The Church will not be renewed without the renewal of family life.And the family cannot be renewedwithout a return to the truth taught in Humanae vitae.Ignoring this issue cannot be an option.In the long run the cost is too high.Therefore we should make every effort to better understand the importance of Church teaching in this regard, and witness to it boldly and with confidence.
- Archbishop Charles Chaput,
Denver, Colorado; pastoral letter, July 22, 1998.
Objective of this essay
In this essay I express my numerous misgivings concerning paragraph 26 of the Canadian bishop
‘s “Winnipeg Statement” published September 27th, 1968, which was a response to the encyclical letter Humanae vitae by Pope Paul VI.
I am a 69-year-old unmarried layman and retired teacher from an
Ontario community college.I am a convert from Protestantism (United Church of Canada) to Catholicism:on August 15th, 1959 – the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – I was received into the Catholic Church by the late Fr. Yves Guerin at St. Joseph‘s Church in Kentville, Nova Scotia.
On July 25th, 1968, Pope Paul VI signed his encyclical letter Humanae vitae, the great charter of life and love.
As soon as the encyclical was published there arose within some quarters of the Catholic Church – among both clergy and laity – an explosion of dissent against the teaching of the encyclical, a rebellion which persists to this day.This prompted me as a faithful Catholic to study in depth the Church
‘s teaching on artificial contraception, not to determine if the teaching is correct but to understand more fully why it is correct. There is plenty of evidence now available to confirm the fact that a root cause of the modern-day moral chaos is contraception.Humanae vitae is indeed a prophetic document.
On September 27th, 1968 – two months after the publication of Humanae vitae - the Canadian Bishops published in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, a commentary of that encyclical entitled Canadian Bishops
‘ Statement on the Encyclical Humanae vitae.It has come to be known as the Winnipeg Statement.It contains a controversial paragraph, n.26:
Counselors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that, because of particular circumstances they are involved in, what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother.In accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him, does so in good conscience.
I am unable be reconcile paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.I shall explain why but first I wish to point out two important truths:a) contraception is intrinsically evil, andb) the teaching of Humanae vitae is set forth infallibly.
a)Contraception is intrinsically evil
The Magisterium affirms that all forms of artificial birth regulation, including direct sterilization, are intrinsically illicit:
Our mouthproclaims anew:any user whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with guilt of a grave sin.(1)
“(E)very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil.(2)
Consequently it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infertile and so is intrinsically wrong could be made right by a fertile conjugal life consideredas a whole.(3)
The Church is consistent when she considers recourse to the infertile times to be permissible, while condemning as being always wrong the use of means directly contrary to fertilization, even if such use is inspired by reasons that can appear upright and serious.(4)
It is clear that the ban on artificial contraception is a divine ban.The prohibition against contraception is a moral absolute.
The doctrine of the CatholicChurch on artificial contraception has never been taught with an act which is defining whereby “a truth is solemnly defined by an ex cathedrapronouncement by the Roman pontiff or by the action of an ecumenical council.”(5)This is also the case for the vast majority of the Church
‘s teachings in moral matters.Does this mean, then, that a doctrine (on faith or morals) that is not taught solemnly with a defining act is not taught infallibly?Not at all.The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirms:
In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the successor of Peter….. Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei (the deposit of faith), is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly.(6)
(1)Pope Pius XI, encyclical Casti connubii, 1930, n.56.
(2)Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, n.2370, quotation from Pope Paul VI, Humanae vitae, no.14.
(3)Humanae vitae, n.14.
(5)Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Commentary on Profession of Faith
‘s Concluding paragraphs,
June 29, 1998, n.9, emphasis in the original.
(6)Ibid., n.9, emphasis in the original.
Because the teaching of the church on contraception fully meets the above criteria, it is taught infallibly.This, of course, includes Humanae vitae which bans all forms of artificial birth regulation.“Furthermore, Christ instituted His Church as
‘the pillar and bulwark of truth‘ (1 Tm. 3:15).With the Holy Spirit‘s assistance, she ceaselessly preserves and transmits without error the truths of the moral order …”. (7)(See Appendix I.)
I shall now discuss in the following 24 items the reasons why I am unable to reconcile paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.
1)No legitimate exceptions
The Church teaches that contraception is an intrinsic evil.The ban on artificial contraception is a divine ban.Pope John Paul II affirms: “When it is a matter of moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or deceptions for anyone.” (8)
The Pope affirms further:“Contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful, as never to be, for any reason justified.To think or say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.” (9)
Thus, by allowing exceptions to the absolute prohibition of contraception paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in contradiction to the Pope
One bishop, Most Rev. Glennon P. Flavin (retired,
Lincoln, Nebraska), has courageously affirmed in a pastoral letter that “because artificial contraception is intrinsically evil, it may never be practiced for any reason, no matter how good and urgent.” (10)
2)Circumstances and intrinsic evil
John Paul II affirms:“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.” (11)
By allowing exceptions to the divine ban on contraception “because of particular circumstances they are involved in,” paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in contradiction to the Pope
The Pope teaches further:“Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is correctly recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.”(12)
(7)Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declaration Persona humana, December 29, 1975, n.4.
(8) Encyclical letter The Splendor of Truth Veritatis splendor, 1993. n.96.
Oct. 10th, 1983.
(10)A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the issue of Artificial Contraception, Oct. 11/91.
(11) Encyclical letter The Gospel of Life Evangelium vitae, 1995, n. 62.
(12)Veritatis splendor, n.67.
Pope John Paul II affirms:“Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act
‘subjectively‘ good or defensible as a choice.” (13)
Again, by allowing exceptions to the divine ban on contraception by means of a subjective defense of the use of contraception – “because of particular circumstances…whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience” – paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in contradiction to the Pope
Subjective criteria can not make what is illicit licit.“But as she justified her actions,” writes novelist Linda Nichols, “she could hear her mama
‘s voice, gentle but stern, cautioning even from the grave that there was no right way to do a wrong thing” (Not a Sparrow Falls, 2002).
Indeed, how far can one go with the idea of “subjective defense”?Can the intrinsically illicit acts of adultery, abortion, homosexual activity, etc. be subjectively defended “because of particular circumstances” or intentions and then be practiced “in good conscience”?Furthermore, what are the “accepted principles of moral theology” (paragraph 26) that allow a subjective defense of committing an objectively immoral action “in good conscience”?One can begin to see the dire consequences of making exceptions to divine law.In short, paragraph 26 advocates moral relativism and situational ethics.The phrase “Whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience” is an attack on objective morality.
4)Pope John Paul II and dissent
“Opposition to the teaching of the Church
‘s Pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or of the diversity of the Spirit‘s gifts.”(14)
In 1987 in his address to the bishops of the
United States gathered in Los Angeles, the Pope very pointedly declared:“It has also been noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church‘s moral teachings.It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic‘ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the Sacraments.This is a grave error….”(15)
By opening the door to “dissent from the Magisterium”, paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in conflict with the Pope
Is paragraph 26 itself an oxymoron?How can a believing Catholic, “accepting the teaching of the Holy Father,” do an about-face and practice “in good conscience” that which the Holy Father condemns as being intrinsically evil?
(12)Veritatis splendor, n.67.
(15)Quoted in Bishop Glennon Flavin, A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the issue of Artificial Contraception, October 11, 1991.
6)A second self-contradiction
At the Plenary Assembly of Canadian Bishops on April 18, 1969, the bishops issued a Statement on Family Life and Related Matters.They affirmed:“The Catholic knows that he may not dissent from infallible teaching.In the presence of such teaching he can only seek to understand, to appreciate, to deepen his insights.”Because the teaching of Humanae vitae is set forth infallibly, the bishops
‘ April 18 Statement renders paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement null and void.Need anything more be said?
7)A third self-contradiction
In 1973 the Canadian bishops published an excellent document entitled Statement on the Formation of Conscience.They clearly affirm:
A believer has the absolute obligation of conforming his conduct first and foremost to what the Church teaches…(n.39).
“To follow one
‘s conscience” and to remain a Catholic, one must take into account first and foremost the teaching of the Magisterium.When doubt arises due to a conflict of “my” views and those of the Magisterium, the presumption of truth lies on the part of the Magisterium (n.41).
By allowing exceptions to the divine ban on contraception because of “my” views, paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in conflict with the above statements.
8)Use of evil means
Pope Paul VI teaches that “it is not permissible, not even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom (cf. Rm 3:8).One may not, in other words, make into the object of a positive act of the will something that is intrinsically disordered and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social goods.”(16)
By allowing the practice of “something that is intrinsically disordered” – contraception – paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in conflict with the teaching of Scripture and Pope Paul VI.
