I’m Not at All Eager to Start Another Brawl Over the Pope, But…—Peter Robinson

 

An email from a friend:

Worry less about Francis on economics, but sweat the upcoming Synod on the Family instead. To paraphrase George Gilder, economic growth can get switched back on in an instant. All we need to do is set in place the right policies.

But the family? Don’t mess with that. Damage to the family would be permanent. You couldn’t repair that with lower tax rates. The upcoming Synod on the Family looks to be Humanae Vitae all over again. The 1968 crowd is getting ready to make their final push before they expire.

I wish he didn’t, of course, but I’m very much afraid that my friend has a point. The effort within the Church to persuade Pope Paul VI to overturn the Church’s traditional teaching against birth control back during the 1960s proved immense—a majority of the panel of experts the Pope convened to advise him on the matter recommended that he permit birth control, which, of course, would have altered the Church’s very conception of married love, marriage, and fidelity. Only a minority report, and the Pope himself — in a display of what might be termed holy stubbornness— led instead to the publication of Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the Church’s historic teachings. (If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, by the way, you’re in for an intellectual shock. With astonishing accuracy, Paul VI predicted the ills to which the breakdown of marriage would lead. Even if you think we Catholics are crazy—a view I share from time to time myself, I admit—Humanae Vitae is worth a read.)

Now Pope Francis has called a Synod on the Family, and another major effort to alter historic teachings appears to be underway—an effort to make annulments easier to obtain, for instance, or to permit those who have remarried without annulments to receive communion. Here again, this sort of talk may strike a lot non-Catholics as crazy. But what’s at stake is the Church’s ancient and unchanging teaching that marriage is indissoluble—and the fundamental commitment that makes possible the permanence of the family.

Someone—anyone—tell my friend why he’s wrong. Tell him—and me—why we don’t need to sweat the Synod.

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  1. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I think that’s the wrong approach. We do need to sweat the Synod. 

    Here’s why. The shorthand general analysis about Francis is that he’s more a pastor than a theologian. (A rough description, but it’s probably accurate enough.) This Synod is probably going to dramatically spotlight the difference. 

    The family (i.e., the traditional understanding of the family) is, without question, under siege. The question is how to improve our ministry to the current state of the family, by changing pastorally but not changing theologically. That’s a vitally important job for today’s church, but … don’t kid yourself … it’s going to be hard. 

    Case in point: Francis has spoken of the little girl, who comes from a two gay-parent household. How do we, in the church, minister to that child? The little girl doesn’t understand why we vigorously oppose how her “parents” live, and if we just preach tradition at her, she’ll turn us off immediately. Besides, her situation isn’t up to her; we don’t want to punish her (and alienate her) for something she has no responsibility for.

    That will be a tough task. 

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Again, I ain’t Catholic, but as long as this “synod” is out in the open, with all sides getting a fair hearing, then maybe it could be a positive experience. Better to hash things out in the open than to have sinister forces pulling strings in the background.

    The question is, would it truly be out in the open with all sides truly getting a fair hearing?

    Wouldn’t it be good to find out just how many of The Church’s powerful figures secretly harbour beliefs contrary to The Church’s teachings?

    • #2
  3. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Do I look like I’m worried?
    Hell is full of pastoral solutions.

    • #3
  4. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Contemplate the severed heads of St John the Baptist, St Thomas More, St John Fisher, etc.

    Sister Faustina’s Vision of Hell “I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the Abysses of Hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence…the devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God, What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” (Diary 741)

    • #4
  5. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    No One Can Say There is No Hell

    Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like…how terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O My Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, than offend you by the least sin.” (Diary 741)

    Diary, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul 

    And if you don’t like the message; blame St John Paul II.

