August 1, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York made the stunning admission in March that he believes America’s bishops had failed in their duty to teach the faithful the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical that reiterated the Church’s condemnation of contraception.
Now, as the U.S. bishops continue to unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, a new multi-year petition campaign is rallying behind them and calling them to preach the encyclical’s message boldly.
The Campaign for Humanae Vitae, launched by The Bellarmine Forum (formerly The Wanderer Forum), is a worldwide effort seeking one million signatures to present to the Pope and bishops by the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae on July 25th, 2018.
Prof. Charles Rice, professor emeritus in law at Notre Dame University and president of The Bellarmine Forum, told LifeSiteNews that Obama’s mandate has presented an important “teaching moment” on contraception for America’s bishops. “We have reason to think they will take advantage of it,” he says.
Dr. Christopher Manion, a Bellarmine Forum board member, says they already have “a couple thousand” signatures and have secured contacts in Europe and Latin America to expand the campaign beyond the U.S.
“This is a petition thanking the Holy Father for repeatedly requesting that the entire moral teachings of the Church be taught, even the unpopular parts,” he explained. “We want the whole world to know that first of all, Humanae Vitae exists, that it is the teaching of the Church, that it is a beautiful gift to the Church, and that we are ready and, with the prayerful virtue of fortitude, willing to bring it to a culture that might not be too friendly.”
The text of the petition, available at The Bellarmine Forum’s website, expresses gratitude to the pope for his “repeated requests that [Humanae Vitae] be taught vigorously, and in its entirety,” and calls on the bishops to “speak out boldly and with confidence in defense of the moral truths of Humanae Vitae – all of them.”
“Please ask your priests to preach Humanae Vitae ‘with confidence’ and ‘without ambiguity’ (HV, 28), fortified by prayer and with the assurance that it constitutes ‘a promulgation of the law of God Himself.’ (HV, 20),” the petition adds.
In a July 25th column for Crisis Magazine announcing the launch of the Campaign, Rice wrote that Obama’s HHS mandate has “opened for the bishops a clear field to advance the truth of HV.”
He notes that Christians had been united in their opposition to contraception up until the Anglican Communion’s 1930 Lambeth Conference. By the time Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae in 1968, it resulted in a “storm of dissent” even within the Catholic Church.
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According to Rice, the problems have in large part been due to the failures of Catholic leaders themselves. He highlights in particular an incident known as the “truce of 1968”.
“In 1968, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., disciplined nineteen priests who had dissented publicly from HV,” Rice explains. “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.”
According to George Weigel, whom Rice quotes, “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,” Weigel added.
Since this “truce,” says Rice, “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.”
“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,” Rice added.
According to a Gallup poll in May, 82% of America’s Catholics now believe that contraception is “morally acceptable.”
Rice observes, however, that this problem has been recognized increasingly by the bishops, and he especially praised Cardinal Dolan’s “candid analysis” of the situation in his March 31st interview with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal.
The cardinal, who serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Humanae Vitae “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,” Dolan added.
According to Manion, Humanae Vitae is crucial because it is “the way that the culture is going to be saved from itself.”
In his Crisis column, Rice relates that the mass acceptance of contraception has been a disaster for sexual morality, families, and the culture at large, opening the door to such evils as promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery, divorce, abortion, and even euthanasia.
“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,” he writes. “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,” he continues.
“HV is a game-changer because it challenges the core of the secularist, relativist and individualist religion of America’s ruling class,” he adds.
“What we want to do is to bring Humanae Vitae to a world that is very, very hungry for it,” says Manion.
Find the Campaign for Humanae Vitae petition at The Bellarmine Forum’s website.