It’s time for Catholics to face the elephant in the room, Humanae Vitae – Bishop Egan

Bishop Egan is fulfilling the hopes that so many faithful and loyal Catholics have placed in his consecration to the episcopacy by using his pastoral letter on the feast of the HolyFamily to speak to his people about the vital importance of Humanae Vitae to our families and wider society.  Not since Bishop O’Donoghue’s courageous documents Fit for Mission? Schools and Fit for Mission? Church has a bishop spoken so openly of the need to break the taboo about Humanae Vitae. Bishop Egan wrote:

‘Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church’s wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism.’

Bishop O’Donoghue said  in his retreat talks to priests in 2009:

‘Dissent and disobedience. We are living in an unprecedented period in the life of the Church when countless individual priests, and laity, even bishops, believe they are free to decide what it means to be Catholic for themselves. For example, we have witnessed a wholesale rejection of the Church’s perennial teaching against contraception. This is the litmus test of the acceptance of obedience in the Church. How many priests support Gaudium et Spes’ crystal clear rejection of contraception, upheld by successive Popes – Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI? If we reject their teaching on this matter we are saying, as priests, that we know better than the successor to Peter! Is this tenable in a priest?’

Here’s the rest of Bishop Egan’s pastoral letter:

In 1968, at the height of the Sixties, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical Letter that then and now many Catholics find difficult. He repeated the traditional teaching of the Church, based on the natural law and confirmed by revelation, that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life – cannot be divorced[viii]. Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document. Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt[ix].

As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.[x] This is the way to lasting happiness and fulfilment, even if to become chaste – that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple – involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery”[xi]. To help us, Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and offers us the healing balm and the strength we need, above all in confession and Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church’s wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism. I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness.

Protect the Pope comment: Now that Bishop Egan has challenged us all to face the elephant in the room will more clergy, priests and deacons, follow his example to teach our people the prophetic truth of Humanae Vitae? Our people have not rejected Humanae Vitae for the simple reason that most of them have not been told about Humanae vitae from our pulpits. Let’s break this taboo during thr Year of Faith!

http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/bishop-egans-pastoal-letter-humanae.html

http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/bishop-odonoghue-attacks-conspiracy-of.html

30 comments to It’s time for Catholics to face the elephant in the room, Humanae Vitae – Bishop Egan

  • Dr Mark Thorne

    Upholding the teaching of the Encyclicals Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae and Pope John II’s Theology of the Body certainly provide the litmus test of what it means to be a true Catholic in the late 20th/early 21st century. May the Church continue to be a shining beacon, and uphold its commitment to robustly defending the rights of the most vulnerable people in society and respect for human dignity.

  • amator Dei

    Bishop Egan is not really facing the challenge of HV himself, because he will never do anything to enforce it. He is simply ingratiating himself with the hierarchy by jumping on their reactionary bandwagon. He knows as we all do that most Catholics do not so much find HV’s view on contraception difficult, they just do not agree with it, and there is no way they can be made to. If any pope, bishop or priest did make a big fuss about HV they know that most Catholics would either continue to ignore them or walk away from the Church and take their money with them. Rather than repeating the same old mantra – how lovely, beautiful etc. the Church’s teaching is – the leaders need to consider what it means for their authority that they are saying one thing and the people of God are doing something else. But this crisis in authority brought on by Paul VI is never addressed, hence the quite cynical hypocrisy of the leaders’ position.

    • ms Catholic state

      It’s not as gloomy as you think. Although the following research is American it claims surprisingly that young Catholic Mass-going women are almost twice as likely to agree with the Church’s stance on contraception…as Mass going women overall. I think the time is ripe for the preaching anew of the Church’s teaching on birth-control. The new generation is more open and appreciative and can see the damage first hand that contraception has brought. Go for it Bishop Egan. The young are listening.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2012/09/what-do-catholic-women-think-about-contraception-you-might-be-surprised/

    • spesalvi23

      Would you please speak for yourself and not for the ‘people of God’?!

      This rather shallow attack on the hierarchy is also a slap in the face of all people who are living their lives according to Catholic moral values and teachings (the real people of God). It’s not easy, but it can be done!

      Sure it’s very easy to throw it all in the ditch and fall in line with the rest of the Zeitgeist crowd, obsessed with sex and individualism.
      Have you noticed what this kind of ideology has done to our society?

