The Campaign for Humanae Vitae

The year 2018 will mark the 50th, or Golden, anniversary of Humanae Vitae (HV), in which Paul VI restated what had been, until 1930, an unbroken and universal Christian teaching.  Today, on HV’s 44th anniversary, the Bellarmine Forum is launching The Campaign for Humanae Vitae.  Our goal is to gather a million signatures on our petition conveying to the Holy Father and our bishops our prayerful gratitude, encouragement, and support for their efforts to preach and to defend this vital teaching of the Magisterium.

Why now?  Consider this:  my colleague on the Notre Dame faculty, Professor Gary Gutting, has proclaimed in the New York Times that “it is not for the bishops but for the faithful to decide the nature and extent of episcopal authority,” and that, in matters of sexual morality, “Catholics have decisively rejected it.”  Therefore, Professor Gutting concludes, “The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church… the issue has been settled by the voice of the Catholic people.”[1]

Professor Gutting really believes that.  But he’s wrong.  Here’s why.


The Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 was the first time any Christian denomination ever said that contraception could be a morally good choice.  The Lambeth Conference in 1908 had condemned contraception in words that could have been written by John Paul II or Benedict XVI.[2]  Since Lambeth 1930, Pius XI and the succeeding Popes have continued to teach that contraception is wrong, first, because it deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act; second, by so changing the nature of the act, the man and woman make themselves, rather than God, the arbiters of whether and when life shall begin; and third, contraception frustrates the total mutual self-donation that is essential to the conjugal act.   Contraception also implies that there is such a thing as a human life not worth living—the life of the child whose existence the contraceptors choose to prevent.

The Truce of 1968

The advent of the Pill in the 1960s increased the use of contraceptives among Catholics and others. The promulgation of HV in 1968 precipitated a storm of dissent.  In 1968, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., disciplined nineteen priests who had dissented publicly from HV.  Three years later the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy ordered Cardinal O’Boyle to lift canonical penalties from those priests who told him privately that they agreed that the teaching on “the objective evil of contraception” was “an authentic expression of [the] magisterium.”  The Congregation explicitly refrained from requiring that priests who had dissented publicly must retract their dissent publicly.  George Weigel described the effects of this “Truce of 1968:”

What I [argued] in my 2002 book, The Courage to be Catholic, and what I would still argue today, is that the Truce of 1968 (exemplified by the settlement of the Washington Case) taught various lessons to…the Church in America.

The Truce of 1968 taught theologians, priests and other Church professionals that dissent from authoritative teaching was, essentially, cost-free.

The Truce of 1968 taught bishops inclined to defend authoritative Catholic teaching vigorously that they should think twice about doing so, if controversy were likely to follow; Rome, fearing schism, was nervous about public action against dissent.  The result…was that “a generation of Catholic bishops came to think of themselves less as authoritative teachers than as moderators of an ongoing dialogue whose primary responsibility was to keep everyone in the conversation and in play.”

And Catholic lay people learned… “that virtually everything in the Church was questionable: doctrine, morals, the priesthood, the episcopate, the lot.”  Thus the impulse toward Cafeteria Catholicism got a decisive boost from the Truce of 1968: if the bishops and the Holy See were not going to defend seriously the Church’s teaching on this matter, then picking-and-choosing in a supermarket of doctrinal and moral possibilities seemed, not simply all right, but actually admirable—an exercise in maturity, as was often suggested at the time.[3]

The Failure of the Bishops

The American bishops, with exceptions, have miserably failed to educate Catholics and others on HV and the similar teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  The bishops on the national level have made some commendable efforts to correct the situation. But generations of parishioners—and students whose religion classes focus on collages, banners and political correctness—are still paying the price.  The result is an appalling ignorance among Catholics of HV and other Catholic doctrines and principles. A Gallup poll released in May 2012 found that 82% of Catholics in America believe contraception is “morally acceptable.”[4]  “If you love me,” said Jesus Christ, “keep my commandments.”[5]  But if someone had kept a log of homilies delivered in the United States over the past fifty years, what would be the ratio between generalized exhortations to “love” and specific explanations of the Commandments?  No contest.  But this cannot be blamed simply on parish priests.  As Dean Emeritus Jude Dougherty, of the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America, put it: “From the pulpit, when have you ever heard a sermon on any one of the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the virtues?  It takes a genius, and few have the talent, to make sense of the disparate biblical readings, which lend themselves to storybook repetition, rather than to the preaching of doctrine.  And then there are those petitions, often self-contradictory, often the reflection of someone’s political and social agenda, as if the petitions in the canon of the Mass were not enough.” [6]

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), acknowledged both the failure of the bishops and the hunger, especially among young adults, for more authoritative teaching on sexuality:

Doesn’t the church have a problem conveying its moral principles to its own flock?  “Do we ever!” the archbishop replies with a hearty laugh.  “I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach.  That’s a biggie.”

