I left off in my last column, Notes from the Trenches with the fact that despite the deep sadness of losing a valuable loyal Catholic it brought people together. Because of our Catholic beliefs there was a profound sense of joy due to the large number of children present. Without words, children firmly establish hope and meaning for the future; they are living testimonies to God's grace and generous blessings; they are one of the fundamental pieces of the puzzle (life) that give meaning to everything else. It is here, more than any other area where, in my opinion, the Novus Ordo church falls flat on its face.
The facts are in. The modern church establishment cast aside many traditions, practices and teachings of the Church after Vatican II, but the most highly visible was the 1968 rebellion against Church teaching on marriage and contraception. While many Catholics won't admit it, the day Charles Curran initiated a highly visible public dissent against Church teaching on contraceptive birth control, a new protestant revolution was born. Curran's statement of dissent, signed by over 600 theologians, priests and academics, placed in one of the most prominent news papers in America, was a modern day equivalent to Martin Luther's Theses nailed to the church doors which sparked the Protestant Rebellion. However, unlike Luther, these modern rebels got to keep the name "Catholic" and go about spreading their deadly theses. Instead of a strong, swift reaction, the Roman Pontiff retreated, allowing the rebellion to wash over the entire Church. The liberals tell the story best, "Paul IV was not ready for the vociferous dissent and the ferocious debates…After Humanae vitae, Paul never wrote another encyclical and he stopped his visits to churches outside of Italy….What is clear is that a storm arose in the church that has yet to abate" (The Catholic Tradition, Timothy G. McCarthy, Loyola Univ. Press 1994, p.317).
This was, in my opinion, the greatest betrayal of the faithful because it resulted in an entire generation that was never born. We can see in retrospect why it was necessary to destroy the Mass, as well as "reform" the outward practices and traditions of the Catholic Church. All of these things paved the way for the outright abandonment of Church teaching, replaced with a love embrace of the world.
Because I was a young teenager when Humanae vitae was published, I know first hand that there was a rebellion among clergy, religious and lay people. There was much laughter in the news media about the Pope, "He no play-a da game, he no make-a da rules!" As far as any teenager could see, the Church, as we knew it, was quietly acquiescing. We were free to make up our own minds because this was a new, modern church.
While the U.S. Bishops issued a response to the dissent in 1968 (Human Life in Our Day), it meant nothing. It was the Pope who should have taken an active, firm stand, talking to the people in simple terms, bypassing voluminous statements that go unread by the multitudes (which has become the norm in our present day). Besides, the American Hierarchy in their pastoral letter, after reminding the faithful about the Church's teaching on artificial contraception, launch into the "norms for licit dissent," and leave the reader (already confused after the makeover of the Church via Vatican II) with the obvious feeling that it is okay to dissent in this instance because this is a very serious issue. The fact is that no matter what the Bishops' statement said, priests and bishops alike continued to hold to the notion that a person's "conscience" must guide them on this issue, which can mean whatever anybody wants it to. Many priests continue to insist that the Church is going to change this teaching and therefore, it is impossible for them to council married people against the use of artificial contraception.
I admit that the modern church is not completely to blame for the loss of morals during the 1960's, but it's my firm belief that during the ferocious upheaval of the sexual revolution, the faithful were in fact abandoned by their mother, the Church. I am confident that the outcome would have been quite different had the Church not been engrossed in becoming "modern" and giving up her ancient inheritance. It would have been bad enough if the fall-out had only lasted through the 1960's, but the truth is that even to this day, the rebellion continues. In all the years after I returned to the Church in the late 1970's, I never once heard a single word within the Novus Ordo community on Church teaching regarding this issue. Nor was I ever given any literature to read or made aware of any discussion group or service which would direct me in firm Catholic teaching regarding marriage and family. It was only when a very conservative Catholic friend began to give me tapes and books only a few years ago that I made the discovery. However, for me it was too late.
For millions of Catholics, including myself, life would probably be quite different today if the Church had stood strong on her teaching regarding marriage and contraception. It is one of the greatest sorrows of my life that my husband and I did not understand and live the Church teaching regarding this issue during my childbearing years. While we consider ourselves extremely blessed to have three healthy children, especially considering the problems I encountered after the birth of our first child, there is yet an emptiness which will never go away, knowing that it was possible by the grace of God that we could have had more.
I look around and see that most of my siblings, my friends and classmates from school, my whole generation more or less, are either childless or have limited themselves to 2 children. Unlike the reaction to Humane vitae, there has been no public, visible dissent from the world's false teaching of population regulation. We gladly accepted the theory of a "population explosion" as if it were an infallible, magisterial proclamation.
With this new limit on family members, which we happily embraced, was the added bonus which came with it: the "god given right" to pursue a high lifestyle with as many "toys" as we can get our hands on. Underlying this mindset, is the sad fact that most women are not even interested in giving up their paychecks and careers in order to raise large families. As a "modern" people, we will not be bothered with having large families which would surely plummet us to poverty level and deny us our right to "have it all." Certainly, there are exceptions, but I'm referring here to the majority. For a frightening glimpse of how the majority of today's Catholics apparently feel about this issue, look no further than U.S. Catholic, a magazine dedicated to remaking the Church in man's image at http://www.uscatholic.org/soundboard/1998/jun/bc2.html
However, within the ranks of Traditional Catholics, Church teaching on marriage and family didn't go on an extended vacation. The fruits of faithfulness to the authentic, timeless Magisterium are everywhere visible. Coming recently from the conservative or neo-Catholic way of thinking, I know that within the deeply conservative pockets of Catholics in the U.S., there is a growing awareness of the true teaching on this issue. While many of the young people in these pockets are living out the teaching and having large families, there is a huge void of children that should have been born to the previous generation…..my generation. Meanwhile, no such void is to be found among Traditional Catholics who refused to give up the traditions and practices of the Catholic Church after Vatican Council II.
In this area alone can be found one of the reasons Traditional Catholics are detested by the neo-Catholic establishment. It is my opinion that Traditional Catholics actually have everything the neo-Catholics wish they had, and yet the modern Catholics are forced to defend and extol the virtues of an ecumenical council which has wrecked havoc on the entire Church and stands in direct conflict with the attainment of the neo-Catholic goal to implement the totality of Catholicism. In order to remain in the modern concept of complete "communion" with Rome, sincere and loyal Catholics are required to walk an irrational tight rope which simply denies them the fullness of Catholicism in practice and implementation.
In an excellent article in a recent issue of The Remnant, Chris Ferrara takes on the issue of Natural Family Planning and its shortcomings which are due to the ever present need for novelty, ambiguity and ultimate compromise which are hallmarks of the Novus Ordo establishment (Neo-Catholicism at Work: NFP and the Mysticism of Charting, The Remnant, October 15, 2002). It seems that every teaching in the Church must be re-written in order to adjust it to the rebellious freethinkers of our modern era. As Ferrara points out, the constant charting of the wife's fertility in order to avoid relations during periods of "unacceptable risk of pregnancy" are "about as natural as a farmer planning meticulously to sow his corn in the dead of winter, lest he end up with the burden of a harvest." This program deliberately allows for contraception, call it natural if you will, under the guise of Catholic teaching. Ferrara's article is very enlightening and I recommend it to all, especially those of childbearing age.
It only takes a bit of common sense to realize that Traditional Catholics are a constant and living reminder of the failures of the post conciliar church. It's no wonder that the battle is so heated.