Broadening the battleground

Following the publication in the Catholic Herald of the column titled “The old battleground”some letters were published commenting on my views. This week Elizabeth Price was kind enough to send me directly her response to the points made. With her permission, I am reproducing it here. I think that it contains some very interesting points for our consideration. I look forward, as indeed she does, to your comments.

I realise that this piece is rather longer than is customary on this blog, but it deserves the space...

I was most interested in the three letters published in the CH on August 5th mentioning the theology of sexuality.

I have recently been reading a superb book on this – just published by The Columba Press called An Irish Reader In Moral Theology Volume 2: Sex, Marriage and the Family edited by Enda McDonagh and Vincent MacNamara.The eleventh article in this Love in Marriage: How New was Vatican II? by Denis O’Callaghan.  This article, first published in The Irish Theological Quarterly  starts with the beautiful quotation from Gaudium et Spes paras 48-50 “The intimate partnership of life and love which constitutes the married life, has been constituted by the Creator…..The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of spouses takes place are noble and honourable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude…”  The article goes on to quote several early theologians by name, analysing their core thinking.  Till Vatican II there were two links seen in the Church: The unbreakable link between sex and procreation (still seen in Humanae Vitae). Sadly, until Vatican II there was no connection seen between marital intercourse and conjugal love.  Instead the other link, still to be found in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, is that at the Fall the relationship of marriage was permanently corrupted,  resulting in a new combination between sexuality and lust. Mgr. O’Callaghan’s copious quotations leave one in no doubt that the normal pattern of sexual life in marriage (making love in terms of times per week), was seen as a seriously sinful indulgence in lustful enjoyment of the physical pleasure put in the act for the good of the race. No understanding was seen in any of them that intercourse has an emotional meaning. Hence we have in Augustine, (inherited from a dictum of the Stoics and Jerome) this extraordinary charge, “A man who is too ardent a lover of his wife is an adulterer, if the pleasure he finds in her is sought for its own sake” (Against Julian II 7).  This idea appears in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body p.157. “Adultery in the heart is committed no only because a man looks in this way at a woman who is not his wife, but precisely because he looks at a woman in this way. Even if he looked in this way at the woman who is his wife, he could likewise commit adultery with her in his heart.”

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines adultery thus: voluntary sexual intercourse of married person other than with spouse. This semantic nonsense found in the writing of a modern Pope can only make the Church risible, besides being a wicked slander on innocent married folk. The look in the eye of a husband, echoing his marriage proclamation “With my body I thee worship”, is perverted and castigated!   Yes there are husbands who can behave in a boorish manner, and deserve rebuke, but not accusation of adultery! I own to being an ardent lover of my husband, but not that this makes me an adulteress!

Turning now to those letters in the Catholic Herald, Fr Simon Peat quoted Pius XII:  “The Creator, in effect, wished human beings to propagate themselves precisely by the natural exercise of the sexual function”. Rapists, fornicators and adulterers can all do that (sinfully!). Would it not be more accurate to say “The Creator wished human beings to propagate themselves precisely through, and only through, the relationship of marriage.”

Augustine, and all following him till Vatican II, taught that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation – prolesFides and Sacramentum; the other ends of marriage were secondary, at all times, to procreation. As Pius XII, faithful to Augustine, said: “The truth is that marriage, as a natural institution, is not ordered by the will of the Creator towards personal perfection of the husband and wife as its primary end, but to the procreation and education of a new life.  The other ends of marriage, although still part of nature’s plan are not of the same importance as the first.  Still less are they superior.  On the contrary they are essentially subordinate to it” (Midwives 47)

Would it not  be more true to say the purpose of the sacrament of marriage is to set up and sustain a lifelong and unbreakable bond between husband and wife which should form (as said above) the correct milieu into which children should be born and raised?
The unitive, or marital, purpose of intercourse “They two shall be one flesh, therefore are they no longer two but one flesh” is to consummate and sustain the relationship of marriage.

Responsible parenthood was first taught by Pius XII “Serious reasons, often put forward on medical, eugenic, economic and social grounds, can exempt from that obligatory service even for a considerable period of time, even for the entire duration of the marriage” (Midwives 36). He also said (and I confess I find this obscure):
“If, even at the time of the marriage, it was the intention of the man or woman to restrict the marital right itself to periods of sterility, and not merely the use of that right, in such a way that the other partner would not even have the right to demand the act at any other time, that would imply an essential defect in the matrimonial consent. This would invalidate the marriage itself, because the right deriving from the marriage contract is a permanent right, uninterrupted and continuous, of each of the partners in respect of the other.”

