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Humane Vitae: Day 19

 

Paragraph 19 begins the third section of the encyclical which is titled, “Pastoral Directives”:

19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support mankind in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God (See Romans 8).

For several centuries, all Christian denominations condemned the use of contraception. It wasn’t until the 1930s when at the Lambeth Conference, communities began to break from this teaching one by one. The culture in general followed suit.  The Catholic Church remained steadfast in this teaching.

Even so, there were some within the Church who wanted the Catholic Church to revise her teaching against contraception. Some took it upon themselves to teach something different.  Chaos followed, and even today we are still dealing with its effects.  But here in paragraph 19, Paul VI says that the Church must hold to the Truth.

“She [the Church] cannot do otherwise than teach the law”.  The role of the Church is to be both mother and teacher (Mater et Magister), and in fulfilling this role, she teaches the Truth: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).  It is the Truth of Jesus Christ that gives life to the world.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Redemptive suffering.

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My most profound and intimate experiences of worship have been in my darkest days ( I’ve lived through a few!) — when I’ve lost someone dear to me, when I’ve felt abandoned and isolated, when I’ve been out of options, when the pain is great, and I turn to God alone. It is during suffering that I have learned to pray my most authentic, heart-felt, honest-to-God prayers. When in pain, superficial prayers seem pointless. At these times of great distress the need to be near the Eucharist, to receive our Lord to be united with Him is overwhelming and urgent. I know He is always there, He will never desert me, He is constant. Reliable.

I have learned that in suffering I get to know Jesus and inch towards the understanding of why His message of Salvation and Forgiveness  is so powerful. I have learned things about God in suffering that I don’t think I would’ve learned about Him lying in a bed of roses.  It has been at those times of fear and seeking that I ‘ve come to realise my powerlessness and the reassurance of kneeling in the presence of God’s Might.

God could have kept Joseph out of jail, kept Daniel out of the lion’s den, kept Jeremiah from being tossed into a slimy pit, kept Paul from being shipwrecked three times, and kept the three Hebrew young men from being thrown into the blazing furnace, but he didn’t. He let those problems happen, and each of those people were drawn closer to God as a result.

Problems force us to look to God and depend on him instead of ourselves. Paul testified to this benefit: “We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us ….” (2 Corinthians 1:9) You’ll never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I retreat to my ‘sanctuary’, pray to God to feel safe and calm before I’m able to relaunch into the world. God is my querencia-the place in the bullring to which a bull can safely retreat from the matadors-where I can pause and gather strength before returning to the fight. I must pause, however briefly, to regain the strength needed to battle the stresses of daily living.

 

Humane Vitae: Day 18

18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2:34).  She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men” (See Paul Vl, encyc. letter Populorum progressio).

“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching”.  That’s putting it lightly!

Paul VI speaks of “outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication”.  This was written in 1968 – decades before Twitter, Facebook, and even the Internet itself as we know it today.  It is these means of communication that have made the voice against the Church much louder and (if you spend any time reading comboxes – which I would not suggest doing) more obnoxious.

I think that Paul VI’s reminder that the Church, like her Founder, is “destined to be a sign of contradiction” is quite comforting.  If you are a voice for life, and you find that you are encountering opposition, take comfort.  This is as the Lord warned us it would be.

The bottom line here is that the Church in upholding the sanctity of marriage, family, and life, is doing so for mankind’s own good.  “She is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization”.  We can see in our day the destructive effects of an anti-life culture.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae:Days 16 and 17

Paragraph 17, which is often pointed to when looking at how prophetic Humanae Vitae was when it was written in 1968.  Here, Pope Paul VI explains what would happen to a society that makes use of artificial contraception.  We already know the adverse effects contraception has on married couples.  But how would it effect things at a societal level?  Many who advocate the use of contraception say that this is a personal matter, a choice that should be left to individuals.  But as the Church has always taught, while sins are personal acts, they affect others: “Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. ‘Structures of sin’ are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1869).

Consequences of Artificial Methods

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

We can easily see today how marriage and human sexuality are de-valued and disrespected and how the divorce rate has skyrocketed even among Catholics since contraceptives have become readily available.  We can also see the “general lowering of moral standards” that exists culturally.  What about the objectification of women?  Pope Paul VI saw these as consequences of the use of artificial contraception, and he was right.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Let’s reflect on this for a while, shall we?  There’s no doubt that the HHS mandate is evil.  But unfortunately, a culture that is accepting of the use of contraceptives has allowed the HHS mandate to exist.  The HHS mandate must be opposed.  Absolutely.  But we have to be equally forceful in our condemnation of artificial contraception.  Catholics must lead the way by their words and their example.

Limits to Man’s Power

Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the “principle of totality” enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII.

Paragraph 17 has been looked at as being prophetic in determining the consequences that would happen upon a culture that made use of artificial contraception.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

A taster of what to expect from Fr. Barron’s series.

Fr. Robert Barron is coming to England this week!

Fr. Rober Barron, the producer of the amazing ‘Catholicism’ dvd series is visiting England as from this week, 25th April until the 4th of May.

Fr. Robert Barron will tour England 25 April-4 May:

On its website, the Shrewsbury Diocese invites Catholics to attend the event in Liverpool:

Fr Robert Barron is a well known American Diocesan Priest – he hosts a weekly programme on EWTN and on Salt and Light TV. He has produced a series of DVD’s called Catholicism. It is being launched in the UK (Durham, Birmingham and Westminster) at the end of April.

Fr Barron is a wonderful speaker and the DVDs present the main teaching of the Catholic faith in a way that is presentable and challenging.

Fr Barron will be coming to the Liverpool Archdiocesan Centre for Evangelisation on Monday 30th April at 7.30pm. He will introduce and present the DVDs. This event is open to anyone – but it will be of special interest to RCIA groups, parents, catechists, teachers and anyone interested in evangelisation and passing on the faith.

There is no charge – just turn up – all welcome.

Further details from Fr Philip Inch, Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, on 0151 487 9372

(reposted from http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com)

Humanae Vitae:Day 15

Lawful Therapeutic Means

15. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.

Recourse to Infertile Periods

16. Now as We noted earlier (no. 3), some people today raise the objection against this particular doctrine of the Church concerning the moral laws governing marriage, that human intelligence has both the right and responsibility to control those forces of irrational nature which come within its ambit and to direct them toward ends beneficial to man. Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period butcondemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.

Today, because paragraph 15 is very short and self-explanatory, I will treat it together with paragraph 16.

Man is a rational and intelligent creature. That ability to reason is what sets us apart from animals. And so it is good for man to use his intelligence with regards to questions having to do with procreation. But wisdom places man’s intelligence at the service of God and what He has established.

Paul VI goes on to say that married couples may “engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile”. This is a way that the couple can space births using that which is natural (hence, Natural Family Planning).

NFP is not “Catholic contraception” as some mistakenly call it. Using contraceptives is a deliberate obstruction of the procreative process using artificial means. The use of contraceptives is a conscious decision to be closed to life. NFP is open to life. It places no such articifical obstacles in the procreative process, instead using what God has given naturally, i.e., periods of infertility.

At the heart of the Gospel

Christopher West promotes his new book.

Christopher West is coming to England.

Follow this link if you’d like to hear Christopher West talk about JPII’s great ‘Theology of the Body, an opportunity that should not be missed.

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