Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Humane Vitae in the Instrumentum Laboris

I will likely post at least on more article on the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. In this post I just want to quickly post how the Venerable Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter Humanae Vitae was dealt with in this working document for the synod's participants. As I have mentioned in the past, I believe that Humanae Viate is the centerpiece of what I like to describe as Paul VI's triptych, which also includes his encyclical Populorum Progresso and his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi.

The first reference to Humanae Vitae occurs in early in the document, in Part I, Chapter I: "God’s Plan for Marriage and the Family":
In the wake of Vatican II, the papal Magisterium has further refined the doctrine on marriage and the family. In a particular manner, Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae, displayed the intimate bond between conjugal love and the generation of life (par 5)
The part of the working document in which Humanae Vitae figures most prominently is in Part III, entitled "An Openness to Life and Parental Responsibility in Upbringing," especially Chapter I, which bears the heading, "The Pastoral Challenges Concerning an Openness to Life":
In recent decades, basic objections have arisen regarding the subject of a couple’s openness to life, which concerns the innermost qualities and aspects of life. In this regard, substantial differences exist between the Christian idea of life and sexuality and that of a highly secularized society. Pope Paul VI, in publishing the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, was well aware of the difficulties his statements could cause over time. He wrote, for example, in the document: “It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. An intensive, clamorous outcry is being raised against the voice of the Church which is made more intense by the today’s means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a ‘sign of contradiction’ (Lk 2:34). She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical” (HV, 18) (par 121)


The following paragraph (122) states,
The Encyclical Humanae Vitae certainly had a prophetic character in reiterating the unbreakable link between conjugal love and the transmission of life
Finally, in paragraph 123, we read:
When treating a couple’s openness to life and their knowledge of the Church’s teaching, with particular reference to Humanae Vitae, the responses clearly admit that, in the vast majority of cases, the positive aspects are unknown. Those who claim to know the Church’s teaching belong, for the most part, to associations and Church groups actively involved in parishes or programmes of spirituality for the family. A vast majority of responses emphasize how the moral evaluation of the different methods of birth control is commonly perceived today as an intrusion in the intimate life of the couple and an encroachment on the autonomy of conscience. Clearly, believers hold different positions and have diverse attitudes on this subject, depending on the different parts of the world where they live and their local surroundings, including those who find themselves immersed in highly secularized and technically advanced cultures and those who live a simpler life in rural areas. Many responses recommend that for many Catholics the concept of “responsible parenthood” encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control, according to a set of criteria ranging from effectiveness to physical tolerance and passing to a real ability to be practiced
This final reference to the difficulties involved in convincingly transmitting Church teaching is most appropriate. The Church will not change her teaching on this matter. The debate will not be about whether to sanction the use of contraceptives, but how the Church's teaching can be communicated in a positive and compelling manner. In this regard, the document, making reference to ways of more effectively communicating the Church's teaching, notes "various episcopal conferences recall the importance of developing the insights of Pope St. John Paul II in his 'theology of the body' series, in which he proposes a fruitful approach to the topics of family through existential and anthropological concerns and an openness to the new demands emerging in our time" (par 18).

I will note, yet again, that this document makes no mention whatsoever of deacons, of the powerful witness to the sanctity of marriage and the potential bridge married deacons and their wives can build within the Church, witnessing to the unity of the sacraments at the service of communion (i.e., matrimony and holy orders), and building ties between the Church and the world in this regard.

It is also worth drawing attention to the Pastoral Letter issued Sunday by Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver to his diocese: Family: Become What You Are, which I have just now started reading.

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