Suva, Fiji, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - Pilgrims from the Fiji Islands have returned home after experiencing a “tsunami of faith and joy” at World Youth Day in Sydney.
The 596 youth pilgrims were hosted in Sydney mainly by Fiji immigrants in Australia. Their journey was supported by the Pilgrim Partnership Support Program begun by World Youth Day organizers in 2007 to offer poorer youth, especially those in Oceania, the chance to participate in the event, Fides News Agency reports.
The youth were accompanied by Archbishop of Suva Petero Mataca and Vicar General Father Beni Kaloudau. They presented their prayers, songs, and traditions at various times at World Youth Day, not only in the evening World Youth Festival but also in the Way of the Cross and the closing Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
At the Mass, twelve seminarians from Fiji, dressed in traditional garb, carried the Gospel and danced to typical local music from the island.
Manitoba, Canada, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - A national phone poll of Canadian households claims that 55.8 percent of Canadians oppose the bestowal of the Order of Canada upon Henry Morgentaler, an abortionist who helped to legalize abortion in the country.
The poll, which was commissioned by the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) and performed by the Manitoba-based KLRVU polling, claims to have a 95 percent confidence level and a 1.5 percent margin of error.
"Whatever side of the abortion debate you are on, many Canadians from all walks of life felt this appointment went way too far and offended too many," said Jim Hughes National President of CLC. "The mass media coverage of the Morgentaler award has given us the largest abortion debate this country has seen in twenty years, and Canadians when they are forced to think about abortion realize it is horrible."
The CLC has urged Canadians to call the Governor General’s office to insist that the award be revoked.
Opposition to the award was at or above 65 percent in the provinces of Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island. The least opposition to Morgentaler’s elevation to the Order of Canada was found in Quebec, where only 47 percent opposed the award.
"Clearly the waves of offended Canadians speaking out have had an impact," says Mary Ellen Douglas, CLC National Organizer, who pointed out that a former lieutenant governor has returned his medal and disavowed the Order of Canada because of its bestowal upon Morgentaler.
St. Louis, Mo., Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - Three members of the board from the breakaway St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis have reconciled with the Catholic Church. The trio has also joined former parishioners in a lawsuit asking the civil corporation which owns the parish to adhere to its 1891 bylaws that require it to encourage attendance at Roman Catholic religious services.
Bernice Krauze, Stanley Rozanski, and Robert Zabielski, all members of the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Parish Corporation, met on June 10 with then-Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond F. Burke to be reconciled with the Church. Their meeting followed the June 2 reconciliation of former board member Edward Florek.
The three board members reportedly personally asked Archbishop Burke for help in reconciling the parish with the Church.
The lawsuit filed by former parishioners, contributors, and board members of St. Stanislaus Kostka or its corporation asks the Saint Stanislaus Parish Corporation to adhere to its 1891 bylaws which, according to the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ website, deem the corporation’s purposes to include: to unite Polish Roman Catholics in a church congregation; to maintain a Polish Roman Catholic Church; and to encourage attendance at Roman Catholic religious services.
The archdiocese claims that the bylaws have been amended by the board of directors in a manner “incompatible with how a Roman Catholic parish is administrated.”
If the lawsuit is successful, the archdiocese says, it will appoint Rev. Michael Marchlewski, S.J. as church administrator to replace Father Marek Bozek, an excommunicated priest from Poland who was appointed by the church corporation board.
Rome, Italy, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - Today marks the 40th anniversary of the often debated papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception. Looking back at the events as he experienced them, Cardinal James Francis Stafford writes that the reaction by dissenters to the papal document involved a level of infidelity which divided the ranks of the clergy to such an extent that they have still not recovered.
The recounting of the events of 1968 by Cardinal Stafford-who was a priest in Baltimore at the time of the encyclical’s release-is eloquent, laced with scriptural allusions and the insights of a scholar. He set out to peer into the summer of 1968, “a record of God’s hottest hour,” as he dubs it, at the request of L’Osservatore Romano and has made his submission available to CNA.
