By John-Henry Westen
OTTAWA, September 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – At the close of their 2008 Plenary Assembly which met in Cornwall, September 22-26, the Bishops of Canada issued a pastoral letter, titled “Liberating Potential,” which invites all the faithful “to discover or rediscover,” the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
Although the Bishops’ statement did not address the infamous Winnipeg Statement – a document dissenting from Humanae Vitae which was issued by the Canadian bishops on September 27, 1968 and never recanted – the present document is in full conformity with Humanae Vitae.
“Abortion, sterilization and contraception are in opposition to the Creator’s intention at the heart of sexual intercourse, preventing, if God so desires, the creation of a unique soul for the unique body that the spouses help to form,” says Liberating Potential.
The Plenary Assembly described the 1968 encyclical as a “prophetic document,” especially in view of “the troubling evolution of two fundamental human institutions, marriage and the family.” The message of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) goes on to say that the family and marriage “continue to be affected by the contraceptive mentality feared and rejected in the encyclical of Pope Paul VI.”
The Bishops of Canada point out what they say is an important link between Humanae Vitae and the “theology of the body,” developed by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984. Their pastoral letter is in fact as much a discourse on theology of the body as on Humanae Vitae.
“In short,” they say, “Pope Paul Vl’s encyclical Humanae Vitae and the subsequent ‘theology of the body’ developed by Pope John Paul II issue an immense challenge to a world that is too often occupied with protecting itself against the extraordinary life potential of sexuality.”
In their message, the Bishops of Canada also call for a more profound reflection on married life and on the meaning of sexual intercourse. “Catholics and all men and women of good will” are encouraged to reflect on both in the light of Humanae Vitae and the “theology of the body.” “Sexuality is a friend, a gift of God,” they state. “It is revealed to us by the Trinitarian God” who invites Christians and others “to reveal it in turn in all its grandeur and dignity to our contemporaries at this start of the third millennium.”
The Bishops concluded, “In continuity with Paul VI and John Paul II and under the teachings of Benedict XVI, we invite Catholics and all men and women of good will to promote and defend life and the family.”
John Pacheco, a director of The Rosarium, a Catholic group which has sought to have the Winnipeg Statement overturned, praised the new statement in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com. “It’s a solid document and I think that it will go a long way to addressing a lot of concerns and fears of faithful Catholics,” said Pacheco. “It effectively supersedes the Winnipeg statement,” he said.
Regarding the Winnipeg Statement Pacheco said it’s “no longer the official position of the Canadian bishops.” While he maintains the Winnipeg statement should be formally retracted, Pacheco suggested that with the current document, the Winnipeg Statement is “de facto retracted.” Pacheco said, however, that the new push for faithfulness to Humanae Vitae must go beyond the paper to application.
“There has to be a vigorous application of what’s in the document at the parish level which would impact counseling to married couples, teaching them the ‘why’,” he said. Bishops have to commit themselves to teaching since there has been a vacuum in their teaching on the matter for forty years.”
See the full pastoral letter here: