Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Prophetic Pope Paul VI, and the Consequences of Contraception

Pope Paul VI (1977)
Pope Paul VI gets a lot of grief from both conservative and liberal Catholics.  His pontificate, which lasted from 1963 to 1978, was at a particularly tumultuous time in the Church and the world.  But whatever else may be said of Pope Paul, his encyclical on  contraception, Humanae Vitae, seems downright prophetic.

The encyclical is from 1968, the sixth year of his pontificate.  Vatican II had concluded in 1965, and already, there were all sorts of innovations (both the pious and the bizarre) being defended as being in “the spirit of Vatican II.”  The doors seemed open to Modernity, for the Church to become compatible with the world.  And it's here, at this point in history, that Catholics began really openly questioning the Church's ban on contraception.  It seemed so hopelessly archaic: what's the moral danger of contraception, after all?

Pope Paul took his time deliberating on this question, but when an answer finally came down from the chair of Peter, it was a thing of beauty.  The entire encyclical is worth a read, but we get the clearest glimpse of the Holy Spirit's behind-the-scenes work in paragraph 17, in which Paul predicts the “consequences of artificial methods”:
Carlo Saraceni, Gregory the Great (1610)
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. 

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.
In other words, Paul was able to see everything from the loosening of societal morals and the increase in infidelity, to the “pornification” of culture (and objectification of women), to the risk of state-imposed contraception (including sterilization).  And he saw all of these things in 1968, when perilously few others were sounding the alarm.

A few years ago, on the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the Hoover Institute's Mary Eberstadt wrote a piece for First Things demonstrating how each of the four predictions (which Eberstadt summarizes as “a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments”) had come true.  In that piece, she notes an odd irony, that Humanae Vitae has been vindicated by the empirical data produced by secular social scientists:
Although it is largely Catholic thinkers who have connected the latest empirical evidence to the defense of Humanae Vitae's predictions, during those same forty years most of the experts actually producing the empirical evidence have been social scientists operating in the secular realm. As sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox emphasized in a 2005 essay: “The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not political or social conservatives. They are, rather, honest social scientists willing to follow the data wherever it may lead.”
Whatever else may be said for or against Paul VI's pontificate, he tackled a thorny and unpopular moral issue in a pastoral way, and in a way that appears prophetic in hindsight.  He saw, when so few could see it, how dangerous contraception was.  The tragic irony is that even now, as we suffer from the social ills it helped herald, we're largely too blind to make the connection.

65 comments:

  1. Man, timing. I was just reading thru humanae vitae, gaudium et spes and Veritatis splendor this morning. I don't think there is a clearer example, in our lifetimes, of why the Church is the Church and that she upholds truth regardless of the cultures approval or disapproval.

    It's also the best current day example that touches nearly everyone personally and shows why Protestantism is wrong and can't be the true church(es) that were promised protection by Christ. All you need is show how their position on such morals suddenly changed...while THE Church founded by Christ stood strong, like the children's story she is God's built on the rock, Peter, on firm ground.

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  2. It is sad to see how many Catholics have rebelled against this teaching. Most priests and bishops still won't teach it clearly and strongly. The church missed such a wonderful opportunity to be a sign of contradiction to the ways of the world. Instead Catholics are a sign of internal contradiction or hypocrisy. That is claiming to believe the gospel of Christ as taught by His church yet making a big exception.

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  3. It's a prophecy, and it is damningly accurate.

    But is it true for the Eastern Orthodox who generally accept the barrier method?

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  4. I used "Humanae Vitae" in a recent paper for seminary. The very educated and "progressive" Methodist instructor had not even heard of such, not that this is surprising. What is surprising is how deeply this encyclical touches the soul and how opening evident those consequences are now. Incidentally, I got an "A". Thank you, Pope Paul VI, for your work and your incredible insight!

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  5. "I was just reading thru humanae vitae, gaudium et spes and Veritatis splendor this morning"

    Woah...intense morning!

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  6. Michael, What was your instructors reactions to your paper. My experience with professors in college that had different viewpoints than I,I never could get an 'A.'

