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Humane Vitae: Day 18

18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2:34).  She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men” (See Paul Vl, encyc. letter Populorum progressio).

“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching”.  That’s putting it lightly!

Paul VI speaks of “outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication”.  This was written in 1968 – decades before Twitter, Facebook, and even the Internet itself as we know it today.  It is these means of communication that have made the voice against the Church much louder and (if you spend any time reading comboxes – which I would not suggest doing) more obnoxious.

I think that Paul VI’s reminder that the Church, like her Founder, is “destined to be a sign of contradiction” is quite comforting.  If you are a voice for life, and you find that you are encountering opposition, take comfort.  This is as the Lord warned us it would be.

The bottom line here is that the Church in upholding the sanctity of marriage, family, and life, is doing so for mankind’s own good.  “She is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization”.  We can see in our day the destructive effects of an anti-life culture.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae:Days 16 and 17

Paragraph 17, which is often pointed to when looking at how prophetic Humanae Vitae was when it was written in 1968.  Here, Pope Paul VI explains what would happen to a society that makes use of artificial contraception.  We already know the adverse effects contraception has on married couples.  But how would it effect things at a societal level?  Many who advocate the use of contraception say that this is a personal matter, a choice that should be left to individuals.  But as the Church has always taught, while sins are personal acts, they affect others: “Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. ‘Structures of sin’ are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1869).

Consequences of Artificial Methods

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

We can easily see today how marriage and human sexuality are de-valued and disrespected and how the divorce rate has skyrocketed even among Catholics since contraceptives have become readily available.  We can also see the “general lowering of moral standards” that exists culturally.  What about the objectification of women?  Pope Paul VI saw these as consequences of the use of artificial contraception, and he was right.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Let’s reflect on this for a while, shall we?  There’s no doubt that the HHS mandate is evil.  But unfortunately, a culture that is accepting of the use of contraceptives has allowed the HHS mandate to exist.  The HHS mandate must be opposed.  Absolutely.  But we have to be equally forceful in our condemnation of artificial contraception.  Catholics must lead the way by their words and their example.

Limits to Man’s Power

Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the “principle of totality” enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII.

Paragraph 17 has been looked at as being prophetic in determining the consequences that would happen upon a culture that made use of artificial contraception.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae:Day 15

Lawful Therapeutic Means

15. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.

Recourse to Infertile Periods

16. Now as We noted earlier (no. 3), some people today raise the objection against this particular doctrine of the Church concerning the moral laws governing marriage, that human intelligence has both the right and responsibility to control those forces of irrational nature which come within its ambit and to direct them toward ends beneficial to man. Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period butcondemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.

Today, because paragraph 15 is very short and self-explanatory, I will treat it together with paragraph 16.

Man is a rational and intelligent creature. That ability to reason is what sets us apart from animals. And so it is good for man to use his intelligence with regards to questions having to do with procreation. But wisdom places man’s intelligence at the service of God and what He has established.

Paul VI goes on to say that married couples may “engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile”. This is a way that the couple can space births using that which is natural (hence, Natural Family Planning).

NFP is not “Catholic contraception” as some mistakenly call it. Using contraceptives is a deliberate obstruction of the procreative process using artificial means. The use of contraceptives is a conscious decision to be closed to life. NFP is open to life. It places no such articifical obstacles in the procreative process, instead using what God has given naturally, i.e., periods of infertility.

Humanae Vitae: Day 14

Unlawful Birth Control Methods

14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.  Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (cf. Casti connubii, Pope Pius XI)

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.

Here we get to the bottom line.  Having explained God’s plan for married love and why man must not interfere with His divine will, Pope Paul VI goes on to reaffirm the Church’s teaching that the use of contraception is always intrinsically evil.  Every martial act must be open to children and no reason can be given – even what might sound like a noble reason – to justify the use of contraception even once.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 12

”Union and Procreation

12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.”

Sex is ordered toward union and procreation.  Or as Dr. Janet Smith would say, sex is for babies and bonding.  This is how God ordained it.  This is His eternal plan, and man on his own initiative cannot break this inseparable bond.  Contraception, sterilization, sex outside of marriage, and homosexual acts are all contrary to God’s divine plan.

