Entrusted by God with the defence of the integrity and purity of morals

    By Eric MacDonald | 6 July 2012
    Choice in Dying

    Such is the Roman Catholic Church’s hubris, its overweening arrogance, that it does not shrink even from acts of political subversion in liberal democracies in the name of its claim to have been delegated by God to defend the integrity and purity of morals. The words in the title of this post come from Pius XI’s (Pope Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti’s) encyclical Casti Connubii, or, dropping the pretence of antiquity, Chaste Marriage. The interesting point about the Chaste Marriage, which was published in 1931, is that, without mentioning it, it is a direct response to Resolution 15 of the 1930 Lambeth Conference.

    [Just to interject. Lambeth Conferences are the once every ten years (decennial) gatherings of Anglican bishops from around the world, meeting, at first in 1867 — not coincidentally the year in which Canada achieved Dominion status — at Lambeth Palace, the official London dwelling of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and later, as numbers of bishops increased, first at Church House (1968), and then at the University of Kent (1978), where subsequent conferences have been held.]

    At Lambeth 1930, the following resolution was passed:

    Resolution 15

    The Life and Witness of the Christian Community — Marriage and Sex

    Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

    Voting: For 193; Against 67

    It is doubtless significant that this is the only resolution for which the division (for and against) is provided in this archive.  Notice how grudging and ambiguous the resolution is. While not giving its full approval, the resolution made it possible for Anglicans, in reasonably good conscience, to use artificial means of birth control. The significance of this motion was not lost on the Pope.

    I should add here that in the very next resolution (#16),

    The conference further record[ed] its abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion.

    And then in the resolution following this one we are told that economic reasons are not appropriate reasons for the practice of conception control, and calls on Christian public opinion to call for change in the economic conditions which induce people to use birth control in order to limit family size to fit the family’s budget. Notice how grudging and timid the resolutions are. The church had not, at this time, given any consideration at all to the thought that couples might want to limit family size for other reasons, that there might be reasons for reducing the overall birth rate, or that the whole question of whether to have a child or not should be the decision of the woman concerned, in consultation with her partner, if need be, but at least that her fears, plans and purposes are amongst the main considerations governing the question of bringing children into the world.

    Notwithstanding, this rather timid resolution was the occasion for the issuance of the encyclical Chaste Marriage. And not only that. Resolution 15 of Lambeth 1930 was the first shot in the struggle between Rome and Protestantism over which church or group of churches is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Sad but true. Here’s the story, which came as a surprise to me, and possibly will come as a surprise to you as well.

    In 1964 a two-tiered papal commission was established to look into the question of population and birth control. One tier consisted of 15 cardinals and bishops, and the second tier consisted of 64 lay experts in a variety of disciplines. The commission’s work took place during the period 1964-1966. Now, here’s the astonishing part. According to Stephen Mumford, in his book The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy, which reads sometimes like a conspiracy theory on steroids:

    According to commission member Thomas Burch, Pope Paul VI himself assigned them the task of finding a way to change the Church’s position on birth control without destroying papal authority. [124]

    In view of Chaste Marriage this would not be easy, for in that encyclical Pius XI  (Pope Ratti) in the impossibly presumptuous language of such documents, said this — you will not miss the title of this post embedded in the following quotation:

    Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible to declare another doctrine regarding this question [namely, Lambeth 1930], the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin. [para. 56]

    Well, it doesn’t get much plainer than that. But notice the context. Either the Anglicans are right, or they are wrong, and if they are right, then they speak for God, and God’s Spirit dwells with them, and not with the Roman Church, for whose uninterrupted tradition the pope speaks. The stakes are high — though the terms are bogus.

