Reactions from pro-life leaders

 

In addition to Professor Christian Brugger’s response to the Holy Father’s recent remarks on contraception which CP&S posted in its entirety a few days ago, LifeSiteNews has brought together the reactions of several prominent pro-life leaders:

February 23, 2016 – Pope Francis’ remarks on contraception on the plane returning from Mexico, affirmed by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, have launched an unprecedented issuance of public concern from Catholic and pro-life lay leaders, some begging for a clarification from the pope.  Excerpts from significant leaders have been reproduced below with links to their full comments.

Professor E. Christian Brugger (Senior Fellow in ethics and director of the fellows’ program at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, and Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, holding the Stafford Chair of Moral Theology) wrote at the National Catholic Register:

Some, perhaps many, will be elated by the Pope’s words. But those of us who support and defend the magisterium, in particular the successor of Peter, in their proper roles as guardians and interpreters of the deposit of faith, find Pope Francis and Father Lombardi’s words baffling and troubling. It appears that the Pope has asserted something that is false and contrary to salvation. I very much hope that I have misread the situation.

Whether or not I have, I would like to say two things. First, the extemporaneous remarks of a pope in an interview, and the commentary of his spokesman, do not constitute Church teaching. So these assertions are not guarded by the Holy Spirit and are not invested with ecclesial authority. Catholics have no obligation whatever to render to the pope’s words a “religious submission of mind and will” (Lumen Gentium, 25).

Second, Pope Francis is our beloved father. We esteem him in virtue of his office and will stand by him whenever he is falsely attacked. We wish for his good and for the good of the whole Church. And we certainly will never follow the pathway of Martin Luther into a rejection of papal primacy and apostolic succession. But the Church is Jesus’, not the pope’s or the bishops’ (and certainly not mine).

And so I say to beloved Pope Francis, my father:

Please do not delay in reaffirming to the whole Church the truth and moral implications of the two-fold goodness of the marital act, which by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring (Canon 1055, §1); therefore if anyone acts intentionally against either the unitive or procreative goods, they ipso facto render their intercourse non-marital.

Jill Stanek, pro-life nurse turned speaker and famed blogger after having exposed “live birth abortions” at the hospital where she worked, in comments to LifeSiteNews said:

As a Protestant pro-lifer, I am devastated. I count on the Catholic Church to be the firewall on the contraception issue. The Pope is opening a Pandora’s Box. He is contradicting foundational Catholic doctrine, doctrine which is also a cornerstone of the pro-life movement, even if people don’t realize it. This shakes my confidence in the solidity of Catholic doctrine. I can’t believe this is happening. This constitutes a crisis for the Catholic Church.

Dr. Gerard Nadal, president and CEO of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer and an esteemed scientist and Catholic writer, wrote on his blog:

Even the dimmest wit in the Society of Jesus can make his thoughts plainly understood. So it must be that Pope Francis knew what he was saying when he broke with 2,000 years of sacred Tradition and magisterial teaching this week when he alluded to Paul VI permitting nuns being raped in Africa to use contraception to avoid pregnancy, and used that as the moral grounds on which to permit the use of contraception in the midst of the Zika virus outbreak….

For all of his stated love of the poor, Francis has invited International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes to a blood meal on the very poor whose dignity he portends to uphold. By invoking Paul VI and the Congo episode with artificial contraception, he ignored NFP and the volumes written by his predecessors.

To permit artificial contraception for Zika is to have sold the family farm, to permit it for all developing nations where endemic disease is present.

Public health doesn’t involve nonexistence. Public health concerns itself with preventing and curing disease. It is clear that the Holy Father doesn’t grasp this essential truth that I learned in training as a medical microbiologist. Public Health officers cannot morally and ethically resort to killing patients or preventing human reproduction as a legitimate means of addressing crises.

The same holds true for popes.

Francis should stick to matters concerning his Holy Office, and in all humility allow himself to be guided by the unchanging wisdom of 2,000 years of magisterial teaching.

He. Is. Peter.

He should start behaving as such.

Dr. Ed Peters, famed canonist blogger, who has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit since 2005, wrote on his blog:

Even by the standards of his reign, the presser Pope Francis conducted on his return flight from Mexico has provoked an unusual number of questions.

It now seems all but certain that the ‘permission’ or ‘approval’ which Francis has claimed his predecessor Pope Paul VI gave for Congo nuns facing rape to use contraception simply does not exist.

Unfortunately this myth has been invoked by the pope as if it were a fact of Church history, and, more importantly, in a way that suggests it might be a precedent to be considered in deciding whether contraception may also be used to prevent pregnancy in some cases of possible birth defects. That claim would take Pope Francis’ contraception remarks into a very different area. No longer are we musing about a point of Church history (as interesting as that might be), now we are dealing with Church moral teaching. The stakes become dramatically higher.

