Fr. John Forliti On Contraception and Dissent


If, as we have seen, Fr. John Forliti's "ISSUES IN SEXUALITY" sex education program is lax and indulgent in its treatment of sodomy, it is similarly "weak as water" in its explanation of the Church's teaching on contraception. Its "Study Guide: Family Planning" subverts magisterial teaching on the moral evil of contraception by elevating the role of individual conscience over the Law of God and Papal authority. The moral law of God prohibits the practice of contraception but this is not presented as binding in conscience. Nor does the "Study Guide" on Family Planning present the Church's doctrinal judgment in "Humanae Vitae" as the definitive criterion for conscience formation. Here is what Catholic young people are told:

"This condemnation of artificial means of birth control was a matter of controversy and diversity of theological opinion before the Pope issued his encyclical in 1968, and there is still disagreement among Catholics in the United States. Many Catholics are disturbed by the continuing diversity of opinion; others disregard the Church's teachings on morality.

"Humanae Vitae" was not proposed as an infallible statement. Only two doctrinal statements have been formulated as infallible : the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. However, some Catholics believe that the teachings of Humanae Vitae should be accepted as infallible.

Second, the Church teaches that individual conscience is the ultimate criterion for decisions in moral questions. However, each Catholic must do the hard work of forming his or her own conscience. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in the "National Catechetical Directory": 'We live in good faith if we act in accordance with conscience. Nevertheless moral decisions still require much effort. Decisions of conscience must be based upon prayer, study, consultation, and an understanding of the teachings of the Church.' (NCD, No. 103).

Furthermore, in forming conscience through listening to a variety of opinions, Catholics are urged by the bishops to place a priority on official Church teaching. In their pastoral letter entitled "Human Life in Our Day" which appeared just months after "Humanae Vitae", the United States Bishops wrote: 'There exists in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought and also general norms of licit dissent . . . When there is question of theological dissent from non-infallible doctrine, we must recall that there is always a presumption in favor of the magisterium.'

Again, the key concept is responsibility - in considering the teachings of the Church and in making one's personal decision of conscience. The personal responsibility for moral decisions is as true in matters of family planning and birth control as it is in all other moral decisions."

(writer Mary Turck in the "Study Guide: Family Planning" pages 21-22)

A few pages later, the "Study Guide" reinforces its sanctioning of dissent from "non-infallible" teachings of the Law of God by reducing the Papal Magisterium to but one of many guides in moral decision- making!

  • "The Church defends the right of each Catholic person to act according to his or her individual conscience. The Church also insists that a person is acting morally if that person has a properly formed conscience in light of Church teachings. Those in charge of Church teachings, namely, the pope and the bishops, recognize that most Catholics also listen to other sources in forming their consciences, e.g., contemporary theologians, social sciences, Scripture, local priests, friends and their life experiences." (Study Guide: Family Planning, page 28)

  • The shameful undermining of the authority of the Magisterium is further revealed when the students are boldly asked: "What role does Church authority play in the continuing formation of your conscience: exclusive authority, predominant authority, or one of many equal authorities in shaping your conscience?" (page 24)

That Fr. Forliti's sex education program promotes dissent against Papal authority and is engaged in spreading erroneous teaching concerning conscience and contraception is amply confirmed by the "Study Guide's" recommending the article "Birth Control and the Conscientious Catholic" by dissenter Fr. Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J. (Catholic Update, no. 103).

Another Jesuit, Fr. Paul Quay, subjected that article to a devastating review in "Fidelity", January 1986, as did John Kippley of the "Couple-to-Couple League" in The Wanderer, February 9, 1984. Both repudiated the article as any reliable guide to Catholic morality.

ISSUES IN SEXUALITY's undermining official Catholic teaching on contraception stems from the same fundamental cause resulting in its trivialization of homosexual perversion - namely, its refusal to treat sin seriously. Relying on the USCC's defective "'Human Sexuality for Christians' "guidelines", the "Study Guide's" moral teaching is vitiated by that alarming loss of the sense of sin which recent Popes have deplored. One has only to view its two films on "Family Planning" and "Cohabitation" to note that neither contraception nor fornication are ever described for what they are - namely, acts which are seriously sinful and which offend God.

In short, Fr. John Forliti's ISSUES IN SEXUALITY program pretends to provide a "catechesis in sexuality" - with its materials bearing the Imprimatur. However, as a catechetical program it is an intellectual fraud and a deceit.

This article appeared in the SERVIAM Newsletter, issue of February 1988