The Wanderer has agreed to print the following reply to their 4 articles that attacked myself and The Latin Mass magazine for publishing the article, "Humanae Vitae: Heroic, Deficient or Both?" This letter complies with their request that I delete about one third of my original reply. At the bottom I have attached a few of the paragraphs that I removed in order to comply with their request.
May 30, 2002
To the editor:
I wish to thank you for paying me an undeserved compliment by dedicating four articles and nearly three pages of your newspaper to attacking a relative unknown such as myself. Yet isn't it a bit unsporting to launch such an assault without allotting any room to the other side? In contrast, The Latin Mass magazine published the original article side by side with two rebuttals which raised virtually all the points mentioned by your own writers.
First let me thank Fr. Joseph Wilson for his sympathetic reading of my article. When Fr. Wilson describes Humanae Vitae as an "Echo of a Lost Age of Hope," he perfectly summarizes what I hoped to express: Humanae Vitae is a relic of the sixties that should be left in the attic with the love beads and peace signs. Isn't it time after three and a half decades that we discard what remains from that failed experiment and return to the timeless and unchanging truths of Catholic doctrine?
The issue is more straightforward than your columnists make it seem: Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae maintained the infallible moral standard that artificial contraception is always wrong. But the question is, did it do so while rejecting traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and substituting a new and untried philosophy in its place? Does Humanae Vitae tell us to "be fruitful and multiply," or does it instead warn us against overpopulation? Does Humanae Vitae enunciate the essential "primary purpose of marriage," or does it instead talk about dual "meanings" of the conjugal act? Does Humanae Vitae instruct "wives to obey their husbands," or does it instead support a new feminist vision of "woman and her place in society." Does Humanae Vitae glorify the Christian education of children as an opportunity "to raise up fellow citizens of the Saints and members of God's household," or does it instead depict the burden and cost of education as a reason to avoid having children?
The answers to the above questions are simple matters of historical fact. Anyone can read the encyclical and see for himself. And he can read other magisterial documents and see for himself whether Humanae Vitae agrees either in tone or in content with the tradition. Indeed, all your commentators agree that it does not, but they wish this fact to remain little known. So what has upset them, apparently, was my bringing this to the attention of the public.
Underneath all the rhetoric, I find that your writers agree with me on virtually every point. I claim that Humanae Vitae threw out the Scriptural basis for its teaching. Rice agrees, but says (literally), "So what?" I claim that Humanae Vitae threw out the Traditional basis for its teaching. Rice agrees, but says "Again, so what?" I claim that Humanae Vitae threw out the Magisterial teachings on this subject. Rice, sticking with his theme, replies, "Again, so what?"
Apparently I differ from your writers in this way: I consider it to be of immense significance when the most eagerly anticipated (and most hotly debated) encyclical of modern times turns out to have dispensed with all the sources of Catholic teaching. Having reached a consensus that Humanae Vitae abandoned Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterial history, we differ only as to the conclusion to be drawn: a) "It is not surprising that this initiated a major (and on-going) crisis of the Faith," or b) "So what, he was still the pope."
I claim that Humanae Vitae threw out the teleological basis for Natural Law and replaced it with a novel philosophy which has proved disastrous in practice. Again Rice and Morriss agree with these facts, they merely claim that I fail to appreciate the beauty of this new "personalism" and that I have an obligation to indoctrinate myself in this new phenomenological philosophy.
When Mr. Morriss says that leaving family size up to God no longer constitutes "relying on Providence," but is now viewed as "to leave parenthood purely and simply to the instinctual workings of nature," and when he blames the tragic murder of Andrea Yates' children on their parents' generosity, I do not perceive the "beautiful reasoning" that he sees. Rather I see a new philosophy that is inimical to traditional Catholic doctrine that extends all the way back to the moment of creation when God first breathed life into Adam and Eve and told them to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it"
Teleology--the idea that moral actions must be oriented towards achieving the purposes for which we were designed by God--was not invented by "academic philosophers," nor is it a "contingent theory," as Prof. Rice claims. It was not even invented by St. Thomas Aquinas, nor even by Aristotle. It was inscribed into our being by our Creator. It has been the perennial teaching of the Church for many hundreds of years, reinforced by every pope, even by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, as Prof. Rice himself points out.
