Page 2, 6th November 1964

6th November 1964
Page 2
Page 9
Page 2, 6th November 1964 — THE DEBATE ON MARRIAGE AND BIRTH CONTROL
Close

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.

Tags


Share


Related articles

Marriage And Nuclear War Texts Not Altered

Page 1 from 26th February 1965

A Suggestion For Schema 13

Page 4 from 9th October 1964

Council Fathers Out For Results

Page 1 from 11th September 1964

A Fraternal

Page 2 from 23rd October 1964

The Council Scene_i F Or A Moment It Must Have Seemed

Page 2 from 8th October 1965

THE DEBATE ON MARRIAGE AND BIRTH CONTROL

From Desmond Fisher

BISHOP JOHN WRIGHT of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania, told the Council

Fathers last week that the fourth chapter of Schema 13 on the Church in the Modern World — dealt with the "master-knots of human fate". These were the nature and dignity of the human person, the nature, sanctity and difficulties of family life, the problems of the economic and social order, the cultural values closely connected with human life, peace and world security.

But, he warned, it was not the Council's task to tind clever answers for all these problems. That would take years. The Church had to apply her ancient wisdom to the new and unheard of conditions harrassing the human conscience today.

Stressing that the Church did not pronounce the last word on these problems but only the first word of a dialogue, Bishop Wright said it would be a mistake to ask too much of a schema which had no precedent in Conciliar history but which was, at the same time, heavy with hope for the future.

Bishop Wright is a strung. forceful speaker and his report was one of the best the Council hiss heard. Against the backcloth he had proeided, the Council debate began.

From the very beginning the difficulties of the problem became obvious. The first speaker was Bishup Marcella Gonzales of Astorga, Spain. He felt the schema was asking the faithful to take over a task of gigantic proportions without giving them any guidance for it. In past centuries. Church universities provided men with the answers to such problems. In more recent times, this was done by Papal encyclicals.

This criticism echoed that made by Archbishop Heenan of Westminster a week earlier in the general discussion of the schema. It goes to the root of what might be called the new dilemma in the Church—the determination of how much and what kind of guidance the faithful need.

Cen the Church give them specific and detailed rules to cover every situation or should it leave more and more to the individual conscience, properly formed and guided hy more general directives. The core of the problem might be expressed thus: "Just how simple are the 'simple faithful."

Discrimination

The debate on the first day stressed two main topics—racial discrimination and the role of women. The most outspoken speech came from Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle, of Washington. D.C., who is not normally considered a progressive. On this occasion, however, he spoke in the name of all the U.S. Bishops in Rome and proposed that a new section he added to the chapter under discussion on the problem of racial discrimination.

Racism, he declared, is to be found in almost every part of the world. It was not merely a social or cultural or political problem. It was first and foremost a moral and religious problem and one of staggering proportions.

The schema, he said, should include a forthright and unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms and outline. if only in general terms, the theological basis for this condemnation.

Another American. Bishop Andrew Grutka of Gary, Indiana, stressed the same point. Discrimination and segregation because of colour, national origins or creed must not be condoned for any reason, he said. Every human being must be afforded equal opportunities for housing. education, culture and employment.

Poor housing deteriorated into slums which bred every form of crime and vice, said Bishop Grutka. He went on in Latin to say that "virtue cannot be expected from a slum any more than beauty can be found in a garbage dump". To drive his paint home he repeated it in English.

Towards the end of the day. an African prelate came out in support of the two Americans. Archbishop Joseph Maluta of Leopolds ille, Congo. linked racism and the slavery of women together as stemming from disregard of human dignity.

No one outside Africa, he said, could grasp the full impact of the canonisation of the Uganda martyrs. It was clear proof to Africa that the Gates of Heaven were open to all men, no matter what their colour.

Archbishop Maluta was also one of the two Bishops who talked about the dignity of women. The work of freeing the African peoples from slavery would he completed by freeing women, he said. Women were not merely the slaves and handmaids of man, the mother of his children, the instruments of his pleasure. hut his helpmates and companions.

Another champion of women's dignity was a Canadian, Bishop Gera rd (Werra of St.-Jean. Quebec. The schema. he said, should stress the personality and the role of women which has up to now been obscured by the prevailing erroneous idea of the basic inferiority of the female sex.

