Junk History and Jesuit Myths

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In the Pope’s disastrous plane interview last week, this q and a occurred:

Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain): Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”

Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.

On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.  

Leaving aside for the moment the havoc the Pope wreaked as to the teaching of the Church against artificial contraception, Francis,  in defense of his reasoning, invoked the alleged example of Pope Paul VI.  One of the main problems of the current papacy is that Pope Francis believes a lot of things that simply are not true.  It is false that Pope Paul VI permitted nuns in the Congo in 1964 during the Simba rebellion to use contraceptives in order to avoid pregnancy due to rape.  Oakes Spaulding at Mahound’s Paradise has done yeoman work in driving a stake through this hoary myth:

 

 

 

 

We can trace the thought experiment back to a 1961 paper by three “Jesuit theologians.” In the heady days of the 1960’s this paper would be cited again and again by Catholic dissidents wishing to push the limits on contraception until Paul VI would quash their efforts with Humanae Vitae. It will be useful to quote in full a 1964 AP story on the paper and subsequent controversy:

A leading Roman Catholic moral theologian here says there may be a relaxation of the Church’s strict ban on contraception because of the rape of nuns in the Belgian Congo four years ago. 

Very Rev. E.F. Sheridan, rector of suburban Willowsdale’s Regis College, foresees probable justification for the use of oral contraceptives by persons threatened with rape but doubts whether abortion or pills for married women will ever been condoned. 

He was commenting on an article by a United Church minister in a recent issue of the United Church Observer. 

Dr. Ernest Marshall Howse of Toronto suggested in The Observer article that three jesuit theologians, studying the violation of the nuns, recognized that artificial contraception is morally permissible under certain circumstances. He said the group presented a considered judgment–on which the Vatican has so far made no comment–that nuns in danger of rape may properly use contraceptive pills and also can “eliminate all traces and consequences” of all aggression. 

The findings of the study were published in the Roman Catholic Theological review Studi Cattolici of November-December, 1961. 

According to Msgr. Pietro Palazzini, a cleric highly regarded for his moral theology studies, “a woman can resist sexual aggression with all her forces.” 

“She can slightly mutilate her face in order to make herself unattractive; she can also eliminate all traces and consequence of the aggression including the fecundant element abusively laid in her womb.” 

Msgr. Lambuschini, another member of the study team, said: “We conclude that the use of pills which suspend temporarily a woman’s fertility, can be considered morally legitimate.” 

Dr. Howse asked; “How long before what is moral in their (the nuns?) situation becomes moral in other situations for other women who, for legitimate reasons, do not want children?” 

Father Sheridan said in an interview: “When three theologians of such high reputation as these men say this, any Catholic can, in safe conscience, follow the advice in the circumstances exactly implied, until contradicted by the Holy See.” 

In other words, it could be understood that nuns can safely use contraceptives to prevent the possible outcome of rape. Father Sheridan added that he understood the Jesuits’ findings to justify contraception for violated women other than nuns. 

“But I don’t think there is any possibility of defending use of contraceptives of the oral type by married couples,” he said. 

He added: “When the theologians speak of preventing any consequence of rape I am quite certain that they would never justify abortion but refer to attempts to expel the spermatozoa before conception. These attempts are licit under the circumstances described, as long as there is no danger of abortion.

There are a few important things to note here. First of all, the story of the Belgian nuns is treated not as fact but as a philosophical jumping off point for a particular argument–that contraception would be licit under certain circumstances. As it was creepily put, the Jesuit theologians were merely “studying the violation of the nuns.”

Its’s also interesting to see the manner in which in 1964 the envelope on changing the traditional Catholic teachings on contraception was aggressively being pushed: “When three theologians of such high reputation as these men say this, any Catholic can, in safe conscience, follow the advice in the circumstances exactly implied, until contradicted by the Holy See.” This sort of thing would eventually lead to Humanae Vitae.

Finally, observe the strong denial that such reasoning could ever lead to married couples taking contraceptives. That was just proven false by the current Pope.

Let’s return to Professor Kalbian. Though she added fuel to the rumor fire with her recent book, she seems now to have somewhat recanted:

Aline Kalbian, a professor of religion at Florida State University and author of Sex, Violence & Justice: Contraception and the Catholic Church also looked into the Belgian nun story and came up empty. 

