Reactions to the Pope’s Encyclical on Contraception

By Dale Ahlquist from Crisis Magazine

(RNS1-feb26) (!978) Pope Paul VI, died at 9:40 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the age of 80, after suffering a heart attack in his summer residence at Castel-gandolfo, Italy. For use with RNS-POPE-PAULVI, transmitted on February 26, 2014, Religion News Service file photo

It is interesting now to look back at the various reactions when the pope issued his encyclical on contraception. I dug up the following, and I think they pretty much speak for themselves. It is hardly necessary to add any comments at all except to say how little things have changed.

A leader from an association of Protestant mainline denominations called it “the most important encyclical ever promulgated in the entire history of the papal succession.” He said, “I am glad that this pronouncement is so thoroughly clear-cut and uncompromising.” He was glad that everyone had to be either for it or against it. There was no middle ground.

And why did that make him glad?

“It will mark a new era in wide and deep-going revolt against ecclesiastical control. It will bring … nearer a revolt within the Roman Catholic Church.” He said this attempt by the Church, with its “autocratic domination” to interfere with the private and intimate matters will push it closer to its own inevitable collapse. This exercise of “hierarchical power” would certainly be met with “indignant repudiation” by Catholics themselves.

In other words, he was glad that the Catholic Church made its position clear, so that Protestants and everyone else could clearly reject it. No middle ground. And he predicted Catholics would reject it, too.

A leading feminist said the Church had set itself “squarely against progress.” She said the message of the encyclical was: “Go ahead and have a child every year, never mind if you are too poor to give them a decent home; never mind if they will be born sick or feeble-minded; never mind if they will be born deformed. Birth control under any and all circumstances is a horrible crime.” She said the pope’s denunciation of contraception would lead to more poverty and more disease. She praised the Protestant and Jewish congregations that had already officially endorsed contraception.

A doctor said the document was “confusing,” especially when it came to the issue of the health and welfare of the mother. He disagreed with the encyclical that claimed contraception violates nature. And he observed that the declining birth-rate among Catholics indicated that the rule was “being more observed in the breach.”

A pastor of a non-denominational church in New York said the encyclical was an example of “a tenth-century mind at work on twentieth-century problems. We are never going to get anywhere with marriage or anything else by going back to St. Augustine. The pope’s interpretation of marriage is pure mythology … his denunciation of birth control is bigotry.”

A spokesman for an atheist organization said that the document was evidence of the Church’s failure to recognize that morals change. “Contraception is here to stay, and if the Church refuses to sanction it, so much worse for the Church.” He noted that Catholic women were already practicing contraception in equal numbers to Protestant and Jews.

Strangely, when many Catholic bishops and priests were asked for their comments, they declined. However, a prominent Catholic layman from England agreed to be interviewed. He said the encyclical “compels us to squarely face the question whether the world would really be happier under the sexual anarchy advocated by the vociferous minority or living in conformity the rules prescribed by the Church.”

He argued that all the problems swirling around the issue of sex were the result of “the neglect of Catholic morality and not because of it.”

When asked about the general impression that the teaching of the Catholic Church authorizes a husband to do whatever he wants and disregards his wife’s wishes, he responded: “If any one supposes that, he not only entirely misinterprets Catholic doctrine but the whole spirit of Christianity. St. Paul said, ‘Honor all men.’ We are under a thousand times greater obligation to honor all women, especially the woman who is your wife.”

To the suggestion that the encyclical was “brutal” to women, he said, “The Church is certainly not being brutal in admonishing women to have due regard for their obligations as wives and mothers, and to refrain from being arrogant and sterile in neglect of Catholic conscientiousness and honor.” But to that mouthful he added rather simply, “The quarrel of the sexes is not occasioned by the Church. It is due to not taking the advice of the Church, which tells the husband, “Honor thy wife,” and the wife, “Honor thy husband.”

He was also asked if the problem might just solve itself, implying that those who practice birth control will do so, and those who won’t, won’t, and the results will be that the unbelievers will not have children and the believers will. His answer was even more simple: “The meek will inherit the earth.”

Did I mention that this encyclical was issued 38 years before Humane Vitae? The encyclical was Casti Connubii (“On Christian Marriage”). The pope was Pius XI. The year was 1930.

The layman was G.K. Chesterton.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Reactions to the Pope’s Encyclical on Contraception

  1. In the past, as is clear from an earlier posting on “Catholicism Pure and Simple,” we have had popes who were – or verged on being – heretics, and we may have such popes again. How great it is to know that we have also had popes as faithful as Pius XI and Paul VI. We will also have popes like that again as well.

  2. toadspittle says:

    “How great it is to know that we have also had popes as faithful as Pius XI and Paul VI. We will also have popes like that again as well.”
    We might. But there are no logical grounds for asserting this.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    The unnamed “leading feminist” mentioned above says:
    ““Go ahead and have a child every year, never mind if you are too poor to give them a decent home…”
    I wonder if there are stats available regarding levels of marriage breakdown and poverty in large families as compared to smaller ones? I think the feminists might be surprised at the figures. Haven’t done any research about it myself. Don’t need to. I will eat my hat if proved wrong in my belief that the larger the family, the more stable the family.

  4. toadspittle says:

    What the feminist is saying, JH – is “even if you are too poor to give them a decent home…”
    Implying, I suppose, that if you are rich, you can afford as many kids as you like. Her premise is false, I think, for other financial and emotional reasons. The poor often benefit from having “more” kids than they “need.”

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Toadementia says at 06:54: “What the feminist is saying, JH – is ‘even if you are too poor to give them a decent home…’
    How is that paraphrase of yours at 06:54 more lucid than my exact feminist quote at 06:46 – “Go ahead and have a child every year, never mind if you are too poor to give them a decent home…”?

    As for your last sentence: “The poor often benefit from having “more” kids than they “need.” – that misses the point I made about large families. When I said large families are more stable than smaller ones, I’m not talking about welfare moms with 5 children by 5 different fathers. That’s your idea, possibly even your ideal. My point is that a family of 5 children by the same father is probably a very stable and healthy one, and if you have the stats to prove otherwise, I will read them.

  6. ginnyfree says:

    Until the fullness of the filth of what has transpired in our own history is realized, there will not be a change of heart for the majority. Getting people to see the pain that all this causes is only one part to the blindness the decision to reject God’s gift of fertility and fecundity in marriage causes. It is a mistake that quite possibly makes several generations pay. If you choose not to have children during your fertile years, those gifts to the wider community can never be given. No man is an island and nor is a woman either. My children aren’t just mine, they belong to God and I’m denying Him His children when I refuse to remain open to life. I am also failing my community in that my children belong to society on the whole and are given by God to better the world. Husband and wife join together with God to take part in His Creative works. This is part of the reason why the marriage act is sacred. It is capable of being a holy union of man, wife and God. By refusing Him via contraception in this most intimate of unions, they are refusing Him in all the other aspects of their lives, whether or not they are aware of it.
    Oh well. It is too early in the morning for Ginny to be on her soap box and I need to get ready for Mass. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  7. ginnyfree says:

    Good morning Mr. Bennet. I’m wondering which Popes you would consider heretics. It would be interesting to hear and the “whys” of it all. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  8. I was walking through the mall the other day and saw so many people who were grossly overweight. The HHS department says that health problems ,such as diabetes , are reaching epidemic proportions. I see an analogy between our species ability to eat and our ability to reproduce. Eat till you burst and turn your wife into a brooding hen. A good friend of mine , French Canadian , comes from a family that may have won a record amongst the faithful. His father was one child with seventeen other siblings from the same mother. His mother was one child with twenty-three other siblings from the same mother. One grandmother had her last child at age fifty-six . My friend said that even living on farms , the families often went hungry and the women never left the kitchens from early morning till late at night. I speculate that the need to procreate may have drawn them out of the kitchen on occasion . How many of you believe that Pope Francis was correct when he recently stated that the faithful do not have to “breed like rabbits ” ? How many of you believe that sex and sexual attraction have only the purpose and goal of producing another child ? As one watches the TV news programs of the boats crammed with starving refugees filling the Mediterranean Sea , how many of you would advise them , if married , to spend all that free time procreating ? If Jesus were in that boat , I imagine He would be planning on ways to feed those wretched people already alive ; He would not be urging them to procreate more hungry mouths .

  9. ginnyfree says:

    Walking through the Mall the other day, I saw hundreds of the blessed souls Jesus loves and died for. I really didn’t think any of them shouldn’t be “breeding.” Does your neighbor know how you view his pregnant wife? a hen? He might bop you if you say so to his face! Thanks for sharing. If they would stop breeding, they wouldn’t starve. Is that it? Did you drop off any canned goods to your local food cupboard today? One way the world knows we are His followers is by our love. You lack the billboard that says you’re His. Love everyone, my friend, even those who procreate abundantly. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  10. Michael says:

    We might. But there are no logical grounds for asserting this.

    Logical grounds? I agree that we are not guaranteed faithful future papacies, but I’m not sure what logic has to do, or even could have to do, with it. Is there any way of logically proving or disproving that any prediction of this type could be a certain thing?

  11. ginnyfree says:

    How big a promise is this: “The gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it………….” That’s God promising to preserve us no matter what or who attacks. We’re two thousand years old so far. I think He’s kept His Promise. He will continue to do so till the end of the world, just as He said. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  12. toadspittle says:

    No, Michael. That’s exactly why I pointed it out.
    “We will also have popes like that again as well.”
    ….says Robert John, and I say it’s impossible to know. That’s all.

  13. Michael says:

    Yes, but I’m still just not sure what logic has to do with it. Anyway, nevermind, I certainly agree with your conclusion – it is indeed impossible to know with any certainty what future popes will be like.

  14. toadspittle says:

    “I’m not talking about welfare moms with 5 children by 5 different fathers. That’s your idea, possibly even your ideal. “
    No, it’s not.
    What I had in mind was that, as a child, I knew many large (Catholic) families who were not well off by any means, but were happy. Mostly happier than other, smaller families, such as mine, it seemed to me. I envied them a bit. That’s all.

  15. Michael says:

    Yes Ginny – Our Lord promised us that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church and thus that He would preserve the papacy from leading the Church into error. He didn’t promise that we would always have faithful popes, and as we never know ‘the day nor the hour’ we cannot therefore say with certainty that we are guaranteed faithful popes in the future. One must always separate the person of the pope from the office of the papacy.

    It is also important to remember that the Church has in actual fact been blessed with largely very good and faithful popes throughout her history, and if I were a betting man I would indeed put good money on there being more of them in the future. But it cannot be guaranteed.

  16. Michael says:

    What I had in mind was that, as a child, I knew many large (Catholic) families who were not well off by any means, but were happy. Mostly happier than other, smaller families, such as mine, it seemed to me. I envied them a bit. That’s all.

    To be honest Toad, that’s the impression I got from your original statement on the matter too. I’m not sure what all the confusion is about!

  17. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Michael. Some see the few bums we’ve had as proof that God indeed does preserve His Church. Not, that I’d like a bum or two in my future, but hey, I’m just sayin’……………God bless. Ginnyfree.

  18. Michael says:

    Some see the few bums we’ve had as proof that God indeed does preserve His Church.

    If you mean that the fact that the Church has done a very good of destroying herself over the years, and yet that God has nevertheless maintained her in the preservation of His truth, then I agree with that yes.* So I presume we’re essentially in agreement on this point then?

    *There is a very good story about a Jewish man in the Middle Ages who was friends with a cardinal, and who, through their conversations, desired to become a Christian. Before becoming baptised though, he decided to go to Rome and take in the atmosphere of Christendom’s most venerable city. The cardinal, knowing how loose the morals were and how many scandals were about in Rome, pleaded with him not to go, but his friend wouldn’t budge. A month later, the Jewish man returned, and the cardinal, resigned to his having been put off the Church by its scandals and hypocrisy, said to his friend ‘I suppose you won’t want that baptism now then?’

    His friend replied: ‘What do you mean – any institution that has behaved that badly for that long, and still hasn’t managed to completely corrupt or destroy itself, must be protected by God; I’m in!’

  19. toadspittle says:

    All in the mind of the reader, really, I’m afraid – Michael. We each see what we want to see – no more, no less.
    A benign response, on your part, anyway. Tells us something.

  20. toadspittle says:

    “If you choose not to have children during your fertile years, those gifts to the wider community can never be given.”
    It’s one thing not to have any children during your fertile years – entirely another to have as many as possible. Most married couples agree to settle for a decent, and mutually agreed, number in between.
    Average about two and a half.
    But that won’t do, it seems. Or will it, Ginny?

  21. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Toad. How many tadpoles did you make? Here’s some help for your little brood: http://allaboutfrogs.org/info/tadpoles/

    That said, God said be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Contraception is aimed at preventing conception, thus its name CONTRA-ception. It turns the sacredness of the marital act into a form of entertainment and gratification of the baser sort. Sex for the sake of sex isn’t holy matrimony. If there is a good reason to space children, then the Church tells the married to abstain from sex. Like our current Holy Father so eloquently put it, you aren’t expected to behave like rabbits but you cannot turn your wife into your private dancer either.

    Funny you should mention the nuclear family’s zero-population increase limits. In Communist countries it is one child per couple, so as to decrease the population, but in the Western countries, the world government decided that two children was acceptable per household, thus the parents replace each other and the general population stays at the supposedly sustainable level with enough food and oxygen for everyone! That is why we were sold a bill of goods that told us to limit our families to two children and the First Family has been obeying that mandate ever since its inception. Ever notice how many children our elected officials actually have? Most are “Model Citizens” and model for us the zero population growth sum of two children per household. It isn’t a coincidence. It is voluntary co-operation in a world government’s agenda of sustainability. It scares me when I look into it. Really. The scary part is how many have volunteered for this “family planning” so easily. They have no clue. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  22. johnhenrycn says:

    Well this isn’t the first time you’ve been less than crystal clear. I’m glad to hear you say again what you were trying to say – this time in a way that is perfectly clear and with which I can agree to boot.

