1. Thirty years ago this week, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which reaffirmed the Church's constant teaching on the regulation of births. It is certainly the most misunderstood papal intervention of this century. It was the spark which led to three decades of doubt and dissent among many Catholics, especially in the developed countries. With the passage of time, however, it has also proven prophetic. It teaches the truth.
My purpose in this pastoral letter, therefore, is simple. I believe the message of Humanae Vitae is not a burden but a joy. I believe this encyclical offers a key to deeper, richer marriages. And so what I seek from the family of our local Church is not just a respectful nod toward a document which critics dismiss as irrelevant, but an active and sustained effort to study Humanae Vitae; to teach it faithfully in our parishes; and to encourage our married couples to live it.
3. One way to understand the history of Humanae Vitae is to examine the past three decades through this metaphor of addiction. I believe the developed world finds this encyclical so hard to accept not because of any defect in Paul VI's reasoning, but because of the addictions and contradictions it has inflicted upon itself, exactly as the Holy Father warned.
4. In presenting his encyclical, Paul VI cautioned against four main problems (HV 17) that would arise if Church teaching on the regulation of births was ignored. First, he warned that the widespread use of contraception would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." Exactly this has happened. Few would deny that the rates of abortion, divorce, family breakdown, wife and child abuse, venereal disease and out of wedlock births have all massively increased since the mid-1960s. Obviously, the birth control pill has not been the only factor in this unraveling. But it has played a major role. In fact, the cultural revolution since 1968, driven at least in part by transformed attitudes toward sex, would not have been possible or sustainable without easy access to reliable contraception. In this, Paul VI was right.
5. Second, he also warned that man would lose respect for woman and "no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium," to the point that he would consider her "as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion." In other words, according to the Pope, contraception might be marketed as liberating for women, but the real "beneficiaries" of birth control pills and devices would be men. Three decades later, exactly as Paul VI suggested, contraception has released males -- to a historically unprecedented degree -- from responsibility for their sexual aggression. In the process, one of the stranger ironies of the contraception debate of the past generation has been this: Many feminists have attacked the Catholic Church for her alleged disregard of women, but the Church in Humanae Vitaeidentified and rejected sexual exploitation of women years before that message entered the cultural mainstream. Again, Paul VI was right.
6. Third, the Holy Father also warned that widespread use of contraception would place a "dangerous weapon . . . in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies." As we have since discovered, eugenics didn't disappear with Nazi racial theories in 1945. Population control policies are now an accepted part of nearly every foreign aid discussion. The massive export of contraceptives, abortion and sterilization by the developed world to developing countries -- frequently as a prerequisite for aid dollars and often in direct contradiction to local moral traditions -- is a thinly disguised form of population warfare and cultural re- engineering. Again, Paul VI was right.
7. Fourth, Pope Paul warned that contraception would mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power. Herein lies another irony: In fleeing into the false freedom provided by contraception and abortion, an exaggerated feminism has actively colluded in women's dehumanization. A man and a woman participate uniquely in the glory of God by their ability to co-create new life with Him. At the heart of contraception, however, is the assumption that fertility is an infection which must be attacked and controlled, exactly asantibiotics attack bacteria. In this attitude, one can also see the organic link between contraception and abortion. If fertility can be misrepresented as an infection to be attacked, so too can new life. In either case, a defining element of woman's identity -- her potential for bearing new life -- is recast as a weakness requiring vigilant distrust and "treatment." Woman becomes the object of the tools she relies on to ensure her own liberation and defense, while man takes no share of the burden. Once again, Paul VI was right.
8. From the Holy Father's final point, much more has flowed: In vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic manipulation and embryo experimentation are all descendants of contraceptive technology. In fact, we have drastically and naively underestimated the effects of technology not only on external society, but on our own interior human identity. As author Neil Postman has observed, technological change is not additive but ecological. A significant new technology does not "add" something to a society; it changes everything -- just as a drop of red dye does not remain discrete in a glass of water, but colors and changes every single molecule of the liquid. Contraceptive technology, precisely because of its impact on sexual intimacy, has subverted our understanding of the purpose of sexuality, fertility and marriage itself. It has detached them from the natural, organic identity of the human person and disrupted the ecology of human relationships. It has scrambled our vocabulary of love, just as pride scrambled the vocabulary ofBabel.