      Have you actually read any of Joseph Ratzinger’s many books or listened to him??
      He clearly prefers ‘take your money and run if you don’t agree’ to ‘stay and live a lie’ or ‘stay and do your best to destroy the Church from within’.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Amator Dei: “simply ingratiating himself with the hierarchy”. If you mean the English Hierarchy I rather doubt it. But why not come up with your objections to HV rather than making ad hominem attacks and just repeating the tired mantra that many Catholics do not agree with it as if the view of many people makes something truer?

  • Trisagion

    amator Dei, you are missing two crucial points. The first is that it is precisely by proposing the beauty of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching that people are converted. There simply is no other way than to propose the Church’s teaching in this matter. It simply isn’t possible or appropriate to do anything else, The second is that by reiterating the universal teaching of the Church in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI didn’t bring on the crisis of authority, it simply highlighted that the crisis had already occurred. Catholics have disobeyed the Church’s teaching since the very beginning: read John 6 if you want to see a crisis of authority, to use your singularly inappropriate phrase. What you seem to be suggesting is that if people have been allowed to dissent from the Church’s teaching, then the teaching should change. Tell us, do, which teachings you’d be prepared to ditch in futherance of this ‘principle’?

  • planechant2

    A somewhat cynical comment from ‘amator Dei’, with lots of unproven assertions and negative conclusions. Bishop Egan is to be thanked and congratulated for speaking out on this issue. To suggest some sort of self-interested motive on his part, is cheap and unacceptable. The Bishop is preaching the truth of Humanae Vitae to his flock,many of whom may well be ignorant of this due to woeful catechetics in schools and pulpits over the last 40 years. We are considering the salvation of souls, not a question of whether ‘Humanae Vitae’ fits in with our own personal spiritual comfort-zone! Sorry ‘amator Dei’,if the lives of the ‘people of God’ are totally contrary to the teachings of the Church, then they are no longer the ‘people of God’. There are many, many Catholics who do accept the Divine authority of the Church on matters of faith or morals, and they in spite of human weakness and failure, are truly the Church militant.

  • Haslam

    “Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt”

    Isn’t the problem that although many people, myself included, see these problems in /society/, many people, myself included use contraception in their own marriages and don’t see those problems in the lives of their own families. My own experience is that being able to plan the size and timing of our family has brought benefits to my family, both practical things (like we don’t need to buy a big house so we can afford for my wife not to work and properly bring up out three children) and spiritual gifts due to the strengthening of our marital love made possible by the ability to express it sexually free of corrosive fear and guilt. In my experience reliable contraception has helped us stay on the straight and narrow and aviod the pitfalls of pornography, adultery etc rather than lead us to involvement with those evils.

    You can disagree with me, damn me to hell if you want, but you will really face an uphill struggle convincing me that the reality that my wife and I experience is somehow counterfeit.

    • Haslam, nobody else can damn you to hell – you are the only one who can do that.

      The Church simply says: “Do this, and it will help you get to heaven by keeping your married love chaste.” If you want to play Russian roulette with your soul because you think you know better than the perennial teaching of the Church, then that is your prerogative. But please, if you think that “reliable contraception has helped us stay on the straight and narrow”, then unfortunately you are not talking about the same straight and narrow which is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The idea that it is permissible to sin in one way in order to avoid sins in other ways is exactly the same kind of reasoning which leads to abortion, adultery, murder and all the rest.

      It is called “rationalising” behaviour – people tell themselves “rational lies” so that they think they can operate with a clear conscience. Unfortunately it always catches up with them in the end.

      • Haslam

        The problem with HV is that it says contraception will destroy your marriage. And then you put that against my experience and that of many millions of other people who have found that it actually strengthens their marriage.

        Something has to give. Either HV is wrong or the concrete reality that millions of people perceive throught their own lived experience is a halucination.

    • kfca

      Many comments here have alluded to the wider implications of ignoring the immorality of artificial methods of contraception, but none on the effect on an individual’s soul.

      Even to those who reject the Church’s authority, it is eminently reasonable that contraception is gravely wrong. (I was never aware of the Church’s teaching on these things when growing up, (nor do I ever remember hearing of Humanae Vitae until maybe about 10 years ago), and yet still recognised artificial contraception as something that was very deeply sinful ever since I became aware of its existence). I would encourage anyone who reads this to think back and reflect on their earliest understanding of contraception, as I believe that they too would acknowledge this as fact.