I think the last line was thrown in there to point out that this is common sense stuff.  It’s not merely a “religious” topic.  If you have sex, it is natural for the woman to get pregnant.  Pregnancy and fertility are not diseases that need to be treated.  Children are meant to be born within families where there is a father and a mother.  And Paul VI reminds us that “this teaching is in harmony with human reason.”

 

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 7

7. The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to justify artificial methods of birth control many appeal to the demands of married love or of responsible parenthood, these two important realities of married life must be accurately defined and analyzed. This is what We mean to do, with special reference to what the Second Vatican Council taught with the highest authority in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today.

Paragraphs 7-18 fall under the section of the Encyclical titled “Doctrinal Principles”.

In order for us to understand the Church’s teaching on the transmission of life, we must consider the question of who is man?  Man is not just flesh and blood; He possesses an eternal soul.  And this body and soul together are one in man.

The Catechism says, “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that ‘then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Gen 2:7).   Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God” (no. 362).

As such, the transmission of life is not just a physical concern that can only be addressed scientifically.  Souls are involved.  It’s not just a blob of tissue.

The issues that man has to deal with regarding the transmission of life are not all worldly issues.  This concerns the eternal as well because life does not end at the end of one’s earthly life.  What effect does the transmission of life have on man’s eternal destiny?

Our answer to the question of who is man will have an effect on how we understand the definition of married love and responsible parenthood.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 6

6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.

Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.

Humanae Vitae was controversial from the beginning.  The members of the commission were not unanimous in their recommendations.  It is said that some in the commission tried to take authority upon themselves to try and alter the Church’s long-standing teaching against contraception.  And so Paul VI bypassed the commission altogether and invoked the authority of Christ (see Mt 16:19) in writing Humanae Vitae.  Many openly dissented against the Encyclical and the effects snowballed from there.  We are still feeling its effects today.

Archbishop Charles Chaput (Philadelphia) said in his pastoral letter on the thirtieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae (written when he was the Archbishop of Denver): “Selective dissent from Humanae Vitae soon fueled broad dissent from Church authority and attacks on the credibility of the Church herself.”

Contraception: harmful to marriages, individual souls, the unity of the Church, and the well-being of society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae: Day 5

5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced us to confirm and expand the commission set up by Our predecessor Pope John XXIII, of happy memory, in March, 1963. This commission included married couples as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for. (5)

When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned.

Paragraph 5 simply speaks of a study commission that was begun by Pope John XXIII that Pope Paul VI has asked to be expanded.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae in 31 days: Day 1

The recent mandate from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in forcing all institutions to include coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in the healthcare plans they offer, is an attack against religious liberty as it doesn’t allow religious institutions to be exempt from the mandate.  Those who are morally opposed to contraception, sterilization and abortifacients – including Catholic hospitals and universities – should not be forced into acting against their consciences.

This mandate has not only escalated the secularists’ war against the Church, it has also revealed some disturbing things about the general Catholic population’s understanding about the evil nature of contraception.  A recent survey done by the Pew Research Center on February 14, 2012  showed that only 15% of Catholics say that using contraceptives is morally wrong.  36% say that it’s not a moral issue.  Even among Catholics who say that they attend Mass weekly,only 27% say that using contraceptives is morally wrong.  Those numbers are stunningly sad and disappointing to me, but it shows that we have A LOT of work to do.

All of this having to do with the HHS mandate is has given us an opportunity to further emphasize the Church’s teaching from the beginning that the use of contraception is an intrinsic evil: “Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2370; Humanae Vitae, n. 14).

We can start by making sure that everyone reads Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical “Humanae Vitae”.  It’s a short document (there are thirty-one paragraphs), but it is both an amazing and prophetic document.  I also thought that I could post one paragraph a day here for 31 days. 

Let’s start with the introduction:

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

Paul VI begins by pointing that married couples being able to cooperate in God’s work of procreation is both a “serious role” and “a source of great joy.” However, the pope also recognizes that “the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions”. Remember that this was written in 1968. It’s amazing to think how those challenges have multiplied and intensified in the last forty-three years.

The Church is not oblivious to what’s going on in the world. In fact, she is the one who is dealing with these challenges head on because “they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.” This doesn’t only affect individuals. It affects all of humanity.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)