For this he faults the church leadership.  “We have gotten gun-shy…in speaking…on chastity and sexual morality.”  He dates this diffidence to “the…60’s, when the whole world seemed to be caving in, and where Catholics…got the impression that what the Second Vatican Council taught…is that we should be chums with the world, and that the best thing the church can do is become more and more like everyone else.”

The “flash point,” the archbishop says, was “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical….  It “brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us—and I’m using the first person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa, we’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle.’  We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day.”

Without my having raised the subject, he adds that the church’s sex-abuse scandal “intensified our laryngitis over speaking about issues of chastity and sexual morality, because we almost thought, ‘I’ll blush if I do….  After what some priests and some bishops, albeit a tiny minority, have done, how will I have any credibility in speaking on that?’”

Yet the archbishop says he sees a hunger, especially among young adults, for a more authoritative church voice on sexuality.  “They will be quick to say, ‘By the way, we want you to know that we might not be able to obey it…. But we want to hear it.  And in justice, you as our pastors need to tell us, and you need to challenge us.”[7]

In a recent address to American bishops, Benedict XVI understated the point:  “Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity.” [8]

The Church Goes to Court

Pursuant to the Law of Unintended Consequences, Obama’s Health Care Mandate has opened for the bishops a clear field to advance the truth of HV.

The Mandate requires almost all religious organizations and other employers, or the employer’s insurer, to provide insurance coverage for their employees for contraception, abortifacient “contraceptives” and sterilization. Lawsuits challenging the Mandate were filed last May by Catholic dioceses, hospitals, schools, church agencies and universities. The lawsuits claim that the Mandate violates the Constitution and federal laws, including the religious freedom protected by the First Amendment. As the bishops correctly insist, the suits do not themselves involve the legal status of contraception or the merits of the Church’s teaching on contraception.  Those suits are not resolved by the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of Obamacare’s Individual Mandate requiring individuals to buy health care insurance for themselves.

A Teaching Moment

In violating the fundamental right of religious freedom, Obama has given to the Church a teaching moment on two issues:  1. Conscience, and 2. Contraception.  The bishops have preserved their ability to use that teaching moment.  A letter they ordered read in every parish in the land said: “We cannot—we will not– comply with this unjust law.”[9]  But why is that law unjust?  Because it compels, contrary to conscience, immoral cooperation with an intrinsic evil—contraception.


The bishops have an opening to teach the American people that the “dictatorship of relativism” trivializes conscience by reducing it to an expression of personal taste with no transcendent claim to immunity against oppression by the State.

“Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.”[10]  A properly formed conscience will judge that the Mandate compels immoral cooperation with contraception and abortion.   As Cardinal Raymond Burke said, “It is not only a matter of what we call ‘material cooperation’ in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people.  There is no way to justify it.  It is simply wrong.”[11]

The Unjust Law

When the bishops said, “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law,” they were not kidding.  Some laws are unjust as contrary to “human good” because they are beyond the authority of the lawgiver, are oppressive or seriously violate equality.  We may have to obey such laws (think of the income tax) to avoid a greater evil.   But, as St. Thomas Aquinas further said, “laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good; such are the laws of tyrants inducing to … anything … contrary to the Divine law; and laws of this kind must nowise be observed.”[12] If a law compelled a physician to perform an abortion, he would be morally obliged to disobey even on pain of death.   And the same goes for the bishops and others compelled by the Mandate to cooperate immorally in a violation of the divine law.  They must—and they do– refuse to obey.  They deserve our gratitude, vocal support and, especially, prayer.

