these events for years understood this. It was widely expected that the only issue that would be adequately addressed by the Synod on the Family and Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation was Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. While AL was not completely clear, as it was written in the manner that pointed to a path that navigated between those who were against Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried and those who were in favor of a pastoral solution, such clarity did emerge this week by Pope Francis. Please note that last week Pope Francis sent a letter to the Bishops of Buenos Aires approving their interpretation of AL by allowing Holy Communion for some divorced and remarried Catholics following the discernment process outlined in AL. This is significant news and it is expected that many bishops around the world will do the same. Equally important, this demonstrates that in the future it may be possible that other teachings, such as HV, will be resolved, perhaps by the internal forum and discernment process, or by a development or reform of this teaching. Keep in mind, that no Pope or CDF has "officially" declared HV to be infallible. There are some traditionalist theologians who argue that HV is infallible, but many moral theologians refute this argument and assertion. As to the Wijnaard Institute's report on contraception, I find it well-reasoned and scholarly. It is not disrespectful. It was sent to Pope Francis and others for reflection. Tim, the Wijngaar Institute report on contraception is not, in any way, strong-arming the Church. The Wijnaard Institute is also not trying to "adjudicate a moral teaching of the Church" in the U.N. as you claim. Everyone knows that this teaching can only be resolved by the Pope and magisterium. Hence, this report was sent Pope Francis for his reflection. It was also sent to various U.N. agencies in support for some U.N. programs. There is nothing mysterious or evil about this. This report got worldwide attention as it was important that others in the hierarchy to know about it, as well as informed Catholics who read the news and events around the world. I applaud the Wijnaard Institute for their efforts and this report. Tim, I believe you are exaggerating and inappropriately criticizing the purpose and motives of the Wijnaard Institutes's report on contraception simply because it legitimately but respectfully challenges the teaching HV. As I mentioned to you, HV should be changed not only in light of the credibility and weaknesses of principles and philosophy that underpin the teaching, but also on the fact that almost 80% of worldwide Catholics and a significant number of bishops, priests and theologians do not receive this teaching. I have made my arguments to you clear many, many times on HV. We have been down this road before and I will not be dragged down a road that takes us far afield from the principles and philosophy that underpin the encyclical HV. For example, arguing over assertions and weak unsubstantial arguments that try to demonstrate that the increase in contraception is the cause of the increase in abortion, or the increase in spousal abuse, or the increase in promiscuity. I have offered my pithy and convincing arguments relative to these side issues that demostrate what is proposed as prophetic proof that HV is right, is based on an exaggeration of facts and misinformation. This side issue, of the prophetic nature of HV, will only deflect from the real issues that underpin the teaching HV that should be debated. I know you will continue to refuse to acknowledge any evidence that supports a change in the teaching HV. Nevertheless, I will respond to any comment when I think it is appropriate to do so.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - I know we disagree on HV and its consequences, but I am surprised you see no problem that they tried to drag the UN into it. I wouldn't be surprised if they next approach the Chinese government since they know that government is radically contraceptive and abortive and is in negotiations with the Vatican on religious rights for Catholics. You see no nefarious motive but I do not see people on the Traditional side of doctrinal arguments sending their arguments to secular bodies who have known antagonistic relationships with the Church. You say that every doctrinal position must rise or fall on its own merits, yet, you make a direct connection between Communion for divorced Catholics with HV, so you obviously don't see these in isolation when you think they support your arguments. As to the latter discussion, it is a completely different issue, as it relates to Church discipline (like allowing priests to marry) with individual penitents and not a doctrinal change. I found the Argentinian Bishops letter to be very reasonable, and not "changing" any doctrine at all. I also found Abp. Chaput's letter very reasonable. They differ most on emphasis and process, but do not differ on doctrine (unlike a reversal on HV, which the Pope will not support). If you followed my comments on this over two years ago, you will recall that, while I never campaign for a doctrinal change (not my role), I have been open to relaxation of this discipline if it would help more disaffected Catholics live a fully Catholic life. Ultimately, it comes down to true reform of a repenting soul and reconciliation with God's Church.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, I think you are assigning an evil motive to the fact that the Wijnaard Institute sent its report on contraception to certain UN agencies. The Wijnaard Institute explained why they did this as they believed that much good would be accomplished. You may not agree with their position on contraception, and believe that it was inappropriate of them to send their report to certain UN agencies, However, they were working with UN agencies and the problems that most families are facing in the world, especially where contraception is not available. Hence, they had several objectives and one of them was to send the report to Pope Francis for his reflection because it is the Pope and magisterium that can change this teaching, not a secular agency. HV should be reformed and exceptions allowed. This is especially important when couples have children, want no more for good reasons, and would welcome a child into their homes with unconditional love if contraception would fail. The responsible use of contraception by married couples should be morally permissible for a host of