The recognition of full civil rights for women was one of the "signs of the times" which the Council had to note. Women were now recognised not as inferior to men hut as possessing human nature fully and perfectly though in a different way to men.

The Council, said Bishop Coderre, must invite all men to assist women to attain their proper place in the Church, God made men and worneh equal. with equal responsibilities in the Church.

Handicapped

One of the off-beat, though touching, speeches of the Council was made by Bishop Pierre de la Chanonie of Clermont, France. He wanted the Council to take up the special problem of the evangelisation of children who are handicapped physically or physiologically. morally or socially.

In France, he said, these number almost a quarter of all adolescents, coming close to three million. In other countries the ratio is still greater.

The Church proclaims herself as the Church of the poor, he declared, and these children were the poorest of all. Despite their afTliclions they to had the right to fulfil their own human vocation in both the natural and the supernatural order.

The real fireworks of the debate were touched off next day. The morning started quietly enough with the routine announcements and a report by Archbishop Maurice Roy on the amended text on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The new text tefets to Mary as ea most-loved Mother and records that she is invoked under different titles. such as Advocate, Helper and Mediatrix, These titles were in perfect fidelity to the aflimiations of the Scriptures. The new text therefore deliberately avoids theological controversy and simply affirms the facts.

The chapter was then put to a vote and was passed by 1.559 votes to 10, with 521 "yes with reservation" votes, The required majority was 1,394. The result of the vote was greeted with long and warm applause.

Then Archbishop John Dearden of Detroit, Michigan, presented the Commission's report on Article 21 which deals with the dignity of marriage and family life. Speaking on the section concerning the fecundity of marriage, Archbishop Dearden said that the schema lays down the principle of conscious and generous procreation, This basic question could not be omitted from the discussion.

The schema stated that married couples may form their conscience as to the number of children. Their judgment must be formulated under the influence of true love and under the guidance of a conscience rightly formed.

When it came to the question of which methods arc to be used to reach this end of limiting the number of children, the methods must be judged according to the doctrine and the mind of the church. Being obliged to judge did not mean that married couples might freely make use of any means. The text left no room for subjectivism, Archbishop Dearden said that both the schema and the supplements deliberately avoided any direct discussion of "the pill". This was because the Holy Father had reserved judgment on this important point to himself and besides. it was an intricate question which certainly could not be settled in any Council discussion.

Nobility of marriage

The first speaker, as he has been so often during the Council, was Cardinal Ernest Ruffini of Palermo, Sicily. He is an excellent orator and is always listened to with attention, even though his ultra-conservative line is usually known in advance.

At the time he rose—about I t.15 a.m.—the Bishops' seats are usually sparsely filled, many of them being in the entice bars which open at 11 a.m. But there were few absentees when the Cardinal weni to the microphone at the Cardinals' tribune. Those who were not in their seats were clustered around ihe Presidents' table, only a few feet away from Cardinal Ruffini, listening intently to his every word.

He started off by saying that the very serious problem taken up in the Article was not presented with sufficient clarity or caution. The text almost omitted any mention of the nobility of Christian marriage. The unity and indissolubility of marriage must be safeguarded at all costs.

The Leaching of the Church on marriage is of prime importance, Cardinal Ruffini said, because without that constant teaching. it would be very difficult to defend the Church's stand on many points which pertain to the integrity of the marriage bond.

The text said, he continued. that if, in particular cases, married couples had sufficiently serious reasons to limit the number of their children, they must still manifest to each other their tender love. But it failed to explain how this love could be expressed, because Catholic teaching had always maintained that in these circumstances the use of marriage is unlawful.

To state the final judgment on a problem of this importance is left to the interested individuals is a hard saying and one which opened the door to all kinds of abuses.

Cardinal Ruflini's speech was received in silence and the next speaker Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger of Montreal. Canada. went to the microphone. f lc is regarded as very progressive and there was an ex

pectant hush in the aula as he began. He, too, was heard in silence but there was a great burst of applause—one of the longest and loudest acclamations of the Council— for the next speech by Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Bruseels.

