Almost without meaning to, Francis has shot ‘Humanae Vitae’ dead

Almost without meaning to, Francis has shot ‘Humanae Vitae’ dead

[Methinks he doth such deliberately]

Posted on April 15, 2016
From Clifford Longley in THE TABLET [of London], 14 April 2016, via 79.170.44.85/holynamejesmond.co.uk/uncategorized/almost-without-meaning-to-francis-has-shot-humanae-vitae-dead/

In 2009 the Catholic Church’s International Theological Commission proposed a fundamental change to the way the Church regarded natural law. It could not be presented “as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject”, it said. Instead, “it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”.

This raised some eyebrows, not least because of the way natural law had consistently been imposed a priori by moral theologians to explain and justify Catholic teaching regarding sex. The most obvious example was the way natural law was invoked as the basis of the case against contraception, for instance in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

But that redefinition of the role of natural law was just the opinion of a select group of theologians. Or at least it was until last Friday. That was when Pope Francis gave it the authority of his office when he adopted it as his own, in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. At the start of the process of consultation that led up to Amoris Laetitia, including two international synods, a questionnaire had been circulated asking to what extent ordinary Catholics understood natural law. A summary of the responses strongly suggested they did not.

But there is a wider picture. There is a growing feeling in various parts of the Church – of satisfaction among liberals and dismay among conservatives – that under this Pope, Humanae Vitae itself has been falling apart at the seams. His undermining of the traditional way of using natural law followed his remarks, about the Zika virus in Brazil – that intervening to prevent pregnancy could in such cases be “the lesser of two evils”.

This clearly allied him with those Catholic leaders who have suggested that the use of condoms to prevent infection from the HIV virus could be acceptable. The reason conservative Catholic leaders have resisted this is not because they want people to die of Aids, but because one exception is enough to drive a coach and horses through the whole thing.

Humanae Vitae was quite explicit. Artificial intervention to prevent pregnancy was against natural law. It was always wrong, always gravely sinful. That was the logic of it. There could be no relaxation for hard cases, no matter how dire the consequences. A married woman who had been warned by doctors that another pregnancy could be fatal, could either rely on the “safe” period, based on her menstrual cycle, or, if that was not safe enough, avoid sexual intercourse altogether. Or conceive, and possibly die. There was no question of “a deeply personal process of making decisions” because there was no other way.

Behind the phrase “the lesser of two evils” is, of course, the implication that one of those two choices is subjectively no evil at all. Very probably – to protect health and life, for instance – it is actually a moral good. In other words, if your reasons are sound enough, you may choose to use contraception.

If Humanae Vitae had said that in 1968, even with stern warnings against developing a “contraceptive mentality” and so on, things would have been very different. Tens of millions of Catholic women, and many men too, would not have turned their backs on the Church and would have stayed to listen to the positive and important things it had to say about personal relationships, such as the many wise words of Pope Francis on the subject.

So tenuous was the natural law basis for the 1968 decision that St Pope John Paul II saw the need to back it up with better arguments. He was urged to do so by the synod he convened in 1980. In a key passage in his post-synod exhortation Familiaris Consortio of 1981, he produced a developed form of the natural law argument, an appeal to anthropology.

He declared that the difference between using contraception and relying on the safe period “is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality”. He goes on to assert his compassion for those who find the teaching difficult, but offers them no other choice, no lesser evil. He could not. He knew that to do so would undermine the entire edifice.

And now Pope Francis has done precisely that. Almost without meaning to, he has shot Humanae Vitae dead. And I have to say, it will not be missed. The Church will be better without it. Few papal texts have caused so much misery, or driven so many away.

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12 comments on “Almost without meaning to, Francis has shot ‘Humanae Vitae’ dead

  1. If Humanae Vitae had said that in 1968, even with stern warnings against developing a “contraceptive mentality” and so on, things would have been very different. Tens of millions of Catholic women, and many men too, would not have turned their backs on the Church and would have stayed to listen to the positive and important things it had to say about personal relationships …

    To what end? Longley can’t admit that truth might be at stake. But seeing that Francis isn’t encumbered by truth either …

    “For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” 2 Tim 4:3

    [Straight and narrow, folks. Straight and narrow. Everyone else is going down.]