other moral circumstances such as when another pregnancy would threaten the life of the mother, and for women with irregular menstrual cycles that make NFP excessively burdensome. The decision of responsible birth control should be a decision for married couples to make, not a decision imposed upon them for highly questionable and controversial reasons. The Wijnaard institute's report on contraception offered well reasoned and scholarly arguments for a change in this teaching. Tim, you missed my point when I discussed the issue of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried and my comment about a change to HV. Each moral issue must stand on its own merits, but my point is clear: the fact that the teaching about Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried is changing, gives "hope" that a change may be possible for other moral teachings such as HV (for different reasons for a change in Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried). However, your comment that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried is not part of the doctrine on marriage is not correct. It flies in the face of the opinion of conservative bishops like Abp Chaput. Separation is permitted but not divorce and remarriage without an annulment unless the couple live as brother and sister. This is the opinion of conservative bishops like Abp. Chapat. Unless divorced and remarried couples are living as brothers and sisters or do not have an annulment, sexual acts between these agents are immoral and sinful. I am sure you are aware that a book was written by several bishops concerning this issue, in response to Cardinal Kasper's position before and during the Synod on the Family. When I brought up this issue over a year ago, when the Synod on the Family was in process, you were highly skeptical that this teaching would be changed. Now, as this teaching is starting to change, you claim it is only a practice of the Church and not really part of the doctrine on marriage. How convenient. If I am mistaken about your past position, send me a comment you posted where you agreed that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried without an annulment should be relaxed if it helped Catholics live a fully Catholic life (and not a requirement to live as brothers and sisters). If you did, I applaud your decision but disagree with you about the fact that this issue is not part of the doctrine on marriage. I know that Cardinal Kasper may have argued that it is a practice of the Church that can change, but the conservative bishops dismissed such a claim. Divorce and remarriage was always part of the doctrine on marriage that the Church has taught as truth for centuries. See the following: CDF Clarification on Divorced and Remarried Catholics | Catholic ... www.catholicworldreport.com/.../cdf_clarification_on_divorced_and_remarried_cath... Oct 23, 2013 - “The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - On 7/10/2016 (3:33pm) you agreed “AL did not change doctrine” - now you are saying otherwise. http://americamagazine.org/issue/philadelphia-archbishop-divorced-catholics-must-avoid-sex#comment-79735 Here is what I said in a comment on 11/24/2014 - 6:15pm http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/james-martin-and-ross-douthat-pope-francis-synod-and-demands-law-and-mercy “As Michael says below, the issue is much more complex than you seem to grasp. I hope that there can be a way for reconciliation for all those who have entered into an adulterous relationship, but it just might require ending the adultery. "As to expanding access to communion, maybe the synod should also discuss expanding it to baptized non-Catholics who are in faithful first marriages, as long as they profess belief in the Real Presence? Wouldn't a repentant Protestant be more deserving than a non-repentant Catholic?” Here is what I said on 11/11/2015 (3:24pm) “While I do not agree with Ross Douthat's characterization of the synod, it is incorrect to think he is being fundamentalist with regards Scripture. If anything, he is adhering to the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law (i.e. being orthodox). However, as the Holy father kept repeating at the Synod, the doctrine of the Church (i.e. the Catechism) will not change. The discipline (the Code of Canon Law) may indeed need change. I very much appreciated his reform of the annulment process and I am emotionally sympathetic to the idea that ways be found for binding repentant (penitent) remarried divorcees closer to the Church (if it can be done without endangering the true doctrine of our Lord). Same for certain Protestants?” http://americamagazine.org/content/good-word/jesus-teachings-marriage-and-divorce#comment-75424 Your argument that the Wijnaard Institute sent their report to the UN departments so "that much good would be accomplished." How exactly, since they are already radically contraceptive in their practice? By giving the UN confidence to pressure Catholic communities in Africa to abandon Church teaching, under the threat of withholding aid? When is it ever good to impose one's contraceptive mentality on a Catholic? For their own good? This argument does not hold up.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, See my response to your remarks here based on a more recent comment you posted. I combined my reply to both of your remarks.
Kevin Fallon
1 year 1 month ago
For the individual who has to make a moral decision the dictum: "dubium non peccatum est" should apply it would seem. Pastors should inform the laity about this doubt to prevent false conscious decisions.
James Murray
1 year 1 month ago
Notice the report on the opinion poll of Catholics on this topic. I have often wondered why bishops block such polling of the clergy and can only conclude it's because they know the answer and don't like it: the majority of clergy have no issue with affirming artificial birth control. In my discussions with clergy that certainly is the case. I have also had priests affirm IVF and the use of donor cells to create life. I suspect in the sad complexity of life there are priests who have affirmed abortions. It would be great to see leadership out of bishops to allow such polling but that would possibly disturb the corporation they have created and any bishop who allowed it would likely have his career ended. There is a hypocrisy in all of this. I am glad my Wife and I followed the advice of my uncle, a Catholic priest, who said: "when it comes to something like this do whatever you think is right."
