Tag: catholic doctrine

Religion & Spirituality

Have you noticed that an increasing number of formerly “religious” people identify themselves by saying, “I’m not religious but I am spiritual,”? I suspect that for many it’s because they’d rather say that, than identify themselves as an atheist or agnostic.  Perhaps it’s because they have become disenchanted with organized religions for any number of reasons, but still believe in God and have a need to acknowledge a higher power, without having to profess a particular faith tradition.

I read in a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, that approximately one-third of those who say they were raised no longer describe themselves as ; which means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former s. I’m not sure how many of those “ex-” call themselves spiritual, but I suspect it is a high percentage.

My own experiences in speaking to many folks who do not identify themselves with any religion but identify themselves as spiritual, is that there is often confusion between religious and . A person I spoke to recently told me, “I suppose if I were being admitted to a hospital and they asked my religion, I’d tell them I’m catholic, even though I haven’t gone to in years. If I were to say I’m a spiritual person, it might take too much explaining.” I’ve heard others say, “I’d tell them I’m a ‘recovering catholic’.” It’s this kind of ambivalence or confusion that prompted me to pursue this topic both here and on my blog.

Below, I have a number of links to the topic that I believe will be helpful in our dialoguing on religion and . I have them here as references that you may use when I bring up the topic on my blog. Or if you just want to explore the topic on your own, ly these articles and essays will be useful.

    1. Religion versus Spirituality a Spiritual Problem: Reconnecting Experience with Tradition by David Tacey – I suggest that this article by Dr. David Tacey be read first. I found it very helpful in distinguishing between religion and and realizing how they can work better together than separately. He argues that Spirituality and Religion are becoming disconnected and they need to be re-connected., since they both rely on the other. In his opinion, Religion focuses more on community and worship and, is usually, but not always, based more on an individual’s experience. I personally have a need for both a sense of community and my own sense of awe, when I meditate, read inspirational book, or just discuss a specific topic with someone else. All of these spiritual experiences can lead to feeling of awe.
    2. This is an article by Emmy Silvius, a lay theologian, that appeared in the Australian website a – Her commentary is based mainly on Dr. Tacey’s premise of how religion and might be reconnected. Her belief is that Spirituality is not just a selfish, individualistic pursuit, but that it has a community aspect.
    3. The author of this web page asks the question: “I think that Spirituality is believing the universe is alive, and Religion is believing it expects something of you. What do you think?” Good question! Basically, it’s a position the Spirituality believers embrace. (see Mathew Fox’s website) So, what do you think?
    4. The Journal of Religion and Spirituality – This journal has a number of resources that can be very helpful.
    5. Enlightened-Spirituality. There are a number of interesting web pages on this web site. For example if you scroll down the main page, you’ll find information about how a variety of religions describe and practice : Buddhism, traditions of the Jewish Kabbalah, Hinduism, Islam etc.
    6. Interesting interview with Dr. Micael Ledwith – Since he retired as a catholic priest he has gone on to appear in the groundbreaking film, What the Bleep Do We Know? He has also produced three volumes so far in his own series of DVDs that deal with fundamental matters in relation to spiritual evolution, and three more of which were scheduled for release in 2010/2011. In 2008 Ledwith published The Orb Project, a book detailing his intensive five-year study of orbs, which was co-authored with German physicist Klaus Heinemann. He is currently working on a new series of books titled Forbidden Truth, a three-volume work that focuses on human destiny and the mechanics of spiritual evolution. The interview with Dr. Ledwith and SuperConsciousness Magazine speaks at length about his , his choices, and his passion to know God as himself.
    7. The following reading illustrates some parallels between Native American spirituality and the Buddhist way of life. The authors of this web site chose themes and readings for their proximity to Buddhist teachings. They are not meant to suggest that Native American and Buddhism are the same or share similar historical source, both are different from one another but share some similar viewpoints and religious experiences.
    8. This web site is authored by Orrin Lewis, a Cherokee. He says in his introduction that, “This is my personal homepage – I am old-fashioned and I don’t like to put my picture on the Internet.” He might be old fashioned, but his web site contains a wealth of information besides this article entitled Seeking Native American Spirituality: Start Here.
    9. This article by Jody A. Long, J.D., Near Death Experience, Religion and Spirituality, is described by the author as one of the last frontiers of study surrounds and Near Death Experience (NDE). She also suggests that this is a highly sensitive issue due to the nature of religion. What this study attempts to do is to objectively look at the data submitted by NDErs to the website and to categorize the answers. Questions that are analyzed include pre and post NDE religious preference, and changed beliefs. There are some surprising results that focus on universal and order gained from NDE understandings.
    10. There are a number of rich spiritualities within the catholic tradition. These spiritualities have their origin in great spiritual leaders after whom they are named; for example, Franciscan is attributed to teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, and so on. A particular is a system, or schema of beliefs, virtues, ideals and principles which form a particular way to approach God and therefore all in general.Even though these spiritualities are different, does not mean they are contradictory. They all have their roots in the same Christian heritage and they all aim at the same goal – to love as Jesus loved. The difference is a matter of emphasis. The differences give each approach its unique character traits.To mention just a few of the more familiar: Ingnatian Spirituality, Franciscan Spirituality, Benedictine Spirituality and Dominican Spirituality.
    11. In addition to those from the catholic tradition, here is a website that provides from other faith traditions including: Protestant, Jewish, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslin.

