IT WAS not enough ' to arrive early for the Newman Associatibn "Teach-In" on tlite Pope's birth control encyclical at Central Hall, Westminster, last Friday. If yOu wanted a good seat you had to arrive 4ry early indeed. The cAteue winding its way down a neighbouring street was reminiscent of those outside the Albert Hall when tliere is a particularly ad Prom on.
Such was the interest in is occasion that people w;re still being squeezed b4hind pillars and squeezed itito odd corners well after the first speaker had begun. The London Newman j
C Tele had assembled eight s eakers on the theme "birth Control and the Pope." Broadly, four supp nal the encyclical and fur dissented. Pro-encycli c 1 were Fr. Leonard hatmore, Mr. Douglas Woodruff. Pr. Clement T gar, and Mr. Christopher rrick. Pro-Pill: Dr. John arshall. Fr. Peter de Rosa, Mr. Anthony Spcncilr and Fr. David Woodard R. WHATMORE was assigned the task of kick' g the ball out for the evening's proceedings. He was introduced as a non-affluent piiest of the Arundel and Brighton Diocese and "not connected with sport."
"I would like to make it clear," said Fr. Whatmore, "that I don't stand 100 per cent behind the Pope's encycl cal. I stand 101 per cent ; b hind it."
'Cardinal Newman had had doubts about the advisability of claiming the dogma of Papal infallibility and he spoke openly on that subject. But, Fr. Whatmore said, when that dogma was proclaimed the Cardinal gave it the full assent of his mind and will. "He gave that dogma full interior and exterior obedience." Whate ' er our prognostications h d been about the Holy ther's encyclical we should n w do the same.
'The Pope has said that c ntraception is forbidden b natural and divine law,"
. Whatmore continued. "and that means that this condemnation is part of the deposit of faith and is implicitly contained in Holy Scripture. You may say that the evidence from Scripture i I not as clear as the evi
d nee of some of the other d ctrines of the Church.
"f think that you will
a tee that the evidence for ur Lady's Assumption into h avert which is accepted 1. yally by all Catholics
b cause it was infallibly
ss clear in Scripture than proclaimed by Pius XII is I is the evidence for the intrinsic wrongness of contraception." The encyclical was not infallible in itself, Fr. Whatrriore said, but it did contain infallible teaching.
"So there's quite a high theological motif to be attached to it. We are rtquired by the teaching of the Vatican Council to give bath reverence and obedience. both interior and exterior, to the authoritative decisions of the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, we have before us a document which requires our respect and assent," The real problem now, said Fr. Whatmore, was not so much the problem of contraception itself but the extent of Papal authority. "The Pope is not a mere spokesman for majority opinion in the Church. The Pope is Head of the Church and Vicar of Christ and not Vicar of the Church. He's not our Vicar, he's not the Church's Vicar, he is the Vicar of Christ and head of the Church.
"In this particular instance. of course, he did consult many experts, clerical and lay and even ladies. It seems to be unjust to say that the Pope has not consulted. Having consulted he pronounced and he pronounced well within his competence."
Answering a questioner, Fr. Whatmore quoted Cardinal Newman that it was better the whole world should be destroyed than one venial sin should be committed. 'Now that is Catholic teaching," he said, bringing forth the evening's one and only cry of "Rubbish!" from the floor.
"If a thing is intrinsically wrong it is always wrong and no circumstances what. ever justify it being done. We have to tell young people that they must observe premarital chastity. Why should married people single themselves out for special treatment?" he asked. Uproar in the house.
VR. PETER DE ROSA, vice-principal of Corpus Christi College, followed Fr. Whatmore. He began with a word of regret about an "otherwise excellent evening." It was that there were no women. . . . The audience knew what he was go. ing to say and the rest of Fr. de Rosa's sentence was drowned in the applause.
"Disagreement with the encyclical's main thesis was an act of loyalty to the Church provided that the theology of the encyclical was correctly understood," said Fr. de Rosa. "Competent people with proper respect for authority have a duty to explore the possibility of division and to dissent publicly if their conscience so demands it.
"There tends to be a pious belief in some Catholic parts that the Pope can't be wrong on such an issue, the Holy Spirit would not permit it. But history, even recent history, tells us otherwise. The Church is now committed to the Vatican II doctrine that every human being has a right to religious freedom.
"Yet in the last century Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XII, one after the other, said that this right was—to quote them—'Sheer madness,' contrary to God's law,' and 'equivalent to atheism' and many other things.
"The teaching authority of the Church failed lamentably. There was a new world in process of formation and to deny freedom of conscience at that time was effectively to cut off the Church from an emerging world and we have still not recovered from that failure.
"The present crisis in the Church is proof that we have not recovered from that failure even though believe myself that it is the best offer we have yet received of the possibility of recovery."
Humanae Vitae would be a failure, Fr. de Rosa said, for two reasons. First, because of the actual manner in which'Papal authority had been exercised, and secondly because of the reasons actually adduced by the present Pope and his predecessors.
