This is my third commentary on section 41 of The Church in America.
Why isn’t the typical American parish radiating Jesus? I think that the main reason for the failure of the typical Western parish to radiate Jesus is the non-preaching and non-acceptance of Mark 1:15, that call to a change of heart. While we can never say anything about any particular couple or parish, the statistics say that the teaching of Humanae Vitae is widely rejected. At the USCCB website you can find an article that says that only one-tenth of one percent of Catholic women who are doing anything about birth control are using any natural form of conception regulation. Pope Paul VI certainly was correct in 1968 when he wrote the following in Humanae Vitae, section 18:
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern 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.” 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.
Truly Pope Paul VI was prophetic. In section 17 just preceding this, he prophesied about the various adverse consequences of the widespread societal acceptance of marital contraception.
Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone [emphasis added]. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
In short, the Pope predicted something very close to the ObamaCare birth control mandate. What the Pope was too polite to say is that once a culture accepts one unnatural form of sexual activity such as marital contraception, it has no logical way of saying “no” to any other such activity. In his commentary on Genesis 38:6ff, Martin Luther correctly called the Sin of Onan a form of sodomy. Once a culture accepts marital heterosexual sodomy, it has no way to say no to homosexual sodomy. The same-sex “marriage” issue is the direct consequence of the societal acceptance of marital contraception.
The bottom line is that when a significant majority of fertile-age Catholic parishioners accept and practice marital contraception, the parish is failing to be the faithful organism that is radiating the Lord Jesus. What is radiating is not the pleasant odor of sanctity, to use a pious phrase, or even that of antiseptics as in the hospital image of the Church. Instead, the smell is not sweet.
It would be nice if I am wrong. But how can a parish in which pastors won’t preach and parishioners won’t accept what the Church teaches are the divine truths about human love—how can such a parish radiate Christ who is the ultimate Author of these truths?
Next week. What can priests do easily and without significant costs of any kind?
John F. Kippley, August 17, 2014