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  7. Cary,

    I second David's reaction. You're a machine.

    Michael,

    The fact that your instructor was a Methodist didn't fully make sense until I clicked your profile and realized you're a Methodist pastor. That makes this story all the more fascinating. Kudos to you for loving Humanae Vitae all the more!

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  8. Errr....

    Joe - 5 logical concise posts defending the faith a week
    Cary - 0, but 5 discussions resulting in an email with Joes work included per week. You really should make me pay you a commission or something!

    Cary

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  9. I think we can all agree that "concise" is just flattery.

    Seriously, though, thanks!

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  10. Excellent post Joe, as always.

    As for his critics, and those who blame him for the problems we have faced, let them consider even the dissent to this own Encyclical. If Catholics were already so liberalized, obviously their own Faith was going to be watered down, as they actually began to act on their dissent, and as immorality actually abounded everywhere.

    If we're going through Pope Paul VI's Encyclicals, Mysterium Fidei, defending every aspect of it from the Fathers, including Eucharistic adoration, it being a true sacrifice (which traditionalists say has been watered down since then, not incorrectly, but not owing to him) etc etc. He also prepared a Professio Fidei http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p6credo.htm for theologians enumerating all the unchangeable doctrines of the Church.

    So his personal failings on the human level, if any, are irrelevant to his Magisterium. The divine promise stands, the faith of Peter shall not fail.

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  11. Even if every liberalized Catholic disregarded the Teachings of Mother Church, Her Message - just as the Message of Her Founder and Head - remains binding. You disobeying Catholics out there ignore Mother Church's Precepts and Teachings to the peril of your Eternal Life.

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  12. Dear Daniel,

    The prophecy was also made by the Bishops of the Church of Greece as early as 1937 (see the Encyclical in "Ekklesia" (October 1937). Orthodox Christians "accept" contraception with the same peril as everyone else. It is an objective evil. Do not let modern obfuscation deceive you as to the timeless teaching of the Church.

    Happy Christmas!

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  13. Joe,

    This sounds amazingly prophetic. I often struggle to be Pro-life in a Mainline Protestant church. Human nature (being sinful) wants to do what feels good at the time. I do believe that this is why it was inevitable for humanity to create and propagate contraceptives with advances in medicine. Our culture is embracing the narcissism of human nature, so we will see more of this to come. Sad.

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  14. Clarity and brevity in one lovely package: thank you Joe.

    And to submit my usual Pollyanna response: this sad trend is changing! Young faithful Catholics (of the JPII and B16 generations) are embracing ToB and Humanae Vitae in droves. There is always hope.

    (not to mention that, by simple demographic math, within a few generations postmodern "childfree" people will have effectively bred themselves out of existence. It'll just be Muslims, faithful Catholics, Mormons, and the Duggers left.)

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  15. Tikhon,

    Refreshing clarity. Human Life International had a piece showing apparently contradictory positions between Bp. Ware, Patriarch Athenagoras, and Fr. Alexander Men on the subject of whether or not Orthodoxy permitted it.

    What does the situation look like from within?

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  16. My wife and i were not obedient Catholics in regards to contraception for the first couple of years but from the moment that we became obedient the graces that followed were amazing. Our marriage was strengthened, became fruitful, and 26 years later our boys are well rounded, happy adults and very strong in their faith. We prepare couples for marriage and share our experience and I pray for them all.

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  17. Joe, thank you for taking time to post this. Loved seeing the words of Pope Paul in a new light. I don't know how I missed this section before.

    Morrie, what a wonderful testimony. Thank you! Once I became an obedient Catholic, the graces that followed were amazing. I truly do not deserve them.

    SCREDSOXFAN, gotta say that was a horrible generalization of Protestants. There are 20,000 denominations (defectors as I call them lol) and some do support life like the Catholic Church. I would love to see all Christians journey home to the Church, but I don't think criticizing them is the way to make it happen.

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  18. Dear Joe,

    Metropolitan Kallistos, Fr. Alexander Men, and Patriarch Athenagoras actually agree much more than they disagree, and all three misrepresent the Church's teaching.

