by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
July 25, 1993 there was celebrated
the 25th anniversary of the publication of the
Vitae by Pope Paul VI, the
encyclical giving the Catholic
doctrine on the regulation of birth, and
condemning the use
of contraceptives in that regard. There has perhaps never been a papal document that has
met with as much opposition and has caused as much controversy as this encyclical.
It was not because the Church has taught something that was not true, but
because it has taught something that was not popular,...something that calls for
sacrifice....something that our
world flatly rejects .... something that some
faith have not accepted.
The Basis of the Church's Teaching
Pope John Paul II, speaking to an
Congress on Moral Theology on the twentieth anniversary of
"It is not a doctrine invented by man; it is
stamped on the very nature of the human person by the Creator's hand, and
confirmed by Him in revelation". This
encyclical confirms the
doctrine expressed by Pope
Pius XI in his encyclical on
Marriage: "Any use whatever of
Matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in
its natural purpose to generate life is an offense against the law of God
and of Nature".
Pope Paul VI explained the basis of the
Vitae as follows:
"That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is
founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by
man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the
meaning and the procreative meaning" (12).
Commenting on this teaching of Paul VI,
John Paul II declared in his Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris
"When couples, by means of recourse to contraception,
separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and
woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as judges of the divine
plan, and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality (and with it themselves and their
married partner) by altering its value of total self-giving". (32)
As to the
basis of this doctrine, the
Lord referred to the 'unitive' meaning of the
act when He said in the beginning:
"A man leaves his father and mother and
clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh"
(Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
He referred to its 'procreative'
meaning when He
said to our first parents: "Increase
and multiply, fill the earth..." (Genesis 1:28)
Yet, we must not misunderstand the
teaching in this respect. As the noted moral
theologian Monsignor William Smith points out,
"while the Church declares that these two
dimensions of the conjugal act are inseparable, that does not mean that the
two must be realized in every single instance, but rather that one must
never act against them in any single instance. Why? Because this is God's
design, God's plan; and we are meant to be cooperators with God's plan, not
This doctrine, the
Monsignor declared, "comes
to us from three sacred sources: the Sacred Scriptures revealed by God,
Tradition guided by the Holy Spirit, and the Magisterium which has
been endowed with the gift by Jesus Christ to teach in His Name".
Of these three sources the
second Vatican Council declared in its decree
"It is clear that Sacred
Tradition, Sacred Scriptures, and the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium),
in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked together that one cannot stand
without the others, and that all together and each one in its own way under the action of
the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls". (n.10)
Every situation involving
human sexuality that
has been rejected by the Church as
immoral because contrary to
design, involves an attempt in one way or another to
separate these two
fruits of married love (unitive &
God has put together. To
mention a few of them:
While the following words of
Christ were spoken in reference to
divorce, they are equally
applicable to the inseparable connection between the
meaning of the conjugal act: "What
God has joined together, let no man separate". (Matthew
Peter, the Rock
It is important to see the role of the Pope in
these difficult times of dissent and
crisis of faith on the part of many within the
"Upon this rock I will build
My Church" (Matthew 16:18).
His message to the
apostles headed by Peter,
and gave them the authority
to teach and to bind:
who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects
Me, rejects Him Who sent Me".
you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 16:19)
Christ gave to
His Church a
twofold source of unity ....
guide. One is
interior guide, the
other is an
exterior guide, the
Peter. For Catholics those
two guides must always go together.
One without the
other will not stand.
light of faith (if the
voice of Peter is
rejected) will go
voice of Peter (without the
light of faith)
will be rejected.
Conscience - Not Always a True Guide
Once one rejects this
twofold source of guidance that
God has given, he is no
longer guided by the light of faith, but only by
human reason which has been obscured by
sin. Such a one (whether he knows it or not) is
given to wishful thinking, for that is one of the
weaknesses of our
fallen nature. That is, we easily
justify doing what we want
to do, or not doing what we do not want to do. This is because our judgments are colored
or slanted by our desires. And the greater our attachment to some
created good, some
satisfaction, the more our
rational appetites tend to
obscure our reason, and the more we are given to this
That is why our
conscience, which is simply a
practical judgment of
is not always a reliable guide. This is the root
of the problem
of many in the Church today who
reject this or that
the Church. "I
am following my conscience," they
say, "which allows me to reject this teaching of the
Church (e.g. regarding contraception), and do what common sense tells me." What they are saying amounts to this: "My conscience allows me to reject what the
Spirit of Christ
dictates, and follow what the spirit of the world suggests."