So here’s my point: not only does the Congo nuns permission seem NOT to exist, but, even if it does exist in some form, it could NOT, I suggest, by its own terms, be used by Francis (or anyone else committed to thinking with the Church) to call into question the Church’s settled teaching that “each and every marital act [quilibet matrimonii usus] must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life” (Humanae vitae 11) and that therefore “excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after conjugal intercourse [coniugale commercium], is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” (Humanae vitae 14).

Between women facing rape and wives worried about birth defects there simply is no parallel relevant to the moral question of contraception.

John F. Kippley, founder with his wife Sheila of the Couple to Couple League and of Natural Family Planning International, wrote on the Couple to Couple League blog:

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.

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.

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.

Voice of the Familyan initiative of Catholic laity from major pro-life and pro-family organisations supported by 26 pro-life groups around the world, wrote:

Catholic campaigners for family values are disturbed by unconfirmed reports of comments said to have been made by Pope Francis on contraception.

The Vatican has yet to confirm Pope Francis’s comments, but whatever the meaning of those comments, the Church’s teaching has not changed and cannot change. Catholic teaching remains that contraception is wrong in all circumstances.

Philip Lawler, news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org, wrote:

But this time, the problem cannot be attributed to sensationalistic reporting; the Pontiff definitely conveyed the impression that he was ready to discuss the morality of contraception in the context of the Zika epidemic. The Pope’s own words are—at best—confusing….

The Pope’s frequent public interviews, and his unhappy record of maladroit responses, have become a predictable source of confusion, frustration, and even embarrassment for the faithful. In the distant past, then-Cardinal Bergoglio admitted: “Interviews are not my forte.” Thoughtful Catholic leaders should use their influence to persuade the Holy Father that he was right then, and is wrong now to use interviews as a regular facet of his public ministry.

Human Life International, the largest Catholic international pro-life organization, headed by Fr. Shenan Boquet, wrote:

Human Life International is extremely concerned that, rather than clarify the comments with references to the very clear doctrine of the church, Father Lombardi instead made statements that contradict established Church doctrine on contraception, referring to both the non-magisterial decision of Pope Paul VI to which the Holy Father also referred, and adding a reference to a non-magisterial statement from Pope Benedict XVI that contradicts Pope Benedict’s own explanation of the statement. We must repeat, with the Church, her own condemnation of the act of using contraception.

Headlines such as “Pope approves contraception in areas threatened by Zika virus” immediately went around the world following the interview, and since this misunderstanding is already being used to pressure bishops in Latin America, we hope to see a clarification on this aspect of the Holy Father’s comments as soon as possible. We hope that the clarification emphasizes the unchangeable teaching of the Church on the absolute immorality of the use of contraception for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy, even as the permissibility of natural methods of postponing pregnancy for serious reasons is affirmed, along with the need to ensure that those threatened by Zika receive the best possible prevention advice and support, and those affected receive the best possible care.

 

 

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17 Responses to Reactions from pro-life leaders

  1. A friend commented: “I long ago stopped listening to anything this pope says. All I do now is pray that God will stop punishing us and will give us a good pope as soon as possible, one who is faithful to the teachings of the Church.”

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    For what it’s worth, I endorse the approach taken by Dr Peters. All the others seem to have grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Please correct me if I am misremembering the Pope’s remarks, but I don’t believe he approved of contraception as a means of halting the spread of the Zika virus. He did, by referring to the (apocryphal) approval given by Paul VI regarding prophylactic measures that may have been taken by Congolese nuns in danger of rape, intimate that in similar circumstances he would do likewise, but to the extent that hypothetical situation is being denounced by the other opinionators quoted above, I don’t think they understood the Pope’s comment, and if they did, I think they are wrong and Peters is right. Now of course, there are contraceptive measures and there are contraceptive measures, and some of them (e.g. the “morning after” pill) are absolutely wrong even in cases of rape, while others (e.g. a spermicidal douche or offering the rapist a condom and lying to him that you have Aids) seem completely right and in accordance with the Catholic doctrine of self-defence, especially but not exclusively in the case of consecrated virgins.
    ___
    p.s. to Robert John Bennett. Why don’t you and your friend post that comment on the Church Militant website and then see if you’re allowed to comment there again?

  3. toadspittle says:

    I think Robert John is teasing us, JH. I don’t think he’s got a friend at all.

