Goodbye, “Humanae Vitae.” FrankenPope Liberalizes the Pill

Goodbye, “Humanae Vitae.” FrankenPope Liberalizes the Pill

Sandro Magister – 1/30/18


Goodbye, “Humanae Vitae.” Half a century later, the encyclical against artificial methods of birth control that marked the most dramatic moment of the pontificate of Paul VI, rejected by entire episcopates, contested by countless theologians, disobeyed by myriads of faithful, is now giving way to a radical reinterpretation, to a “paradigm shift” undoubtedly desired and encouraged by Pope Francis himself.

Paradox would have it that Paul VI should be the pope whom Jorge Mario Bergoglio admires and praises the most. And precisely – his own words – for the “prophetic brilliance” with which he wrote that encyclical and for his “courage in standing up against the majority, in defending moral discipline, in applying a cultural brake, in opposing neo-Malthusianism present and future.”

But the reality is that “everything depends on how ‘Humanae Vitae’ is interpreted,” as Pope Francis never fails to comment. Because “the question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral practice takes into account the situations and what persons are able to do.”

His wish becomes command. An authoritative guise has now been given to the new interpretive paradigm of “Humanae Vitae,” with an explicit go-ahead for artificial contraception, by one of the pope’s most respected theologians, Maurizio Chiodi, professor of moral theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy and a newly appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, already the author of a book published in 2006, “Etica della vita,” that upheld the legitimacy of artificial procreation.

The authoritativeness of his position is confirmed by two connected facts.

The first is the context in which Chiodi laid down the new interpretation of “Humanae Vitae”: a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University on December 14, in the course of a round of meetings dedicated to that encyclical at the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, organized by the university’s faculty of moral theology, directed by the Argentine Jesuit Humberto Miguel Yáñez, a protege of Bergoglio’s.

A detailed account of this conference was provided by the American journalist Diane Montagna on LifeSite News on January 8, followed by lively reactionsfrom defenders of the contested encyclical:

> New Academy for Life member uses “Amoris” to say some circumstances “require” contraception

But now there’s more. On Sunday, January 28 Chiodi’s conference was prominently featured by the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, “Avvenire,” in the monthly supplement “Noi, Famiglia & Vita,”  introduced with a commentary entitled “From pope Montini to Francis, development in fidelity,” which states:

“It is a position [that of Chiodi] that authoritatively takes its place in the debate underway, and that must not be understood as an overrun or critique of ‘Humanae Vitae,’ a text that is and remains the fruit of a prophetic and courageous decision for the time and historical situation in which pope Montini conceived of it, not without torment and not without having clarified that this was a matter of a magisterium that was neither infallible nor irreformable. In this perspective, the theologian’s reflection is to be understood as a proposal that is intended to represent the development of a tradition. And a tradition, in order to be alive and to continue to speak to the women and men of our time, must not be fossilized but rendered dynamic, which means to be in keeping with a society that is changing. Fr. Chiodi has the courage to define the problem that is raised by some theologians and experts on pastoral practice. Are natural methods really to be understood as the only means possible for family planning?”

The commentary, as can be seen, ends with a question mark. Which is, however, entirely rhetorical. The ideas Chiodi presents in his conference, in fact, are not hypothetical, but affirmative. There are circumstances – he maintains – that not only allow but “require” other methods, not natural, for birth control.

The complete text of Chiodi’s conference republished in “Avvenire” – with a few edits that do not substantially alter it with respect to the one delivered at the Gregorian – is on this other page of Settimo Cielo:

> Rileggere “Humanae vitae” alla luce di “Amoris laetitia” (Reread “Humanae vitae” in the light of “Amoris laetitia”) [see Google translation in comment below]

After discussing again “the subjective responsibility of conscience and the essential relationship between norm and discernment” in the vein of the postsynodal exhortation from Pope Francis, Chiodi poses “the question of whether natural methods can / should be the only form of responsible procreation.”

And these are the conclusions at which he arrives:

“That to which the practice of ‘natural methods of fertility’ attests is the responsorial character of procreation: these too say that to procreate is not to create. The method, however, attests to more than it can guarantee on its own. It reveals a sense that transcends it. If the responsibility of procreating is that to which these ‘methods’ refer, then one can understand how in situations in which these are impossible or impracticable other forms of responsibility must be found: these ‘circumstances,’ for responsibility, require other methods of birth control. In these cases, ‘technological’ intervention does not deny the responsibility of the procreating relationship, just as moreover a conjugal relationship that observes natural methods is not automatically responsible.

