Interview: Liberal Catholic turns orthodox by embracing Humanae Vitae
LOS ANGELES, December 8, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It is often said that the hardest journey to faith is when one approaches it, not from the outside, from atheism or lapsed faith, but from within, with just enough Christian teaching mixed with error so as to be inoculated against authentic faith.
So what does one who has traversed this arduous journey look like? What does he do, and where does he go with his newfound faith?
In the case of Patrick Coffin, he is now a radio show host on Catholic Answer’s Live, which airs on EWTN, and has authored a book explaining his path to authentic faith. That journey was, he says, primarily about surmounting the stumbling block of Humanae Vitae, which is seen by orthodox Catholics, and even many non-Catholics, as a cornerstone of the Culture of Life.
LifeSiteNews spoke with Coffin about his journey and his new book ‘Sex Au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for your Marriage’. The book has received rave reviews from philosopher Peter Kreeft, Sydney Cardinal George Pell, Kimberley Hahn, Fr. Frank Pavone, and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, among others.
In addition to tracing his conversion, Sex Au Naturel presents Theology of the Body in an easy-to-understand nutshell, contains a Biblical guide through the proofs for the God’s stance against contraception, and blasts the myths of overpopulation. Coffin’s wit and style come through loud and clear in the book, on radio and in this interview…
Q. When most Catholics come to the stumbling block of Humanae Vitae, for you it was the cornerstone which led you to fullness of truth. Why?
A: This is hard to answer succinctly because my “cradle reversion” did not happen in an instant or even a series of instants. Owing to the fact that I am clever but not wise, I took an abnormally long bit of time to understand the message of Humanae Vitae.
Growing up under the long shadow of the Winnipeg Statement, which for all intents and purposes made the encyclical into a toothless lion, it was never explained to me how the norms Paul VI was spelling out were actually binding on everyone, not just conservative Catholics.
Sitting down and reading the thing with as open a mind as I could muster was a big first step. So was discovering the writings of people like Janet Smith, Mary Rosere Joyce, and Servant of God Fulton Sheen. In the end, I saw that what was at stake was not just an arcane man-made rule (not to mention prudish and unrealistic) but the possible loss of salvation.
The Church has never wavered, and has only deepened her treatment of contraception. It’s an ineluctable part of the whole of the deposit of faith. As I describe in the book, it was like a big game of Jenga, in which the whole structure of the Catholic sacramental life, and of marriage and sexuality, stood or fell with the main “wooden block” of Humanae Vitae; namely that each and every marital act must be open to new life.
If that principle is false, then I had no consistent ground on which to stay Catholic or even to believe Jesus rose from the dead. Another discovery was that Paul VI did not make any arguments, per se, about the evil of contraception. Instead, he bore witness to 2000 years of Christian teaching and practice. Of course, he also made what we may now call prophetic utterances about what would transpire if the teaching was rejected.
If one is a dissenter - as I have been - what I am saying here probably will not, on its own, make a dent in the dissent. Acceptance of Humanae Vitae is bound up with the acceptance of the lordship of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not Lord of our sexuality, He is Lord of nothing.
Q. Describe life as a liberal Catholic vs life as a fully believing Catholic.
A: That’s a very good question. My personal preference is the term heterodoxy over liberalism, but I think the basic answer to your question is that my “liberal Catholic life” was a life half lived.
The liberal Catholic project wants the trappings of the real thing but without the substance. It wants the lion of Judah, but without the teeth part of the lion. My theological training was also geared toward loving the journey (liberals are big on “The Journey”), but not exactly loving the destination. The search for truth was held in very high esteem, while finding it - not so much.
When I gave my life to the Lord and finally (albeit slowly) understood that the Catholic Church cannot be separated from her Founder, I got the biggest shock of all: that the Truth had been searching for me all along.
Acceptance of Humanae Vitae is a nearly perfect litmus test for orthodoxy in other areas. If you hold to this vital part of Catholic teaching, you will also hold to the whole. Dissent from Humanae Vitae, on the other hand, is invariably joined to dissent from other “life issues,” as we call them nowadays. When was the last time you saw a gay activist group walking alongside pro-lifers at an anti-abortion rally? How many pastors who dissent from Humanae Vitae preach homilies against co-habitation? Humanae Vitae is the wall hook that holds up the entire garment of the Catholic sexual ethic.
Q. Did you lose friends over this transformation?
A: Fortunately, the Lord was very kind to me in this regard. Honestly, the answer is no. I left Halifax to start a graduate program in the philosophy of Catholic education at McGill University, and then taught high school in and around Toronto for three years, and before I began my master’s degree in theology at Franciscan University, I spent a wonderful year discerning the priesthood with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa.
This is a long-winded way of saying that as I grew in Catholic orthodoxy, God put great people in my life as encouragements and friends in Christ. Virtually none of my high school pals or college buddies trod a similar path as mine. So if I had been in one city the whole time, I know I would have felt the sting of losing friends because of my deepened commitment to the faith. Jesus gave us ample warning about what friendship with Him entails, and the shifting of priorities that must take place if that friendship is to flourish.