The Pope had acted in a way which was surprising in view of the collegial doctrine of Vatican if "After the Vatican II doctrine I
was personally distressed that this issue with the clerical celibacy one was in fact withdrawn from the competence of the Council. It saddened me, too, that the Synod of Bishops which met in the autumn of 1967 was forbidden publicly to discuss this matter. And the views and the findings of the cornmission of experts — views overwhelmingly agreed upon —were dismissed by the Pope as having no bearing on this particular moral issue..
The Pope had laid down the principal that there must be no deliberate artificial dissociation of the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative.
"He tells us that each and every act of marriage must remain open to the transmission of life," said Fr. de Rosa. "He presumably means that no artificial preventive may be placed to those relatively few acts of marriage which are open to the transmission of life.
"Now this seems to many theologians to be a strange, genital kind of morality, a physiological approach to ethics. The organs of sex are given the rights and endowments which properly belong to persons and not to particular members of the body.
"Sexual organs must not be looked at in isolation. certainly not ' in biological isolation. We must have regard for the biological, physiological and emotional aspects of sex. We must not simply consider the sexual organs but the sexual faculties in the context of the person and within marriage in the context of the whole of family life."
The immediate future looked dark, said Fr. de Rosa. He was saddened by the pain which would be caused to those people without learning who knew that their moral experience was at variance with the Pope's law.
But, "the laSt word must be one of optimism. 1 am filled with optimism. I see a Catholic laity and clergy more mature and more personally responsible. I see bishops everywhere and not least in England with true love and respect for the Holy Father. realising that they too are shepherds of their flocks and not just Vatican sheepdogs."
/VIR. DOUGLAS WOODRUFF, former editor of the Tablet, had wondered what contribution he could make to the "Teach-In." He was not a priest, a theologian, a psychologist or a doctor, only a Catholic journalist, "the lowest form of semi-ecclesiastical fife."
The one thing that would certainly not do, he said, was to leave the matter of contraception to the individual conscience. ''We all know that where our interests are too closely engaged it is extremely easy to have a false conscience. '
Henry VIII had passed the remark that "Clod and my conscience are on good terms."
The Church claimed authority to inform consciences rightly. That had always been so. "If you form a false conscience," said Mr. Woodruff, "you suffer for it and your neighbour suffers for it."
From the earliest times the Christian Church had taught
that contraception was wrong. This had remained the teaching of Catholics and Protestants until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 when the united front which Christians had presented to the world had been breached.
FR. DAVID WOODWARD. parish priest of Burnham. Buckinghamshire. told the audience that the priests and people in his area had got together to discuss the encyclical. On three Sunday afternoons they read it and "attempted to frame in intelligent and dispassionate language the questions we were all asking in one form or another at home and in the factories."
MR. CHRISTOPHER DER R ICK stressed the erotic objections to contraception rather than those presented by ecclesiastical authority. "I have always looked upon, contraception as something wrong for reasons natural. pagan and erotic, and not simply because the Pope says so," he said.
There were two questions to be considered: first, the question of how contraception could be regarded from the amorous point of view as compatible with love and honesty.
And secondly, Mr. Der
rick pointed out, public opinion had "astonishing blind spots." If a great many people said contraception was acceptable then the same argument could be used to justify such things as child labour, the slave trade and even Hitler who had the backing of a large number of Germans before the war.
'FIR. JOHN MARSHALL,
a member of the Papal Commission on birth contra I, was the next speaker. He delivered his speech with alarming rapidity. The infertile period, he said, was entirely peripheral to the main issue.
"If the fertile period were infallible it would not make contraceptives wrong. if the infertile period were entirely without value it would not make contraceptives right." His reason for discussing it was to correct some of the wildly erroneous statements which were currently being made about it.
Dr. Marshall then
discussed the various methods of birth control open to married couples. In summary, he said, while the temperature method was undoubtedly of positive value to many couples it did not meet the essential needs of others.
"It would be a pity if those whom it will help are deterred from seeking this by irresponsible and erroneous statements about it. It would be equally wrong to suggest that the teaching of Huntanne Vitae need cause no problems because the infertile period will meet the needs of all couples it will not do so.
Dr. Marshall spoke of the work of the Papal Commission, "First, it should be pointed out that Humanae Vitae rejects not only the majority view but in part the minority view also. As the published minority report shows they acknowledged that they could not demonstrate with conviction the intrinsic evil of contraception on the basis of Natural Law and so they turned to Authority whereas the encyclical bases its argument first on Natural Law.
it has been said that morals cannot be decided by counting heads and that legislative bodies do vote in favour of immoral measures. The analogy is however misleading for the Commission was not a legislative body: it was a body of experts whose job it was to gather to sift and weigh the evidence.
-When it is said that the majority voted in favour of change what is meant is that having examined all the evidence and argumentation over a period of three years of intensely hard work the majority concluded that the view that contraception is intrinsically evil could not be sustained.
"It has been said that consultation prior to Humanae Vitae was wide but this was not obviously so and widespread consultation may well be ignored. As we have seen the Council was prevented from discussing the issue and later it was not allowed to appear on the agenda of the Synod of Bishops also; the evidence of the Commission was rejected; the Lay Congress passed a resolution favouring change which was not heeded and during the period of the decision-making the Pope requested that public discussion should cease. All the evidence indicates that the decision was a personal decision of the Pope aided by a small group of Vatican theologians of one particular school.