“The insistence of the magisterium on natural methods therefore cannot be interpreted as a norm that is an end in itself, nor as mere conformity with the laws of biology, because the norm refers to the good of conjugal responsibility and the physical laws (physis) of infertility are inscribed upon a body of flesh and in human relations that cannot be reduced to biological laws.

“Technology, in certain circumstances, can allow the preservation of the responsible quality of the sexual act. So this cannot be rejected a priori, when the birth of a child is at stake, because this too is a form of acting and as such requires discernment on the basis of moral criteria that cannot be reduced to a syllogistic-deductive application of the norm.”

For the benefit of the reader, this is how “Avvenire” summarizes, in the center of the page, Chiodi’s reinterpretation of “Humanae Vitae”:

“If there are situations in which natural methods are impossible or impracticable, other ways must be found, because responsible procreation cannot ignore what technology has to offer.”

It is helpful to add that on January 27, the day before the republication of this conference by Chiodi, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and grand chancellor of the John Paul II Institute, also said in an interview with the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, alluding to “Humanae Vitae,” that “further exploration on the front of responsibility in procreation” must be made, because “the norms are there to enliven human beings, not to operate robots,” and therefore “they require a process of evaluation that must take into account the whole of the concrete circumstances and of the relations in which the person finds himself.”

And even before Chiodi gave his conference at the Gregorian, Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, 94, one of the very few bishops still living who took part in Vatican Council II, had said to “Avvenire” on October 29, 2017 that fifty years after “Humanae Vitae” “the time has come to rethink the question,” because “it is not the doctrines that change, but it is we ourselves, with the passing of the years, who are able to understand their meaning better and better, interpreting them in the light of the signs of the times.”

Moreover, since last spring a study commission set up at the Vatican has already been working to reconstruct the genesis of “Humanae Vitae” from the historical and documentary point of view.

Its members are the Monsignors Gilfredo Marengo and Pierangelo Sequeri of the John Paul II Institute, Angelo Maffeis of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia, and the historian Philippe Chenaux of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Marengo and Paglia have denied that the work of the commission has to do with the contents of “Humanae Vitae,” much less with a reinterpretation of them.

But it is all too clear that the revisitation of the tumultuous path of the that encyclical’s preparation – in which already back then the circles in favor of artificial contraception were stronger and more pressing than those against, espoused by Paul VI – can only benefit the paradigm shift that is underway.

Get AQ Email Updates

4 comments on “Goodbye, “Humanae Vitae.” FrankenPope Liberalizes the Pill

  1. Reread “Humanae vitae” in the light of “Amoris laetitia”

    [Google translation of Rileggere “Humanae vitae” alla luce di “Amoris laetitia”]

    by Maurizio Chiodi

    [From “Noi, Famiglia & Vita”, attachment of the daily Italian Episcopal conference “Avvenire”, 28 January 2018. The text takes up a large part of the conference held by Maurizio Chiodi at the Pontifical Gregorian University on 14 December 2017. The author is a professor of moral theology to the theological faculty of northern Italy and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life].


    “Humanae vitae” and “Amoris laetitia” are inscribed within the modern magisterium on marriage, where the “Humanae vitae” occupies a place of great importance, having become a symbolic question, criticized by those who had been disappointed by its conclusions and considered as a real “pillar” of Catholic sexual moral doctrine by others.

    In the meantime, however, from the pastoral point of view, the urgency of the question has been disappearing (“submerged schism”). “Officially” and objectively the norm has remained, but even the shepherds seem to be very embarrassed compared to it.

    It is not without meaning that “Amoris laetitia” deals with so little, even if “silence” can not be interpreted superficially. Actually, chap. IV and V of “Amoris laetitia”, “central” (AL 6), deal with two decisive themes in “Humanae vitae”: “love in marriage” (chapter IV) and “love that becomes fruitful” (cap V). Despite this, on the topic of “responsible” generation and on the norm of “Humanae vitae”, “Amoris laetitia” has shown an attitude that can be called sober and cautious.

    The explicit references in “Amoris laetitia” to “Humanae vitae” are a total of six.

