In recent weeks the HHS mandate has brought to the fore our First Amendment rights as Americans. Since the mandate is about forcing the provision of “free” contraception on all sorts of entities, and since the Catholic bishops of the United States seem to have finally woken up to the real agenda of the Obama administration, quite a lot of hooey concerning Catholics and contraception has been bruited about in the media. The religious liberty issue, has opened the door to frank discussions on contraception, an extremely touchy topic in the Church, and one we just can’t ignore if we care about our faith and coincidentally, the future of our country.
I’m one of those introverts Colleen Spiro wrote about in her funny post, Thinking Out Loud. When I’m faced with something as monumentally shattering as the blocking of my first amendment rights of religious liberty, and as monumentally rebellious as the tone of contracepting Catholics in the opinion-sphere, I have to take weeks to chew on the whole thing to sort out my feelings before I jump into the fray. Most of what has been written to uphold Church teaching on contraception lately has been good and truthful, but, in my opinion, unsatisfactory in changing the hearts of so many Catholics who are rebelling against it.
You can learn a lot from Father Mitch Pacwa’s good article in the National Catholic Register: Abortion, Contraception, and the Church Fathers. And our Catholic Sacred Tradition comes from the Apostles and Christ who were Jews, so we can go back to the Old Testament to find out how God felt about contraception in Genesis 38:9-10 where He slew Onan for practicing coitus interruptus, calling contraception “detestable.” However, Father Pacwa’s article, quoting the Bible, and reading blog posts about what Pope Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae pretty much amounts to spitting in the wind where committed Catholic contraceptors are concerned. That’s because of the deep spiritual sickness behind the practice which makes a person blind and deaf to God’s will.
How the contraceptive mentality grew in the Church
Although the battle against contraception is ages old as we see from the sources cited above, the bishops of the Church have a lot of damage to undo regarding their failure to teach unequivocally throughout the 20th century until now the whys and wherefores regarding the evils of contraception. The shocking open rebellion against Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae was a blatant sign of how fatally divorced Catholics at large, theologians, and those in religious life had become from seeking God’s will in their own lives and a humble assent to the truths of the Catholic faith. This rebellion could not have happened if so many Catholics were not already well on their way to spiritual blindness.
Sandro Magister of Chiesa takes us closer to one aspect of how the contraceptive mentality began to grow in the 20th century Church when he writes “Ego te absolvo.” The Catholic Route to Birth Control on September 8, 2010, and gives us more insight into how the whole “follow your conscience” thing got promoted without qualification or education on what a rightly formed conscience is.
In A Case of Conscience. Confessors and Contraception from September 15, 2010, he writes:
But then the guidelines of the hierarchy became more strict. Beginning with the 1931 encyclical by Pius XI Casti Connubii, confessors began to be told not to rely on “good faith” anymore, but to instruct the penitent on the gravity of the sin that he was committing…
…In contemporary practice, however, many priests continued to give absolution without inquiring too much into the behavior of spouses, counting on their “good faith.”
I recommend reading both articles because they point us in the right direction – a problem of the heart. In “Ego te absolvo” Magister’s illuminating introductory paragraph gets right to it:
“It is believed to be one of the most reliable proofs of the relentless advance of secularization: the contrast thought to have been created between Church teaching on contraception and the actual behavior of the population, including observant Catholics.”
I spent many years not practicing my Faith at all, pretending God didn’t exist, living as a secular humanist stuck on stupid. As I look into my own heart for the answer to why Catholics contracept and why many fight giving it up, I see the “diabolical disorientation” Sister Lucy of Fatima wrote about in numerous letters to priests and fellow religious and in books she has written.
Getting back to basics
To be a good Catholic one must assent to the teachings of the Church (CCC #892) which come from Sacred Scripture and Tradition whether or not we understand the whys behind a teaching. A corollary obligation is that we must study and learn our Faith, which is a life-long effort. As Father John Hardon, S.J. (RIP) said so often, “Catholics who just come to Church once a week and do nothing else will not be saved.”
After much prayer and consideration, I believe I finally got what he was saying. Accompanying the assent to and study of the Faith is adhering to the laws of God and the Church while simultaneously developing an ever closer relationship with God. I don’t think the two can be separated – assent and adherence on the one hand, and relationship with God on the other. I also don’t think that priests and bishops can even get to first base with Catholic contraceptors without framing the subject within one of the most basic foundation stones of relationship with God: trust in Him.
Tomorrow in Changing Hearts on Contraception I’ll take up what I believe to be the solution to counteracting the contraceptive mentality. It’s not easy, is a long and arduous journey back from darkness, and requires the right use of our free will, but it is simple.
V. Praised be Jesus Christ!
R. Now and forever!
Again, thank you, Barb, for the beautifully written post!