 

“I didn’t find any evidence of Paul VI saying anything about Congo and nuns,” Kalbian said. “And John XXIII didn’t say anything either.” 

Kalbian also pointed out that the Pill had just been approved for public use in the US in 1960, and that it wasn’t widely available in much of the world during the Congo crisis. She said the debate was likely a typical hypothetical premise that theologians bat around as part of their work. 

“This was a bunch of theologians debating the possibility [of providing nuns with contraception],” she said. “And all of it was happening under John XVIII, so it’s weird [Francis] invoked Pope Paul VI.”

In fairness, we’ll quote the last part of her statement:

“It’s possible the pope has accessed Vatican archives and knows something about Paul VI and the Belgian Congo that we don’t,” Kalbian said.

Yes, possible. Pope Francis just made a very controversial claim about his predecessor, a claim that would be slanderous if false. Where’s the evidence?

Kalbian’s historical analysis brings us to the final piece of the puzzle. A number of European nuns were raped in the Belgian Congo in 1960 during the violent turbulence of de-colonialization, though leftists have long dismissed this as anti-African propaganda. It is these rapes that were “studied” by the Jesuits. There was another eruption of violence during the so-called “Simba Rebellion” of 1964 that also tragically included attacks against Catholic nuns. If the story as reported by, say, Francis is true, and the period in question was during the pontificate of Paul VI, who became Pope in June of 1963, then the women religious would have had to have “gone on The Pill” at about this time.

That’s at least logically possible, of course. But consider also that The Pill was either unavailable or illegal in most Western countries during this period. It didn’t become available in Belgium until 1965, and contraceptive literature was essentially illegal in that country until the end of the decade. Though, women used it in growing numbers in the countries where it could be obtained, there was still much controversy about its safety and side-effects, among other things.

Was The Pill available at all in the Belgian Congo is, say 1964-65, let alone obtainable by Catholic nuns? Did their bishops smuggle it in?

It’s time to stand back and consider just how absurd and even obscene this whole bogus story is:

“Sisters, we’re about to send you into/back into a war zone. There’s a very good chance that you’ll be attacked by rebels. These rebels are quite bloodthirsty and violent. It’s very possible/probable that you’ll be raped. If on the off-chance you’re raped and not killed, then a really bad thing might happen–you might become with child. We can’t really provide extra guards or anything to prevent any of this. But what we can do is give you some medicine which we’ve obtained on the black market. Don’t worry, you might think it’s morally wrong, but a 1961 academic paper contradicts that. Also, whether or not there might be any side-effects or other health dangers, consider how awful it would be, not to be raped per se, but to have a baby as a result of that. Here, Sisters, have some contraceptives.”

The crisis in the Church continues.

Go here to read the rest.  Pope Francis is a man who is ignorant on quite a number of subjects.  That is not a problem, as that is true for all of us.  What is a problem is that Pope Francis constantly shoots his mouth off on subjects on which he is manifestly ignorant, and on which he is often unable, or unwilling, to distinguish myth from fact.

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26 Comments

  1. So the wisest of shepherds urgently commands with a shout; “Run, run quickly my sheep, here come the wolves, sort of, maybe, oh, run anyways…exercise is healthy”?
    The last trait imbedded in a good shepherd is confusion, lack of consistency, and lack of clarity.

  2. There’s two opposite things going on from orthodox Catholics on this ( Pope Francis could start a bar brawl in a Trappistine Library). One group is saying the Congo incident never happened…e.g. Father Z was early on this. The other group, thinking it happened, defend it as something that should be done if nuns are about to be raped because it is not spousal intercourse to begin with and nuns have a right to repel hostile sperm….e.g. Ed Peters, canon lawyer, and Janet Smith, long time opponent of artificial birth control:

    https://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/seven-quick-thoughts-on-the-most-recent-papal-presser/

    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/4594/contraception_congo_nuns_choosing_the_lesser_evil_and_conflict_of_commandments.aspx

    So pity the potential convert who is reading the new advent aggregation of blogs page where Fr. Z, Janet Smith and Ed Peters are all simultaneously linked….and two are saying the opposite of Fr. Z doctrinally by implication whether or not the incident ever happened at all.