    Within the cap. VI, dedicated to “some pastoral perspectives” (AL 199-258), n. 222 is the text that devotes the most space to the theme of “communication of life”. First of all, it is reiterated that the “Humanae vitae” and the “Familiaris consortio” “must be rediscovered”; above all it is connected “the responsible choice of parenting” with the “formation of conscience” and this, in turn, recalling “Gaudium et spes” 16 and Rom 2:15, refers to “God and his commandments”. Furthermore, “Amoris laetitia” underlines how the decision of the spouses, which is responsible for the last judgment, must be free from “subjective arbitrariness” and from passive adaptation to the environment. Immediately afterwards, citing “Humanae vitae” 11 and n. 2370 of the Catechism,

    Someone pointed out that the wording of this text, on the whole, is “relatively soft”. It seems difficult to say more. The text is very dry and does not seem to allow further interpretation, as if to pretend to tell us, on the subject, what the Pope says or does not say.

    If this is true, then, how can we claim to reread “Humanae vitae” starting from “Amoris laetitia”?

    There are two theoretical nodes that emerge in chap. VIII: the objective relevance of the extenuating circumstances, the subjective responsibility of the conscience and the constitutive relationship between norm and discernment. Starting from this, I would like to propose a theoretical reflection in the first person, which can highlight the constitutive link between conscience, act, norm and discernment. In this light I will deepen the anthropological sense of the norm of “Humanae vitae”.

    The theoretical question of the relationship between objective and subjective is urgent and decisive. If, however, the relationship between objective and subjective is traced back to that between consciousness and norm, we are forced to oscillate between the rigidity of an objective normative system, to “apply” to the situation, and the subjectivism of an unquestionable conscience, whose moral judgment would be entrusted exclusively to the self.

    Consciousness can not be reduced to an awareness of oneself, nor to the knowledge of an “objective” truth, nor to a faculty that applies the moral law, nor to the judgment that tells me what I have to do “hic et nunc”. It coincides with the totality of the self (person), in its valence together pathica (pathos) and practice (praxis). This means that on the one hand the good experiences of living, with their original relational quality, are inscribed in the conscience as the passive and affective form of its temporal and narrative identity, and that on the other hand the good can be actively wanted only because it is anticipated, in the forms of a passivity that arouses and authorizes the dramatic activity of consciousness.

    The object, then, is not the norm, but it is the act in which the conscience responds to the experiences of the good life which, by anticipating it, disclose that fulfillment which, however, is not accomplished if it is not determined. Precisely in the appeal to good, which resounds as an injunction, consists the theological, “non-creative” quality of consciousness itself. In it the voice of God’s call for self-fulfillment, through the vicissitudes of freedom. The tension between promise and fulfillment, between desire and happiness, which constitutes the “drama” of moral experience, finds its full fulfillment in the Gospel of Jesus. The spousal gift of God opens to the believer the possibility of acting responsorial, active, without that it abolishes the travail of history and the evil that crosses it.

    In this perspective, anthropological and Christological, moral norms are not reducible to a rational objectivity, but ask to be inscribed in the human story, understood as a history of graces and salvation. They guard the good, which is given in the experiences of life, and instruct why this anticipation can be accomplished.

    Within the evoked theory, the task is to rethink conjugal anthropology, in its connection to sexual difference, which originates from the human, and to responsible fertility, which is the constitutive form of the spousal partnership. The wisdom of the “Humanae vitae” is to have remembered, in the line of “Gaudium et spes”, the “inseparable” link between sexuality and generation. This is the fundamental anthropological lesson we must draw from it.

    The reflection carried out authorizes us to rethink the sense of the norm of “Humanae Vitae”, avoiding to concentrate on it as on an objective truth that would stand in the face of reason. The intent is to resume the norm, to think it all the way. It will not be a question of abolishing it, but of demonstrating its meaning and truth: its anthropological sense is, in the spousal bond, the connection between sexuality and generation, which refers to the sense of sexuality.

    On this background the question will arise if the natural methods can / should be the only form of responsible generation or if this should not be interpreted as the acceptance of the religious value inscribed in the relationship to the child.

    Furthermore, we must stress that these practical evidences have the character of a promised good, which is inscribed in the tangle of human affairs. All this opens up to the possibility of the “check” and the many enigmas of life. In many difficult situations the person is called to find the forms of the path, discerning that “possible good” which, escaping the absolute opposition between good and evil, takes on the dramatic circumstances of life.

    The anthropological evidence of the “male and female created them” (Gen 1:27) is based not only on biological difference, on psychological characteristics and on cultural variables. The difference as a constitutive form of sexuality asks to be thought out by bringing back the biological, the psychological and the cultural to ways of being and that is forms of the experience of the moral conscience.

