The commission to gut Humanae Vitae: why I’m not too worried

If Pope Francis is thinking of giving contraception the Amoris laetitia treatment, I expect him to give up on that pretty quickly.  Before Amoris, everybody knew that the divorced and remarried, being according to Catholic doctrine unrepentant public adulterers, can’t receive communion.  The whole point of Amoris and the synods was to throw up enough dust that this would no longer be clear.

Ask yourself:  how many Catholics know that contraceptive use bars one from the Eucharist?  And that by this is included 1) pills, 2) condoms, 3) surgical sterilization, 4) non-procreative sex acts, and 5) masturbation.  See–a half century of neglect has already given contraception the Amoris treatment.  Starting any kind of “discussion” now risks Catholics learning something that the whole point of the exercise is to obscure.

14 Responses

  1. I didn’t think of it that way. Perhaps he will go through with it anyway.

  2. Am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” as George Weigal calls it, when the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitæ and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy? Similarly, the Winnipeg Statement of the Canadian Bishops was never formally condemned

    In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document was issued that was intended to be definitive.

    In both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten and argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question. In the Jansenist case, peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least, from the pulpit.

    The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was enormous resistance, with bishops and priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

    Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?

  3. It depends on the priorities, really.

    Suffocating doctrinal orthodoxy beneath a deliberately released poisonous fog of weaponized ambiguity might accidentally expose some folks to the actual gospel truth, sure. But there isn’t a compelling need to get the ‘cultural Catholic’ 80% to keep believing what they already believe and unquestionably want to keep believing. People don’t need much convincing to keep believing what they want to believe.

    The important thing is to isolate, demoralize, insult, and poison the small minority who actually take doctrine seriously. The dangerous thing for the moderns is the heterodox encountering one of them in an unpoisoned well.

    Suppose we divide the contraception-heterodox into those who are blissfully ignorant but would abandon their contraception the moment they discovered that the Church teaches that it is mortally sinful, versus those who do dissent or would dissent if they knew what the Church teaches. I’d lay good money on the size of the former population being negligible compared to the latter.

    I remember being shocked to learn as an adult – from a radio program – that skipping Mass on Sunday is mortally sinful. I’d literally never heard that before. You never would have known it from any homily I’d ever heard as a cradle Catholic: you’d have thought, as I did, that going to Mass was encouraged as long as it fits in with your life priorities. And of course you receive when you are at Mass. And ‘reconciliation’ was something you did as a kid, like first Communion, though you might go again some time if you’d murdered someone or made a racist joke while listening to Dr Ruth and watching MTV.

    I am sure that my perceptions of Catholicism – an identity to which I felt entitled and about which I was simultaneously embarrassed – as a young adult, were largely my own fault.

    But never underestimate the ability of human beings to believe what they want to believe.

  4. In a similar way, I was shocked to learn a few years ago that canon law requires me to do penance every Friday, not just Fridays during lent. At about 19 years old, after 12 years of Catholic school, by the grace of God I was actually shaken from my (largely self induced) intellectual slumber and began to think more seriously about my faith and the requirements of a moral life. The power of self deception and the ability to persist in a distracted state in us human beings is quite scary.

  5. “People don’t need much convincing to keep believing what they want to believe… never underestimate the ability of human beings to believe what they want to believe”

    As Lord Macaulay observed, in his defence of Ctholic Emancipation, “We do not believe that every Englishman who was reconciled to the Catholic Church would, as a necessary consequence, have thought himself justified in deposing or assassinating Elizabeth. It is not sufficient to say that the convert must have acknowledged the authority of the Pope, and that the Pope had issued a bull against the Queen. We know through what strange loopholes the human mind contrives to escape, when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from an admitted proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical.”

  6. It may even be a good thing if it gets contemptible Catholic neo-cons out of their habit of thinking that gutting the Church’s disciplines is A-OK as long as doctrine is preserved (in a hermetically-sealed bubble orbiting Mars, far removed from the actual lives of actual Catholics who are actually supposed to be living them out in the real world).

  7. > Suppose we divide the contraception-heterodox into those who are
    > blissfully ignorant but would abandon their contraception the
    > moment they discovered that the Church teaches that it is mortally
    > sinful, versus those who do dissent or would dissent if they knew
    > what the Church teaches. I’d lay good money on the size of the
    > former population being negligible compared to the latter.

    Well, sure, I imagine there are very few who would have the will power to give up contraception (meaning, in many cases, giving up sex), but there might be a larger group who could be persuaded to abstain from communion. That’s not so hard, really.

  8. Bonald:

    Why would someone who refuses to listen when it comes to contraception sending you to Hell listen when it comes to sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist sending you to Hell? I know that the larval stage of me wouldn’t have been terribly impressed.