      @Haslan
      You are clearly aware that the Church teaches that contraception is a mortal sin. Yet, with no sign of compunction, you have explained that you have chosen to prioritise your own will and self-interest ahead of the will of Our Lord. You prefer to safeguard the comforts and the pleasures of your life on earth over the reception of sacraments. That is your choice, and evidently, your boast.

      I assume that you are Catholic, and that you are also aware that your soul needs to be in the State of Grace at the time of death to have hope of eternal Life. You write, ‘You can disagree with me, damn me to hell if you want..’: you have free will – that is your own call.

    • Nicolas Bellord

      Haslam: It is perfectly proper to regulate the number of children that one has but not through artificial contraception. Did you give NFP a chance?

      It is unfortunate that NFP has not been promoted by the Church in this country. There was a deliberate decision to prefer artificial contraception and referrals for abortion over NFP in the case of the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth.

      • Haslam

        “Did you give NFP a chance? ”

        Yes for 4 years during which time we had 3 children (which we wanted, just not so quickly). I’d say we gave it a fair chance too, with lots of background reading and help from a great teaching couple (who to be fair had use it partially successfully themselves). I don’t want to knock NFP. It clearly works for some people and can have other advantages. And I don’t disagree that it should be promoted, and not just by the Church. But our experience was that NFP put a lot of strain on our marriage (again in fairness there are other marriages which it strengthens and others that do fine despite NFP – there are no hard and fast rules about this each couple is different). But for us fear put a huge strain on both the physical and emotional aspects of our sexual relationship and there was a lot of fear not really of pregnany, because we wanted children anyway, but of the physical and mental damage that could (and as it happened did) arise from not spacing them with sufficient “recovery time” for Dad and especially Mum.

        So NFP can work and I would not discourage any couple from trying it, but the reality is that I am not sure we could have survived the rest of our married life using it.

        So I am not knocking NFP or slagging off or ignoring the good moral stuff in HV, I am saying that in my case, my own mental wellbeing, the love for my wife and a desire to aviod subjecting her to neither a sexless marriage nor the reproductive cycle of a farm animal and our desire to provide adequately for our children both materially and in having enough time for them, lead me to get the snip.

        I am prepared to be judged by God on these choices as on every other. But please don’t think that those choices were taken on a whim or out of ignorance or for purely selfish reasons.

  • Clement

    Well said Amator Dei

  • rifleman819

    Amator dei,
    Please have a look at the traincrash that is contemporary British society before criticising HV and the good bishop.
    It is brilliant , isn’t it? Abortion , divorce , suicide, marital abuse, disrespect of the elderly, violent and pornographic media,rampant crime, drug-dependent teens and young adults,a failed, ill-disciplined education system-three whole generations in some families on benefits, single parenthood becoming the norm on sink-estates, epic drunkenness….a dystopian world awaits.
    A rampant , consumerist selfishness…an ego-centred “society” that is the very negation of the word.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Once we sever the unitive from the procreative meanings of the marriage act, we have to logically accept in vitro fertilization and “gay marriage.” We have to also have to accept contraception for the unmarried and the very young. Genies and bottles come to mind.
    We will not make a dent on the abortion issue until Humanae Vitae is taught clearly and until NFP is promoted in every diocese.

    • Haslam

      nonsense. There are prefectly good arguements against IVF, and gay marriage which do not depend on there being a link between the unitive and procreative aspects of sex in marriage (a link which is afterall broken anyway in a marriage where there is natural infertility).

  • Joseph Matthew

    Once we sever the unitive from the procreative meanings of the marriage act, we have to logically accept in vitro fertilization and “gay marriage.” We also have to accept contraception for the unmarried and the very young. Genies and bottles come to mind.
    We will not make a dent on the abortion issue until Humanae Vitae is taught clearly and until NFP is promoted in every diocese.

  • The trouble with `Amator Dei` and his views is that he has never read Humanae Vitae. Yes, he is right that the majority of people ignore it, because nobody is allowed to challenge his position, as `Amator Dei` demonstrates. I am sick and tired of watching the number of fatherless familes growing in this country. When I challenge in my parish those who lead us to do something about the growing unhappiness of young people I simply get something like “O they are young, they will come back”. Nonsense. Many teachers, who themselves are not leading exemplary lives, have the `commone sense` approach to relatioships which amounts to `do what I do`. Bishop Egan was concerned with the young but this will not be noticed. But the main thrust of the Bishops argument was at the beginning when he explained that truth comes from Christ. I want more young Catholics getting martried. I want more families with a mother and father. I want the suffering of children in broken homes to stop. That is all in `Humanae Vitae` why it shoud be studied and the idea that we should just accept it is wrong is tripe.`