9)Weakening moral truth
Concerning the Winnipeg Statement Alexander Carter, President of the Canadian Bishops
‘ Conference in 1968, said:“It was something of an identity crisis.For the first time we faced the necessity of making a statement which many felt could not be a simple Amen, a total and formal endorsement of the doctrine of the encyclical.We had to reckon with the fact of widespread dissent from some points of his (the Pope‘s) teaching among the Catholic faithful, priests, theologians, and probably certain of our own number.”(17)
(16)Humanae vitae, n.14.
America, October 19, 1968, p.349.
‘s comment is an admission that in the Winnipeg Statement the moral truth of Humanae vitae has been compromised and weakened.To do so is in contradiction to the teaching of John Paul II:“In fact, genuine understanding and compassion must mean love for the person, for his authentic freedom.And this does not result, certainly, from concealing or weakening moral truth, but rather from proposing it in its most profound meaning as an outpouring of God‘s eternal Wisdom, which we have received in Christ, and as a service to man, to the growth of his freedom and to the attainment of his happiness.”(18)Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.(Denver, Colorado), has said that those who teach and preach in the name of the Church must do so fully, zealously, and persuasively, and not edit the Church‘s teaching to please the audience.It is true, as paragraph 23 of the Winnipeg Statement says, that Christ Our Lord was intransigent with evil, but merciful towards individuals.Mercy and compassion, however, do not presuppose a weakening of moral truth as affirmed by John Paul II above.
Furthermore, to yield to the forces of “widespread dissent from some points of his (the Pope
‘s) teaching among the Catholic faithful, priests, theologians, and probably certain of our own number” is in opposition to the directives of the Apostle Paul:“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:1-2).And the Pope affirms further that “the Church‘s Pastors have the duty to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected.” (19)
In their 18 April 1969 statement on family life the bishops referred to the Winnipeg Statement as “our pastoral application of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.”Right pastoral application must always be in harmony with the truth.Does paragraph 26 meet this criterion?Seemingly not:26 opens the door to yet another serious sin – the sin of sacrilege.Bishop Glennon Flavin (quoted earlier) affirms:“It should be obvious that Catholics who practice artificial birth control and those who cooperate with them in their immoral actions may not receive Holy Communion without committing sacrilege.”(20)
11)Contraception and abortion
Paragraph 26 makes no distinction between abortifacient and non-abortifacient contraceptives.When the former are used, the evil of contraception can be compounded by the evil of abortion.“Throughout the world, an estimated 250 million abortions are caused by the IUD and pill each year.”(21)
When the Winnipeg Statement was written in 1968, the contraceptive mentality in the West was quickly picking up steam and so was the abortion mentality.The disastrous Roe vs Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court – legalizing abortion on demand – appeared five years later in 1973.The link between contraception and abortion has, since 1968, been undisputedly established, that “the contraceptive mentality is not the cure, but the cause of the abortion mentality.”(22)Fr. Paul Marx of Human Life International has noted that in the very many countries he has visited, without exception once the contraceptive mentality has been established, pro-abortion legislation follows on its heels.(See John Paul II, encyclical Evangelium vitae, n.13.)
(18)Veritatis splendor, no.95.
(19)Ibid., n.113, emphasis in the original
(20)A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the issue of Artificial Contraception, October 11, 1991.
(21)Faith and Facts, Emmaus Road Publishing, 1999, p.114.
(22)Donald Demarco, The Contraceptive Mentality, Life Ethics Centre, 1982, p.9.In 1982 Dr. DeMarco was Professor of Philosophy at the
University of St. Jerome‘s College, Waterloo, Ontario
By permitting exceptions to the divine ban on contraception paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is contributing to the anti-life mentality.
Paragraph 26 fosters disobedience to papal teaching.Vatican II teaches:“This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him…”.(23)
Vatican II and papal directives to bishops
Vatican II affirms:“For the bishops and heralds of the faith…are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct…and with watchfulness they ward off whatever errors threaten their flock (cf. 2 Tim 4:14.).”(24)
I commend our Canadian bishops in being faithful to this mandate.It is most unfortunate that paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement, in allowing an exception to the divine ban on contraception, is in contradiction to:“with watchfulness they ward off whatever errors threaten their flock.”
Pope John Paul II teaches:“As Bishops, we have the grave obligation to be personally vigilant that the
‘sound doctrine‘ (1 Tim 1:10) of faith and morals is taught in our Dioceses.”(25)
In their 18 April 1969Statement on Family Life and Related Matters, the Canadian bishops said:“Nothing could be gained and much lost by any attempt to rephrase our Winnipeg Statement.We stand squarely behind that position but we feel it our duty to insist on a proper interpretation on the same.”
What, then, is the “proper interpretation”, particularly of paragraph 26?To my knowledge it has never been supplied by the bishops (“Nothing could be gained…to rephrase our Winnipeg Statement”).If words mean what they say, paragraph 26 cannot be reconciled with the Church
‘s teaching on conscience.
15)Greatest evil in the Church
In 1992 at a St. Louis, Missouri, conference sponsored by Human Life International on Humanae vitae (the writer of this essay was present), keynote speaker Most Rev. Glennon Flavin (quoted earlier) said that the gravest evil in the Catholic Church today is contraception and that the only way this evil can be rooted out is through prayer and fasting.Fr. Alphonse de Valk, c.s.b., editor of Catholic Insight (
Toronto), writes:“Fr. John Hardon, S.J., the well-known theologian in the United States, in a talk just before his recent death, said that the greatest evil in the Church today is contraception and its effect, the general dissent in the Church.”(26)
(23)Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, n.25.
(25)Veritatis splendor, n.116, emphasis in the original.
(26)Catholic Insight, October 2001, p.18.
Statistical evidence points to the alarming fact the Canadian Catholics are contracepting at about the same rate as non-Catholics.Ralph Martin, noted American Catholic evangelist, supplies these disturbing facts:
In 1963 only 18 percent of U.S. Catholics disagreed with the Church
‘s teaching on contraception.In 1987,70 percent disagreed with this teaching.(27)
In conjunction with the Pope
‘s visit to Denver for the World Youth Day in 1993, more polls were done….87 percent now disagreed with the Church‘s teaching on family planning.(28)
Among Catholics in
Canada the decline in faith and morality is also quite clear and quite far advanced…Almost 91 percent approve of artificial birth control ….(29)
This situation is a major impediment to the Church
‘s mission to evangelize.The effort to restore Catholic truth in Canada is crippled by the barrier of the Winnipeg Statement.In October of 1987, Archbishop Carney of Vancouver courageously said:“We will not have deep renewal in the Church until the faithful accept the Church‘s teaching that artificial contraception is seriously immoral and form their consciences according to that norm.”(30)This renewal necessarily include a recall by the Canadian bishops of the Winnipeg Statement.
Sadly there continues to exist a virtual “silence from the pulpit” on the issue of contraception and the promotion of natural family planning.Pro-life activist Father Ted Colleton, C.S.Sp. (
Toronto) wrote in 1994:“I wonder if it might be said with truth that the evil of contraception has flourished in the Church because good priests have said nothing.”(31)And Fr. Matthew Habiger of Human Life International has said that good priests will follow good bishops.
16)What is the binding force of the
“None,” writes Msgr. Vincent Foy.“National hierarchies cannot constitute a parallel Magisterium anymore than can theologians.The Winnipeg Statement was therefore not a magisterial one.Nor is the Statement a collegial act, for collegiality supposes unity with the Holy Father.By withholding assent to the doctrine of the encyclical, the bishops lost the right to be heard (cf. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, par.22).”(32)
Pope John Paul II addressed his 1993 encyclical letter Veritatis splendor to his brother bishops.He stated his purpose in writing the encyclical:
(27)Ralph Martin, The Catholic Church at the End of an Age (Ignatius Press, 1994), p.36. Source of statistics:Time, 7 September 1987.
(28)Ibid., p.36. Source of statistics:
USA Today, 10 August 1993.
(29)Ibid., pp.39-40. Source of statistics: MacLeans, 12 April 1993.
(30)Quoted in Msgr. Vincent N. Foy, “Tragedy at
Winnipeg,” Challenge (Winnipeg, October 1988). Note: Msgr. Foy in Toronto writes extensively about the Winnipeg Statement and its negative impact within the Catholic Church.
(31)Quoted in the “Forward” to Msgr. Vincent Foy, From Humanae vitae to Veritatis splendor (
Vanier, Ontario:St. Joseph‘s Workers for Life and Family).
