Did the Church reverse course on contraception in 1997?

January 22, 2015 § 20 Comments

If you buy that the pastoral changes of Pius VIII and Gregory XVI reversed Church doctrine on usury, you might also be inclined to buy that John Paul II reversed Church doctrine on contraception:

The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin.

§ 20 Responses to Did the Church reverse course on contraception in 1997?

  • jf12 says:

    Doesn’t being penitent mean “be prepared to change his own conduct”?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    “Penitent” in this context is a noun: it refers to the person in the confessional across from the priest (“confessor”).

  • CJ says:

    Want to make sure I understand the quote; was he saying that the confessor shouldn’t try to educate someone who’s invincibly ignorant if that person wouldn’t change their behavior upon learning that it’s sinful?

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    …was he saying that the confessor shouldn’t try to educate someone who’s invincibly ignorant if [in the confessor’s judgment] that person wouldn’t change their behavior upon learning that it’s sinful?

    That is how I understand it, yes: the same ‘pastoral’ policy which was applied to usury, to wit:

    “If a penitent does not confess the gain from money given in a loan, and appears to be in good faith, these confessors, even if they know from other sources that gain of this sort has been taken by him and is even now being taken, they absolve him, making no interrogation about the matter, because they fear the penitent, being advised to make restitution or to refrain from such profit, will refuse.”

    It seems to me that if we buy the “stenchus fidelium” that the doctrine of usury ‘developed’ – via this kind of pastoral instruction to confessors – to permit interest on a simple mutuum loan, we would likely have to conclude (and future Catholics, with these matters further in the rearview mirror, are very likely to conclude) the same w.r.t. contraception.

    For my own part I declare invictus manure! — my capacity to think unconquered by all the bullshit.

  • CJ says:

    Also, one mustn’t tell the divorced-and-remarried Catholics that they must live as brother and sister because they’ll just keep having relations. “Ask your confessor about Pastoral(tm).” I hope it’s approved for use with my own besetting sins soon.

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    I hope it’s approved for use with my own besetting sins soon.

    Isn’t ignorance a wonderful sacrament? All that forgiveness, none of that cross.

  • Bonald says:

    I thought I was hard to scandalize, but this has done it. God told Ezekiel the exact opposite. Isn’t the whole idea of “invincible ignorance” that someone would do the right thing if only they knew it were the right thing?

  • InTheProcess says:

    Living as brother and sister is being grievously misused. One cannot simultaneously CCL 1151, 1153.2, 226.2, and 1136 while living in a brother/sister relationship.

    Pastoral practice is in direct opposition to Canon Law and the Bible.

  • Zippy says:

    Whatever one thinks of ‘pastoral mercies’ in general or of particular ‘pastoral mercies’, the point is twofold:

    1) They are not new.

    2) The progressive tactic of using them to create an illusion of change in doctrine is not new.

  • Marissa says:

    Living as brother and sister is being grievously misused. One cannot simultaneously CCL 1151, 1153.2, 226.2, and 1136 while living in a brother/sister relationship.

    1151 Spouses have the duty and right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them.

    The “divorced” and “remarried” couple are not espoused to each other. How is this relevant? Are you thinking of the relationship with the true spouse? That’s where “legitimate cause” comes into play. The true spouses are separated.

    1153 §2. In all cases, when the cause for the separation ceases, conjugal living must be restored unless ecclesiastical authority has established otherwise.

    Again the “divorced” and “remarried” couple are not married and are separated from their true spouse, how is this relevant?

    1136 Parents have the most grave duty and the primary right to take care as best they can for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of their offspring.

    How is this relevant to living as brother and sister?

    226 §2. Since they have given life to their children, parents have a most grave obligation and possess the right to educate them. Therefore, it is for Christian parents particularly to take care of the Christian education of their children according to the doctrine handed on by the Church.

    How is this relevant to living as brother and sister?

  • InTheProcess says:

    Not new Zippy. Agreed. No less scandalous though.

  • InTheProcess says:

    Marissa, I’m sorry. I must not have been clear. My point was the pastoral practice of brother and sister living accomodations for someone who has a spouse, I won’t use the term ‘true spouse’ as it implies a spouse that might not be true but is nevertheless a spouse, is in direct opposition to canon law. One has a spouse; therefore, one has an obligation to: preserve conjugal living (a seperation can’t be a legitimate cause in itself), and not scandalize their children but teach them marriage.

  • Marissa says:

    Wow, I’ve never thought of that fact…that those living as brother and sister still have their unreconciled spouses living elsewhere…huh. You are correct that it’s totally wrong, thank you for correcting my sloppiness. I guess the Church was trying to figure out a way to sort through these messes of “divorce” and “remarriage”. But there is still the fact that a husband is separated from his wife and they are likely making no effort at reconciliation. What should even be done in these scenarios? Especially when there are children from multiple pairings? What a big, dumb blind spot I’ve had in regards to this topic (though it’s certainly not the only one).

  • InTheProcess says:

    Eh. I happen to be intimately familiar with the difficulties in the “merciful” pastoral approach. I apologize if I was strong in my response, sometimes my personal hurt gets the better of me.

    What should even be done? We need to deeply re-examine how we express what it means to be working out our salvation. As a culture, at least in the United States, we have a fascination with transformative processes. New Age phemomenon, Buddhism popularity, reinvention of celebrities, boy turned super hero movies, etc… The transformative reality of baptism is forgotten, but Christian transformation is the only real transformation. Transformation that is only possible through liturgical celebration. “Let my people go, that they may worship me.” I can’t think of anything else.

  • Proph says:

    Good Heavens. Suddenly the issuance of the Eucharist to divorcees and their concubines seems almost a certainty.

  • […] immoral.  Never before has a Supreme Pontiff made it official policy to absolve penitents who have no intention to cease choosing objectively immoral, gravely wrong behaviors.  Never before have those who […]

  • […] whatsoever on the objective content of usury doctrine, we can likewise conclude that the Church approved of just titles to contraception in 1997 when it instructed confessors that they could, in certain circumstances, absolve penitents […]

  • […] Vademicum for Confessors in 1997, under John Paul II though not signed by him personally, authorized absolution of penitents who were unrepentant on […]

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