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Two Sides of a Coin: Contraception & Abortion

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Artificial Birth Control and Induced Miscarriage

The attack upon Catholic theology escalates from auto-eroticism or self- stimulation to fornication, cohabitation, adultery. Once these practices involve another person, the issue of artificial birth control and abortion quickly arises.  Today the contraceptive mentality is so ingrained that many churchmen now ignore it as a lost battle.  The practice is found both among the most egregious public sinners and those who regularly attend Sunday Mass and say their prayers.  While the Catholic faith is directly targeted, often the history of the question is ignored.  Virtually all Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic, forbade the use of birth control from the time of Christ until the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930.  Technology had advanced, but birth control was even condemned in the early Church when bizarre treatments included the use of crocodile dung.  It was viewed as an attack against the natural order and the fundamental meaning of marriage as the divinely sanctioned institution directed toward the generation of new human life.  The basic definition of marriage was at stake.

Often the revisionists make no distinction between the types of birth control or the abortifacient nature of certain pills and of all IUDs.  There was a logical progression in our society from the use of birth control to the deeper tragedy of abortion.  Sex and the generation of human life were separated.  When contraceptives failed, abortion became the final option.  The Church’s voice suffered from divisiveness within her own ranks.  Not only was the definition of marriage at stake but also about the “incommensurate” value of human life and the precious dignity of all human persons.  Here too there is a peculiar irony in that the same angry voices against rogue priests and child abuse, failed to note the element of abuse toward women in contraception and the death sentence that was imposed upon innocent children in the womb.  Women were increasingly used and devalued.  Their worth was measured in terms of sexual desirability and promiscuity.  Worse yet, women bought the lie that this somehow balanced the playing field between men and women.  It did not.  Many women were robbed of their opportunities for motherhood and family life.  The worse abuse of all against children materialized with the advent of legalized abortion.  Until recently an abortionist in Germantown Maryland was aborting nine-month-old children in the womb— yes, children that were ready to be born.  Abortion at any stage is murder and we suffer this grievous abuse against children as a manufactured right of selfish women and men.

What does the universal catechism offer on the subject of contraception?

[CCC 2366] Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which “is on the side of life” (FC 30) teaches that “each and every marriage act must remain open ‘per se’ to the transmission of life” (HV 11). “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (HV 12; cf. Pius XI, encyclical, Casti connubii).

[CCC 2367] Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God (Ephesians 3:14; Matthew 23:9). “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility” (GS 50 # 2).

As for the more pressing issue of abortion, we read:

[CCC 2270] Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life (CDF, Donum vitae I,1).

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15).

[CCC 2271] Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish” (Didache 2,2:ÆCh 248,148).

“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (GS 51 § 3).

[CCC 2272] Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” (CIC, can. 1398) “by the very commission of the offense,” (CIC, can. 1314) “and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law” (CIC, cann. 1323-1324). The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

[CCC 2273] The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death” (CDF, Donum vitae III).

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights” (CDF, Donum vitae III).

[CCC 2274] Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence” (CDF, Donum vitae I,2).

[CCC 2275] “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival” (CDF, Donum vitae I,3).

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material” (CDF, Donum vitae I,5).

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity” (CDF, Donum vitae I,6) which are unique and unrepeatable.

[CCC 2368] A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart (GS 51 # 3).

[CCC 2369] “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood” (HV 12).

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Fr. Eberhard Schockenhoff

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The moral theologian Fr. Eberhard Schockenhoff is said to be the mastermind behind the challenge to Church teachings by the German bishops. He is deeply involved with the Synod on the Family. He is on the record as an opponent to Humanae Vitae and the Church’s prohibition against artificial contraception. He is an apologist for gay clergy and wants an overhaul of Catholic sexual ethics. He has argued that the “permanence” and “solidarity” in same-sex relationships is “ethically valuable” as is its growing public acceptance. He would discard or “liberate” Catholic teaching from an association with natural law, emphasizing the subjective experiences of the faithful. He would also openly readmit remarried divorcees to take Holy Communion, adultery or not. How is such a man counted as an expert? What even makes him a Catholic?

Infiltrated Vatican set to accept Same Sex Unions??

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 6

“Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.”

Praying-Skeleton-4870-largeThis is not so much a commandment as it is a quality of good character. All of us need a level of integrity in how we approach the world and behave. This does not tell us what to do. Rather, it is a premeditation and a later resolve to carry through and accept what comes. I was surprised to see this one on the list because it is the edict that atheists and secularists so often seek to escape.