(32)Msgr. Foy, “Tragedy at
In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church
‘s moral teachings.It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions.At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth.Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church‘s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices (n.4).
It appears to the writer of this essay that the above statements by the Pope can be applied to paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement as well as to the statement made by Bishop Alexander Carter in 1968 (quoted earlier):“We faced the necessity of making a Statement which many felt could not be a simple Amen, a total and formal endorsement of the doctrine of the encyclical.”
The Church consists of a divine element and a human element.The latter can be a stumbling block to the truth at the local level in the Church.An essential condition for the faithful to be “obliged to submit to their bishop
‘s decision…in matters of faith and morals”(Lumen gentium, n.25) is that “bishops…teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff” (ibid.).It can and does happen that because of the human element at work in the Church, national hierarchies of bishops get themselves “into hot water” over certain issues should their decisions be at odds with papal teaching and/or papal directives.I believe this is what has happened in the case of the Winnipeg Statement.Msgr. Vincent Foy writes:“To bishops, Pope Paul VI said in Humanae vitae:‘consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time‘ (n.30).As we know, Catholic bishops chiefly responsible for teaching Humanae vitae have been the primary factors in its rejection.Following dissenting theologians the teaching of the encyclical as to virtually destroy it.Among the worst offenders were the Canadian bishops by the Winnipeg Statement of September 1968.As night follows the day, Canadian Catholics now live in the dark Culture of Death.”(33)
John Paul II urges:“I address myself to you, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who share with me the responsibility of safeguarding
‘sound teaching‘ (2 Tim. 4:3), with the intention of clearly setting forth certain aspects of doctrine which are of crucial importance in facing what is certainly a genuine crisis, since the difficulties which it engenders have most serious implications for the moral life of the faithful and for communion in the Church, as well as for a just and fraternal social life.”(34)
The late Cardinal Emmett Carter (
Toronto), a principal author of paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement, eventually had misgivings:“I am not prepared to defend paragraph 26 totally.In a sense, the phraseology was misleading and could give the impression that the bishops were saying that one was free to dissent at will from the Pope‘s teaching.”(35)Indeed, one may well ask:How many of the Catholic faithful have, and are, interpreting paragraph 26 as being “free to dissent at will from the Pope‘s teaching” because of “circumstances they are involved in”?
(34)Veritatis splendor, n.5, emphasis in the original
(35)From a private letter dated June 15, 1995, quoted in Catholic Insight, Oct. 2003, p.25.
19)Philippine and Austrian bishops
In a 1990 pastoral letter, the bishops of the
Philippines apologized for their failure to promote the Church‘s teaching on artificial contraception and to promote natural family planning:“Afflicted with doubts about alternatives to contraceptive technology, we abandoned you to your confused and lonely consciences with a lame excuse:‘follow what your conscience tells you.‘How little we realized that it was our consciences that needed to be formed first.(37)
Is this not precisely what paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is doing:abandoning Canadian Catholics to their “confused and lonelyconsciences”?
The Austrian bishops, recognizing the negative consequences of their 1968 Statement on Humanae vitae, announced its withdrawal of March 29th of 1988.
The Winnipeg Statement was written a long time ago – 35 years.At that time there undoubtedly wasn
‘t available the detailedknowledge we have now concerning the disastrous moral and social consequences of contraception:that abortion is a direct consequence of the contraceptive mentality, that contraception can be abortifacient, that contraception is a serious stumbling block to the stability of a marriage because it erodes mutual love and respect, that it is a major contributing factor in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.Pope Paul VI warned in Humanae vitae (no.17) about the serious consequences of the methods of artificial birth regulation, and what he warned about has come to pass.
In the light of present knowledge and particularly in the light of recent papal teaching – notably Veritatis splendor - the writer of this essay is convincedthat paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement simply “cannot fly”.It is in serious contradiction with the authentic Church teaching.Msgr. Vincent Fly has written extensively about the negative effects of the Winnipeg Statement within the Catholic Church:the corruption of many texts and marriage preparation courses, the increase in the tolerance for dissent, erroneous confessional directives, a corrosion of the respect for the Canadian bishops, that the widespread practice of contraception among Catholics leads to suicidal birth rates that leave the Church without adequate vocations to the priesthood and religious life, etc.Fr. Alphonse de Valk (quoted earlier) writes:“At 87 years of age, Msgr. Vincent Foy of
Toronto continues to drive home that, where principles of faith are concerned, time alone does not bring healing.The error itself must be eradicated.”(38)
If it is indeed true that paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is in serious contradiction with authentic Church teaching, and if the Canadian bishops take no corrective action, what then?Could the stern warning of Pope Pius XI in Casti connubii (1930) find application here?Concerning the matter of contraception he taught (n.57):
We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves
(37)Quoted in Janet E. Smith, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, February 1996, p.71.
(38)Catholic Insight, October 2003, p.20.
immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them.If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ:“They are blind and leaders of the blind:and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit” (Mt 15:14).
Does not paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement “allow the faithful …to err regarding this most grave law of God”?
In 1993, the 25th anniversary of the publication of Humanae vitae, the writer of this essay wrote to every bishop (active and retired) listed in the 1993 calendar of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.I spoke about the evil of contraception of the Catholic Church and encouraged the bishops to speak out against contraception and to actively promote natural family planning.The response was most disappointing.Only 17 per cent of all the bishops I wrote to acknowledged my letter and of these answers some were non-committal.
How else can I perceive this poor response but as a malaise among the Canadian bishops concerning the issue of contraception?
By way of interest I have attached a copy of a very touching reply I received in 1994 from the late Archbishop Joseph Wilhelm of
23)Lack of incentive for Catholics to defend the truth
The following is from a submission (concerning same-sex union legislation) made in July, 2003, by Brian Moccia, President of the Precious Blood & Life Apostolate (Toronto) to Tom Reilly, General Secretary for the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Precious Blood & Life Apostolate maintains that contraception is the worm in the Catholic apple.We
‘re also convinced that…if most Catholics are defying their Church‘s clear and unambiguous teaching on the evils of contraception, then they won‘t step forward at crucial times such as this current outright attack on the traditional family and the very definition of marriage.Why?Perhaps it‘s because they intuitively sense…that they are immersed in the culture of death themselves…
It is PBL
‘s position that if contraception is morally permissible, if it is permissible to engage in sexual activity deprived of procreative meaning, there is little ground for condemning other forms of sexual activity.
‘s position is seemingly sound.If contraception can be morally permissible “because of particular circumstances they are involved in,” then paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement is feeding into the problematical situation described by Mr. Moccia.
24)Rejection of the sufficiency of grace
The statementsin paragraph 26:“because of particular circumstances they are involved in” and “if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue in line of conduct in keeping with the given directives” are in contradiction to the Church
‘s constant teaching about the sufficiency of God‘s grace.The encyclical Humanae vitae spells out the means of grace in Section III.And concerning this matter paragraph 26 is in opposition to what John Paul II affirms in Veritatis splendor:
‘s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible (no.102)….Such understanding (of human weakness) never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances.It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to Goo and his mercy (n.104).
Paragraph 26 refers to the teaching of Humanae vitae as “directives.”They are not mere directives but divine natural law which, being a universal norm, it possible of observance by everyone through God
To sum up:an appeal to the Canadian bishops
The bishops are to be highly commended for their 30 June 2003 statement – through the Canadian Organization for Life and Family – that clearly endorses Humanae vitae.
I respectively appeal to the Canadian bishops, as shepherds of the faithful and guardians of the truth, to:
- Recall the Winnipeg Statement because its continued presence – particularly paragraph 26 – can only be sword of Damocles undermining the bishops
‘30 June 2003 statement and future efforts of renewal in the Church.
- Patiently but firmly oppose the voices of dissent against Humanae vitae (cf. Rm16:17-18) and actively proclaim the truth of the encyclical.(I suggest that unconditional acceptance of Humanae vitae is a valid litmus test for identifying the orthodoxy of Catholic theologians and for hiring professors in seminaries.)
- Promote natural family planning according to the teaching and instructions of John Paul II:
(I)t is part of the Church
‘s pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae Vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavour to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm.(39)
With regard to the question of lawful birth regulation, the ecclesial community at the present time must take on the task of instilling conviction and offering practical help to those who wish to live out their parenthood in a truly responsible way.(40)
(39)The Christian Family in the ModernWorld Familiaris consortio, 22 November 1981, n.34.