  23. toadspittle says:

    “Funny you (Toad) should mention the nuclear family’s zero-population increase limits.”
    When ? Where? Point it out.
    I have three sons, and five grandchildren, Ginny.
    You?

  24. toadspittle says:

    “Hello Toad. How many tadpoles did you make? Here’s some help for your little brood: http://allaboutfrogs.org/info/tadpoles/
    What on earth does anyone else think Ginnyfree is getting at here? Anyone got any clue? Not me..

  25. toadspittle says:

    “Contraception is aimed at preventing conception, thus its name CONTRA-ception.”
    There, everyone on CP&S. Solved that irritating little mystery – thanks entirely to Ginnyfree!
    (However, I must point our that we’re not all American on here.)

  26. ginnyfree says:

    you were supposed to laugh silly man.

  27. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Toad. I read into your comment:”Most married couples agree to settle for a decent, and mutually agreed, number in between.
    Average about two and a half.” Since no one can ever have half a child, it is a non-number. That leave two children. The Nuclear Family of the last century.
    How many children do I have? Not enough. My husband died when I was twenty six. I never married again. Would he have lived, I would have had more, God willing. But I wasn’t even a Baptised person then and had absolutely no intention of becoming one either. I simply loved children. They are a good excuse to watch cartoons in your jammies and eat your Cheerios in front of the T.V. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  28. toadspittle says:

    How many children would be “enough,” for you, Ginny, if you had your druthers, and since you are being coy on numbers?
    “Since no one can ever have half a child,” Good point. Never thought of it that way before. …But I suppose someone can have half a mind.
    Having the “right” number of children might be like eating boiled eggs for breakfast, as Cyril Connolly said, “One is not enough, three is too many.” Yes, matter of taste. Like most things.
    Ginnyfree (unwittingly, I suspect) has raised an interesting side issue here:

    [A Moderator writes: The rest of this comment has been deleted. We do not question Catholic Doctrines, nor the Most Sacred on this blog Toad – you should know this by now.]

  29. ginnyfree says:

    Oh Toad, you’re such a toad. There is no right number of children one should have. I think you are just reacting to what I said in a naturally contradictory way, which may not be the wisest thing for your spiritual development Toad. You should pray more and contradict less. God bless. Have a beautiful Sunday. Ginnyfree.

  30. Michael says:

    We each see what we want to see – no more, no less.

    Well, I certainly can’t agree with that, as it seems to me to be overly reductive and, ultimately, a bit nonsensical. But in this particular case your meaning did seem perfectly clear, and I might add, your follow-up/clarification on the matter was rather touching as well.

  31. toadspittle says:

    “(Toad) You should pray more and contradict less. “
    No I shouldn’t, Ginny.
    Contradict you less, you mean.
    Anyway, how do you know what I “should,” or “shouldn’t,” do? Are you God?
    Do you even know what you should do yourself? Probably.
    In which case, I suggest you go do it.

  32. toadspittle says:

    …Clearly I don’t.
    I asked the questions in good faith, ironically.
    I’d have thought that anything I could possibly, and naively ask on CP&S could be satisfactorily answered by someone. Seems not. Not to be discussed. Verboten.
    If we can’t, and don’t, question Catholic Doctrines on here, where on earth can, or do, we question them?
    On Dawkins’ blog, possibly? What use is that? No Catholics on there.

  33. toadspittle says:

    Mix-up.
    The above is a reply to the bit of mine that got deep-sixed, June 14, at 4.18 a.m.
    Are people scared to discuss the implications of Jesus’s immediate family? I highly doubt it.
    But, if they are – why?
    (Is it even all right to ask that, Mr./Mrs. Moderator?)

  34. ginnyfree says:

    But Toady, the reason you question is the reason some questions go unanswered. If a person asks me in good faith for an answer, I will give them what little I have because it is incumbent upon me to do so as a Christian. I will do the best I can to assist them to learn something or clear up a doubt. BUT, if a person is asking to “start something,” or to simply be contrary or to invite others to attack and refute the Church’s teachings on faith and morals, then I will answer but with reservation, if I answer at all. I’m getting a little wiser in this regard as the years go by and am doing what I was advised to do a while back, and that is to choose my battles wisely. I like being challenged to hunt for answers among the treasures of the Church and so I’ve learned quite a bit about my faith in general. So, I thank you Toad and all the toadies out there like you who challenge folks like me to respond with meaningful answers. Just don’t expect every challenge to Catholic teaching you wish to make to be responded to by me. I cannot speak for others. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  35. toadspittle says:

    “Just don’t expect every challenge to Catholic teaching you wish to make to be responded to by me.”
    I certainly won’t Ginny. Wherever did you get the idea that I would?
    (You needn’t answer that, of course.)

  36. toadspittle says:

    At last, a coherent response – from Ginnyfree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s