‘With regard contraception I think the pope won’t say the Church has been wrong the whole time’ ! – Cardinal Murphy O’Connor on future pope

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has given an interview to BBC Radio 4′s Today show that is being interpreted as saying that the next pope should not condemn contraception.  The Daily Telegraph is running the headline, ‘New Pope should not condemn contraception, says Cardinal.  The Daily Telegraph reports the following:

“I think that every Pope will face what needs to be faced and with regard to contraception I think the Pope won’t say the Church has been wrong the whole time. He’ll be saying there are ways…

“I think the Pope will be as every other Pope has, particularly Pope Benedict, understanding that the fundamental teaching on sexuality is concentrated on marriage, on family life.

“I think that the Church would be wise actually to focus on that in her teaching, rather than saying ‘we condemn this, we condemn that, or the other’. No – focus on what’s good and what’s true.”

Protect the Pope comment: Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s comment is typically oblique and gnomic so it’s necessary to read it a couple of time, ‘ I think that every Pope will face what needs to be faced and with regard to contraception I think the Pope won’t say the Church has been wrong the whole time. He’ll be saying there are ways…’

Maybe I’m reading this wrong but our cardinal appears to be saying that the Church has been wrong some of the time about contraception, and that there are ways….of what? There are ways of the new pope saying that it’s OK to use contraception in certain circumstances?  I don’t want to put words in the cardinal’s mouth but what exactly is he saying here?

Here’s what Gaudium et Spes – surely Cardinal Cormac’s favourite document from Vatican II – about the use of contraception:

‘Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. (GS 51)


46 comments to ‘With regard contraception I think the pope won’t say the Church has been wrong the whole time’ ! – Cardinal Murphy O’Connor on future pope

  • Rifleman819

    Should not the service of Holy Mother Church be better served by the Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster..eschewing any comment at all and concentrating instead on improving his golf handicap?

    He has no vote in this conclave.

  • First +Kieran, now ++Cormac. Let’s see: it can’t be because Arundel and Brighton is the closest to Europe – that’s Southwark. It can’t be because that’s where The Tablet is based: that’s Westminster. Maybe the + and the former + of the smallest of the “South Coast Dioceses” feels they have to proclaim its views more loudly now that Portsmouth has changed and +Chrissy and +Degsy have gone strangly quiet.

  • ms Catholic state

    We stand on the verge of our own self-annihilation via contraception…..and he comes out with this?!! He must be still living in the 1970′s.

    Also the percentage of Catholics worldwide has decreased from 17 to 16%. We would be increasing not shrinking if Catholics preferred children to contraception. http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Catholic/The-Global-Catholic-Population.aspx

    • Haslam

      The human population has DOUBLED since 1970. Some self-annihilation

      • ms Catholic state

        But not in the West, where despite mass immigration we still have an ageing population. Death beckons! Nature will not be interfered with without cost!

        • Haslam

          The UK population has increased over the last ten years at the FASTEST RATE EVER!

          • Lynda

            You need to educate yourself on population, and what contraception and abortion have done. The demographers have had the hard facts available for decades but it is being ignored by anti-life ideologues. Only where countries are already reaping the profound economic effects are political leaders seeking to ameliorate the damage and undo the top-down policies that got them there. For many peoples, it is too late to recover. See Demographic Winter.

  • Mersey Mercy

    “gnomic” should that not be “gnome-ic” or better still ‘comic’!

  • Seaneinn

    Agreed rifleman I thank God his Emminence has no vote.

  • Karla

    Deacon Nick, can a Pope change doctrine on acceptability of contraception?

    • Dominic McCarthy

      No. The condemnation of contraceptive practices goes back to the Old Testament (sin of Onan). It has been consistently declared immoral by councils and catechisms so as to fulfil the requirements of infallible doctrines of the ordinary Magisterium. See Lumen Gentium 25*. Even if the encyclicals Humanae Vitae (and Casti Connubii in 1930) weren’t promulgated as “infallible definitions,” they could still contain infallible doctrine.