This “is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more ‘disciplined’ life (HV 21), I will explore that event,” the cardinal writes.
Before launching into the retelling of the trial surrounding the dissent of priests to Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Stafford offers his readers some of his scholarly wisdom.
“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself,” the cardinal began.
“The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many.”
An insider’s view of Paul VI’s Commission
The American cardinal then delved into some of the inner-workings of the Vatican that he was privy to in the years leading up to the issuing of Humanae Vitae. In particular, he recalled that, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, who was his ecclesiastical superior at the time, was a member of the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council.
As Pope Paul’s commission prepared to deliberate about the Church’s teaching on contraception, Cardinal Shehan “sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter,” Stafford writes.
“My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. Yet, in many ways, Cardinal Stafford explains that, “Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women.” It wasn’t until a 1961 encounter with a 16 year-old parishioner who was a drug user that he came to the realization of what he had to tell Cardinal Shehan about contraception.
“A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.”
This experience, Stafford explained in a confidential letter to Cardinal Shehan resulted in an insight “which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women.”
For reasons unknown, this idea failed to sway Cardinal Shehan who sided with the majority of the papal commission, which advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances.
“This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968,” Cardinal Stafford writes.
Following the publication of Humanae Vitae, Stafford recalls the way the rejection of the Pope’s encyclical unfolded.
“Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America … and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”
Cardinal Shehan was “scornful” of the reaction. “In 1982 he wrote, ‘The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt’.”
The test in Baltimore
“The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began,” writes Stafford, who was a priest of the Diocese of Baltimore at the time.
He remembers that the trial began with a phone call inviting him to St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. “The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all,” Stafford relates.
Although he expected a chance to read the papal document and discuss it, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, one pastor/ leader, assisted by some priests from the local seminary read the Washington statement aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
“I could not sign it,” states Cardinal Stafford. ‘My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions.” … However, Stafford says that no one else there held his convictions; “Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.”
What happened next involved was unprecedented in the history of the Baltimore presbyterate, according to Stafford. “They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. … The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.”
“We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare,” Stafford observes.
The aftermath of dissent
This type of abuse was paralleled in the secular history of the time as well, says the cardinal, citing an encounter from April 1968 with the same priest who would a few months later lead the dissent meeting at St. William of York.
As the riots in Baltimore raged following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Father Stafford called the pastor to see if he might need food, medical assistance, or other help from the city. When the pastor answered the phone, Stafford could hear “disillusionment and fear” in the priest’s voice as he described how, “Everything has been set ablaze.”
The memory of this incident prompted Stafford to realize that, “Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. …Violence and truth don’t mix. … The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. …The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations.”
“Something else happened among priests on that violent August night,” explains Cardinal Stafford, “Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit.”
A lesson learned
In spite of all the damage done by the dissent, Stafford stresses that, “that night was not a total loss.” “Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, ‘Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered’.”
“I did not become ‘ashamed of the Gospel’ that night and found ‘sweet delight in what is right.’ It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance,” the American cardinal writes.
The lesson to be learned from this is that, “Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross,” writes Stafford.
Cardinal Stafford closes his reflections by giving his honest assessment of where the Church stands after the decades of dissent.
“Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.”
The full-length version of Cardinal Stafford's reflection can be read at http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=675 or by clicking here.
Vatican City, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - Today at Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father met with Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki. During the course of their meeting, Pope Benedict stressed the need to end violence in the country, and received an invitation to visit Iraq.
According to a press release from the Vatican, their discussion, “provided an opportunity to examine a number of fundamental aspects of the situation in Iraq,” and its surrounding region.
The heads of stated focused on the struggles of the “many Iraqi refugees, both inside and outside the country, who are in need of assistance, also with a view to their hoped-for return.”