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
James, The L.A. Times did a poll of U.S. Catholic priest in 2002. In short, they found the following: 40% of older and younger priests said contraception was seldom or never a sin. 58% of older and younger priests said Catholic may disagree with teachings (moral) and remain faithful 69% of older and younger priests favored the ordination of women as priests 42% of older and younger priests said that masturbation was seldom or never a sin Keep in mind that poll statistics are not considered in the formation of doctrine, but collective human experience, as reflected in polling, is one factor that is considered in a change in a moral teaching. In this case, when a significant percent of priests disagree with some moral teachings of the magisterium, it raises serious issues that the Pope and magisterium must adequately address. In the history of the Church, Popes and Bishops, including Councils, have proclaimed many teachings as truth, but were eventually reformed and changed due to disagreement. Thus, when I say that the Holy Spirit leads us all to the truth in agreement and disagreement, it is in this context that I make such an reasoned assertion. Witness the fact that an important part of the doctrine on marriage is being pastorally changed, namely, allowing Holy Communion for some divorced and remarried without an annulment and without the requirement that they live as brothers and sisters. Just last week, it was announced that the bishops of Buenos Aires will being permitting this, with Pope Francis's approval in his letter addressed to them. This will happen following the discernment process outlined in Amoris Laetitia. I expect that many more bishops will be doing the same over the next year.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - please provide a link to the LA Times Poll since it helps the credibility of the claims. As to the Bishops of Buenos Aires, their letter is very carefully written and can be read in English here: https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/09/18/guidelines-buenos-aires-bishops-divorcedremarried/ Here are some extracts (My emphasis in Capitals). 5) WHENEVER FEASIBLE depending on the specific circumstances of a couple, especially when both partners are Christians walking the path of faith, a proposal may be made to RESOLVE TO LIVE IN CONTINENCE. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties arising from this option (cf. footnote 329) and offers the possibility of having ACCESS TO THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION if the partners fail in this purpose (cf. footnote 364, recalling the teaching that Saint John Paul II sent to Cardinal W. Baum, dated 22 March, 1996). 6) In more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained, the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. IF IT IS ACKNOWLEDGED THAT, IN A CONCRETE CASE, THERE ARE LIMITATIONS THAT MITIGATE RESPONSIBILITY AND CULPABILITY (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes he/she WOULD INCUR A SUBSEQUENT FAULT by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351). These sacraments, in turn, prepare the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace. 7) However, IT SHOULD NOT BE UNDERSTOOD THAT THIS POSSIBILITY IMPLIES UNLIMITED ACCESS TO SACRAMENTS, OR THAT ALL SITUATIONS WARRANT SUCH UNLIMITED ACCESS. The proposal is to properly discern each case. For example, special care should be taken of “a new union arising from a recent divorce” or “the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family” (298). Also, when there is a sort of apology or ostentation of the person’s situation “as if it were part of the Christian ideal” (297). In these difficult cases, we should be patient companions, and seek a path of reinstatement (cf. 297, 299). 8) It is always important to guide people to stand before God with their conscience. A useful tool to do this is the “examination of conscience” proposed by Amoris laetitia 300, specifically in relation to “how did they act towards their children” or the abandoned partner. Where there have been unresolved injustices, PROVIDING ACCESS TO SACRAMENTS IS PARTICULARLY OUTRAGEOUS. See my comment below where you agreed with me and the Pope that no doctrine has changed on this issue. it is a change of discipline and the Argentinian Bishops response, is very carefully and narrowly written.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, This posting will address both of your comments, here now and later in your reply to one of my previous comments. I read the statements of the Buenos Aires Bishops and the letter to them by Pope Francis. I don't know why you choose to repeat certain sections because they are obvious to me that they reflect the correct interpretation of AL, as Pope Francis has approved. This involves the pastoral application of the doctrine of marriage focusing on Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Let me try to make my comments clearer to you. The Synod on the Family and AL did not focus on changing doctrine per se. They focused on changing the pastoral application of the doctrine on marriage, in particular, Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried through the internal forum. However, the conservative Synod Fathers and the CDF article I posted, as well as JP II's Familiars Consortio make clear that divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment must live as brothers and sisters in order to receive Holy Communion. This is the interpretation of AL by Bishop Chaput and most of the conservative bishops. They don't agree with the interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops regardless if Pope Frances approved it, full stop, because it contradicts, in their opinion, the doctrine of marriage and the practices of the church in regard to Holy Communion for the divorce and remarried. You should read the CDF article I posted. If the link does not work, you can easily google it. This issue, Holy Communion of the divorced and remarried, is dividing the hierarchy, theologians and laity once again over certain moral teachings. While we are witnessing that some bishops will follow AL as the bishops of Buenos Aires are doing, and some bishops will follow the interpretation of Bishop Chaput, this will confuse Catholics and pit one bishop against the other. This will require the magisterium to find a way to resolve it. For the conservative bishops they disagree that a pastoral application of a doctrine on marriage (e.g., Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried) should be changed. I agree with changing the pastoral application of the doctrine on marriage (e.g. Holy Communion for some divorced and remarried Catholics). AL is so critically important because a pastoral application of a doctrine of the Church is being changed. Note that after the teaching on birth control (e.g. HV) was issued, most priests and many Conferences of Bishops around the world said this teaching could be the judgment of a Catholic's informed conscience under consultation with a priest. While many priests counseled Catholic married couples in this way regarding HV, this pastoral application of HV was rejected by St. JP II and Pope Benedict XVI because it went against a doctrine of the Church. They believed that a judgment of a properly informed conscience regarding artificial birth control was simply wrong regardless of the reasons because a judgment against a teaching of the magisterium would not be one of a properly informed conscience. In other words, your properly informed conscience must agree with the magisterium. Now, the teaching about the informed conscience as manifested in the internal forum under the guidance of a priest is being accepted with respect to Holy Communion for the some divorced and remarried Catholics. Tim, we may find a way for both of us to agree on these teachings from the point of view of a properly informed conscience (e.g. the internal forum) under the guidance of a priest. My parish priest always believed that under certain circumstances married people deserve a second chance if their first marriage fails. Young people make mistakes and often are not completely mature in their faith. When people realize that mistakes have been made and they find themselves in moral dilemma in a successful second marriage and want to repent and receive Christ in Holy Communion, a path to this must be made possible. This is what AL is doing. Likewise, married couples who disagree with HV for legitimate reasons, as I have put forth in my published article and in comments to you over several years, then they also should be allowed to receive Holy Communion based on their properly informed consciences when they are practicing contraception for good reasons and do not have a anti-life attitude. We may continue to disagree about HV because I believe this teaching should be reformed as my published article makes clear. However, rather than entering into protracted arguments between us that are not productive, we might agree that the properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest (e.g. the internal forum) and abiding by certain conditions is a better way of moving forward about certain moral teachings while remaining faithful to Christ and the Church. In this regard, Catholics who practice contraception for good reasons and some divorced and remarried Catholics may receive Holy Communion and live a life pleasing to God. Based on the judgment of a properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest, there is little or no culpability and punishment due to a sin as defined and claimed by the magisterium but is disputed for good reasons. It is a teaching of the magisterium that a Catholic should never go against their properly informed consciences. As to your last comments about the Wijnaard Institute's report on contraception, I have said enough about this and I do not want to debate you whether the report should have been sent to UN agencies or not. I think the report is excellent scholarship and that Pope Francis should read it and give it his reflection.