Quite so, the relationship of marriage is uninterrupted and continuous, whilst the duty to procreate is an occasional and isolated act within that relationship.  The reason why couples reject the ban on contraception is because it suspends fertility when procreation should not occur, but enables the possible exercise of the marriage right to be uninterrupted and continuous.  NFP on the other hand reverses this, making “openness to fertility” continuous, and the possible exercise of the marriage right out of bounds for the couple  for possibly long periods of the month, this unless they risk the very pregnancy responsible parenthood says they should avoid.

I do not believe anyone outside the marriage has the right to make such a demand.
The question is how did the Magisterium think it has the right to make such a demand?  Noonan’s Contraception gives us the answer, (alas I do not believe anyone on the Pontifical Commission read that book, even though Noonan was their Historical Consultant).  Until 1845, sperm was thought to contain the whole embryo, so coitus interruptus the most common way of birth control, was the spilling and killing of something live.  Furthemore, Augustine taught erroneously and unjustly that all acts of intercourse which were not procreative in intention or form were mortal or venial sin (e.g. intercourse in pregnancy was dubbed mortal sin till the 16th century, so too intercourse in any position other than with the man on top, because this was thought to impede the passage of the sperm to the uterus).  St Paul’s teaching in I Cor 7 that couples should not starve each other in case they were tempted to adultery, was changed to allowing intercourse, if and only if, there were no other way of avoiding infidelity. Augustine believed that thanks to damage to human sexuality resultant upon the Fall, humans had intercourse far in excess of procreative need because they were overcome by lust causing them to seek the physical pleasure in the act, put there to ensure procreation occurred. Having lived in fornication  he dared to say “I feel nothing more turns the masculine mind from the heights than female blandishments and that contact of bodies without which a wife may not be had” (Soliloquies 1 10). This is a travesty of the truth. As different as a devout communicant’s feeling on receiving the Eucharist as an unconverted cannibal!

The truth is Paul VI and John Paul II have not thought through the fact that as Pius XII says in effect: Marriage is a permanent and unalterable contract in which intercourse is intrinsic. In Christ’s words to demand that the couple should not be able to be one flesh for long periods of the month, or completely in cases of HIV/AIDS, is in a very real sense “putting asunder what God has joined together”. Conjugal chastity is not abstinence, but mutual sexual fidelity.

I hope this has been some help in showing some of the theological objections married people have to current teaching.  Far from making the intelligibility of the teaching of John Paul II more clear, the job is to point out that it derives, with slight mutation, from the teaching of Augustine, which is not based on Christ’s teaching in Scripture.

One last point:  In the male the procreative and unitive aspects of the act are always present.  In the woman, orgasm, originating in the clitoris which brings it about, has no reproductive function whatsoever, it is entirely unitive.  The procreative and unitive only occur when sperm meets ovum, then procreation for her is 9 months gestation, labour, and lactation.  You may not know (which I found out through subjective experience) that a pituitary hormone, prolactin, suppresses ovulation in lactation, provided the woman feeds for at least 10 minutes for at least six sessions in 24 hours.  (research was done into this in the 1980s).  Thus Nature herself contracepts to space birth, and again renders the woman sterile at the menopause when she is too old to procreate – she is still capable of orgasm till she dies (her marriage is lifelong!!!)    I would love an answer to these points!

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Church and Society, Moral judgment, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Broadening the battleground

  1. mike Horsnall says:

    I may not be able to ‘answer’ but I can comment. Fundamentally I think you are right. There are two points however ( and I speak as a nearly 60 year old man who remains an ardent lover of his wife)
    I entirely agree as to the unitive nature of sex being seperable from the procreative and that there is a powerful emotional basis of shared trust and vulnerability in sexual intercourse which can act as and continue to reinforce marriage at a profound level; I guess though that the procreative thread should run alongside the unitive overall. I also think that some degree of self contro/ abstinencel is neccessary and mutual.The man who habitually objectifies his wife sexually does act in some way to devalue the sacredness of their marriage-probably vice versa too-so the medieval theologians were on the track of something even if they got lost in the bushes so to speak. This is an excellent topic by the way-well written and thoughtful.

