Canada and the West is in a crisis caused by ideologies that oppose the sanctity of human life and the institution of marriage and the family, said Ottawa Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at a conference on the family on the weekend.
“At the root of it is, as Pope Benedict called it, the Dictatorship of Relativism. We don’t get to make the rules. God makes the rules. Or rather, God has designed us beautifully, and written his plan for our happiness in our hearts and on our bodies,” he said to participants at the conference which took place at Dominican University College in Ottawa.
Prendergast alluded to a movement within the Church to have her change her teachings on sexual morality in order to accommodate people living in objective states of disorder, calling the motivation behind it a “false sensitivity or tolerance which suggests it’s good to allow people to continue down a dangerous path.”
“As if misleading people is somehow more loving,” he said.
“Pope Francis describes such an approach as ‘deceptive mercy,’ a false mercy which bandages wounds but fails to heal them,” he added.
Prendergast commented on the significance of Pope Francis beatifying Pope Paul VI, the author of the landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae — on the grave immorality of contraception within marriage — at the conclusion of the first portion of the Synod. The encyclical taught that “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life.”
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Calling Blessed Paul VI a “heroic witness,” Prendergast said the “prophetic” 1968 encyclical encouraged Catholics to “continue in the 2000 year history of celebrating the gift of sexual fruitfulness.”
“Rather than resorting to contraception, Blessed Paul VI challenged us to find natural means for couples to be generous and responsible parents,” he said.
Canadian bishops have yet to revisit their official position on the encyclical in which they suggested Catholics could follow their consciences regarding using contraception rather than the magisterium of the Church.
When Humanae Vitae was released, the Canadian bishops responded with the infamous Winnipeg Statement, in which they suggested Catholics could use contraception if it accorded with their “conscience.” However, in 2008 the bishops issued the pastoral letter “Liberating Potential” in which they offer full support for Humanae Vitae, inviting the faithful to “discover, or rediscover, this prophetic document.”
In his talk, Prendergast stressed that those who fall short of the Church’s teaching can turn to God for forgiveness and a new beginning.
“Please understand that I’m not here to condemn anyone. Together we make up a Church of humble sinners who must constantly strive towards sainthood, even if we stumble along the way.”
“For all of us, God offers the gift of mercy, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which we will have an opportunity to participate in later today,” he said to conference participants.