      Dissidents often try to make out that the Church has not defined any moral doctrines infallibly. They are quite wrong – see Trent on Marriage and the Sacrament of Penance, for instance. John Paul II defined the grave immorality of abortion and euthanasia in Veritatis Splendor, in wording which deliberately accorded with LG25.

      *Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter’s successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely.[40] This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith.[41]
      This was the case right through up to 1960, when some bishops in the west began to wobble.

      “Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.” (LG25)
      Looks as if certain bishops don’t quite qualify for that “are to be revered by all”!

    • Andrzej

      From the Telegraph article:

      “If you believe in fidelity and permanence it seems an odd thing not to encourage people to celebrate that,” Lord Gummer said. “Science has taught us that some people have this attraction and don’t have heterosexual attraction. This is now universally agreed and so it is the right thing to do for society to acknowledge that.”

      I am afraid that both everyday experience and science teach us that humans have all sorts of attractions and inclinations, many which are destructive to society.

  • Was the poor cardinal having a “senior moment”?

  • Augustine

    Cardinal Cormac gave a very nice “Thought for the Day” – but then unwisely agreed to stay in the Today studio for a discussion. The results were entirely predictable.

    He has spent his life being genial, friendly and charming – but has apparently never been willing to get himself properly prepared before entering the Lions’ Den of a grilling by John Humphrys on the Today Programme.

    Sadly neither of his elder brothers (Mgr Pat Murphy-O’Connor or Canon Brian Murphy-O’Connor) are still alive to have a quiet word with him and tell him to have the humility and the self-knowledge to keep away from radio and TV studios.

  • Michael Petek

    Let us unpack this one, shall we?

    Every living species on earth that reproduces sexually has a constitution designed to reserve to the Creator the control of the final decision as to whether a new living being shall come into existence, or not.

    Human beings have no liberty to control their own fertility, and they would have none over the fertility of animals and plants had it not been given to us by God. No more than anyone but the Queen can signify the Royal Assent to a Bill, or to veto it, so as to make of it an Act of Parliament.

    A person commits idolatry if:

    (a) having commenced an act of natural sexual intercourse, he attempts contraception; or

    (b) he makes a human embryo.

  • Genty

    First Conry, now CMOC. You don’t get to be a bishop or a cardinal by being naive. More likely signs and portents of the Magic Circle regrouping in the hopes of a more pliable pope.

  • Wake up England

    With such loose cannons amongst cardinals and bishops it’s hardly surprising The Pope feels unable to cope. If we don’t get a very firm new Pope in the coming conclave we’ll be in real, deep trouble – with every liberal Catholic in Holy Orders saying (and doing) their own thing. We must all pray very hard for a new Holy Father who will bring these disenting bishops and cardinals to heel. Holy Spirit please guide the Church.

  • comte de Frebonius

    I agree 100%, Wake up England!!!

  • Dorothy B

    I’m sure Archbishop Mennini will be very interested in the views of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and Bishop Conry.

  • mike cliffson

    Im paywalled out of the telegraph, can’t check.
    Twere charitable to assume firstly that a man should have been misquoted or out of contexted, and even if , technically fairly reported , that he , as our cousins say, “misspoke”.
    But the words as stated are against doctrine,which is just plain wrong, and if ensured mutual masturbation is ok at will what’s wrong with permanent same in same sex “marriage”?which is unhelpful.

  • Pravin Thevathasan

    What a wonderful Pope we have had in Pope Benedict. For me, he is up there with the greats: Pius X, Pius XII etc.

  • mike cliffson

    With the same caveats, maybe out of context maybe a mistake, but , as reported, sounds catholic to me :
    from http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/big-families-are-a-blessing-lifesitenews-interview-with-papabile-cardinal-t
    In the interview taped October 29, 2012, Cardinal Turkson was adamant that despite being raised with nine siblings in a two-bedroom house with no car, neither he nor his brothers and sisters considered themselves to be poor.

    The cardinal, appointed to head the Pontifical Council by Pope Benedict in 2003, noted that his family was “by no means the biggest,” recalling friends who came from families of eleven, twelve and more children.

    Neither of his parents went into higher education, he recalled. “My father wasn’t a particularly rich person,” he said, “he was a carpenter in a mining firm. My mother traded in vegetables.”

