Tag Archives: Pope Paul VI

Infallibility helps to understand Zika

Papal interviews are dangerous business for the clear teaching of faith and morals, even for conveying matters of prudential judgment. Let’s be clear: papal interviews, books written by popes and theologians are not magisterial teaching nor are they covered by the grace of infallibility. The method of ensuring truth is communicated is sometime conveyed by saying what it is not; we say it is a negative gift in the sense because infallibility keeps the Roman Pontiff from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. Infallibility, moreover, is attached to the Office of the Roman Pontiff, not to the person of the office. Seen from the perspective of a gift, of a grace, infallibility is conceived as a protective gift, not a creative one; it does not introduce new revelation or new teaching. Hence, interviews are not binding nor can they change the teaching of the Church. The news media picked up on a statement made by Pope Francis on Thursday, February 18, 2016, on the plane as he was going back to Rome where an off-the-cuff remark with regard to the use of a condom could be used to prevent the Zika virus that is a tremendous problem for pregnant women.

The current papacy is at times a bit too casual in communicating the faith because the aftermath causes great confusion in an era that gives too much credence to the print and cyber media. Just because news outlets carry “something” the pope said doesn’t mean it is true, accurate or faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church. But the media does carry the fact that the pope is suggesting that the use of condoms to protect from the AIDS virus or the Zika virus, it does not mean that one should follow his suggestion, or think Church teaching has changed. Nonetheless, even the Catholic media gets the doctrine of the faith wrong: we need to use our reason, friends.

When we are unclear or too causal in what we say about delicate and complex moral issues, especially on matters of sexual morality, we cause harm and possible scandal. Knee-jerk reactions from so-called traditional Catholics are unhelpful, too. We do not need unprocessed opinions of people who shout: heretic at every moment an opinion from a pope is tweeted. There is such a thing as objective Truth. As Blessed John Henry Newman said, I did not leave my mind at the door. I am sure no pope, bishop, priest, deacon, sister or lay person would deliberately lead the sheep away from Jesus who is “The Way, the truth, and the Life.”

According to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, Pope Francis spoke of “the possibility of taking recourse to contraception or condoms in cases of emergency or special situations. He is not saying that this possibility is accepted without discernment, indeed, he said clearly that it can be considered in cases of special urgency.”

A reasonable set of questions surface: who decides cases of emergency, what are cases of special urgency, for how long, with what impact, who is charged with discerning, what is required of the faithful?

In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI raised similar concerns when he made a comments on condoms in his book, The Light of the World. You may recall that His Holiness “spoke about the use of condoms in the case of risk of contagion by AIDS.” The journalists went to town and asserted points that the pope did not say or intend. As a result, the Holy See’s office on faith and morals stepped in to clarify. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith said, “A number of erroneous interpretations have emerged” that have “caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought.” The CDF further reminded us: “An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed.”

Let me reiterate: interviews given by the hierarchy, like the one given by Pope Francis on the use of contraception, cannot change Church doctrine. The 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Blessed Pope Paul VI taught that the Church’s long-standing and definitive teaching that artificial contraception (e.g., condom use) is “intrinsically wrong.”

And for the record, it is held by reasonable and well-formed theologians that Pope Paul VI never said the nuns in the Congo could use contraception to protect themselves against rape. There has been a very significant error on the part of the media and certain theologians of aligning the Pope with teaching something contrary to the faith. According to Dominican Father Brian Mullady, “Pope Paul VI never taught that nuns threatened with rape could use contraception. This was an anonymous opinion stated by some member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which went viral at the time. It was never a formal teaching of any Pope but caused much discussion among moralists and is the only example of anyone recommending such an action.” YET, by the Pope’s silence on the issue he may have altered the practice and teaching of the Church in favor of a less than accurate and pastoral datum. UPDATE: You may want to read John Allen’s piece on this matter at CRUX.

THE answer to the Zika virus spreading: do not have sex. No EVER dies from not having sexual intercourse. This stance, I believe, is reasonable and consistent with divine revelation and the consistent teaching of the Church matters of sex, life and human flourishing. The dignity of the person, the respect for the other, the notion and reality of self-gift in sexual intercourse in marriage what Jesus taught and lived and died for. Condom use to stop the spread of the virus is not good advice; neither is it good science.

So, as Catholics, we hold to the fact there is the grace of infallibility which only covers ex cathedra pronouncements on faith and moral, not interviews.

Transfiguration of the Lord

TransfigurationFor an instant on the summit of Tabor, Christ unveils the splendor of his divinity, manifesting to his chosen witnesses what he really is: the Son of God, “the radiance of the glory of the Father and the imprint of his substance”; but he also makes visible the transcendent destiny of our human nature, which he took on to save us as something likewise destined, because it is redeemed by his sacrifice of irrevocable love, that we too might participate in fullness of life in the “fellowship of the saints in light.” That body, transfigured before the astonished eyes of the apostles, is the body of Christ our brother, but it’s also that of our body called to glory; the light which floods inside of it is and will be our inheritance and our splendor. We are called to share that glory because we are “partakers of the divine nature.” An incomparable lot awaits us if we have honored our Christian vocation: if we have lived in the logical consequences of word and deed what the responsibilities of our Baptism demand of us.

Blessed Paul VI
Excerpt, Angelus address for 6 August 1978, only to never deliver it –he died that day.

Blessed Paul VI

Paul VI with tiaraAfter two weeks of meetings on the family and marriage, Pope Francis offered Mass at which he beatified the Venerable Servant of God Pope Paul VI. whom he called a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”

This action of the Pope’s means that several of the 20th century popes have been raised to the altar: John Paul II, Paul VI, John XXIII, Pius X. We ought to keep in mind that John Paul I and Pius XII have their causes for sainthood being studied, too.

