Pope Francis must rescind Pope Paul VI’s horrible 1968 ban on contraception

By Edd Doerr | 19 October 2014
Comment, The Washington Post

Pope Francis arrives for an afternoon session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican on Oct. 9, 2014. (Photo: Gregorio Borgia / AP Photo)

The most important thing that Pope Francis could do would be rescind Pope Paul VI’s horrible 1968 ban on contraception, which he promulgated against the sound advice of nearly all of his own advisers. That ban has contributed enormously to the deaths of many thousands of women worldwide and has contributed to world overpopulation which is fueling climate change, resource depletion, fresh water shortages, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion and nutrient loss, biodiversity shrinkage, sea level rise, widespread human suffering and starvation, and increasing sociopolitical instability and violence. Francis could help remedy all that with a stroke of his pen.

Vatican opposition to contraception has helped raise the world annual abortion rate to well over 30 million. See the official 1975 US official study NSSM 200, accessible on line. That rate is now over 40 million per year according to Alan Reisman’s 2013 book Countdown.

Catholics pay little attention to Vatican bans on contraception, abortion, divorce, etc, but non-Catholic politicians are spooked by the phony image of Vatican power added to the nonsense generated by the Protestant Religious Right.

Edd Doerr (see churchandstate.org.uk for more details)

Is the Vatican evolving on sex and marriage? Not the way politicians do.

By David Cloutier | 17 October 2014
The Washington Post

Bishops and Cardinals attend a morning session of a two-week synod on family issues at the Vatican. (Photo: Gregorio Borgia / AP)

David Cloutier is on the theology faculty at Mount St. Mary’s University and is the editor of the blog “Catholic Moral Theology.”

In American politics, “evolution” has become the term of choice to describe shifting attitudes, especially toward same-sex marriage. President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are among those who have talked about their views evolving or having evolved.

At the Vatican this past week, “gradualism” was the term emphasized by the bishops and cardinals from around the world meeting to discuss issues of sexuality and family that have divided the church.

The bishops and cardinals didn’t use the term to describe a shift in their thinking. Rather, in the provisional report of the Synod on the Family, they invoked gradualism in recognition that even those who strive toward a moral ideal tend to fall short; for all of us, morality takes time and practice. They urged appreciation of the good in relationships that don’t meet the church ideal of monogamous, til-death-do-us-part marriage.

In accordance with the “law of gradualness,” unmarried couples living together might be encouraged to find deeper commitment in a relationship that has obvious value. Individuals who have remarried after divorce may perhaps be able to take Communion if, for example, the second marriage is stable and clearly benefits the children. Some of the church leadership talked about affirming long-term, committed same-sex relationships in the same way the Catholic Church affirms the virtue in other religious traditions. “One simply cannot say that a faithful homosexual relationship that has held for decades is nothing,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich elaborated to a reporter.

The fact that the midterm report from the bishops included positive statements about these relationships marks a significant break from the past, when such relationships were labeled as “irregular” or “disordered.” There was outrage from conservative Catholics after the release of the document. The Vatican conceded to requests to revise the English translation, changing “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for homosexual persons.” The final, more formal statement that will be released next fall, after a second conference, could take a different tone. But the Vatican says the midterm report accurately characterizes the discussion so far.

So are the bishops, too, evolving? Are they gradually realizing that their work has manifested only a partial following of God? Christopher Hale, a Catholic blogger and political advocate, seemed to suggest as much when he wrote in Time this past week of a “shift on LGBT issues” in which the bishops are now “catching up to Pope Francis.”

Clearly, something is happening within the church. Church leaders and members, like the members of any other community, have been influenced by the experience of having friends, relatives and neighbors who are living admirable lives after divorce, or who are in committed, loving same-sex relationships. The pope and the bishops meeting in Rome are also acutely aware of increasing secularization and decreasing membership.

But this is not the same as what happens when individuals or societies “gradually” change their views on a given issue.

Unlike secular political movements, the church is not staking out positions on social issues with the goal of effecting — or blocking — legal or cultural change. It does not see social change (however important) as an end in itself. Instead, the goal is to facilitate the encounter with God, in the person of Jesus and the community of the church. The deliberations of the synod make clear that Francis and many other bishops worry intensely that a focus on certain moral ideals, especially when they sound like a simple “no” to many people, constitutes a barrier to that fundamental spiritual encounter.

Thus, unlike secular advocacy of this or that stance on an issue, gradualism rests on the more important theological conviction that God is really at work in the world. People’s growth ultimately comes from God; the pastoral leadership of the church must simply protect and encourage it. They tend a vineyard that God plants. Francis (when he was Cardinal Bergoglio and had yet to be named pope) warned a conference of priests against “wanting to separate the wheat from the weeds too quickly,” insisting that “it is impossible to force the pace of any human process.” For in these processes, God is at work. “God is not,” he said, “a far-off deity that does not get involved in the world. . . . The structures of the world are not essentially sinful.” God is one “who accompanies all growth; he is the daily bread that nourishes; he is the merciful one who is near at hand in the moments when the enemy would exploit his children.”

This faith in God’s actions, even amid human limitation, should “distance us from the ideas of those who think they have the key to the world, those who know nothing of waiting patiently and working hard, and those who are easily swayed by hysteria and illusion.” In essence, those who think they see everything are the ones who become blind to God’s activity, relying instead on their own.

The ultimate aim is not to mandate or resist social changes, but to accompany people; not to fantasize about being “kings and queens” (as Bergoglio chided his clergy in another talk), but to encourage and shepherd people starting from where they are. Indeed, if there is a real loser in the synod’s discussions, it is the bishops who sought a high-profile position in the culture wars. Francis wants the church to be a “field hospital” for those wounded in our culture and who seek healing, not a mighty warrior whose actions may well add to the wounds.

You could say that, in highlighting gradualness, the synod is saying something very, very old, and not all that political: We are all sinners, and we must rely on God’s grace, not just our own resources. That’s not a gradual realization on the part of the church but something ancient. And it arises not out of a kind of laxism, but out of a recognition of how demanding and challenging Christianity is. I myself need gradualism whenever I read about loving enemies, forgiving people over and over, letting go of the illusory security and charm of possessions. How fortunate we would be if we applied gradualism toward high ideals of sustainable energy use, care for the poor and the immigrant, and sexual respect and discipline — all of which are vigorously proclaimed by the church. Instead, we often sacrifice such ambitious ideals, perhaps for the comfort of a little extra personal freedom and liberation.

The church wants much more than these private victories. God wants nothing less than love out of us. But God also knows: It takes a long time.

cloutier@msmary.edu

Edd Doerr was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He has been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982. A former teacher of history and Spanish, he is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights. He served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973 until 2004 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications. For over ten years he has been writing a column in the journal Free Inquiry from the Council for Secular Humanism.

Recommended

What happened to American political will to deal with the overpopulation problem?
Infallibility and the Population Problem
NSSM 200, the Vatican, and the World Population Explosion
The Vatican’s Role in the World Population Crisis: The Untold Story

Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Stephen Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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