Notice what is left unsaid.

1. How does one judge the consequences?

2. How far can one go to change the consequences?

3. Should the weight of the consequences upon the agent and others be equally measured?

4. Do others have a right to weigh in upon the consequences of acts that one proposes to perform?

5. As long as one will accept responsibility for acts, what determines that these acts are good and moral?

6. What exactly does it mean to take responsibility… obedience, dissent, not getting caught?

The Church urges this dictum when it comes to sexual activity between men and women. Couples should first be married and they should be mindful that this activity is how lovers become mothers and fathers. Sexual intercourse is geared to fecundity and fertility. Of course, the critic objects to this necessary connection. He would prefer a reflection so that an escape clause or out might be found. Thus, as an example, sexual acts might be manipulated or the faculty of generation destroyed through contraception. Instead of avoiding such acts that are inherently life-giving, the act is distorted into one where bonding and pleasure are now the only ends. If the contraception should fail, the traditional believer would say then the child should be welcomed. However, here the so-called commandment is violated or expanded again to include abortion. In truth, responsibility for acts is avoided.

As a Catholic, a difficulty I see is the ingredient of atheism itself. What if Christians should be right about the last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell? Then there are obviously consequences for our actions that the non-believer has failed to evaluate. The tragedy here is that there will be an eternity to suffer remorse.

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 4

“Every person has the right to control over their body.”

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This modern commandment is directly connected to the issue of legalized abortion. Atheists deny the existence of a soul. Thus it is easy for many of them to discount the embryonic as human with rights. Despite a human developmental trajectory, the unborn (at least at early stages) is judged as no more than tissue or at most, only a human being “in potency.” This commandment would have more credibility if there were respect for the body and/or the separate but dependent integrity of the unborn child. Frequently language games will be employed to avoid the truth about the child’s humanity in the womb. When it comes to issues like partial birth infanticide an irrationality takes hold. It is argued that it would be cruel to adopt a child out to strangers; and yet, with adoption they would become a loving family. The blindness of selfishness is heinous. If there be a physical defect, a strained comeback might point to a dubious or difficult quality of life. Frequently there is an appeal to overall viability although medical science is saving the lives of increasing premature babies. Certain ethicists have noted that young children (up to maybe three years of age) are not really viable without constant adult intervention. They just do not know how to care for themselves. That is why a few rogues are proposing “post-birth abortion.” Beyond the logical inconsistencies, the pro-abortion position gives rights to some and strips them entirely from other persons. The definition of a baby becomes shallow: “it is only a baby if you want it.”

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Life issues are often interconnected. A consequence of this maxim would also be assisted suicide. If the person has absolute dominion over the body then he or she can terminate the life of that body whenever he or she deems to do so. With God extracted from the equation, he no longer has sovereignty and out goes the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Turning to lesser matters, it would also permit all sorts of bizarre tattoos and piercings. Indeed, one could turn his or her body into a for-profit advertising banner if so desired. This is really a monstrous commandment and points out that separated from God; we really do not know how to be good. Since we are our bodies, this permissive commandment would also open the door to all sorts of distortions in sexual behavior, way beyond the evils of artificial contraception and fornication. The Christian would argue that personal control of the body is not absolute. We must respect that all life belongs to God and the plan of nature by which we are made. We must also respect others, including the little people who start out in the womb.

Counseling for Catholic Marriages

Catholics with marital problems should have readily available avenues within the Church for professional counseling in the hopes of salvaging their marriages.

More can be done to prepare priests for this kind of work but I think there is also a need for full-time professionals with training in psychology and intervention-counseling. These counselors should be well-versed with the Catholic faith. If they are not on the same page with us about human sexuality and the value of marriage, then they can escalate a problem instead of being part of the solution.

  • When red lights appear in the Pre-Cana preparation, referrals can be made before marriages in the Church.
  • When problems develop within marriages, referrals can be made to facilitate healing or reconciliation.
  • When questions arise about sexual identity and remaining in good standing with the Church, referrals might be made to assist people in coping and to counteract bias from non-Catholic sources.

While there are good independent counselors who charge fees, I would also recommend that there be professionals hired directly by the Church. Their salaries might be shared between parishes as within deaneries. They would work closely with pastors, while preserving confidentiality, to either prevent bad marriages or to salvage troubled ones. Such staffing should be viewed as serious as religious education directors, office managers and bookkeepers. In any case, a public list of counselors vetted by the Archdiocese should be readily available to pastors and the people they serve.