    • Haslam

      “I want more young Catholics getting martried. I want more families with a mother and father. I want the suffering of children in broken homes to stop.”

      so do I. But do tell me how my vasectomy causes broken homes. It hasn’t broken my home and it hasn’t as far as I know damaged anyone elses.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Haslam there is a real difference between an infertile married couple having sex and a contracepting couple. The contraceptive act is intrinsically hostile to the procreative good. Married couples who are infertile or who are using the infertile period are not doing anything AGAINST the procreative good.By analogy, to constantly speak lies is not a good thing.That does not mean that I have to always pass on truths to others.
    I too was at one time against the constant teachings of the Church.It was the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe whose writings taught me that acceptance of contraception leads inevitably to acceptance of homosexual acts.

    • Haslam

      but homosexual acts are condemned in the Bible. Surely that is an argument which has no dependance on arguments over contraception? “thou shall not kill” is a pretty good argument against IVF and abortion, again one which has nothing to do with contraception.

      • Onanism is also condemned in the Bible – see Gen 38, 9-10. Onan’s penalty for using withdrawal as a method of contraception was the same as the Sodomites – death.

        All Christians saw the condemnation of Onan as being prohibitive of contraception generally. Even arch-heretics like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli condemned it unreservedly. It was only in 1930 that the Anglican Lambeth Conference broke ranks with the rest of Christendom and permitted it in exceptional circumstances. Rowan Williams has rightly observed that once that intrinsic link between intercourse and procreation was broken, the flood gates were opened and the predictable slide into multifarious deviancy took place. Here lies the root of the Anglicans’ problems and inability to deal with the issue of homosexuality in accordance with God’s Law. In admitting contraception they removed human sexuality from its God-given purpose and end. They cut away its foundations and no longer had any logical basis to resist the slide into homosexualism, fornication, IVF, embryo experimentation and all the rest.

        But if you do not accept the Bible, the perennial tradition of the Church, and the teaching of the Magisterium to be authoritative on matters of sexual morality, what do you use as your measure for what is right and what is wrong? Is it simply a matter of what “feels right” to you?

        • Haslam

          “what do you use as your measure for what is right and what is wrong?”

          Well one of the factors in deciding if something is good or bad or neutral is to look for evidence of harm or benefit. There is nothing touchy-feeling about it at all.

          The evidence I have experiences in my life is that in the narrow set of circumstances in which I am my family live contraception has done no harm and has produced benefits, both material and spiritual for both myself and other members of my family. It has strengthen my marriage, and helped in the spirital and mental well being of us all and the physical health of my wife. Everyone is allowed their own opinion, but you can’t have your own set of facts nor can you or the Church know the details of my own family relationships and circumstances better than me.

          I do not presume that these benefits would arrise in all circumstances and I don’t ignore HV, it contains very important warnings. People should read it, but they can also use their God-given faculty of reasoning to decide whether the warning about contraception leading to bad things like family break-up is actually likely to lead to those bad things in their own circumstances. We decided not and so far our experience has proved us right.

          You may think that I am defiant, but I am sorry but the physical and mental health and happiness of my wife and children who I love more than anything in this world comes first. And I make no appologies for that.

          • Nicolas Bellord

            Haslam: What you are putting forward is utilitarianism or consequentialism where the only criterion for whether something is right or wrong is whether the consequences are good or bad. The Catholic Church does not accept that ethic but teaches that certain actions are intrinsically wrong in themselves. The problem with consequentialism is that calculating the consequences is highly speculative and liable to be influenced by personal preferences which are often motivated by selfishness. Just because you in your particular circumstance are unable to detect any harm from what you have done does not make something right. It is similar to the dilemma of the person quarantined in a city where plague has taken hold. Allowing that person to leave may have good results for them but it could cause the plague to be spread to other cities. Often one has to stick with rules that may seem unfair to the individual but are essential in the interest of the majority. The resulting suffering of the individual can be used for benefit in other ways.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Haslam, Bible only protestants tell us that the Bible does not actually condemn homosexual acts, just lack of hospitality or rape or anything else they care to think up. Abortion, they say, is never condemned in the Bible.
    So you have given us good reasons to support the only alternative to moral chaos : the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  • ms Catholic state

    As somebody once said….God will ask us about the children we didn’t have!

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>