I concur with Msgr. Vincent Foy:“We ought to pray for our bishops, by divine providence successors to the Apostles and guardians and transmitters of the Truth of Christ.The great majority of living Canadian bishops had nothing to do with the Winnipeg Statement.May God strengthen them to reject it.Catholics justly beg that the Truth of Humanae vitae be taught in
Canada, because it must be taught and known and loved before it is lived.”(41)
Postscript concerning the laity
It is not the role of the laity to establish Church doctrine in matters of faith and morals.This role belongs exclusively to the Magisterium.(42)Meanwhile, if it should happen that some layperson has good and serious reasons for believing that a particular bishop or group of bishops are not teaching “in communion with the Roman Pontiff” (Lumen gentium, n.25) on some issue – as is the case with the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre – then that person should respectfully communicate his or her concerns to the bishops (s) in question.“They [the laity] have the right, indeed at times the duty, to the in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church” (Canon 212, New Code).
Should the misgivings of the layperson be unfounded, then the bishops, who are our shepherds and teachers, can supply any necessary corrections.
This essay is a consequence of my sincere belief that I have an obligation to speak up concerning the Winnipeg Statement. If any of my observations or misgivings concerning paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement are inaccurate, I respectfully request and welcome from any bishop the required corrections.
I am reminded of what British novelist P.D. James wrote:“I do believe we have to search for (the truth) however unwelcome it may be when we find it” (Death in Holy Orders).
(41)Msgr. Vincent Foy, “Fifty reasons why the Winnipeg Statement should be recalled, “Catholic Insight, October 2003, p.25.
(42)“But the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Divine Revelation Dei verbum, n.10).
The Infallible teaching of Humanae vitae
On pages 5 and 6 we discussed the fact that the teaching of Humanae vitae is set forth infallibly.In 1991 address Msgr. William Smith, American moral theologian, discusses the infallibility of that teaching(43):
The core teaching of Humanae vitae, namely on the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception, is in fact the formal and solemn teaching of the Catholic Church, and has been since the year “one”.More recently, Casti connubii in 1930 said and taught the same thing.That same formal teaching comes up verbatim in Humanae vitae (in 1968).It
‘s repeated again in Familiaris consortio in 1981.Every pope in this century, or any other century, has taught the same formal teaching.Now when the pope together with the Catholic hierarchy throughout the entire world all teach the same thing, and all everywhere teach the same thing,…that actually establishes infallible teaching, not by an extraordinary exercise which is definition (i.e., an “ex cathedra” definition), but by what we call the ordinary universal magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church….The encyclical (Humanae vitae) is not an “ex cathedra” definition of faith and morals:that is true.But the given encyclical presents, represents and simply teaches again what is already true teaching, and indeed infallible teaching.
‘s not all that much of our teaching which is infallibly defined in the most extraordinary form, say of an “ex cathedra” definition.In fact, since that definition of 1870 (re papal infallibility, Vatican Council I), as far as I know it‘s been only exercised once, in 1950, in November, when Pius XII “ex cathedra” defined the bodily assumption of the Blessed Mary Virgin into heaven….Very little is infallibly defined in the most extraordinary form, but many things are infallible teaching in the ordinary universal form.Therefore, the precise theological note on the teaching of Humanae vitae is obviously not determined simply by mentioning its encyclical form.Serious and weighty theological efforts have been put forward to demonstrate the infallibility of this teaching by reason of the ordinary and universal magisterial teaching which is to be held on this matter by everybody.
Of interest is the later 1998 statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (quoted on page 5) which clearly confirms what Msgr. Smith says.We repeat that quote in part:
Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei (the deposit of faith), is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which necessarily includes the pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly.(44)
(43)Partial transcript from an address “Dissent, Humanae vitae, and infallibility” delivered by Msgr. Smith in April, 1991, at a conference in
Santa Clara, California sponsored by Human Life International.
(44)Commentary on Profession of Faith
‘s Concluding Paragraphs, June 29, 1998, n.9.
Did Pope Paul VI approve the
The principal argument for claiming that Pope Paul VI approved the Winnipeg Statement is a letter dated 21 October 1968 sent by Archbishop E. Clarizio (Apostolic Delegate) to Bishop Alex Carter, then President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The Apostolic Delegation promptly transmitted to the Holy See a copy of the declaration made by the Bishops of Canada during their general assembly at Saint Boniface (
Winnipeg) on the encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae.
Now I am happy to notify Your Excellency that His Eminence, Amletto Cardinal Cicognani, Secretary of State to his Holiness, has just communicated to the Delegation that the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, has taken cognizance of the document with satisfaction.
With every best wish, I am
Sincerely Yours in Our Lord
+ E. Clarizio
What are weto make of this letter?Can it be used as conclusive evidence that Paul VI approved the Winnipeg Statement?But more generally, did the Pope actually approve the Statement?Msgr. Vincent Foy has published an in-depth essay concerning this issue.(45)The following excerpts from his essay concern his conclusions:
We do not know what the Pope said to the Secretary of State (Cicognani).We do not even know what the Secretary of State said to Archbishop Clarizio.We have only the letter of Archbishop Clarizio concerning a letter he received from the Secretary of State.(46)
The ambiguity of the phrase “has taken cognizance of the document with satisfaction,” the fact that we do not know what the Pope said, and concomitant circumstances yet to be addressed, lead one to the inevitable conclusion that the not was one of diplomacy without doctrinal implications.This was the opinion of some bishops and many others with whom I have spoken.(47)
To sum up, according to a letter from the Apostolic Delegate (Clarizio), the Holy Father acknowledged receipt of the Canadian Statement with “satisfaction.”This letter was based on a letter from the Secretary of State (Cicognani).According to the same Secretary of State, the Holy Father received my critique, which strongly condemned the Canadian Statement, with “gratitude” and “appreciation.”Does not this indicate that the former was a more diplomatic acknowledgment?(48)
I think it significant that Cardinal Cicognani
‘s office, which sent the diplomatic note of acceptance to Canada, did not consider the Winnipeg Statement worthy of publication in L
The question “Did Pope Paul IV Approve the
Winnipeg Statement?” is an important one and I believe it has been shown that the answer is “No.”(50)
Msgr. Foypoints out – and I agree – that any official
Vatican approval of the Winnipeg Statement must come not through someone‘s private conversation with the Pope or from an ambiguous diplomatic letter, but through a statement made by the Pope himself or through a statement made by an authoritative organization such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.In a 1977 letter to Bishop Emmett Carter, Msgr. Foy wrote:“I personally do not think that any such statements (a private conversation with the Pope) should be published or used to justify a position unless they are made by the Pope himself.”(51)
If in my essay my misgivings over the Winnipeg Statement are founded, then it is inconceivable that Pope Paul VI could have approved the Statement because, as Msgr. Foy points out in his essay, “If Pope Paul VI had approved the Winnipeg Statement, he would have been guilty of the ultimate dissent – dissent from himself.”(52)
The absolute necessity of preserving unity with the successor of Peter
The Second Vatican Council teaches:
The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter
‘s successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity.(53)
Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishop
‘s decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.(54)
Thus, all the faithful – clergy, religious, laity – must preserve a bond of unity with the successor of Peter.An essential condition for the laity to be “obliged to submit to their bishops
‘ decision…in matters of faith and morals” is that “bishops…teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff.”Should there be a problem here, there is an excellent remedy:in the words ofBishop (later Cardinal) Emmett Carter, “Keep your eyes on the bishops of the Church, and, if there is any doubt, then look to Peter for guidance” (previously quoted, section 18, p.14).
Ironically, Bishop Carter appeared to have difficulties himself with papal teaching on contraception and issued directives at odds with Church doctrine.This is described in the following excerpts from an article “Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter 1912-2003.”(55)Please note that this is not an indictment of the Cardinal but a statement of apparent fact:
Long before the encyclical Humanae vitae was issued on July 25, 1968, Bishop Carter was convinced that the Church would change her teaching on contraception.In this he was probably influenced by Cardinal Leger, Cardinal Suenens, and theologians like Hans Kung, Bernard Haring and Gregory Baum.
On February 7, 1967, he issued Confessional Directives for the priests of
London, his Diocese.He wrote:“Because of the doubt in the practical order, no priest can refuse absolution to persons using the pill, unless their motive is clearly sinful.If doctors can be confused about the scientific aspects of the pill, then priests should be confused about the morality of the use of the pill.”Meanwhile, Pope Paul VI had already reaffirmed the traditional teaching of the Church against contraception in 1964 and 1966 (emphasis added), calling it a time of study and not of doubt.(56)
(53)Lumen gentium, n.22.
