Christine Dhanagom

Grisez Interview: New documents give the real story behind Paul VI Birth Control Commission

Christine Dhanagom
Christine Dhanagom

February 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Documents now open to the public reveal a new story about the fascinating inner workings of the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate, commonly referred to as the “Birth Control Commission,” which was behind the critical papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Dr. Germain Grisez, emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University and a close friend and advisor to Commission member Fr. John Ford, S.J., has made the documents available on his website, along with a narrative of the events surrounding the Commission’s work from 1964 to 1966. 

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Grisez revealed further information about the significance of these documents, which he believes stand to correct mistaken public perceptions about the events leading up to the issuing of Humanae Vitae.

The Commission was originally created by John XXIII shortly before his death in order to prepare for Vatican participation in a United Nations conference. Pope Paul VI expanded the Commission’s mandate to study the increasingly controversial issue of the Church’s teaching on contraception. 

Grisez explains on his website that Paul VI’s real interest was not in potentially revising the Church’s teaching, but in determining whether use of the birth control pill was condemned by that teaching. 

“From what Father Ford told me, I am certain that Paul VI was confident that Pius XI’s reaffirmation of the traditional teaching against contraception in Casti Connubii was sound and could not be contradicted,” Dr. Grisez told LifeSiteNews. “I also am certain that the issue about the pill was the only specific issue Pope Paul wanted investigated.”

Grisez explained that it had seemed plausible that the pill may not violate the integrity of the marital act, since, unlike barrier methods, the pill does not change “outward sexual behavior.”

Grisez supports his analysis on his website, pointing out that on June 23, 1964, when the Pope announced the Commission’s work, he indicated its mandate by referencing “not the teaching of Pius XI (who had taught that contraception is always gravely wrong) but that of Pius XII (who had rejected a forerunner of the pill).” 

Grisez became involved with the Commission’s work through his acquaintance with Fr. Ford, who was appointed as a member in 1964. He was also acquainted with another member of the Commission, American psychiatrist Dr. John Cavanagh, who shared with him a report of the first session of the newly expanded Commission. This is among the documents now available on Dr. Grisez’s website. 

What the document reveals, says Grisez, is that the Commission’s Secretary General, Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, OP, had “skillfully managed the session:” 

“Philosopher and lawyer John T. Noonan, Jr. was about to publish a book about the Church’s doctrine on contraception that was in effect a massive brief for the view that the teaching could change, and de Riedmatten had arranged for Noonan to summarize his case in a two-hour plenary meeting that opened the session’s discussions.

“Then, instead of focusing on the question of the birth control pill or even on the truth of the Church’s constant and very firm teaching, de Riedmatten focused on the question of whether, as he put it, the teaching was ‘reformable’ or ‘irreformable.’”

This, Dr. Grisez explains in his narrative, became the Commission’s focus in the meetings that followed. Grisez eventually went to Rome himself and assisted Fr. Ford in drafting various documents in support of the Church’s traditional teaching, a position held by a shrinking minority of the Commission’s members. 

In June of 1966, the Secretary General delivered the Commission’s Final Report to Pope Paul VI. The report consisted of a detailed account of the Commission’s work, followed by a draft document entitled the Schema of a Document on Responsible Parenthood, to be issued by the Holy Father announcing a change in the Church’s teaching. 

Grisez obtained a copy of the report when Cardinal Ottaviani, President of the Commission and an opponent of change, asked him and Fr. Ford to prepare a response to be delivered to the Holy Father. The Final Report, and Grisez and Ford’s response, are accessible on Grisez’s website. 

Grisez relates that he and Fr. Ford were “appalled but not surprised” by the bias reflected in the Secretary General’s report.

“I recall that Father Ford thought that the views of the majority were presented just as he expected those holding them would have wanted them presented, while the views of him and his colleagues were in some respects not adequately presented,” Grisez told LifeSiteNews. 

The report’s bias would evidently not have taken Pope Paul VI by surprise either. According to Grisez, Paul VI was aware of the ideological leanings of those he had appointed to the Commission, and had composed the Commission in this way in order to give their argument a fair hearing. 

“The way he enlarged the Commission and named the Cardinals and bishops who were its members during its final phase made it clear that he wanted to know what those who thought development was possible had to say,” Grisez explained. 

Moreover, despite the nature of his original mandate, relates Grisez, the Holy Father had “never set definite limits on the Commission’s work . . . But, of course, he expected the Commission’s results to be for his eyes alone, and so he expected to be able to set aside anything not consistent with the faith of the Church.”

This expectation was disappointed in the spring of 1967, when a translation of the Schema of a Document on Responsible Parenthood was leaked to the press. Originally written as a draft proposal document for the Holy Father, it was re-titled: “The Majority Report.”

Also leaked to the press was a document that had been prepared by Fr. Ford not as a final report, but as an internal paper written in defense of the Church’s traditional teaching, and presented to the Commission in the course of its sessions. Originally written in Latin, it was titled Status Quaestionis: Doctrina Ecclesiae Eiusque Status.

This latter document, translated into English and French, was re-made as the “Minority Report,” and presented as a counter part to the “Majority Report.” 

“The Schema Documenti was drafted with a view to publication by Paul VI, and it therefore omitted difficult arguments and was more reader friendly than either of the two theological position papers,” Grisez explained. “Most people who read it first, thinking it was the majority report, were impressed by its readability. The minority’s theological position paper, Status Quaestionis, by contrast, was harder to read and impressed readers as stiff and formal.”

Both documents are available on Grisez’s website under their authentic titles. In an introduction to the documents, Grisez expressed the hope that their publication would prove a benefit to the Church. 

Grisez told LifeSiteNews that the true story and original text of these documents counters “The mistaken public impression . . . that the number of those on the Commission who thought this or that mattered to Paul VI.”

Such an impression has been expressed by a number of influential Catholic writers, including Patty Crowley, a former member of the Commission who has since been involved in the founding of Call to Action, an organization which advocates married and female priests, and the democratization of Church decision-making processes. 

In a 1993 article published in the National Catholic Reporter, Crowley recounts her experience on the Commission and says that she felt “betrayed” by the Pope’s rejection of the majority opinion of the Commission. 

Crowley writes: “If, as in the majority opinion of the commission, birth control is not intrinsically evil, and if it is clear that the majority of Catholics are practicing some form of birth control, how can the official church continue to uphold the statements of Humanae Vitae?”

However, Grisez counters, Paul VI “was not interested in numbers. He was interested in finding evidence and reasons that would justify any sort of legitimate development of the traditional teaching. The Commission failed to provide any justification for change. . . . They presented the best case that could be made for change, but, after carefully studying that case, Paul VI found it wanting.”

As to Pope Paul VI’s original concern - whether the birth control pill constitutes contraception - Grisez notes that the Commission was in nearly unanimous agreement that the pill “presented no special problem.”

Agreeing with this assessment, Paul VI ultimately rejected the idea that the pill presented any special characteristic to make it an exception to the Church’s teaching.

“The Pope—on the issue that had mainly concerned him—acted in accord with the nearly unanimous advice of the Commission’s experts and members,” Grisez said.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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