  2. John Nolan says:

    Actually I saw demonstrated somewhere how the female orgasm does have a reproductive function in assisting the passage of the sperm to the ovum. If I remember correctly it occurred during one of those TV programmes which inserts miniature cameras in every part of the body and actually filmed sexual intercourse from the inside.

    • st.joseph says:

      This only helps the sperm when the woman has fertile mucus.They live for 5 days.Without going into too much unnecesary explanations.
      My last comment on John Thomas’s info on the last post really says all I need to say on the subject, unless anyone would like to ask me a question

  3. Vincent says:

    Mike, I don’t know how far your thoughts go in respect of the procreative thread running alongside the unitive. So I wonder whether you would agree with me here.

    I believe that non-contraceptive intercourse is an act of higher and more complete quality than contraceptive intercourse. (Leaving aside the subjective motives of the couple.) Thus I believe that those who are able to use the safe period, while maintaining or even increasing their unity, are greatly to be admired – even if circumstances lead others to contraceptive use.

    It seems to me that losing that conceptive connection is at the heart of the poor collective morals of our society. If we don’t preserve the conceptive nature in practice nevertheless we should remember that it is there, even if we – like the rich young man – turn sadly away.

    • Rahner says:

      “It seems to me that losing that conceptive connection is at the heart of the poor collective morals of our society.” Do you have any empirical evidence to support this claim?

      • Vincent says:

        Yes I can. Remember that I only said “seems to me”. In a matter like this only broad brush evidence is available; correlations indicate cause and effect but cannot demonstrate rigorously.
        I give you a couple of simple examples. One is that we hold the European record for unmarried teen age mothers. I think it reasonable to assume that a factor here is that sexual intercourse is seen by many as a fairly trivial activity, available for pleasure, emotional expression and recreation. This is confirmed by the atmosphere of “sex education” programmes currently being shown on Channel 4. I have only watched one (though seen the trailers for others). The assumption that teenagers will be involved in casual intercourse is patent.
        The second is that we have around 200,000 abortions a year – several times the number of 50 years ago. This suggests strongly that the separation between sexual intercourse and conception runs through society.
        Even the simplest soul can see that sexual intercourse is biologically constructed (or, if you prefer, evolutionarily developed) as the means of propagating the species. In psychological terms it is powerful in bonding the long term relationships required for the good of young. So at a secular level the act is important; at a religious level it is sacred because it is a privileged share in God’s creative activity. So those who think it right to remove the conceptive element of the act should still reverence that element. It can never be trivial.

  4. claret says:

    There is something fundementally insulting ( and ignorant,) in some kind of assumption that married couples are only ever a hairs breath away from animal lust and therefore need to be controlled of their unseemly sexual urges by defining a whole raft of sins that exist between the sheets.
    As is amply demonstrated above this leads to some kind of maze where every act of mutual marital love can have endless interpretations as to its intent.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Vincent,
      “….I believe that non-contraceptive intercourse is an act of higher and more complete quality than contraceptive intercourse….”

      This is an interesting thought. I’m only really going on my own sense here but am perhaps inclined to agree- with the caveat that I would hate to try and construct a theology around your belief. Why do I tend to agree? Purely from coming from a youthful background of cheerful and ignorant promiscuity into a marriage that takes faith seriously and has not included contraception for most of its life..we have only one child still but thats mainly from the point of secondary infertility rather than careful planning.
      Much is written about the perverse impact and damage that is wrought in a society which turns sexuality into a kind of consumer based value free gymnastics and I agree with this critique.
      Few of my friends who came through the sexual revolution of the sixties-religous or not- are proud of their earlier promiscuity and most of us would have rather had fidelity at an earlier age-the procreative aspect of sexuality I would guess emphasises the line of fidelity, obediance and responsibility which are all hallmarks of right character formation all of which yield their fruits in time..also the joy of parenting under the most optimum condition.I guess what we are saying here is not new-sexuality belongs in marriage and the full quality of that union is best brought out within the rubric of potential procreation and the ramification of what that means…

      Rahner before you start please don’t go banging on about infertility etc!!

