Deal W. Hudson
October 29, 2007
Over 80 national Catholic leaders, meeting October 25-26, adopted a statement celebrating the upcoming 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae and predicted the “Church will regain Her voice… and will once again boldly proclaim to all mankind that children are the solution, not the problem.”
At its 10th annual meeting in Charleston, SC, the Catholic Leadership Conference unanimously adopted, “Humanae Vitae at 40: Why the Church Lost the Battle; How She Will Win the War.” The statement calls the July 28, 2008 anniversary of the papal encyclical on human life “an extraordinary teaching moment for the universal Church.”
A panel discussion of contraception discussed the resistance within the Church to the teaching of Humanae Vitae. Popular lecturer and writer, Christopher West, underlined the importance of the following line from the statement: “A lingering spirit of Puritanism in the culture had infected the Church, muting her voice on the glorious gift and transcendent mission of human sexuality.”
West, an expert on John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” believes that Catholics, especially in the U.S., are simply not aware of their Puritan distrust of the body that contradicts Catholic teaching on the unity of the human person.
Fr. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life, reminded CLC attendees of the widespread dissent against the teaching on contraception. As the statement summarizes the response: “Too few bishops taught it, too few priests preached it, too few laity lived it.”
Brian Gail, the moderator of the panel, believes the “Theology of the Body” will become the heart of a “New Evangelization” that will address the individual and social problems caused by two generations relying on the pill to embrace the sexual revolution.
As the statement boldly puts it, “John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body,’ which has been likened to a theological time bomb, will detonate in our time.”
CLC participants strongly affirmed the statement’s commitment to integrating John Paul II’s teaching on marriage and sexuality into Catholic education at every level, especially “into existing teen chastity, Pre Cana, RCIA, and other engagement and marriage renewal programs.”
The focus on contraception came at an interesting moment for CLC because of the national media coverage of the decision of the Portland, Maine school board to offer contraceptives to middle-school students, ages 11 to 14. (In the wake of the coverage and the ensuing outrage, members of the school board have been back-pedaling on the decision.)
No one at CLC expressed surprise at the Portland decision. Many who spoke told of how the “contraceptive mentality” was affecting the lives of their children and the public institutions in their communities.
Brian Gail believes the struggle against contraception is far from over, even though recent medical research is revealing the dangers of it. For example, he cited a Mayo Clinic study showing that 36% of women who use hormonal contraception for a minimum of eight years prior to their first full term pregnancy will develop breast cancer.
Gail further notes the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, increased sterilization, and the drop in the birth rate among U.S. Catholics from 5.5 in 1960 to 2.1. He thinks this lower birth rate is not unrelated to the downward trend in the number of seminarians during the same period (from 50,000 to 5,000).
Compare these statistics to the 1% divorce rate among U.S. couples who use natural family planning to space children, and you see why Gail is optimistic that the wisdom of Humanae Vitae will one day be recognized.
That day may arrive sooner than we think. As Robert Novak reported on October 25, in “A New Front in the Abortion Wars,” a group of anti-abortion leaders have sent a letter to all members of Congress asking them to suspend more than $300 million of federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is the defendant in a major lawsuit in Kansas alleging “unlawful late-term abortions,” “unlawful failure to determine viability for late-term abortions,” “making false information,” and “unlawful failure to maintain records.”
The defunding of Planned Parenthood would be a historic setback to this nation’s leading broker of contraception and abortion. Indeed, it may be that in Kansas we see the first successful battle in what the CLC statement calls “an epic war for the family and civilization.”