Contraception as a Denial of God

If the State is above conscience so as to be able to compel one to violate the law of God, then the State is God.  Obama can get away with such an edict only because the American people have lost their recognition of God’s law as a rule of life.  Thirteen days after 9/11, Pope John Paul II warned the leaders of Kazakhstan against a “slavish conformity” to Western culture which is in a “deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment” caused by “the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good.”[13]

The practice of contraception leads to loss of faith in God and the displacement of the law of God by the law of the State.  As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (1914-2000) said: “[T]he single, principal cause for the breakdown of the Catholic faith in materially overdeveloped countries like ours has been contraception.  St. James tells us that faith without good works is dead.  What good is it to give verbal profession of the Catholic faith, and then behave like a pagan in marital morality?” [14]

When a man and woman change the nature of the conjugal act in order to prevent new life, they put themselves, rather than God, in charge of deciding whether and when human life shall begin and, implicitly, when it shall end.  As Pope John Paul II put it, “When…through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide, in a final analysis, the coming into existence of a human person.” [15]

The Impact of Contraception

 The abandonment of HV by the American Church has practical consequences.  “If a person can violate [by contraception] the natural integrity of the moral act with moral impunity,” said Dean William J. Kenealy, S.J., of Boston College Law School two decades before HV, “then I challenge anyone to show me the essential immorality of any sexual aberration.”[16] “Contraceptive sex is the fundamental social fact of our time.”[17]  Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution has analyzed social science data confirming that the sexual revolution triggered by the Pill is an accelerating disaster, especially for its main victims—women and children.  If you make yourself the arbiter of whether and when life shall begin, you will predictably put yourself in charge of when life shall end, as in abortion, euthanasia and suicide.  The contraceptive society cannot deny legitimacy to homosexual activity without denying itself.  If it is man’s decision as to whether sex will have any relation to procreation, then the only objections to same-sex “marriage,” polygamy, bestiality, etc., are reduced to the aesthetic and arbitrary.  The separation of sex from procreation undercuts any reservation of sex for marriage and any reason for permanence of marriage.  It also encourages the objectification of women by pornography.[18]  Eberstadt correctly says HV “warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.”[19]  Eberstadt fittingly quotes Archbishop Charles Chaput: “If Paul VI were right about so many of the consequences deriving from contraception, it is because he was right about contraception itself.”

When an objective history of this period is written, the practical abandonment by the American Catholic Church of the theretofore unbroken Christian teaching on contraception will be seen as astonishing, craven and frivolous.

An Opening for Humanae Vitae

Obama’s Mandate, however, creates an opening for the bishops.  The truth about contraception can have a life-changing impact, and not only on Catholics.  “The effective separation of sex from procreation,” said R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “may be one of the most important defining marks of our age—and one of the most ominous.   This awareness is spreading among American evangelicals and it threatens to set loose a firestorm… [E]vangelicals are rethinking…birth control—and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies.”  [20]

HV is a game-changer because it challenges the core of the secularist, relativist and individualist religion of America’s ruling class.  The nobility of that teaching can have an impressive impact on young people.  With John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church has seen a rebirth of faith among the young.  But many of them lack a solid foundation.  “One cannot escape,” said John Paul II, “the fact that more than in any other historical period, there is a breakdown in the process of handing on moral and religious values between generations.”[21]  John Paul and Benedict have called on the bishops to fix that breakdown.

The Campaign for Humanae Vitae

On its 40th anniversary, Benedict emphasized the centrality of HV:

Forty years after its publication [HV] not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals [its] farsightedness….  The Magisterium [must reflect] on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation.  ….The truth expressed in [HV] does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on [its] intrinsic value….  The urgent need for education…primarily concerns the theme of life.  I…hope that young people…will be given very special attention so that they may learn the true meaning of love and prepare for it…without [being] distracted by ephemeral messages that prevent them from reaching the essence of the truth at stake….  The teaching expressed by [HV] conforms with the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the world’s creation, with respect for nature and…its needs.  Concern for human life and safeguarding the person’s dignity require us not to leave anything untried so that all may be involved in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law engraved on the heart of every person.[22]

Cardinal Dolan frankly admitted that the bishops have doubted that the Catholic people of the United States would accept a forthright teaching of HV.  But, as Benedict XVI noted in his homily on July 15, 2012, the prophet Amos preached “what God says and not what people wanted to hear.”  In our times, Benedict said, “This remains the mandate of the Church: she does not preach what the powerful want to hear.  Her criterion is truth and justice, even if that garners no applause and collides with human power.”[23]

The Campaign for Humanae Vitae will offer to the bishops and to the Holy Father the support of Catholic people who plead for the Church to proclaim and teach the truth of HV.

On the 50th anniversary of HV in 2018, we aim to present one million signatures to the bishops to make that anniversary a celebration, a Golden occasion to thank God for the Truth affirmed by HV and the Magisterium.

