A Brazilian married couple issued a strong call to Pope Francis and the other Synod fathers at the Vatican’s ongoing Synod on the Family to address the fact that a large number of Catholic clergy have ignored Pope Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical which reiterated the Church's condemnation of artificial contraception as immoral.
While the question of Communion for divorced and remarried couples has taken center stage in public discussions about the Synod, Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline emphasized that the Church must focus on helping couples cultivate healthy marriages to begin with by providing them with clear teachings on sexuality.
“Sexuality is a factor of sanctification,” they observed, adding that at present it “needs to be saved from the unhealthy eroticism that reduces the human being to only one dimension.”
In particular, they said, the Church must clear up the widespread confusion between artificial contraception and other, natural means of spacing children, which the Church considers moral when used for sufficiently serious reasons.
“Given the seriousness of the environment in which we find ourselves, we must admit without fear that many Catholic married couples, including those who try to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obliged to use only natural methods,” said Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, a couple married 41 years who serve as directors of the Equipe Notre-Dame Movement in Brazil, according to a translation by Zenit.
“It is no different in Equipes Notre-Dame,” they continued. “We must say, moreover, that in general, they are not questioned by confessors. On one hand, married couples are open to life and reject abortion; this is a fact. On the other, we do not perceive in preaching and spiritual attention insistence on the doctrine of Humanae Vitae.”
The As Zamberlines said it would be a “great encouragement” if at least clergy could offer couples “light and support” on the issue, but “many times contradictory advice aggravates their confusion.”
“We ask the Magisterium to give the Fathers and faithful the great lines of a pastoral pedagogy, which helps to adopt and observe the principles agreed by Humanae Vitae,” they said.
Equipes Notre-Dame is a family movement devoted to “conjugal spirituality” that operates in 70 countries. According to the As Zamberlines, there are 137,200 members worldwide, with 45,500 in Brazil.
The couple spoke Thursday morning during a Synod session on “pastoral challenges regarding openness to life.”
During their talk they quoted their movement’s founder, Father Henri Caffarel, stating, “No married couple has the right to be sterile.”
“Sterility is not limited to not having children. We understand it as a deliberate closed position to God’s creative gift, which is expressed in the different dimensions of conjugal love,” they explain.
“The married couple is not fecund only because it generates children, but because it loves itself and, loving itself, opens itself to life,” they added. “Different from those that, by free choice, decide, egotistically, not to receive life.”
The couple observed that “sexuality is a factor of sanctification,” saying that today “it needs to be saved from the unhealthy eroticism that reduces the human being to only one dimension.”
The Brazilian couple was introduced Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, who stressed, according to a translation by Zenit, that “knowledge and reception of the Magisterium on openness to life are essential.”
“In fact, numerous are those who have difficulty in making the distinction between natural methods for the regulation of fertility and contraception,” he continued. “The main causes of this difficult reception come from the difference between the Christian anthropological conception and that of the prevailing mentality. Thus, it is that from the pastoral point of view, it is important first of all to make known – in a new language and in collaboration with the university world — the coherence of the anthropological vision proposed by the Church.”
“In the end, it is necessary to encourage a mentality open to life to counteract the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualistic anthropological model that determines, in certain regions of the world, a strong demographic fall whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently taken into consideration today,” he added.
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