(54)Ibid., n.25. Concerning obedience to religious leaders, see Jesus
‘ instructions in Mt 23:1-3.
(55)Catholic Insight Staff, Catholic Insight, May 2003, p.14.
‘s 1967 Confessional Directives were in opposition to the teaching of Vatican II in 1965:“In questions of birth regulation the sons of the Church, faithful to these principals, are forbidden to use methods disapproved of by the teaching authority of the Church in its interpretation of the divine law” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, n.51).
Not too surprisingly then, Bishop Carter considered Humanae vitae a “tragedy”, to use his own words.His reaction on first reading the encyclical was:“We felt that this was going to be a major problem.”…
It was a spirit of dissent and rebellion which gave
Canada the Winnipeg Statement of September 27, 1968.Bishop Carter stayed up most of the nights of September 25 and September 26, 1968, helping to formulate the more difficult paragraphs.So we have the pastoral disaster of paragraph 26….Later, he would forbid his London priests to speak on Humanae vitae.
We have previously discussed Cardinal Carter
‘s later misgivings concerning paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement.
2 South Front St.,#503
Jan. 6, 1994
Dear Mr. Lower:
Your letter and enclosure of almost a month ago, has been awaiting a reply or even an acknowledgment, for overtime I meant to get to it, something happened to intervene -including the death of my sole surviving sister miles from here…
Your treatment of the
‘contraceptive culture‘ of the day is pertinent and so needed in its rebuttal, that it is heart-warming to find a person of standing such as yourself, undertake to do something about it….as I always say when encouraging good lay people to carry out their convictions into action, it means so much to heave this coming from you – people expect priests and Bishops to take a stand on moral matters, but when lay-people do so, it is all the more impressive.Thank God there are many such found in many fields of endeavor today, so that through the Gospel imperative is being heard.
As a retired Bishop of advanced years, I do not have the opportunity of preaching or teaching or even doing much on these matters, except to encourage worthy efforts such as yours and to assure them of my prayers for the success of their efforts.
Be assured then, of my sincere good wishes and congratulations on the efforts you are making to point out and correct this anti-natal philosophy which has taken such hold on most people, with the result that they feel it is their right to use any means to carry out their own desires…
On September 27, 1968 in an unknown hotel of a remote city of a nomadic province, a door was treacherously but quietly opened. The angel of death did not even have to knock. Slithering in unnoticed, he got right down to business very quickly. And for the last 35 years, Canada and the world has been feeling his lethal presence in almost every strata of family life.
At the conclusion of their plenary assembly held at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the bishops of the Catholic Church in Canada, knowingly or not, unleashed the forces of the culture of death in this country. On that ignominious day, the Canadian episcopate issued a statement in response to Pope Paul’s encyclical on human life, Humanae Vitae. It was entitled Canadian Bishops’ Statement on the Encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’, since then becoming infamously known as The Winnipeg Statement (hereafter simply referred to as the Statement). After release of the Statement, Douglas Roche, of the Western Catholic Reporter synthesized the obvious and apparent reading of the Statement’s controversial text:
“The issue is over in Canada. Catholics are free to use contraceptives if their informed conscience so prompts them.”
In Toronto, an editorial in The Catholic Register read: “It will take weeks, perhaps months, for Canadians to appreciate and really believe what happened at Winnipeg last week. It has not happened in the Church – anywhere – for centuries. And in Canada, perhaps for the first time in our history, we have now become a truly Canadian Church in the deepest sense of the word.” (Oct. 5, 1968.)
According to Msgr. Vincent Foy, who has worked tirelessly over the past thirty years to revoke the Statement, “the world-wide perception was that the Canadian Statement was in rebellion against the Pope’s encyclical.” 1 As we shall see from the Statement itself, it is more than apparent that much of the Canadian hierarchy was not prepared to support Humane Vitae or 2000 years of Catholic tradition.
This is how Cardinal Emmett Carter (then Bishop Carter) describes the reaction of the bishops: “We promptly dropped everything else we were doing and pored over the encyclical. It was with a certain sense of dismay that we read the vital passages in it. He (the Pope) had clearly taken a position that was contrary to the majority position of his own Commission. We felt that this was going to be a major problem.” (cf. The biography of Cardinal Carter My Father’s Business by Michael W. Higgins and Douglas R. Letson, MacMillan of Canada, 1990, p.103).
Instead of supporting the Holy Father in his greatest hour of need, the bishops of Canada balked and did not support the Vicar of Christ. As a result, the bishops sold future Canadian Catholic generations into sexual deviancy and despair. And they sacrificed our rich moral tradition – a tradition soaked in the blood of the martyrs – to a decadent and perverse culture. Their lack of resilience and fidelity helped plunge Canadian society into the culture of death. Instead of standing with the Pope and 2000 years of constant moral teaching against contraception, they turned their backs on the Successor of St. Peter, preferring instead to hear the wisdom of their dissenting pereti who were by their sides like well-trained ravenous wolves awaiting their prey. St. Paul’s warning to Timothy has a certain resonance in this case:
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:3)
Of course, not all of the bishops dissented. In fact, it is probable that most did not. Yet, as with all things demonic, the minority somehow finds away of imposing itself. According to Msgr. Foy, it was the theological “consultants” who played an enormous role in deciding the text of the Statement. He writes, “it is a legitimate conclusion that if the dissenting consultants had not been present the position of the Bishops’ Theological Commission would have won the day. The majority of the Theological Commission of bishops recognized the importance of giving approval to the teaching of Humanae Vitae….The Statement did not reflect the considered judgment of the majority of the Canadian bishops but was rather the result of manipulation and pressure.”
One of the central architects of the Statement, Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter, Bishop of London, was later quoted as having reservations of the text of paragraph 26, the most problematic part of the Statement. In private correspondence, he admitted that it had caused confusion:
“I am not prepared to defend paragraph 26 totally. I think we might have found a more lucid way of expressing our ideas. In a sense, the phraseology was misleading and could give the impression that the bishops were saying that one was free to dissent at will from the Pope’s teaching. This was certainly not our intention.” (Letter to L. Sullivan, June 15, 1995; for text of #26, see C.I., July /Aug., 1998)
Bishop Laurent Morin, Bishop of Prince Albert, wrote to Msgr. Foy on November 14, 1968, referring to his critique:
“Let me congratulate and thank you for the courage you had to submit a considerable report, but precise and so enlightening. The only thing I regret is that you had not been appointed among our periti. It is true that we have worked in very difficult conditions, the chairman having invited as “periti” two ‘supposed theologians’ who, before the meeting and publicly, had already taken a firm stand on ‘prudent dissent’ and who consequently could not bear a sound, objective and impartial judgement. A second factor of the unworkable atmosphere is that, in spite of a serious document which we have to prepare and which would have required hours of reflection, the work was done at high speed and under a pressure which I would qualify ‘calculated’.”
Msgr. Foy continues:
“From then on Paragraph 26 of the Winnipeg Statement began its triumphant, murderous, life-preventing and soul-killing journey throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, in the confessional, texts, schools and marriage preparation courses. Priests who spoke out against it were disciplined or marginalized. Bishop-approved sex education courses like “Fully Alive” give full education in contraception, from condoms to diaphragms, to the use of spermicides, intra-uterine devices and oral contraceptive – abortifacient pills. In high school an approved text gives them Paragraph 26 with the assurance that it had the approval of Pope Paul VI. This is an injustice to our Catholic people of the gravest order. It is not surprising that a survey in MacLean’s Magazine (April 12, 1993) reported that 91% of Canadian Catholics approve of contraception. Contracepting Catholics in great numbers receive the Sacraments.”
Far from being restricted to Canada’s borders, the Statement’s capitulation to contraception reverberated throughout the world, spreading like spiritual leprosy. Dissenters from many countries trophied the Statement to justify their rebellion against the Pope and his encyclical. The most explosive and damaging part of the Statement appeared in paragraph 26 which reads:
Counsellors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother. In accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assure that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.
This paragraph, the most problematic of the entire Statement, was disseminated far and wide by the liberal theocrats. Fr. Anthony Wilhelm’s book, Christ Among Us, was distributed throughout the English speaking with the imprimatur of Bishop Gerety of Newark, New Jersey. Three million copies of this book, which cited the pernicious paragraph, were distributed before the Holy See ordered the bishop to rescind the imprimatur. But the damage was already done as the first edition remained in print for the next 15 years. Another imprimatur was given to the work of Fr. Mark Link, S.J., Path Through Catholicism. This book trumped up the skewed and anchorless notion of “conscience” propagated in the Statement.
