for the Scholars’ Statement on the Ethics of Contraception“This is personal. I am the oldest of nine children and one of the sixty live children my mother and her siblings produced. Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family. Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith they never encouraged us to have the big families they had. They had their reasons and they were too obvious to need to be stated. The baton like the proverbial penny was already dropping. My generation largely rejected Humanae Vitae‘s ban on artificial contraception and along with it magisterial control over family size. Our small families testify to that.”
“I still remember the evening our parish priest, in front of us children, lambasted my forty year old mother for having had a hysterectomy without his permission and while still of child-bearing age. She had by then had eleven pregnancies and a history of haemorrhages which had left her dangerously ill and chronically weak. He left her in a spiritual agony which lingers even today.
All over the world good, decent, faith-filled men and women are infantilised and robbed by Humanae Vitae of their God-given right and obligation to make sensible adult decisions in the best interests of their health, their relationships and their children. The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the Church itself, is a millstone around our necks and we are drowning. It needs to be removed in conscience, in justice and in Christ for as this Scholars’ Statement explains compellingly it has no basis in divine law.”
Prof Mary McAleese, Distinguished Professor in Irish Studies at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London; previously Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Queen’s University, Belfast.
– oOo – “As far as I know, and in my 25 years of ministry as priest and professor in a theological seminary in the Philippines, the Statement affirms in many ways what is already being practiced by many educated Catholic couples, albeit discreetly and quietly, who are serious about their vocation as parents and are honest about the joys and demands of marital love. The “sensus fidei” of married couples like them has once again found a voice.”
“The Statement also sets free the many Filipino couples, specially the poor and marginalized, from the unnecessary burden of guilt imposed too often by their pastors who have to agonize over the pastoral demands of Christ’s compassion, on the one hand, and the institutional demands of church or episcopal loyalty, on the other.”
“Last but not least, while the Statement originates from a Western context, it resonates the minds and hearts of theologians and scholars in my country who are struggling to “hang on” to the Catholic Church in love to its people and in fidelity to its teachings. If theologians accross the world are to be pastors of one another, the Statement fulfills such vision.”
Dr Aloysius Lopez Cartagenas, formerly Rector of San Carlos Seminary and professor in Theological Ethics and Catholic Social Teaching, School of Theology, Cebu City, Philippines; at present an Independent Scholar.
– oOo – “The Catholic tradition, in my judgment to its great credit, has insisted that its specific moral teachings are based primarily on human reason. The “Scholars’ Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives” builds on this traditional Catholic approach. The document clearly, concisely and convincingly shows why artificial contraception for the purpose of family planning can be a morally good and even obligatory choice for couples.”
“The document recognizes the role of the hierarchical teaching office in the Catholic Church but accurately points out that the hierarchical teaching condemning artificial contraception is not an infallible teaching. The Statement implicitly builds on the traditional and well-accepted approach of Thomas Aquinas to the understanding of the relationship between authority and truth. Aquinas raised the question: Is something good because it is commanded or is it commanded because it is good? For Aquinas, something is commanded because it is good. Authority must conform itself to what is good.”
Charles E. Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA.
– oOo –“The teaching of Humanae Vitae has been a stumbling block to the faithful, detrimental to family life and an impediment to women’s health and well-being for nearly fifty years. It has led to a sad division between many faithful lay married Catholics and an entrenched hierarchy. It has no ground in the scriptures and its recourse to natural law is deeply flawed as this report clearly restates.”
“As an historic development the advent of contraception was the result of the decline in child and infant mortality that has, and continues to transform the experience of families. It is then a tragedy that the current teaching of the Catholic Church endangers the health and well-being of women and families across the world today. But this Statement offers hope and an opportunity for a new path. Change takes humility and boldness, but alongside others I urge Church authorities to listen to so many of its faithful lay people, refresh its teaching and revoke its ban on the use of modern contraceptives.”
