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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican just published a book in which the Pontifical Academy for Life proposes both contraception and artificial insemination as morally acceptable, even though the Magisterium has definitively condemned each practice.
The book, titled Theological Ethics of Life. Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges, was published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the publishing house of the Vatican. It is a collection of essays taken from a three-day interdisciplinary seminar sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life.
According to the Daily Compass, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Academy, claimed the seminar and the book were simply “opening a dialogue between … different opinions, including on controversial topics, offering many points for discussion.”
Paglia also claimed the Academy was doing a service to the Magisterium in its teaching on the moral issues surrounding life. “So the perspective is that of rendering a service to the Magisterium,” he said, “opening up a space in which to speak that makes research possible and encourages it.”
On the practice of artificial contraception, however, definitively condemned in all its forms by Pope St. Paul VI in Humane Vitae, the Academy spoke of the issue in its new book as if it were an open question. “Responsibility in generation requires a practical discernment that cannot coincide with the automatic application and material observance of a norm, as is evident in the very practice of natural methods,” the book states in chapter seven, according to Askanews.
Proposing that all possible techniques for avoiding conception, except abortifacients, were on the table for consideration by a couple, the Academy claimed that those forms of contraception that were not abortifacient were nothing more than not providing for life. It argued that such acts would not contradict a more universal openness to life, and that this would constitute “wise discernment in the concrete case.”
“There are situations,” the Academy wrote, “in which two spouses, who have decided or will decide to welcome children, can make a wise discernment in the concrete case, which without contradicting their openness to life, at that moment, does not provide for it. The wise choice will be made by appropriately evaluating all possible techniques with reference to their specific situation and obviously excluding abortifacient ones.”
The comments of Archbishop Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio of Lima, Peru, who was the official “discussant” of the basic text at the seminar, is quite revealing regarding the desire and intention to fully cast off the teaching of Sts. Paul VI and John Paul II on the gravely sinful nature of every contraceptive conjugal act. The comments also reveal the way in which this teaching is held to be a merely human norm or formula, to be updated with the prevailing culture and times when needed.
Mattasoglio wrote, “A church that trusts in the human and spiritual maturity of the people cannot reduce the behavior of believers to mere normative formulas. It is urgent to arouse a free and at the same time faithful discernment that leads everyone to make adequate and just decisions, within the limits of the challenges. It is not healthy for mankind to always have ‘swords of Damocles,’ threatening damnation, whenever norms are neglected or a precise procedure is not acted upon, in the common practice of any method, natural or artificial, and on the other hand, it is also not convenient to leave a door open to infinite ease.”
Likewise, the seminar “respondent,” theologian Maurizio Chiodi, argued that artificial contraception would need to be continually revisited “in a wise discernment of conscience.” “That technique in human generation should not be excluded a priori nor welcomed a priori,” Chiodi claimed, “but — precisely because it is a form of acting — should be evaluated from time to time on the basis of a wise discernment of conscience, in its relation to the good and the norm that guards it.”
Such reopening of the question of birth control flies in the face of the definitive nature of the Magisterium’s teaching on the matter, reiterated many times by Pope St. John Paul II.
In a similar manner to the arguments for keeping “open” the question of contraception, the Academy proposes in its book that homologous artificial insemination is morally acceptable, that is, medically assisted insemination using the sperm of the husband.
“Generation is not artificially separated from the sexual relationship,” the proposal reads, “because the latter is, in itself, infertile. On the contrary, the technique makes available an intervention that makes it possible to remedy sterility, without supplanting the relationship, but rather making generation possible.”
The contributor claims that such artificial insemination “cannot be rejected a priori in medicine: It must be made the subject of discernment, to ascertain whether it fulfils the function of a form of care for the person.” On these grounds, the medical intervention would be considered “therapeutic,” it is claimed, “allowing the conjugal relationship of infertile spouses to reach full realization as the responsible donor of a new life, opening their love to the generation of a new life.”
However, the Church has always taught that fertilization must be caused directly by the conjugal act of the spouses, according to the natural order established by God. In the document Donum Vitae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated a teaching already articulated by Pius XII. Donum Vitae taught that “homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose … If the technical means facilitates the conjugal act or helps it to reach its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable. If, on the other hand, the procedure were to replace the conjugal act, it is morally illicit. Artificial insemination as a substitute for the conjugal act is prohibited by reason of the voluntarily achieved dissociation of the two meanings of the conjugal act.”
Admitting the “tension” between the teaching of Donum Vitae and the proposals in the Academy’s new book, Fr. Jorge José Ferrer, S.J., suggested that the latter were meant to “open up new horizons, which always remain subject to the final judgement of the pastors, in particular the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.”
According to the Daily Compass, however, such “open horizons” of the Academy’s book are nothing more than a “euphemistic expression to indicate the careful preparation of a real reversal, because the final judgement of the Roman Pontiff’s Magisterium has already been repeatedly pronounced.”