Christine Dhanagom

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

Christine Dhanagom
Christine Dhanagom

February 24, 2011 ( - 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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BREAKING: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

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By John Jalsevac

Nov. 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Five hours after a single male shooter reportedly opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, chatter on police radio is indicating that the suspect has now been "detained."

"We have our suspect and he says he is alone," said police on the police radio channel. 

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers also confirmed via Twitter shortly after 7:00 pm EST that the suspect was in custody.

The news comes almost exactly an hour after the start of a 6:00 pm. press conference in which Lt. Catherine Buckley had confirmed that a single shooter was still at large, and had exchanged gunfire with police moments before.

According to Lt. Buckley, four, and possibly five police officers have been shot since the first 911 call was received at 11:38 am local time today. An unknown number of civilians have also been shot.

Although initial reports had suggested that the shooting began outside the Planned Parenthood, possibly outside a nearby bank, Lt. Buckley said that in fact the incident began at the Planned Parenthood itself.

She said that the suspect had also brought unknown "items" with him to the Planned Parenthood. 

Pro-life groups have started responding to the news, urging caution in jumping to conclusions about the motivations of the shooter, while also condemning the use of violence in promoting the pro-life cause. 

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Pavone. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion.

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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Rubio says SCOTUS didn’t ‘settle’ marriage issue: ‘God’s rules always win’

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Surging GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, says that "God's law" trumps the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision imposing same-sex “marriage” nationwide.

The senator also told Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody that the Supreme Court's redefinition of marriage is not "settled," but instead "current law."

“No law is settled,” said Rubio. “Roe v. Wade is current law, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to aspire to fix it, because we think it’s wrong.”

“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called to participate in that process to try to change it,” he explained, and "the proper place for that to be defined is at the state level, where marriage has always been regulated — not by the Supreme Court and not by the federal government.”

However, when laws conflict with religious beliefs, "God's rules always win," said Rubio.

“In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin — violate God’s law and sin — if we’re ordered to stop preaching the Gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that,” Rubio expounded. “We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

“I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman," said the senator, who earlier in the fall was backed by billionaire GOP donor and same-sex "marriage" supporter Paul Singer.

Singer, who also backs looser immigration laws and a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, has long pushed for the GOP to change its position on marriage in part due to the sexual orientation of his son.

Despite Singer's support, Rubio's marriage stance has largely been consistent. He told Brody earlier in the year that "there isn't such a right" to same-sex "marriage."

"You have to have a ridiculous reading of the U.S. Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex."

Rubio also said religious liberty should be defended against LGBT activists he says "want to stigmatize, they want to ostracize anyone who disagrees with them as haters."

"I believe, as do a significant percentage of Americans, that the institution of marriage, an institution that existed before government, that existed before laws, that institution should remain in our laws recognized as the union of one man and one woman," he said.

Rubio also hired social conservative leader Eric Teetsel as his director of faith outreach this month.

However, things have not been entirely smooth for Rubio on marriage. Social conservatives were concerned when the executive director of the LGBT-focused Log Cabin Republicans told Reuters in the spring that the Catholic senator is "not as adamantly opposed to all things LGBT as some of his statements suggest."

The LGBT activist group had meetings with Rubio's office "going back some time," though the senator himself never attended those meetings. Rubio has publicly said that he would attend the homosexual "wedding" of a gay loved one, and also that he believed "that sexual preference is something that people are born with," as opposed to being a choice.

Additionally, days after the Supreme Court redefined marriage, Rubio said that he disagreed with the decision but that "we live in a republic and must abide by the law."

"I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman," he said. "People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

Rubio also said at the time that "it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood…"

“I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

The Florida senator said in July that he opposed a constitutional marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution to leave marriage up to the states because that would involve the federal government in state marriage policies.

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Former The View star Sherri Shepherd and then-husband Lamar Sally in 2010 s_bukley /
Steve Weatherbe

Court orders Sherri Shepherd to pay child support for surrogate son she abandoned

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Sherri Shepherd, a Hollywood celebrity who co-hosted the popular talk show The View for seven years, has lost a maternity suit launched by her ex-husband Lamar Sally, forcing her to pay him alimony and child support for their one-year surrogate son LJ. The decision follows an unseemly fight which pro-life blogger Cassy Fiano says has exposed how surrogacy results in “commodifying” the unborn.

Shepherd, a co-host of the View from 2007 to 2014, met Sally, a screenwriter, in 2010 and they married a year later. Because her eggs were not viable, they arranged a surrogate mother in Pennsylvania to bear them a baby conceived in vitro using Sally’s sperm and a donated egg.

But the marriage soured in mid-term about the time Shepherd lost her job with The View. According to one tabloid explanation, she was worried he would contribute little to parenting responsibilities.  Sally filed for separation in 2014, Shepherd filed for divorce a few days, then Sally sued for sole custody, then alimony and child support.

Earlier this year she told PEOPLE she had gone along with the surrogacy to prevent the breakup of the marriage and had not really wanted the child.

Shepherd, an avowed Christian who once denied evolution on The View and a successful comic actor on Broadway, TV, and in film since the mid-90s, didn’t want anything to do with LJ, as Lamar named the boy, who after all carried none of her genes. She refused to be at bedside for the birth, and refused to let her name be put on the birth certificate and to shoulder any responsibility for LJ’s support.

But in April the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and now the state’s Superior Court, ruled that Shepherd’s name must go on the birth certificate and she must pay Sally alimony and child support.

“The ultimate outcome is that this baby has two parents and the parents are Lamar Sally and Sherri Shepherd,” Shepherd’s lawyer Tiffany Palmer said.

As for the father, Sally told PEOPLE, “I'm glad it's finally over. I'm glad the judges saw through all the lies that she put out there, and the negative media attention. If she won't be there for L.J. emotionally, I'll be parent enough for the both of us.”

But Shepherd said, “I am appealing the ruling that happened,” though in the meantime, Sally will “get his settlement every month. There’s nothing I can do.”

Commented Fiano in Live Action News, “What’s so sickening about this case is that this little boy, whose life was created in a test tube, was treated as nothing more than a commodity…Saying that you don’t want a baby but will engineer one to get something you want is horrific.” As for trying to get out from child support payments now that the marriage had failed, that was “despicable.”

Fiano went on to characterize the Shepherd-Sally affair as a “notable example” of commodification of children, and “by no means an anomaly.” She cited a British report than over the past five years 123 babies conceived in vitro were callously aborted when they turned out to have Down Syndrome.

“When we’re not ready for babies, we have an abortion,” she added. “But then when we decide we are ready we manufacture them in a laboratory and destroy any extras. Children exist when we want them to exist, to fill the holes in us that we want them to fill, instead of being independent lives with their own inherent value and dignity.”

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