Humanae Vitae 18: Concern of the Church

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Pope Paul is a realist; he knew HV would be very difficult for some people to accept. But his view is that the Church is not the one who determines what is right or wrong. We have a moral inheritance from God, and we cannot change morality, only guard and hope to form people in virtue.

18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” (Lk 2. 34) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of (humankind). In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges (people) not to betray (their) personal responsibilities by putting all (their) faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for (people) whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as (children) of the living God, the Father of all (people).” (See Populorum Progressio)

What do you make of this? Does HV depend on an accurate interpretation of God’s law as it extends to the use of artificial means as part of a God-given human intelligence and discernment?

And if we’ve gotten it right on assessing God’s intent here, how do we move from the “imperfect” motivation of fear and consequences to the more “perfect” motivation, namely a desire for closeness to God?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Humanae Vitae 18: Concern of the Church

  1. Chris says:

    “the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior”

    Where did our divine savior teach against contraception ? Nowhere to my knowledge, despite its common use in his day.

    What HV lacks is any proof that the use of contraception in marriage really is morally wrong.

    Time to humbly admit that we have got it very wrong on contraception, homosexuality, and communion for the divorced and remarried, because we elevated our fallible human moral theology, and our conservative prejudices, above what Christ actually taught. This has done huge damage to the credibility of the Church, and to her internal unity.

    God Bless

    • Atheist Max says:

      @Chris,

      “we elevated our fallible human moral theology, and our conservative prejudices, above what Christ actually taught.”

      If the New Testament is to be believed, the ‘prejudices’ you speak of are quite Christian:

      Christ’s direct message to Paul: “Shun The Sinner”

      “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

      “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

      “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

      “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

      “Don’t waste….on the people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)

      My view – Jesus is about obedience and loyalty to the prejudices of Jesus.
      Messages of love, compassion and empathy are lost in a more hateful and divisive message than is fairly recognized.

      If we want to see Jesus as “against prejudice” we must invent a Jesus which Paul never knew.

  2. Chris says:

    Max,

    Where did Christ ever send any direct message to Paul about “shun the sinner” ?

    In fact, the example of Jesus of eating with sinners is quite in contrast with your quote from Paul’s writing. No doubt one can find many similar examples from the pastoral letters of bishops down the centuries. We haven’t always found it easy to stay with what Christ taught.

    God Bless

    • Atheist Max says:

      Chris,

      “Where did Christ ever send any direct message to Paul about “shun the sinner” ?”

      I referenced the examples:
      “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

      ‘Shun’ is our word for that sort of behavior.
      Where else but (as is claimed) through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would Paul come to write so direct an injunction? Are you suggesting his epistles are not really reflecting the word of the Lord?

      I am very familiar with the example of Jesus eating with sinners. And that is why I point to the discrepancies with Paul:

      “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)

      If Jesus would find such shunning repulsive – why is Paul so repeatedly adamant that shunning be practiced “In the Name of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)?

      Paul is clear. But if he is completely mistaken where but through Jesus and the Holy Spirit did his words come from? If Jesus didn’t want the shunning to happen in “the name of the Lord” what is going on here?

      I’m really confused why you reject Paul as a mere mortal – if his recommending of shunning is not only uninspired but ugly to the Lord I must ask – did Paul end up in eternal Hell for disobeying Christ so spectacularly?

  3. Chris says:

    Max,

    The Catholic Church does not hold that St Paul obediently took down dictation from the Holy Spirit. Inspiration does not work like but is always mediated though the limited theological understanding and worldview of the human author. This is the main key to understanding the, sometimes horrific, things written by human authors in the bible.

    Atheists often have a better intuitive idea of what God stands for than many religious believers do.

    Hope this helps.

    God Bless

    • Atheist Max says:

      Chris,

      Thanks.

      “This is the main key to understanding the, sometimes horrific, things written by human authors in the bible.”

      Please elaborate.
      Is the Bible only understandable by Theologians?

  4. Chris says:

    Max,

    Being a theologian no doubt helps but anyone who truely loves, which includes atheists, can probably figure out the meaning of much of the bible by simply asking the question: how can I read this in the sense that God is the most merciful, compassionate and loving.

    But if you really want the details, rather than just trying to score debating points, the documents are

    http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/PBC_Interp.htm

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html

    Seach them for “fundamentalist” and “human author”.

    God Bless

    • Atheist Max says:

      Chris,

      Thanks for your suggestion.
      I’m familiar with CatholicResources.org and have read many of those pages over the years. I first learned of it sometime around 2006.

      Once one loses the ability to pre-suppose God’s existence – the logic falls apart rather quickly.

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