Q. How long did your reformation process take? Did your girlfriend/wife come along on the journey or did you meet her afterward?
No, I met my wife in Los Angeles long after I truly “poped”! In my case, I knew so little about what the Catholic Church taught that it’s more accurate to call it a rediscovery of the intellectual and spiritual gifts I got at Confirmation, rather than a true reformation. For this late bloomer and dedicated slowpoke, it took a number of years.
Q. You have a provocative headline and use provocative and biting wit throughout. Your friends note that’s just your personality shining through. What gave you the chutzpah to be so personal about such a touchy topic?
Hah! Well, it’s not as if I made a public confession of all my sins in the book, but what I did want to do was to take Humanae Vitae out from under the bushel basket under which it’s been placed, and simply let it be seen and heard.
While chastity has always been, rightly, at the heart of the Catholic approach to discipleship, prudishness has not. My goal with Sex Au Naturel (or, sex that is free of the albatross-like encumbrance of birth control) was to make people think by making them either laugh, or by making them realize in my own little off beat way how many misunderstandings they’ve been carrying around for years about contraception, natural family planning, and the other teachings that touch upon the mystery of human sexuality.
The Foreword written by Peter Kreeft for the book summarizes this better than I can.
Q. What significance do you see in this topic of human sexuality in the world today?
It’s good that you put it that way, as opposed to “in the Church today.” I mention this because the moral content of Humanae Vitae is addressed to “all men of good will.” It is based not on sectarian considerations but on the natural moral law, which universally applies as much to Manhattan mavens as to Polynesian pygmies.
The fact is, the sexual revolution could never have gotten out of first gear without contraception. This is a truth so obvious that even Raquel Welch could defend and articulate it recently. And is there a more potent symbol of the hopes and dreams of the sexual revolution than Raquel Welch?
If love and life can be separated by contraception - if man can tear asunder what God has joined - then we must prepare for the brave new world into which our logic leads. For behind the horror of abortion lurks an implicit acceptance of contraception, which also directly animates the arguments of the homosexualist movement.
The premises of contraception have also led to the mainstreaming of pornography. Same with the drive for in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research, the latter of which has produced what? Only a long roster of dead little persons and a grand total of zero medical cures.
The good news is, a counter sexual revolution has gained a solid foothold in the Secular City. Thanks be to God that the truth and beauty of sex as God intends it to be is gaining new respectability.
Who among the half naked, rain-drenched throng back at Woodstock in 1969 would have predicted today’s burgeoning chastity movement, or the impact of the theology of the body, or a swing dance craze on college campuses?
More to the point, the younger priests being ordained today - along with the “John Paul II priests” who are now being consecrated as bishops - these men love Jesus Christ and want to make him better loved and the truths He taught to be better known.
I wrote Sex Au Naturel to be of help to anyone - Catholic or Protestant or atheist - who is looking for accessible way to understand and explain an issue more notorious for its heat than its light.
The book is available for purchase here.
‘Little miracles’: Mom gives birth to naturally-conceived quintuplets after refusing ‘selective reduction’
AUSTRALIA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A 26-year-old Australian mom has given birth to five healthy babies, all conceived naturally, after refusing the doctor’s advice that she must abort three of them in order to give the remaining two a better chance at life.
“After my initial ultrasound I was told I could consider the selection method to give 2 babies the best chance in life,” wrote mom Kim Tucci in a Facebook post last September.
“I watched a YouTube video on the procedure and I cried. I could never do that! Was I selfish for not giving two the chance of 100% survival? All I knew is that I already love them and that every heart beat I heard I connect with them more. For me life starts when a heart starts beating and all I know for sure is that I will do whatever it takes to bring them into this world healthy,” she wrote.
Last Thursday Kim and her husband Vaughn welcomed the five new members into their family — one boy and four girls —increasing the number of their children from 3 to 8. The babies were born at 30 weeks, 10 weeks early, due to insufficient space in Kim’s womb. They weighed on average about 2.5 pounds.
The quintuplets’ story began last March, after Kim and Vaughn had been trying for six months to conceive just one more child for their family. Due to health complications, Kim wondered if she would ever become a mother again.
After what she thought was an extra long cycle, she decided to take a pregnancy test.
“I was feeling tired and a little nauseated and thought I would take a pregnancy test just to get the ‘what if’ out of my head. To my shock and utter excitement it was positive,” she wrote on a Facebook post.
The parents got the shock of their lives when doctors confirmed in an ultrasound examination that there was not one baby, but five.
“After a long wait for the ultrasound we finally went in. The sonographer told me there were multiple gestational sacks, but she could only see a heart beat in two. I was so excited! Twins!”
“I was moved to another machine for a clearer view and had the head doctor come in and double check the findings. She started to count, one, two, three, four, five. Did i hear that correctly? Five? My legs start to shake uncontrollably and all i can do is laugh. The sonographer then told me the term for five is ‘quintuplets,’” Kim wrote.
Even though Kim began to feel stretched to the limit with all those human lives growing inside her, she chose to focus on her babies, and not herself, referring to them as “my five little miracles.”