“Renewed condemnation was expressed for the violence that continues to hit various parts of the country almost daily, not sparing the Christian communities which strongly feel the need for greater security.”
The Pope also expressed hope that “Iraq may definitively discover the road to peace and development through dialogue and co-operation among all ethnic and religious groups, including minorities, which, while respecting their respective identities and in a spirit of reconciliation and of searching for the common good, together undertake the moral and civil reconstruction of the country.”
The Holy Father and prime minister also reaffirmed the importance of inter-religious dialogue “as a way to religious understanding and civil coexistence.”
The prime minister concluded his visit by inviting the Holy Father to visit Iraq.
Vatican City, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict named two members to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America: Archbishop of San Antonio, Jose Horacio Gomez; and Argentinean Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
Archbishop Gomez, 56, was born in Monterrey, Mexico and is one of the highest-ranking Hispanic bishops in the United States. According to the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop Gomez is a member of the USCCB committee on Hispanic Affairs, a board member of Catholic Legal Immigration, Inc., a member of the USCCB Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee, and he is on the board of directors at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.
He was also listed as one of Time Magazine’s Top 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America in 2005.
Born in Argentina, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 64, is the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. He was ordained a priest in 1967 and holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Vatican City, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - It is “paid propaganda to promote the use of contraceptives” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi today as he harshly criticized an "open letter to the Pope," which was run as a paid advertisement in the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera". The ad was signed by several "Catholic" organizations that are using the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae to criticize the Church’s teaching.
“First and foremost,” said Fr. Lombardi, “the authors are a part of a number of groups that are well known for their dissenting positions which are not limited to the mere teaching of marital morality but are also concerned with many other subjects (for instance the ordination of women) and that therefore for some time have been against the Magisterium of the Church.” Their outspoken rejection of the Church is “nothing new,” Lombardi said.
CNA first broke news of the letter on July 18, for more information on it read our story by clicking here.
The spokesman for the Holy See further noted that the long list of signers "should not impress, because it is often several national chapters of the same group, and many of these groups are fairly insignificant."
The "hardest accusation" that the dissident groups level against the Church, Lombardi says, is that “the Catholic position is the cause for the spreading of AIDS and therefore of pain and death, hindering enlightened public-health policies.” This claim, the spokesman asserted, “is openly groundless.”
“The spreading of AIDS – explained Fr. Lombardi – is completely independent of the religious affiliation of a population or the influence of the ecclesiastic hierarchies, and the policies in response to AIDS that are mostly based on the widespread use of condoms have largely failed. The response to AIDS requires far deeper and wider actions, where the Church is working on several fronts.”
Above all, the Vatican’s spokesman highlighted that the letter “does not remotely broach the true issue that is at the heart of the Humanae Vitae, i.e. the connection among the human and spiritual relation between husband and wife, the practice of sexuality as its expression, and its fecundity.” In the “letter,” pointed out Fr. Lombardi, “the word ‘love’ never appears. It seems the groups that wrote the letter are not interested in it at all. It seems the only hope of the couples and the world lies in contraception alone.”
“To understand the meaning of the Encyclical and its prophetic value,” explained Fr. Lombardi, “one should instead read again the Pope’s speech of May 10th to the participants in the meeting held in the Lateran for the 40th anniversary of the Humanae Vitae.”
After all, concluded Lombardi, “it’s clear it is not an article that expresses a theological or moral position, it is paid propaganda to promote the use of contraceptives. One should also wonder who paid for it and why.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Hugo Valdemar, criticized a campaign recently launched by “Catholics for Choice” for using quotes from the Bible out of context to justify the use of condoms.
The ad campaign launched by CFC in Mexico uses passages from the Song of Songs that have sexual connotations with the phrase, “Love neighbor as yourself. Use a condom.” below each Bible quote.
“It’s clear to us that the members of this group are not Catholic, as they are going against the teachings of the Pope and the Church,” Father Valdemar told the EFE news agency.