    • #5
  6. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    I am a lifelong Catholic and would not be opposed to some change. One such change is allowing someone who is divorced and remarries to receive communion. I have siblings whose marriages have fallen apart because of their spouse basically abandoning the relationship. I don’t see how my siblings should be excluded from receiving a Sacrament as a result of something that was not entirely under their control. Furthermore, as a Catholic we are taught that if you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation your sins are forgiven. Why is it that I can commit other sins and be forgiven but divorce is unforgiveable? I also have to admit that I am not convinced that Pope Paul VI made the right decision on birth control. Avoiding a pregnancy is not the same thing as aborting an actual fetus. The Church allows other methods such as “Rhythm” for families to limit pregnancies. It do not think it forbids a woman from having her tubes tied or a man from having a vasectomy (although I believe Catholic hospitals do not perform them). What is so different about taking a birth control pill?

    • #6
  7. Salamandyr Inactive
    Salamandyr
    @Salamandyr

    Speaking as a non-Catholic, I’m more concerned with economic growth than whether the Catholic church finally acquiesces to at least some forms of birth control (I’m not necessarily rooting for them to, the solidity of the Church in the area of family issues has been a rock in a turbulent world). To an extent, the liberals, and libertines are right, other people’s choices don’t affect my own. Of course, they take it too far and misunderstand who is actually being imposed upon by their policies, but as a general rule…

    But while economic growth can be “turned back on”, you never get back time. Each day you delay those correct policies is another child dying hungry, another day of despair for billions locked out of the betterment of their lives by the “charitable”.

    Every major Protestant religion has managed to come to terms with acceptance of birth control within a framework of protecting life (opposing abortion). It won’t be the end of the world if the Catholic Church aligns with the Baptists.

    • #7
  8. user_162612 Member
    user_162612
    @Wolfsheim

    It is not true that the Church condones sterilization if that is the primary purpose of surgical procedures.

    • #8
  9. Chris L Inactive
    Chris L
    @ChrisL

    Makes me glad that I’m Lutheran.

    • #9
  10. Robert Lux Inactive
    Robert Lux
    @RobertLux

    I’ll just take a little step back here and post this excerpt from Philip Rieff (JamesPoulos rightly considers Rieff an unacknowledged titan of 20th century thought) – I was going to post this to Pseud’s recent post on celibacy, but I think it germane: 

    The case of Francis of Assisi (twenty-eight in 1210) and Innocent IV is perfect to illustrate “nonstructural” charisma [. . . ] The Catholic symbolists are today busily incorporating new gifts as fast as they can find them. This tolerance of the grand old world party for new gifts, this prudent interest in using them, is the sign of an organization intent chiefly on its survival. Not only is there a foreseeable end of mandatory celibacy for the Roman clergy, but I see nothing to prevent official welcome to the new gift of promiscuity. [. . .] The “new gifts” are being handed down, like marching orders anyway, from the credal guides to the laity—against celibacy, against the old liturgy. I am glad for every little tactical error made by this incredibly prudent, self-serving old organization. 

    Rieff, Philip — Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us

    Cf. review by R.R Reno 

    • #10
  11. user_668525 Inactive
    user_668525
    @NerinaBellinger

    I second Peter’s recommendation to read Humanae Vitae. It is a short and easy to understand encyclical. In my opinion, Pope Paul VI has been vindicated in his views when one examines the sexual landscape of today and the condition of the family.

    Regarding Church teaching, artificial contraception and intentional sterilization are forbidden for practicing Catholics. Also, it is important to remember that every Christian tradition held to the same teaching on contraception until the beginning of the 20th century. I think many people assume the Catholic Church has been alone in her stance for centuries, but it’s not true. You can read up on the Lambeth Conference (1930) for more history on how other faith traditions abandoned the traditional prohibition against contraception.

    The arguments against artificial contraception are deep and thought-provoking and can’t adequately be dealt with in a combox, but a good place to start is with Janet Smith’s writings – especially her talk “Contraception – why not?”

    • #11
  12. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    Pope fight! I’ll get the popcorn ready.

    • #12
  13. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Frank Soto:

    Pope fight! I’ll get the popcorn ready.

    Better call … THE BISHOP!

    • #13
  14. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Pelayo #6

    One of difficulties I encountered on entering the Catholic Church was the ignorance of the laity. I had a copy of Father Hardin’s Catholic Catechism with which I was familiar. Father Hardin was good enough to ensure that I had accurate answers to my questions.