Catholic marriage counseling is necessarily different from that which is offered by those who do not share our understanding of marriage or our views about human sexuality. These counselors need to discern how a troubled Catholic marriage might be fixed. The truths of faith are integrated into our appreciation of psychology. The goal is to have couples living a daily vocation where there is both joy and sacrificial love. Marriage is viewed as a covenant and as a permanent union. Too many quickly jump to divorce as the answer. Catholics should see that as an option generally taken off the table.

Instead of urging an immediate divorce, a separation might be promoted so as to further the conversation or to prevent verbal and/or physical abuse. If a marriage has terminal problems and cannot be salvaged, then the counselor might suggest an annulment. That is where the pastor and/or the officials on a Church Tribunal would enter the picture. However, this is inherently always a sad or tragic situation. It means that avenues to save a marriage have failed.

Right now we have noble efforts like Retrouvaille but there is a pressing need for something more clinical.

A Few Thoughts about the Synod Relatio & Debates

My head is spinning about some of the things that are being seriously argued at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family. I am already concerned that a Commission was established to look at streamlining the process for annulments even prior to the start of the Synod. It seems to me that if such were a concern then the bishops would then request the Holy See to do so. Will the documents which will be formulated reflect the majority view and Catholic tradition or will there be attempts to steal the show for the minority progressives?

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What is it about this new Synod document that has critics saying it signals a revolutionary shift in favor of same-sex couples? It is acknowledged that this “relatio” urges clergy to make “fraternal space” for homosexuals. But what does it say? We read:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Are we reading the same document? All I see are questions. Hopefully they are not rhetorical. Do we eject gay brothers and sisters from our churches? No we do not. Can we invite them forward for Holy Communion? Yes, provided that they maintain chaste and celibate lives. Can we affirm or value their sexual orientation? No, we cannot do so. Such would devalue the true meaning of marriage and human sexuality. We cannot move away from the assessment of disorientation or that same-sex carnality is mortal sin.

As a so-called case-in-point of past intolerance, the news contrasted this development with the story of Barb Webb who was fired from a Catholic school when she and her partner announced her pregnancy. Similarly, her partner, Kristen Moore was asked to resign from her post as a music director at a Catholic parish. The secular media glossed entirely over the moral issues that extend beyond same sex unions, like the freezing of embryos, donated semen and IVF technologies. All these elements are reckoned as moral evils and sinful.

This relatio is being interpreted precisely as Cardinal Kasper would suggest. The doctrinal truth is eclipsed, if it remains, for the sake of a pastoral provision or slackening of discipline. The same reasoning he uses for divorced and remarried couples is being applied to active homosexuals. I find this reckoning very disturbing. Discipline can be distinguished from doctrine but discipline is always at the service of doctrine. There are doctrinal elements that cannot be ignored. It is contradictory to say that gay acts are sinful and then to value, in any way, homosexuality. It is contradictory to say that marriage is a lifelong institution and that divorce is a sin, while inviting couples to receive Holy Communion who are living in adultery. The truths of Scripture are clear and we must always be at the service of the truth on every level: doctrinally, canonically and pastorally.

The document recognizes that same-sex couples live lives where they render “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” Critics are saying that this is a crack in the door that may one day lead to full acceptance. I would say that this is not the case. The statement is one that reflects the immediate horizontal human condition but says nothing about the vertical supernatural dimension. It is a mere statement of fact that these couples support each other in their day-to-day lives. However, this does not mean that they are in right standing before God. Mortal sin is still mortal sin. I suspect that there are many “nice and pleasant” people who make good neighbors and yet will suffer damnation and hellfire. We are not saved by simply being nice but by being faithful and obedient to God. The Church can relax certain disciplines but she cannot change divine positive law. My fear is that tolerant language might enable or encourage more sinners to remain within their sins. The Church must be a place for saving truth and grace. She should never be an enabler for sinful lifestyles or blasphemous acts like receiving the Eucharist while ill-disposed or in mortal sin. This document does NOT acknowledge the “holiness” of such couples as was suggested in the Huffington Post article by Antonia Blumberg (1/13/14). It simply asks if we might tolerate with passivity and silence the situation of people living in sin.

