Page 5, 20th September 1968

20th September 1968
Page 5
Page 5, 20th September 1968 — What we should learn from birth control dispute

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What we should learn from birth control dispute

UP to now. both Press reports of Catholic reactions. and

to to Catholic and other papers on the issues raised by Humanae Vitae have displayed a depressing degree of mutual intolerance and prejudice. and in general an orgy of selfrighteous uncharitableness. I am writing this letter simply to report the fact that this need not happen.


F R. WHATMORE'S account A (September 13) of the tradition of the Church with regard to contraception is seriously misleading in a number of respects. When considering this tradition. several points must be borne in mind.

First, in the early centuries no clear distinction was made between contraception and abortion. This was because it was thought that the male semen contained human life in embryo which the woman merely received and incubated. The second important point is the great influence exercised by the teaching of St. Augustine who held that it was only when intercourse was undertaken for the purpose of procreation that it was free from sin. This view was maintained by St. Gregory the Great except that he added that the pleasure of intercourse could be tolerated if the motive was procreation but not otherwise.

This view persisted until about the I 1th century when Peter Abelard declared that the pleasure in intercourse was given by God and could be accepted, and this view was endorsed by St. Thomas Aquinas. Despite these views. held for a thousand years, sterile and old people were allowed to marry, which indicates the confusion which existed and still exists in our theology of marriage.

A true picture of the traditional teaching cannot therefore be given by listing a series of Fathers or by isolated quotations. Rather must the total context of the teaching be set out fully, John Marshall (Dr.) London, S.W.20.


TN answer to the letter of Mr. A. Bower (September 13), I gladly take back some words of mine which seemed to imply that Protestantism today means acting according to one's private judgment without any need for a Church. Much water has flowed under the bridge since the well-known formula of the Protestant theologian William Chillingworth. "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible. is the religion of Protestants" (1637).

The point I was trying to make was that a letter in The Times seemed to imply that in all moral matters private judgment should supersede the teaching of the Church.

In answer to Mr. J. G. Thompson's letter in the same issue, obedience to a religious authority would be evil if the religious authority required me to do something that my conscience told me was certainly a sin. I should promptly disobey my religious superior if he asked me to assassinate a writer of a letter to The Times. He has not done so, yet.

Clement Tigar, S.J. London, W.1, Anglicans IT is hard to understand the

statement of your correspondent. Bishop R. S. Dean (Sept. 13) that a resolution of the Lambeth Conference "has enjoyed moral authority throughout the entire Anglican Communion" since the Lambeth Conference has from its very beginning disclaimed authority to legislate either for the Anglican Communion or for any part of it.

If the Lambeth Conference did exercise such authority, moral or otherwise, Anglicans would have the difficulty of reconciling its statements on birth control in 1958 and 1968 with what would be the equally authoritative statement made by the Conference in 1920—a statement in full accordance with the Encyclical of His Holiness Pope Paul VI (and with the traditional position of both the Roman and Anglican Communions).

F. N. Keen, Vicar of Beeston„ Notts. I have just had the privilege of attending a short conference .on this subject at which about 50 people were present, including theologians, pastors, many kinds of medical and other experts, social workers, marriage counsellors, and so on. In this group, every possible shade of opinion about the encyclical was represenred.

The good news is that all these people found themselves able to discuss the issues, and the various practical problems arising, to state their views very frankly, and to do so with mutual respect and charity, with sympathy for each other's difficulties. and with a willingness to learn from each other.

It was apparent to all that there is no black and white division, either way, and that all must work together, and can do so. for the sake of the whole Church. And all agreed that a great deal of study is needed at all levels of the Catholic community, so that people may understand the issues fully.

If those . who disagree can meet together and work together with Christian love and mutual respect, and if the process of educating consciences in this matter is carried out as it should be, then this crisis will lead to an unprecedented increase in the unity and responsibility of the Catholic community.

To waste such an opportunity for the sake of scoring points off people whose views one cannot accept would. it seems to me, be a real refusal of grace.

Rosemary Hateg,hton Oswaldkirk, Yorks.

Stop squabbling

TT seems to me that the sooner

the members of the Church stop squabbling amongst themselves and begin to form a united organism so much the better. The whole vitality of the Church is slowly ebbing away and we are becoming listless, unhappy and introvert. The opposite should he the case.

The Catholic Church is essentially a missionary Church. 1 hat is to say it is the instrument created by God and Father through his Son to spread the Good News. At the moment there appears to be very little good news to spread to our separated brethren. Indeed, all there is to be seen within the Church today is disharmony and disunity. We all know what happens when a house is divided within itself. At this stage I think it is essential to pray for unity within the Church; we surely do not wish it to suffer the same fate as Humpty Dumpty.

Dom Christopher Delaney 0.S.B.

Buckfast Abbey.

S. Devon.


X ENCLOSE a silly doggerel inspired by your cartoon.

Oh! Bishop Cashman, whatever have you done'? You've angered many people shooting birdies with your gun.

Reports by Press and Radio have put you in a spot,

But offer folk some "grouses" and they'll gobble up the lot.

The clergy. they get "shot at" whatever they may do.

So carry on. dear Bishop. and ignore the ballyhoo.

Nora M. Edwards (Miss) London, S.W.3.

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