PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, June 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – As Pope Francis appears ready to pull the trigger on “reinterpreting” the Catholic Church’s most prophetic document in modern times on contraception and human life, Archbishop Charles Chaput has written a clear affirmation of the teaching embodied in its text.
Next month is the 49th anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, the document that the Philadelphia archbishop aptly notes in his latest column is largely unequaled in being “perceptive, important and accurate in its warnings.”
The eighth and final encyclical of Blessed Pope Paul VI restated the Church’s eternal teaching that married couples must be open to life in every marital act and that any act or omission intended to prevent conception is morally wrong.
It also accurately predicted the extant decline of moral standards, increase in infidelity and illegitimacy, reduction of women to objects of sexual pleasure and growing coercion by governments in pushing population control – all ushered in by the advent of artificial contraception.
“It remains a powerful counter-witness to the widespread sexual dysfunction of our age,” Archbishop Chaput wrote. “As other Christian communities, and even many Catholics, have collapsed in their defense of sexual integrity, Humanae Vitae has remained a testimony to the truth.”
In the column, the archbishop also used the words of a friend and former staff member who assisted him with a pastoral letter he released in 1998 on the 30th anniversary of the encyclical. His friend had shared those thoughts as a husband, father and man of faith, the archbishop said.
Humanae Vitae “was easily the most controversial Church document since the Reformation and its core teaching the most rejected,” his friend wrote. “It remains so today.”
The encyclical faced fierce opposition not only outside the Vatican but internally before it was released.
The initial injury to it came via the papal commission charged with studying the issue, which voted to allow birth control. Later, the commission’s leaked document delivered fodder for the dissenters outside the Vatican’s walls.
Those dissenters took it and ran, laying groundwork for the current crisis of a disturbing proportion of Catholics lost to what society would have them embrace regarding contraception.
Archbishop Chaput noted this reality, again quoting his friend, “The Church was divided and seriously wounded over a matter of utmost importance – the truth and meaning of marriage and the sanctity of life.”
The timing of the archbishop’s message is significant not only with the Humanae Vitae promulgation anniversary coming up but because his friend’s thoughts ring true today.
Its timeliness is even more meaningful given reports last week out of Rome that Pope Francis has nominated a commission to “reinterpret” the bulwark of orthodoxy on life and marriage in light of his exceedingly contentious exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
In his column, Archbishop Chaput does not mention the papal commission studying Humanae Vitae, yet to be announced by the Vatican. But his articles have continually addressed timely issues in direct fashion.
Pope Francis’ document has generated considerable division in the Church between those who welcome Amoris Laetitia’s tacit opening of the door to Holy Communion for Catholics living in objectively sinful situations and those Catholics who support Church teaching.
That division is further predicated upon debate over whether Amoris Laetitia represents the ordinary or infallible magisterium.
A crucial point the archbishop makes in his column is in stating “John Paul II and Benedict XVI both firmly reiterated Humanae Vitae in their teaching.”
The pope seemingly intends to “revisit the encyclical” that represents crucial Church fortification for Catholics as they face the modern tide of sexual deviancy. At the same time, he continually rebuffs honest attempts to clarify that his exhortation does not represent that same tide.
This has understandably caused concern for Catholics. A revisiting of magisterial teaching resulting in Amoris Laetitia’s implementation being carried out across the board in line with Church principles would be something for which they would likely hope and pray.
The archbishop continued to quote his friend in wrapping up his column, stating, “Today the rift and wounds remain, and only the Holy Spirit can bring healing and wholeness.”
“In the face of almost 50 years of selfishness and disobedience,” he continued, “I pray that the Church will zealously teach the truth and beauty of this encyclical, urge repentance for the manifest sins against the sanctity of marriage and life, and call the faithful to complete openness to the innumerable blessings which flow from the Lord and Giver of Life.”
Archbishop Chaput’s conclusion was a clear and concise response to this passage — not at all afflicted by confusion or ambiguity.
He wrote, “The best response I can make, or anyone can make, is: Amen.”