  3. We have a heretic for a Pope. I had thought that Ann Barnhardt was off the deep end at her blog. But is she really?

  4. If I thought my wife or daughters were at risk from rape I would remove them from that environment not put them on the pill.

  5. “Leaving aside for the moment the havoc the Pope wreaked as to the teaching of the Church against artificial contraception,…”
    .
    The Church does not oppose “artificial contraception.” She opposes “contraception”–all forms of it, be it chemical, hormonal, IUD device, or some “natural” wild herb that grows out in the fields or whatever.
    .
    NFP/abstinence is not “contraception.”

  6. Bill, LOL at the thought of “hostile sperm.” Couldn’t find it either in Humane Vitae or any of the “climate change” studies. I suppose Kasper might Kasper might use it in his thesis of evolving doctrine.

  7. I remember the 1960’s. I wish I could forget the crowds of pushy and aggressive leftists (including Jesuit theologists) and the wreckage they have wrought.
    .

    Anyhow, I believe St. Augustine (The City of God) discussed whether raped nuns were in any way sinful, guilty or defiled. The answer is, “No.” The sin is on the aggressor and me: on those in power who refuse to protect the innocent.

  8. My understanding was that it never actually happened but was “what if” discussion. This morning I read other thinking Catholics who apparently think the pope did think such a provision would be ok.
    I don’t know what to think- But even at the level of “just discussion”, the idea that birth control pills could be given nuns in anticipation of rape is bizarre and repulsive.
    That nuns could be month by month ready for rapists as if the consequence of pregnancy were the big concern?
    They would see the rapist at the door and relax, “oh well, I have had my contraband delivery of pills and at least I won’t have to get pregnant from this”
    And no other defense/escape would be even talked about?

  9. @Stephen E Dalton: saint of duct tape that’s funny!
    *
    On a serious note: St. Joseph and St. John Nepomuk is the patron of Silence and Floods [http://www.catholic-saints.info/patron-saints/saint-john-nepomuk.htm]. Just prayed to them.
    *
    @bill bannon: re: Dr. Peters et al, God’s wheat is being sifted. We are getting to know where people really stand. I have had suspicion on some for some time. Thoughts of many hearts are being revealed. [Cf. Lk 2:35].
    *
    @Ken: Thank you! Common sense stuff.
    *
    PS By now we should be thoroughly aware of the tactics of the innovators, always trying to introduce error by appealing to some emotion in this case “those poor nuns in the Congo”.

  10. Keep in mind that a moral act consists of three parts – the intention, the circumstances and the moral object (that thing directly done to achieve the intention.)

    The justification is in the understanding of the moral object of marital intercourse. This is the object of husband and wife as unitive act open to life. Contraception disrupts this morally good object by destroying its receptivity to life.

    There is no such moral object in rape. The rapist and nun are not participation in the moral object of a husband and wife. Rather the moral object is sexual assault of a non-consenting woman – thus no necessity of being open to life.

    That at least is the moral reasoning.

  11. Of course Francis completely misses this distinction in equating the moral object in rape with that in the marital act. Thus he can say one can do so in the case of the risk of malformations caused by Zika. “There is a threat, so protect yourself.”
    But the same logic would say a woman over 35, a man over 40 etc could practice contraception since there are risks of malformations with advanced paternal age.

  12. @Phillip: That at least is the moral reasoning.
    *
    No such reasoning in the entire body of Church Teaching on contraception. If such were the case, why stop at the nuns only? Because any woman single or married [at some point in their lives] can be in danger of being raped.
    *
    More absurdity: Why not contraception to the fornicators and the adulterers since they also are not “participating in the moral object of a husband and wife”?

  13. “No such reasoning in the entire body of Church Teaching on contraception.”

    Of course it exists because, as noted, there is a distinction of kind between sex between a man and woman in marriage and rape. Sorry, that is reality.

    That was the basis for the argument which is, as I admit, is theoretical. However, it relies on the understanding of the moral object of the act. Understanding the moral object of the act allows such things as self defense. It also allows the use of hormonal therapy (the pill) to regulate abnormal or excessive periods even if the unintended effect is contraception.

    Such a theoretical argument does not undermine the prohibition against contraception in marriage as we are dealing with a very limited exception where married couples are not involved and forced sex is.

  14. Fornication is in and of itself immoral as a violation of the unitive aspect of the sexual act. Contraception would continue to be wrong as a violation of the procreation aspect of the sexual act.