    Your comment displayed a lack of understanding about the Church’s positions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church would be a good palliative for that lack of understanding, if you are in fact interested in finding out what the Church teaches.

    Of note, I could answer your considerations but then you’d likely not retain those answers. It is the effort made to acquire that information that is an aid to its retention. If it is important, then you have work to do.

    • #14
  15. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Salymander: #7 “Every major Protestant religion has managed to come to terms with acceptance of birth control within a framework of protecting life (opposing abortion). It won’t be the end of the world if the Catholic Church aligns with the Baptists.”

    I saw two wrong statements.

    1. The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church all support abortion in some or all forms.

    There are others which haven’t taken a position on abortion. We are not all pro-life, even with the nuances for rape, incest, or life of the mother.

    2. It won’t be the end of the world if the Catholic Church aligns with the Baptists.

    Yes. It will be the end of the world should that happen.

    • #15
  16. user_407430 Contributor
    user_407430
    @RachelLu

    Well it’s definitely true that the family is the thing to worry about now. As I’ve said for awhile, papal economics are not something to sweat. No critical doctrine is at stake and the prudential questions are innumerable. Give some deference to the moral principles, but don’t worry too much about the practical implications of the pope’s view. It’s not his area of expertise.

    The family is much, much more important. Here critical doctrines are on the line. They cannot be changed. Properly understood, there is no debate to be had over whether the divorced and civilly remarried receive Communion. It’s a central pillar. You can’t move it.

    And I don’t believe that they will, but the real worry is that they’ll throw a lot of dust over the teaching so that people think that they did. A Humanae Vitae moment would really be the ideal outcome, all things considered. That was a great testament to the Holy Spirit’s power to protect the Church.

    • #16
  17. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Nerina Bellinger: [Humanae Vitae] is a short and easy to understand encyclical. In my opinion, Pope Paul VI has been vindicated in his views when one examines the sexual landscape of today and the condition of the family.

    Even as (an Ex-Catholic) someone who disagrees with Catholic teaching on this matter, I completely agree that Humanae Vitae was — and continues to be — under-appreciated in terms of its predictions regarding the social effects of contraception.

    That said, the Catholic Church has been decidedly incisive in terms of offering an alternative that catches on even among Catholic faithful (this piece by Douthat sums up much of my thinking on the matter). Whether the problem lies in the advertising or the teaching, or something else* is a question good people can debate, but — whatever it is — the Church isn’t succeeding on this front, even as it succeeds elsewhere.

    * Solid products with good advertising fail all the time.

    • #17
  18. user_407430 Contributor
    user_407430
    @RachelLu

    I realize that HV seems like a dark turning point for Catholics culturally speaking, but I don’t think it would be quite like that now. Many people would be very upset, obviously, if warm and fuzzy Pope Francis turned rottweiler on them. But the momentum is so different now. That transgressive high (I’m defying the Holy See!) is far less available. The bloom is off the rose. And at least here in the US, many bishops (not all) have self-consciously recognized that they are engaged in cultural warfare. They would be very happy to embrace a HV-like affirmation of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage.

    A new Humanae Vitae is the thing to hope for. Pushing Church teaching on marriage into greater obscurity (perhaps, say, through some wishy-washy suggestion that people self-annul their first marriages if they don’t think they were valid, or some such travesty) is the thing to fear.

    • #18
  19. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Robert Lux: #10 “This tolerance of the grand old world party for new gifts, this prudent interest in using them, is the sign of an organization intent chiefly on its survival.”

    After two millennia involving centuries of antagonism and conflict someone has decided that the Church is intent on its survival. The Roman Empire is gone. The Holy Roman Empire is gone. The British Empire is gone. We were confidently told that Protestantism would lead to the death of Roman Catholicism. Anyone who can count to five can figure out how well that worked.

    Now we are told that Philip Reiff is a prophet. “Not only is there a foreseeable end of mandatory celibacy for the Roman clergy, but I see nothing to prevent official welcome to the new gift of promiscuity.”