The “nuclear weapon” of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, however, is prayer—for our country and for our Church, especially through the intercession of Mary, the mother of Life.  As John Paul II wrote in a letter to U.S. bishops in 1993, “America needs much prayer—lest it lose its soul.”[24]


[1] Gary Gutting,
[2] See Allan Carlson, “Children of the Reformation,” Touchstone, May 2007;
[3] George Weigel, “The ‘Truce of 1968,’ once again,”; May 17, 2006.
[4], May 28, 2012.
[5] John 14:15.
[6] Jude P. Dougherty, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” The Wanderer, May 3, 2012, p. 4A.
[7] James Taranto, “When the Archbishop Met the President,”, March 31, 2012.
[8] Pope Benedict XVI to American bishops, Ad limina, March 14, 2012.
[9], Jan. 30, 2012.
[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1796.
[12] ST. I, II Q. 96, art. 4.
[13] Pope John Paul II, Address, Sept. 24, 2011.
[14] John A. Hardon, S.J., “Contraception: Fatal to the Faith and to Eternal Life,” Eternal Life, April 19, 1999, 27, 29.
[15] Pope John Paul II, Discourse, September 17, 1983.
[16] 46 Catholic Mind (1948), 11.
[17] Mary Eberstadt, Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, (2012), 157.
[18] Eberstadt, op. cit., Chapters 2 and 3.
[19] Ibid., p. 136.
[20] Russell Shorto, “Contra-Contraception,” New York Times Magazine, May 7, 2006, 48, 50.
[21] Pope John Paul II, Address, March 16, 2002.
[22] Pope Benedict XVI, Address, May 10, 2008
[23], July 16, 2012.
[24] Pope John Paul II, Letter to the U.S. Bishops, June 11, 1993; 38 The Pope Speaks (1993), 374, 376.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy?

    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?

    • Mahrt

      It has sometimes been overlooked that Humanae Vitae was essentially an exercise in papal authority. It stated authoritatively that the teaching will not be changes and predicted what might happen if it is ignored. It cannot be criticized for not presenting arguments from scripture, natural law, or other sources, because it did not do that. Rather, it exhorted theologians, moralists, etc. to work out the arguments. Not many of them were willing to do that, but many were willing to criticize the document for not doing what it asked them to do. 

  • Rod

    ” The Lambeth Conference in 1908 had condemned contraception in words that could have been written by John Paul II or Benedict XVI.[2]  Since Lambeth 1930, Pius XI and the succeeding Popes have continued to teach that contraception is wrong, first, because it deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act; second, by so changing the nature of the act, the man and woman make themselves, rather than God, the arbiters of whether and when life shall begin; and third, contraception frustrates the total mutual self-donation that is essential to the conjugal act.   Contraception also implies that there is such a thing as a human life not worth living—the life of the child whose existence the contraceptors choose to prevent.”
    Aren’t there any better arguments that could be made against contraception. I think the first one would be agreed to by most believing Catholics but the others would be rejected as untrue by the same ordinary Catholics; i.e “making themselves, rather than God, the arbiters of whether and when life shall begin”. Why not condemn abstinence  in a marriage at certain times for the same reason? Mutual self-donation? “Child whose existence the contraceptors choose to prevent”? These arguments are a theologian type of inside baseball. They are also opaque and will be considered nonsense by Catholics in the pews.

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  • hombre111

    Natural Law should be viewed with some reservation.  After all, the Church used natural law to prove the inferiority of women, to justify slavery, and to question democracy.  I vividly remember these arguments from my days in the seminary.  Even then the prof was arguing that slavery was fine in some circumstances and the best form of government was a monarchy.

    Having lost those battles, the celibate leaders of the Church stand or die behind something they claim to know more about than ordinary mortals: married sexuality.

    The problem with any natural law argument is threefold.  1) The logic involved.  The argument against artificial birth control is at least three or four steps from the self-evident truth that begins a natural law discussion: Do the Good. How good is the logic? If it was convincing, sincerely good people would be convinced. But most are not. 2) New facts. The birth control argument is based on a simplistic biological view of the marriage act, ignoring the much richer framework within which sex happens. 3) Is it the best perspective from which to view the truth?  Can a celibate have the best perspective when he is trying to tell married people about something core to their lives?  Don’t think so.