    And in any case who ever preaches that sacrilegious reception of Communion can send you to Hell? For that matter, wouldn’t The Joy of Adultery have already “raised consciousness” on that issue about as much as it can be raised?

  9. Zippy, I suspect you’re an unusually logical person. I’ve committed lots of mortal sins in my life without needing any fancy justification. Whether I’m likely to avoid a given sin depends on whether I believe it’s a sin but also on how hard abstaining from it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are lots of people who won’t give up sexual sins even when knowing that they’re sinful. (I’ve spent parts of my adult life as one of those people.) But it’s within everyone’s power of will to avoid gratuitously insulting Christ by receiving communion unworthily.

    Certainly it would help if priests were to get the idea out that not everybody is expected to receive communion all of the time. Mortal sin is extremely common. Most people commit one at some time or another. It’s also not too unusual for someone to be unsure whether he is in a state to receive worthily.

  10. @MPS

    We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical.”

    A good description of the attitude of many religious conservatives to Francis.

  11. If Pope Francis’ intention is to muddy the teachings and doctrines of the church he’ll need a social movement within the church itself as well as ignorant and defiant Catholic laymen to support him. I believe he has both, but the church teaching is the church teaching. He can sanctify same-sex unions for all I care and it won’t change my views on same-sex acts. He isn’t intellectually persuasive enough to rest just on his writings – he needs juvenile emotions, dissent and the naive to succeed.

  12. Bonald:

    Zippy, I suspect you’re an unusually logical person.

    Hah! Don’t let my writing style deceive you.

    Consider any group of five, ten, or twenty guys, all talking smack. It is generally all talk, as a kind of good natured faux-status competition. But there is always some sociopathic moron who will actually do what everyone else is just yammering about or
    complaining about. This moron gets the whole group in trouble but somehow manages to escape entirely unscathed himself.

    I’m the sociopathic moron of the group. “Logical” barely enters into it, unless it is the kind of logical thought required to execute the sociopathic imperative.

    Now, hopefully I’ve grown up a bit in the more-than-half-century I’ve been around. But again, don’t get snookered into assuming things about my personality from the online writing style and content.

  13. If this Contraception Laetitia kicks up a struggle that turns even a small number of souls, wouldn’t that be worth it? One soul, one cathedral, said St. Francis de Sales.
    Many are ignorant and die the eternal death due to their ignorance (pretty sure there’s a Scriptural verse for that). You may say, ‘Oh but deep down they know’, that’s irrelevant and we don’t even know since the curse of modernity makes men into fools from a young age. For anyone hearing these Universal Truths of the Church from a position of authority it is certainly no small matter, the sword of the Gospel makes men reexamine themselves and even turn their ways. St. John Fisher used to say: “If I don’t preach I shall be damned”.

    The intransigent Catholic is hated because he is a living, breathing, walking rebuke. We hear all this talk of inclusion, pluralism and tolerance from enemies of objective truth, Communists speaking from their loggias of the Great New Tower of Modernity.
    The lying serpent counts his losses and says, ‘Ok, you can practice your religion freely within the confines of your little backyard, don’t worry’, he says, ‘I will leave you to save your soul if only you would leave me all these other souls to devour’. Then the noose of modernity starts tightening more and more, doubt creeps in, and then the Devil comes anyway to take the soul of the lukewarm. That is the great apostasy from God.

    ~Fr. Cornelius a Lapide, SJ

    Unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus write: …
    But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity (Apocalypse 2:4).

    St. Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus for more than 40 years, showed himself to be somewhat lax in preaching of the word of God to the Ephesians in the work for their conversion. The reason for this was that he had to face the pertinacity of both the Jews and adorers of Diana against his apostolate. Hence, moved in part by pusillanimity and moderation and in part by human prudence, he considered it more convenient to become softer so as not to disturb the life of Religion by an excessive zeal or to provoke the fury of the Gentiles against him and his flock, as happened with St. Paul, who had to face the mob shouting against him: ‘Hail the great Diana of Ephesus’ (Acts 19: 34). So, the first ardor of St. Timothy in preaching the Gospel grew weaker, and this was his sin, not mortal but venial.

    This also happens with persons who have authority. They sin more often by tepidity disguised as prudence, than by imprudence under the appearance of zeal.

    The counsel of Christ given through St. John to St. Timothy corrected his fault, and he returned to his first fervor. Actually he reproved the adorers of Diana so ardently that he received martyrdom by their hands in the year 109 of the Lord, on the 24th day of January, whose memory is registered in the sacred annals of the Church.

  14. @Ritter der Immaculata: It’s unclear to me where the Fr. Cornelius a Lapide quote is. If it’s the ¶ right above where you write his name, this cannot be because Fr. Cornelius a Lapide was way before Communism.

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