He said to understand this we must go back to the first Vatican Council in 18'76 when the teaching authority of the Pope in the Church was defined; the Council was going on to discuss the role of the Bishops when it broke up in disorder because of the invasion of Rome so the Church has had to live and work for 90 years with an incomplete statement about the teaching authority of the Church.
"Vatican Ii remedied this with its account of the role of the Pope, the Bishops and of the rest of the People of God but it requires more than a statement of doctrine for it to be absorbed into the life of so massive an institution as the Church."
He said one could see in the present crisis the hand of providence, for if the teaching and spirit of Vatican II on collegiality was to become a reality in the Church it must be worked out at the practical level in a real situation. God had given us the opportunity but the result depended on us.
Were we to respond to this challenge in a way that pro
yoked strife. quarrels, dissensions. enmities, the suppression of freedom or were we going to respond in a spirit of charity and patience and humility which would enable honest discussion to proceed in an atmosphere of peace in the on-going search for truth.
The prolonged applause which Dr. Marshall received at the end of his speech illustrated how accurately he had reflected the feelings of the audience at this "TeachIn". Here was the hero of the evening. As one questioner put it : "Thank God for Dr. Marshall," THEN came Fr. Clement Tigar, ST. who addressed himself to the young people, much in evidence in the au
dience. "I ve no wish to dictate to you," he said. "but to discuss with you a problem that is common to us. We must think together.
"I want, if I can, to help you to think aright. You are the future fathers and mothers. priests and nuns and teachers in this country. The future of the Church depends on you. You must think hard and think right in order to uphold the real Christian standard in this country."
Fr. Tigar said he would link three encyclicals together : Pope John's Pacem in Terris, Pope Paul's Populorum Progressio and Humanae Vitae. "Al! three have this in common: they deal with the Christian standard as regards the future of the human race. The two Popes are defending human dignity and worth against tyranny, defending the rights of the weak and ignorant against exploitation by the powerful. rich and successful."
In defending human dignity, Fr. Tigar continued. Pope Paul had said that three things were contrary to the teaching of the Church abortion, sterilisation and artificial contraception.
''In his condemnation of these three, not relying only on the natural law, as seen in the light of reason. he is appealing to Divine Revelation."
Those who had studied Divine Law had come to different conclusions about how and when the conjugal act may be exercised. One side said that since there were two equal purposes of the conjugal act, namely procreation. and the fostering of conjugal love by union, one of these purposes — the
transmission of life may . be excluded by artificial means, without interfering with the other purpose, the unitive purpose.
The other side said : II is unlawful to exclude by artificial means the procreative purpose. because that would be tampering with God's arrangement. The conjugal act is a unique activity because it involves (or may involve) the creation of an immortal soul by God.
The Pope had judged the second argument to he correct. "I think he is right." said Fr. Tigar. "To guide our moral choice we need revelation. Reason is not enough. Conscience•that is. reason applied to conduct,—is not enough."
MR. ANTHONY SPENCER gave the last and longest speech of the evening. The first 30 seconds were dedicated to it dazzling display of statistics.
"There was a time when I was quite convinced of the soundness of the traditional Catholic teaching --3 or . four years ago. So too were almost all those who have
been attacking the encyclical in the last six weeks. I first defended it in public debate in 1948; I defended it in public debate against the national Chairman of the Family Planning Association about 1960. By the time I attended the World Population Congress in 1965 I had great doubts about the traditional teaching. A year later I was convinced that it was unsound. It has been said many many times recently that the present hullabaloo over the encyclical was due to a tiny minority of Catholic intellectuals, quite unrepresentative of the thinking of ordinary Catholics in this country." I think that Catholic intellectuals have
been u n r epresentative precisely because they have been slow to reject the traditional teaching. "Recent Gant, Poll and National Opinion Pull surveys have indicated that only a small minority of Catholics — "ordinary Catholics"—now f ully
accept the traditional teaching. But as long ago as 1959/60, 36 per cent of Catholics interviewed in Great Britain expressed full and unqualified approval of birth control. In 1963 52 per cent of Catholics in Great Britain approved of the United Nations supplying information on birth control methods to the various nations who want this information.
"In 1959, and even in 1963, most of the Catholic intellectuals who have been attacking the encyclical these last six weeks honestly believed the teaching to be right : we were convinced by the arguments. But since 1963 the subject has been exhaustively debated and we now see flaws in the traditional arguments that we failed to see earlier.
"We have in fact lagged far behind our less articulate fellow Catholics in this matter. Like St. Paul. another late convert to the truth, we are now making up for lost time.
Last week I mentioned a priest of high standing in the Cardiff diocese who sent a telegram to Archbishop Murphy following the Archbishop's pastoral on Hutnanae Vitae. I now understand that the priest concerned was not from the Cardiff diocese hut works in another part of the country. My apologies to the priests and people of Cardiff.