James Murray
1 year 1 month ago
Thank you, gentlemen, for a most pleasant discussion. So refreshing to be able to voice comment and not feel judged; instead, we have conversation. Again, thank you.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
James - I dug further into the survey (see my note above). I think you might have a very trendy priest experience. But, in any case, since we are all sinners, we are all in need of repentance, even priests.
James Murray
1 year 1 month ago
The priest I referenced was my uncle who gave us his advice in 1993 when he was in his 70's. I guess it helped that he was a Ph.D. in psychology, highly educated. It was just fascinating that the Bishop of Pittsburgh said his funeral Mass commenting that he would not give the eulogy. When asked 'why?' He replied "because emotionally I can't take it."
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - I repeated the Buenos Aires Bishop's paragraphs to prove that they intend a very narrow departure from Apb Chaput in certain circumstances "especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union" or some other moral dilemma. I grant you that this is a difference in the pastoral interpretation, but it is very narrow, and the Argentinians still prefer "whenever feasible depending on the specific circumstances of a couple, especially when both partners are Christians walking the path of faith, a proposal may be made to resolve to live in continence." Again, my position is to follow the Church, and not judge individual circumstances in this matter. The Church often seems more lenient than the words of Jesus in the Scripture, and they have been given the power to bind and loose. But, there is a reason we have so much infidelity, so many broken families, unwed singles having children, children separated from their biological father and mother, divorces, pornography and epidemics of venereal diseases, HPV etc. There is a reason people think sexual gratification is more important than fidelity in marriage. I think the easy access to contraception and a contraceptive mentality is a major cause of this wave of discontent, injury and sadness. HV predicted it would happen. I believe the world would be a far better place if more people lived their lives according to HV.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, You are painting the guidelines of the Buenos Aires bishops as a 'very narrow departure from Apb Chaput's. This is not my interpretation. The words "especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming children of a new union" is a very common situation among many divorced and remarried Catholics. This "especially wording" is not to be interpreted as a boundary around or a suggestion that this is the only situation where Holy Communion will be allowed. There are dozens of complex situations that will have to be resolved in the spirit of AL. Let's get real for a moment. Few, if any, divorced and married couples will be able to live in continence, or a lifetime of sexual abstinence. The manner in which you are interpreting these guidelines seems to suggest that the door to Eucharistic reception for the divorced and remarried is a 'small crack in the door' where only a few will be able to enter. I hope you are not suggestion this. As for your opinion that contraception is causing everything from abortion to spousal abuse to sexual gratification in a marriage as more important than fidelity, is not supported by existential reality, or by prominent scientific research reports that support this conclusion. I have not seen, nor do I believe that there has been, a respected scientific organization that has conducted a research project on this subjected and concluded the contraception is the cause of the ills of our secular society. I repeat myself: it is the lack of contraception that causes the overwhelming percent of unwanted pregnancies, and in some cases abortion, not contraception. Nor is the increase in spousal abuse caused by contraception. Most anything can be shown to somehow correlate with something else, but a correlation is not a cause. I don't want to argue with you over the so-called prophetic nature of HV. It distracts from the most important subject, namely, the principles and philosophies that underpin the teaching HV, and the many real life situations that faithful married couples face that demand a change in this teaching. Tim, I don't want to put words in you mouth, but from your remarks, it seems that you do not support the decision of a properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest (e.g., the internal forum). It seems that you believe that if a decision of a properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest is in tension with a magisterium teaching, such as HV, it cannot be a decision of a properly informed conscience. In other words, a properly informed conscience must agree with a teaching of the magisterium, full stop. If I have misinterpreted your position, please explain.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
James and Tim, See link below. on the 2002 LA Times Poll of US Catholic Priests. If for some reason it does not work, you can google it. a survey of roman catholic priests www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/.../LAT-Priest-Survey.pdf Oct 20, 2002 - A SURVEY OF ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS in the United States and Puerto Rico conducted by the Los Angeles Times Poll. June 27 to ... You visited this page on 9/26/16.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
A bit more detail on that survey. Survey performed 23 years ago and was a mailing of 67 questions to 5,000 active or retired priests. Only 37% responded after 4 attempts. While the pollsters assume this third represent the whole, I have my doubts since only 67% say they think of themselves as having a heterosexual orientation, 46% responded they favor ordination of women as priests (despite definite teaching from Pope JP II) and 16% that they were not always celibate. Most common complaint from the priests was how the questions were worded (unfair, biased, designed to embarrass the church, etc.) and required a more complete answer than yes or no. Some quotes from the LA Times article. “Young priests [under 41] are markedly more conservative than their elders…reflecting a global trend toward Christian orthodoxy that is reshaping the world’s largest church.” “The survey shows the vast majority of priests to be happy with their vocations” “Priests were asked what the greatest problems the laity faced as practicing Catholics and their top responses are lack of faith or lack of knowledge about faith (14%), resolving conflict between religious principles and secular world (12%), materialism and secularism (12%), apathy, indifference or disillusionment with religion (10%) and overall inadequate religious education (10%).” For all returned surveys, saying some action is “seldom, or never” a sin (vs. always or often). 44% Masturbation 40% Married couples using Contraception (8% never a sin) 24% Cloning in Medical research 19% Homosexual sex 17% Euthanaisa-Suicide 9% Fornication (unmarried) 4% Woman who has an Abortion This is a problem with a mailing survey. If the 2/3rds who didn't respond had done so, these percents could have been much lower. Another unknown is how many non-priests/ex-priests completed these questionnaires - probably small but who knows. It all goes by self-identification.