ROME, January 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – “What the Church teaches about contraception is not a matter of free discussion among theologians,” Pope John Paul II said in 1987. “Teaching the contrary is tantamount to inducing the moral conscience of spouses into error.”
These are the words of Pope John Paul II, in an address delivered at a study meeting on responsible procreation, translated into English for the first time this week by LifeSiteNews.
In the message, the saintly pontiff also warned against “many” who think that “Christian teaching, although true, is nonetheless unfeasible, at least in some circumstances.” He said the Church’s Tradition has “constantly taught that God does not command the impossible” and that he gives man sufficient grace to freely fulfill his commands.
John Paul II also stated that the “most serious” difficulty in forming married couples to live out the fullness of married love are the “voices” inside the Church “that call into question the truth of the Church’s teaching.” This teaching, he said, was forcefully expressed by Vatican II, in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, and in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
This rediscovered text, published in full below, comes as a Vatican-appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life has claimed on the basis of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, that there are circumstances that not only allow but even “require” married couples to use artificial contraception.
When “natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found,” Italian moral theologian Father Maurizio Chiodi argued in a lecture delivered on Dec. 14, 2017 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In such circumstances, he said, “an artificial method for the regulation of births could be recognized as an act of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child, but because in those situations responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”
As LifeSiteNews first reported on Jan. 8., Fr. Chiodi’s talk, entitled Re-reading Humanae Vitae (1968) in light of Amoris Laetitia (2016), was part of a conference series organized by the Gregorian University’s department of moral theology, directed by Argentine Jesuit Father Humberto Miguel Yanez.
Fr. Yanez is known to be close to Pope Francis. In May 2015, he participated in the “secret synod” at the Gregorian, during which a number of theologians sought to sway the synod on the family to accept same-sex unions and to dispense with the term “intrinsically evil.”
Fr. Chiodi’s talk was prominently featured this week in the Italian bishops’ official newspaper, Avvenire. The text was introduced with a commentary entitled, “From Pope Montini to Francis, development in fidelity.” Fr. Chiodi’s talk had been redacted, however, eliminating the first section dedicated to his rebuttal of positions expressed by key members of JPII Institutes around the world, in an article published in First Things during the 2015 Synod on the Family.
Absent, too, were all references to Pope John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical on the fundamentals of the Church’s moral theology, Veritatis Splendor. In his public lecture, Fr. Chiodi attributed the increasing importance of Humanae Vitae through the years to its insertion in John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, n. 29-34, but especially, he said, “to the fact that Veritatis Splendor n. 80 includes contraception as among the ‘intrinsically evil’ acts.” He also partly justified his theory of allowing artificial contraception in some cases because Pope Francis makes no “explicit reference” to contraception as “intrinsically evil” in Amoris Laetitia, adding that “it would have been very easy to do so given Veritatis Splendor.”
But Fr. Chiodi is not the only new “voice” of the Pontifical Academy for Life publicly expressing dissenting views on Humanae Vitae and the Church’s moral teaching. The National Catholic Register reported on Monday that another new member, German moral theologian Gerhard Höver, proposed in a reflection on Amoris Laetitia posted on the Academy’s website, that the term “intrinsically evil” is too restricting, as it fails to account for the complexity of different situations.
Jesuit Father Alain Thomasset, also a new member of the academy since last year, has said he does not believe in the existence of the term.
In his 1987 address, translated here for the first time, Pope John Paul II said that “ensuring that spouses live their vocation in a holy manner” is among the “most urgent and important” pastoral concerns for the Church. He therefore urged those involved in forming married couples in responsible procreation to “encourage spouses to follow the moral principles inherent in the natural law and in a healthy Christian conscience. Teach them to seek and to love the will of God. Encourage them to respect and to fulfill the sublime vocation to spousal love and the gift of life.”
In order that Pope John Paul II’s teaching may not be drowned out by the “voices” present in the Church today, here below we offer our readers a translation of his brief 1987 address.
ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO PARTICIPANTS IN A STUDY MEETING ON RESPONSIBLE PROCREATION
Friday, June 5, 1987
Dear brothers and sisters,
1. I warmly greet you and thank you for your presence, and I am pleased with the “Study and Research Center for the Natural Regulation of Fertility” at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart’s faculty of medicine, for having promoted a study meeting on issues related to responsible procreation.
Your commitment is inscribed in the mission of the Church and participates in it, owing to a pastoral concern which is among the most urgent and important. It is about ensuring that spouses live their marriage in a holy manner. You offer to help them on their journey towards holiness, for the full realization of their conjugal vocation.
It is well known that often — as the Second Vatican Council has also revealed (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 51,1) — one of the main anxieties that spouses face is constituted by the difficulty of realizing the ethical value of responsible procreation in their conjugal life. The same Council bases a just solution to this problem on the truth that there can be no contradiction between the divine law concerning the transmission of human life and true conjugal love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 2). To speak of a “conflict of values or goods” and of the consequent need to “balance” them, choosing one and rejecting the other, is not morally correct and only generates confusion in the conscience of the spouses. The grace of Christ gives spouses the real capacity to fulfill the whole “truth” of their conjugal love. You desire to bear witness concretely to this possibility and thus give married couples an invaluable help: to live their conjugal communion in its fullness. Despite the difficulties you may encounter, it is necessary to continue with generous dedication.
2. The difficulties you encounter vary in nature. The first, and in a certain sense the most serious, is that also in the Christian community, voices have been heard and are heard that call into question the truth of the Church’s teaching. This teaching was expressed forcefully by Vatican II, by the encyclical Humanae Vitae, by the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, and by the recent instruction “The gift of life.” In this regard, a serious responsibility emerges: those who place themselves in open contrast with the law of God, authentically taught by the Church, guide spouses on a wrong path. What the Church teaches about contraception is not a matter of free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary is tantamount to inducing the moral conscience of the spouses into error.
The second difficulty is constituted by the fact that many think that the Christian teaching, although true, is nonetheless unfeasible, at least in some circumstances. As the Tradition of the Church has constantly taught, God does not command the impossible but every commandment also entails a gift of grace which helps human freedom to fulfill it. Yet constant prayer, frequent recourse to the sacraments and the exercise of conjugal chastity are needed. Your commitment, then, must not be limited to teaching only a method for controlling human fertility. This information should be inserted into the context of a complete educational plan, which addresses the person of the spouses, considered in their integrity. Without this anthropological context, what you propose would risk being misunderstood. You are clearly convinced of this, for you have always put a correct anthropological and ethical reflection at the foundation of your courses.
Today more than yesterday, man is again beginning to feel the need for truth and right reason in his daily experience. Always be ready to say, without ambiguity, the truth about the good and evil regarding man and the family.
With these sentiments I wish to encourage the unique service of apostolate that you seek to carry out in dioceses and family formation centers. In educating in responsible procreation, know how to encourage spouses to follow the moral principles inherent in the natural law and in a healthy Christian conscience. Teach them to seek and to love the will of God. Encourage them to respect and to fulfill the sublime vocation to spousal love and the gift of life.
Gladly do I bless you all, your loved ones and the initiatives of your apostolate.
[Translation from the Italian by Diane Montagna]