    Really? One would have to be a real anti-Catholic bigot to glommy onto that tripe.

    • #19
  20. GKC Inactive
    GKC
    @GKC

    Americans account for something like under 10% of global Catholics but around 60% of all annulments. These concerns are all about conflating American Catholicism with Catholicism. If the worst that comes out of this synod is a streamlined annulment or repentance process for broken marriages, then I don’t think there is really anything to be concerned about, for it would not undermine Church teaching on marriage any more, and probably less, than the current American practice itself on annulments. Keep in mind, in Catholic teaching, if either the man or the woman enter the marriage with the idea that it can be dissolved, then those are grounds for annulment.

    The Church was correct on Humanae Vitae as it is on all family ethics. Humane Vitae is a prophetic document. Unless Francis wants to seriously induce schism and go the way of the Protestants, and the idea that he does is ludicrous, then there is no way he would sanction any substantive changes to church teachings on sexual matters or the family.

    • #20
  21. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    Donald Todd:

    1. The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church all support abortion in some or all forms.

    This is misleading. The Methodist church only condones abortion in instances where the mother’s life is in jeopardy. The phrase “some or all”, covers an enormous amount of ground which includes reasonable, and unreasonable positions on abortion.

    “In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.”

    When you have a conflict of the right of life for both the mother and the child, there isn’t an easy answer.

    I realize many on this site don’t believe such instances to be real, but as someone who has seen it happen first hand, yes there are times when the mother’s life is in mortal danger if she continues the pregnancy, and insisting she risk death so that you don’t have to cope with tough scenarios like this in your larger world view is not the answer.

    People can oppose abortion and still see the need to allow a health of the mother exception. Such people are your allies. Treat them as such.

    • #21
  22. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    1. Divorce is not an unforgivable sin. Divorce and re-marriage is the problem: it’s adultery.

    2. I am not a canon lawyer, but I have an idea that might streamline the annulment process for some people by allowing certain converts to use the Pauline privilege.

    Currently, if both parties in the annulment have previously received the sacrament of baptism, then a formal annulment process needs to be undertaken. This applies to Protestant converts (with Protestant baptisms) as well as Catholics, and presumably OE as well. Why not change this so that the necessary sacrament for a full annulment is Confirmation instead of baptism in the case of Protestants? This would allow more Protestant converts to use the Pauline privilege. Using Confirmation seems more accurate to me than making Protestant converts under go the full (and rather intense) annulment process. Are there any canon lawyers here who can offer commentary on this point?

    continued

    • #22
  23. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    3. Abandoning the stance on contraception would be catastrophic in the long tern, in terms of defending marriage.

    4. I rarely promote my organization, but would like to let you all know that we have a petition that we will be sending to Synod, specifically to the “Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.” It’s called Remember the Victims of the Sexual Revolution. Regardless of your religious background, if you are in favor of the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and family, please sign it to show your support. Remember that there is such a thing as the Catholic Left, and they will be working hard to change the Church’s teachings on these issues at the Synod.

    • #23
  24. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    I think one thing that the Church needs to keep in mind, in regards to birth control, is that technology is not going to stay the same. I have personal experience with natural family planning, but not contraception. Natural family planning is kind of a pain in the rear. On the other hand, contraception, even after all these years, still has lots of problems (not counting the moral problems the Church has pointed out). My wife is a coach, and even when she was pro-contraception, she discouraged her athletes using birth control pills, because she could see the physical effects it had on them.

    It’s a fact of human biology that woman are only fertile for a short period each month, but we don’t have a convenient way to reliably know when that fertile period is present. However, I imagine that it will not always be that way. When woman have a clear choice between altering their hormones, versus simply refraining from sex one or two days a month, I think I know which choice will be more attractive to most.

    The Church’s teaching on contraception will become more popular in future centuries, God willling.