9. Now we deal daily with the consequences. I am writing these thoughts during a July week when, within days of each other, news media have informed us that nearly 14 percent of Coloradans are or have been involved in drug or alcohol dependency; a governor's commission has praised marriage while simultaneously recommending steps that would subvert it in Colorado by extending parallel rights and responsibilities to persons in "committed relationships," including same-sex relationships; and a young east coast couple have been sentenced for brutally slaying their newborn baby. According to news reports, one or both of the young unmarried parents "bashed in [the baby's] skull while he was still alive, and then left his battered body in a Dumpster to die." These are the headlines of a culture in serious distress. U.S. society is wracked with sexual identity and behavior dysfunctions, family collapse and a general coarsening of attitudes toward the sanctity of human life. It's obvious to everyone but an addict: We have a problem. It's killing us as a people. So what are we going to do about it? What I want to suggest is that if Paul VI was right about so many of the consequences deriving from contraception, it is because he was right about contraception itself. In seeking to become whole again as persons and as a people of faith, we need to begin by revisiting Humanae Vitae with open hearts. Jesus said the truth would make us free. Humanae Vitae is filled with truth. It is therefore a key to our freedom.
TOMORROW: Part Two of this three parter by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.
But this is nothing new. This coming Saturday we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the release of an important encyclical by Pope Paul VI. It was his last, and the most controversial of all. We're talking, of course, of Humanae Vitae on the regulation of birth control and it was largely ignored and disdained by the bishops, not to mention the populace - especially in America. Because of our hard-heartedness we have suffered with abortion and every kind of sexual disease since. Is God trying to tell us something? One of the brightest lights within the American episcopacy is trying to tell us something. That would be Archbishop Charles Chaput the young Capuchin Native American who replaced Cardinal James Francis Stafford as Archbishop of Denver. Archbishop Chaput's meteoric rise within the Church is turning heads...and many souls. After thirty years of stonewalling Paul VI's encyclical, Archbishop Chaput is reminding all of the true essence of Humanae Vitae. It is so pertinent that we are running it in three installments under Bishopspeak in MITERS THAT MATTER, concluding on Thursday. The Denver Archbishop, along with such luminaries as Bishop John Myers and Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (to mention just a few), represent a new movement within the Church, especially in the United States in stressing prayer, holiness and common sense loyalty. And, believe it or not, they are winning this "civil war" with a civil love that is winning hearts, not by stonewalling.
The Holy Father is doing all he can to stop the stonewalling, to outflank the liberals with recent letters such as Ad Tuendam which tightens the parameters on theological dissent. Many feel it was the controversy over the excommunication and subsequent return of Oblate theololgian Father Tissa Balasuriya that prompted this Apostolic Letter, but we strongly suspect that is just the tip of the iceberg. What the Pope is really aiming at is to stop the plethora of university professors who have used the pulpit of public opinion to further their own thoughts at the expense of the Church - such men as James McBrien, Andrew Greeley and that ilk, plus numerous Jesuit and former priest and nun professors who pride themselves in being modernists. Less than two weeks ago the Vicar of Christ issued Dies Domini, which we are running in its entirety over the next several weeks. It is a reaffirmation of the sacredness of Sunday as the Lord's day, something that has been lost on society today and, sadly, within the Church. This fall the Holy Father will release another important encyclical on faith and reason, and on Thursday the Vatican will release another Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos dealing with the theological and canonical status of episcopal conferences. In other words, the Pope is cleverly bringing the bishops back into line by assuring they don't go off on a tangent but remain devoted to their calling as shepherds of their flocks.
