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A Fiftieth Anniversary Perspective… Is Humanae Vitae Succeeding?

July 25, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By PEGGY MOEN

A.J. Matt Jr., now The Wanderer’s editor emeritus, wrote an essay for the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, published in our issue dated August 7, 2008.
Titled “The End of a Dark Night,” the editorial saw hope for the encyclical because of “heartening evidence that more recently appointed bishops and ordained priests are much more conformable to the Church’s teaching” on human life and reproduction.
The full text appears below, followed by further commentary.

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The publication by a seminary professor in our July 17 [2008] issue of his assessment of the effects of the 40 terrible years of widespread dissent and rejection by Catholics of Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae concluded with this priest’s prayer that the Catholic people, led by a new generation of bishops and priests, will be instrumental in leading civilization out of the coming “demographic winter.”
The commentaries and reports published in this current issue [August 7, 2008] demonstrate how formidable this task may be. Both [James] Cardinal Stafford and Msgr. [Vincent] Foy [of Toronto] point out the terrible intransigence of the dissent within the Catholic Church of many bishops, priests, and laity against her constant and irreformable teaching on the issues of human life and reproduction.
While there is heartening evidence that more recently appointed bishops and ordained priests are much more conformable to the Church’s teaching on these matters, the Catholic laity might be less inclined to change their beliefs after 40 plus years of dissenting propaganda by large numbers of clergy and the ever-growing campaign by every level of government against pro-natalist and pro-life convictions.
It will take concerted efforts by faithful bishops, priests, and laity to help end this dark and terrible night for the Church. But God willing, it can be done.
With over 18,000 Catholic parishes in the United States there are countless opportunities for the Catholic clergy and laity to join in prayer, teaching, exhortation, and example in a glorious effort to help restore unity among all advocacy of God’s will and teaching on the sanctity and dignity of every human life.
Let us pray that the dark night of unbelief and infidelity will soon yield to the startlingly clear dawn of Almighty God’s reign over His faithful people.

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So, have Mr. Matt’s hopes and prayers come to fruition in any way?
It would seem not. Some examples:
Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, a member of the revised Pontifical Academy for Life, has argued that married couples may be obligated to use contraception, according to a January 8, 2018 LifeSiteNews report by Diane Montagna. Chiodi based his theory on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia.
Chiodi said at a December 14, 2017 public lecture at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome that there are “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.” (Chapter 8 involves the issues over admitting some divorced and civilly “remarried” couples to Holy Communion.)
And speaking of Amoris Laetitia, contrast that controverted exhortation with Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II’s luminous exhortation on living the truths of marriage and family life in the present age.
Also, contrast the episcopal appointments under John Paul II and Benedict XVI with those of Pope Francis. The hopes Mr. Matt saw in 2008 with “more recently appointed bishops and ordained priests” have dimmed and many now fear a shift in the makeup of the College of Cardinals.
On the ground, despite heroic efforts to preach Humanae Vitae, vastly more Catholics are persuaded by arguments like Chiodi’s — such as they are — than by John Paul II’s.
Perhaps most discouraging of all is the continuing revolution regarding life and gender, making Paul VI’s predictions look almost tame. If, in his justified predictions about the consequences of separating love and life, Paul VI had included transgenderism and mandatory use of pronouns “ze” and “hir,” he no doubt would have been deposed and locked up in a Rome mental institution. (See this week’s NewsNotes, p. 2A, for an item about a proposed policy at the University of Minnesota regarding pronouns.)
A logical connection can be drawn between contraception and transgenderism here: Once the natural functions of male and female have been mutilated, the pathway to transgenderism is clear.
Pope Benedict stated in 2008 (see p. 4B of this week’s issue): “If this unity is removed, the value of the person is lost and there is a serious risk of considering the body a commodity that can be bought or sold. In a culture subjected to the prevalence of ‘having’ over ‘being,’ human life risks losing its value.”
What else is the remaking of “gender identity” but treating oneself or another as a commodity, to be altered as one pleases, as opposed to a person, to be loved?
But lights shine on in the abyss.
In contrast to the likes of Fr. Chiodi, LifeSiteNews reported June 14 that “nearly 500 British priests have issued a statement upholding Humanae Vitae and proposing it as the key to healing society, amid reports of moves within the Vatican to water down its teaching and accommodate the Church to modern trends.
“In a letter released to the Catholic press on June 14, the group of priests from Great Britain state that the Church’s perennial teaching on human sexuality should be at the forefront in re-building a culture of life, and stress its importance for Catholics and non-Catholics alike” (report by Diane Montagna).
Similarly, LifeSiteNews reported July 2: “Warning that marriage, family, and gender are being ‘reinvented and distorted,’ U.S. Catholic priests are expressing their ‘total acceptance’ of the Church’s teaching against contraception and urging fellow clerics to join them….
“The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy’s U.S. chapter has united in support of the landmark encyclical that defied the sexual revolution and articulated natural law”(report by Claire Chretien).
Even now, some in the U.S. hierarchy are waking up. John Kippley, founder and president of Natural Family Planning, Inc., told The Wanderer on June 7 that the U.S. bishops “are showing signs of exercising leadership” and that they are “aware they dropped the ball, pastorally and theologically” on Humanae Vitae.
Kippley, in Minneapolis to address a benefit banquet for The Catholic Servant, also said that about 20 U.S. dioceses now require engaged couples to take a course in natural family planning (see The Wanderer, June 21, 2018, p. 1A).
The numbers of priests proclaiming Humanae Vitae and the numbers of dioceses promoting NFP are underwhelming.
But, as more than one scholar has pointed out, it is always the determined minority that makes history.
The more extreme the manifestations of an anti-life culture become, the greater the possibility that more people will reflect and realize that something corrupt lies at the heart of our contraceptive culture.
We may yet see “the startlingly clear dawn of Almighty God’s reign over His faithful people.”

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