The third of the "progressive" speakers was Patriarch Maxinuts IV Saigh of the Melkites, who spoke. as is his custom, in French. The full texts of the speeches of Cardinals Leger and Suenens and Patriarch Maximus are as follows: Cardinal Leger said: "Problems concerning the holiness of marriage are. in our times, at the forefront of the preoccupations of the Church.

"In a great number of countries and among men of all social conditions, there are doubts and anxieties about marriage. Many of the faithful—and often among them some of the best—encounter daily difficulties, search for solutions in accord with their faith, but do not find comfort in the answers given them.

"Pastors, particularly confessors, are asseiled by doubts and uncertainties and. many times, no longer know what they can or should reply to the faithful. Many theologians feel more and more strongly the need to examine more deeply in it new way the fundamental principlce concerning marriage. "All these difficulties reveal the existence of a grave problem and call for the Church to examine with great pastoral concern the doctrine on marriage.

"Opportunism"

'erhe question of marriage has three aspects: theological, casuistic and pastoral. I will concerti myself here with the theological aspect. .1t is, moreover, this aspect that holds first place in all renewal in this area.

"There are some who fear all renewal in the theology of marriage as if it necessarily proceeds from a forbidden opportunism, that would have us search for accommodating solutions that would satisfy a popular wish.

"In fact, renewal of the theology of marriage, if it has indeed been stimulated by the anxieties of Christian people, proceeds, among the theologians. from a more cornplete analysis of the problems, and, moreover, from some fairly recent discoveries in biology, psychology and sociology. The final end of this renewal is no other than to enhance the holiness of marriage by a deeper insight into the plan of Ci'`de.

.4

Ci'`de.

.4 '' any theologians think that the difficulties being encountered today in presentation of the doctrine of marriage arise from an inadequate presentation of the ends of this institution. A certain pessimistic and negative attitude regarding human love, attributable neither to Scripture nor Tradition but to philosophies of past centuries, has prevailed and this has veiled the importance and legitimacy of conjugal love in marriage.

"The authors of the present schema wished to renew the doctrine of the ends of marriage. They have taken care to emphasise the love and mutual help of the spouses. It is satisfactory to note also that they avoided the difficulty cif putting into opposition the primary and secondary ends of marriage.

Real difficulties "However, although it keeps to the right track, this schema does not answer the real difficulties and goes only part of the way. It fails to present conjugal love and mutual help as an end of marriage and does not in any way touch on the problem of the purpose of expressions of love in marriage. For this reason, I would like to make some observations about the way of speaking of the ends of marriage.

"(I) The schema treats well enough of fecundity as a purpose of marriage. It reminds us opportunely that procreaticm should be governed by prudence and generosity. It would he good, however, to consider this duty of procreation as linked not so much with each act as with the whole state of marriage, "I would also like to see the special dignity of parenthood expressed more fully. Parenthood is indeed a participation in the highest level of creation: it contains something of the infinite. since it brings into being a person destined to see the Infinite Himself.

"(2) It should clearly present human conjugal love---t stress human love which involves both the soul and the body—as a true end of marriage, as something good in itself, with its own characteristics and its own laws. The schema is too hesitant on this point. There is no use in the schema avoiding the term 'secondary end if it does not preseni love as being at the sal ice of procreation.

"In so important a matter one must state clear principles. Olberwise, the fears about conjugal love which have for so long paralysed our theology would remain. Conjugal love is good and holy in itself and it should be accepted by Christians without false fears, with its Own characteristics and laws.

"Do not the spouses solemnly promise at their marriage to give themselves this mutual help and love? And unless love is affirmed as an end of marriage, the bond which joins the spouses, will not be correctly understood. In marriage, the spouses consider each other not as mere procreators but as persons loved for their own sakes.

"(3) However, it is not sufficient to establish clearly the doctrine which concerns marriage as a state. Unless the problem of the purpose of the actions themselves is dealt with in its most general principles. the difficulties which preoccupy spouses and pastors cannot be solved, and a profound and adequate renewal of the philosophy of marriage will not be attained.

"It must also be stated that the intimate union of the spouses also finds a purpose in love. And this end is truly 'the end of the act itself,' (finis operis), lawful in itself, even when it is not ordained to procreation.