  4. Michael says:

    Johnhenry @ 17:25:

    What Dr. Peters wrote, after asserting that the particular story about Paul VI mentioned by Pope Francis was not in fact true, was this:

    Unfortunately this myth has been invoked by the pope as if it were a fact of Church history, and, more importantly, in a way that suggests it might be a precedent to be considered in deciding whether contraception may also be used to prevent pregnancy in some cases of possible birth defects. That claim would take Pope Francis’ contraception remarks into a very different area. No longer are we musing about a point of Church history (as interesting as that might be), now we are dealing with Church moral teaching. The stakes become dramatically higher.

    So it seems that the approach taken by Dr. Peters is not really that dissimilar from the people in the article above – he seems to believe that the Holy Father mentioned the Congo case in a way that very strongly gives the impression he thinks it can be used as a means to justify using contraceptives in markedly different circumstances. This may not have been the Holy Father’s intention, but because he invoked the Congo case and followed it immediately with:

    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.

    does seem to give the impression that he is linking the two, and using one case to justify the other. This, to me, seems to be the natural reading of his words, as Dr. Peters also seems to believe. The problem is of course, that we have had that many ‘off the cuff’ statements, often without subsequent clarification, that it is hard to know what Pope Francis’ intention was.

    But this time around, the very man hired to do the clarifying (Fr. Lombardi), has said that what I have outlined was what the Holy Father meant; and he has not been contradicted thus far. So I can see why people who work tirelessly for pro-life causes, and to uphold the Church’s teaching on sexual morality in general, are a bit miffed about the whole thing.

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Michael, I prefer to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. When he said…
    “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.”
    …giving him the benefit of the doubt boils down to this: Women susceptible to infection by a serious virus should avoid sex (and thus pregnancy) altogether until the danger is past. They are entitled to do so by reason of the principle of ‘Double Effect’. Women who are about to be, or who are being, or who have just been raped (not including by husbands or partners) have the right to take certain other actions in self-defence even though such actions may impede impregnation; and Dr Peters is entirely in agreement with me – or rather I with him – in comparing these two distinct scenarios.

    Even though Peters is somewhat chagrined with this latest “presser” by the Pope, which may have sown doubt in some minds about his commitment to Humanae Vitae, he (Peters) still believes that stranger rape calls for a different doctrinal approach than voluntary or semi-voluntary sexual relations, as does (apparently) the Pope. I think it is dialectically wrong when discussing this for people to read anything more into Francis’s remarks about contraception than that, especially given the problems associated with language translation, let alone reading another person’s mind.

  6. Michael says:

    Johnhenry,

    That’s fair enough, and as I said, I really have no idea what the Holy Father actually intended by his comments – he’s made so many highly ambiguous/suggestive statements that I’ve given up trying to figure out what he meant by them to a certain extent. I just think that the plain sense of what he said in this instance doesn’t lend itself to the interpretation you’ve given it*, much as I hope that you are correct. Moreover, I do wish he would stop giving these casual interviews – the loose, imprecise nature of his responses is a great part of the problem.

    However, I do still struggle to see that Dr. Peters shares your view (in giving the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt that is). The bit of his blog post I highlighted in bold seems to me to suggest otherwise, and very strongly so. Also, as I keep saying, Fr. Lombardi stated that what the Holy Father meant is that the Congo case justifies contraception in the Zika case, and this clarification has not been refuted – this is surely quite important in interpreting all this no?

    *I should also add that I have no quarrel with the distinction between the two different uses of contraception, which you’ve outlined here and elsewhere – I just think that it’s more likely that Pope Francis was conflating the two, not distinguishing them (as does Dr. Peters, it seems to me).

  7. Mike Bizzaro says:

    If you’re at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . . that we *must believe* to get to Heaven . . .

    I list it on my website > > > http://www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com

    If you only scan the Index … you won’t see the infallible Dogma from the Pope in union with the Bishops of the world … that alone keeps people from eternal damnation.

    Sources of Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy > > http://www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com/section_13.2.html

    Sources of Dogma that “ignorance” is not a loophole into Heaven > > http://www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com/section_5.1.html

    The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Deuteronomy 31:21 >
    “For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day.”

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
    “Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me.”

    Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
    “They … became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

    Mike
    Our Lady of Conquest
    Pray for us

  8. It is true that there is no inherent evil in avoiding pregnancy. But the pope repeated a falsehood about his predecessor, Paul VI, allowing the use of contraceptives by nuns and then linked it to the Zika epidemic.

    The following day his spokesman removed all doubt. Frome LifeSite News, qouing the Vatican Radio:

    ROME, February 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has affirmed that the Holy Father was indeed speaking of “condoms and contraceptives” when on the flight back from Mexico, Pope Francis said couples could rightly “avoid pregnancy” in the wake of the Zika virus scare.

    Fr. Lombardi told Vatican Radio today, “The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of discernment in a serious case of conscience. This is what the Pope said.”

    So, there we have it.