The sheep are confused and baaing at the most recent announcement of another landmark settlement in yet another pedophile case that brings shame to Holy Mother Church. Sadly, the media has made it seem as if this is solely a Catholic problem. The truth is there are more Protestant ministers guilty of this vile sin than ordained priests, but we don't hear about that because it is not sensational enough. As we have mentioned many, many times in these columns - this is the age of Catholic bashing and they do a pretty good job of painting Catholics as perverted. Let's face it, everyone is a sinner and there are those out there who, for some reason or another, fall prey to the perversion that turns one's stomach. But the percentages bear out that it is minute, but to read media reports one wouldn't think so. Consider there are nearly a billion Catholics in this world. We know of seven known pedophile cases that have been reported over the past few years. Seven is still seven too many, but think about it: Seven out of millions and millions? A drop in the ocean. But that one drop can cause the offender to be plunged into the sea as Jesus says in Matthew 18: 6, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. It is a sad commentary when reparation is made up in dollars rather than good works. Sorry, but can't see where a psyche is healed or justified by the dollar sign - no matter how many zeroes may come after it. That only contributes to the Catholic bashing as attorneys, in the fashion of their ambulance-chasing image, will take the slightest hint of pedophile and run with it, playing on the lurid details and public abhorence of these crimes and make the Church the culprit - because she has money that can be milked by these high-priced shysters who masquerade for the sake of justice. Not that the bishops are totally innocent. Too many have been in their "ivory towers" so long they have lost touch with the pulse of their diocese. That is how the former vicar general of Dallas covered up Rudy Kos's abnormal behavior. The bishop trusted the wrong people. Now the bishop of Stockton, California is faced with the fallout from the abnormal behavior of a Fr. Oliver O'Grady, who is currently serving time in Mule Creek State Prison, having been convicted in 1993. Like Bishop Charles Grahmann in Dallas, Bishop Donald Montrose in Stockton inherited this mess from past bishops - Bishop Thomas Tschoepe in Dallas and in Stockton - Bishop Merlin Guilfoyle and, before him - Cardinal Roger Mahony. Unlike Dallas, the Stockton diocese will get none of the 30 million from insurance. Also, contrary to the Kos situation, the Stockton case was documented in police files including a 1976 secret letter of admittal by O'Grady in Mahony's file that the cardinal totally denies knowing anything about. Folks, there's something rotten in Denmark and until our bishops start taking hold we're in for a fetid time. Too many of the bishops are more concerned with the administrative and financial aspects of their regimes and forget the real purpose of their mission - to bring people closer to God through example. That's exactly what Bishop Chaput said to hundreds of bishops at the American Synod in Rome and how right he is. It's a sad commentary when the bishop of Stockton laments the case not for what shame it has caused the Roman Catholic Church, but for the loss of funds that greatly endanger the "programs" within his diocese, thus depriving the people. We don't think it is so much the programs - which in too many dioceses have proved a failure as Archbishop Chaput has verified - rather than the calibre of leadership and holiness exhibited by the shepherds that will produce fruits and bring people closer to God. Archbishop Chaput has the right idea and it's about time the majority of the bishops fall in line. The Holy Father's decrees on Thursday will be a step in the right direction. Anything short of compliance will just continue the not-so-civil war within the Church and the bishops' battle of Bull Run - just a lot of bull with no substance!
Also, if you would like to know how you can acquire your own copy of the just-released book THE HIDDEN WAY, click on Book
Dear Children, today I present to you My Fourth Commandment which admonishes you to honor thy Father and Thy Mother.
How complex your society has made this command. But I solemnly tell you it is not complicated, but contains a Truth, which lived, brings to you an understanding of the Most Blessed Trinity.
First, in My Perfect Creation I established Perfect order. Man, who is created in My Image and Likeness, by virtue or vice of his free will, is the only being who distorts this Perfect Order and continues to increase the effects of Original Sin.
My Perfect Order established the Family. Man and Woman, who bound together by the law, the dignity, honor and respect of marriage, would become One, and from their oneness would issue forth children. The roles of the man and woman were established in My Perfect Plan from all eternity.