Faith and Beliefs

I believe that since faith and beliefs are so often confused, it’s important for us to have a clear understanding of the differences. If I were to design a bumper sticker for this topic, it would be, Keep the Faith but Question the Beliefs.

Theologian and Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Harvey Cox, in his book, The Future of Faith, describes a conversation he had with a friend, who described himself as “a practicing Christian but not always a believing one.” Initially Cox was surprised with his friend’s statement, but the more he thought about it, he came to the conclusion that to call oneself a practicing Christian but not a believing one acknowledges the certainties and uncertainties that mark the of any religious person. When I read his book, I realized I had come to the same conclusion about the differences between faith and beliefs a number of years ago, but I just wasn’t able to articulate it as well as he did. In my case, the more I studied the tradition of the Church, and the fathers of the , the more I came to the conclusion that many of the beliefs of my pre- II background did not pass the litmus test of my conscience.

My faith was in the Jesus of what Cox calls the Age of Faith, the first three centuries after Jesus died, when the early was more interested in following Jesus’ teachings than making obligatory what to belief about Jesus. The Jesus that I believe in and in whom my faith is grounded in is: the Jesus who gave us the Beatitudes and his example of how to live; the Jesus who focused on compassion for the disenfranchised. As Dr. Cox observed, when he realized how faith and beliefs were not the same,

“To focus the Christian on beliefs rather than on faith is simply a mistake. We have been misled for many centuries by theologians who taught ‘faith’ consists of dutifully believing the articles listed in one of the countless creeds, this came as a welcomed liberation.” Amen!

This webpage provides a number of references to faith and beliefs. It primarily focuses on the Christian tradition. It does not pretend to be all inclusive. The references are meant to be background for future discussions on my blog or as possible sources for your spiritual reading.

    1. From Blind Belief to Enlightened Faith – Reprint from the Theosophical Movement. The following is a quote from the article that is characteristic of the author’s position.

      “Blind belief passing through the fire of reason emerges as enlightened faith, casting off the ashes of exclusiveness, fanaticism and bigotry. If a man of religious belief passed from blind belief to real knowledge and practised the ethics of his own creed, he would soon be forced to discard the exclusiveness of that creed and to embody its universal aspects. Thus enlightened faith comes to birth.”

