In my comment on January 4, 2015 I wrote about abandoned Catholic churches in the Netherlands and Germany now being used as athletic facilities, a mute testimony to the Dutch and German bishops’ general failure to support Humanae Vitae. We have some beautiful churches in Western Cincinnati where I live. Ever since reading the WSJ article the first weekend of January, I have occasionally thought about the fate of the Churches and schools in this part of town. We live within 2 miles of three churches. Extend that to a three mile radius and there are seven more churches. A five mile radius would include at least another five. You get the picture.
When we started teaching NFP here in 1972, we taught four courses simultaneously in different parts of the city and suburbs. A brief bulletin announcement would bring 15 to 20 or more couples. Most of them wanted spacing, not great limitation. They had formed their consciences prior to the post-Humanae Vitae explosion of dissent. But by 1981, things were different. We were then 13 years after Humanae Vitae, and people with 12 to 16 years of Catholic education had never heard a good word about the encyclical. As far as we can tell, although there are a number of HV-accepting pastors in our part of town, only two of them require their engaged couples to take an NFP course as part of preparation for marriage. All the parish statistics except funerals are down. There’s talk about parish consolidation. You get the picture.
The acceptance of contraception by most of the Catholic laity in the West is having visible effects. It’s not primarily a matter of money—we just recently read of a Catholic school in an affluent Cincinnati suburb being shuttered. Catholics can indeed speculate how their beautiful churches will be used a hundred years from now—as Catholic churches, or as mosques, museums or athletic facilities.
It is not too late to reverse the process, but more than bare bones survival requires more than what’s happening now. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has embarked on a campaign to raise 130 million dollars for an endowment fund, and it will probably succeed. Half of it will help with student tuition assistance. The rest goes for other worthy projects. More money can be helpful, but it is certainly not the key problem. The Church in Germany has lots of money, but it’s falling apart because of the lack of believers who have sufficient faith and trust to have children.
What the Church needs more than money is a systematic effort to make every diocese and every parish a Humanae Vitae diocese and parish. That will prepare the ground for a very practical solution to a great need—more families who are generous in having children. More on that on Mother’s Day.
Next week: The dissenters are running scared.
John F. Kippley, April 18, 2015