The dignity of the man and woman were likewise established, for in My eyes the man and woman are My children, equal yet distinct, immeasurably valuable and beautiful to behold when they live according to My Law.
By this command you must honor father and mother. This, then, does not exclude those who by maturity have themselves become mother and father. By this command Honor is rightfully bestowed upon all men who are My children.
But in your world, particularly in these End Times, there is very little left of the true family unit, which I gave to you as a sign, a reminder of The Most Blessed Trinity.
Families of your generation do not respect My Perfect order, nor do the spouses accord to one another honor, respect and dignity. The specific roles I created for Man and Woman have been inter- mingled, and by their intermingling chaos and confusion have mush- roomed, and respect and honor have died.
This has happened because you have gone against My Command, you have puffed up your pride and satan has expanded this pride to such a degree that in your generation divorce, abuse, the denial of life itself and the abomination of abortion and homosexuality are accepted. Can you not see how far from Me you go when you stray from My Perfect Order and My Fourth Command which keeps you I union with My Order?
Woe! Woe to all who preach, teach and live willingly in opposition to My Law. Woe to all who make the law of the world and of society contrary to Mine!
All who willingly do this I shall cast from Me at the hour of Judgment, for he who does not keep My Commands when he knows My Commands, rejects Me.
The husband, by My authority, is the rightful head of his family-he represents holy authority. Being one with his wife, this rightful authority is thus given unto her, particularly in the role of Mother.
To have harmony and peace in any family there must first be harmony and peace between husband and wife. They must love one another in such a way that each seeks the welfare and good of the other, without thought of themselves. The husband must learn compassion; he must be tender, gentle and loving, for in no way does this subtract from his role as man, as husband, as father. Rather, I solemnly tell you, these attributes enhance and bring to perfection his role in My Perfect Order.
The wife must acknowledge her husband's rightful authority, and lovingly recognize him as head and leader of the family. To the wife who so responds, I give abundant graces so that within her heart and soul blossom forth great dignity and beauty, which she, in turn, shares with her husband. Thus, as one, they receive all Divine help and guidance which brings authority before Me to receive My blessing, and in dispensing authority its heavenly origin is recognized, accepted and obeyed.
When, by My Will, children are granted to husband and wife, this loving authority is then transmitted to the offspring of the holy union which I bless. And every day, My children, if the love, honor and respect which I have established, is lived and therefore blessed by Me, Peace and Harmony bring the family to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth, which was the Perfection of family life.
Do you imitate the Holy Family today?
No! You abuse every right I have bestowed on you. You have let your swollen egos distort authority, until there exists broken families, spouses who suffer all manner of abuse, and children who are victims of parental abuse, who learn abuse and live in abuse because they know neither honor nor respect!
I do solemnly tell you that My first Three Commands lead you to seek Me, know, love and serve me through unity with My Divine Will.
Beginning with the Fourth Commandment, I teach My children to remain in unity with My Will by living in a holy manner according to My Law. If all of My children learned the beauty of this Commandment, it would quickly come to pass that the Holy Spirit would transform the face of the earth and bring to the world My Peace, My Love. Honor would reign among all men. Division would cease and chaos would disappear.
Ponder well what I have said to you. In all states of life authority beings and ends with Me. Only when authority is blessed by Me does it bear good, holy fruit. When authority stems solely from man's will it is not blessed by Me, and chaos and confusion result.
Little children, all men must first honor me. In this way I teach and lead you to shower honor upon all men as I Will, to acknowledge all men as My children.
Begin anew to live by this, My Fourth Command, and to the measure by which you live it, so shall I reward you and give to you My Peace, and swiftly shall come the Reign of My Sacred Heart.
I solemnly tell you the chalice overflows with the wicked hearts of men who live contrary to My Perfect Order, and the Divine Justice shall wipe away all evil. Therefore, prepare well and live My Commands, for I Come!