    The fact is that there is currently a status quo among professed Orthodox Christians which is inconsistent with the timeless teaching of the Church. This status quo has sought to justify itself and has generally succeeded in publicly and forcefully articulating a pseudo-Orthodox ethical stance for mass consumption which has been tragically accepted by manyr. But this "consensus" is an uncritical, unfounded ideology which can fairly easily be exposed through modest study of the issue. Christian life simply does not reinvent itself after two millenia in accordance with worldly thinking and lifestyles.

    Aside from this basically secular modus operandi, which is sadly the most vocal, there are countless pious Orthodox Christians who continue to live according to Christian moral principles, both clergy and laity. The most revered figures of the modern Church (as opposed to its most public "authorities", cf. above), viz. people like Elder Paisios, Elder Porphyrios, Elder Philotheos, as well as all the Fathers of the Church, ancient and modern, have been clear about the fact that contraception has no place in the Christian home. The Russian Synodal document, contrary to common belief (read carefully), does not in fact endorse or "permit" contraception. And, as already noted, the Greek Church long ago condemned birth control. So, too, did the Romanian Church.

    Suffice it to say that the Orthodox Church and Christian life has been misrepresented. But be assured that the truth is there and accessible to anyone willing to look past the obfuscation of a few forceful modern voices.

    Stay tuned, by the way, for a study of the issue, due for publication, which will elucidate in detail the timeless Orthodox approach to contraceptives.

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  19. Kelle,

    I understand that concern however it does a lot to show that such a structure is wrong. Nothing wrong with pointing out truth, I don't think you want me to list all those denominations specifically...that would be quite the burden for a blog comment

    Cary

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  20. Tikhon,

    That study sounds fascinating -- I'm excited! By the way, which Autocephaly are you affiliated with?

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  21. Tikhon,

    I don't understand how this could be resolved without a Council?

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  22. Its the doctrine of justification by faith alone -- a result of the Catholic mistake of canonizing Romans which was a forger written by Marcion in the name of Paul -- that lowers sexual morality. Condoms didn't do it -- Paul did. With or without condoms the problem would still exist because of Paul and Romans both of which were preserved by -- guess who -- the Catholic church.

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  23. Beowulf,

    *yawn*

    Clement of Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians written around 97 AD alludes to or quotes directly from Romans 1:32, Romans 12:5, and Romans 9:5.

    You can see for yourself here:

    http://newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm

    Marcion would have been about 12 years old if he wrote the forgery that Clement quotes.

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  24. "Clement of Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians written around 97 AD alludes to or quotes directly from Romans 1:32, Romans 12:5, and Romans 9:5."

    Clement's epistle to Corinth is nothing but a spurious Paul-quote-fest forged later to make it look like earlier theologians were utilizing these epistles, when of course they weren't.

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  25. Besides that Daniel, do YOU believe in justification by faith alone? Then its pointless to defend Romans. Just admit that Catholic church got it wrong. Have an ecumenical council to de-canonize it, and then maybe you're church will stand a chance against the Protestants. Otherwise, they're going to keep gobbling up your membership by appealing to Romans 4.

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  26. Beowulf,

    It's hard to interact with you in that you apparently feel no need to provide support (logic, evidence, Scripture, anything) for any of your claims. You just make a number of over-confident claims, get disproven, and respond with more of the same.

    In any case, there's no reason to take Romans to support sola fide, a fact attested to by score upon score of Catholic writers. In fact, Paul describes the role of works in salvation pretty clearly in Romans 2:6-8.

    So there's no reason to accept your argument that (a) anyone other than Paul wrote Romans, or (b) Romans is incompatible with anything Catholicism teaches.

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  27. "In fact, Paul describes the role of works in salvation pretty clearly in Romans 2:6-8."

    Actually, Joe, this is precisely part of the problem. In Romans 2 "the doers of the law shall be justified" -- in Romans 3 "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." In Romans 4 Abraham was justified by to the exclusion of works. Yes, Romans 2 teaches the role of works in salvation, but Romans 3 and 4 then proceed to deny it. This is a clear indication that we are dealing with a patchwork text. Some chapters written by Marcion and others added in by the Catholic theologians who 'prepped' the text for entry into the canon.

