Archive for the ‘Pope Francis’ Category

Karl Rahner, Paul VI and John Paul II regarding morally difficult situations

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

The real issue raised by the ambiguous statements of Pope Francis and Father Lombardi is this: Are there situations when you can do something that is morally evil in order to accomplish some good? Can you do something your regard as a lesser evil in order to avoid what you regard as a greater evil? This is certainly not a new question. Karl Rahner S.J. addressed this issue in general terms; both Paul VI and John Paul II addressed it specifically in terms of marital contraception.

Let’s start with a quotation from Father Karl Rahner, SJ. It’s in the section on situation ethics in Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Chapter 11, “The Hard Cases,” p. 205.

“If we Christians, when faced with a moral decision, really realized that the world is under the Cross on which God himself hung nailed and pierced, that obedience to God’s law can also entail man’s death, that we may not do evil in order that good may come of it, that it is an error and heresy of this eudomonic modern age to hold that the morally right thing can never lead to a tragic situation from which in this world there is no way out;

if we really realized that as Christians we must expect almost to take for granted that at some time in our life our Christianity will involve us in a situation in which we must either sacrifice everything or lose our souls, that we cannot expect always to avoid a “heroic” situation, then there would indeed be fewer Christians who think that their situation requires a special ruling which is not so harsh as the laws proclaimed as God’s laws by the Church, then there would be fewer confessors and spiritual advisors who, for fear of telling their penitent how strict is God’ law, fail in their duty and tell him instead to follow his conscience,

as if he had not asked, and done right to ask, which among all the many voices clamoring within him was the true voice of God, as if it were not for God’s Church to try and distinguish it in accordance with His law, as if the true conscience could speak even when it had not been informed by God and the faith which comes from hearing.”
—Nature and Grace: Dilemmas in the Modern Church, pp. 55-56, copyright 1964, Sheed and Ward. Permission granted to quote in Sex and the Marriage Covenant.

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Pope Paul VI regarding difficult situations

The following quotation comes from that same chapter in Sex and the Marriage Covenant in a section titled “The end does not justify the means” p.206:

JFK text: “The majority report of the papal birth control commission had rationalized that acts of contraceptive intercourse could be made morally good by occurring within a marriage that had some non-contraceptive acts of intercourse. Pope Paul VI specifically rejected this hypothesis in Humanae Vitae, and in doing so he reiterated the moral principle that the end does not justify the means. For convenience, the passage is repeated here in the translation of Fr. Marc Caligari, S.J.

And to justify conjugal acts made intentionally infertile one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that when taken together with the fertile acts already performed or to follow later, such acts would coalesce into a whole and hence would share in the one and the same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes permissible to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a greater good, it is not permissible, not even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom. One may not, in other words, make into the object of a positive act of the will something that is intrinsically disordered and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family, or social goods.     —Humanae Vitae, n,14.

 

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Saint John Paul II on difficult situations

A Vatican II document on the constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, teaches when the Pope’s teaching must be accepted as an authentic exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. In section 25, it lists several requirements and specifically states: “His mind and will in the matter may be known chiefly either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” St. John Paul II more than fulfilled these requirements, and Chapter 7 of Sex and the Marriage Covenant lists a significant number of his documents and talks.  Here I will quote only the summary on page 148.

“In his manner of speaking, John Paul II has left no room for doubt that the doctrine of marital non-contraception reaffirmed by Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio must be believed . He has taught that

● to hold out for exceptions as if God’s grace were not sufficient is a form of atheism (September 17, 1983);

● denying the doctrine of marital non-contraception is ‘equivalent to denying the Catholic concept of revelation’ (April 10, 1986);

● it is a teaching whose truth is beyond discussion (June 5, 1987);

● it is a ‘teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church’s moral doctrine’ and ‘a truth which cannot be questioned’ (March 14, 1988);

● it is a teaching which is intrinsic to our human nature and that calling it into question ‘ is equivalent to refusing God himself the obedience of our intelligence’ (November 12, 1988); and finally,

● ‘what is being questioned by rejecting that teaching . . . is the very idea of the holiness of God’ (November 12, 1988)” italics in 1988 original.

It should be noted that his teaching on November 12, 1988 was given to a group of some 400 moral theologians. In that address he also referenced the doctrine of the Cross of Christ in 1Cor 1:17.

All of the above summary statements are fleshed out in detail earlier in that same chapter.

Allow me to put in a plug for my book, Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality published by Ignatius Press in 2005. It is useful because of its quotations; it also addresses other issues that have been raised again in the light of the ambiguous comments of Pope Francis.

John F. Kippley, February 23, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Family Planning: An Opportunity Missed by the Pope

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Airplane interviews: An opportunity to tell the world about natural family planning.

In his trip back to Rome from Mexico on the night of February 17 and early morning of the 18th, Pope Francis was asked about the Zika situation. Here is the question from a Spanish reporter: “As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”

For the record, I will quote the Pope’s reply toward the end of this blog, but first I want to write what I wish he had said.

“I’m glad you raised that question. It gives me the opportunity to share with you the great blessings of natural family planning.

First of all, you need to understand that there are only three 100% methods of avoiding pregnancy. Male castration. Female castration. And 100% abstinence from the marriage act.

Second, all forms of hormonal birth control have the potential to cause an early abortion by thinning out the lining of the uterus. That happens when “breakthrough” ovulation occurs, conception takes place, but the newly conceived baby is denied implantation in the uterus and is thus destroyed. Furthermore, the chemicals in the Pill have been classified by the World Health Organization as belonging to the worst class of carcinogens. The epidemic of breast cancer did not “just happen.”

