Monday, December 31, 2012

Bishop Egan's Pastoal Letter: Humanae Vitae

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth had a brilliant Pastoral Letter for yesterdays Feast of the Holy Family, starting with the Trinity and the Incarnation he then goes onto speak about the family and human sexuality. He pulls no punches, read the whole text at Deacon Augustines blog, then drop a line to the Nuncio to thank him for the appointment of such a Bishop, and ask for more like him.

In 1968, at the height of the Sixties, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical Letter that then and now many Catholics find difficult. He repeated the traditional teaching of the Church, based on the natural law and confirmed by revelation, that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life - cannot be divorced[viii]. Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document. Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt[ix].

As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.[x] This is the way to lasting happiness and fulfilment, even if to become chaste - that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple - involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery”[xi]. To help us, Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and offers us the healing balm and the strength we need, above all in confession and Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church's wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism. I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness.


Mater mari said...

I will certainly take up your idea of writing to the Nuncio. Positive action is often preferable to complaining, even though this is sometimes necessary. How very blessed are the people of Portsmouth diocese!

Physiocrat said...

The difficulty with this teaching is that it is not until one is well on in years that one realises the wisdom of it. By which time it is often too late. How to get round that? And an awful lot of people do not have families. Brighton is full of people like that, and it is by no means exceptional. What can the Bishop say to them?

The other difficulty is the Guardian, which unfortunately reflects a widespread view.

Deacon Augustine said...

Physiocrat, we should be teaching these truths in our schools from the moment that children start learning the biological facts of life. It should be part of our Confirmation preparation and definitely part of our Marriage preparation courses.

Now that Bishop Egan has helpfully identified the "elephant in the room", I believe he has also given priests and deacons the lead and authority to frankly address these issues in homiletics.

Personally I have only ever treated this subject in passing in homilies because until now I have not been convinced that the hierarchy in this country stands behind the Church's teaching on these matters. There is nothing more soul-destroying than taking time to present the Church's teaching faithfully, only then to be undermined by a timid superior whose one goal in life is to avoid controversy.

Thank God for Bishop Egan!

vetusta ecclesia said...

Does antone still read The Guardian? How quaint.

Physiocrat said...

@vetusta ecclesia

Unfortunately a lot of people read the Guardian online partly because the other quality papers are behind paywalls. Not that the Guardian is a quality paper, but it purports to be and is read by a raucous and influential minority of supposedly better-educated self-styled liberals and progressives.

fidelisjoff said...

My bishop's pastoral letter seemed to define the family as anything but a married couple with a child. He seems confused or finds the faith too offensive. He needs prayer!

Jacobi said...

It is good to see Humanae Vitae openly discussed again after forty years of being kept in the Catholic closet.

Another matter that has been kept there by Catholic liberals and Secularists, since it completely undermines their arguments, is Natural Family Planning. Even in 1968, this was known to be an effective way of spacing or planning family, fully compatible with Catholic teaching. Indeed Paul VI actually expressed the hope in Humanae Vitae that medical science would make it more effective.

Well it has done, so much so, that it is seriously claimed that it can be 99% effective, much more so than condoms.

If NFP were given its proper place alongside Humanae Vitae then the debate, at least as far as Catholics are concerned, would be very different.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life..."

It is not essential in a marriage that the couple love each other.

They must both love God, and be obedient to His command:

"Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply"

Millions of men and women have suffered through their marriages to fulfill this command, and have pleased God greatly.

Everyone knows it is a Woman's sacred duty to marry a man and make him miserable for the rest of his life.

That's what a great marriages are made of.


Physiocrat said...

Families do not begin and end with mother, father and the children.

They include grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins etc. To say nothing of the family members who are lying in the cemetery, we should not forget them either.

The social harm done by the breakdown of the family extends further than just the "nuclear family". And so much of it is due to family-unfriendly policies.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Flavin, Sorry to not publish your comment, it really was vindictive, wasn't it?