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  28. Beowulf,

    Is there any evidence of this? For example, copies of the Book of Romans which say something radically different, and which show signs of tampering? Or are you just making an unsupported claim?

    In any case, Romans 3-4 deal with the Mosaic Law, "works of the Law," rather than the acts of charity described in Romans 2 (good works). There are a lot of Catholic resources showing that there's no contradiction here (plus non-Catholic resources from scholars like the New Perspective on Paul folks).

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  29. No copies of Romans prior to the 200s exist. But Ireneaus (170) and Tertullian (208) both witness to the fact that Marcion's Romans was shorter. Their view is that Marcion took the Catholic Romans and cut it down. However, the fact is that Justin Martyr (140/150) who is earlier than both never mentions both or his epistles, and that all the supposedly early references to Paul are problematic and come in epistles that are themselves in high suspicion of being frauds. No real knowledge of Paul seems to have existed until after 140, precisely when Marcion's movement is said to have caught steam. It is clear enough that the Catholic church merely absorded Romans into its canon in order to defeat Marcion with his own book, and thus that the Marcionite version was first and that Paul is a literary character invented by Marcion and never existed.

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  30. Beowulf,

    You just finished claiming on the other comment thread that "By every estimate of the date of these documents I've ever seen, John was written after Paul," and that "Paul was the first to think of Jesus as God."

    Now you're claiming that Paul was a second-century literary character? How does a second-century literary character write before the Apostle John?  This seems to be utterly incoherent.

    As I asked earlier, what religious tradition are you're coming from?  And where are you finding the evidentiary or logical support for your various (apparently contradictory, but boldly asserted) conclusions?

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  31. There was a controversy in the 2nd century where a Roman clergyman whose name escapes me for the moment rejected the gospel of John when it first came to Rome because he held that it was the work of Cerinthus. Needless to say, he eventually lost the fight and this work coming in from Asia-Minor was canonized in Rome also.

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  32. It was Gaius of Rome. He was bishop of Rome, the Pope at the time.

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  33. Glad I was able to find the name, but it looks like sources differ as to whether he was bishop at the time. Some have him as a presbyter in the time of Zephyrinus, some in the time of Victor, and some as bishop of Rome himself. Kinda typical with any character of importance in the 100s.

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  34. Beowulf,

    That didn't answer my question at all.

    Nor would that vindicate your theory, since Cerinthus (who you apparently claim wrote John) appears to have written several decades before Marcion (who you claim wrote Paul's letters). Yet you concede that Paul (who you think is a literary figure) wrote before John (who you think didn't write John).

    This leaves aside the numerous other problems with these theories, like the fact that the Gospel of John plainly isn't Gnostic, as things like John 20:24-28 make clear.

    I.X.,

    Joe

    P.S. After I wrote this, you responded by claiming that it was Gaius of Rome, and that he was a pope. That's just plainly false, since the first time we get a Pope Gaius is the late third century. Fortunately for me, someone else has already done the work of debunking this.

    P.P.S. I asked twice earlier, but I'll try one more time: what religious affiliation, if any, are you approaching this from?

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  35. Per Clement of Alexandria in Stomateis 7, there was a tradition among the heretics that 'Marcion was among Valentinus and Basilides as an old man amongst youngsters' thus implying the beginning of his activity is earlier than Ireneaus allows. Ireneaus would like us to believe Marcion begins in 140. Yet Ireneaus himself has Polycarp meet Marcion and tell him to his face 'You are the first-born of Satan.' First-born implies he is the first heretics; and a meeting with Polycarp implies an earlier activity. There is also a certain prologue to John which mentions the idea that Marcion served as a scribe to John and helped compose the gospel of John and that after John saw how unfaithful Marcion had been, he fired him and excommunicated him. If there is any kernal of truth in this prologue, then it is that John was understood in the 2nd century to be a semi-Gnostic work. It could also indicate a collusion of Cerinthus (under the pseudonyme John) and Marcion in creating the gospel of John.