  15. @Phillip And rape is not immoral? Noting that “why stop at the poor nuns?” hasn’t been answered.
    *
    Key wording I used was Church Teaching vs. theoretical theological and/or philosophical reasoning.
    *
    The Congo crisis was before Humanae Vitae, wondering why such an exception never made it into a teaching reaffirming Church Teaching on contraception.
    *
    Cf. Vatican Furor Over Bosnian Rapes – It Denies Allowing Nuns In Danger Zones To Use The Pill, March 05, 1993 | Chicago Tribune [http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-03-05/news/9303187621_1_joaquin-navarro-valls-vatican-contraceptive-pills]

  16. Rape is immoral. Nowhere did I say it wasn’t

    I accept Church teaching. Church teaching informs what I wrote. That is, the analysis of the moral act, the nature of the marriage act and of rape and the possibility that one could use contraception if there was a serious risk of rape.

    This scenario is theoretical and the reality of such in the Congo in the early 60’s or anywhere currently or in the recent past is not what I am talking about. But the possibility in such a situation is legitimate for discussion and is discussed in bioethical circles including very faithful one’s like the NCBC. Such an exception has not been ruled upon by the Church definitively and so Catholics in good faith can discuss.

    As noted, such a discernment is not an exception to the rule, but rather an analysis, in accord with Church teaching, on the nature of the moral act. This discernment makes a very obvious distinction that forced sex and the marital act are different things. Just as there is a distinction between self-defense and murder.

  17. Phillip, thank you for your thoughtful posts. I’m not certain where I land in this analysis, but I applaud your sense of measure and humility. We need more of that stuff.

  18. Thank-you Mike.

    Again, I am not a proponent of contraception. I think it a great evil. Its just from the perspective of a Thomistic analysis, there is a potential justification in the case where endemic rape may be present. See also this:

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/02/16517/

    The problem is that this analysis must be very rigorous in its understanding of intention, moral object and double effect. Sadly, Pope Francis seems not to be able to grasp this rigor in his equating the use of contraceptives in rape with that of a married couple who uses it to prevent the fetal complications of Zika.

  19. @Philip see exchange starting here [http://www.onepeterfive.com/the-galatians-two-moment-is-now/#comment-2532398239] and perhaps you may see what you error and those of moral theologians is.
    *
    Church Teaching on contraception does not allow for exceptions and therefore you are wrong to state that this is still open to discussion until the Church rules.

  20. ‘What is a problem is that Pope Francis constantly shoots his mouth off on subjects on which he is manifestly ignorant, and on which he is often unable, or unwilling, to distinguish myth from fact.’
    My least favorite new vocabulary word: gradualism. Keeps diluting things for the souls desperately needing to be fed. Using nuns this time. The vocabulary words, abstinence and adultery, meanwhile collect dust.

  21. FMS,

    You now have a dilemma. What I, not a moral theologian, Janet Smith and Chris Tollefsen argue is that it is not contraception in the case of rape.

    Let’s give another case. A woman has severe dysfunctional uterine bleeding. It is so severe that her health is seriously compromised. Using hormonal therapy, the cycles can be regulated and her bleeding significantly reduced. This is a good use of hormones you must admit. But the secondary effect is that of stopping conception. Because the hormonal therapy that must be used is also that that is used in contraception. But under the principle of double effect, as long as the bad effect is not intended and the evil effect does not flow from the bad effect, one can do so.

    The Church does in fact allow this. It is standard teaching in faithful Catholic bioethics seminars. So is it an exception to contraception? No. The moral object in the case is different. The moral object is the restoration of health with hormonal therapy.

    If you deny the reasoning that I and others offer, you deny the principle of double effect which the Church teaches, you will then deny the legitimacy of just war and of self-defense which the Church also allows.

    You have not thought this through nor do you seem to wish to.

  22. Church teaching has long respected the principle of double-effect. But that is a tricky principle indeed, and certainly has been applied many times incorrectly in order to justify immoral acts. Yet, the fact that it is difficult and vulnerable to misapplication does not excuse us from considering it (very carefully) when performing moral analysis. Catholics are not fundamentalists who reduce things to simple rules without regard to the true meanings of words and the moral reasoning that produced those rules.

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