Canadian Catholics seeking sound marriage guidance could also look forward to “The Mosaic Marriage Preparation Course” which states: “For couples experiencing problems the bishops of Canada have said that those who ‘have chosen the way which seems the best for them’ live in the love of God” (Couple’s Book Creating a Family, Novalis, 1980, pp 8-9). In England and Australia, religious instruction texts also quote from The Winnipeg Statement in order to justify contraceptive acts.
Let us, therefore, undertake to study some of the more controversial parts of the Statement:
It is a fact that a certain number of Catholics, although admittedly subject to the teaching of the encyclical, find it either extremely difficult or even impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine.
By itself, such a statement is rather neutral, indicating the fact of resistance to the Encyclical. Yet, read in the context of the entire paragraph, it is subtly beginning to show the bishops’ hand. It is not so much in what it says, but in what it does not say which is particularly troubling. Some Catholics, the Statement says, find it impossible to accept the Church’s teaching on contraception. But where you would then to expect a statement appealing to the constant Church teaching and practice on artificial birth control or some other appropriate appeal, the bishops go on to appeal not to the Church but to “men of science”.
In particular, the argumentation and rational foundation of the encyclical, which are only briefly indicated, have failed in some cases to win the assent of men of science, or indeed of some men of culture and education who share in the contemporary empirical and scientific mode of thought.
Notice how the framers appeal to “men of science” – as if to suggest that the entire scientific world supported contraception. What is most curious is why “men of science” are singled out when this is primarily a MORAL question. “Men of Science” are no more qualified than Fr. Joe or a Catholic layman to offer an equivalent opinion on the matter. Indeed, why should “some men of culture and education” who share in a “contemporary empirical and scientific mode of thought” have more expertise on a moral and social question than 2000 years of constant Christian tradition? Or what about some men of culture and education who DO NOT have an empirical or scientific mode of thought? Or, alternatively, what about “some men of culture and education” who have the same mode of thought but do not share the conclusions of their colleagues? Furthermore, as Msgr. Foy has rightly pointed out, the Council of Trent declares to be heretical that opinion which says that it is impossible to keep God’s commandments. The bishops are implying that it may very well be impossible to keep this commandment.
We must appreciate the difficulty experienced by contemporary man in understanding and appropriating some of the points of this encyclical, and we must make every effort to learn from the insights of Catholic scientists and intellectuals, who are of undoubted loyalty to Christian truth, to the Church and to the authority of the Holy See.
Contemporary man might have difficulty in understanding the points expressed in the Encyclical, but what impact does that have on obeying its teachings? If the bishops are concerned with “contemporary man’s” understanding, then it is their job to explain the teaching to them. It is not, as the Statement implies, to subject their apostolic teaching office to learning from contemporary man’s insights – insights which, the bishops have already admitted, are not illuminated with understanding.
Since they are not denying any point of divine and Catholic faith nor rejecting the teaching authority of the Church, these Catholics should not be considered or consider themselves, shut off from the body of the faithful. But they should remember that their good faith will be dependent on a sincere self-examination to determine the true motives and grounds for such suspension of assent and on continued effort to understand and deepen their knowledge of the teaching of the Church.
Self-examination of true motives is not a licit excuse for dissenting from the teaching of Humanae Vitae. The motives might be true, but if they oppose the Encyclical’s teaching, they are directed towards error. No amount of “self-examination” can make what is objectively false into truth. “Self-examination” and “motives” are neither absolute nor are they detached from divine revelation. They are subject to Catholic moral teaching which has its foundation in divine revelation. The Statement, like all theological and moral errors, affirms one truth (i.e. intention) while largely ignoring another truth (i.e. objective morality). The separation of motives and objective truth is precisely what Gaudium et Spes rejected:
“Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 51)
The Statement also implies that if the motives are true, then it is licitly possible to suspend assent. Although the bishops do try and encourage Catholics “to understand and deepen their knowledge”, ultimately the text above clearly insuates the tolerance of dissent based on “pure motives”.
In the situation we described earlier in this statement (par. 17) the confessor or counsellor must show sympathetic understanding and reverence for the sincere good faith of those who fall in their effort to accept some point of the encyclical.
While this approach is commendable, it is obviously too one-sided. Again, the bishops fail to address the other side of the equation. Respect, sympathy and reverence for a sincere good faith are necessary, but so is an admonishment to do better and avoid such a grievous sin in the future. The penitent’s soul, needless to say, is also in danger of eternal damnation.
Counsellors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother…
First of all, those who “accept the teaching of the Holy Father” do, by their very assent, admit that there are NO exceptions or “particular circumstances” where they could use contraception. The Holy Father does not speak of ANY “particular circumstances” in Humanae Vitae which permit married to couples to contracept. In fact, he explicitly says the prohibition is “absolute” as we shall read below. As such, the above text seeks to introduce exceptions into the teaching of Humanae Vitae where none exists. The text also makes an unsubstantiated connection between the implied need of contraception and the “health of the mother” – as if to suggest that a couple may need to have recourse to contraception in order to protect the mother’s health. This claim has no scientific basis. In fact, contraception has many adverse emotional and health consequences attached to it.
…In accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assure that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.
This sentence is undoubtedly the most problematic part of the whole Statement. This particular text is rife with the foundation of modernism. It overturns the objective moral order and seeks to replace it with a subjective one. “The course”, the Statement says, “which seems right to him” can be steered “in good conscience” without reference to the absolute prohibition of Humanae Vitae:
“Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (Humanae Vitae, 14)
Fr. John F. Kippley makes this very blunt assessment of paragraph 26 of the Statement: “A more misleading statement would be hard to imagine. There are no principles of moral theology that allow a person to engage in actions taught by the Church to be objectively immoral, whether such actions be adultery, contraception, fornication or sodomy. And, of course, what applies to one behaviour applies to all the rest.” (Sex and the Marriage Covenant, the Couple to Couple League, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1991, p.145.) As Father Kipley rightly points out, contraception is an objective moral evil which has been long condemned by our heritage. Christian tradition has been consistent on this point for 2,000 years. It goes without saying that while this particular paragraph does not explicitly say it is permissible to contracept, it is difficult to construct a more obvious implied representation.
34. We conclude by asking all to pray fervently that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide his Church through all darkness and suffering. We, the People of God, cannot escape this hour of crisis but there is no reason to believe that it will create division and despair. The unity of the Church does not consist in a bland conformity in all ideas, but rather in a union of faith and heart, in submission to God’s will and a humble but honest and ongoing search for the truth…
In other words, Catholics need not worry of dissenting from Humanae Vitae because, as the text above states, Catholicism is more than just being in “bland conformity” with what the Church teaches. Apparently, the important thing is simply to keep searching for the truth even though it is more than apparent what that truth is. It is clear from this paragraph that the bishops do not seek to teach the truth of Humanae Vitae but rather assuage fears of disunity when dissent invariably occurs. In doing so, they have reduced obedience to the Encyclical as being merely a matter of “bland conformity” and not something absolutely essential to Christian morality.
34. …That unity of love and faith is founded in Christ and as long as we are true to Him nothing can separate us. We stand in union with the Bishop of Rome the successor of Peter, the sign and contributing cause of our unity with Christ and with one another. But this very union postulates such a love of the Church that we can do no less than to place all of our love and all of our intelligence at its service. If this sometimes means that in our desire to make the Church more intelligible and more beautiful we must, as pilgrims do, falter in the way or differ as to the way, no one should conclude that our common faith is lost or our loving purpose blunted. The great Cardinal Newman once wrote: “Lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom We believe that the Kindly Light will lead us to a greater understanding of the ways of God and the love of man.
If we “falter” in a way that is demonstrably against the one that the Vicar of Christ has clearly pointed to, then, contrary to the text above, we should rightly conclude that these persons’ common faith is indeed lost and their loving purpose indeed blunted. Their common faith is lost because they have failed to hold to an essential Christian moral precept. And as such, failing in one point is failing in all (Cf. James 2:10).
Because of the rampant and almost universal dissent from the Encyclical, Pope Paul VI refrained from publicly condemning the Winnipeg Statement. To do so would also have required him to do so with about 12 other national conferences of bishops, including those in Latin America, Germany, and Belgium (Cf. “The Enemy Within the Gate,” John McKee) In fact, at a West German Catholics’ Rally at Essen, the Pope made it very clear that the appeal to “conscience” could not override the moral prohibition against contraception. He stated quite clearly that “individual conscience has no validity in such matters” (ibid., p.190).