    “So, you can just imagine, probably, the income was very meager, but they took good care of all of us. All of us went to school, secondary school.”

    The secret to success at large families, he says, “is service – parents who are ready to sacrifice a lot.”

    I think I speak for all of us, we never felt, we never considered ourselves poor.

    We didn’t have a mansion to live in – ten children… my parents had a room, and the children, we also had one room, big enough, but, that’s what we shared. Later on, we got a third room.”

    We were okay, you know, school and study and everything, we did our homework, did everything that we needed to do to excel in class.

    Every year, we would all look forward to Christmas, as a time of the year when we would get new clothes, get new shoes.

    Sure it was only “once a year,” he explained, “but we knew that once a year, at Christmas, we would get new clothes, new shoes and all of that.“

    He said again, “We got breakfast, we got lunch when we came back from school, we got supper. We didn’t feel poor.”

    “Naturally, my father didn’t have a car,” said Cardinal Turkson who grew up in the 1950s, adding that “but that wasn’t a big deal” back then. “We grew up happy, (the) ten of us.”

    The Cardinal attributed the happiness of his upbringing amidst the challenges to the sacrifice of his parents. “The thing I would emphasize would be the great life of sacrifice of our parents,” he said. “They must have sacrificed a lot, denied themselves a lot, to have the ten of us all come up and go to school and, each one pursue a profession or vocation of his choice.”

    Cardinal Turkson concluded: “That’s why – that’s why I never, never believe that big families are always a problem. I cannot relate to that.”

  • Sally Clarke

    “First Conry, now CMOC”

    Both Arundel & Brighton Bishops, the latter begot the former.

  • fintan michael

    it just goes to show how difficult it is for poor old pope benedict when you have underlings like o connor and conry. the pope announces his resignation and they stab him in the back within days. dont worry however too much about the church because christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her and guess what it wont.

  • John Oglander

    Where does Our Lady fit into all of this? Why do so-called “liberal” Catholics always go on about the usual “hot-button” issues, but never seem to think about eternal truths such as the Sacrifice of Christ for our salvation, devotion to His Holy Mother as Mediatrix of all Graces, the Four Last Things and the serious danger of all of us being damned. They seem to think only in terms of this-worldly affairs, and believe in a minimalist approach for Catholics, holding that recreational sex is OK for both unmarried heterosexuals as well as gays, disregarding the virtues of purity and chastity. No doubt over the next month or so we will be inundated with the likes of Peter Stanford, Cristina Odone etc on the mainstream television, promoting the hope that the next pope will “finally enter the 21st Century”. I am so upset by these people that I have given up TV and even Catholic newspapers, and only derive my news from orthodox Catholic websites such as this blog, Catholic Online and Michael Voris’ ChurchMilitant TV.com, of which I am a premium subscriber. How many souls will Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor o Bishop Kieren Conry save from Hell with their nonsense? I would rather listen to Our Lady’s serious warning at Fatima.

  • I didn’t hear this interview, and I don’t know if it is reproduced here in full, so I might be wrong, but having read the above several times I don’t come to the same conclusion you do, Deacon Nick.

    The Pope won’t say the Church has been wrong “the whole time”. A bit ambiguous without verbal emphasis, but I would understand this to mean “all this time” rather than “some of the time”. It is difficult for the Church to make her message heard above the noise of the world. Everyone knows that the Church “condemns contraception”, but very few (sadly, even among Catholics) can say why. Everyone knows that the Church is against abortion. Both these teachings have at root the intrinsic dignity of the human person, created by God. I think we have to start from there, and thence reason to “and therefore the Church condemns contraception” rather than starting from the condemnation and then adding because. This is an issue of presentation, opening people’s minds, or at least inviting them to think about not closing their minds, not an issue of truth. As for “He’ll be saying there are ways…” as he didn’t finish the sentence I don’t think we can draw any conclusions about he was or wasn’t going to say.