He called the use of the Bible passages “offensive” and noted, “In the Bible there is nothing about condoms.” “They are anxious for the Church to attack them in response, but precisely because of this, there will be no response on the part of the Archdiocese,” he said.
Father Valdemar recalled that the U.S. Bishops have clearly indicated that CFC is not a Catholic organization. “These are organizations that by their own choice are automatically excluded from the Church,” he said.
He also pointed out that CFC is financed by pro-abortion organizations and that it’s sole intention is to “attack the Church.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - A group of 528 young people from Chile who traveled to Sydney for World Youth Day returned home on Thursday and shared with reporters their renewed zeal for the faith after their experience with Pope Benedict XVI and thousands of young people from around the world.
“The encounter we experienced was wonderful, we received the power of the Holy Spirit and we were able to share with young people from all over the world,” said one of the Chilean youths who was on her way home to the city of Punta Arenas.
“The encounter strengthened my faith a lot, it was an unforgettable experience,” another girl from the group said. “These are unique experiences that happen every 20 years, like when Pope John Paul II came here. Now it was my daughter’s turn,” said the girl’s father.
A mother of some of the other young people in the group told reporters, “They need to have these kinds of experiences more often, so that they themselves can spread the love of Christ to other young people.”
Galo Fernandez, a youth minister who traveled with the young people, said, “We need to have the strength to want to be builders of a more fraternal world animated by the faith. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim to Gospel to all without fear and with respect for cultural diversity and for different opinions.”
Canterbury, UK, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church takes no pleasure in the tensions within the Anglican Church, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said in a Friday address to Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.
Discussing the progress of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) on Church unity, the cardinal suggested that ARCIC’s work on the nature of the Church is relevant to present Anglican disputes. While voicing his confidence in the commission’s work, he said the path to church unity “might be longer than we had imagined at first.”
The cardinal, who is now the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, noted that he had co-chaired ARCIC for 26 years until 1999 and continued to be involved with the commission after stepping down. He recounted the early years of the commission, which he described as “heady days.”
“All this was very new. Engaging in this sort of dialogue was itself new, and people were genuinely amazed and delighted by what had been done over twelve short years,” he said.
Pope John Paul II’s “landmark pastoral visit” to England, the cardinal said, had been a cause of great hope.
Papal meetings with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said had first seemed “so daring and controversial,” have become “fraternal and frequent” because of Pope John Paul II. The Pope’s 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint had also outlined the Catholic approach to ecumenism with a “zeal for unity” inspired by the Second Vatican Council.
During ecumenical talks Anglican and Catholic theologians jointly authored ARCIC documents on Eucharistic doctrine, ministry and ordination, and authority in the Church under titles such as “Church as Communion,” “The Gift of Authority” and “Life in Christ.” According to the cardinal, the Lambeth Conference in 1988 said the documents were a “good basis for further dialogue,” while a 1991 Catholic response was positive about the documents concerning the Eucharist and ministry, acknowledging “remarkable” progress on the issue of authority.
Documents are not enough…
The cardinal insisted there was more to ecumenical agreement than simply having commissions write documents.
“The reception of any dialogue document involves far more than just its publication or even an official response” but requires time and discussion at every level of the Churches, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor explained. Though some or all of the contents of ecumenical statements may not be accepted, this process must be an “integral part” of ecumenical dialogue.
Despite the optimism of ARCIC’s first decade, the cardinal claimed that by the 1990s “the atmosphere was changing.” Ecumenical dialogue participants like Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor became aware that “the path to unity might be longer than we had imagined at first” and “some shadows were spreading over our relationship.”
The ordination of women priests and bishops has presented “a major stumbling block” for the Catholic Church. In a rhetorical question he said was not meant to be polemical, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor asked: “if Anglicans themselves disagree over this development, and find yourselves unable fully to recognize each other’s ministry, how could we?”