    From this point of view, the first form of the experience of sexual difference, before a child reaches the capacity to generate, is attested by the filial relationship. Every child knows that he has come into the world in a sexual relationship between a man and a woman, an encounter that has a free, intentional and responsible quality, so that it is irreducible to a casual or fortuitous event. In his history he learns to recognize that his mother and father, with the culture to which they belong, have introduced him into the world as a house in which to live.

    Going back to its origin, every little man discovers that he is welcomed into a covenant as the “third” that is the fruit and the transcendence of mutual gift. With the passage of time, then, he will discover that falling in love is a desire that opens an appeal to freedom, the promise of a communion with the other. In the conjugal relationship the two spouses become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), though always remaining two. The sexual relationship is an eloquent symbol and a paradigmatic, but not unique, form of the communion of life. This fact implies the totality of oneself (“I love you with all my being”), the uniqueness (“this one and no other like this”), fidelity (“I will love you forever”) and generation (“I see in you the mother of my children “).

    The desire to generate is inscribed as a constitutive moment in the spousal covenant. Of course, the fruitfulness of the couple does not coincide with the number of children and their abundance does not necessarily mean that the couple is fruitful in the “spirit”. However, fertility has an irreducible link with the generation, since this is its most eloquent and indispensable form. In human experience, generation has a symbolic value, which is sometimes even hidden in its opposite, which is the arduous experience of sterility. In the couple, the child is expected by the two as a gift from each other, with each other, for each other. The child introduces a novelty into the relationship, which does not disturb it but reinforces it.

    The conjugal act of generating has a constitutive theological quality. Those who have generated are called and pro-suited to recognize, in their own, the work of an Other, the originating Origin. This recognition is the “vocation” inscribed in the generation. Dad and mum are “called” to respond to a gift, of which they are donors, but primarily recipients. To generate is not to create, but to recognize with gratitude the call to host the presence of another, until the day when he himself can in turn give life to others.

    What the practice of “natural methods of fertility” attests is the responsorial character of the generation: they also say that generating is not creating. However, the method attests more than it can guarantee from itself. Reveals a sense that transcends it. If the responsibility of generating is what these “methods” refer to, then one can understand how in situations where they are impossible or impracticable, other forms of responsibility need to be found: these “circumstances”, by responsibility, require other methods for the birth adjustment. In these cases, the “technical” intervention does not deny the responsibility of the generating relationship, just as a conjugal relationship that observes natural methods is not automatically responsible.

    The insistence of the magisterium on natural methods can not therefore be interpreted as a norm as an end in itself or as a mere conformity to biological laws, because the norm refers to the good of conjugal responsibility and the physical laws (physis) of infertility are inscribed in a body of flesh and in human relationships irreducible to biological laws.

    The technique, under certain circumstances, can allow to preserve the responsible quality of the sexual act. It therefore can not be rejected a priori, when the birth of a child is at stake, since it too is a form of action and as such requires discernment on the basis of moral criteria irreducible to a syllogistic-deductive application of the norm .

  2. The principle of non-contradiction – contraception and every marital act of intercourse being open to conception mean the same thing. Er Ah, stumble bumble fumble TILT BONG QUIT! HELP, COUNCIL OF TRENT, DOGMATIC AND THOMISTIC THEOLOGY, HELP PLEASE!

  3. Italian Bishops Want End Of “Humanae Vitae” – 1/30/18

    The newspaper of the Italian bishops’ Avvenire (January 28) featured a recent lecture by Father Maurizio Chiodi in favour of artificial contraception.

    The introduction to the article draws a line from Paul VI to Francis and calls this ambiguously a “development in fidelity” asking the question, “Are natural methods really to be understood as the only means possible for family planning?” There is little doubt that the answer is “yes”.

    For the Vaticanista Sandro Magister this means, “Goodbye, Humanae Vitae”.

    In many countries, especially of the West (Italy has the lowest birthrate in the EU), there are virtually no young Catholic Catholic couples left who could possibly prevent the birth of children. If the clerical Church establishment had not lost their minds and were in keeping with the times, they would tell Catholics to make babies, not to avoid them.

  4. St. Jacinta Marto explained that sins of the flesh were the single greatest cause of damnation. She stated, as well, that many marriages were not of God, a chilling thought for any serious Catholic to ponder, whether one is a cleric, religious or layman.
    The Saint, the youngest child (not a martyr) the Church has ever canonized, spoke of what she had learned directly from the Mother of God. One may argue most correctly that such an emphatic warning has more weight in moral issues than the twisted illogic of an alleged Italian expert.

Leave a Reply