PopeWatch: Crux Crushed



During his trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis gave a ringing reaffirmation of Humanae Vitae:

Pope Francis took the opportunity during an address to families in the Philippines to praise Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing contraception and affirming Church teaching on sexuality and human life.

The Pope spoke Friday to families gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila during his Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines.

After discussing various threats to the family, including “a lack of openness to life,” he deviated briefly from his prepared remarks, transitioning from English to his native Spanish in order to speak from the heart about the subject.

“I think of Blessed Paul VI,” he said. “In a moment of that challenge of the growth of populations, he had the strength to defend openness to life.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld Catholic teaching on sexuality and the immorality of artificial contraception, predicting the negative consequences that would result from a cultural acceptance of birth control.

“He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught professors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases,” Pope Francis said.

“But he went further. He looked to the peoples beyond. He saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Pope Francis’ comments come in the wake of Philippines president Benigno Aquino’s signing a highly controversial reproductive health bill in 2013 that drew strong protest from local bishops and members of the faith.

The legislation requires government-sanctioned sex education for adults, middle school and high school students, as well as a population control program that includes fully subsidized contraceptives under government health insurance. The nation’s bishops spoke out strongly against the measure.


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Margery Eagan, the “On Spirtuality” columnist for Crux, is crushed:


The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.

I had hoped for so much more from this man.

Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.


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  1. Over 40 years on, I believe Miss Anscombe’s 1972 paper, Contraception and Chastity remains one of the best expositions of Humanæ Vitæ ever written.
    Written when she held the chair of Philosophy at Cambridge, it is a remarkably clear and comprehensive treatment, aimed at a lay Catholic audience. The historical background is well covered and it contains a masterly treatment of intention, by one of the greatest analytical philosophers of her generation.

  2. Lust, even in marriage is a call to affection. There is more to sex than sex. Sexual attraction in marriage may lead to the most profound appreciation of the husband and wife. When the spouses sublimate their sexual appetites, each and every time, they discover a unique person in their relationship to whom they are married. He has grown and matured. She has grown and matured. Married to that uniquely different person in one’s relationship is wonderful. It is never, never boring. It is marriage.
    In God’s will, sometimes we are given another person to personify our love in every one of its forms. The other person is of us and of God and so, the child is called a bundle of Joy, Joy to break the heart. If our hearts are to be broken, then let it be from Joy, the beginning of heaven.

  3. “But his words do reveal a heartbreakingly backward perspective: that the highest calling of married women is sacrificing all to rear children…”
    I am reminded of an anecdote about Miss Anscombe, when she was teaching at Oxford and pregnant with, I think, her seventh child. On entering the lecture theatre, she saw that someone had chalked on the blackboard, “Anscombe breeds” (something that passed for wit at that august seat of learning in the 1960s). Miss Anscombe picked up the chalk and amended it to read, “Anscombe breeds IMMORTAL BEINGS!” Then, without further comment, she began her lecture.

  4. The sex act separate from the procreative intent is sin. Even in the context of a valid sacramental marriage it is still sin. However because of the nuptial union the sex act separate from the procreative intent is a VENIAL sin.
    Cf St Augustine of Hippo : City of God : Book 14
    St. Augustine summarizes: “The use of Matrimony for the mere pleasure of lust is not without sin, but because of the nuptial relation the sin is VENIAL.”
    read more:http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15071.htm

  5. “I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.”
    I do not know what Pope Francis understands, but God understands the need for sex in marriage, which is precisely why the unitive aspect of the conjugal act must not be artificially separated from the reproductive aspect, otherwise the husband ends up treating his wife as an object of selfish gratification instead of doing what St Paul commanded in Ephesians chapter 5: loving her as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for her. Why can’t liberals understand that it is only in such love that true beauty can be found? Liberalism is the perennial false doctrine that Pope Leo XIII initially identified it as in his encyclical Libertas in the 19th century.

  6. We should all applaud Pope Francis for his act of courage, clarity and support of historic Catholic doctrine on sex and marriage. Hopefully, Bishops will imitate him. Let us pray that this be so.

  7. cpola,
    The Church has corrected that view of Augustine unless you think the Church can recommend the infertile times for serious reasons and thus siimultaneously recommend venial sin. But she can’t recommend repeat venial sin because repeat venial sin disposes the person to mortal sin as Aquinas noted as does scripture…” he that contemneth little things shall fall little by little”… cited by Aquinas on whether venial sin disposes toward mortal sin. If the Church allows the infertile times for serious reasons and she does…then six saintly commentaries stand corrected…Augustine, Aquinas copyiing him here, Lactantius, Clement of Alexandria, Epiphanius, and Jerome. Those last four were probably copying the late Stoic, Musonius Rufus who saw sex as moral only when it intended procreation explicitly.

  8. cpola,
    The Church cannot recommend repeat venial sin because it disposes toward mortal sin according to Aquinas citing the scripture…” he that contemneth little things shall fall little by little.” The Church can correct all saints in their views and she did when she permitted the use of the infertile times for serious reasons. She implicitly corrected at least six saints including Aquinas on that issue.