    • chrisinva

      Aristotle questioned the merits of democracy, and observed that it was transitory, and led directly to tyranny. He was right, Aquinas was right, Hooker was right,
      Donoso Cortes was right, and the Church is right in opposing
      totalitarian democracy — in fact, tens of thousands of faithful Catholics died at the hands
      of the Goddess of Democracy in revolutionary France alone. In
      “democracy,” as Koestler’s Rubashov observes, “the individual is one
      millionth of a million men.” That little gem killed over a hundred
      million in the XX century.

      So much for “democracy.”

      Fortunately, we live in  republic,
      however tattered, which respects the limits placed on government by
      metaphysics and by God’s law: “I am the Lord thy God.” Limits on
      government power are unique to Christendom, and have been fundamental to
      the rise of freedom in the West since Augustine spelled them out 1600 years ago. Obama’s ideological
      rejection of those limits merely vindicates them once again.

      However, champions of “democracy” — total power for the elites — still
      peddle their wares, apparently even in hombre’s Catholic (?) seminary.
      Funny how they rail against “celibate men” like Jesus.

      hombre’s ruminations accurately reflect the views of the dominant and decadent secular
      culture. Dr. Rice’s article refers to the hesitation that the noise of
      those perverse and perverting views has caused in the fortitude of our beloved bishops. He refers to Mary
      Eberstadt’s work, “Adam and Eve After the Pill,” where she amply
      demonstrated the cultural collapse and moral dross that have resulted
      from the embrace of hombre’s views by our popular culture. But Cardinal Dolan says the bishops still have “laryngitis.”

      That hesitation should end, and a revival of the truths of Humanae Vitae can end it. HV is a prophetic document. Only truth, not narcissistic self-indulgence and feckless autosoteriology, can restore our culture and our society. That’s why I welcome the Campaign For Humanae Vitae and will sign the petition.

      As for the Church “losing battles,” Catholics happily recall that, in the only battle that counts, “The Gates of Hell will not prevail against her.”

      • hombre111

        Sigh. A wonderful amalgam of philsophy and right wing thinking. 

        • chrisinva

           Just right thinking, hombre. In tune with the teaching
          of the Church, “Mother and Teacher of all peoples” (HV 19), without
          dissent, derision, or distortion.

          • hombre111

            You need to read an enlightening book called “Rome has Spoken,” which summarizes all the times when mother Church screwed it up and was wrong.

            • aearon43

              Be that as it may, you still haven’t shown why Humanae Vitae is wrong.

              • John200

                Nor will he ever. He is hombre; you will listen and not demand evidence. He went to seminary, you see.

                Sorry, hombre,that I messed up your dissenting Catholic routine. I know, you might have had a convert there.
                I hope this isn’t too personal, but I have seen enough of your act.

            • John200

              OK, let me help you, hombre. You need to read an enlightening
              book, namely, John Henry Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian
              Doctrine” which is orthodox, eloquent, and brilliant 100+ years after its publication.
              Newman writes hard sentences, but he is literate and orthodox. One of the best!

              Altenatives? Simply reread the Catechism. Or go to HV itself.
              You will never go wrong.

              “Rome Has Spoken” is an endarkening book of dissenting
              Catholic silliness. The author puts almost nothing in its proper context. The editor
              is apparently not well versed in proofreading. The author is apparently not
              well versed in sourcing facts and quotes. What a mess!

              The “book” is a stunning flop. I wish you had not brought it

        • Fides_et_Ratio

          Please use logical arguments, not ad hominem.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But this is to overlook the fact that the Church teaches in virtue of a divine commission and the Pope holds a prophetic office, not a chair of moral philosophy.

      Thus, Theologians, Peronne among them, teach that “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition” and the same applies to the Pope.

      What is binding in Humanae Vitae is the declaration itself:

      “We must once again declare (iterum debemus edicere) that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun is to be absolutely rejected (omnino respuendam) as a legitimate means of limiting the number of offspring – especially direct abortion, even for therapeutic purposes.

      Equally to be condemned (Pariter … damnandum est), as the Church’s Magisterium has repeatedly taught, is direct sterilization, whether of men or of women, either permanent or temporary.

      Similarly to be rejected (Item … respuendum est) is any act which, in the anticipation or accomplishment of conjugal intercourse, or in the development of its natural results, intends – whether as an end to be attained or as a means to be used – to impede procreation”

      • hombre111

        Popes have to base their proclamations on more than intuition.  This means an argument from Scripture or Tradition.  If the exegesis of either the pope or the Father of the Church he quotes is bad, the teaching is flawed.  In the case of Humanae Vitae, he has one 1! quote from scripture, hopelessly out of context.  The rest is based on the validity of his natural law reasoning, whose flaws I have clearly shown.

        • aearon43

          You haven’t shown them at all. All you said is that the logic is wrong, without explaining why; that there are “new facts,” without explaining what they are; and that only married people can discuss marriage ethics properly, without explaining why that must be so, either.

          • John200

            Oh, I see you are onto our one and only hombre.

            Carry on!

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          “Popes have to base their proclamations on more than intuition.  This means an argument from Scripture or Tradition”

          This is not true.  Cum Occasione (13 May 1635) that condemned the Five Propositions of Jansenism contains no arguments or explanations of any kind.  It sets out the propositions and then a note, thus
          “2. In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace.   Declared and condemned as heretical.”

          Subscription was required of the French clergy in 1664 by Regiminis Apsotolici; again, not a word of explanation for the condemnations was offered

          Most theologians consider Cum Occasione infallible

          Again, Unigenitus (8 September 1713) simply sets out 101 quotations from the works of Quesnel and concludes “Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned”  Clement XI offers nothing by way of explanation. It is not even clear whether all the censures apply to all the propositions

           Subscription of Unigenitus was requiredof the French clergy and those who refused, including several bishops, were excommunicated.

          Where arguments h ave been offered, they have sometimes been demonstrably wrong.  Thus, in the Third Council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defence of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives, not trustworthy, are introduced into the Seventh.

          Assent is required to the definition, nothing more.  In innumerable past instances of the gravest importance, no argument or explanation was offered.  Does anyone suggest that Cum Occasione or Unigenitus are not binding, or that the Third and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, received in East and West are not binding?

          • hombre111

            This kind of freedom destroying “Because I say so” is what earns the Catholic Church its reputation as a cult. The Church definitely assumed cult-like characteristics during the reign of Pope John Paul II.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              No, it shows the distinctive roles of the magisterium and of theology.

              As Bl. John Henry Newman explains, “As to the condemnation of propositions all she [the Church] tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be.”

              After all, the Pope is not engaging in a debate; he is giving an explicit and final doctrinal judgment, in reliance on the divine promises to the Church.

    • aearon43

      Regarding your points: 1) Care to show how the logic is actually wrong? Just saying so doesn’t cut it. 2) What are these “new facts?” Can you cite specific studies? 3) What is your alternative perspective? And you haven’t shown how being celibate precludes one from making true statements regarding contraception. Your argument is a bit like suggesting that only drug addicts can truly explain the ethics of drug abuse.

      • hombre111

        First, if it was convincing, it would convince more people of good will, but it doesn’t. If we followed the logic strictly, rythmn is wrong and old people and infertile couples should not have sex. New facts: a broader understanding of sexual intercourse as more than just a biological act, and the fact that there isn’t a one to one correspondance between sex and the transmission of life; rather it is a matter of statistical probability, which means that most sex acts are not open to the transmission of life.  And finally, while a celibate certainly can make true statements regarding contraception, his view is off kilter because sex is not his sacrament nor does he really understand the point of view of married people.

        • Micha_Elyi

          “First, if it was convincing, it would convince more people of good will…”

          Oh, but it does!

          • hombre111

            It only convinces conservative Catholics.  Anyway, my quibble is not with the Church’s attitude toward contraception.  I simply believe that a natural law argument is not nearly as convincing or as profound as other arguments.  See David Cloutier and the other young theologians of the New Wineskins movement. Rather than hammer on Humanae Vitae, the Church should write another encyclical.

            • John200

              The Church is not obliged to write another encyclical, nor is it obliged to “see David Cloutier … New Wineskins…”

              Perhaps the relationship between the theologian and the Magisterium is not clear. One option is to look to Joseph Ratzinger’s (1995) “The Nature and Mission of Theology” — hey, that’s the right title for us!

              Perhaps it is more convenient to to find the CDF’s “On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian” which prints out at 17 pages including references. Let’s do that. In paragraph 6, we learn that the theologian pursues his vocation “in communion with the Magisterium which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith.”

              “The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule.” (24)

              “The preceding considerations have a particular application to the case of the theologian who might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him wellfounded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching.” (28)

              And so on, and so on. “The Nature and Mission of Theology” is in the same vein. Benedict XVI got to the relationship between theologian and magisterium before you and I did, hombre. Paul VI got to contraception before you and I and David Cloutier. Sorry.