Your commentators wish to be charitable by making all possible excuses for the catastrophic failures of the last few papal administrations. But shouldn't the first object of our charity lie elsewhere: the hundreds of millions of souls consumed by sin, led astray by "thieves and robbers" masquerading as shepherds?
Next we might direct our charity towards additional hundreds of millions of lost souls: "il bambino negato." Italians, finding room in their lives for only one child, have given this name to the children that are never born. Every Catholic country will soon face the same problems that Italy is already experiencing such as a grave crisis in their retirement system and entire towns that are virtually abandoned.
Prof. Rice concedes the collapse in America and Europe, but hopes, "The picture is better among Catholics in various parts of the third world." Unlike Prof. Rice, I am not optimistic that Africans, unlike Europeans and Americans, will somehow "get" personalism. Stephen Mosher of PRI says, "For the first time since the Black Death in the Middle Ages, a disease is sending whole nations into absolute demographic decline. The disease is AIDS, and the continent affected is not Europe but Africa."
Spiritual collapse, moral collapse, demographic collapse, and now institutional collapse brought on by scandal so extensive that entire dioceses are bankrupted both spiritually and financially, if these don't make you reconsider "pastoral" decisions that turned out to be imprudent to the point of suicide, then what event short of Armageddon would? Your writers might consider these novel theories to be "rich and constructive," but after failure on such a universal scale, don't we need to consider the hypothesis that they were fundamentally misguided?
Lastly, I thank your writers for their charitable attempts at fraternal correction. Their suggestions regarding areas in which I should improve myself represent only the tip of the iceberg. And I certainly shall remember that it was Section 19 and not section 20 which told the faithful that Humanae Vitae would "strengthen them in the path of honest regulation of birth, even amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples."
Following are some of the items I removed due to The Wanderer's claim that "space is at a premium in The Wanderer" (although there was no evidence of space limitations when The Wanderer found room for 4 separate articles occupying nearly 3 full newspaper pages dedicated to an attack on myself and The Latin Mass magazine).
1. With regard to all the personal detraction, there is a simple method to determine who--if anyone--is "frantic" and "in a panic." Compare the original article in The Latin Mass magazine side-by-side with these commentaries, and it will immediately become apparent to the reader which party is systematically presenting substantial doctrines that the Church has taught for many hundreds of years, and which party is resorting to demagogic tactics such as name-calling.
2. Both Morriss and Rice fundamentally misrepresent the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy. While it is a fallacy to leap to the conclusion that a prior event caused a subsequent event merely because it preceded it in time, it is far from a fallacy to notice such a correlation, and then to examine, to investigate, to analyze and to reach some conclusion about the nature of the relationship between the events. If we notice that prior Event A (e.g. the promulgation of Humanae Vitae) appears to have caused subsequent Event B (e.g. the collapse of Catholic morality), then we should ask ourselves whether we are able to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship, or are we left with a merely temporal relationship?" After stating at the beginning of my article that this was the goal, I went on to demonstrate nine causative items, any one of which was sufficient by itself to undermine the encyclical's message, and which together go a long way towards explaining why since 1968, the faithful, along with the vast majority of their priests and bishops, have become entirely clueless about Catholic sexual morality.
3. There is one final place where I part company with The Wanderer: I don't take the defeatist position that the Church is powerless against the forces of society. Frank Morriss, for example, said, "It is a gratuitous conclusion that any statement, by any Pope, and framed with any argument would have made any difference." You seem to believe that the Church is the tail being wagged by the secular dog and that she is helpless in the face of sin.
To borrow a phrase from Fr. Wilson, "I cannot think that true." I believe the Church must succeed whenever she fearlessly proclaims the Truth. The devil can triumph only for a time, only for as long as the Church neglects to make use of the weapons given her by Christ. A crisis such as the one we are experiencing today can only be explained as a failure of the Church militant for the past forty years to "fight the good fight" against our eternal enemy.
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