    2. Faith Versus Belief. Posted in The Thinker by Jeffrey Ellis. In addition to this article there are a number of interesting topics that the website covers.
    1. The Omega Connection – Faith and Belief. A brief but interesting article.
    1. Bill Moyer’s website Faith and Reason, contains a wealth of information about faith and beliefs. It contains dozens of interview of religious leaders from every denomination, scientists who have positive and negative views about religion and in depth articles and programs both in text format or tapes of actual intervies. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/index.html
    2. Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (New York: Harper, 2009). 16. The author of classic, The Secular City, writes his last book before retiring from Harvard University, on the difference between faith and beliefs and how important this distinction is for the future of faith.
    1. Donald F. Fausel, From Blind Obedience to a Responsible Faith: The Memoir of a Cradle Catholic. (Bloomington, IN. 2010 iUniverse) Fausel’s Memoir is a combination of stories of his pre and post- II, including his time as a catholic priest, his struggles with many beliefs of the , his dispensation from the priesthood and his reflections on his ’s journey, back to a responsible faith in his catholic tradition.
    1. Judy J. Johnson. What’s So Wrong about Being Absolutely Right: The Dangerous Nature of Dogmatic Beliefs – This webpage is a commentary that Johnson contributed to her book in the Australian website . After considering some of the major features of dogmatism: the power of dogmatism and its psychological aspects, its intolerance of ambiguity and its authoritarian positions, the author concludes that “It seems reasonable to conclude that, given that features of dogmatism become manifest in social institutions, the challenge for scientists, religious leaders, and politicians – indeed, for all of us – is to open our minds about dogmatic thought; first and foremost our own.”
    1. Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous – This is an article in Scientific America, by Lawerence M. Krauss, that offers statistics about the high percentage of respondent who discard scientific facts in favor of their religious beliefs.
    1. What is Belief, What is Faith? This is a video on YouTube by Randall Niles.

      He suggests that beliefs are something we arrive at after a period of time when we intellectually accept a premise, either because of a preponderance of the or beyond a reasonable time, while Faith is when we put our beliefs into action. He provides an interesting but simple example (parable) of a tight rope walker who successfully walks across Niagara to the amazement of large crowd of on-lookers. When he finishes, he ask the crowd if they believe he can walk across Niagara Falls. They all shout yes! He then pushes a barrel across the falls and ask the same question and get the same answer. Next he puts a friend in the barrel and pushes the barrel across the falls. When he finishes he asks if they believe he can push someone across the falls in a barrel. They all respond excitedly, “we believe,” his response to the crowd is, “whose next?” That, says Randall, is the difference between Belief and Faith. Faith requires putting beliefs into action.
    1. Here’s a summary by Meghan Smith, News Editor, of The Gavel Online on March 25, 2011, of an address at Boston College by Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late senator, Ted Kennedy. It is on faith and political beliefs. She said at one point, as a young girl, growing up in a Democratic family, she actually thought that Jesus must have been a Democrat, because He advocated for all the things that she learned growing up: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and reach out to the poor and disadvantage, all things that were a vital part of her family’s beliefs.
  1. Mark Powel, on Faith vs. Beliefs

    This is a video on YouTube by Mark Powell giving his views of the French Theologian Jacques Ellul on faith and beliefs. On the same You Tube page there are a number of other spiritual topics that Jacques Ellul presents, that are worth listening to.

Humanae Vitae, The Turning Point for the Catholic Church

FILE -- In this file photo taken on March 29, 1964, Pope Paul VI salutes a crowd estimated at 200,000 as he is carried on portable throne through St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. Pope Francis has approved a miracle credited to the intercession of Paul VI and set the date for the late pontiff's beatification for Oct. 19, the Vatican said Saturday. Francis had authorized the beatification, the last formal step before possible sainthood, a day earlier, the Vatican said. Paul VI, who reigned as pontiff from 1963-1978, made landmark progress in improving Catholics' relationship with other Christians. His papacy is also remembered by his decision, after years of study, to ban contraception for Catholics, in a 1968 encyclical, "Humanae Vitae" ("of human life"). (AP Photo/Jim Pringle)

There is general agreement that the so called “Contraception Encyclical”, Humanae Vitae, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968 was a major turning point in the Catholic Church.[1] Forty-four years later it remains controversial, and has recently become as much, a political focal point as it is a religious one. In my last blog I focused on the power of the political pulpit, and how I believe the United States Conference of Catholic s (USCCB) is conducting a crusade against contraception that is as vitriolic, misleading, and inappropriate as most of the ads on TV we endure night after night by partisan politicians pushing their agenda. In the language of my old Judson Street neighborhood in Albany, NY, it sounds like “dirty pool” to me.

This blog will focus on the how the decisions to reconsider the teaching of the on contraception that were made by the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth-rate, were trumped by officials, who were concerned that if they changed the ’s teaching on contraception, it would create a domino effect that would put other doctrines, including infallibility in jeopardy of needing to be changed.