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, It seems that every survey that does not support Church teachings, and in this case it is a survey of priests, some how is always suspect. The survey is statistically significant and the 2002 survey of the LA Times was consistent with the one they did in 1994. Clearly, the LA Times is not conducting a survey that is statistically not significant or a survey where the findings are suspect and should be disregarded. All surveys have some degree of bias. What is more important are trends that surveys suggest over time. However, it is only speculation how the other 2/3rds of priests would have responded. I have read of another survey of Italian priests in Italy where the professor doing this research concluded that it was the clergy/priests who were contributing to the disagreement over certain moral teachings. You don't have to be a genius to connect the dots. We live in a divided Church and in a crisis of truth. The division is not just among the general laity and theologians over certain moral teachings, but of priests. No one should be dismissing these facts as some type of diabolical evil preventing them from recognizing, understanding and living the truth. They speak to a much larger issue where certain moral teaching should be the subject of a re-thinking. In other words, there may be some room for changes that make sense. In my lifetime, I have spoken to many priests who: > Believed that birth control should be left to married couples to decide as long as they don't have an anti-life attitude and are putting birth control at the service of love. In the words, they don't think contraception in every case is a sin. > Who also believe that those born with an same-sex orientation and who enter into a permanent, faithful and loving relationship are not doing something that is 'evil'; > Some divorced and remarried Catholics should have a second change and receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharistic reception under certain conditions. > Of course, I also have met priest that support every teaching of the magisterium.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, I don't want to beat a dead horse here, or debate you over priest surveys or other surveys that point to the reality in our Church today over the profound disagreement over moral teachings such as HV. Note that priest surveys in other countries found similar results as the 1994 and 2002 LA Times survey of U.S. priests over the teaching on contraception. The link below demonstrates that 43% percent of the priests of England and Wales do not support the Church's teaching on contraception and another 19% are unsure to support this teaching. No one should minimize these findings or dismiss them as the opinion of rouge priests. It points to a much larger issue that I have being arguing and writing about for years. If the link does not work, you can google it. Most Catholic priests 'do not support Rome over contraception ... www.telegraph.co.uk › News › World News › Europe › Italy The Daily Telegraph Apr 6, 2003 - Almost half the priests responded, making it the largest survey of its kind. ... A baby is rescued as the ship Spica Italian Navy, with a crew of only ...
Kevin Fallon
1 year 1 month ago
The ratio of people who believe that birth control is morally wrong and the number who believe that it is not is not all that different from the ratios of the attendees and of the cardinals that attended the papal commission assembled years ago. The overwhelming numbers of both categories affirmed that the teaching of the church should be changed. I have often wondered why this doubt has not been more a part of Catholic teaching. Where there is doubt there is no sin. Is creating false conscience not wrong?
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Kevin - even the suboptimal surveys or poll reports of priests show minorities dissent from Church teaching, and then it is mostly in pastoral application, which is always more nebulous and particular than doctrinal teaching. There is no evidence that bishops and cardinals in the main do not strongly support HV. There is even large agreement on the pastoral response, even if there are some disagreements about application and dealing with a wayward laity. See this enthusiastic response from the whole spectrum of US bishops to AL (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/09/28/amoris-laetitia-will-inspire-new-comprehensive-plan-for-marriage-and-family-life-say-us-bishops/). The Pope, cardinals and bishops are well aware of the lack of response of the laity to Church teachings (consistent for millennia) on sexual matters today (contraception is only the most prevalent, but abortion "pro-choice" and homosexual sex (gay marriage) are not far behind. Note also that these priest surveys also show great concern for the education of the laity on Catholic doctrine, the apathy among the laity, and the seduction of secularism and materialism. Certainly, this is not the first time in Church history that there is a disconnect between Magisterial Church teaching and the response of large subsets of priests and laity. Sadly, it has been rather continuous. To take five examples from the past in disparate times and places: the C4 Arian Heresy (many bishops fell away); the C8 Iconoclastic heresy in the East, C16 Protestant reformation in Germany (this resulted in permanent breaks on a host of doctrines and practices); the C19 slavery dissent in the US at least up to the civil war; the C20 failure of German Catholics under the Nazis. Just read the life and works of St. Athanasius, St. Peter Damian, Catherine of Siena, St. Robert Bellarmine, to see how prevalent the "falling-away" was, even in the clergy. Without a deep contemplation of history, one always thinks the most recent crisis or dispute is unprecedented. On the other hand, while those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it, those who do study history are doomed to helplessly watch everyone else repeat it.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Kevin, You are correct. I would not judge that only a minority of priests and bishops do not support HV and believe it should change. Recent polls show that 40% of US priests and more than 40% of priests from England and Wales do not support the ban on contraception. Most theologians, many Bishops and Cardinals and about 80% of worldwide Catholics do not support HV either. Those who are apologists will see what they want to see when it comes to the profound disagreement over the teaching on birth control. They dismiss as only a recommendation the 2 year study of birth control and minimize the conclusion of 75% of the bishops and members of the Pontifical Birth Control Commission (in total about 72 members) who recommended the moral approval of artificial birth control. If you read my essay, it demonstrates that Paul VI took the theology and philosophy of one person, a bishop named Karol Wojtyla. He was the one who created the infamous inseparably principle that no pope, bishops or theologian before 1960 ever mentioned or wrote about. As to the decision of a properly informed conscience, there is no sin because it is the teaching of the magisterium that one should never go against one's properly informed conscience even if it is in tension with a papal encyclical.