  2. Inevitably there is a price to pay for acting against The Natural Law and that price is now spread before is in both Europe and Mother Church.



  3. Captain Kirk: Mister Spock! Pope Francis shooting Humanae Vitae almost without meaning to…analyze using your usual superior Vulcan logic!



    Spock: Fascinating, Captain. The nod to condoms with respect to the Zika virus was to be expected by a pontificate so given over to novelty and Situation Ethics. However, if he keeps shooting in the dark long enough, he may shoot himself in the foot, triggering a much needed vacation and rest in Castel Gandolfo.



    Captain Kirk: I hadn’t thought of that, Mister Spock. Do you think he’s overworked or tired out from composing so many neo-Gnostic exhortations and encyclicals?



    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Oh, Father Gannon didn’t approve of guns on campus at Fordham. Except for the ROTC training, of course.



    Professor Sartre: Shooting an encyclical without meaning to could be an act of bad faith within the self-estrangement, alienation and reification from Cartesian dualism in modernity.



    Father Sarducci, S.J.,: I was hoping someone would get around to that.



    Father Fitzgibbon: Did the Holy Father quote Hans Küng in his exhortation, by any chance?



    Spock: Neo-Gnosticism is making a comeback in this pontificate, Captain.



    The Professor: Why, yes, Gilligan. Neo-Gnosticism has been quite common in the modern era. Some are even suggesting that the utopian tendencies of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs are flirting with millenarianism and an immanentization of the eschaton. Not to mention the neo-Kantian penumbra which has overtaken modernist Catholic moral theology in the wake of Vatican II.



    Ginger: Gilligan is getting ready to take the neo-Kantian Transcendental turn.

    Mary Ann: I just hope he can remember the directions to Louvain!



    Ginger: It’s somewhere between France and Amsterdam. I hear they have good beer there….



    Bob Hope: This is the good part coming up, Bing!



    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Oh, yes, they have very fine beer in Belgium.



    Karl Rahner: They do?



    Bishop Sheen: Absolutely.



    Kierkegaard: As good as that in Copenhagen?



    Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: I think so. But it has been a while since I have been there.



    Kierkegaard: There should be a contest.



    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening. Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity and Professor Charles Taylor’s secularization theories….

    • The Professor: Why, yes, Gilligan. Neo-Gnosticism has been quite common in the modern era. Some are even suggesting that the utopian tendencies of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs are flirting with millenarianism and an immanentization of the eschaton. Not to mention the neo-Kantian penumbra which has overtaken modernist Catholic moral theology in the wake of Vatican II.

      Speaking of President Johnson, more from: Weird Parallels of Popes and Presidents

      BY JOHN ZMIRAK ON JULY 16, 2015 @ www.onepeterfive.com/weird-parallels-of-popes-and-presidents/

      null

      Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)

      A moderate, anti-Communist liberal who came to be hated by liberals. He implemented broad social programs, but doubled down on U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which his former allies considered unforgiveable.

      null

      Pope Paul VI (1963-1973)

      A moderate, anti-Communist liberal who came to be hated by liberals. He implemented broad changes in the Church, but stood firm on contraception, which his former allies considered unforgiveable.



  4. Gilligan: The Professor said I should ask about the Dialectic and neo-Kantian epistemology. Are you sure that’s the way to Louvain?

    Ginger: I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere between France and Amsterdam, Gilligan.



    GInger: Isn’t this exciting? Gilligan’s taking the neo-Kantian Transcendental turn!



    Professor Derrida: Here, Ginger is subverting the discourse.



    Professor Lyotard: Yes, but we should address the metanarrative.



    Professor Jürgen Habermas: I have no objections, as long as we cover the alienation, reification, and commodity fetishism of a consumerist society.