      • Rahner says:

        Of course promiscuity is damaging to people but the idea that you can counter the “poor collective morals of our society” by insisting that the use of the Pill is always wrong is simply not credible. A more nuanced approach is required.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      This is a wonderfully crisp and well penned post Claret! Could you just elaborate on the
      ‘amply demonstrated above’ bit so I know which bit of the thread has attracted your wrath !!

  5. st.joseph says:

    Vincent,You seem to have put a lot of thought into your comment-as you usually do.
    The understanding you have of human sexuality as the Church teaches ‘now’, and the way God planned it in the beginning.
    We do have to move forward and not allow ourselves to be blindfolded by the negative thinking of others , especially in past centuries who refuse to believe that sexual intercourse is a Gift from God, and something to be enjoyed , neverthless we must keep in line with the Trinity and its Sacredness.
    Within the Sacrament of Marriage. Although I do believe that non-religious people can find happiness in marriage even if they don.t marry in Church. They will also respect the abortifacient effects of most contraceptives and the other effects. As I have taught more non-catholics than catholics.

  6. Rahner says:

    Oh, dear, Quentin, here we go ……again.The “battle” over HV has been fought – and lost- and no amount of verbal gymnastics from JP2 or anyone else is going to reverse this. Price refers to Augustine and provides further evidence ( can any more actually be required?) that it really is time to move on beyond the framework of Augustinian Christianity which is no longer an appropriate means of communicating Christian beliefs.

  7. st.joseph says:

    Rahner would you please enlighten me in your opinion a ‘more ‘appropriate means of communicating Christian beliefs.
    A framework of ‘Raher Christian Christianity” I am very interested to hear it.

    • Rahner says:

      Richard McBrien’s book “Catholicism” will provide a flavour of what I mean.

      • st.joseph says:

        I cant find it Rahner, can you not give your account of it-as you seem to be so impressed by it!

      • st.joseph says:

        Rahner I have just read James Likoudes review of Richard McBriens Book Catholicism.
        I can see where you are coming from!!!
        We believe sometimes what suits us best!!
        We can then apply it to our own conscience.
        We are all entitled to do just that.
        We all may get things wrong-But a humble heart create for me O Lord.
        You have obviously searched for truth-and become satisfied at what you have found.

  8. Gerry says:

    On 24 June 1964 The Times reported a statement made on the previous day by Pope Paul VI, “A problem which everyone talks about, is that of birth control, as it is called, namely, of population increase on the one hand and family morality on the other. It is an extremely grave problem.” Spot on! What a wonderful pope, my favourite by miles, only one mistake, or two if we count the opening to Marxism.

    However, nowadays – in fact ever since the 1970’s and the arrival of political correctness – almost no one talks of the grave problem of population increase, and Catholics are almost the only ones who talk about family morality. I must say that when the talk comes from a married woman and not from “scholars at their desks” in the Vatican the talk is infinitely more worthwhile. Nevertheless, I find it best for myself to keep out of the family morality side of the debate, I just hope that when it is all over almost all types of family planning will be deemed acceptable.

    It’s intriguing to learn that until 1845 sperm was thought to contain the whole embryo so that coitus interruptus was the killing of something live. Much the same type of uncertainty puzzles us today. By the way, although coitus interruptus almost certainly was the most used method of birth control in the 19th century and before, it has now slipped back. The United Nations best guess at the methods used by the 1,178 million ‘women aged 15-49 married or in union’ across the world puts tying the tubes way ahead at 21.3% (female sterilization 18.9% male sterilization 2.4%). So it goes: female sterilization 18.9%; IUD 14.3%; Pill 8.8%; male condom 7.6%; injectable 3.5%; withdrawal 3.1%; rhythm 2.9%; male sterilization 2.4%; implant 0.3%.

  9. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Gerry for those statistics. No mention of Natural Family Planning!
    Female sterilization is only 99% proof. Doctor do not usually do that to women under 30 and single, only in the case of serious health problems.Possible an abortificiant.
    Male sterilization is reversable but not always. A problem if a couple decided eventually to have more children in many cases when there has been a unfortunate loss of a child.
    I dont see it as a matter of birth control,mostly for planning or spacing a family which is acceptable with the church.
    As for coitus interruptus-not a very reliable if one wanted to space a family to keep in line wih responsibile family planning.
    I.U.D -abortificiant.
    Rythym-very unreliable.
    Male condoms-very unreliable.
    ThePill -abortifciant-numerous health risks
    Implants health risks
    Injectables-health risks
    How ignorant we were in the past -little men were thought to creep up to the ovum.
    Professor Janet Smith’s history on N.F.P is worth a read.