Kevin Fallon
1 year 1 month ago
Theologians and administrators can have jolly times discussing the in and outs of their positions. I think of the millions of Catholics who are presented with moral decisions and who may stay away from the church because of the arrogance of a few people who think that they have a unique relationship with the Spirit. There are so many consequences of this issue and the historical uncertainty of the "official" position is never discussed. The American theologian, John Ford, SJ (a relative of mine), was essentially ostracized by the theological groups and died 'in exile' because of his contributions to the document. Is this not a significant sign of the Spirit? It just seems that the hierarchy of the Church have dug in and the moral dilemmas of the people of God are of little concern.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, I am a little perplexed over some of your comments and would appreciate if you would clarify your position for me. 1. I had asked you: Tim, I don't want to put words in you mouth, but from your remarks, it seems that you do not support the decision of a properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest (e.g., the internal forum). It seems that you believe that if a decision of a properly informed conscience under the guidance of a priest is in tension with a magisterium teaching, such as HV, it cannot be a decision of a properly informed conscience. In other words, a properly informed conscience must agree with a teaching of the magisterium, full stop. If I have misinterpreted your position, kindly explain. 2. When you said that the pastoral application of a teaching is more nebulous etc, than the doctrine.....precisely what exactly do you mean? Priests who counsel Catholics on AL or HV are not being vague, uncertain, confused, ambiguous or imprecise. They know full well these doctrines (e.g., marriage and birth control) and are applying them in the spirit of God's love and mercy. Why would a pastoral application of a doctrine, where it does not express the rigid letter of the law (doctrine), be less holy, truthful, meaningful or valuable to one's salvation?
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - to briefly answer. I do not think "the internal forum" is anything new. It seems a nebulous term, as all it means is a person talking with their priest, which has been the way pastoral guidance has been operating since the Church began. I accept the Church's doctrine and try to be faithful to it. I think an informed conscience should include knowing what the Church teaches and, for Catholics, trying to apply what the Church teaches in one's personal life. Pastoral guidance has to take into account highly specific details for individuals and the freedom to follow the Church can be greatly compromised in certain situations, even if the desire is there to reform one's life. As you know, many people already go to communion who use contraception or engage in sex outside a licit marriage, so fidelity to the Church's teaching is often more in the breach. When I blog, I try to point out why I think the teaching of the Church is a beautiful tapestry and living the Catholic life is the surest way to have a good and holy and beautiful life. It is not impossibly burdensome. Jesus said: "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30) When I blog, I am often addressing errors of fact or partial truths or biased opinions that I think are unfair characterizations of the Church or what she teaches. For those who believe their conscience exonerates them from complying with Church teaching, I leave it to God, who is the only one who can judge. And He is merciful. I love the Fatima prayer and pray it daily "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. "
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, I respect your opinion but disagree with most of your arguments and assertions. I often have sought, and continue to seek, the advice of many priests and moral theologians. I have studied and fully understand all the moral teachings of the magisterium, and their rationale as well as moral theology. This is what I have been doing for 6-7 year now. However, I have also studied the lives of saints and their works over a 40 year period. However, when my properly informed conscience is in tension with a teaching of the magisterium it is only a temporary judgment, albeit that might last a lifetime, but my informed conscience is always open to new scholarship and priestly and theological counseling. I do not believe that going against my informed conscience and following every moral teaching of the Church is "the surest way to have a good and holy life." That would be a violation of a teaching of the magisterium. You may believe in every teaching of the magisterium regardless of the reasons or arguments that cause significant disagreement about the absolute moral truth in accordance with God's Will. That is your right to do so, and I do not denigrate your decision or rationale in argument, even though I disagree with it. However, I expect that you will not denigrate my decision or rationale in argument as well Lastly, I would not characterize pastoral guidance and the internal forum as a "nebulous term" and as merely 'talking to a priest'. This demeans a priest's responsibility and duty as the image of Christ to guide Catholics in a decision of a properly informed conscience in circumstances. Many Catholics who disagree with certain moral teachings do understand the Church's teachings and, for good reasons, disagree with them. It is the parish priest's responsibility to carefully and throughly counsel and guide the parishioner properly in both the teachings of the magisterium and in the Church's rationale. Every priest also must respectfully and thoroughly answer questions, deal with all the circumstances and reasoning of parishioners, et al, as they lead the parishioner to a decision of their properly informed conscience. It is important for you and I to be clear about the teaching of the magisterium concerning a properly informed conscience as well as the interpretation and implementation of Amoris Laetitita (AL). I do not agree with your description of the guidelines of the Buenos Aires Bishops as similar to Bishop's Chaput's on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. Bishop Chaput has been clear as to his interpretation of AL, namely, no Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics unless they are granted an annulment or agree to live as brothers and sisters. This is not the decision of the Buenos Aires Bishops...and if fact it is very far from Bishop Chaput's. I also do not think you see what is really happening in that many bishops will interpret AL as Bishop Chaput does, and many others will allow Holy Communion for many divorced and remarried Catholics in accordance with the guidelines and spirit of AL. These guidelines will not be as you say "narrow" and limited so that few divorced and remarried Catholic will be allowed Holy Communion. The guidelines that the Buenos Aires bishops put forth, and other bishops will also likely adopt, will adequately address the many situations and difficult circumstances that so many divorced and remarried Catholics face today. This will allow many divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion in accordance with the interpretation of AL that Pope Francis approved and will approve. I think those who study this issue and blog about these things can decide for themselves whether what you say or I is offering a good and accurate judgment of the facts. Of course, I will not be surprised if you continue to believe in your interpretation of AL and minimize the profound impact that a change if the pastoral application of the doctrine on marriage means to our Church and those Catholics who have felt disenfranchised by the previous rigid pastoral approach. Lastly, I know you like to quote Scripture and that is your right. However, I do not quote Scripture as it is often what most theologian call 'proof texting' that does not move the conversation forward toward a better understanding of truth in argument. We both can quote Scripture until we are blue in the face. However, only when Scripture is being used incorrectly or when it is the subject of new, insightful scholarship, and worthy of reflection, do I bring it up in argument.