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  36. You're not intending on answering the question about religious affiliation, or admitting to being wrong about anything, are you?

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  37. Some translations from the Latin understand it as saying that Marcion was John's scribe.

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  38. You know I'm not Protestant. Why isn't that enough?

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  39. I honestly don't see why as a Catholic you would be annoyed by what I've pointed out about the canon; since you place very little importance on the Bible and much more on tradition. I would think you would applaud the truth on these points.

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  40. Beowulf,

    1) It's not true that Catholics place very little importance on the Bible. That's yet another in a series of unsupported claims. As I described in the original post you commented on, the Catholic Church faithfully preserved the canon of Scripture for centuries. I don't know where you're getting any of what you're claiming, but your track record hasn't been too hot so far.

    2) As for the reason I ask about religious affiliation, it's basically another way of asking, “How seriously should I take your commitment to your argument?

    If you were a fringe non-Catholic Christian who rejected portions of Scripture because of some “unique” ecclesial traditions, I'd expect you to take your arguments very seriously. You’d have an affirmative belief in some historical claims, and we Catholics could seek to falsify your position. If enough evidence was marshaled to show that you were wrong, you might admit it (at least to yourself), and reexamine the issue, opening yourself up to Catholicism.

    On the other hand, if you’re an atheist, I’m skeptical that you take your own argument very seriously. I’ve found most of the historical arguments against Christianity are ones that are gleaned from cursory Internet research, or at best, reading the sort of middle-brow pop scholarship that gets peddled in religious studies courses at most liberal universities, and is generally unaccompanied by any serious thought. After all, if you just “know” that Christianity is absurd, why waste time on the minute details like who wrote which Books, and when?


    If that’s the case, it almost doesn't matter what I say. Because if that’s the case, you aren’t really laying out any thing you believe in, but just lazily looking for a stick to beat Catholicism. To say, “I believe this” actually requires at least a vague sense of what one believes, while you answer with a skeptical “Yeah, right!” without needing to listen to an argument, or read a book (or think). So who cares if one stick contradicts another? You don’t actually believe any of them.

    So if that's the case, we Catholics could repeatedly show that your various claims against Catholicism are self-contradictory and incoherent, and it wouldn’t matter. If we knock down a dozen of your historical claims, you’ll just make a dozen more, all while holding the other parties to the dialogue in intellectual contempt for believing in a Sky God.

    If that’s going to be the way this plays out, it’s as productive as running in a hamster wheel. It’s intellectually lazy, non-falsifiable history, and it’s a waste of both of our times.

    Now I’m not accusing you of this. You may well not be an atheist, and even if you are one, you may be an exception to the norm of what I’ve seen both on this and other religious blogs. I admit that I’m not impressed so far: your positions on Cerinthus, Marcion, John, and Paul seem incoherent, and like you’ve given them about thirty seconds of thought. Plus, when you were called out for brazen contradictions (like claiming that Paul both (a) didn’t exist and (b) was a pre-Johannine Christian writer), you refused to concede, and just dug in deeper. But I’m hopeful, and not rushing to judgments here.

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  41. Dear Joe,

    Thank you again for your kindness.

    We don't (I think) call churches autocephalies even if they are an autocephalous church. Anyway, I'd rather not get into personal details without necessity.

    Daniel,

    I don't understand what you mean by "resolved."

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  42. Tikhon,

    Fair enough. I don't think it impacts the content of anything you've said, I was just idly curious.

    As for word choice, I was reaching for the right word to describe what I meant (whether you were Greek or Russian Orthodox, etc.). "Autocephaly" was the best I could come up with -- would "which church are you affiliated with" have captured the same meaning?

    I.X.,

    Joe

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  43. To authoritatively end the matter.

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  44. Daniel,

    What do you mean by "authoritatively settled?"

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  45. Excuse me, what do you mean by "authoritatively end the matter?"

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  46. It's my understanding that if a valid Ecumenical Council states a theological or moral principle, it is unquestioningly true and is to be followed by the whole Church?