    .

  10. Rahner says:

    “You have obviously searched for truth-and become satisfied at what you have found.”
    No theological propositions written by McBrien or anyone else can provide an exhaustive and final expression of the truth about God. As Aquinas remarks in the ST “it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence…”

    • st.joseph says:

      Rahner, so be it.
      This is why I expect most of us are on secondsight blog- to search within science and faith,to help each other to understand some of the difficulties we encounter while seeking it. Jesus said ‘seek and you shall find.
      I have learnt a great deal from contributors,which adds to the little knowledge I may have on a lot of subjects.I hope I have been able to help with the little knowledge I have to on certain subjects. I do really appreciate the comments of others-even if we see things differently. We all have started out in life on different pathways-but we know they will hopefully all lead to God.

  11. Fariam says:

    Re: “NFP on the other hand reverses this, making “openness to fertility” continuous, and the possible exercise of the couple should not be able to be one flesh for long periods of the month, or completely in cases of HIV/AIDS…”

    and again:
    “NFP on the other hand reverses this, making “openness to fertility” continuous, and the possible exercise of the marriage right out of bounds for the couple for possibly long periods of the month”

    Possibly long periods??? Correct me if I´m wrong, but I believe that a woman can POSSIBLY become pregnant for a period of 3-4 days each month. NFP, especially with the new technology now available, makes it possible to know the exact time of POSSIBLE conception. is it really too much to suggest that a couple don´t have sex for 3-4 days?

    And, if we follow this objection through, what of separation (enforced or chosen) from one´s spouse – and hence no sex life – because of separate holidays, a retreat, travelling away due to work, a bout of flu, a stay in hospital, prison, permanent handicap due to an accident, stroke, etc?

    Furthermore, not having full sexual intrcourse hardly prohibits other expressions of warmth, affection, and love over this 3-4 day period…

  12. Iona says:

    Gerry’s statistics only add up to 61.8% (unless my finger slipped on the calculator), – plenty of women left to be using NFP or no form of FP at all.

  13. Gerry says:

    St Joseph, I think that by rhythm the United Nations intend to include NFP i.e. ‘some days yes, some days no, some days…’ that sort of rhythm. The highest users of “rhythm” that I can find are the Mauritians. Their contraceptive use is Withdrawal 26.4%; pill 16%; rhythm 10.1% Female sterilization 8.9%; male condom 8.9%. Their fertility rate is estimated as 1.66 (United Nations) or 1.8 (World Factbook) I think that this is the lowest in Africa, if an island in the Indian Ocean can be called African. This seems to show that withdrawal and to a lesser extent ‘rhythm’ or NFP are useful methods of population control.

    • st.joseph says:

      Thank you Gerry for that information.I think the danger there is – we know the difference,but it can be very misleading for those who dont.
      For those who dont know the Rhythm is based on calendar calculations of previous menstrual cycles. This method does not allow for normal change ,which are quite common.But is useful knowledge for beginers to know.
      The Rhythm method isn’t as reliable as the mucus method alone or the symptothermal
      method and is generally not recommended.

  14. st.joseph says:

    Rahner, I apologise if that offends you. It is a natural function of the body!From the nose.!!

  15. Strewth! says:

    On the other hand, using mucus from the nose to pinpoint ovulation ‘snot a good idea.

  16. claret says:

    Thank you Mike Hornsnall for your comment which i have only just ‘caught up with.’ My reference to the ‘moral maze , as shown above,’ is that which is contained within Elizabeth Price’s article in which she points out the many inconsistencies over the years of theologians , including Popes, on sexual teachings.
    I would add to those inconsistencies the recent one by the present pope on when the use of a condom might be legitimate.