Pope John Paul II, speaking on this topic in a
audience August 17, 1983, said:
"It is not sufficient to say to man: 'always
follow your conscience.' It is necessary to add immediately and always:
'Ask yourself if your conscience is telling you the truth or something false,
and seek untiringly to know the truth. If we were not to make this
necessary clarification, man would risk to find in his conscience a
force which is destructive of his true humanity, rather than that holy
place where God reveals to him his true good".
wisdom of Christ handed down by the
wisdom which includes the
cross), he will invariably
accept the wisdom of the world. There is no middle course, no neutral zone.
"He who is not with Me, is against Me" (Matthew
Once one rejects the
teaching of the Church on any key issue, it is easy to
reject other basic
teachings of the Church. We read of those who consider themselves
Catholic, and yet favor
abortion..."Catholics pro-choice" as
they like to call themselves. In all probability, a great
percentage of these first began their rejection of
authority by joining the ranks of those who
Vitae. Once one is no longer guided by the
light of divine faith, the
spirit of the world takes over.
Pope John Paul II, on the
of the publication of
cannot be said that the faithful have embarked on a diligent search for
truth if they do not take into account what the Magisterium teaches, or if, by
putting it on the same level as any other source of knowledge, makes oneself judge; or if
in doubt, one follows one's own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure
teaching of the Magisterium.......
connected with the theme of moral conscience, is that of the binding
force of the moral norm of HUMANAE VITAE. By teaching that the contraceptive act
is intrinsically illicit, Paul VI meant to teach that it does not admit exceptions.
No personal or social circumstance could ever, can now, or will ever, render such an act
lawful in itself. This is the constant teaching of Tradition and of the Church's
Magisterium which cannot be called into question by the Catholic theologian".
(That is, it cannot be done lawfully; and where it happens, you
have the blind leading the blind. "If a blind guide
leads the blind, both fall into the pit." (Matthew
The Garden of Eden Today
It will be helpful to consider briefly how all that we are
speaking of ties in with what happened at the very beginning of the
human race. You recall
the story of Genesis, how Adam and Eve
God's command not to eat of
the tree of the knowledge of good and
"You will not die. God knows that the moment
you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing
good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).
Instead of recognizing
authority and sovereignty,
God's dominion over all creation,
they rebelled against the restriction
He had placed on them; and we know the consequences.
who knows our
human nature so well, uses the same tactics
today, the same strategy that deceived our first parents. "Reject that
teaching of the Church. Those who issue these decrees are far behind the times. You know
the world better than they do. They don't experience the same problems as you. Do whatever
you feel is right for you."
So suggests the
Evil One. Once Adam and
Eve had sinned, the
kingdom of Satan
established, and they came under
dominion. Every descendent of Adam
(with the sole exception of the Immaculate Mother
God) comes into this world under the
Satan, and remains under
dominion until baptism. And even after
falls away from the
state of grace comes again under the
Satan; and the
greater the rebellion against the authority that
God has established, the more he comes under
power and influence and furthers
Garden of Eden - by MICHELANGELO di Lodovico
Buonarroti Simoni - from Cappella Sistina, Vatican
Mary, child Jesus and saints
around Tree of Knowledge.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil
How many today, in the use of their marriage, has the
enticed to partake
of that forbidden fruit of the
tree of the knowledge of
God had allowed our first
parents to partake of every kind of fruit in the Garden of Eden
with one single exception. What precisely was
God withholding from them? What was
He not allowing the head of the human race by
command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the
knowledge of good and
evil? A note in the
Jerusalem bible explains this as follows:
"It is the power of deciding for himself what is good
and what is evil, and of acting accordingly, a claim of complete moral independence by
which man refuses to recognize his status as a created being. This first sin was an attack
on God's sovereignty, a sin of pride".
Speaking of this verse in Genesis,
John Paul II says in his new encyclical on
Splendor, that "it
teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but
to God alone..... Man's freedom is not unlimited. It must halt before the 'tree of the
knowledge of good and evil,' for it is called to accept the moral law given by God"
Yet, how many today,
God's warning handed down by the
Church, have partaken of that
fruit! How many have claimed for themselves (as did
& Eve) a moral independence, refusing to acknowledge the restrictions
placed on them by their Creator. How many, no longer
guided by the
light of faith but
their own selfish inclinations, have convinced themselves that they know better than the
Church. How many are
gradually coming more and more under the influence of the
his suggestions rather than the
Christ speaking through
"He who hears you, hears Me; He who rejects you, rejects Me" (Luke 10:16).
teaching of the Church put forth in
Vitae join the ranks of "Pro-Choice"
I have a right to choose. "But," some will object, "that term
'pro-choice' refers to abortion".
