September 16, 2016 (Cardinal Newman Society) — With the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae approaching in 2018, dozens of 1960s-era dissenting theologians have dusted off their Rules for Radicals handbooks and launched what hopefully will be a final senseless ploy to challenge the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception.
On September 20 at the United Nations, dissidents will release a statement signed by 135 scholars, including more than two dozen Catholic theologians and other professors at U.S. Catholic colleges. Among the signers are the infamous Father Charles Curran, who was ousted from The Catholic University of America by the Vatican in 1986 and now teaches at Southern Methodist University, and former Commonweal reporter Peter Steinfels.
They also include Georgetown University’s Peter Phan, whose 2004 book Being Religious Interreligiously was investigated by the Vatican and then the U.S. bishops for “serious ambiguities and doctrinal problems.” The Cardinal Newman Society has reported problems with other signers, including Fairfield University’s Paul Lakeland, Georgetown University’s Paul Lauritzen, and former professor Leslie Woodcock Tentler of The Catholic University of America.
“It is high time that Catholic colleges get it straight about the meaning and purpose of Catholic theology, first and foremost by ending their relationships with so-called theologians and other professors who publicly agitate against Catholic teaching and endanger the souls of their students,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The signers of the Wijngaards statement need to find a new line of work and stop the scandals.”
The so-called Wijngaards statement, organized by Dutch theologian and laicized priest John Wijngaards, aims to “encourage the Catholic hierarchy to reverse their stance against so called ‘artificial’ contraceptives.” The statement also urges that changes to Catholic teaching on masturbation, homosexual relationships and in vitro fertilization be considered.
The Wijngaards statement denies the inherent connection between the sexual act and procreation. “The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse,” the authors claim, “do not have the biological ‘capacity’ for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their ‘finality’ or ‘significance.’” The authors claim that artificial contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP) are “morally equivalent.”
Going further off the cliff, the signers argue that the Church does not have the authority to teach definitively on the use of contraceptives. It is “incorrect to deduce a divine command directly from the existence of a law of nature,” they argue, and the teaching of Humanae Vitae has never “been shown to be essential for the truth of the Christian revelation.” An appeal to the “constant tradition of magisterial teaching” is not enough for the authors to accept it.
Two of the statement’s authors and lead signers are Creighton University’s Michael Lawler and Todd Salzman. Salzman has been a theologian at the Jesuit university since 1997, and Lawler was a theology professor and dean of Creighton’s graduate school until his retirement in 2005. But the two have co-written works dissenting from Catholic teaching against premarital sexual activity and homosexual acts under certain circumstances, prompting protests from Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss. In 2007 he cut ties with Creighton’s Center for Marriage and Family, after The Cardinal Newman Society voiced concerns about Lawler and Salzman’s work with the Center.
Other signers from U.S. Catholic colleges include the following, with affiliations as described in the letter:
Prof. Maria Pilar Aquino, ‘Theology and Religious Studies’, San Diego University; co-founder of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians, USA;
Prof. Peter Beisheim, Religious Studies & Director Catholic Studies Program, Stonehill College, North Easton, MA, USA;
Prof. Sidney Callahan, Paul J. McKeever Chair of Moral Theology (Emerita), St. John’s University, Queens, New York, USA;
Prof. Paul E. Dinter,, Religious Studies, Manhattan College, New York, USA;
Prof. John Esposito, Religion and International Affairs, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA;
Prof. Frederick Glennon, Religion, Social Ethics and Society, Le Moyne College, Syracuse NY, USA;
Prof. John F. Haught, Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA;
Prof. David Kelly, Theology and Health Care Ethics (Emeritus), Duquesne University, Pittsburgh PA, USA;
Prof. Paul Lakeland, Professor of Religious Studies & Director Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University, Fairfield CT, USA;
Prof. Paul Lauritzen, Theology and Religious Studies, John Carroll University, University Heights OH, USA;
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Prof. Kathleen Maas Weigert, ‘Women and Leadership’, Loyola University, Chicago IL, USA;
Prof. Joseph Martos, previously ‘Religion and Philosophy’ at various Catholic Universities; now independent author and scholar, Louisville, Kentucky, USA;
Prof. Michael McKale, Philosophical and Religious Studies & Director, Institute for Ethics, Saint Francis University, Loretto PA, USA;
Dr. Sr. Amirtham Metti, Theology, writer and guest lecturer at many colleges in India, visiting fellow Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA;
Assistant Prof. Alex Mikulich, ‘Theology of social and political transformation’, Loyola University, New Orleans, USA;
Prof. Peter C. Phan, three doctorates: ‘Sacred Theology’ (Salesian University, Rome), ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Divinity’ (both University of London); now ‘Catholic Social Thought’, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA;
Prof. Susan K. Ross, Theology, Loyola University, Chicago, USA;
Prof. Brian Stiltner, Theology and Religious Studies, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield CT, USA;
Prof. Peter Steinfels, Professor (Emeritus), Fordham University, founding co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, New York City, USA;
Prof. Edward Sunshine, Moral Theology (Emeritus), Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida, USA;
Prof. Milburn Thompson, Theology (Emeritus), Bellarmine University, Louisville, Kentucky, USA;
Prof. Edward Vacek S.J., Religious Studies, Loyola University, New Orleans LA, USA;
Associate Prof. Tobias Winright, ‘Health Care Ethics’, Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, and ‘Theological Ethics’, Dept of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University, USA;
Prof. Leslie Woodcock Tentler, History (Emerita), Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA
According to Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Tuesday’s release of the statement is co-sponsored by three United Nations agencies: “the U.N. Population Fund, U.N. Women, and U.N. AIDS, powerful agencies with combined budgets of more than a billion dollars a year.”
The statement was organized through the Wijngaards Institute, an organization based in England that seeks to change Church teaching on issues including the ordination of women. Its website promotes a disordered understanding of human sexuality, claiming that “sexual morality has ultimately to be decided by everyone’s own conscience.”
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.