    • st.joseph says:

      I find it very reassuring to read the comments to Elizabeth Price from the contributors who have given a great deal of thought to such a difficult but important subject.
      I said in the beginning that I didn’t have anything else to say on the subject, and I really feel most has been said .
      Neverthless I want to make a few observations first -to Elizabeth Price regarding some of the points she made and asked for our opinions.
      First I dont understand her thoughts on the reproductive side of the female and her comparison to the male.
      Yes, the fertility of the female is twelve half days a year+sperm survival.I am sure she will agree that that isn’t a very long time for abstinence,as Fariem made the excellent response, neverthless she commented , if I read it correctly, that the female didn’t play a big part in reproduction.If she will read the embrology, and the Prepubertal Development and Puberty she will understand just how much the female contributes from ‘nigh ‘on conception of herself. It is not all about sexual intercourse-although that of course is necessary-but not to undermine her sexuality as a women. She is not just a baby carrier.
      The male sperm can not live longer than a day without a women being fertile, so he doesn’t play much of a part at all. The female is an on going course of events all through her menstual cycle. Enough said on that.

      The CCC gives a very clear account of adultry. It is best in my opinion to leave past Popes and theologians to rest in peace.
      Sorry Claret ,I was a little disappointed with your last comment-I thought you would have given a more positive reply.

      I would be very happy if Elizabeth Price would give some feedback it would be interesting to know her thoughts-also on the article- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex in Heaven and A Heavenly Reading of The Earthly Riddle of Sex.

      .

      • st.joseph says:

        Another addition to Elizabeth Price’s comments above.
        She says on long term abstinence ,’ I dont believe anyone out side the marriage has the right to make such demands, Noonans ‘Contraception’ gives us the answer (alas I do not believe anyone on the Pontifical Council Commission read that book ,even though Noonan was their Historical Consultant)’.

        If one wants to know the answer to her statement, one can read The Morality of Contraception.www.ewtn.com/library/marriage/sexsan.txt.
        Essay no 6 says. The essays by Noonan and Wright ,seriously misinterpret and distort the teaching of the Church, and do so primarily beacuse the authors fail to understand what conception is and why the church teaches that the choice to contracept is morally wrong.
        It will explain a lot.

  17. Gerry says:

    Iona, Very many thanks for checking the statistics. In decades of writing these types of notes you are the first one to check, unless, of course, many have checked but found them OK and didn’t comment.
    The discrepancy you noted is due mainly to my belief that most people do not like too many statistics, so I left some out that I thought not to be essential. Here is a fuller list: Of the approximately 1,178 million women in the world aged 15-49 married or in union, roughly 62.7% use some form of contraception. Roughly 18.9% use female sterilization – I’ll leave out the roughly or approximately from now on – 2.4% use male sterilization, 8.8% the pill, 3.5% injectables, 0.3% implant, 14.3% IUD, 7.6% male condom, 0.2% vaginal barrier, 2.9% “rhythm” (incl. NFP), 3.1% withdrawal, 0.6% other traditional methods. That leaves 37.3% without any contraception, either because they cannot get it, or because they don’t need it. (Those numbers add up to 62.6%, still 0.1% out. Why, I don’t know. Your guess will be better than mine.)
    Plenty of people take the same view of statistics as Benjamin Disraeli is said by some to have done, but they do simplify problems and the present group of statistics shouldn’t mislead if they are accepted as reasonable approximations.
    I find the figures on the internet at http://www.unpopulation.org On the list find World Contraceptive use and click Wall chart, and then click Front side (data)

    Thanks again for checking

  18. mike Horsnall says:

    Richard Mcbrien:Yet, on examining the third edition of Catholicism, we find McBrien’s unsatisfactory presentations of Catholic doctrine persisting in precisely the areas noted by the Bishops’ Committee, such as the sinfulness of contraception and homosexual acts (e.g., pp. 982-992; 996-1000). For McBrien, such moral questions are to be left up to the supremacy of individual conscience – meaning, in practice, that an individual will be guided by the views of a paramagisterium of theologians and scholars rather than the Magisterium.

    For McBrien, papal judgments in matters of faith and morals (if not infallibly proclaimed) do not bind the consciences of the faithful: “The Church has never explicitly claimed to speak infallibly on a moral question, so there is probably no instance as yet of a conflict between an individual’s fallible decision in conscience and a teaching of the Church which is immune from error … While Catholics give antecedent attention and respect to official teachings, they must also take account of other sources of moral reflection and counsel, e.g., their associates, the findings of scientific disciplines, the Bible, the writings of theologians …” (pp. 973-974).