    • Tisantir

       That women are inferior is a slander. Aristotle said that a man should rule his wife politically.
      The political rule is between friends and equals. Thus classically, a wife is equal to her husband. Only she is subject to her so husband is like a permanent president. But he can not rule arbitrarily. That would be a despotic  rule and not political.

    • Numena1

      I think a sacramental approach to contraception would be a lot more illuminating for the faithful than the natural law approach. 

      • hombre111

        Amen.  There are some interesting books out by young theologians which have really made me stop to think.  I like Love, Reason, and God’s story, by David Cloutier, and Leaving and Coming Home, edited by Cloutier. This is part of the New Wineskins project for young theologians. Especially thoughtful is “The Practice of Sex in Christian Marriage,” by Julie Hanlon Rubio. Inspired in part by Pope John Paul, it makes a good read.

        • John200

          Hombre, it is time for some
          scholarship. “The Practice of Sex in Christian Marriage,” by Julie
          Hanlon Rubio does not give any sign of existence. It does not appear in the
          book where you suggest it appears; it does not appear on Professor Rubio’s
          curriculum vitae. If she wrote it and it exists, is she embarrassed to admit
          (claim) authorship? On the c. v. we discover that Professor Rubio has
          co-authored with Fr. Charles Curran. At last, we have traced these obscure
          burblings to the familiar. In fact, I DO know who Father Curran is….

          He was twice removed from his
          tenured faculty position at Catholic University; first in 1967, then in 1986
          when the CDF decided that Father Curran could not teach theology at Catholic
          University. The pull quote is: “He is neither suitable nor eligible to be a
          professor of Catholic theology.”

          There is a long trail of Father
          Curran’s remarkable obstinacy in dissent. One highlight: he co-wrote the famous
          and scandalous response to Humanae Vitae which contradicted the Church’s
          teaching on sex in pretty much every way it could be contradicted. His current
          pose is to pretend “Loyal Dissent” (book publ. in 2006). He makes the
          remarkable claim that dissenting Catholics accept the teaching authority of the
          Pope, bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


          I regret the need to utterly
          contradict you in this thread, but what else was possible? I could not let you,
          in a half-informed theological haze, scandalize other readers who might be
          taken in by your pretended deep and sophisticated knowledge. Yes, I know, you
          claim you attended seminary….



          • hombre111

            Her essay appears in “Leaving and Coming Home,” part of the New Wine, New Wineskins project which features young theologians, edited by David Cloutier. There are a series of interesting essays there. A Cascade Book, copyright 2010. Shows us where things could go after a whole generation of old bishops and an old pope dies and we go beyond the mechanical legalism of Humanae Vitae.

            • John200

               Dear hombre,

              Thank you for identifying Professor Rubio’s essay. Thank you for adding, “…a whole generation of old bishops and an old pope dies and we go beyond the mechanical legalism of Humanae Vitae.” Thank you for leaving my point about Father Curran untouched.

              That ought to give the reader enough to go on. Adios for the nonce.

              • hombre111

                I am an old guy and about to leave this nonsense behind. You and your children will have to deal with what comes next. If human nature does what it often does, the great reversal will come. Then you will have to deal with articles entitled “How Pope John Paul Stole the Vatican Council From the Next Generation.

                • John200

                  Well, thank you for handing things on. I will do the same in my time. Meanwhile, I will carry on and do what seems necessary to avoid living a nonsensical life.

                  I regret that you think JPII stole VII. I flatly deny it. Perhaps that is the nub of our substantive disagreement but let that pass.

                  I pray that you attain peace and I extend my best wishes to you and yours. I hope to see you in heaven. It looks like you will get there a few years before me.

                  But not that many….

          • hombre111

            I am areading a book by a young lawyer who left the Mormon Church. Her descriptions of the Mormon power-structure and the way it exercises authority are amazingly close to the Catholic power structure as it is being exercised in the John Paul II/Benedict era.  And her descriptions of the unquestioning obedience of the average Mormon is so much like the attitude of so many in this thread.

            Sociologists call it cult-like behavior. Live there if you must.

    • Howard Kainz

       There is no theory of natural law that proves the inferiority of women, justifies slavery, and questions democracy.  All three of these ideas derive from Aristotle, who is not a natural law theorist.  None of these ideas are found in Catholic natural law theorists such as Aquinas, Suarez, McInerny, Finnis, or myself; or in Protestant natural law theorists such as Grotius, Pufendorf, or Cumberland.