    In the event, the papal commission recommended that the church’s stand on birth control be changed — by a fairly large margin. The lay vote was 60 to 4 to change church teaching, amongst the clerics the vote was 9 to 6 in favour of change. A minority report was written, of which a co-author was the then Archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla (and he was also the author of a great deal of Pope Montini’s Humanae Vitae). The pope (Paul VI — Pope Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini) did not take the advice of his commission, and issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which artificial means of birth control (basically, the pill), and abortion are banned. Had the Holy Spirit spoken? A paragraph from the minority report, published in August Hasler’s book, How the Pope became Infallible, and repeated in Mumford’s book, tells the tale:

    If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubii was promulgated [Not entirely accurate or complete. Casti Connubii was issued on the last day of 1930. The Anglican Lambeth Conference and its Resolution 15 — to which the words ‘on the side of the Protestant churches’ presumably refers — came in August 1930.]), in 1951 (Pius XII’s address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved. [quoted in Mumford, op. cit., 126]

    Recall that the man who became John Paul II (Pope Karol Wojtyla) was co-author of these words! As I read the paragraph over again I could not help but recall Christopher Hitchens’ outrage at the pope’s defining Limbo out of existence:

    Of course, the consequences for the church may not have been so significant in the case of Limbo, but how do you counter the claim of one infallible pope that the uninterrupted tradition of the church opposes any use of the human sexual faculty which is deliberately closed to the possibility of procreation? Playing with the furniture of the afterlife is one thing, but how do you tell people that what had been denominated a grave sin is not so grave a sin after all? Of course, this will come as a relief to almost all of them, but it will make the pope look like a fool. This is one of the problems with the idea of infallibility, because, though infallibility is limited to those occasions on which the pope is speaking ex cathedra, there is no clear definition as to what constitutes speaking in this particular, infallible way.

    According to Mumford — an American expert on fertility and population growth — defending the Catholic supposedly “pro-life” position has now become a make or break proposition for the papal authority and papal power, and the Vatican is prepared to go to practically any lengths to defend it. His book goes into great detail regarding the way that the church is using its power to undermine, not only American interests and security, but also the interests of the world community in a sustainable and secure future. The so-called “Fortnight for Freedom” is only the latest in the Catholic Church’s crusade — or is it tirade? — tantrum, perhaps? — against government, law, or any social order that places obstacles in the way of the church’s absolute commitment to ensuring that birth control and abortion will be withheld from women in any circumstance whatever, and its new-minted doctrine that human life begins at conception, and that, from the point of conception onward, unborn human tissue should be given all the rights and protections — and especially its right to life — to which every adult human being is entitled.

    In pursuit of this, the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) prepared a Pastoral Plan, organising political leverage at every level of American society, using Catholic associations, dioceses, parishes, and even ecumenical relationships with other Christian communities, in order, ultimately, to achieve an amendment to the American Constitution, to be called the Human Life Amendment, which would define human life, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto, as beginning at the moment of conception. Stephen Mumford goes into great detail about the outworking of the (then) National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan, first reproducing the entire plan (pp. 139-152), and then providing lengthy analysis in several chapters, a plan to be carried out without any regard at all for the priorities of the American government and people — priorities temporarily expressed in the National Security Study Memorandum 200 (the NSSM 200 of Mumford’s title), and then laid aside, according to Mumford, largely as a result of decisions taken in the Vatican which amounted to a rejection of American democracy.

    The point should, I believe, be taken seriously. In a homily preached at a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. closing the Fortnight for Freedom, the homilist, making the subversive purpose of the protest crystal clear, said this:

    Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.

    But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing — at least nothing permanent and important — belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism.We belong to God, and only to God.

    Make no mistake about it: this is deliberately subversive of democracy. The use of the title “Caesar” is a particularly eloquent touch in this respect. Its purpose is to put the church (and in particular the pope) first in people’s minds. That is where their true loyalty belongs — because, after all, the pope speaks for God. Mumford points out how this works in practice. Governments, according to the Roman Catholic Church, have no right to legislate on matters that oppose the church’s moral teachings. It’s as simple as that, and Catholics have an obligation to resist any such laws, and obedience to any such law is a crime. If abortion is a moral abomination, as the Catholic Church holds, then a law that would legalise abortion is such that (according to Pope Wojtyła’s Evangelium Vitae — The Gospel of Life) ”it is never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law or to vote for it.” (Para 73, my italics) This is clearly aimed at Catholic politicians, who have been warned. It also applies to the electorate, who are hereby forbidden to vote for politician who is, to use the lingo, “pro-choice.” Moreover, Pope Wojtyła goes much further than this:

    By virtue of our sharing Christ’s royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through … political commitment. [Para 87]

    Ever since Pius IX (Pope Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti), the Roman Catholic Church has never accepted that secular governments can be superior to the Church, and it has never accepted the legitimacy of the separation of church and state. Freedom, for the Roman Catholic Church, is the right to live by a system of laws that reflects the church’s moral priorities.

    This should be a matter of concern to us, and not only for the reasons that Stephen Mumford gives. Of course, I agree that world population growth is out of control and is causing serious degradation to the environment which would, even without global warming, entail serious, life-threatening issues for coming generations. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church, in defence of its ridiculous claim to papal infallibility, is prepared to risk even more serious erosion of the ability of the biosphere to support human life, not to speak of ”[t]he widespread premature death and suffering” (Mumford, 203) that its position on birth control and abortion does in so much of the developing world — though its influence, coupled with support from the American government which it has suborned through its political machinations, on world population summit meetings – is surely basis enough for Mumford’s conclusion regarding the papacy:

    Our willingness to publicly accept the pope’s views and claims of what is right and what is wrong is serving to postpone the inevitable self-destruction of the Papacy. Our leaders should end this unreasonable practice and let self-destruction take its course. [217]

    It is long past time that the Vatican be given this message. Indeed, it is time to tell Catholics that it is time for them and the pope to accept that no human being should be given the kind of blind obedience that Catholics give to the pope, and that their judgement on matters of morality cannot be taken seriously because so irrevocably bound to issues of political power. An organisation that controls and excludes voices in the ongoing internal conversation on matters of faith or morals, to the extent and in the manner that is characteristic of the Roman Catholic Church, cannot be taken as making a serious contribution to the ongoingpublic conversation on questions of morals. We know that there are many different voices in the Catholic conversation, because the church has already excluded so many. No one should take seriously the conclusions of the church on moral issues if those voices are not permitted to have their say. The church’s supposed commitment to reason requires it, and its claim to speak for Catholics is empty without it.

    Two years ago, on the occasion of the pope’s visit to Britain, there was a movement to arrest the pope (see here) for crimes against humanity, based on his role in the coverup of the sexual and physical abuse of children. At the time, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, published his book, The Case of the Pope, in which he expressed the opinion that there was probably sufficient evidence on which to base such an action. In that book, Robertson also speaks about a UN conference on population and development that was

    hijacked by a church masquerading as a state, preventing consensus being reached on any proposal that might possibly challenge the proposition that the only acceptable human genital contact was that between husband and wife for the purpose of procreation. [102]

    This pattern is being repeated again and again, spelling misery for millions. When in a homily sometime in the 90s I spoke of the pope as evil, because he had stood up in one of the most populous countries in Africa and called the use of birth control evil, I was told by some parishioners that speaking ill of the leader of another church was not acceptable to them. I said to them what I repeat now, that it is, indeed, a duty to speak out against someone whose claim to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals is doing so much obvious harm in the world, and so I did it again, until those who objected got the point, that I would not remain silent while religious fools did and said things that cause harm to people. And that is why I continue to write against religion today, because I believe that religion is a great evil, that its continued prominence in the world is a source of enormous harm to untold millions of people, and that, indeed, compared to the harm and the hideous evil that so many other cruel and senseless despots and tyrants have done or caused to be done, the harm that religions still have the power to do is — or at least could be, if not checked — an even greater evil than anything done by the world’s most pathological tyrants and warriors, and it will be done in the name of a god or gods, and in obedience to men who imagine that they speak in the names of their god or gods.

    (h/t to the Network for Church Monitoring, and to Stephen Mumford, for making his books available for download on the n4cm website)

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