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Every contemporary humanist's 'caritas' wants to mess with the family. the 'nuclear family' - 'nuclear'; from 'nucula' - "little nut," as in the central core of something. an anthropologist - G Murdoch - first coined the family 'nuclear' in '45...what, did he think it was gonna go up like Nagasaki? he wasn't wrong. apparantly the early Catholic converts of Japan hid the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass under the guise of the 'tea ceremony' - 26 Catholic converts were executed in Nagasaki by crucifixion on February 5, 1597 and for a few centuries thereafter Christianity went underground. excuse the tangent; back to the nuclear or new testament family - the Holy Family - the family as a blessing born of the sacrament of marriage - God wants to be our Father - Our Lady (at least traditionally) was given as Our Mother at the Cross. What's intersting about the Holy Family - whether that of the Most Chaste Spouse and the Blessed Virign and Our Lord or taken up to God the Father is that it has no emphasis whatsoever upon the license to have sex, but rather the license to be a parent - it's about mother/fatherly love for the sake and whole purpose of the life of the child. then again...

 St Paul: "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. . . those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . . The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (1 Col 7:27-34).

p.s. God Bless all Bishops willing, God willing, to say something True.

Cathy said...

Pablo the Mexican says "It is not essential in a marriage that the couple love each other."

Of course it is! It is essential in all relationships that we love each other (in a way that is appropriate for the relationship) and if love is the bond for any relationship it must be especially so for married couples. The love of a married couple does not negate love of God or obedience to his command to go forth and multiply. But to say that love is not essential for marriage is not only to misunderstand marriage but also what it means to be a Christian.

Thank you for publicizing Bishop Egan's letter, Fr Blake. Please God we may have more bishops like him.

Sue Sims said...

I had to read the Pastoral Letter to the congregation on Sunday (our priest is elderly and finds it hard to stand up for that length of time), and was very impressed by it.

My only problem came with Mgr. Egan's definition/explanation of 'chaste': 'that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple' - the expression 'integrated sexuality' is one I've come across before, but generally in the mouths of clergy who don't actually agree with the Church's teachings on chastity. I can see why the Bishop couldn't spell out the full Catholic teaching - time and appropriateness impose limits - but I still felt slightly uncomfortable reading that phrase.

Sue Sims said...

Oh, and Cathy: I think Pablo the Mexican was being cynically ironic, not intending to be taken literally.

Cathy said...

Sue, I hope you are right about Pablo the Mexican. Re-reading his post it doesn't seem cynically ironic to me, but irony is often lost on me! Perhaps Pablo can clarify!

On the question of 'integrated sexuality' this idea is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which describes chastity as "the successful integration of sexuality within the person" (no. 2337).

Cettis Warbler said...

Even the NHS website lists NFP as 99% effective, yet my Catholic friends think I'm potty when I've mentioned it and I've had to explain what it's all about to a succession of baffled GPs. I was trained up when I was 18 and still an atheist because it was "natural" and that appealed to me. Why isn't it more widely known about?

Bishop Phillip is my new bishop - I'm a happy warbler.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Christ loves the Church and the Church, the Bride, loves Christ - love is built into the whole meaning of the sacrament of marriage - if a husband has no intention of imitating Christ, it's not surprising a wife wouldn't bother submitting to an anti-christ.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Some years ago it was suggested that an NFP clinic working out of a cellar in Soho should be given accommodation at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth. Our then Archbishop did nothing. The Hospital took in an NHS practice which gives out the usual artificial contraception and refers for abortion.

Up till recently we have seen ENcourage not given much encouragement in comparison with the Soho Masses Pastoral Council. Things may now be changing and it would be nice if similar encouragement could be given to NFP. After all the Archbishop has tremendous legal powers over the Hospital.

Unknown said...

I could not be prouder to be a Catholic after reading Bishop's letter. I remember arguing against the Church's stand when Humanae Vitae was first published. (I was in A level's then). But even then the Church's position on human sexuality was unassailable in its logic. Over the years I became despondent as I saw the hierarchy of the Church acquiesce to the whims of secular society and allow downright immoral ideologies to be taught in our catholic schools. At last we have a leader who is not afraid to affirm the fundamental truths of our faith. The truths from which all others derive. Bishop you are in my prayers. May others follow.

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