The Revd Duncan Dormor MA MSc BA, Director of Studies, Faculty of Divinity, & Dean, St John’s College, University of Cambridge, UK.
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“I am happy to endorse this Statement. I think the Church has to recognise the reality of people’s lives. The gulf between practice and teaching is too great and causes serious anxiety to many people.”
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Member of the UK Upper House of Parliament, elected Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, UK.
– oOo –“Almost all educated adults living in modern industrialized nations recognize the moral obligation to have no more children than those who can be given reasonable emotional and financial care. Unfortunately this moral obligation is ignored by those who have children suffering from neglect. The common forms of this neglect include poor nutrition, lack of loving support, shortage of educational materials and opportunities, and insufficient health care for teeth, eyes, and the whole body.”
“Traditionally the Catholic Church has provided many services for children, including facilitating adoptions, operating schools and homes. Today the needs of children throughout the world overwhelm these services. The basic problem is too many children suffering from neglect. The Church needs to demonstrate its care for children by recognizing the moral obligation to restrict the number of births by the responsible use of contraception.”
Prof David Stronck, Biology and Science, Department of Teacher Education, California State University, USA
– oOo –“I gladly endorse this Statement. The Catholic Church has to recognize women’s rights, allowing them to decide themselves about what is best for women’s life and health, for their family’s health and for the Church itself.”
“We, women, have been treated as infants for many centuries. And Church documents such as Humanae Vitae have controlled and submitted women’s bodies, especially of poor women, leading many of them to a dreadful life and even to death. It is vital to give women and men the right of planning their family and living love with happiness and true ethics.”
Prof Luiza Tomita, Theology, Salesian University, São Paulo, Brazil
– oOo –“Humanae Vitae‘s prohibition of artificial contraception as intrinsice inhonestum has remained a dead letter, because of its non-reception by the faithful and by the best theological opinion. But a dead letter can be poisonous when invoked to block actions necessary for the welfare of human beings. In the over-populated and impoverished Philippines the prohibition has been invoked by bishops to block necessary legislation, and in Africa it has been an obstacle in the fight against Aids.”
“Theologically, it has been an obstacle to honest discussion of a host of issues in the Church. Founded on the mystique of magisterial infallibility, it became a shibboleth for the advancement of ecclesiastical careers and the suppression of the Church’s best moral theologians. On this plane alone the damage it has done is incalculable. Stonewalling on the authority of this document, and refusing open dialogue on contraception and all related issues, is a sure formula for maximizing the scandal already caused to vast numbers of the faithful.”
Prof Joseph O’Leary, Theology (Emeritus), Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture; English literature (Emeritus), Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan.
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“This statement reflects good theology and good thinking. I have always thought that Humanae Vitae conflated two worldviews. On the one hand, it moves into the modern world of biology and grasps that conception is a matter of probabilities when it endorses NFP as a way of working with those probabilities. But when it comes to the moral arguments, it makes the assumption that conception involves a direct causality; intercourse leads to conception and therefore ought not to be interrupted in any way. The ethical argument does not follow from the facts of biology. It is time that this odd way of mystifying sexual intercourse be put to rest. There are definitely ethical issues in how, when, whether and for whom we provide contraception but the simplistic injunctions of Roman Catholic teaching in the last fifty years does not address these adequately.”
Prof Cynthia Crysdale, Christian Ethics and Theology, School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Canada
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“Thanks to Joseph Fuchs with whom I studied moral theology at the Papal University Gregorianum in Rome I learned how devastating an effect Humanae Vitae has had on Catholic moral theology.”
“Since then I live in Catholic Poland and I know how polarizing and even destructive an effect this teaching (so uncritically supported and reinforced by John Paul II) continues to have not only on Polish Catholics but also on our entire society. So I really hope that Pope Francis will include our Statement in his own moral teaching.”
Prof Stanisław Obirek, ‘Religion in Modern Cultures, Interreligious Dialogue’, previously at the Universities of Cracow and Łódź; now at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw, Poland.
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