First, I will put contraception in the context of: infallibility, tradition and the magisterium, primacy of conscience, intrinsic evil, and the sensus fidelium (the voice of the faithful). Each one of these topics has had an impact on the Church’s current teaching on contraception. Since without the doctrine of infallibility, most likely we wouldn’t be having this discussion, I will  discuss how Pius IX (also known as Pio Nono) managed to ram infallibility through the first Council in 1870, and then briefly connect the other issues mentioned above to contraception. I will then discuss why and how Paul VI in 1968, chose to ignore the Commission’s advice to change the ’s teaching on contraception.

I suspect that the story behind the scenes of I, and what has been written since about the Machiavellian tactics that Pius IX used to push through his agenda for infallibility, as well as his psychological state of mind, are less known than the doctrine itself. So, this section will focus on how Pio Nino manipulated the bishops, rather than the specifics of the doctrine of infallibility. I believe that if it was not for Pio Nono’s doctrine of infallibility, Paul VI would have accepted the Commission’s final decision on contraception and it would not be an issue today.

According to John Swomley, the doctrine of papal infallibility has been under attack by Catholic theologians since its proclamation by Pius IX. [2] This was not the first time a pope had declared the popes to be infallible. As far back as the thirteenth century, Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280)  did so for questionable reasons, and Pope John XXII in 1334 CE called infallibility “…a work of the devil…” and issued a papal bull condemning it as heresy. [3] might have remained a heresy had it not been for Pius IX and his Council.

How did he manage to get infallibility declared a dogma of the Church? One of several theologians who have consistently criticized infallibility is Hans Kung. From the time he published Infallible? An Inquiry in 1972, to a more recent article, entitled Issue Cries out for III, [4] hehasbeen a strong voice for ing papal infallibility.  He contends that there were four principle reasons that Pius IX was able to maneuver the doctrine of infallibility through I, “Pius IX had a sense of divine mission which he carried to extremes; he engaged in double dealing; he was mentally disturbed; and he misused his office.” [5] 

Kung goes into great detail supporting these allegations in his book, and his conclusions are backed up by other theologians. For example, German theologian, Walter Kasper, who was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, speaking on infallibility stated, “For faith is essentially an act of free assent; as an act that is wholly and entirely human, it does not exclude but includes intellectual responsibility . No one can or may delegate this responsibility in to the official and her teaching office.” [6]

In 1979 August Bernhard Hasler, a priest, historian, and former staff member of the ’s Secretariat for Christian Unity, published his controversial book, How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the of Persuasion. His research concluded:

“It is becoming increasingly obvious, in fact, that the dogma of papal infallibility has no basis in either the Bible or the history of the Church during the first millennium. If, however, the First Council was not free, then neither was it ecumenical. And in that case it decrees have no claim to validity. So the way is clear to revise the Council and, at the same time, to escape from a situation which both history and theology find more and more indefensible. Is this asking too much of the Church? Can it ever admit that a Council erred, that and 1870 I made the wrong decision?” [7]   

Hasler goes on to list and explain seven charges that question Pius IX’s motives, deceitful tactics, and mental health. He claims Pius IX was insane, dishonest, stacked the council, bullied the bishops, put financial pressure on them, to mention a few. [8] The fact that Hasler was an insider gave him an advantage in having access to archived documents, and I believe adds credibility to his charges.

Just one more point to consider on infallibility. In 1971, Father Karl Rahner edited a book entitled, The Problem of .  One of the authors invited to give an opinion on Hans Kung’s book on infallibility was Father Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict XVI. The title of Ratzinger’s article was Contradictions in the Book ‘’, by Han Kung. Although Ratzinger’s article was critical, he did make a statement that to me seemed to suggest that the issue of infallibility was not closed. He agrees with Kung that Papal should be ulated. Ratizinger states:

“A predominately critical article should not, however, ignore the positive side of Kung’s book. This can be clearly deduced from all that we have said before, when we affirmed that he opened for discussion, in an explicit and unequivocal way, problems that must be ulated. He denounced obscurities in the historic and systematic structure of Catholic theology, which in fact have persisted and until now have usually been avoided and not confronted head-on.” [9]

If you still are not sure if Pius IX acted of sound mind and intent, I suggest reading his Syllabus of Errors, which is part of an encyclical Quanta Cura. So many of the 80 “errors” that he identifies, to say the least are an embarrassment today. [10] What was anathema to Pius IX, has been reversed and in some instances tolerated.  

