Truth set in stone

‘On the 28th June 1978, a little more than a month before he died Paul VI said, “You will thank God and me for Humanae Vitae.”’ Cardinal Carlo Caffara March 24 2014.

I have refrained from commenting directly on the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae; not because i don’t think it’s important [I do very much so] but because I’m not sure I’ve much to add to what I have said on the 40th anniversary here and here

Besides it is difficult to improve upon the analysis of the importance of this milestone anniversary than that given by Mgr Livio Melina thanks to the excellent work of Edward Pentin

What I would say however as we draw near to the Feast of St John Vianney the patron of parish priests on 4th August is that if he had been alive in 1964 and since, there’s no mistaking how he would have faithfully preached/taught consistently on the evil of contraception for as Blessed Paul VI says “it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ” but he would be a tireless confessor vigilant for the care of souls, “bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners” (HV 29)

So it seems to me that there has been an almost irrevocable crisis in marriage and the family [and therefore society] because there has been an almost irrevocable crisis in the sacred priesthood. Just as contraception splits the procreative from the unitive in spousal love, so too does the spiritual fecundity in the priest diminish if he fails to guide and teach the faithful in to the truth of this “irreformable” teaching.

How ironic it is that so often people obsess about marriage for priests whilst at the same time singularly failing to acknowledge and own the sin of omission as Church for decades of neglect in formation of the faithful in marriage itself, especially authentic human sexuality embodied in the commitment for life open to life.

As a church we are very good a building hard, physical institutional infrastructure. We as faithful communities have for generations built parish churches, schools, hospitals, care homes, bought and sold plant, refurbished at great cost former convents and religious houses into youth centres and formation/retreat centres; the list goes on. Furthermore we build them to high standards and rightly so and we commit ourselves and the next generation to repay their cost.

We do this because we know they are important to our mission and from these good things arises our charitable activities, the care of the poor and sick, our overseas aid, care of refugees and migrants, which can all flourish.

We are very good at physical institutional infrastructure, but for perhaps the first time in our history we have not viewed marriage, a core of our non‐physical institutional infrastructure, in the same way. If we did, truly forming entire generations of children growing in to adolescents and young adults with a generous capacity to put out in to the deep and embrace both the physical and supernatural fecundity that matrimonial graces bring –then the vocations to priesthood and religious life would come, they would come with the healthy size of faithful families and the celibate priest would swim in that ocean of married love, eager to serve it, guard it, give it diligent pastoral and spiritual care. So the irony now is that we obsess about marriage for priesthood brought on by a crisis of countless buildings and infrastructure not being manned when the one “soft” but keystone of ALL the physical infrastructure has been left uncared for to reach staggering levels of spiritual poverty which if it were a building would be like a diocesan cathedral crumbling from disrepair. In short we would never allow such a thing to happen because we can see it, touch it, feel it, enter it, hungry to fill it with the Presence and worship of the Lord. Yet we allow what we cannot always see or think we cannot feel [matrimonial grace] to be left to fend for itself, go unacknowledged and unaffirmed in ways that leaves the individual spouses within their unique sacramental identity to feel truly alone and unappreciated as part of-indeed central to-the evangelising mission of the Universal Church.

It’s the ultimate irony. In an era of ‘desacralising’ ecclesiology, we end up viewing a key solution to a contemporary crisis from a distinctly clericalist mindset; i.e, in neglecting the most important, most popularly chosen sacrament among the laity [marriage] in an epoch of dumbing down the sacrificial priesthood; the inverted snobbery towards the laity decides that marriage is absolutely,suddenly critical for clerics more than it is for the salvation of the laity called to live it, freely, faithfully and fruitfully with a lifelong open to life mentality.

It is often said that the revival of the Church depends on a renewal of the priesthood.  I agree, but this needs to be in the context of the renewal of the family, from whence [hopefully] vocations to the priesthood stem. After all, fewer babies means fewer children to hear God’s call. This is why Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia encapsulates what lies at the heart of the renewal of the Church so succinctly: “There will be…no renewal of the Catholic Church without renewal of the Catholic family, and no renewal of the Catholic family without a bold proclamation of the sacred truths regarding the transmission of human life.”



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