"Moreover. by such a statement the Council would he only ratifying in the order of principles a practice which the Church has approved. as we know. tor many centuries. For centuries, indeed, union of the spouses has been consick:Ted lawful even when procreation was known to be impossible.

"Even if it implies nothing new, the declaration of principles which I put forward will not be without its importance in the better determination of the morality of different cases.

"To conclude: Could this Council, without fear or • reticence,

7"1"1"Ijklik,c A.R, DIN A L SUENENS clearly proclaim the two ends of marriage as equally good and holy. Once that is done, the moral theologians, doctors, psychologists and other experts can much more easily determine for particular cases the duties both of procreation and of love."

Cardinal Suenens said: "We all know how crucial the question of marriage, and in particular of birth control, is for the world and for the Church. Consequently: "(1) It seems to me indispensiblc to add to the text some elements of doctrine that are found in the annexes, That means, a reworking of the text to present a doctrinal synthesis that would be more profound, more coherent and Biblical. I am giving the commission, in writing, an attempt at such synthesis.

"(2) It seems to me also indis'sensible that the Council commission work in close harmony with the commission which the Holy Fathers has very happily organised for a broad and deep study of these problems.

"(3) May I be permitted to express the wish that this commission undertake a eery far-reaching enquiry among moralists of renown coming from the entire world, among scholars ancl university faculties of various disciplines, among the laity, both men and women, and among Christian couples?

"It would be desirable that the names of the members of this commission be nade known in such a way that they might receive the broadest possible information and be truly representative of the people of God.

"(41 So that this commission niey know the spirit in which the Council sees these problems. it scents to me essential to formulate some basic orientations for the success of its work.

-The ;irst work of this commission is in the area of Faith, and should consist in this: to study whether up to now we have given sufficient emphasis to all aspects of the teaching of the Church on m a "7 oi a ghee.

sure, it is not a question of modifying or of casting doubt on the truly traditional teaching of the Church. That would be folly! It is a question of knowing whether we have opened our hearts completely to the Holy Spirit in order to understand the divine Truth.

"The Bible is always the same. But no generation can take pride in having fully perceived the unfathomable riches of Christ. The Holy Spirit has been promised to us to introduce us progressively to the fullness of the truth.

"Thus the Church has never to repudiate a truth that is 011CC taught, but according as, and in the measure that, she progresses ill a deeper study of the Gospel, she can and she must integrate this truth in a richer synthesis, and bring out the fuller fruitfulness of the same principles. In this way, the Church draws from her treasure things new and things old. "This established, it is important to examine if we have maintained in perfect balance all aspects of the teaching of the Church on marriage. It may be that we have accentuated the Gospel text 'increase and multiply' to such a point that we have obscured another text, 'And they will be two in one flesh'.

"These two truths are central and both are scriptural; they must illuminate each other in the light of the full truth that is revealed to us in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

'St. Paul. in effect, has given to Christian marriage, as a prototype, the very love of Christ for his Church. This 'two in one' is a mystery of interpersonal communion. gratified and sanctified by the sacrament of marriage. And this union is of such profundity that divorce can never separate two whom God unites as one.

"Also, it is for the commission to tell us whether we have excessively stressed the first end, procreation, at the expense of another equally important end, that is growth in conjugal unity. "In the same wee, it is up to this commission to deal with the immense problem arising from the population explosion and overpopulation in many areas of the world. For the first time, we must proceed with such a study in the light of the faith.

"It is difficult, but the world. whether consciously or mit. waits for the Church to c‘prcss her thought aud to be a 'light for the nations'.

"Let nu one say that in this way we open the way to moral laxity. The problem confronts us. not because the faithful try to satisfy their passions and their egotism, but because thousands of them try with anguish to us c in double fidelity, to the doctrine of the Church and to the demands of conjugal and parental love.

"The second task of the commission lies in the area of scientific progress and deeper knowledge of natural ethics. The commission should examine whether classical doctrine, especially that of the manuals, takes sufficient account of the new knowledge of modern science.

"We have made progress since Aristotle (and even since St. Augustine), and we hate discovered the complexity with which the real or the biological interferes with the psychological. the conscious with the subconscious. New possibilities are constantly discovered in man of his power to direct the course of nature.