According to a letter from the Apostolic Delegate to the Canadian bishops, the Holy Father acknowledged receipt of the Canadian Statement with “satisfaction.” Here is the text of the letter:
October 21, 1968
The Apostolic Delegation promptly transmitted to the Holy See a copy of the declaration made by the Bishops of Canada during their general assembly at Saint Boniface on the Encyclical Letter “Humanae Vitae.” Now I am happy to notify Your Excellency that His Eminence, Amletto Cardinal Cicognani, Secretary of State to His Holiness, has just communicated to the Delegation that the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, has taken cognisance of the document with satisfaction. (emphasis added)
With every best wish, I am
Sincerely Yours in Our Lord,
+ E. Clarizio
(“Alex Carter, a Canadian Bishop’s Memoirs,” Tomiko Publications, 1994, pp. 199-200).
Those who backed the Statement pointed to this phrase “with satisfaction” as an implicit acknowledgment by Rome of the Canadian Bishops position. However, such an assumption is most certainly unsupported. According to the same Secretary of State who wrote to the Apostolic delegate above, the Holy Father received Msgr. Foy’s critique of the Winnipeg Statement with “gratitude” and “appreciation.” Clearly, these phrases are mere diplomatic parlance with no indication of assent to any particular position advanced. Here is the text of the letter that Msgr. Foy received from Rome:
DAL VATICANO, December 5, 1968
Right Reverend and dear Monsignor
The Holy Father has graciously charged me to express His gratitude for the loyalty and support, in connection with His Encyclical Letter “Humanae Vitae”, which were manifested in the message which you addressed to Him recently.
Such ready acceptance of the teaching of Christ’s Vicar on earth is a sign of the lively faith which animates the heart of a true Christian, and cannot fail to console Him upon Whom lies the heavy burden of guiding the whole Church and confirming His brothers in the faith.
His Holiness therefore greatly appreciates this token of fidelity, and bids me give assurance that He prayerfully bestows upon you, in pledge of the heavenly reward of a living faith, His special Apostolic Blessing.
Thanking you also for the copy of your study which you sent to me, I express my sentiments of esteem and consideration, and I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
(signed) A.G. Card. Cicognani
As the emphasized text above clearly shows, there are absolutely no grounds for assuming that Rome’s reference to receiving the Bishops’ Statement “with satisfaction” is anything more than affording mere diplomatic sentimental niceties to the Canadian hierarchy.
Theological Opinions vs. The Papal Magisterium
In light of the battle being fought over the Winnipeg Statement and the authority of the widespread dissent among theologians against Humanae Vitae, Fr. Joseph Costanso, S.J. provides us with certain insights into the question in his excellent article, Papal Magisterium and Humanae Vitae. Father Costanso writes:
“Between the faithful who have give “religious submission of will and mind . . . to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra” (Lumen Gentium, 25) and the dissidents who challenge the obligatory force of Humanae Vitae, as the principal informant of a correct conscience on birth regulation, a third group has been emerging. On the one hand, they insist that they do give deference and loyalty to papal authority and, on the other, they try to mitigate the literal and explicit absoluteness of the proscriptions of Humanae Vitae. They do this either by (i) refusing to take seriously the dogmatic language in which the doctrinal teaching is unambiguously expressed, or by ii) weakening the binding force of the doctrinal propositions by an evaluation of he merits of the intrinsic argumentation of the encyclical, or by iii) mitigating the condemnations of contraceptive intercourse in the light of the pastoral counsels set down by Pope Paul in the third and concluding part of the encyclical.
This third group differentiates itself from the outright dissident clerics by maintaining that Humanae Vitae gave expression to a prudent, positive, ennobling ideal which the spouses should strive to realize in their conjugal relations. In other words, they seem to say, Pope Paul did not authoritatively propound an authentic doctrinal teaching on marital relations to be followed in the daily lives of the married. This ingenious construction, we respectfully submit, can work to an earnest self-deception. It does violence to the language of moral condemnations of the encyclical and, as a principle of interpretive exegesis, will work no less havoc with other doctrinal teachings of the Church.
By virtue, then, of what delegated authority or by reason of what divinely established office do the dissident clerics oppose the doctrinal teaching of Humanae Vitae and contrary to the absolute proscriptions of the encyclical and the Holy Father’s repeated confirmations since its publication assert that it is not binding in conscience? It may be disconcerting to the pneumatic collegial dissidents to realize that they are not part of the magisterium of the Church, that they do not share in its teaching authority, nor may they with any authentic authority of their own offer the faithful an alternative of their own theological construction. The science of theology proper did not evolve for some centuries. The theologian’s methodology is wholly a human enterprise, their learning, a best, a scholar’s erudition, and in the absence of divine revelation to the contrary, not invested with any divine warrant against errancy. Their function is to teach, explain, defend, explore what the magisterium teaches. They are auxiliary forces in the service of the magisterium as becomes their high vocation. The Roman Pontiff is the Supreme Teacher, not a theologian among theologians, nor the supreme arbiter of contending theological schools of thought, nor the supreme executor of the majority report of a commission, nor the reconciler of opposing positions, nor the formulator of a doctrinal proposition that would adumbrate contrary moral decisions in the light of one and the same moral principle. He is not the recorder of a “total process” that give expression to a prevailing consensus or to that communal congregationalist moral principle that each conscience is the final determinant of the morality of a specific act. The Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ, and only of Christ, Our Lord. He is not he vicar of the universal Church, nor of an ecumenical council, nor of a group of bishops, nor of theologians.”
And we see Pope Pius XII confirming Fr. Costanso’s position quite clearly:
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in encyclical letters does not itself demand consent, on the pretext that in writing such letters, the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their teaching authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth Me”; and generally, what is expounded and inculcated in encyclical letters already, for other reasons, appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on matters up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, can no longer be considered a question of open controversy among theologians (quaestionem liberae inter theolgos disceptationis iam haberi non posse) (Humani Generis, AAS 42 , 568).
Furthermore, those who wish to presume that Humanae Vitae was merely for guidance have no basis for doing so. Monsignor Lambruschini’s commentary to Associated Press, Osservatore Romano, August 8, 1968 stated the following:
“The decision has been given and it is not infallible. But it does not leave the question of the regulation of birth in a state of vague uncertainty. Only definitions strictly so called command the assent of theological faith. But a pronouncement of the authentic Magisterium requires full and loyal assent-internal and not merely external-in proportion to the importance of the Authority that issues it (in this case the Supreme Pontiff), and the matter with which it deals (in the present case a matter of the greatest importance, treating as it does of the vexed question of the regulation of birth). This decision binds the consciences of all without any ambiguity. In particular, it can and must be said that the authentic pronouncement contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae excludes the possibility of a probable opinion, valid on the moral plane, opposed to this teaching-and that notwithstanding the number and the authority (hierarchical, scientific and theological) of those who have in recent years maintained that it is possible to have such a probable opinion. The pretext of the presumed doubt in the Church owing to the long silence of the Pope is not consistent, and conflicts with the repeated appeals of the Pope and Council to abide by the previous directives of the Magisterium which were still binding. All those who have in recent years incautiously taught that it is lawful to use artificial contraceptives to regulate births and have acted accordingly in their pastoral guidance and in the ministry of the confessional, must now change their attitude and set an example by their full acceptance of the teaching of the Encyclical. This is not a case of servility to be shunned, but rather one of essential loyalty and consistency in the profession of Catholic doctrine and in the practice of the Christian life…”
Clearly, even back then, the binding nature of the Encyclical was never in doubt, and no one could presume to be ignorant or confused of the Apostolic See’s views. The Pope had issued a definitive statement on the matter. There was no further room for discussion. Any watering down of Humanae Vitae by the various Bishops’ Conferences can really therefore be attributed to three possible causes: extreme stupidity, gross negligence, or blatant disobedience.
A Call to Retract
Our beloved country and many other English speaking nations have suffered enough during these last 35 years. Contraception, which is a frontal attack on holy matrimony and the sanctity of the propagation of human life, has provided the foundation and the impetus for every other sexual perversity our culture is experiencing. Abortion, homosexuality, legalized prostitution, euthanasia, human cloning, organ commerce, genetic manipulation, and countless other atrocities have all found their fuel from contraception. This scourge of our culture must be called out by name and condemned – and often.
If they have the courage, the bishops of Canada can unleash their own attack on the Culture of Death, and put an end to it once and for all. The first and necessary step is to come to terms with the Winnipeg Statement. After all, you can hardly be serious about promoting a culture of life when your own official documents say quite the opposite.
The Catholic Church has always opposed contraception from its very beginning. In fact, it has been the heretical groups like the Gnostics (2nd century), the Manichaeans (4th century) and the Cathari (12th century) who opposed Christianity’s teachings on this subject. Here is a selection of citations from the early Church Fathers right down to John Paul II which reaffirm the wickedness of contraception.
“Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, ‘Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness.” (Letter of Barnabas, 10:8, 74 A.D.)
“…there are they who persecute the good — lovers of a lie, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not cleaving to the good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for the good but for the bad, from whom meekness and patience are afar off, loving things that are vain, following after recompense, having no compassion on the needy, nor labouring for him that is in trouble, not knowing him that made them, murderers of children, corrupters of the image of God, who turn away from him that is in need, who oppress him that is in trouble, unjust judges of the poor, erring in all things. From all these, children, may ye be delivered.” (The Didache, 5:2, 100 A.D.) This document is a first century summary of the teachings of the teachings of the Apostles for the catechumens. It is talking about the destruction of human life by ancient contraceptives (pharmakeia) and abortion (“child-murderers”).
“But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live continently. And that you may understand that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our mysteries, one of our number a short time ago presented to Felix the governor in Alexandria a petition, craving that permission might be given to a surgeon to make him an eunuch. For the surgeons there said that they were forbidden to do this without the permission of the governor. And when Felix absolutely refused to sign such a permission, the youth remained single, and was satisfied with his own approving conscience, and the approval of those who thought as he did.” (St. Justin Martyr, Apologia, 1.29, 150 A.D.)
“Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in appetite.”(St. Athenagoros, Legatio pro Christianis, 33, 176 A.D.).
“Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.” (St. Clement of Alexandria, Paedogogus, 2:10:91:2, 191 A.D.)
“[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from salves or lowborn commoners, they use drugs of sterility [oral contraceptives] or bind themselves tightly in order to expel fetus which has already been engendered [abortion].” (St. Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 9:12, 225 A.D.)
“And I see that you at one time expose your begotten children to wild beasts and to birds; at another, that you crush them when strangled with a miserable kind of death. There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth.” (Marcus Minucius Felix Octavius 30.2, 230 A.D.)
“Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife.” (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 6:20, 307 A.D.)
“If a man has been mutilated [sterilized] by physicians during sickness,or by barbarians, he may remain among the clergy; but if a man in good health has mutilated [sterilized] himself, he must resign his post after the matter has been proved among the clergy, and in the future no one who has thus acted should be ordained.” (Council of Nicea, Canon 1, 325 A.D.)
“But truly parricides complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children; as though, in truth, their means were in the power of those who possess them, or God did not daily make the rich poor, and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from marriage than with wicked hands to mar the work of God.” (Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones, 6.20.25, 350 A.D.)
“They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption.” (St. Epiphanius, Medicine Chest Against the Heretics, 26:5:2, 375 A.D.)
“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well…Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws? (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 24, 391 A.D.)
“You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility [oral contraceptives] and murder a man not yet born…” (St. Jerome, Letters 21:13, 396 A.D.)
“For thus the eternal law; that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny.” (St. Augustine, Against Faustus, 22:30, 400 A.D.)
“Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion [an oral contraceptive or an abortifacient] so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund?” (Caesarius, Sermons, 1:12, 522 A.D.)
“Again, in the very beginning of the Christian Church were repulsed and defeated, with the like unremitting determination, the efforts of many who aimed at the destruction of Christian marriage, such as the Gnostics, Manichaeans, and Montanists; and in our own time Mormons, St. Simonians, phalansterians, and communists.” (Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, 13 1880 A.D.) (As stated above, it has been the heretical groups like the Gnostics (2nd century), the Manichaeans (4th century) and the Cathari (12th century) who opposed the Christianity’s teachings on this subject. This is what the Pope is referring to in this citation.)
Pope Pius XI,Casti Connubii:
“Nor did Christ Our Lord wish only to condemn any form of polygamy or polyandry, as they are called, whether successive or simultaneous, and every other external dishonorable act, but, in order that the sacred bonds of marriage may be guarded absolutely inviolate, He forbade also even willful thoughts and desires of such like things: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Which words of Christ Our Lord cannot be annulled even by the consent of one of the partners of marriage for they express a law of God and of nature which no will of man can bend or break. (21)
Armed with these principles, some men go so far as to concoct new species of unions, suited, as they say, to the present temper of men and the times, which various new forms of matrimony they presume to label “temporary,” “experimental,” and “companionate.” These offer all the indulgence of matrimony and its rights without, however, the indissoluble bond, and without offspring, unless later the parties alter their cohabitation into a matrimony in the full sense of the law. (51)
And now, Venerable Brethren, We shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due the offspring, which many have the audacity to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties, whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances. (53)
But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose, sin against nature, and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. (54)
Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime, and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.” (55)
Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition, some recently have adjudged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and the purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.” (56)
Pope Paul VI,Humanae Vitae, 14:
“Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it —in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.
Pope John Paul II on Contraception – Selected References in Chronological Order: (cited courtesy of Msgr. Foy’s research)
Under the heading “Contraception,” the Pope said at Limerick, Ireland in Sept. 1979: “And here, I want to say a very special word to all Irish parents. Marriage must include openness to the gift of children. Generous openness to accept children from God as the gift to their love is the mark of the Christian couple. Respect the God-given cycle of life, for this respect is part of our respect for God himself, who created male and female, who created them in his own image, reflecting his own life-giving love in the patterns of their sexual being.”
To the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the U.S. at Chicago on Oct. 8, 1979, the Pope said: “In exalting the beauty of marriage you rightly spoke against both the ideology of contraception and contraceptive acts, as did the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. And I myself today, with the same conviction of Paul VI, ratify the teaching of this encyclical, which was put forth by my Predecessor “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ” (AAS, 60, 1968, p.485)
In speaking to a French group in Nov. 3, 1979, the Holy Father emphasized that conjugal love involves a totality of self-giving. He said: “It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and one soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.” (Cf. HV, 9).
On June 7, 1980, to a group of Indonesian bishops, His Holiness said: “In the question of the Church’s teaching on the regulation of birth we are called to profess in union with the whole Church the exigent but uplifting teaching recorded in the Encyclical, HUMANAE VITAE, which my Predecessor Paul VI put forth “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ” (AAS 60, 1968, p.485). Particularly in this regard we must be conscious of the fact that God’s wisdom supersedes human calculations and His grace is powerful in people’s lives.”
Emphasizing that artificial contraception is intrinsically evil the Pope taught in 1983 (Cf. L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 10, 1983): “At the origin of every human person there is a creative act of God. No man comes into existence by chance; he is always the object of God’s creative love. From this fundamental truth of faith and reason it follows that the procreative capacity, inscribed in human sexuality is – in its deepest truth – a cooperation with God’s creative power. And it also follows that man and woman are not arbiters, are not the masters of this same capacity, called as they are, in it and through it, to be participants in God’s creative decision. When, therefore, through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God: the power to decide in a final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God’s creative power, but the ultimate depositaries of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged objectively so profoundly unlawful, as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.”
In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, (Nov. 22, 1981) on the role of the family in the modern world, Pope John Paul II taught: “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality – and with it themselves and their married partner – by altering its value of “total” self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.” (32)
In the encyclical Veritatis Splendor (Aug. 6, 1993) the Pope reaffirms the intrinsic evil of contraception as taught by Pope Paul VI: “With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: ‘Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom.3:8) – in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.’” (80)
In his Letter to Families, signed on Feb. 2, 1994, the Holy Father says: “In particular, responsible fatherhood and motherhood directly concern the moment in which a man and a woman, uniting themselves ‘in one flesh’, can become parents. This is a moment of special value both for their interpersonal relationship and for their service to life: they can become parents – father and mother – by communicating life to a new human being. The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself…This is the constant teaching of the Church, and the ‘signs of the times’ which we see today are providing new reasons for forcefully reaffirming that teaching. Saint Paul, himself so attentive to the pastoral demands of his day, clearly and firmly indicated the need to be ‘urgent in season and out of season’ (cf. 2 Tim.4:2), and not to be daunted by the fact that ‘sound teaching is no longer endured’ (cf. 2 Tim.4:3). His words are well known to those who with deep insight into the events of the present time, expect that the Church will not only not abandon ‘sound doctrine’ but will proclaim it with renewed vigour, seeking in today’s ‘signs of the times’ the incentive and insights which can lead to a deeper understanding of her teaching.” (12)
“But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”-which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act-are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion arespecifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill”.
But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practised under the pressure of real- life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.
The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.” (Evangelium Vitae, 13, 1995 A.D.)
“A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 51, 1965 A.D. ) [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2368, 1997 A.D.]
“Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370, 1997 A.D.)