    I agree that it would have been helpful if the Cardinal had expressed himself clearly and unambiguously. I recognise that it is important to challenge our priests and bishops if they speak in direct contravention of the Magisterium and thereby lead others into sin. However I also believe that, in charity, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when it is a matter of poor expression. In this case the papers are reporting that it was said the Church should not change teaching on contraception. Let us therefore dedicate our time to praying for our bishops, Pope Benedict and the openness of the Cardinal Electors to the Holy Spirit in the forthcoming conclave.

    • Nicolas Bellord

      Recusant: Having listened to the program I can see that you could give the Archbishop the benefit of the doubt that he meant “all this time” but the manner in which he continued was ambiguous. He did say that the Church should concentrate on the teaching on marriage rather than condemning this or that. You may be right in saying that we should start from there but this surely must depend upon circumstances and condemnation is, in the end, necessary. Otherwise it looks like “carrying on sinning until you fully understand why the Church condemns contraception”. Is that an attitude one can take with abortion: “carry on with abortion until you have been persuaded of the teaching of the Church”? Does one allow referrals for abortion in a Catholic Hospital, gender reassignment operations, co-operation in IVF and the full range of contraception including abortifacient pills until such time as there is a new generation who have been properly catechised to eventually reject all of this of their own volition? In any case where has there been this emphasis on the teachings of the Church as regards marriage over the last forty years or so?

      You say “In this case the papers are reporting that it was said the Church should not change teaching on contraception.” But the headline read: New Pope should not condemn contraception, says cardinal
      The new Pope should not condemn contraception, its former leader in England and Wales suggested today as speculation began about the future of the Church following the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI.

      Now you can say that was a misrepresentation of what the Cardinal said but unfortunately that is what people will now understand him to have said. Once again vacillation and ambiguity have done harm.

      • Recusant

        Ah, I see that I misread the headline. Sorry. Kind of makes my whole comment redundant :-S

        I take your point about “carry on sinning until…” being used to justify absolutely anything and everything and I see how people could end up with this idea. It wasn’t my intention to say that we need to persuade people, more that in presenting the Church’s teachings we perhaps need to go for a more ‘a,b,c therefore z’ approach rather than ‘z, because a,b,c’, because people tend to stop listening at z. I’ll stop now or this will turn into an essay!

        • Nicolas Bellord

          I think this is an interesting point. I agree that ideally one should teach the doctrine on the basis of a.b.c therefore z. However I think at the same time there is the need to condemn sins. I always think of travelling by air. One is required to follow certain instructions such as turning off one’s mobile. One may have no idea why you should do this but it is wise to follow the instructions of the crew. You may privately query the need to do this and inquire into exactly what are the technical reasons but that surely is pretty exceptional and probably requires a technical education and even it is probably wise to give the benefit of any doubt to the crew. It seems to me that as a Catholic one should obey the teaching of the Church and the traditional threat of damnation was a good motive for doing so. This has probably changed as it seems that the four last things are not taught. Thus some Catholics think they can ignore the teaching if they are not convinced of its correctness. There is also the idea that as a matter of conscience one can query the teaching of the Church when in fact conscience is only there to query whether or not one’s action are in accordance with the teaching of the Church. In summary it is desirable to explain the whole doctrine that leads up to saying something is wrong but at the same time it is necessary to say “Don’t do that!”.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,(151) to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God,(152) and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory. (para 21 Lumen Gentium)

    It is evident that through the media these pastors, our Bishops, have unparalleled opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel. They should surely do that with clarity and in an unambiguous way.

    Reading his Grace’s words I am unable to understand what he is saying with his double negative. Is he suggesting that the ban on contraception is wrong some of the time? Does that mean that in certain circumstances it is okay? One cannot be certain.

    However what is certain is that, consciously or unconsciously, he is doing the work of the devil in hinting to the faithful that the teaching of the Church on contraception might be wrong and thereby causing confusion and doubt.

    Further what is certain (at least I hope so!) is that if he came out saying quite clearly that he did not believe what is taught in Humanae Vitae then Rome would react rather strongly to his material detriment. So instead we have these ambiguities.