    • #24
  25. GKC Inactive
    GKC
    @GKC

    Let me say just one further thing to this Synod and topic, which won’t come across too favorably to the Church. Catholics today, and yesterday, typically think of the Church as an Ark in a sea of madness; the madness being effectively modernity. It is indeed the Rock. So for there to be even an argument, even the suggestion that a radical change in church teaching is forthcoming, is either (a) a gigantic failure on the part of the Bishops, or (b) evidence that even Catholics have lost faith in their Church, and succumbed to despair. Either way, the Church loses, and it is something that Francis, for all the goodwill he has garnered, is contributing to whole-hand. Perhaps it is the media engaging in wishful, delusional thinking, and I suspect it probably is, that is perversely warping our anxieties. That said, with JPII and Benedict, all seemed settled, and liberal Catholicism was a dead project. Now, as one mentioned, the Gen ’68 is back and apparently fighting for one last go. It infuriates me as someone who loves the Church.

    • #25
  26. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Peter,

    I’ve decide to repeat my comment on Frank Soto’s post on monogamy. It works just as well here.
    ——————————————
    Monogamy is a moral trinket!!!

    Weather Forecast For Western Civilization: Heavy Salt Downpour expected sometime within this Historical Period.

    Advisory for fleeing travelers: Don’t Look Back.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #26
  27. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Frank Soto: #21 “This is misleading. The Methodist church only condones abortion in instances where the mother’s life is in jeopardy.”

    Lets split hairs. I said that the United Methodist Church condones abortion. You qualified my statement while admitting that the UMC condones abortion. What I said was not misleading.

    #21 “When you have a conflict of the right of life for both the mother and the child, there isn’t an easy answer.”

    #21 “People can oppose abortion and still see the need to allow a health of the mother exception. Such people are your allies. Treat them as such.”

    There is a difference between aborting a child while the mother is going through medical treatment, and having a child die in utero while the mother is going through a course of medical treatment. The second scenario does not directly attempt to kill that baby.

     Life is a risk. That baby may not survive chemo or x-ray therapy but it might. Will the baby survive the abortionist? The baby is not intended to survive the abortionist.

    So, are these people my allies? Maybe. Sometimes, perhaps. When it is convenient for them to be so.

    • #27
  28. Robert Lux Inactive
    Robert Lux
    @RobertLux

    Donald Todd:

    Robert Lux: #10 “This tolerance of the grand old world party for new gifts, this prudent interest in using them, is the sign of an organization intent chiefly on its survival.”

    After two millennia involving centuries of antagonism and conflict someone has decided that the Church is intent on its survival. The Roman Empire is gone. The Holy Roman Empire is gone. The British Empire is gone. We were confidently told that Protestantism would lead to the death of Roman Catholicism. Anyone who can count to five can figure out how well that worked.

    Now we are told that Philip Reiff is a prophet. “Not only is there a foreseeable end of mandatory celibacy for the Roman clergy, but I see nothing to prevent official welcome to the new gift of promiscuity.”

    Really? One would have to be a real anti-Catholic bigot to glommy onto that tripe.

    R.R. Reno — read the link at the bottom of the excerpt at my comment #10 — is a Catholic convert and a great admirer of Rieff. As was Father Neuhaus, another Catholic convert. I’m not holding Rieff up as a “prophet.” He’s a penetrating observer of things.

    • #28
  29. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    When I first heard about the Synod on the Family I thought, “Thank God! Just in time.” I’m sticking with that response.

    Does anyone here think the family isn’t in trouble? Under attack in the West? That Westerners don’t need a little clarification on the subject? That the 68ers will do their damnedest (and I mean that in the literal sense) to push their agenda, I have no doubt. The Serpent has been in the Sanctuary since before Eve picked the fruit. 

    The Church’s understanding of the family is a beautiful thing — modeled in the Holy Family and sourced by the Trinity itself. God has written the truth of it on our hearts. He will prevail.

    Schism schmism. Let’s have a declaration on the family. Be not afraid, Peter!

    • #29
  30. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Paul VI was a prophet (with regard to the consequences of artificial contraception he outlined in HV)…May the participants in this Synod, with Francis at their head, be guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. And may Catholics be open to our baptismal call to be living witnesses to the Risen Lord in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. (Do carry on…I won’t mind sweeping up popcorn when we’re done.)

    • #30

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