Clashing Theologians

In August, the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, based in the United Kingdom, published a report in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae,” the papal encyclical that upheld the ban on the use of contraceptives. 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.” On Sept. 20, another group of theologians released their own statement, signed by more than 500 scholars, which was presented at a press event at The Catholic University of America. It argues that those who are pushing for the church to lift its ban on artificial contraception have failed to take into account findings from the past five decades that show contraception harms women and destabilizes relationships. “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.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Richard Booth
1 year ago
I have long been concerned with Natural Law Theory, insofar as it is supposed to reflect the natural world created by God. The so-called religious liberty arguments imply, in one way or another, that homosexual relationships and contraceptive behaviors do not comply with the theory. However, even though sociological and some psychological arguments are used by certain mainstream Catholic authors when arguing against these two forbidden behaviors, I have not seen the same arguments used to argue the contrary. For instance, when was the last time you saw economic, social, and psychological factors utilized to suggest there may be exceptions to contraception? Moreover, if Natural Law is to be the norm against which Catholic behavior is to be evaluated, it is actually Nature that provides chromosomes and hormones that lead some people toward same-sex attractions. And, given that people are naturally attracted to relationships, it is not surprising that they, like their heterosexual brothers and sisters, fall in love and naturally yearn to act that love out. So, we need to look deeper into Nature, since it explains the limitations of what we now call the esteemed "Natural Law Theory." It was fine for Aquinas, but we know more today.
Henry George
1 year ago
Richard Booth, If what you seem to be arguing can be construed from Natural Law - via our "Modern Understanding" of Natural Law, is anyone guilty of anything since their genes/chromosomes/proteins drove them to do it ? So serial adulters have nothing to regret, let alone apologise for, nor those who seek whatever pleasures they so desire - for they really cannot help it. Or where do you draw the line, if any ?
Richard Booth
1 year ago
Henry...your question is well taken. First, I am not talking about our modern understanding of Natural Law: rather, the interpretation held by the Church. It is a reductionistic, mechanistic view understood without benefit of modern science. Second, yes, to some extent people are responsible for the behaviors they engage in, but all factors should be considered prior to declaring the behavior "sinful." Even the CCC now, and relatively recently, allows for some of these factors, for instance, compulsiveness when it comes to masturbation. Clerics are not mental health professionals, so they do not possess the skills to determine many of these potentially mitigating factors. Finally, many biological factors merely predispose rather than cause behavior. Some discernment is required to determine the differences and the culpability. Please remember that I did not include adultery or lecherous behavior in my original comments. I purposely limited myself to a discussion of homosexual relationships and contraception. Thanks for responding.
Luis Gutierrez
1 year ago
It is very urgent to clarify the doctrinal admixture of ancient/modern patriarchal gender theories (such as sex/gender binary, male headship, complementarian stereotypes) with revealed truth. Specifically,
  • Humanae Vitae is an unenforceable edict about a good doctrine
  • Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an enforceable edict about a bad doctrine
  • As edicts, both are contaminated with patriarchal gender ideology
When are we going to recognize the conflation of patriarchal gender ideology (and the patriarchal priesthood we inherited from the Old Law) and our sacramental theology under the New Law?

Advertisement
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

It is astonishing to think that God would choose to enter the world this way: as a fragile newborn who could not even hold up his own head without help.
Ginny Kubitz MoyerOctober 20, 2017
Protestors rally to support Temporary Protected Status near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Around 200,000 Salvadorans and 57,000 Hondurans have been residing in the United States for more than 15 years under Temporary Protected Status. But that status is set to expire in early 2018.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 20, 2017
At the heart of Anne Frank’s life and witness is a hopeful faith in humanity.
Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J.October 20, 2017
Forensic police work on the main road in Bidnija, Malta, which leads to Daphne Caruana Galizias house, looking for evidence on the blast that killed the journalist as she was leaving her home, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Caruana Galizia, a harsh critic of Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat, and who reported extensively on corruption on Malta, was killed by a car bomb on Monday. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)
Rarely does the death of a private citizen elicit a formal letter of condolence from the Pope.