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August 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Since its release in April 2016, Amoris Laetitia in its eighth chapter has shown itself to be the Trojan Horse by which progressive, liberal, and modernist clergy have been able to introduce old errors, new abuses, and more sins into the City of God. In this fiftieth anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, we will see the same clergy utilize two strategies to set aside the perennial teaching contained in that encyclical.

One strategy will make use of the “canonization” of Pope Paul VI. As with John XXIII and John Paul II, this politically motivated canonization is intended to remove Paul VI to a distant pedestal as an “example” of living the Christian life “in his particular circumstances”—i.e., not in our particular circumstances. It is paradoxically a way of excluding him from the current conversation by wrapping his life and work in a haze of hagiographical admiration that, in a sense, “discharges” all of our obligations towards his moral magisterium. Those who are manipulating his memory can create a smokescreen behind which they will be more free to do as they please. The same thing happened, of course, with John XXIII, whose canonization cemented in place a carefully contrived picture of him as the great revolutionary of Vatican II, and with John Paul II, whose canonization meant that Veritatis Splendor, Familiaris Consortio, and a host of other documents could be sealed up in the reverent tomb of his earthly remains.

The reasoning goes like this: Humanae Vitae was understandable in its context, that is, the confusion of the late 1960s, when the subject of birth control was still in its infancy (if you’ll pardon the expression), and we should applaud and admire a pope who had the courage to take a stand in defense, as he viewed it, of the goods of marriage. But in the twenty-first century, there is no longer any doubt that “times have changed.” The Church has a deeper and broader understanding of the goods of marriage, especially the union of spouses, such that the scholastic and natural-law categories relied on by theologians in the last century are now seen to be simplistic and outmoded. Moreover, the Church in her “motherly compassion” for weak human beings, and in her grave concern for the ecological health of the planet under the pressures of overpopulation, understands that there are competing goods that Paul VI may have overlooked—for he is a saint not due to how well he governed or how true his doctrine is, but because of the goodness of his heart.

So this is one strategy, and the whiff of sulphur is more than noticeable.

The other strategy will be a continuation of the divorced-and-remarried refrain, namely, that the Church’s traditional teaching is too difficult for some people in some circumstances to follow. They simply cannot do it; it is “morally impossible” and therefore not required of them.

But Pope Paul VI—well advised on this particular topic, if not always on others—anticipated that very line of argument and cut it off decisively:

The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. (HV 20)

This, in a nutshell, is just what Pope John Paul II would later argue at length in Veritatis Splendor and other documents: while fallen man on his own is incapable of following God’s law, Christian man with the help of grace is certainly able to follow it, even if there will be faltering and failure, with the need for continual repentance and conversion. Put simply, a Christian is obliged to live as a Christian—and God will never deprive any of the baptized of the grace it takes to do that, if they sincerely ask Him for it. If they do not so live, then the Church’s motherly compassion consists not in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge toleration, but in reminding them, gently and firmly, of the truth by which we are saved, and of the need for God’s help to live according to it.

A different application of the archetypal error of Amoris Laetitia consists in maintaining that, even if contraceptive sex is wrong, it is a lesser moral evil than other evils such as infidelity, divorce, and abortion, and therefore can be condoned if only to prevent those greater evils. Pope Paul VI once again anticipates this devious dodge and refutes it utterly:

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family, or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong. (HV 14)

We must be prepared for the Machiavellian and, to speak truthfully, Luciferian strategies of the enemies of human nature, natural law, and holy matrimony. Pope Paul VI will be our ally, if, instead of elevating him to a lofty niche of irrelevance, we allow him to remain near us as the complicated and problematic figure he was, through whom nonetheless St. Peter spoke when he passed on the unbroken teaching of the Church about the intrinsic evil of contraception.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,