Resolving the Humanae Vitae crisis
“It is my conviction at least, that when the Pope is insisting on this doctrine and the bishops either support his teaching or remain silent about any reservations they may have, and, at the same time, what seems like a clear majority of Catholic faithful and professional moral theologians continue to ignore it, then, however quiet things may be on the surface, there is a crisis in the Church.” So says Michael McGuckian, writing about his latest book, Defining the Truth about Contraception: The Resolution of the Humanae Vitae Crisis.
The book itself is an attempt by the author to propose a resolution to the crisis. Read how below. The book is available from the publishers, Xlibris », or from other online booksellers including amazon.
Resolving the Crisis
The book seeks to propose a resolution of the crisis in the Catholic Church which is focussed on the doctrine of contraception. The doctrine continues to be taught authoritatively and consistently, but it is accepted neither by most Catholics nor, significantly, by most professional moral theologians. After heated debates for many years, the topic is no longer discussed very much at all. People have settled into solid convictions on the matter and have no longer any interest in reading what the other side is saying.
For those who have come to believe that contraception is a valid option for a Catholic the discussion is over. They are happy to be part of the universal consensus that contraception is a legitimate means of birth control and that, when it used carefully and appropriately, it is a significant force for human liberation, especially for women.
On the other hand, there continues to be discussion and sometimes even heated debate among those who accept the traditional condemnation of contraception. For no generally accepted rationale has yet been found as to why contraception is morally objectionable, and there is even disagreement as to what precisely the act of contraception entails.
This discussion, however, goes on in comparatively obscure magazines which are not read by anyone who does not already accept that contraception is wrong. The matter rarely, if ever, arises now in mainstream theological or pastoral journals.
So where is the crisis? It is my conviction at least, that when the Pope is insisting on this doctrine and the bishops either support his teaching or remain silent about any reservations they may have, and, at the same time, what seems like a clear majority of Catholic faithful and professional moral theologians continue to ignore it, then, however quiet things may be on the surface, there is a crisis in the Church.
The crisis has to be definitively resolved one way or the other, sooner or later, and the longer it continues the higher the price that will eventually have to be paid in the division which must result.
Pope John Paul II made strong and sometimes impassioned interventions in support of the teaching, but without any notable impact. The situation is just too complicated for the exercise of pure authority to bring a resolution. A coherent rationale must be found which can meet with acceptance with the broad mass of the faithful before peace can be restored.
The book covers the dissent that began immediately and develops a theology of magisterium that justifies dissent from non-infallible teaching in the Church. The book then goes on to examine the encyclical and reaches the conclusion that Pope Paul was correct in his judgment on the substantive issue but that there is a flaw in the reasoning of the encyclical that explains, at least in part, the on-going dissent.
Michael McGuckian SJ