    Dr. Jacques Lacan: The decentered ego in postmodern bourgeois suburban cultures in which commodity fetishism, existential self-estrangement, and alienation from Cartesian dualism are subverting and eroding vestiges of patriarchal authority structures from early modernity, in the aftermath of passing through the neo-Kantian vortex and the collapse of a priori epistemology, shall be the focus of our inquiries into the modern metanarratives and their hermeneutic discontents…

    Bill Maher: What does that have to do with Pope Francis giving permission for condoms because of the Zika virus?



    The Professor: Actually, they are quite related, Gilligan.
    When the Enlightenment achieved secular liberation from religious moral authority, the door was opened to…



    Professor Jennings: Let’s not forget the main character…



    Spock: I was going to get to that part, Captain.



    • Lt. Columbo: Well, I gotta hand it to you. I can’t tell one neo-Kantian transcendental eschaton from another. But you — you know it, top to bottom. There is one more thing, though — I hate to bother you — but you witnessed the shooting, right? Did you happen to see what caliber gun the pope used?



  5. Bishop Sheen: Say that again….



    Captain Kirk: I said, it sounds like he’s flirting with Communism, doesn’t it, Mister Spock?



    Spock: Since Senator Sanders identifies as a Socialist, one could interpret the Pope’s invitation to him to speak on economics at the Vatican as an endorsement of sorts, yes.



    Bishop Sheen: By opening the door to condoms, he could be heading down the slippery slope of Situation Ethics and moral relativism…



    Bertrand Russell: Let’s try to avoid mixed metaphors which can be confusing when discussing religion and morals.



    Professor Derrida: On the other hand, they can be very interesting…



    Elvis: Right. Like wearing Blue Suede Shoes while driving a pink Cadillac.

    Ann: I thought you wanted to discuss French existentialism?

    Elvis: We are. But there’s still time to immanentize the eschaton!







    Father Sarducci, S.J.: Don’t change the subject.



    Chrissy: What’s Gnosticism?

    Jack: Well, Gnosticism started a long time ago in Ancient Persia and the Middle East, Chrissy ….



    Mary Ann: The Professor also has a lot of books on the Manicheans and the Essenes.

    Ginger: He does? Oh, I hope there’s not a quiz!



    Ann: How do we immanentize the eschaton?



    Woody: It happens so often that modern liberals are immanentizing the eschaton all the time!



    Hans Küng: Ja, ja, eschatology ist key für Pope Francis und his vision für ze Church in ze modern world, ja!



  6. Professor Husserl: I am not sure that that would technically qualify as a mixed metaphor, to be fair and honest.



    Bertrand Russell: What? Quibble with me, will you!!!



    Professor Derrida: He could have passed through the neo-Kantian door on his way to the slippery slope of Situation Ethics and moral relativism…



    Professor Carnap: He may have a point.



    Professor McLuhan: I think he’s got you there, Bertrand.





    Hans Küng: But passing through the modernist window of the fresh air of the modern world….



    Hans Küng: Did you follow zat?





    Reverend Snow: Why, yes, Jack. Eschatology figures prominently in modern Protestant Gnosticism.



  7. Columbo: Oh, one more thing – don’t leave town, Doctor. We might have a few more questions on everything surrounding the neo-Kantian penumbra relating to this case. But, please, just continue enjoying yourself, sir. I mean, with the guests at your party, of course.



    Columbo: And don’t try to pull anything cute or fancy. I’ll be watching you very carefully, sir.



  8. Doctor Mayfield: The neo-Kantian Transcendental Turn can actually be quite tricky, Lieutenant. Particularly in light of Kant’s Fourth Antinomy in The Critique of Pure Reason



    Lieutenant Columbo: That’s funny. That’s exactly what I thought you might say, sir.



  9. Professor Wittgenstein: While we are debating metaphors and modern eschatology…



    Kierkegaard: We should discuss existential Angst…



    Ann: How far did you say this place is?

    Elvis: Memphis, Tennessee? Not too far.

    Ann: Could we stop at a 7-Eleven or Hardee’s before we immanentize this eschaton thing? I’m getting a little thirsty…





    Doctor Freud: Perhaps some consideration of dreams would be in order.

    Professor Heidegger: And Geworfenheit.



    Gecko: Geworfenheit?

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