Q. I do not remember a homily regarding contraception in years! From what I understand, a majority of Catholics do not adhere to this regulation. I believe that in many dioceses the regulation spoken from the pulpit would decimate the numbers of church attendance. Thus, it appears this is more important than transmitting the true teachings of the Church. I hold the bishops responsible to a large extent. Isn’t it written somewhere that at the Second Coming, there won’t be any believers? — R.B.K., Virginia.
A. You may be thinking of the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Noting that the judge finally found in favor of the widow because of her persistent prayer, Jesus said: “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8).
Yes, bishops who failed to teach that contraception is evil will have much to answer for. Their failure in the area of contraception led to dissent from Church teachings in all areas of sexuality. In his 1968 encyclical on human life (Humanae Vitae), Pope Paul VI specifically told the Catholic bishops of the world that their mission of safeguarding the holiness of marriage was “one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time” (n. 29). The Holy Father had even stronger words for priests, telling them that “your first task . . . is to expound the Church’s teaching on marriage without ambiguity.”
He told them to “be the first to give, in the exercise of your ministry, the example of loyal internal and external obedience to the teaching authority of the Church….You know, too, that it is of utmost importance, for peace of consciences and for the unity of the Christian people, that in the field of morals, as well as in that of dogma, all should attend to the Magisterium of the Church, and all should speak the same language” (n. 28).
Unfortunately, all did not speak the same language on contraception, and we are suffering the disastrous consequences of that failure to this day. You may be right that homilies against contraception might have “decimated” the number of those attending church, but Pope Paul said that “to diminish in no way the saving teaching of Christ constitutes an eminent form of charity for souls. But this must ever be accompanied by patience and goodness, such as the Lord Himself gave example of in dealing with men. Having come not to condemn but to save [cf. John 3:17], He was intransigent with evil, but merciful to individuals” (n. 29).
And so priests stayed away from homilies against contraception so as not to drive people out of the pews? How did that work out? Attendance at Mass still dropped from about 70 percent on Sundays before Humanae Vitae to around 20 percent today.
Q. A neighbor I have known for over 40 years recently informed me that he is an atheist. He was raised by Catholic parents but eventually followed his Dad’s way of thinking, “Once you die, you’re dead, and that’s it, period.” After asking him to read Proof of Heaven, he responded with the following:
“The basic question is: Where did ‘stuff’ come from? Here ‘stuff’ includes everything, including matter, energy, dark matter, antimatter, all forces, antiforces, anything that exists or has existed or will exist, anything that can be experienced or imagined and any form of consciousness. I can only think of three possible answers as follows: First. it came from nothing or, second, it always existed or, third, it was created by a conscious entity (God) that has manipulative powers that may or may not continue to exist.
“The easiest of the three to believe or perhaps the most prevalent belief, as is evidenced by history and the Scriptures, is number three because it exemplifies the nature of man and provides mankind the comfort of immortality and respite from the unexplained. My problem with number three is that I get endlessly trapped in the circular reasoning of good versus evil, the motivation of an all-powerful Creator, and also the ambiguous rationale of a correlation between such a Creator and an afterlife.
“I must look to science rather than faith to investigate the question because science alone, through empirical evidence, is able to refute suspicion, conjecture, and myth to discover the nature of the laws that interact among ‘stuff.’ If religion is the answer, then I, assuming that I am a good man, am doomed to an eternity of perfect boredom, but if it is not, because more knowledge creates more questions, the frustration of realizing that I will never know the answer will be replaced by an eternity of peace.”
I would appreciate any resources you may know of so I can continue to help my neighbor “see the light.” — D.P., via e-mail.
A. Your neighbor may not be as far from belief in God as you think, judging from his comments. But if he is open to reading material that will demonstrate the fallacies in the thinking of atheists, there are many good resources available today. For example, there is Trent Horn’s book Answering Atheism, which is also available on DVD and as a CD. All three can be purchased from Catholic Answers by visiting https://shop.catholic.com/customer-serviceor by calling 888-291-8000. There is Patrick Madrid’s book The Godless Delusion, available from PatrickMadrid.com. And there is Jennifer Fulwiler’s book Something Other Than God, available at www.ignatius.com. She also has a blog (ConversionDiary.com) and an audiotape entitled From Atheism to Catholicism: My Conversion Diary. This tape is available from LighthouseCatholicMedia.org.
Q. I am shocked and saddened by the continuing attacks on the family, our Church, and all that is Godly and virtuous that we are now experiencing in this country. In reflecting on this matter, I happened upon a papal encyclical (Divini Redemptoris) that I found quite prophetic. You are probably familiar with the document. It is almost as though it was written today — note the warnings about attacks on marriage, class warfare, and to Catholics not to be taken in by good-sounding proposals. What do you think? — D.M., via e-mail.
A. Back when we were giving talks against Communism, particularly to Catholic audiences, we often quoted from Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical on Atheistic Communism, especially his warning that “Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever. Those who permit themselves to be deceived into lending their aid towards the triumph of Communism in their own country will be the first to fall victims of their error” (n. 58).
You are correct, however, that this encyclical contains many prophetic statements about evils that have come to pass in our day. Referring at times to Communism’s evil twin “amoral liberalism” (n. 32), Pius XI said that “when religion is banished from the school, from education, and from public life, when the representatives of Christianity and its sacred rites are held up to ridicule, are we not really fostering the materialism which is the fertile soil of Communism?” (n. 78).
The Holy Father said that refusing human life any sacred or spiritual character “makes of marriage and the family a purely artificial and civil institution, the outcome of a specific economic system.
“There exists no matrimonial bond of a juridico-moral nature that is not subject to the whim of the individual or the collectivity. Naturally, therefore, the notion of an indissoluble marriage tie is scouted. Communism is particularly characterized by the rejection of any link that binds woman to the family and the home, and her emancipation is proclaimed as a basic principle. She is withdrawn from the family and the care of her children to be thrust instead into public life and collective production under the same conditions as man. The care of home and children then devolves upon the collectivity.
“Finally, the right of education is denied to parents, for it is conceived as the exclusive prerogative of the community, in whose name and by whose mandate alone parents may exercise this right” (n. 11).
Does that sound like “it takes a village to raise a child”? Pius XI was indeed prescient, as Popes often are, and as Pope Paul VI was when he correctly predicted in 1968 four bad consequences that would follow widespread use of contraception (cf. Humanae Vitae, n. 17).