  9. We should all applaud Pope Francis for his act of courage, clarity and support of historic Catholic doctrine on sex and marriage.

    He said it in the Philippines. Let’s hear him say it in Spain.

  10. Human life — the topic behind all our posts, all our studies, our concerns for the environment, for peace, for migration– everything.
    Catholics treasure life as a gift of God and find joy in it. At the same time, the basic command of God- be fruitful and multiply is a big cause of concern for the left wing! They want population control.
    Contraception in the Philippines and in the Catholic world is a hotter topic than ever. The pope speaks the Catholic teaching- But does he also bring up, round-about, the need for pastoral application of the teaching. I don’t know if that’s what he means to do or not.

  11. There’s a lot of talk about natural family planning and birth control “intentions”, exceptions, prudential judgments and in all that talk, the Church today seems confused. The conversations keep getting hijacked away from the meaning/purpose of unity and procreation.
    People try to block conception but… life begins before conception! as a gleam in daddy’s eye! The natural attraction between the sexes. So contraception is not enough. The culture is moving away from the promoting marriage and family and instead lifts up sterile sex, same sex, prepubescent sex, solitary “sex” etc.
    People are led away from the truth about ourselves and our lives so that God’s plan of human cooperation in creation is thwarted.

  12. Bill Bannon, thanks for your comment. Could you give two or three examples of serious reasons for the laudable use of the sex act in infertile periods?

  13. cpola,
    Section 10 of Humanae Vitae:
    ” With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”
    Physical, economic, psychological and social. To get anymore detailed than that, ask a priest….unless you seek to judge a relative or neighbor then get out of that business which satan loves. You can roughly judge a country like Christ roughly judged the pharisees….but there were good pharisees ike Nicodemus.
    One couple could have uncovered by insurance autism therapy bills that they will owe for life with their second child which means that to “owe no man nothing” as the NT says…they might stop right there at two. Another woman after one child has a hemmorhagic stroke in the brain and her doctor says the next childbirth could mean death. Social?…Asian couples value expensive schools because they see such diplomas as protecting against discrimination perhaps so they are not going to have the 10 children another person has who is never worried about being a minority. etc etc etc
    Only each couple can decide. A priest can help if he is holy and especially old…” stand thou in the company of the ancient who are wise, join thyself from thy heart to their wisdom” Sirach 6:34-35.

  14. Personally, I don’t see any difference whatsoever between what you are saying and what a couple who use non-abortifacient, artificial contraceptives are doing.
    As long as there are serious reasons why can’t a couple use non-abortifacient artificial contarceptives, if they can equally use infertile periods?
    Afterall in both instances there is separation of the sex act from its procreative intent

  15. Cpola, you have misread Augustine. He clearly places contraception in the mortal category in chapter 17 of the New Advent link you posted. He states that it’s venial not to intend procreation, but mortal to try to to prevent it or to abort, kill the infant, or fail to love and care for the children. He states “They who resort to these, although called by the name of spouses, are really not such; they retain no vestige of true matrimony, but pretend the honourable designation as a cloak for criminal conduct.” Read it again. He is referring to “attempt to prevent such propagation, either by wrong desire or evil appliance” in the preceding sentence.

  16. cpola,
    But you wrote nothing but the physical. You had nothing to say on the reasons. In other words, it seems that there are no valid reasons to you to not have the maximum number of children one can have physically. But people in Brazil and East Timor and the Phillipines did that St. Jerome thing …and those countries rank high in street waifs and Brazil and the Phillipines are way up there in the list of child traffiking countries. Large families are somewhat safe in the US compared to Somalia where many large families perished from famine two years ago. Famines don’t happen to large families in the US because the government has many safety nets including for widows with children. That is unknown in some countries. For a decade I sent money to a situation wherein a mother of four was left destitute in India when her young husband died of a brain aneurism.. She had to give her four children to Catholic orphanages and work as a maid nearby to visit her own children. Tell her she should have had eight children. People have to judge their context and it ain’t all the safe USA.

  17. Cpola wote, “As long as there are serious reasons why can’t a couple use non-abortifacient artificial contarceptives, if they can equally use infertile periods?”
    Miss Anscombe put the distinction very well: “you use the rhythm method not just by having intercourse now, but by not having it next week, say; and not having it next week isn’t something that does something to today’s intercourse to turn it into an infertile act; today’s intercourse is an ordinary act of intercourse, an ordinary marriage act.”

  18. thanks for all your inputs. The fact is there are still unanswered questions on this topic of contraceptives.

  19. Asian couples value expensive schools because they see such diplomas as protecting against discrimination perhaps so they are not going to have the 10 children another person has who is never worried about being a minority.

    Ha hah – jokes on them. The ones having two kids will soon become (if not already) the minority to the ones having 10. I guess in this case, you don’t reap what you never sow.