Tradition and the Magisterium

Robert McClory reminds us that the Catholic Church has two sources of divine revelation, and that they have followed very different paths. Over the last one hundred years, scripture has been “…analyzed, reinterpreted, even deconstructed through various forms of scholarly criticisms …however tradition has experienced little change, remaining almost static over the same time period.” [11] Nevertheless, we go back and back to the ancient texts of popes “of happy memory” or even farther to the “fathers of the ”, all of whom, lived when they thought our earth was the center of the universe. In the memorable words of Yogi Berra, “the past ain’t what it used to be.”

In a recent book The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. edited by Michael Lacy and Francis Oakley, an article by Gerard Mannion argues that the notion of magisterium must go through a severe updating:

“I would suggest that any effective exercise of magisterium must free itself from and pretense of omniscience for, in reality, the character of its exercise in recent times would on occasion appear to hold more in common with the ‘view from nowhere genre.’ In other words, far from being grounded in fundamental and universally agreed upon traditions, pronouncements have … appeared to claim an authority that transcends context, and history alike. And yet ecclesial authority is inescapably rooted and shaped by each of these factors.” [12]

After all, at one time the held that: slavery was justified; children who died without baptism were excluded from heaven and parked in Limbo; and finally in 1992, after about 380 years after he was charged with being a heretic, Pope John Paul II apologized to Galileo for his being put under house arrest, because the insisted that their interpretation of the bible that the earth was the center of the universe, and that trumped the budding science of cosmology. One of the biblical references that his inquisitors used against Galileo was, Ecclesiastes 1:5 that states “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.”

I realize that there is a difference between dogma and disciplines, like not eating meet on Friday, but I believe a lot of the fine tuned distinctions, and the obligation of has kept the faithful in the dark ages, and caused more harm than good.[13]

Primacy of Conscience

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a wealth of information about everything we could ever want to know about the ’s teaching on conscience, and the part it plays in achieving a responsible faith. Rather than my going through each of the 26 items in Article 6, on Moral Conscience I’m going to provide the webpage for that section. This is not the Baltimore Catechism that many of us could recite verbatim in grammar school, when we thought we had the answers to the most complex questions that puzzled philosophers for centuries, like “our purpose” in . Remember the answer we parroted back to the good nuns, “God made me to know him, to love him and serve him in this and be happy with him forever in the next .”

Here is one example of a statement on conscience from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, item #1782, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.”  It seems pretty straight forward.

Unfortunately, because of the loss of confidence in the magisterium experienced by many members of the catholic in recent years, it’s even more important for us to understand the concept of primacy of conscience. Especially because it’s often alleged by clerics that reliance on our consciences leads to relativism and exaggerated autonomy in morals. In an article in the Australian Journal of Theology, Brian Lewis points out that according to the principle of primacy of conscience, “One must follow the sure judgment of conscience even when through no fault of its own, it is mistaken.” [14]

To add a familiar and stronger voice that supports the primary of conscience, here is a statement made by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in which he eloquently expresses the ’s understanding of primacy of conscience. At the time he wrote this in 1968, he served as chair of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Turbinger.

“Above the Pope as an expression of the binding claim of authority stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of authority.” [15] AMEN!

Intrinsic Evil

Before I give my opinion of whether contraception is an intrinsic evil, I want you to know that contraception is not a personal issue for me. Personally, at age 82, contraception is far from my mind. But theologically, I am concerned for the thousands of catholic or former catholic couples, who have struggled with their consciences, and don’t agree with the celibate clerical that makes the rules, and feel alienated from the they loved.