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  47. It sounds like you might be saying that unless something is stated by an Oecumenical Synod it cannot be known to be true with any certainty.

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  48. No, but if the faithful can't agree on the matter, then the Council is the only option no?

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  49. No, it's not the only option. All Orthodox Christians accept the same authoritative sources containing the Church's teaching. If one "side" chooses to ignore these sources, they cannot be presumed to be on equal footing with the other "side" so as to necessitate an arbiter. It's as if Curran demanded arbitration between himself and the followers of Humanae Vitae. It might come to that, but it's not the only option.

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  50. I'm kinda new to being a Catholic, and perhaps Joe can bail me out, but I thought Catholics believed that encyclicals had the same force on the Faithful as an Ecumenical Council?

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  51. Danial, Welcome to the Church. Joe is a master an answering clearly and well, but I'll put this out there.

    Short answer, it am pretty sure is no. An encyclical is a letter of guidance and it's hard to make a general statement about what level or degree of consent it requires, but ordinarily, in and of itself the encyclical does not have the weight of the council.

    However, to the extent the encyclical restates and affirms articles of faith that have been dogmatically proclaimed by the councils those elements do require the same level of consent.

    There may be other statements or passages in an encyclical that affirm and elucidate teaching of the *ordinary Magisterium,* meaning articles of faith that have been taught continuously by the Church but never specifically been dogmatically defined by a Council or Papal Decree.

    Other parts, and most of a typical encyclical is practical application and exposition on some aspect of the faith and requires are respectful acceptance but not necessarily our consent or agreement. It is a fine distinction. Perhaps Joe will correct me a bit, but the difference is something like these elements are not binding on my conscience but still as the guidance from the Pope I must respectfully consider them and listen.

    Some elements of an encyclical might fall into the category of "prudential judgement" meaning that we only have to consider the Pontiff's thoughts but these statement do not carry the authority of the office of Pope.

    There is a classic often cited book by Ludwig Ott called "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" which goes through a somewhat traditional 7 tier system of what degree of authority are carried by certain types of statements and the appropriate degree on consens corresponding to each. Although I've often heard there are some issues with the English translation.

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  52. The most authoritative statement that forbids the barrier method is what?

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  53. Daniel, Humanae Vitae and contraception are excellent topics for this kind of discussion.

    To start off, I think asking "What is the most authoritative statement" is not the most Catholic approach to a question. Rather, I think looking at the whole body of teaching with as much of an open mind as we can muster being willing to listen to the voice of the Church and then trying to understand and digest and internalize that teaching. I am not saying there can't be some arguing along the way, but I think starting off with a very modern and frankly somewhat Protestant perspective that every question requires that there be a very specific and clear statement is not helpful or Catholic.

    Regarding the Church's entire teaching on sexual relations, most of it is the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium. It is simply what has been taught consistently, always and everywhere within the Church. There has never been (prior to our time) any need to Dogmatically define a doctrine because within the Magisterium (among the Bishops) there has never been any real disagreement or objection.

    The Church has always taught marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman, that sex before marriage is sinful, that there is no remarriage after divorce, etc.. and also that only men can be ordained to Holy Orders. Virtually none of that is formally dogmatized.

    St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa I think Book 2, sections 70-85 or so hits the topic of sex and contraception. No it isn't authoritative in and of itself but it his a highly respected source that generally summarizes the ordinary teaching of the Church and understanding Thomistic theology in this area is important for reading any of the encyclicals related to the subject. Casti Cannubi by Pius X1 is the first modern encyclical on marriage and family. Then Humanae Vitae

    I would point out that even in the dispute about humanae vitae there was NEVER any question about whether "barrier methods" were acceptable. The only question then and now is whether chemical methods that didn't place a barrier between the couples were subject to the same condemnations as barrier method.

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  54. Daniel, 1 more message. First here is a link to The Summa Theoligica sections that most direct pertain.

