Hundreds of Catholic scholars affirm ‘Humanae Vitae’ as dissidents blast Church teaching at UN
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — More than 400 Catholic academics released a statement affirming the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception and human sexuality in response to recent calls for the Church to change her teaching as the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae approaches. Opponents of Catholic teaching presented those calls Tuesday at the United Nations.
Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical upholding the Catholic Church’s long-held teaching on human sexuality, was released in 1968. In preparation for its upcoming 50th anniversary, the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research released a statement titled On the Ethics of Using Contraceptives calling for the Church to accept the use of artificial contraception as moral.
It said the Church should issue an “official magisterial document … affirming that the use of non-abortifacient modern contraceptives for prophylactic purposes can be morally legitimate and even morally obligatory” and consider revising its teaching on in-vitro fertilization, homosexual activity, and masturbation.
To counter the so-called Wijngaards statement, the 400+ scholars released Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality at a press conference at The Catholic University of America (CUA) yesterday. Numerous CUA faculty members, including President John H. Garvey, signed the statement.
Scholars: There is no Catholic argument for contraception
“The Wijngaards Statement seriously misrepresents the authentic position of the Catholic Church,” the scholars wrote. “Among the most erroneous claims made by the Wijngaards Statement is that neither Scripture nor natural law offers any support for the Church’s teaching that contraception is never compatible with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage. During the past half century, there has been an enormous amount of creative scholarly thinking around the Church’s teaching on contraception, thinking that includes profound reflections on the Theology of the Body, personalism, and natural law. In addition, there has been extensive research on and analysis of the negative impact of contraception on individuals, relationships, and culture.”
The Wijngaards Statement “offers nothing new to discussions about the morality of contraception and, in fact, repeats the arguments that the Church has rejected and that numerous scholars have engaged and refuted since 1968,” the document continued. One of the key inaccuracies of the Wijngaards Statement, the scholars assert, is its claim “that the argument against contraception in Humanae Vitae is based primarily on ‘biological laws.’ Humanae Vitae instead focuses, as it should, on the person’s relationship to God and to other persons.”
On the Ethics of Using Contraceptives “virtually ignored” Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that defended Humanae Vitae, the scholars wrote.
Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality outlined 11 points about the nature of God, the nature of marriage, and faith and reason that are the basis of the Church’s teaching that artificial contraception “is not in accord with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage.”
Humanae Vitae’s ‘prophetic’ warnings coming true
“Humanae Vitae was prophetic” when it predicted that contraception would lead to marital infidelity, a general lowering of morality, and abuse of women for sexual pleasure, the signers of the CUA statement agreed. “Abundant studies show that contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, can cause serious health problems for women. The widespread use of contraception appears to have contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women, to declining marriage rates as well as to declining population growth in many parts of the world. There is even growing evidence that chemical contraceptives harm the environment.”
Pope Paul VI also predicted that contraception would begin to be imposed on people after its widespread acceptance. This prediction makes the Wijngaards Statement rather ironic given that it says the Church should label the use of artificial contraception “morally obligatory” in some cases.
Also in tune with Humanae Vitae’s predictions, the Wijngaards Statement recommended that the Church “seek the opinion of Christian theologians and experts in other relevant disciplines … on the other areas of Catholic sexual ethics which will likely be affected by a revision of the present teaching banning the use of contraceptives for family planning, namely the negative evaluation of masturbation, homosexual relationships, and in vitro fertilization.”
The CUA statement, however, calls for governments and international organizations to “make instruction in Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) of family planning a priority” because “FABMs are based on solid scientific understanding of a woman’s fertility cycle, are easily learned by women in developing countries, are virtually without cost, and promote respect for women.”
“International organizations and governments should respect the values and beliefs of families and cultures that see children as a gift, and, therefore, should not impose — on individuals, families, or cultures — practices antithetical to their values and beliefs about children and family planning,” the CUA statement said.
Notable signers of Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality include:
- Janet E. Smith, Ph.D, Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics, Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Author, Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later
- John S. Grabowski, Ph.D, Associate Professor and Director of Moral Theology/Ethics, School of Theology & Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America, Board Member, The Academy of Catholic Theology; Author, Sex and Virtue: An Introduction to Sexual Ethics
- Mary Rice Hasson, JD, Director, Catholic Women’s Forum, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Editor, Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church
- Helen M. Alvare, JD, Professor of Law, Scalia Law School at George Mason University; Editor: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves
- John H. Garvey, JD, President, The Catholic University of America
- Richard J. Fehring, Ph.D, RN, FAAN, Professor Emeritus and Director, Marquette University’s Institute for Natural Family Planning
- Angela Franks, Ph.D, Director of Theology Programs for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s seminary in Massachusetts
- John M. Haas, Ph.D, STL., MDiv, K.M. President, The National Catholic Bioethics Center
- Mary Healy, PhD, Sacred Heart Major Seminary
- Rev. Thomas Petri, O.P., STD, Vice President and Academic Dean, Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies
- Michael Waldstein, Max Seckler Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University, Florida, Translator of Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body and author of Glory of the Logos in the Flesh: John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (forthcoming)
- George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.; author of the two-volume biography of Pope St. John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning
The other signers included professors and intellectuals from around the world and Dominican and Jesuit religious.
Dominican Father Thomas Petri, one of the main signers of the CUA statement, noted that CUA’s sponsorship of the statement shows it has come a long way since the 1960s, when its theology department was known for heterodoxy and dissent from Catholic doctrine.
Five Jesuits and two Dominicans were signatories of the Wijngaards Statement, along with 140 others, some of whom are not Catholic.
The full Affirmation and list of signatories is available here.