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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.