“It's getting harder as each day passes to push through the pain, every part of my body aches and sleeping is becoming very painful. No amount of pillows are helping support my back and belly. Sometimes I get so upset that I just want to throw my hands up and give in.”
“Sometimes my pelvis becomes so stiff I can barely walk and my hips feel like they are grinding away constantly. I'm finding it hard to eat as I basically have no room left in my stomach, and the way it is positioned it's pushed all the way back with the babies leaning against it.”
“My skin on my belly is so stretched its painful and hot to touch. It literally feels like I have hives! No amount of cream helps relieve the discomfort. I have a lot of stretch marks now. Dealing with such a huge change in my body is hard.”
“Is it all worth it? Yes!!!! I will keep pushing through,” she wrote in one Facebook post days before the babies were born.
The newborns' names are Keith, Ali, Penelope, Tiffany, and Beatrix. They were born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, Western Australia. Mother and babies are reported to be doing well.
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UN rights chief tells Catholic countries to legalize abortion over Zika virus: bishops and cardinal react
GENEVA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The United Nations, following the lead of international abortion activists, is now urging Latin American countries hit by the mosquito-borne Zika virus to lift restrictions on abortion for pregnant women who have contacted the virus and whose pre-born children may be at risk for birth defects, including having smaller than normal heads.
The UN human rights office said today that it is not enough for South American countries to urge women to postpone pregnancy without also offering them abortion as a final solution.
“How can they ask these women not to become pregnant, but not offer… the possibility to stop their pregnancies?” UN spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told reporters.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that governments should make available contraception and abortion services.
“Laws and policies that restrict (women’s) access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice,” he said.
But Brazil’s bishops strongly asserted yesterday that efforts should be made to eradicate the virus, not the people who may be infected by it.
The disease is “no justification whatsoever to promote abortion,” they said in a statement, adding that it is not morally acceptable to promote abortion “in the cases of microcephaly, as, unfortunately, some groups are proposing to the Supreme Federal Court, in a total lack of respect for the gift of life.”
Honduras Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has also come out strongly against the notion of “therapeutic abortions” as a response to the problem. Unlike Brazil where abortion is legal in the case of rape or health of the mother, abortion remains entirely illegal in Honduras.
“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in a homily at a February 3 Mass in Suyap. “Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives,” he said.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency February 1 on account of concerns over the virus, critics have pointed out, however, that not one death as resulted from the virus. Even on WHO’s own website the virus is described in mild terms.
“It causes mild fever and rash. Other symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and conjunctivitis. Zika virus disease is usually mild, with symptoms lasting only a few days,” the website states. “To date, there have been no reported deaths associated with Zika virus,” it added.
Critics suspect that the crisis is being manipulated to advance an anti-human agenda on the pre-born.
“Is Zika, actually, a hideous virus that threatens to spread uncontrollably across the world creating an army of disabled children with tiny heads and low IQ’s? Or might this be a willful misinterpretation of the scarce data to manipulate public opinion and legislatures?” wrote pro-life critic Mei-Li Garcia earlier this week.
“It becomes very clear that the publicity surrounding this story has a very little to do with medicine and a lot to do with a convenient crisis that is being used by those pushing for the legalization of abortion around the world,” she wrote.
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Hillary’s litmus test for Supreme Court picks: They must ‘preserve Roe v. Wade’
DERRY, NH, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Hillary Clinton has a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees - several, in fact. At a Democratic event on Wednesday, Clinton unveiled her criteria in selecting a judge for the nation's highest court.
“I do have a litmus test, I have a bunch of litmus tests," she said.
"We’ve got to make sure to preserve Roe v. Wade, not let it be nibbled away or repealed,” she said.
That echoes her recent call to arms speech before Planned Parenthood last month, when she stated that taxpayers must fund abortion-on-demand in order to uphold the "right" of choice.
“We have to preserve marriage equality,” Clinton said, referring to last summer's Obergefell v. Hodges case, a 5-4 ruling that redefined marriage nationwide. “We have to go further to end discrimination against the LGBT community."
Her views differentiate her from the Republican front runners. Ted Cruz has called the court's marriage ruling "fundamentally illegitimate," and Donald Trump told Fox News Sunday this week that he would "be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things." Marco Rubio has said he won't "concede" the issue to the one-vote majority.
All Republican presidential hopefuls say they are pro-life and will defund Planned Parenthood.
Her husband, Bill Clinton, raised the makeup of the Supreme Court early last month in New Hampshire, saying it receives "almost no attention" as a campaign issue.
On Wednesday, Hillary said "the next president could get as many as three appointments. It’s one of the many reasons why we can’t turn the White House over to the Republicans again.”
Clinton said her judicial appointees must also reverse the Citizens United ruling on campaign finance and oppose a recent decision striking down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013's Shelby County v. Holder, justices struck down Section 4(b) of the act, which said that certain states and jurisdictions had to obtain permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws.
At one time, most politicians frowned upon any "litmus test" for judicial nominees, emphasizing the independence of the third branch of government. "I don't believe in litmus tests," Jeb Bush told Chuck Todd last November.
But with the rise of an activist judiciary in the middle of the 20th century, constitutionalists have sought to rein in the power of the bench.