"From this there emerges a deeper understanding of the unity of man. both in his being as incarnated spirit and in the dynamism Ill his whole life--a unity which is like the heart of Thomistie anthropology.

"There follows. equally, a more exact estimate of his rational power over the world confided to hint. Who does not see that we will perhaps be led in this way to further studies on the question of what is 'according to or against nature'? We will follow the progress of science.

"Galileo case"

"I beg you, my brother bishops, Jet us avoid a new ease'. One is enough for the Church.

"It will be for the commission to integrate new elements into the total understanding and to submit its conclusions to the supreme magisterium.

"Let it not be said that by this new synthesis we give in to situation ethitcs. The exposition of doctrine, unchangeable in its principles, must take into account contingent factors and changes in the course of history.

"That is what the Popes did who, in turn, wrote Rerum Nommen. Quadragesimo Anna and Mater et Magistra express the same principles more precisely in terms of new times.

Patriarch Maximus IV Saigh said: "Today I want to draw this attention of this venerable assembly to a special mOral point: birth regulation.

"The main sirtue which we need in undertaking this discussion, in a Council which wishes to be pastoral. is the courage to tackle the problems of the hour directly in the love of Christ and of souls. Because, among the agonising and burdensome problems which beset masses of humanity today is that of birth control.

"It is an urgent problem because it lies at the root of a great crisis of the 'Catholic conscience. There is a question here of a break between the official doctrine of the Church and the contrary practice of the immense majority of Christian couples.

"The authority of the Church has been called into question on a vast scale. The faithful find themselves forced to live in conflict with the law of the Church, far from the sacraments, in constant anguish. unable to find a viable solution between two contradictory imperathes: conscience and normal married life.

"On the other hand, on the social plane, demographic oresStIreS in certain countries of particularly heavy population. present any increase in the standard of living and condemn hundreds of millions of human beings to an unworthy and hopeless misery.

aThe Council must find a practical solution. This is a pastoral duty. It must say if God really wishes this enfeebling and unnatural impasse.

"Venerable Fathers, be aware in the Lord, who died and rose again for the salvation of men, of the really sad crisis of conscience of our faithful. and have the courage to tackle this question without prejudice. "Frankly, can the official positions of the Church on this matter not be revised in the light of

modern theological. medical. psichological and sociological science? In marriage, the development of onersonality and its integration o

int the creative plan of God are all one.

onersonality and its integration o

the creative plan of God are all one.

"Thus, the end of marriage should not be divided into 'primary' and 'secoodary'. This consideration opens new perspectives concerning the morality of conjugahlolehehaviour considered as a w "And are we not entitled to ask it' certain positions are not the outcome of outmoded ideas and, perhaps, a bachelor psychosis oil the part of those unacquainted with this sector of life? Are we not, perhaps unwillingly, setting up a Manichaean conception of man and the world, in which the work of the flesh, vitiatedin itself, is tolerated only in view of children?

"Is the external biological feditude of an act the only criterion of morality, independent of family life, of its moral. conjugal and family climate. and of the grave imperatives of prudence which must be the basic rule of all our human activity?

"Increase and multiply"

:',Secondly, does modes n exegesis not require of us greater care in the interpretation of the two passages from Cienesis-"increase and multiply", and that concerning Onan, so long used as the eltissic scriptural support for the radical condemnation of contraception?

'How the Christian conscience felt relieved when Pope Paul announced to the world that the problem of birth control and family morality 'is under study, a study as extensive and deep as possible. that is, as serious and honest as the great importance of this problem requires. The Church must proclaim this law of God in the light of the scientific, social and psychological truths which, in recent times, have been the object of study and scholarship.'

"Further. given the extent and gravity of this problem which concerns the whole world, we ask that this study should be conducted by theologians, doctors. psychologists and sociologists, to find its normal solution.

"The collaboration of outstanding married Christians is also necessary. In addition, is it not following the ecumenical line of the Council to open a dialogue on this subject with -other Christian churches and even with the scholars of other religions?