    About a year ago when the dust up regarding BXVI's comments in an interview regarding condoms was totally mis-interpreted by the media and got the blogs going we had a big discussion at Called To Communion the comments on this article run to #170 something. But starting at about comment 80 or so a debate went on between Nathan, Johannes and Myself with input from Ray and a couple of others. The last 30 comments or so on the topic are mainly the conclusion of this argument. Here are links to two of my comments that I think might be relevant depending on why you are asking.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/did-the-pope-condone-condoms-in-certain-cases/#comment-13786

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/did-the-pope-condone-condoms-in-certain-cases/#comment-13614

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  55. The Summa has been wrong before, and I just don't understand the rationale that would deny the barrior method to space children as a sin, but not NFP.

    The authority of the Church saying it is a sin would be enough, but it sounds like the Church hasn't authoritatively said that yet?

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  56. "The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself."- Vitae 20.

    Pope Paul actually answers the question you raise in HV 14-16, concluding the thought in this way:

    "Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns 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."

    This is certainly a part of the Magisterial teaching of the Church, even though it isn't defined ex cathedra in the way certain dogmatic definitions have.

    I.X.,

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  57. That reads to me like the issue hinges on naturalness. Are thermometers natural? Or the act of measuring cervical mucus?

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  58. Daniel, It isn't easy to think with the Church. Probably you aren't going to make peace with this in one day. Like I mentioned above, it helps to start with the whole perspective - a very broad perspective - of the Catholic theology of Humanity, sex, love and marriage. Trying to attack just one targeted issue in isolation either leads repeating the same statements and not increasing anyone's understanding, or a rapidly expanding pandoras box of further contentious questions.

    I have a couple links where I have addressed this on my own aborted blog attempt but I'll briefly overview here and again, take the long game approach on this - don't expect to understand today - think maybe about reading and studying and praying over this area for a year or so.

    Overview - Genesis Chapter 1, God created man Male and Female. The whole sex thing is right at the beginning of the Bible and is central to God's relationship with man. Sex as in male and female and sex as in intercourse are God's great (possibly greatest) gift to humanity. For Jews and Christians sex is not some side issue and NOTHING about sex is trivial.

    The sexual act is also our greatest participation in God's creation because we can actually participate with God in the creation of another person.

    So while we materialist, deconstructionist, scientific moderns think a piece of rubber doesn't make any difference we are thinking within a frame of reference and a philosophy that is very removed from a religious understanding of sex.

    From Genesis we know that sex is unitive - it unites the couple in marriage and it is reproductive and that those two aspects are both part of the same Gift from God as part of his act of creation. There is this word "Fecund" that I won't go into know, but in thinking theologically about sex I've come to believe it and "fruitful" have deep theological meaning.

    Anyway, following this through the Church has always and everywhere taught, and really I think the Jews taught as well, that sex is only for marriage and each and every act must respect both the unitive and reproductive.

    Then as Joe mentioned above, the difference between NFP and condoms. In NFP one is choosing for serious reasons to abstain from using the sexual gift - which is perfectly licit in the sense that there is no sin inherrent in not having sex on a given day. Where contraception is choosing to use God's gift but deliberately manipulate it and twist it to suit our own desires.

    Gotta run, I should take more time with this but will post it anyway and come back later.

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  59. Barrier methods result in more physical unity than continence, no? And gaming a monthly cycle doesn't promote creation?

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  60. Barrier methods result in more physical unity than continence, no?

    Apples to oranges: continence isn't sex. The barrier method is sex, but is a perversion of sex.

    The Catholic Church teaches that sex is inherently ordered to be unitive and procreative. Pointing out that continence (an absence of sex) isn't unitive and procreative doesn't disprove that.

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  61. Sad to say, the paper was the final assignment and I never got feedback. The instructor admitted that he is still "on the fence" about abortion and life issues, including contraception (he is a philosophy professor). To his credit, however, I would categorize him as a genuine "seeker" who is open to other viewpoints. As to those things he's convinced of, however, well ... not so much. Not unlike the rest of us, I guess!

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  62. Joe, succinct and convincing.

    How do we know if barrier methods are venial or mortal sins?

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