      • hombre111

        These were given to us as natural law arguments when I was in the seminary. It was one of the things that made me skeptical about natural law.

        • Howard Kainz

           I don’t blame you for being skeptical.  In my 2004 book on natural law, in the first few historical chapters I cover all major natural law theories up to the present, and I can assure you that none of them argue for the inferiority of women, slavery, etc. One of the first natural law theorists was a former slave, Epictetus, who argued for the equality of all persons and world citizenship.

    • mollysdad

      This is a completely different case.

      The manual fusion of human gametes is idolatrous because, by it, man usurps what God has reserved to himself. Likewise, in contraception, man usurps God’s exclusive right to determine that there shall not, on this occasion, be a new human life.

  • Mme_Chantal

    I definitely want to sign the petition, but I want to be sure my address and other identifying info will stay off the internet.  Please advise whether this is guaranteed.

    • aearon43

      I signed it, and the address and other personal information is not required. I think it’s only your name that’s required.

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  • Tisantir

    Prof Gutting is also wrong to infer the beliefs of the laity from their actions.
    The laity may all use contraception but that does not mean that they necessarily believe their contraceptive usage to be right. 

    • Fides_et_Ratio

      The Church listens to the people, but not always obeys the people.

      The Church obeys God.

  • Skorlan7

    I think the point of this article is that the Church has failed to teach on this doctrine. Therefore the failure of the average Catholic to accept this doctrine is due to a failure to even hear what it says and why, rather than a failure of the beliefs behind it and natural law to persuade people. If you haven’t heard the argument it’s not likely to have convinced you.

  • George Finnin

    You may be interested in seeing how one group of people support the Church’s teaching on Natural Methods of Birth Regulation.  Please visit  

  • mollysdad

    The second reason against contraception is the most important. The Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 was the first time any Christian denomination ever said that idolatry could be a morally good choice.

  • Lifeknight

    I find the lofty discussion by “theologians” and former seminarians above the intellectual abilities of most Catholics of today.  Scores have not had correct teaching regarding the marital act which is both procreative and unitive.  However, every Catholic in the pew “professes” to “believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the Giver of Life”.  That simple profession can, should, and would compel all believers to end the contraceptive mentality, if explained properly by the Church.  

  • Robertemuckle

    The American bishops response to Humanae Vitea “human Life in Our Day, dated Noember 15, 1968, did not defend the encyclical the way it should have.  The only bishop that I know of who defended HV in 1968 was bishop Glennon Flavin.  When he went back to his diocese, he let everyone know that contraception was wrong.  To my knowledge, he never lost a priest and always had a good number of seminarians.

    Other bishops who defended HW were Bishops Meyers of Peoria, the first two bishops of the new diocese of Arlington and bishop Charles Chaput when he was in Denver.  To my knowledge, he increased his seminarians to about 100.

    If every bishop followed their example, what a difference there would be!!  It’s up to each individual bishop to defend the faith, totally.

  • Clara

    I am a broken hearted mother of six who has seen my own children, to whom I taught the true Faith straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, decide that “Mama must think she’s more Catholic than the Pope”, when their CCD classes, taught by disobedient catechists, watered down that Truth to make it fit the disobedience they lived. My children have paid for the “Truce” by believing the lies taught them in their CCD classes, and I pay in tears.  I don’t understand why, now that we have seen the result of this “Truce”, “philosophers” and “theologians”  like Gary Gutting are not removed from their positions at Catholic Universities, nor why the Universal Church does not eliminate the title Catholic from the University and eliminate all funding, as well.

  • mollysdad

    The most important reason why contraception is immoral is that it violates the First Commandment by undercutting the reason for the unique Lordship of God. Once the generative act has commenced, its consequences must be left to the free determination of the Creator. The discretion to create a new human being or not is something God cannot share with the creature. Therefore, anyone who contracepts or attempts manually to fuse human gametes, is an idolator.

  • Francis Agustin

    Lord Have Mercy

  • To argue that because contraception gives to humans the power to decide when a new life shall begin, it “implicitly”  also gives them the power to decide “when it shall end” is nonsense on many levels. First, it does not follow at all by any rule of logic. Second, the State ALREADY has the power to end life, by warfare and by means of criminal punishment.
    This article, and indeed the entire Vatican position against contraception, is an absurdity growing out of fundamental misunderstanding of Christ’s message and God’s word.

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