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - another question regarding the internal forum. If someone goes to a priest and gets honest and careful advice that they should not go to communion while they are having sexual relations with someone when they already have a wife (and possibly children) in good standing according to the Church, will they listen to that priest or just go find another priest with a different opinion? If they find another priest that says they can go to communion, do they accept that as the truth, or do they try to find a third to adjudicate between the two? If one is looking just for a way to receive communion, then I expect they will search for a priest that will comply and certain priests will become famous for their leniency. If they are seeking the truth, the situation will be harder to settle. Recall that the Buenos Aires bishops also recommend living in continence whenever it is feasible. Abp. Chaput thinks it is always feasible if one is striving to lead a fully Christian life, the Argentinian Bishops think there are some special circumstances, like when more harm can be done to others (children) by not going. That is the key difference they mention. We are disagreeing with what the meaning of feasible is.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, The real question is how will the Pope and magisterium adequately deal with bishops who follow Bishop Chaput's approach (no Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics unless they are granted an annulment or live as brothers and sisters) and those Bishops who will follow the Buenos Aires Bishops that Pope Francis approved? Amoris Laetititia (AL) will pit one bishop against the other and will further divide the CC as this time the profound disagreement is being played out among worldwide Bishops, not merely among theologians and the laity. Implicit in your question is the question about truth. How do you expect divorced and remarried Catholics who are in a moral dilemma (when they have a successful second marriage with children or are in other complex situations) to react when their diocese will not grant Holy Communion as Bishops Chaput says, while they know that in the next diocese a Bishop will allow it? Does one Bishop know the truth and the other not? It is not just a question about whether a divorced and remarried couple want to receive Communion. It is much more complicated question about a profound division among the bishops. You are right about one thing, we are disagreeing on the definition of the word 'feasible'. For Catholics who are divorced and remarried, it is only the very few that will decide and be able to live as brothers and sisters. For the overwhelming majority of divorced and remarried Catholics, living as brothers and sisters is both unreasonable, not feasible and an almost impossible burden. For most, it will endanger their existing successful marriage, and no ability to return to their first spouse who most likely is also remarried. There are dozens of complex situations where there are no good choices but only significant negative consequences. AL was written to address these moral dilemmas and the answer is not to require them to live as brothers and sisters when this is not feasible. I don't know where you are going with such a statement about 'feasible' as I think you are exaggerating things and not coming to grips with the truth, namely, the profound impact that AL is having in our Church today. AL is sending a very positive, loving and merciful message to the divorced and remarried who have felt disenfranchised and want a more welcoming, loving and merciful Church and an opportunity to receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Unfortunately Tim, I believe the overwhelming majority of Catholics disagree with you on this issue. You cannot merely dismiss the guidelines of the Buenos Aires Bishops, and those to come, as a definition about what is 'feasible' (as in living a life of sexual abstinence is not feasible and reasonable for most of them). Nor can you explain away the guidelines of the Buenos Aires Bishops as limited to some very special circumstances that only a few of the divorced and remarried Catholics will find themselves in. Of the many people I know who are divorced and remarried, your claim is simply not true.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - I believe you are misinterpreting the Argentinians. The Buenos Aires bishops recommend continence for a couple where "both partners are Christians walking the path of faith," and leave the feasibility question to when one of the couple does not agree to walk that path of faith. In other words, the person who wants to go back to Communion is in essence not free to do it. And, that is an extenuating circumstance. So, I think the bishops intend it to remain narrow. Another indication is that they ask the person who might be departing from the norm (which they repeat is continence) to do it discreetly, "without letting this situation create confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissoluble marriage." And the "truth" remains critically important. It is not good to just want some priest somewhere to tell you what you want to hear. That won't lead the divorced people to reform their lives, which is what we all should want. If one is truly desiring to follow the will of God, one will want to know what God wants, not what the next diocese wants. I don't want to be the one to guess at the truth. I am more concerned with your comment (hope?): "Amoris Laetititia (AL) will pit one bishop against the other and will further divide the CC as this time the profound disagreement is being played out among worldwide Bishops, not merely among theologians and the laity." You specificlly blame AL for this. Why on earth would the good Holy Father want to create such division? Why would he intend to do that? He has very strong words against division so I cannot believe he wants that. In the US, you might have seen that the US Bishops have put together a working group to advise on the implementation of AL, and Archbishop Chaput is the chairman. The articles I have read say the focus is primarily on how to make the annulment process more efficient and less burdensome, and to provide better preparedness for married couples. Keep in mind that I am not strongly for or against any specific pastoral practice in this issue. I would, however, be very against increased divisiveness in the Catholic community.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, You are misunderstanding what I said, and are also misinterpreting the guidelines of the Buenos Aires Bishops. 1. In #5 of their guidelines: it says "A proposal may be made to resolve to live in continence. AL does not ignore the difficulties arising from this option and offers the possibility of having access to the sacrament of reconciliation if partners fail in this purpose..." > This says that continence "may be made as a proposal to resolve to live in continence". It does not mean that the bishops expect most divorced and remarried to follow this option or believe that it will be feasible for most divorced and remarried Catholics. Nor does it mean that this option is the only option for following Christ when circumstances clearly do not make this option feasible. 