    So where does this leave us? Perhaps he can be judged by his actions. When the question of allowing an NHS GP practice to enter the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth the doctors concerned said they were under contract with their masters in the NHS to make referrals for abortion and to provide the full range of contraception practices and that they intended to do so. Some thirty of the leading Catholic ethicists and philosophers in the UK wrote to his Grace asking him to stop this. He had the civil legal powers to do this but chose to do nothing despite endless pleadings and letters. Somebody on the Tablet told us we should have a more nuanced attitude to abortion. He had not even the common decency to meet or explain his position to those who objected.

    • “…have unparalleled opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel. They should surely do that with clarity and in an unambiguous way.”

      It may be splitting hairs but since when was there anything about contraception in the Gospel?

      Decretum Gratiani made the link between “Natural Law” and “Divine Law” in the 12th Century. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae then gave it a promotional push … but it doesn’t exactly come from the new testament directly. You could claim it came from the old testament (“go forth and multiply” etc)…

      • Nicolas Bellord

        Well there was the sin of Onan in the Old Testament. But the in the New Testament we are told of what was bestowed upon Peter and the institution of the Church which is there to teach us i.e. the Magisterium which has clearly condemned contraception over the ages.

  • Dominic McCarthy

    Sure, now, did John Humphrys give the good Cardinal a double malt before the interview? Aye, just fill it up to the top, Eminence….. Don’t you be worrying about it. We’ll get you a taxi home.

  • Nancy D.

    We will know we have an anti Pope if contraception, same sex sexual relationships, abortion, euthanasia, women priests…or any of the non negotiable elements of The Deposit of Faith that serve the Good of all persons, become-negotiable.

  • Augustine

    Of course Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor should now write to any newspapers that have misrepresented him to clarify his remarks.

    Otherwise their readers will assume that there has been no misrepresentation of his views.

    When he was made a Cardinal by Blessed John Paul, he was reminded that he should be prepared to shed his blood in defence of the Church. All he needs to do now is to sacrifice a little ink.

  • buckle

    Defending the Catholic Church’s position on contraception has never been easier at this point in history. Unfortunately CMOC is living in the past.

  • Lynda

    Abominal. Egregious betrayal of his duty of care for souls!!! Words defy me.

  • Lynda

    Contraception is contra nature and the constitutive purpose of the marital act. It is against reason, the Natural Law. To accept it is to go against reason, our very nature.

    • peter

      The church official teaching is not against contraception, it has a teaching against artificial contraception. There is a long long story to be told about the debate during the 1960′s, especially the commission that looked into the area of artificial contraception. The fact that the majority of catholics – who in all due conscience have rejected the church teaching on artificial contraception is to be noted and respected if it that conscience has been informed.

      • Lynda

        That is incorrect. The Church, in recognition of the Natural Law, recognises and teaches that contraception is wrong. The intentional sterilisation of the marital act is wrong. Of course, persons are morally free to work with nature to delay conception, in certain circumstances, by avoiding the marital act at the fertile periods. Persons who contracept either do not have an informed conscience, or are acting against their conscience. Those who know are acting against their conscience; those who don’t do not have informed consciences.

        • peter

          The church teaching on contraception is clear, barrier methods and chemical methods are said to be wrong, however methods that use ‘time’ are valid. Sorry i don’t understand your final two sentences.
          I believe that barrier methods of contraception are ok, i stand outside of official church teaching, but i am still a catholic. John 23rd was really open to the possibility of new teachings in the area of contraception, sadly in my opinion, Paul 6 and others (especially Ottavini) lost their nerve and went against the advice given to by the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control.

          • Lynda

            Sorry, Peter, but you have proved my point with exquisite cogency – all the necessary and sufficient elements.

  • SteveD

    Conry and CCMO should be saying with regard to the Pope’s abdication. “Actually I was undoubtedly personally responsible for this decision, at least in part. I am sorry for undermining the Pope’s authority and for implying that I don’t believe what the Church teaches when I am one of the successors to the Apostles. I repent and weep for my responsibility in this matter and promise to adhere to my vow of obedience in future.” What a headline that would make!

    • Paul F

      Steve: that`s one headline that the overwhelmingly anti-Catholic media would NEVER put up, even if one of their darlings like H Kung were to say it. We live in a new “dark” age: the age of darkened intellects.

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