  9. GC says:

    Dr Nadal (above), I was very much attracted by your personal website, which others here might like to view also:

    gerardnadal.com

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    “So, there we have it.”

    Firstly, Pope Francis did not repeat a falsehood, if by “falsehood” you [Doctor Nadal] mean an intentional lie. The apocryphal indulgence given by Paul VI to the Congolese nuns is of doubtful authenticity, but it is not a lie told by Pope Francis or anyone before him, unless you have some knowledge about its provenance which I don’t.

    Concerning limited papal approval for use of condoms and other contraceptives, do I not correctly recall similar opinions expressed by our very beloved and esteemed Pope Emeritus a few years ago during one of his own in-flight smokers? I think Fr Lombardi was the Vatican press attaché on that occasion as well. He may speak on behalf of the pope, but the only words we need be concerned about are those from the pope’s own lips. Fr Lombardi’s function is merely to keep the press from pestering the pope too insistently about matters they can’t understand unless they are faithful, devout Catholics; and such Catholics always give the pope the benefit of the doubt when speaking about contentious doctrinal issues.

    Bottom line: any woman who is being assaulted by a stranger rapist is entitled to commit homicide, even though that is most definitely a contraceptive act; and therefore, non-lethal forms of contraception (not abortion, mind) in those situations are also permitted by Catholic doctrine, and you don’t have to be a doctor – of the Church or otherwise – to know that.

  11. Well, you are wrong about Benedict XVI giving papal approval on condoms. That never happened and was fully explicated at the time.

    On Lombardi… He spoke on behalf of the pope as the papal spkesman. He described a major rupture with the teaching of the Church, and put those words in the Pope’s mouth. He still has his job. No, one doesn’t need to be a doctor, of the church or otherwise, to understand what that means.

    GC: Thank you for the kind words and the plug for my blog.

  12. johnhenrycn says:

    “He [Lombardi] still has his job.”

    Oh really, Dr Nadal. And you call yourself a qualified homeopathist? What about absolutely awful Princes of the Church who have never been dismissed by any pope? Can you name me any pope this past century who has ever dismissed any Vatican factotum for dogmatic reasons or even for reasons of moral turpitude? Pope Francis is a semi-prisoner of a bureaucratic state, and his press officer is perhaps low down on the totem pole of people he hopes to get rid of?

    I have no “Top Ten” pope list (well, okay, Alexander VI is not on it ) and the reason I do not is because that’s a dangerous sedevacantist game. It would do you well to interpret everything the Pope says in the best possible light rather than insinuating by quotation that our pontiff “said couples could rightly ‘avoid pregnancy’ in the wake of the Zika virus scare” by use of condoms or whatever, which he never did, no matter what you and Lombardi *think*.

  13. toadspittle says:

    Ouch. Gerard has wandered into the whirling JH blades.
    That will learn him to say “explicated,” instead of :explained.”

    Toad used to know a horse name Gerard. A champion, he was, too.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-V3OSebt88

  14. kathleen says:

    Hey dear pal, JH, why so aggressive with Dr Gerard Nadal?
    I don’t think he is saying anything more than what many puzzled people have voiced here, and all over the Catholic blogosphere too that are abuzz with this issue. Doctor Nadal’s is not challenging Catholic doctrine, but simply trying to work out the confusing and startling words of Pope Francis that he gave on his in-flight off-the-cuff interview on the plane… and the weary attempt to untangle them by Fr Lombardi… (although I know I should say to clarify them). “Como siempre”, as the Spanish say!😉

    Some good solid Catholic teaching to calm us all down:

    Fr. Hardon, “The grave sinfulness of contraception is taught infallibly by the Church’s ordinary universal teaching authority [Magisterium].”

    The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors, 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997).

    “[W]e must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth. Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” (Humanae Vitae, #14).”

  15. johnhenrycn says:

    I was a bit too boisterous in my exchange with Gerard, and I apologise. Please don’t be offended Dr N, and please continue posting your interesting, worthwhile contributions.

    p.s. I do realize that you are a microbiologist, not a homeopathist😉

  16. JH, I’m a big boy, with a big mouth, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Boisterous is normal discourse for us😀

    As to your challenge on naming Princes of the Church dismissed for moral turpitude, one Cardinal Law, formerly of Boston was last seen counting paper clips in the bowels of the Vatican Archives. Beyond that, it is a weak argument to say that nobody else has fired a Vatican functionary. The truth remains that Francis tied the alleged permission by Paul VI for nuns to use contraceptives to the issue of avoiding pregnancy, and his spokesman removed all doubt two days later.

    Now, if Francis doesn’t feel that Lombardi’s words need to be walked back, that too is an affirmation.

    Blessings.

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