The emeritus pope Benedict XVI was present for the Mass.

Here are the relevant paragraphs of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass that pertain to the beatification:

On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society” (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).

When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!  Thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI!  Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

In his personal notes, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121).  In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).

President Kennedy and Pope Paul VI in 1963

President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI (1963)

Letter of Father Pedro Arrupe on Humanae vitae

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe’s letter to the Society of Jesus on the Servant of God Pope Paul VI’s teaching, Humanae vitae. This is the first time I’ve seen this letter and it portrays the Jesuit’s in a different light, one that is unexpected and consistent with what we know to be the mind of Saint Ignatius and the Church. Without a doubt, Father Arrupe wrote a beautiful letter, too bad it was buried for so long.

Epistula A.R.P.N. Generalis ad omnem Societatem occasione Litterarum Encyclicarum “Humanae vitae.” Acta Romana Societatis Iesu.  Vol. XV, Fasc. II, anno 1968

Dear Fathers and Brothers,  Pax Christi

We are all aware of the response given to the most recent encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae vitae, about the problems raised by the question of contraception.  While manycompletely accept the teaching of the encyclical, a number of the clergy, religious and laity violently reject it in a way that no one in the Society can think of sharing.  Yet, because the opposition to the encyclical has become widespread in some places, I wish to delay no longer before calling to mind once more our duty as Jesuits. With regard to the successor of Peter, the only response for us is an attitude of obedience which is at once loving, firm, open and truly creative.  I do not say that this is necessarily painless and easy.

In fact, on various grounds and because of particular competence, some of us may experience certain reservations and difficulties.  A sincere desire to be truly loyal does not rule out problems, as the Pope himself says.  A teaching such as the one he presents merits assent not simply because of the reasons he offers, but also, and above all, because of the charism which enables him to present it.  Guided by the authentic word of the Pope- a word that need not be infallible to be highly respected – every Jesuit owes it to himself, by reason of his vocation, to do everything possible to penetrate, and to help others penetrate, into the thought which may not have been his own previously; however, as he goes beyond the evidence available to him personally, he finds or will find a solid foundation for it.

To obey, therefore, is not to stop thinking, to parrot the encyclical word for word in a servile manner.  On the contrary, it is to commit oneself to study it as profoundly as possible so as to discover for one self and to show others the meaning of an intervention judged necessary by the Holy Father.

Once we have correctly grasped the meaning of the encyclical, let us not remain passive.  Let us not be afraid to rectify our teaching, if need be, while at the same time explaining why we are doing so.  Let us develop our teaching as profoundly as possible rather than restrict it.  Let is strive for a better pastoral theology of the family and of the young people.  We must not forget that our present world, for all its amazing scientific conquests, is sadly lacking a true sense of God and is in danger of deceiving itself completely.  We must see what is demanded of us as Jesuits.  Let us collaborate with others in centers of the basic research on man, where the specific data of Christian revelation can be brought together with the genuine achievements of the human sciences and thus achieve the happy results that can be legitimately anticipated.  In all this work of sympathy, intelligence, and love, let us always be enlightened by the Gospel and by the living tradition of the Church.  Let us never abandon the papal teaching we have just received.  Rather, we must continually seek to integrate it into an ever-widening anthropology.  The present crisis makes clear this urgent need.

In so fulfilling our mission as Jesuits, which is to make the thought of the Church understood and loved, we can help the laity, who themselves have much to bring to the problems touched on in the encyclical, and who rely on us for a deep understanding of their points of view. [“atque nostram expectant cooperationem pro intimiore penetratione magisterii Pauli VI.”]

You understand well that it is the spirit of the Constitutions which inspires me as I write these words.  For, as the Constitutions tell us in substance, each member of the Society must remember that his personal manner of serving God is realized through a faithful obedience to the Roman pontiff.  That is why I am certain that today too, the Society is able to show itself worthy of four centuries of complete fidelity to the Holy See.

It certainly cannot be said that the Second Vatican Council has changed all this.  The Council itself speaks formally of “this religious submission of will and of mind,” which “must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra.  That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence and the judgments made by him sincerely adhered to according to his manifest mind and will” (Lumen Gentium, n.25).

Nor can it be said that the Pope was speaking of matters that do not involve our faith, since the essence of his teaching directly concerns the human and divine dignity of man and of love.  In the enormous crisis of growth which envelops the whole world, the Pope himself has been what the entire Church must be, and Vatican II affirmed, “both a sign and a safeguard of the transcendence of the human person” (Gaudium et Spes, n.76).  For this reason the service we as Jesuits owe to the Holy Father and to the Church is at the same time a service we owe to humanity itself.

In my awareness of our obvious duty as Jesuits I could say much more, particularly at this time which seems to me crucial for the Church. Difficult times are times made for the Society, not to seek its own glory, but to show its fidelity.  This is why I am certain that all of you will understand my words.  As for those for whom the encyclical presents  personal problems of conscience, I wish to assure them that for that very reason I am keeping them in my affection and prayers.

May St. Ignatius help each of us to become, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, more Ignatian than ever.  May he obtain for us the understanding that our legitimate desire to be totally present to this world demands of us an ever-increasing fidelity in the service of the Church, the Spouse of Christ and the Mother of all mankind.

I commend myself to the prayers of all of you.

Rome, 15 August 1968.
Most devotedly in Christ,

Pedro Arrupe
Praep. Gen. Soc. Iesu.

[This English translation was transcribed by Fr. Joseph Carola, S.J., from the article “Father Arrupe: ‘Think with the church’,” which appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, September 18th, 1968, p. 7]

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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