As everyone knows, the Catholic Church has undergone violent attacks even from within its own body for its teaching on the intrinsic sinfulness of contraception. These attacks have been led by certain priests, religious, journalists and publicists who mounted a steady campaign against "Humanae Vitae" from the date (1968) it was issued. Indeed, certain "moral theologians" and "sex educators" were attempting to subvert Catholic teaching on the subject in the years immediately preceding Humanae Vitae. If the Catholic Church were not indeed divinely-assisted by the Holy Spirit (given to indwell in the Church by the Resurrected Christ), the Gates of Hell would surely have prevailed against the Catholic Church as indeed they have against every other Christian community separated from the Chair of Peter. Only the Catholic Church has stood steadfast against the evil of contraception.
Despite Pope John Paul II' repeated reaffirmation of the teaching of Christ and His Church regarding the sinfulness of contraception, certain writers, journalists, and publications carrying the Catholic label continue to promote Dissent against the Magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) on the subject. The latest instance of yet another catechetical text fostering Dissent against Catholic teaching on artificial birth control is "Believing In Jesus: A Popular Overview of the Catholic Faith" by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. (St. Anthony Messenger Press - revised edition 1985: Imprimatur by Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati). It is not surprising that St. Anthony Messenger Press should engage in such contravention of Catholic moral teaching. For years it has fostered a contempt for traditional Catholic moral teaching, especially in the area of sexual morality.
Here is what "Believing in Jesus" teaches readers concerning Dissent on the subject of contraception:
"Dissent: Humanae Vitae serves to focus on an agonizing problem that has arisen for many Catholics, one which cannot be swept under the rug. Usually the problem is seen as a conflict between two obligations: What then, if a Catholic in good conscience - that is, after prayer, consultation, and serious deliberation - is unable before God to assent to an ordinary teaching of the Church, such as on contraception? (This supposes that he or she has tried to be as open as possible to the teaching, has respected its weight and reasoning, its widespread acceptance, its history.)
The Catholic in these circumstances assumes the serious responsibility of humble dissent. Obviously we are not talking about mere whim, or self-serving narrowness, or, still less, sinful stubborness. The agonizing nature of such decisions is often the fear of being guilty of precisely these faults. But is must be said that dissent in clear conscience is possible. In their commentary on Humanae Vitae, the American Bishops took note of this real possibility. Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco brought the matter into the open at the 1980 Synod in Rome."
Space does not permit an extensive critique of the above faulty commentary. Suffice it to say:
- A Catholic is obliged not only to listen to and respect the Church's teaching on contraception, but to obey it;
- A priest-author (and all the more, a Bishop) is obliged not only to set forth the teaching of the Church accurately and without ambiguity, but also to correct erroneous consciences in the matter;
- The Catholic Church does not sanction "humble dissent" from the teaching of God on the subject of contraception any more than it does "responsible dissent" from its teaching on abortion. The 1,000 signers of the recent NY Times ad (3/3/86) who sophistically argued for "responsible dissent" with respect to Magisterial teaching on abortion were simply carrying Fr. Foley's views to their logical conclusion.
The truth is that those who knowingly dissent from the Church's sacred doctrine on contraception or abortion (or both) cannot be considered faithful or loyal Catholics. It is interesting, by the way, to see how Fr. Foley's bibliography leans for support on such neo-Modernist writers as Monika Hellwig, Raymond Brown, Thomas Bokenkotter, and Kenneth Overberg, S.J. The last-named Jesuit writer had written a previous damaging article sanctioning "conscientious dissent" from the Church's teaching on contraception in the St. Anthony Messenger press Update series (used in many Catholic parishes and schools).
The prohibition of the Catholic Church regarding contraceptive practice
is admittedly a "hard saying". But it is a "hard saying" that is rooted in the natural law
of God regulating sexual behavior and is true to Christ's teaching on marital chastity.
Fr. Foley would have done well to mark his own wise counsel in an earlier part of his book:
"The great sin in the Body of Christ is to destroy its unity of faith and love by factions, false teaching (and) false standards."