He said it was not necessary to explore the divisiveness of some issues of morality, but he declared that “If anybody ever thought that such questions concerned only the individual conscience and had little ecclesial (let alone ecumenical) consequence, events have shown otherwise.”
Disputes concerning the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, scriptural authority, sexual ethics and other issues have roiled the Anglican Communion in recent years.
Divisions were foreshadowed in dialogue
The cardinal said that the theme of “koinonia,” the Greek word for “communion,” has been constant in the ecumenical discussions between Anglicans and Catholics. The commission’s ecclesiological discussions, which concern the nature of the Church, in the cardinal’s view have anticipated the theological disputes which are now disturbing the Anglican Communion.
“It is precisely this issue of ecclesiology which has come to dominate so much discussion within Anglicanism of late,” the cardinal said, referencing both the Lambeth Conference to which he was speaking and the recent Jerusalem meeting of the Global Anglican Future Conference.
According to the cardinal, these disputes have brought forward key questions, such as “How do we understand the Church?” and “Where is the Church to be found?”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor asked whether the ARCIC had treated as obvious matters which had become controversial, such as questions concerning the tolerable and intolerable diversity among the faithful and the mutual recognition necessary for ecclesial communion. He cited what he called the commission’s “profound definition” of ecclesial communion in “Church as Communion,” which said the Church is rooted in the confession of faith, revealed in the Scriptures, and set forth in the Creeds while also being founded on baptism and focused on the celebration of the Eucharist.
The cardinal particularly noted one passage from the ARCIC document “The Gift of Authority,” which stated, “The mutual interdependence of all the churches is integral to the reality of the Church as God wills it to be. No local church that participates in the living Tradition can regard itself as self-sufficient.”
Though the tensions within the Anglican Communion seem to concern “matters that are very important,” the cardinal said, “our Church takes no pleasure at all to see the current strains in your communion – we have committed ourselves to a journey towards unity, so new tensions only slow the progress.”
“Our ecumenical journey has in the end to be a journey towards full communion,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said.
Rome, Italy, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, devoted his latest editorial to the importance of Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published 40 years ago and which he called a “sign of contradiction” for today’s world and for the time in which it was published.
In his column, Vian recalled that “forty years ago, on July 25, 1968, Paul VI signed Humane Vitae, the encyclical that condemned contraception with artificial methods, hedonism and family planning policies frequently imposed on poor countries by richer ones.”
“Soon after its publication on July 29, the letter generated an unprecedented opposition inside the Catholic Church.” “Rarely in the recent history of the Magisterium—Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1995--has a text become such a sign of contradiction as this encyclical written by Paul VI after a very painful decision,” Vian recalled.
He pointed out that on this “crucial issue, Pope Montini did not change his mind,” and the encyclical “is consistent with the developments of the Council in the understanding of marriage.”
“If we do not want the mission of engendering life to be subject to the will of man, we must necessarily recognize some impassable limits to the possibility of man’s dominion over his own body and functions, which no man, private or invested with authority, can licitly break,” Vian wrote.
He went on to note that before Humanae Vitae was published, a Pontifical commission had carried out a study concluding in 1966 that “contraception within the framework of ‘responsible parenthood’” could be permitted. However, Paul VI did not feel bound by these conclusions, and he was criticized and attacked for his decision.”
“An authentic sign of contradiction, Humanae Vitae is not fondly remembered, certainly for its demanding and against-the-current teaching. But also because it is not useful for the ongoing game of pitting one Pope against another, a method perhaps useful from the historical point of view to delineate obvious diversities, but that must be rejected when used as an instrument, as occurs frequently above all in the media,” Vian continued.
He went on to note that Cardinals Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger supported Humanae Vitae and that the encyclical confronts “the problem of birth control, which on June 23, 1964, the Pope already defined as ‘extremely grave’ because ‘it touches the sentiments and interests closest to men and women’.”