That is precisely the point; it does apply to
abortion. And the expression
fits perfectly those who use contraceptives, for many forms of
abortifacient; that is, they cause
Janet E. Smith, who has published two books upholding
the doctrine of
Vitae, explains this point:
"There is much evidence to
show that not all contraceptive pills work by stopping ovulation. With many forms of the
a woman may still be ovulating and thus may be conceiving. If she conceives when on the
she will most likely self-abort. Since the contraceptive has made the
uterine wall hostile to a fertilized egg, the fertilized ovum, the new young life, does
not implant and dies an early death. The IUD, it is believed, nearly
always works this way. Thus, IUDs and some forms of the
not only contribute to abortion, they in fact cause abortions;
they are abortifacients. Is it not clear, then, that contraception is a leading cause of
abortions?" ("Why Humanae Vitae was Right" p.
Ultra-sound image above shows
the uterus outlined in blue and the "triple stripe" uterine lining (landing pad
for the embryos) outlined in yellow.
How does the IUD Work?
Although doctors claim they aren't quite sure how the
works, it is clear that the IUD does not prevent
ovulation, which means that the woman's body will still produce an egg during her monthly
When the IUD is put in place, it and the
chemical it contains alters the fluids in the womb, and the lining of the womb. The
presence of the IUD irritates the lining. This is not necessarily painful
to the woman, but it can have negative effects on a tiny human being.
After this new life begins at fertilization, the tiny boy or girl
must travel to the wall of the womb and implant.
Because the IUD inflames the wall of the uterus,
this tissue becomes inhospitable to the new human being. The tiny child cannot attach to
the wall of the womb and get nourishment, so he or she
This is abortion!
Abortion is an act
of direct killing that takes the life of a tiny human being; a life that begins at
conception the fathers sperm fertilizes the mothers egg cell. From the
of conception, 46 chromosomes with 30,000 genes combine to determine all
of your physical characteristics: sex; facial features; body type and the color of your
hair, eyes and skin. Even more amazing, intelligence and personality - the way you think
and feel, your talents, tastes, athletic abilities and more - were already in place within
your genetic code.
of conception you receive your own unique DNA code, you
were already essentially and uniquely you - a minute body no bigger than a grain of sugar.
Also at the
creates your immortal
soul and fuses
it to your
body, where it
remains until you
Only God knows how many human lives have been
conceived and then
snuffed out by those who use
contraceptives. It is all so minute and so hidden, but it is the
of innocent human life.
"Let them remember,"
warns Pope Pius XI in his encyclical
Marriage, "that God is the Judge and Avenger
of innocent blood which cries out from earth to heaven".
Independently, however, of the fact that
abortion often follows the
use of contraceptives, the deliberate use of artificial means
nature intends is
intrinsically wrong, and
Such a one claims the right to negate
God's plan, to interfere with the
natural process established
by the Creator.
Mother of God
Mother of the
Mother of all
Let us pray:
O Mother of God, Mother of the Church,
Mother of all mankind,
obtain for your children the grace to recognize the rights of God ...
the plan of God ... a plan that requires sacrifice ...
a plan that involves the carrying of a cross in the footsteps of Your divine Son.
Obtain for them the light of faith to see that plan with the sacrifices it requires,
and the love to embrace it,
that they may experience that interior peace
that all the satisfactions and pleasures of the world can never bring.
Orthodox Abortion Icon
This icon depicts, on the right, the tribulation of
those who have abortions. You
can see all the ladies going to the New Herodias. She is depicted as a queen with snakes
for hair. (King Herod was the one who killed all the male babies under 2 years old so that
baby Jesus would die with them.) You can see the doctor putting his sword through the
child, and feeding it to the Beast. And you can see the lamentation of the Angel, and of one woman as she
loses her child to abortion.
To the left, we see the Orthodox (or correct)
Family: It has the Mother and Father taking care of the kids, the kids playing, and it
shows the Mother carrying her Cross because child-rearing was meant to be a struggle. But
it was meant to be a struggle that is part of the cross that we pick up daily to follow
Christ. It is not something to be rejected but something, if the Lord wills it, that
everyone should accept humbly.
Above the Orthodox Family are two people: On the
right is Saint Stylianos, who was a big help for children because he helped set up
institutions which resemble the day care centers we have today. The other person, on the
left, is the Holy Virgin Mary, who accepted the pain and awesome responsibility of being
the Mother of Christ. Imagine if she had decided, while she was pregnant, to abort Jesus
because she couldn't handle the responsibility. Where would we have been now?
[The Miracle of Life]