Ireland really is in a heated battle on the cultural front. The abuse scandal hit the Church particularly hard in Ireland, and this once-Catholic nation has rapidly secularized, with polls on life and family changing dramatically in just the last few years, all in the wrong direction.
Of course, the battle is on all over the world. This has been a big week for those who defend the Church’s doctrine on the dignity of the person and the great gift of human sexuality.
On Tuesday, September 20, a group of faithful Catholic scholars put together a brilliant defense of Humanae vitae, in response to a United Nations-sponsored attack on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical On Human Life.
The attack came in the form of a group of dissenting Catholic professors releasing the “Wijngaards Statement” at a UN event that was meant to advocate for greater progress toward “sustainable development.”
The Wijngaards Statement is mostly a rehash of 60s and 70s-era self-centered “ethics” from a group who base their reasoning on a person’s desires and feelings rather than truths about who the person really is.
Still, we might have expected a better attempt, or at least some new thinking as they put together a remarkably un-Catholic document. The drafters not only reject Catholic anthropology and moral theology, the missed the fact that Humanae vitae‘s dire predictions about the effects of widespread contraceptive use have all come true. Maybe they didn’t have room in their document to list the many class-action lawsuits brought by tens of thousands of women who were surprised to find that they were lied to: their “safe” birth control was not really safe. Nor do we see that 70s group of theologians mention of the FDA’s “black box warning” on the pill (for highly elevated risk of osteoporosis with extended use), or the WHO’s designation of most forms of hormonal contraception as belonging alongside cigarettes and asbestos in the category of Group-1 carcinogens.
Perhaps the editor of the final version of the Wijngaards Statement felt it prudent to ignore the fact that rather than stem the (then-marginal but growing) demand for legalized abortion, the legalization and wide acceptance of contraception was followed immediately by increased legalization at the state level and, soon after, Roe v. Wade. This happened despite assurances that more “responsible married couples” using contraception would “naturally” lead to a decline in demand for abortion.
Of course, the opposite happened. And why would these theologians again unleash all of their situation ethics against the Church now?
Our findings and theological materials will also be made available to all UN departments and development agencies that are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. (Wijngaards Statement, introduction)
So the UN is suddenly interested in Catholic theology because the Catholic Church remains the biggest obstacle to enacting what the UN calls “sustainable development,” which, to them, means many fewer people in the world.
Really, the dissenting theologians aren’t doing theology at all, they are simply providing talking points meant to undermine Pope Francis’ central argument in Laudato Si: openness to new human life and protection of the environment are not only compatible, but mutually required if we are to heal our common home for generations to come.
If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. (Laudato Si, n. 120)
In quoting the Asian bishops on the Church’s concern that human development not treat human persons as obstacles to be overcome, the Holy Father was clear in Laudato Si about the Church’s position. In paragraph 50, citing a key passage from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, he was even clearer:
Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure, which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.”
Considering these and similar passages from the pope’s encyclical on care for our common home, is it possible that the United Nations could have misconstrued the Church’s position on these matters? Or are they doing this precisely because of the Church’s unchangeable teaching?
With Tuesday’s event, the United Nations has clearly rejected Pope Francis’ argument in Laudato Si. This is why HLI’s leadership signed on to CUA’s wonderful statement setting the record straight. We note here happily that the faithful CUA statement has more than three times as many signatures as the dissenting document. And it makes the reply even sweeter in a spiritual sense that the faithful reply was published by Catholic University of America, where the original and catastrophic dissent to Humanae vitae was launched in 1968.
This is far from the first time the UN has sought to undermine Church teaching, and it won’t be the last. We are honored to stand with the Church and her faithful theologians in reaffirming the truth of Humanae vitae.
Thank you for your prayers for HLI’s mission and your generous support. Know that you are in my prayers as well!