    There may be fairly wide latitude for each couple to decide, but that does not mean there are no boundaries. Another issue that I see crop up (that I wish Anscombe had addressed, maybe she had) is whether a change in doctrine was brought about by HV. My understanding is that the teaching pre-HV that the primary end of the conjugal act is procreation; secondary end was mutual support of the spouses (i.e., unitive); and third was defense against concupiscence. Seems HV puts procreative and unitive on par, whereas before they were 1st and 2nd, respectively. Is that not a change, or was there never any binding pronouncement on the issue?

  20. If we let God bring us through the fertile times and the infertile times, God will provide. Somewhere in the New Testament, I do not know where, it gives married spouses leave to give themselves to prayer. Using contraception is denying the spouse his or her marital rights. Using contraception is defining the conjugal act in one’s terms, not in God’s terms. When I read Humanae Vitae, when it first came out, I was stunned by the affection and appreciation the spouses were to demonstrate to one another. If the spouses gave the attention, affection and appreciation for one another as is called for in Humanae Vitae, there might not be very many people in the world, except those people whom God wills into existence. Using contraception is like buying a car with no motor. It does not work.

  21. I have read the various comments above that analyze in some theological detail the conjugal act in a marital relationship. As it turns out, I am under what has been called the Pauline privilege, having been with a non-Baptized person during the years of my youthful rebellion. That person desired to leave when I returned to the Church as a result of a nervous breakdown (after 20+ years of sobriety, I almost drank again, but the Rosary and Confession with a good Catholic priest saved me), so the relationship of course failed but it left me with two beautiful children whom I love. It also took a long time before I could realize that I love my ex-spouse as the mother of my children (NOT romantically, and I really don’t like her, but that’s ok – not everyone including her likes me either) and simply leave the rest in God’s hands. That was a hard thing to do, what my 12 step sponsor said: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I was unwilling to suffer the misery of the alternative: the bottle.

    Then once I learned that lesson God blessed me later to meet and marry a beautiful Catholic Filipina. Being in our 50s, the time of our being able to reproduce has long since passed (though there are Biblical exceptions to cases such as ours, but in our situation such exception is exceedingly improbable). Nevertheless, we do enjoy our times of intimacy. No further description is necessary. Neither of us analyzes in the theological detail given above our being able to be intimate. In fact, my wife is a simple Filipina Catholic. She prays the Rosary, she goes to Mass, she is happy and grateful to God. (She also avidly watched all the recent Pope Francis meetings on ABS-CBN Filipino TV and I understood not a word said in Tagalog, but I had to watch with her.) As to this topic, it is sufficient that every once in a while the body actually works correctly. Neither of us is going to go crazy over this part of our lives. We have both had enough excitement.

  22. c matt,
    The Asians in my family are all good at math ( Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and Wharton )…..they are quite aware they will always be a minority here in the States no matter how many children they have.

  23. Francis stated that Catholics do not have to breed like rabbits.
    He implied that three children per family is sufficient.

  24. Re: Breeding like Rabbits
    I say this with all due respect to His Holiness. The birth rate in Europe is disastrously low. It takes a birthrate of 2.1 for each woman in a population to overcome the death rate in a first world country. The birthrate among European countries ranges from 1.3 to 1.7 and even that is augmented by immigrants from Muslim countries. It is said that by 2050 there will be fewer Russians than there were Americans in 1900. Muslim populations resist assimilation within host countries and pose severe security problems as well. The United States are somewhat better off. Our birthrate is closer to our death rate but even here this is augmented by immigrants from Latin America, and we are blessed by these being more readily assimilated into the general population. The West is nonetheless in great danger. Far less than fearing to “breed like rabbits”, we should fear being devoured by wolves.
    We had six little bunnies here in the carrot patch.

  25. I am alternately inspired and offended by Pope Francis’ comments. I am particulary miffed by the phrase: dont…breed like rabbits”. The love of a husband and wife that produces a child of God in any number should not be referred to that way.

  26. Franco, William P. Walsh and Kmbold: “breed like rabbits” I agree, that is a vile thing to say. And “Who am I to judge?” when God calls people to procreate.
    cpola: “thanks for all your inputs. The fact is there are still unanswered questions on this topic of contraceptives.”
    You may be talking about “willful intent” what I call capital one procreation. What do you tell a child who was brought into the world through an accident? “God’s will”. And then the child wonders: “How about me, do YOU want me?” “Of course, you’re here”. The Fatherhood of God is still dealing with the adults.
    Paul: Your story is of courage and generosity. Thank you for sharing.

  27. We have eight children. We used to raise meat rabbits to feed them. Ten years ago, before the price of feed went up, we could raise them for 60 cents per pound dressed weight if we watched our costs carefully and kept the does producing on a tight schedule. And so no, we don’t breed our children like rabbits, to butcher them. That would be the culture of death.

  28. In the commentary, there’s an interesting contention between a “franciswithwolves” and “neko,” (who I believe has sullied the pages of this blog in the past.) Not to spoil, but the good guy wins. A lot.

  29. Margery Eagan, the “On Spirtuality” columnist for Crux, is crushed:

    “The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.

    I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.
    I was wrong. ”

    Having a problem connecting the dots between title, indicating maybe spirituality in a marriage, and subject matter, which speaks with the rest of modern culture about life not sublimated.

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