This became apparent to me when Paul VI was trying to make up his mind for three years in the mid-sixties about what he would say to these couples, and I was a priest in Schenectady New York hearing confessions, and working with couples in the Christian Family Movement (CFM) As a confessor, I tried to follow the advice that St. Alphonsus Ligori, the founder of the Redemptorist religious order, gave to confessors. He counseled them, when dealing with married couples who had sex, even when procreation was not the goal, not to pry too intently into marital sexual relations. As a mentor in CFM meetings I felt my role was to be supportive as couples strove to form their consciences. Those experiences were part of what helped me see contraception not as an intrinsic evil, but from a perspective beyond my degrees in theology, and my role as priest, but what I hope was from the compassion of Jesus. These were not evil couples, they were loving couples, loving parents, loving .

You guessed right, I don’t share the same opinion of the bishops that contraception is intrinsically evil, and I’m not sure that Pope Benedict XVI shares their opinion either. I’m not looking for his approval, but just wanted to mention what may perhaps be a crack in the wall. It’s a statement he made a couple of years ago in an interview in America: The National Weekly, a Jesuit magazine. The interviewer, Peter Seewald, asked Benedict a number of questions about AIDS and condoms. Part of his first reply was,

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be the first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and one cannot do whatever one wants.”

Seewald asked  “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”

“She (meaning the ) of course does not regard it as a real moral solution, but in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more humane way, of living sexuality.” [16]

Interesting response! Notice he talks about male prostitutes rather than loving couples. It reminded me of my moral theology professor in the seminary. He tried to explain that condoms weren’t intrinsically evil, by using an example from his time as a chaplain in World War II. As he prepared for a landing on one of the Pacific islands, he wrapped his watch in a condom to keep it dry. We all got the point, that intrinsically evil acts are acts that are wrong by reason of the object, not just by reason of their motive or circumstances.

Sensus Fidelium (the Sense of the People)

Now we can flash forward from 1870 to 1968 when Paul VI finally proclaimed his encyclical Humanae Vitae. The Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth-rate, had completed its work in 1965. During those three years of anticipation, thousands of couples, all over the world were optimistically awaiting a verdict. They were particularly hopeful for a positive decision when thirty-four lay members were added to the Commission in 1965, five of whom were women. This brought the total membership up to fifty-eight. I remember clearly the excitement the couples in our Christian Family Movement groups expressed when they heard the news that Patty and Pat Crowley, the founders of CFM would be representing them, along with the other lay members of the Commission. We had been discussing the sensus fidelium in the CFM groups in Schenectady, along with II’s focus on the role of the People of God, their hopes were high, as were mine.

There have been various interpretations of sensus fidelium over the years. Ranging from the degrading declaration that Pius X made in his encyclical Vehementer Nos in 1906, “The only duty of the laity is to allow themselves to be led, and like a docile flock, to follow their pastors.” Contrast Pius’ prose with the more magnanimous message by Saint John Henry Newman in his article On Consulting the in Matters of Doctrine:

“Consulting the people is not to be regarded as just a friendly gesture on the part on the part of the pope or bishops. Consultation is something the laity has a right to expect. Their view may serve at times as a needed witness of the truth of a revealed doctrine.” [17]

It’s not my intent to go through the deplorable details of the deceitful process of the after the Commission decided to advise the pope to change teaching on contraception. Rather I suggest you might want to read the extract from Garry Wills’ book, Papal Sin-Structure of Deceit pages 89-98. Even though you might have read it before.[18] I read Wills’ book when it was first published, but when I reread this section again recently, I was shocked as much, if not more than I was in 2000.

As I stated in the beginning “… if it was not for Pio Nono’s doctrine of infallibility, Paul VI would have accepted the Commission’s final decision on contraception and it would not be an issue today.”  Perhaps the would even have the integrity to re-evaluate other doctrines that make no sense in the thirdmillennium. 

Unfortunately Paul VI didn’t follow Cardinal Newman’s interpretation of sensus fidelium; didn’t fathom the struggles that the lay members gave of their attempts at using the approved rhythm method of birth control, and the agonizing results abstinence had on their marriage; didn’t factor in the empirical evidence from an expert consultant John Noonan from Notre Dame; didn’t respect the Commission’s agreement that only one report would be forwarded to the Pope, that there would not be any minority report; didn’t respect the fact that in the final vote of the sixteen bishops nine voted yes for changing the ’s position on contraception, three no, and three abstained and one was absent.