I cannot buy this application of any “law of graduality.” No matter how slow might be the movement to holiness; the Church should never compromise on the fullness of truth. Confessors can exhibit great understanding and compassion for married couples who use artificial contraception, with the hope that they will eventually come around to the Church’s understanding of human dignity and the full value of the marital act. It is here that I can well appreciate “graduality.” However, this is not the same as cohabitating, adulterous and same-sex couples. They have no right to a shared bed.  In their regard, where there is neither contrition nor amendment of life, absolution must be withheld. Similarly, while they should attend weekly Sunday Mass, they should abstain from taking Holy Communion. The priest will not usually embarrass people in public but he fails his sacerdotal charge if he does not challenge such couples in private.

This law or better yet, theory of graduality was very much the rationale for the “open table” of Anglicanism. It was hoped that this welcoming to receive the Eucharist would draw others into greater unity. Contrastingly, the “closed table” of Catholicism sees Holy Communion as an expression of an ecclesial unity that is already realized. This is representative of the ancient tradition wherein heretics and grievous sinners were denied the sacrament or even excommunicated. The Church’s censure of interdict would also illustrate this posture. One had to be properly disposed and graced to receive the sacrament. Anything less was judged as blasphemous and scandalous. One should not pretend there is a union that is not truly there. This resonates with the current debate about divorced and remarried couples as well as with active homosexuals. We cannot allow a false compassion to tolerate normalization for the sake of public acceptance while the pastoral accommodation is deceptive to the doctrinal truth and the spiritual state of souls before God. We can move away from using pejorative biblical terms like “sodomites” and “adulterers,” but the underlying reality will remain the same. Does this really serve the summons to repent and believe?

If we change the discipline for those in serious sin and the intrinsically disordered, would we not logically have to open up Holy Communion to others (particularly Christians) who might be in ignorance of the full ecclesial reality but who live moral lives? It is a real can of worms and I would prefer to leave it closed. But that is my opinion.

Marriage Still Matters

wedding_16Numbness in conscience inflicts many of the members of our modern society. It is as if people have lost the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. The values of traditional faith and Scripture are not taken into consideration as credible when moral decisions are made. Further, there is a rupture between our nature and the laws that can be discerned by reason. This leads to a profound disconnect from objective reality. Instead, the notion that man is the measure of all things is extended to a fanciful absurdity. The unborn child in the womb is denied the personhood that comes along with his very presence. The purpose of the marital act is reduced to recreation with the reproductive ends subtracted by contraception. The bodies of men and women are complementary and yet same-sex attraction is made into a legal right even though it is a fiction and not fact. The aberration is counted as normal and any emphasis upon genuine normalcy is discounted as intolerance. The institution of marriage is bombarded by all sorts of threats: divorce, adultery, fornication, cohabitation, etc. Any stigma or embarrassment for having children outside of wedlock is measured as insensitive and mean-spirited. Marriage is regarded as a mere piece of paper, even by Catholics who were taught that it was a sacrament to give grace.

What a mess with which we are living!

Msgr. Pope rightly laments on his blog that many regard “living” in sin as “no big deal.” The misnomer here is that one does not really LIVE in sin; instead, one begins to DIE in sin. Sin by its very definition brings forth suffering and death. It alienates us from the one who created us and from the life present in the soul.

Pastors are challenged when they preach about sin and punishment. They are challenged for stressing judgment when our Lord was apparently all about mercy and love. However, the dispensation of Christ is neither magic nor capricious. You have to love in return. You have to want to be forgiven. Too many live as if there will be no judgment and no hell. While the catechism teaches about the universal call to salvation, this is not the heresy of universalism. God’s gifts can be ignored or rejected. Using a medical analogy, a doctor might be able to treat you but you must be willing to seek him out. The divine physician would heal our souls, but millions prefer the spiritual sickness that comes with hedonism, greed or a spiritual ennui.

I like straight talk and yet such is almost always found offensive by someone. People these days do not like to be told their business. There is an arrogance to sin today that has smothered the guilt that once brought contrition and repentance. Do you want proof? Tell a couple who are having sex outside of marriage that unless they repent they will go to hell. See how they respond. “What we do is none of your business! Who are you to talk to us that way? You can go to hell, yourself! Who are you to judge? We love each other, what is so wrong with that? Who is being hurt by what we do?” The fact that it violates God’s Word is given little or no measure in their evaluation. What they are really saying is this: “No one can tell us what to do, not you and NOT God!”

Msgr. Pope gives us a list of Scriptures that we would do well to review.  If we believe that the Bible is God’s Word, then we should take to heart the saving message:

  • Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19-20
  • Mark 7:21
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 15-20
  • Galatians 5:16-21
  • Ephesians 5:3-7
  • Colossians 3:5-6
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11
  • Hebrews 13:4
  • Revelation 21:5-8; 22:14-16