2. # 6 states: "In more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not bee obtained the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. It is acknowledged that in concrete cases there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability, especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming children of the new union. AL offers the possibility to having access to the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist." > The words "especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming children of the new union", does not mean that this is the only circumstance where continence is not feasible. However, many new unions are successful and do not have children, and returning to the first spouse, who is likely remarried, is not possible. AL will deal with these circumstances as well, especially when divorced and remarried spouses find living in continence not feasible. The guidelines do not list all situations and circumstances where Holy Communion will be allowed or disallowed. Your assertion that the guidelines of the Bishops of Buenos Aires are "narrow" is highly misleading and not supported by an accurate reading of the guidelines. Tim, there in nothing in the guidelines that says anything about when one spouse does not want to follow the option of continence offered, but the other one does. It is a fact that most spouses, both of them, who are divorced and remarried do not want to or be able to follow a proposal of continence. Most divorced and remarried Catholics want to come back to the Church, confess their sins, receive the Eucharist, and follow a life pleasing to God. The actual wording of the guidelines of the Bishops of Buenos Aires, as I have quoted them above, convey to priests that they should be open to circumstances and consequences, the motivation of the spouses, their behavior towards children had, and their sincerity in confessing their faults and sins and in living a life pleasing to God. I repeat: There are dozens of complex cases and circumstances among the divorced and remarried. AL is not just about a discernment and accompaniment process or about merely Eucharistic reception. It does not end there. It may also lead to other ways to achieve further integration into the life of the Church (guideline #4). Tim, you make references to the divorced and remarried of finding a priest who will tell them what they want to hear. That is so denigrating to priests and for the millions of divorced and remarried Catholics that sincerely want to come back to the Church. I won't give these irresponsible comments further thought. Lastly, you misunderstood what I said about pitting one bishop against the other. Clearly, Pope Francis does not want to pit one bishop against the other. However, he left the interpretation and implementation of AL to each bishop. Perhaps inadvertently, this is causing many bishops, like Bishop Chaput, to take a rigid stand that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried without an annulment, is only possible if they live as brothers and sisters, full stop. Hence, when other bishops like the bishops of Buenos Aires decide to follow a very different interpretation of AL that is contradictory with Bishop Chaput's rigid interpretation, it does pit one bishop's interpretation of AL against the other. This will be happening all over the US and in the rest of the world. What do you think Catholics will be saying about this profound division among the bishops? That was my only point. If this becomes a worldwide reality, then the Pope and magisterium, in my opinion, must resolve this problem. As to the guidelines of the USCCB, they will not be binding but only suggestive. Each bishop can make their own decision about his interpretation of AL. Keep in mind that the majority of US bishops have been appointed by St. JP II and Pope Benedict XVI and most of them will likely follow Bishop Chaput's firm and rigid approach. However, Bishops like Bishop McElroy and Bishop Cupich will likely follow guidelines similar to the Bishops of Buenos Aires, as will Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna and many other bishops around the world.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - two more (brief ) points. The Buenos Aires Bishops reiterate the importance of Jesus about the indissolubility of marriage, yet I think you want most divorced & remarried Catholics to be permitted to receive communion. Perhaps, you believe divorce should be permitted for Catholics? Here is what Pope Francis said this weekend about marriage, regarding the temptation to solve difficulties in marriage with divorce, “You find someone, I find someone, and we’ll both begin again. Who pays? Both, but more, God pays! Because God is the one who made them one, and when they divorce they dirty what God has made.” As to the idea of searching out a liberal priest for the answer one wants, are you denying that that is not already done? Is it irresponsible to admit that parish-shopping already occurs?
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, This will be my last comment to you about this issue because our exchanges are now becoming unproductive and AL is taking us far from the subject of this article which was contraception. 1. I think that divorced and remarried Catholics who admit to making a mistake, want to confess their sins, receive the Eucharist and live a life pleasing to God, should be allowed to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharistic reception according to guidelines and spirit of AL. If this turns out to be most divorced and remarried Catholics, many or some, is not the point. AL guidelines as interpreted by the Bishops of Buenos Aires and approved by Pope Francis are not 'narrow' guidelines (as you assert) but flexible and merciful. These guidelines will apply to a significant percent of the divorced and remarried that want to come back to the Church. 2. I already discussed with you (in previous exchanges over the years) the disagreement among scholars about Matthew's exception clause and what Jesus said about divorce. Thus, I will not repeat myself again. Perhaps at another time under another article I will re-engage. Nevertheless, this does not mean I agree with many of the reasons couples get divorced today. Many are immature when they get married both in terms of their faith and the responsibilities of marriage. Many rarely attended Mass before and after they got married. Many have been divorced and remarried several times and don't really want to come back to the Church, etc. However, even when couples are immature, made mistakes but want to come back to the Church, confess their sins, et al, should be allowed to do so if they met the guidelines and spirit of AL. 3. You cannot discard AL by quoting a few sentences that Pope Francis said about the indissolubility of marriage as some type of proof about what AL is all about. Pope Francis wrote AL and it was a 250+ page apostolic exhortation on marriage and the issues facing families. Let's admit it, you just don't like the pastoral changes being implemented for the divorced and remarried. You also don't like the fact that AL is causing a profound disagreement among worldwide bishops that is causing confusion and furthering division. This will be rectified in due time as Pope Francis has already approved the correct interpretation of AL for the divorced and remarried (e.g., the guidelines of the Buenos Aires Bishops). Unfortunately, you think there is little difference between Bishops Chaput's rigid interpretation of AL and the more merciful and flexible interpretation by the Bishops of Buenos Aires. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bishop Chaput "requires" the divorced and remarried to live as brothers and sisters to receive Holy Communion and the Buenos Aires Bishops do not. 4. Just because some people irresponsibly search out for a liberal priest without a true turning to God, should not deny everyone else from responsibly searching for a priest in order to come back to the Church, confess their sins, receive Holy Communion and live a life pleasing to God. By analogy, just because some people abuse prescription drugs, should not deny prescription drugs for the rest of us who responsibly use them.

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