Christine Dhanagom

Grisez Interview: New documents give the real story behind Paul VI Birth Control Commission

Christine Dhanagom
Christine Dhanagom

February 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Documents now open to the public reveal a new story about the fascinating inner workings of the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate, commonly referred to as the “Birth Control Commission,” which was behind the critical papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Dr. Germain Grisez, emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University and a close friend and advisor to Commission member Fr. John Ford, S.J., has made the documents available on his website, along with a narrative of the events surrounding the Commission’s work from 1964 to 1966. 

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Grisez revealed further information about the significance of these documents, which he believes stand to correct mistaken public perceptions about the events leading up to the issuing of Humanae Vitae.

The Commission was originally created by John XXIII shortly before his death in order to prepare for Vatican participation in a United Nations conference. Pope Paul VI expanded the Commission’s mandate to study the increasingly controversial issue of the Church’s teaching on contraception. 

Grisez explains on his website that Paul VI’s real interest was not in potentially revising the Church’s teaching, but in determining whether use of the birth control pill was condemned by that teaching. 

“From what Father Ford told me, I am certain that Paul VI was confident that Pius XI’s reaffirmation of the traditional teaching against contraception in Casti Connubii was sound and could not be contradicted,” Dr. Grisez told LifeSiteNews. “I also am certain that the issue about the pill was the only specific issue Pope Paul wanted investigated.”

Grisez explained that it had seemed plausible that the pill may not violate the integrity of the marital act, since, unlike barrier methods, the pill does not change “outward sexual behavior.”

Grisez supports his analysis on his website, pointing out that on June 23, 1964, when the Pope announced the Commission’s work, he indicated its mandate by referencing “not the teaching of Pius XI (who had taught that contraception is always gravely wrong) but that of Pius XII (who had rejected a forerunner of the pill).” 

Grisez became involved with the Commission’s work through his acquaintance with Fr. Ford, who was appointed as a member in 1964. He was also acquainted with another member of the Commission, American psychiatrist Dr. John Cavanagh, who shared with him a report of the first session of the newly expanded Commission. This is among the documents now available on Dr. Grisez’s website. 

What the document reveals, says Grisez, is that the Commission’s Secretary General, Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, OP, had “skillfully managed the session:” 

“Philosopher and lawyer John T. Noonan, Jr. was about to publish a book about the Church’s doctrine on contraception that was in effect a massive brief for the view that the teaching could change, and de Riedmatten had arranged for Noonan to summarize his case in a two-hour plenary meeting that opened the session’s discussions.

“Then, instead of focusing on the question of the birth control pill or even on the truth of the Church’s constant and very firm teaching, de Riedmatten focused on the question of whether, as he put it, the teaching was ‘reformable’ or ‘irreformable.’”

This, Dr. Grisez explains in his narrative, became the Commission’s focus in the meetings that followed. Grisez eventually went to Rome himself and assisted Fr. Ford in drafting various documents in support of the Church’s traditional teaching, a position held by a shrinking minority of the Commission’s members. 

In June of 1966, the Secretary General delivered the Commission’s Final Report to Pope Paul VI. The report consisted of a detailed account of the Commission’s work, followed by a draft document entitled the Schema of a Document on Responsible Parenthood, to be issued by the Holy Father announcing a change in the Church’s teaching. 

Grisez obtained a copy of the report when Cardinal Ottaviani, President of the Commission and an opponent of change, asked him and Fr. Ford to prepare a response to be delivered to the Holy Father. The Final Report, and Grisez and Ford’s response, are accessible on Grisez’s website. 

Grisez relates that he and Fr. Ford were “appalled but not surprised” by the bias reflected in the Secretary General’s report.

“I recall that Father Ford thought that the views of the majority were presented just as he expected those holding them would have wanted them presented, while the views of him and his colleagues were in some respects not adequately presented,” Grisez told LifeSiteNews. 

The report’s bias would evidently not have taken Pope Paul VI by surprise either. According to Grisez, Paul VI was aware of the ideological leanings of those he had appointed to the Commission, and had composed the Commission in this way in order to give their argument a fair hearing. 

“The way he enlarged the Commission and named the Cardinals and bishops who were its members during its final phase made it clear that he wanted to know what those who thought development was possible had to say,” Grisez explained. 

Moreover, despite the nature of his original mandate, relates Grisez, the Holy Father had “never set definite limits on the Commission’s work . . . But, of course, he expected the Commission’s results to be for his eyes alone, and so he expected to be able to set aside anything not consistent with the faith of the Church.”

This expectation was disappointed in the spring of 1967, when a translation of the Schema of a Document on Responsible Parenthood was leaked to the press. Originally written as a draft proposal document for the Holy Father, it was re-titled: “The Majority Report.”

Also leaked to the press was a document that had been prepared by Fr. Ford not as a final report, but as an internal paper written in defense of the Church’s traditional teaching, and presented to the Commission in the course of its sessions. Originally written in Latin, it was titled Status Quaestionis: Doctrina Ecclesiae Eiusque Status.

This latter document, translated into English and French, was re-made as the “Minority Report,” and presented as a counter part to the “Majority Report.” 

“The Schema Documenti was drafted with a view to publication by Paul VI, and it therefore omitted difficult arguments and was more reader friendly than either of the two theological position papers,” Grisez explained. “Most people who read it first, thinking it was the majority report, were impressed by its readability. The minority’s theological position paper, Status Quaestionis, by contrast, was harder to read and impressed readers as stiff and formal.”

Both documents are available on Grisez’s website under their authentic titles. In an introduction to the documents, Grisez expressed the hope that their publication would prove a benefit to the Church. 

Grisez told LifeSiteNews that the true story and original text of these documents counters “The mistaken public impression . . . that the number of those on the Commission who thought this or that mattered to Paul VI.”

Such an impression has been expressed by a number of influential Catholic writers, including Patty Crowley, a former member of the Commission who has since been involved in the founding of Call to Action, an organization which advocates married and female priests, and the democratization of Church decision-making processes. 

In a 1993 article published in the National Catholic Reporter, Crowley recounts her experience on the Commission and says that she felt “betrayed” by the Pope’s rejection of the majority opinion of the Commission. 

Crowley writes: “If, as in the majority opinion of the commission, birth control is not intrinsically evil, and if it is clear that the majority of Catholics are practicing some form of birth control, how can the official church continue to uphold the statements of Humanae Vitae?”

However, Grisez counters, Paul VI “was not interested in numbers. He was interested in finding evidence and reasons that would justify any sort of legitimate development of the traditional teaching. The Commission failed to provide any justification for change. . . . They presented the best case that could be made for change, but, after carefully studying that case, Paul VI found it wanting.”

As to Pope Paul VI’s original concern - whether the birth control pill constitutes contraception - Grisez notes that the Commission was in nearly unanimous agreement that the pill “presented no special problem.”

Agreeing with this assessment, Paul VI ultimately rejected the idea that the pill presented any special characteristic to make it an exception to the Church’s teaching.

“The Pope—on the issue that had mainly concerned him—acted in accord with the nearly unanimous advice of the Commission’s experts and members,” Grisez said.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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