1 HANDS AT MASS
National press outburst at the Holy Father's speech
INTEREST and controversy throughout Britain has been excited by the Holy Father's 8,000-word speech on Monday to 400 Italian midwives and obstetricians at Castel Gandolfo, in which he firmly and carefully restated the Church's ruling on marriage relations and childbirth.
" Every human being, even a baby in its mother's womb, has the right to live," declared His Holiness in the key passage of his address that has been singled out for strong non-Catholic criticism.
" That right come-s from God, not from the parents, nor from any human society or authority. There is no man, no human authority, no science, no medical, eugenic, social, economic or moral reason which may give a valid decision for the direct, deliberate disposing of an innocent human life.
"To save the life of a mother is a very noble aim. but the direct killing of a baby as a means to that aim is forbidden . . . and cannot be justified in any way.
This aspect of the Holy lather's pronouncement was brought out in the extensive and largely accurate reports, running to tens of thousands of words, which appeared in Britain's national and provincial newspapers the following day.
The Times, Manchester Guardian, Daily Express, Daily Herald, News Chronicle, Oxford Mail and Birmingham Post are only a few of the papers which gave prominence to the Pope's words.
The Daily Express devoted its main feature article to the subject on Wednesday. A leading article in the Birmingham Post on Tuesday emphasised that criticism on this point is a matter of public interest and not an unwarranted intrusion into the private concerns of others."
And of the Holy Father's statement that the baby has the right of survival over the mother, the editorial said:
" Such a view will he frankly horrifying to millions of nonCatholic husbands: it cuts right across the natural human instincts and is a complete reversal off the
traditional attitude. 1
"In Britain and other Protestant countries a matter of grave public policy is involved, for the Papal pronouncement will affect Protstant parents in almost equal degree.' " In the maternity homes 1 and hospitals of this country there are many Catholic gynaecologists, midwives and nurses who. like other Christians, bring to their duties not only high professional standards but Christian devotion.
I No one knows' " Their denomination has been a matter of personal concern only. Now, however, it will be essential. in justice to all parents who are nonCatholics, that their religious persuasion should be known.
"If this is not done a Protestant husband may find too late that a lifeand-death decision over his life-partner has been in the hands of one committed to a principle abhorrent to him."
But the rule almost universally observed by hospitals is that the husband is consulted before any such " life-and-death" decision is made.
Preaching on Tuesday in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. the Anglican Dean, Dr. W. R. Maithev.s, said: "Thc Pope's teaching would be regarded by most normal people aS inhuman . .
" it seems to me that the death of the mother means the loss of a valuable personality and is certain to cause pain and misery. On the other hand, no one knows whether the child will live. One eventu lity is certain, the other problematic"
The Pope's words
"The direct destruction of the soculled life without value, born or not .yet born, cannot be justified in any way," declared the Holy Father. " Therefore. when this practice started the Church formally declared it to be contrary to the positive. divine and natural right and there' fore illegal as murder, even if upon orders of public authority." This includes, said the Pope. the destruction of " those who. though innocent, arc physically or mentally ill and who are not useful to the nation hut rather a burden.
" The life of an innocent is intangible and any direct attempt against il is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which i safe. human, mutual existence is impos
sible." e Turning to matrimonial rights, the Holy Father warned obstetricians and midwives against advising or tolerating practices which do not involve the use of artificial means of birth control and yet prevent conception.
" Today," he said, "the great problem is whether maternity can be reconciled with the ever-increasing use of the periods of natural sterility, which seem to us to be a clear expression of the will against maternity.
" If in matrimony one of the partners intended to restrict the rnatritnonial rights to the sterile periods in such a way that in nonsterile days the other party would not even have the right of request, that would involve an essential defect
in matrimonial consent which would mean the invalidity of matrimony itself because the right of the matrimonial contract is a permanent, interrupted and non-terminable right of each of the parties before the other."
Pointing out that if for any reason it is dangerous for a wife to give birth, then the couple should abstain completely from intercourse. the Holy Father continued: It will be objected that such abstinence is impossible and such heroism unworkable. You will hear this objection everywhere from those whose duty and competence should allow them to judge better.
"This is the argument they put forward: ' Nobody is obliged to do the impossible. No reasonable legislator could oblige anybody by law to do the impossible. For married couples, long periods of abstinence are impossible. Therefore, they arc not obliged to abstain. The divine law cannot mean this.'
Answering this argument, His Holiness said: " From premises partially true, a false conclusion is drawn.
"God does not ask the impossible but God obliges married couples to abstinence if their union cannot be carried out according to the law of nature. Therefore, in this case, abstinence is possible.
"The truth is," the Holy Father said, " that matrimony. as a natural institution in virtue of the will of the Creator, has not as its primary aim the perfection of thc couple but the procreation and education of new life. The other aims are subordinate.
"The Creator has destined matrimony for human beings made of flesh and blood with a spirit and a heart and they are called to this matrimony as human beings and not as irrational animals.
" The conjugal act in its natural structure is a personal action. It is a simultaneous and immediate cooperation of the couple which for the very nature of the agents and the act is the expression of the reciprocal gift which, according to Scripture makes union in one body possible.
" The couple, in seeking and enjoying this pleasure, do no harm. They accept what the Creator has destined for them.
"Nevertheless, they should know how to limit themselves in moderation, as in food and drink.
"They should not abandon themselves without check to the impulses of the senses.
"The correct rule is this: The use of the natural instinct for procreation is morally permissible only in matrimony. The consequence of this is that only in matrimony is this desire and the enjoyment of that pleasure and that satisfaction permissible."