What he did do, was agree with Cardinal Alfredo Octavianni before the last meeting that only the bishops could vote, which changed the rest of the participants from members to “advisors”, most of whom, had been meeting with the Commission for four years, and were now without a vote.

The pope met with Cardinal Octavianni, Fr. John Ford, SJ and an assistant Germain Grisez, a professor of moral theology, a half hour after he receive the report. Their purpose was to come up with a “minority report”. As Wills points out, the pope took advantage of the minority report in writing  Humanae Vitae, not because there were any rational arguments against change, but the real reason was the fear of the domino effect that I mentioned earlier. According to Grisez in his recent biography, the fact that Pius XI had unqualifiedly condemned all forms of artificial birth control, in his 1930 encyclical Castii Canubii, to change would“… have likely destroyed for all time the claim of popes to be infallible…obviously a very important issue for popes seeking to preserve their spiritual power.”[19]

In my next commentary, I will focus on what I believe our options are to make changes in the as we know it today. by either working for or complete revolution, or somewhere in between.

End Note

  1. Two references. Robert Blair Kaiser’s book, The of Sex and Religion: A Case History of the Development of Doctrine, 1962-1984. Leaven Press, NCR. And Robert McClory, Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church. Crossroad Press. Especiall, Appendix 1, pp. 171-187.
  2. in Ethical Perspective. Article by John M. Swomley, February 1998 (Issue 14 Page 26)  Christian Ethics Today, on-line. http://www.christianethicstoday.com/cetart/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.main&ArtID=204
  3. Papal : Is the Pope Infallibile? Examining the Catholic Doctrine of Papal .  Article by Austin Cline. About.com http://atheism.about.com/od/popesandthepapacy/a/infallibility.htm
  4. Issue Cries out for III, Article by Hans Kung, Call to Action USA. .http://www.cta-usa.org/reprint2-96/kung.html
  5. Cline, op. cit.
  6. The Church’s Road from I to II, Walter Kasper, cited in Kung, ? An Inquiry. p.120
  7. August Bernard Hasler, How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the of Persuasion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981, p. 310.
  8. Cline, op.cit, pp. 3-5 of article.
  9. Ratzinger Agrees with Kung on Reforming Papal . This is a document retrieve from the internet on March 5, 2012 from Tradition in Action, Inc. http://www.traditioninaction.org/ProgressivistDoc/A_004_Ratizinger_Kung.htm
  10. Quanta Cura: Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius IX, (Syllabus of Errors added 1964). http://www.utc.edu/Faculty/Anthony-Steinhoff/318/SyllabusErrors.html
  11. Tradition’s Role as Source of Truth Being Revisited. Blob by Robert Mc Clory, January 17, 2012. National Catholic Reporter on-line blogs. http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/traditions-role-source-truth-being-revisited
  12. How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages. Article by Adam Lee, March 19, 2012. Alternet.org http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/154604
  13. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part Three, Life in Christ; Section One, Man’s Vocation in the Spirit; Chapter One, Dignity of the Human Person; Article 6, Human Consciences #s 1776-1794. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm
  14. Primacy of Conscience. Article by Brian Lewis, Australian Journal of Theology, 6, 2006. http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/107525/BLewis_Conscience_and_Magisterium.pdf
  15. Young Ratzinger on the Primacy of Conscience. Catholica Forum, June 5, 2010. http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=49471
  16. Pope Benedict Speaks. Article by Peter Seewald, November 29, 2010, America Magazine. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12590
  17. On Consulting the in Matters of Doctrine. Article by John Henry Newman, July 1859, The Rambler. Copied from The Ministry for Women on linehttp://www.ministryforwomen.org/teaching/newman3.asp
  18. Humanae Vitae. Extract from Gary Wills (2000) Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit. Doubleday, NY, pp.89-98. http://theology1.tripod.com/readings/hvcommentary.htm
    Religion: Birth Control: Pronouncement Withdrawn. June 21, 1968, Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,900219,00.html
  19. New Birth Control Commission Papers Reveal ’s Hand. Article by Gerals Slevin, National Catholic Reporter, March 23, 2011. s’ Accountability. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/03_04/2011_03_23_Slevin_NewBirth.htm