Sometimes I tell my wife that there are certain leaders in the Church who work behind the scenes to undermine the Church’s mission. She usually kindly offers to make a tin foil hat for me. All kidding aside, sometimes these traitors make such flagrant and public displays of contempt for the promotion of Catholic values that few, if any, could deny that there is something pernicious at work in the hierarchy. Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ Amoris Latetia has continued to wreak havoc and destruction upon the various institutions of the Church.
One recent event that should make you ponder are the Pope Francis-inspired administrative actions taken at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in the last week or so. In what can only be described as a shameless and brazen attack on the holy legacy of John Paul II, new administrators have dismissed all of the institute’s faithful theologian and eliminated all fundamental moral theology courses in the institute. Seriously, no other aspect of Church teaching is under heavier assault than the Church’s stance on marriage and sexual morality; for the sake of the administration, I sincerely hope that an ill-timed stroke which caused such a malfunction in thinking and failure in leadership.
To make matters worse, the administration recently invited pro-contraception priest Fr. Maurizio Chiodi to teach at the institute. Fr. Chiodi has advocated that “responsible parenthood” obligates parents to use artificial birth control. This comes directly from his lecture Re-reading Humanae Vitae in light of Amoris Latetia in which he leans on Pope Francis’ recent document Amoris Latetia to justify the following absurdity,
“(When) natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found… an artificial method for the regulation of births could be recognized as an ct of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child, but because in those situations responsibility calls the couple and family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”
What a joke…let’s break that down real quick.
First, when he refers to “natural forms” of regulating birth, what he means is periodic abstinence. In most cases, this is done in conjunction with one of the extremely reliable Natural Family Planning models for which information is widely available. I cannot think of a reason why periodic abstinence would ever be impossible or unfeasible. The only reason why periodic abstinence following NFP would not work is if the couple makes the deliberate choice to engage in intercourse, especially when the woman is most fertile. Presumably, they’ve abstained form sex in the past or at least aren’t literally having sex all the time–right? Despite what some would have us believe–we aren’t animals– and we are never so overtaken by sexual desire that our brain shuts off and our genitals do our thinking for us. There is nothing impossible or unfeasible about abstinence, even if it’s difficult, but marriage calls you to much greater trials than not having sex. Besides, sex = babies. Why is that such a difficult concept to grasp? When a couple uses artificial contraception there is always a possibility that they will nevertheless conceive-what then? Would Fr. Chiodi advocate responsible parenting in the “undoing” of the pregnancy in abortion? I hope he doesn’t advocate murder…
Second, his whole argument relies on a consequentialist ethical framework. Consequentialism, to over simplify, is the ethical theory that all is well that ends well. A major problem with Fr. Chiodi’s position is that there are many actions which are intrinsically evil no matter the outcome. Let’s say someone is raped but it happens to them when they are totally unconscious and their body is not damaged in the least. Furthermore, the attacker accidentally leaves a million dollars at the crime scene. Is there any question that the victim has nevertheless been wronged, despite the outcome? No, rape is always wrong because the act itself violates the nature of the human person and their sexual faculties. Perhaps Fr. Chiodi missed out on the many places where Pope Paul VI and other magisterial authorities call artificial contraception “intrinsically wrong”? No matter the outcome for a marriage, the use of contraception is always an act contrary to natural law, Divine Revelation, and the marriage vows.
Third, using artificial contraception is always a deliberate rejection of a newly conceived child. Why? It’s in the name: “contra-ception.” How can placing a barrier for the sake of preventing conception be anything other than the rejection of the child who could possibly have been conceived? Furthermore, contraception involves another rejection: the rejection of your spouse. What do I mean? Well, the act of sex is supposed to be a full-giving of oneself and the full acceptance of the other as a person, which is how St. Pope John Paul II explains in his Theology of the Body. If you use contraception then the subtext of your action is: “Honey, I love you but just not that whole reproductive aspect.” or “Honey, I give my whole self to you…except for that aspect of myself which allows me to work alongside you God to bring a new person into existence.” Can’t you just feel the love? I mean, what kind of unbridled love doesn’t involve the rejection of a fundamental aspect of one’s spouse?
Fourth and finally, he claims that responsible parenting requires other forms of welcoming from the couple and the family. Okay, sure, it does and perhaps that form of welcoming is welcoming a deeper devotion to God as a couple? Or welcoming abstinence as an opportunity to grow in the virtue of temperance? His argument also cuts against itself: if pregnancy is somehow so dangerous for a couple that they simply cannot risk conception by having sex then there are MANY other ways to express love for one’s spouse. Sex does not equal love. There is no situation in which a parent’s responsibility to their family requires them to engage in mortal sin. Fr. Chiodi’s argument is only advising parents to choose a rather hellish welcome.
Look, I don’t believe for a second that Fr. Chiodi is unaware that his position stands in contrast to two thousand years of Church tradition, natural law morality, and the explicit teaching of the Church as found in Humane Vitae, just to name a few.
In other words: this guy is a heretic, knows it, and doesn’t care.
There is much more to say on this but let me end by directing you to St. John Paul II, who is not only one of the most quintessential saints of the 20th century, but has also produced one of the most remarkable theological and philosophical synthesis in generations with this Theology of the Body. This new spin on traditional, orthodox Catholic thought brought together Thomism and recent philosophical developments to produce and expression, among other things, a fresh expression of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality. His teaching has given clarity to millions of Catholics, not to mention providing intellectual and moral credibility to Catholic sexual teaching in a time when such doctrines are subject to constant and severe attack. Given his incredible contribution and defense of Catholic sexual morality during the so-called sexual revolution, few if any deserve the honor of having an institute dedicated to research on the family carry their namesake. Should you want a robust, faithful, and moving take on Catholic sexual morality then I suggest you look no further than St. Pope John Paul II.
Hopefully, the error…I mean “era” of Pope Francis and Amoris Latetia ends soon because little has come of it other than confusion and destruction. The Pontifical John Paul II institute is just the latest causality.
— Jonathan L. Stute, M.A. MaPhil.