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FROM HUMANAE VITAE TO VERITATIS SPLENDOR
by Msgr. Vincent Foy, P.H.
Recovering the Truth
A "second magisterium," bold and perverse, with no credentials but its own, is in possession of the minds and conduct of myriads of Catholics. The resulting crisis is perhaps the worst in the Church's history, for wherever Humanae Vitae is rejected, in due time there the Church will cease to exist.
How can the truth be recovered? There are four principal ways:
(a) By Spiritual Means
The truth will not be recovered without grace. 1994 has been declared "The Year of the Family." This would seem to be the providential time for our spiritual leaders to organize campaigns to promote family life in accordance with all the means of grace: Masses, retreats, missions, Holy Hours, rosaries, prayer crusades, penance and invitations to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This year of the family is a time of grace, a time for recovery of the truth about love and marriage, a time of salvation.
Even outside of organized groups individuals can contribute much to the recovery of the truth. Witness the work of St. Catherine of Siena. Saintly persons are desperately needed today. For want of ten just men Sodom was destroyed.
Husbands and wives having difficulty with Humanae Vitae can do no better than reflect on section 23 of the encyclical, addressed directly to them. In four paragraphs there is a world of spiritual wisdom expressed with great sympathy and understanding. Here are martialled all the spiritual helps they need. It should be engraved on their hearts, for it is the way to their peace and salvation.
(b) By Authority
Cardinal Danielou said that "It is the non-use of authority that is creating our problem." It is primarily the failure of authority at all levels to act that has brought about the present crisis. If a house divided against itself cannot stand neither can a Church with a divided magisterium.
As long as misleading statements of national hierarchies are allowed to circulate without official contradiction the crisis will remain. Hierarchies which have compromised the truth have a grave obligation to restore it. They have the example of the Austrian bishops of March 29, 1988. Even one hierarchy' s misleading statement on contraception can corrupt not only its own people but reach out to corrupt others.
In a matter so critical for the survival of the Church it would seem that where a -National Hierarchy persists in defending or permitting a misleading statement there is place for the intervention of the Holy See. Individual bishops could submit questionable statements of their hierarchies for evaluation to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. So could Catholic groups. Surely, we pray, the Holy See would not want to provide grounds for the suggestion that Rome fiddled while the Catholic world burned.
It deserves repeating: every erroneous or misleading statement of a national hierarchy must be withdrawn. Every national hierarchy must teach what the Church teaches if the truth is to be recovered.
How authority is to be used by individual Bishops is stated in the synodal document on Dangerous Opinions and on Atheism (Ratione Habita, October 28, 1967). The bishops said, concerning false teaching and other abuses: "This way of acting must not prevent the firm exercise of authority in directing the Church of God, according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council. . . Those who are rash or imprudent should be warned in all charity; those who are pertinacious should be removed from office. " If this synodal proposal were implemented in relation to dissent from Humanae Vitae the teaching of error would end.
(c) Through Education
Most Catholics have not read it nor do they understand the beauty of its teaching, the rewards Truth, and that includes the truth of Humanae Vitae, has its own dynamism and in spiritual matters comes on the wings of grace. But for the truth to be accepted it must be known, and to be loved it must be known in all its positive consequences. Humanae Vitae is not known. that come from following it or the tragedies that surely come with its rejection. So to recover the truth of Humanae Vitae education is essential.
The first arena for the recovery of the truth of Humanae Vitae is the seminary. Many seminaries still have dissident professors of moral theology. One errant professor can corrupt the preaching, teaching and counselling of many priests and innumerable Catholics.
No text should be allowed in any school which does not adhere without equivocation to Humanae Vitae. This means the elimination of many texts in use to-day. An example is the widely used high school course Path through Catholicism by Mark Link, S.J. It promotes a gravely erroneous doctrine on the formation of conscience and the moral relativism of the Winnipeg Statement of the Canadian Bishops.
Education in the truth is essential in marriage preparation courses and can be done also by sermons, retreats, seminars and courses given under such orthodox auspices as the Pope John Paul II Institute for the Family. It is not too much to ask that every Diocese have a Family Life Program with the major purpose of recovering the truth of Humanae Vitae. Unless that is done no program can succeed.
(d) Through Pastoral Care
It should be self-evident that right pastoral care is always in accordance with the truth. Yet dissidents continually call for a kind of pastoral care which destroys both the truth and souls. An editorial in The Tablet, London, unhappily reprinted in The Catholic Register, November 13, 1993, hopes that the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, in calling contraception intrinsically evil, will not be used to destroy the "uneasy compromise over this matter with which the Church has been living since 1968." The Church has not been living with compromise but dying because of it. The editorial hopes that, in the wake of the encyclical, bishops will not "want to throw moral absolutes at their people." Moral absolutes are the truth and that is what we all need.
Desperately our people need the truth in pastoral care: in the pulpit, in the confessional, in marriage preparation courses. God and grace are with the truth.
On a recent television panel-discussion on journalism the question was asked: "How can some newspapers and some journalists get away with vicious character assassination? " One journalist replied: "Because there are no consequences."
How can national hierarchies of bishops get away with distorting or destroying the teaching of Humanae Vitae?
How can individual Bishops get away with allowing school texts which dissent from Humanae Vitae?
How can seminary professors get away with dissenting from Humanae Vitae?
How could Fr. Richard McBrien and Fr. Andrew Greeley, on national television, get away with attacking the Pope, the Church and the Magisterium when the Holy Father was at the World youth Conference, Denver, on August 15, 1993?
Is it not because there are not effective consequences? The old maxim of Roman Law perdures: "Nulla sanctio, nulla lex.": where there is no sanction there is no law. But if there are no apparent or insufficient consequences to dissenters there are immense and apocalyptic consequences to the Church. As a house divided itself cannot stand neither can a divided Church stand where that division exists.
Surely the time has come, for the glory of God for the protection of the family and for the salvation of souls - for adequate consequences to those who attack Christ and His Church by attacking Humanae Vitae. Passivity is not a viable option, as the past 25 years have demonstrated.
What will remain at the end of time when death is conquered and the sons and daughters of God are raised up in Christ? The Fathers of Vatican II tell us "Love and the fruits of love will remain."( Gaudium et Spes) . That is also the message of Humanae Vitae.
|2001 Catholics Against Contraception|