"Why do we rely on ourselves alone? Are we not here .facc to face with a problem common to all humanity? Shouldn't the church open itself to the non-Christian as well as the Christian world? Is it not the leaven that is to make the dough rise'? So it must come, in this area as in all other matters of interest to humanity. to positive results giving peace to the conscience.'`

Cardinal Alfrink said:

"It is clear that the Church, as the guardian of divine law, can never, because of human difficulties, however great, change that

law by adapting it to human incapacity. Moreover, it is evident that sociological analysis of these difficulties cannot solve the moral question of human acts.

"The Church cannot indulge in what are called situation ethics, according to which the absolute 'moral norm is said to lose its force in certain circumstances. The Church, too, always professes that sacrifice and self-denial belong to the essence of Christian life.

"But, not only the Cross but also the joy of the Resurrection pertains to the Christian life, and God does not take pleasure in the difficulties of man.

"indeed. the difficulties of married life are often of such a kind that in fact a serious problem arises between two values .of marsiege, namely on the one heed the value of procreation, and on the other, the value of human and Christian education of the children.

"This conflict can be avoided only when there is conjugal love between the parents, being sustained and Increased by sexual intercourse. This conflict is not between two distinct values. For, without the love and fidelity of the spouses, strengthened by the fostering of love (as the schema rightly calls it) the very motive of procreation is morally endangered.

-Chen the moral conflict in performing one and the sante act. the real question is this: Jr in this act the .spouses wish to preserve the biological end, their human duty of educating their future. and even their existing, children in a proper Christian way, is harmed.

"If, however, they wish to preserve the fidelity of the marriage and the duty of educating their children, the question is whether. besides periodic continence (which many married people practise with great Christian virtue but which more often is attempted with great difficulty) or by complete continence (which demands, among other things, of spouses a greater moral strength than they arc normally supposed to have) only one solulion is available-namely, performing the act and excluding offspring, at least in this particular act.

"It is evident that if this prevention of offspring is brought about by the use of means which are undoubtedly intrinsically bad, the Church can never admit the sacrifice of a perticular value in marriage in order to preserve the total value of marriage.

"But with the new anthropological knowledge, especially the growing recognition of the essential distinction between a mere biological sexuality and human sexuality, all hottest doubt is arising among many married people and also among scientists and some theologians regarding at least the arguments used to prove that the only efficacious moral and Christian solution to such conflicts in the married life of the faithful of goodwill is complete or periodic continence.

"The situation or the state of the problem is too serious to permit the Church to decide this real conflict hastily and perhaps prematurely. The Church must be careful to preserse the purity of divine law, but she must also be solicitous about human problems.

"Great charity" "The Church must investigate in a holy and diligent way so that all Christians may know that whatever the answer should be it will be stated with great charity and by all the means which the various sciences can supply. Therefore, it is right to rejoice at the establishment of a commission of selected experts who are dealing with this question."

Cardinal Alfrink was followed by Cardinal Ottaviani, President of the Council's Theological Commission. He started by saying that the freedom granted by the schema to married couples to determine for themselves the number of their children could not possibly be approved.

The command contained in Holy Scripture to "increase and multiply" could never be forgotten. It was not in contradiction to the other text wfach spoke of husband and wife as being "two in one flesh". Freedom such as that proposed by the schema was unheard of in past ages.

Saying that his own father was a worker (he was actually a baker). and not a wealthy man, Cardinal Ottaviani said he was the tenth of 12 children and his parents had never any doubts about divine providence or God's loving interest and care.

The Fathers should not think of approving the proposal of the schema, he said. The text insinuated that the Church had erred in the past on a grave moral problem and any such insinuation was completely out of order.

Cardinal Browne said that one must distinguish in conjugal love between what has been called the -love of friendship" which desires to promote the welfare of another. and the -line of concupiscence" which aims at procuring a good for one's self. In marriage. it was the love of friendship which assured the passions should not be lost life.

There were three goods in marriage, he said, namely procreation, mutual fidelity and the holiness of the sacrament. The conjugal act must conform to nature. It remained lawful in sterile periods. All this could be found in Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XI!.

There are and always will be difficulties which must be solved by scientific discoveries, not by theological discussion. The Church could only await the outcome of present-day research. If the Holy Father wanted the co-operation of the Council in this matter, it would have to be in the form of special commission.




blog comments powered by Disqus