Third, with barrier methods of contraception, it is just a matter of time and frequency before a surprise pregnancy occurs.

That’s why I am happy to tell you about natural family planning. In brief, cross-checking forms of natural family planning can be practiced at the 99% level of effectiveness. Furthermore, when spouses use natural family planning in a very conservative way and engage in the marriage act only during post-ovulation infertility, the surprise pregnancy rate will be even closer to zero.

To be sure, you will say or think, “But that requires self-control. You can’t really expect that of ordinary people.” Well, yes, abstinence is difficult and can even be considered a cross. But isn’t that what Christian discipleship is all about? Of course it is. Hasn’t Jesus told us that if we want to be his disciples we must pick up our cross daily and follow him? I want to call your attention to the second reading at Mass this coming weekend (Feb 20-21). “…many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their belly; their glory is in their shame.”   In other words, St. Paul is telling us, “Don’t be an enemy of the Cross.”

My friends, here’s something else I want you to remember. Animals “have sex.” That’s instinct. But human persons are more than just animals. Only human persons can enter the marriage covenant and pledge lifelong love and fidelity, for better and for worse. When married couples engage in sexual union, they engage in what Christians call the marriage act. As Saint John Paul II taught in his Letter to Families, “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant.” In other words, their marriage act ought to be a renewal of their marriage covenant, for better and for worse—even for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy. On the other hand, if they use contraception, the body language of their acts clearly says, “I take you for better but definitely NOT for the imagined worse of possible pregnancy. So the contradicts their marriage covenant. It is dishonest.”

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For the record, here is the rest of the relevant transcript.

The Pope replied: “Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

“Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.”

JFK: A necessary clarification. For example, a lesser evil can still be a very grave evil. A sanitized murder is a lesser evil than a murder preceded by hours of torture, but it is still a grave moral evil.

Pope Francis concluded his reply this way:

“On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”

JFK: In my previous blog, I pointed out that there is no valid comparison between the Zika situation and giving nuns in danger of rape a contraceptive. That has a long tradition of such self- defense in Catholic moral theology.

The language of Pope Francis was unclear, but he did NOT say that it is permissible for married couples to use unnatural forms of birth control even though they have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy. Perhaps one reason he was ambiguous about this is that he doesn’t fully understand what God and His Church offer by way of natural family planning.

John F. Kippley, Feb 21, 2016

Natural Family Planning International, www.nfpandmore.org
Sheila and I are trying to do our part. We have made our NFP manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, available to everyone who has access to the Internet. Free for those who call themselves poor. A $10 donation requested for those who can afford it. The complete approach means we teach all the fertility signs, ecological breastfeeding, and Catholic teaching.  For those interested in learning more about NFP, we have an online Home Study Course.

Reaction to Pope’s Comments on Birth Control

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

First of all, I think that almost everyone agrees that abortion is a worse evil than contraception.  I am pleased to see that Pope Francis labeled abortion as an absolute evil.

Second, I don’t think Pope Francis has stated the “Pill and the Congo” case properly.  To the best of my knowledge, Pope Paul VI was not involved in that situation.  I have been told that some ill-informed doctors told the nuns that they could take the Pill to avoid pregnancy stemming from rape.  I say “ill informed” because the Europeans at that time seemed to be quite ignorant about the abortifacient properties of the Pill.  They thought it was only a contraceptive drug.

Third, there is a huge difference between using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy from rape and using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy from voluntary intercourse.

Fourth, The Rev. James Bretzke of Boston College is the kind of moral theologian who confuses rather than clarifies.  Humanae Vitae n. 15 allows certain medical procedures that have legitimate therapeutic value  even though they would render the person sterile.  For example, the removal of cancerous ovaries.  In these cases, the intention had to be therapeutic, not contraceptive.  That does not apply to actions whose primary function is to prevent conception, something that could be accomplished by simply (though not easily) not engaging in sexual union.

Fifth, there is not a moral problem of contraception when sodomites use condoms to slow down the transmission of AIDS.  The act is already essentially sterile.   However, the situation is different with heterosexuals.  There the primary action is contraceptive and thus immoral.  However, in both situations, when an infected person has condomized sex with a non-infected person, it’s simply a matter of time until the infection is passed.  Abstinence is the only sure way to protect the health of the non-infected person.  Thus the moral problem is that of a sin against health and life.

Lastly, to speak the divine truth about human love and to point out its counterfeits is not to be obsessed with these issues but simply to bear witness in an evil age.

Please keep praying for Pope Francis, especially that he will give the Church and the world a post-Synod document that will clearly convey the teaching of the Lord and his Church regarding love, marriage and sexuality.

Sixth.  In the light of other comments floating around, I think it can be said that Pope Francis could have and should have used these questions to evangelize the reporters.  He certainly should have pointed out that Humanae Vitae teaches that married couples can use periodic abstinence from the marriage act to avoid pregnancy.  That involves using natural family planning.  He should know and be able to teach that couples can use cross-checking systems of NFP at the 99% level of effectiveness.

Seventh, a good biblical number, he missed an excellent opportunity to remind himself and his audience the most difficult job of the Pope is to affirm the difficult truths, especially those that affect huge numbers of people.  He needs to remind himself and all of us that the entire world stands in the shadow of the cross on which our Savior died.  He needs to teach what Jesus taught—the price of discipleship is to take up one’s cross daily.  Certainly that applies to difficulties associated with love, marriage and sexuality.

John F. Kippley