    McBrien’s book denies the fact that the historical Christ founded the Catholic Church as a visible society with the mission to “teach all nations” (p. 577): “Did Jesus intend to found a Church? The answer is ‘No’ If by ‘found’ we mean some direct, explicit, deliberate act by which Jesus established a new religious organisation … One should not be surprised, therefore, to find no evidence of a specific act of founding a Church or of gathering together a community of the elect … ‘The majority of scholars today support the assumption that Jesus expected the end to come soon’ (see Frederick J. Cwiekowski, The Beginnings of the Church, p. 44).”

    For McBrien the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, but are the products of the later Christian communities who concocted miraculous events as a method of conveying certain “theological meanings” and for communicating their faith in Christ as divine (pp. 341-343).

    McBrien depicts Christ as if he did not always know who he was. Taking his cue from certain biblical scholars, he attributes both ignorance and error to Christ: “Did Jesus, finally, know himself to be the unique Son of God? It is true that Jesus spoke of God as his Father in such a way as to suggest a special, intimate relationship. But there is no incontrovertible proof that he claimed a unique sonship not open to other persons” (p. 551). McBrien even supports the case that Christ could have sinned (p. 547).

    The Church’s dogmatic definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are viewed as not belonging to the essential core of the faith, so that one can still be a good member of the Church in sincerely rejecting them (pp. 1102-1103).

    The author plays down the Catholic doctrine affirming that the sacrament of ordination brings about an intrinsic change in the priest’s relationship to Christ and the Church: “It is not clear,” writes McBrien, “… that anyone in particular was commissioned to preside over the Eucharist in the beginning … There is no compelling evidence that they presided when they were present, or that a chain of ordination from Apostle to bishop to priest was required for the presiding” (pp. 866-867).

    The moral theory of proportionalism (as developed by Fr Richard McCormick) is defended despite its rejection by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor (pp. 966-967), while the Pope’s teaching on the relationship between individual conscience and the magisterium as set forth in the same encyclical is distorted; the theory of “fundamental option” censured by the Pope in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (1984) is still proposed (p. 797; 957-967).

    McBrien’s “understanding” of the doctrine of Original Sin reads as follows: “Although the later doctrine of Original Sin has been read back into Paul’s Letter to the Romans, neither biblical scholars nor theologians would agree that it is, in fact, there” (p. 186); “Contemporary theologians, especially Rahner, reject the notion that Original Sin is simply the sin of the first human being or is a matter of collective guilt. These views, they hold, cannot be sustained biblically or theologically” (p. 198).

    McBrien denies that the concept of infallibility (indispensable for the certainty of Catholics regarding faith and morals) is contained in the New Testament: “The concept of infallibility does not appear in the New Testament, although the concern for sound doctrine does. There was, however, a growing conviction in the early centuries of the Church that Rome, and the bishop of Rome in particular, was a reliable touchstone of orthodoxy. And yet popes were conceded to have erred in matters of faith” (p. 781). The hierarchical infallibility of the Church is, in fact, nullified by McBrien’s version of a two-fold magisterium, i.e., the official hierarchical one and that of the “magisterium of the theologians” (pp. 65-70).

  19. mike Horsnall says:

    Sorry the above is Richard Mc Briens ,Catholicism-3rd edition being reviewed in AD2000

  20. mike Horsnall says:

    And here’s one I profoundly like from Karl Rahner himself –

    What Christian faith teaches is never communicated merely by a conceptual indoctrination from without, but is and can basically be experienced through the supernatural grace of God as a reality in us… an awakening, a mystagogy into this original, grace-filled religious experience is today of fundamental importance.”15…Karl Rahner in dialogue

    Rahner perhaps we have ‘outed’ you here as one of a tribe?

  21. Rahner says:

    Gosh! Mike,even more to discuss. Am I supposed to be shocked or something?

  22. claret says:

    I am unsure if I should now burn my copy of copy of Richard Mcbriens ‘Catholicism.’ Am I in danger of being branded a heretic for keeping it ?
    Incidentally i have not looked at every reference that Mike Horsnall quotes from McBriens book but discussion of differing possibilities are not statements of fact. For example Mike’s assertion that McBride (on page 547) ‘supports the case that Christ could have sinned,’ is a selective extraction from a wider article that makes no such support but simply looks at the possibility. If any conclusions are to be drawn then they are that McBride suppports the view that Christ was sinless. (I too have to paraphrase a much wider discussion of the point.)
    Similar assertions by Mike fall into the same category of selective quotes witout reference to the wider context in which they appear. This is misleading. Whether it is intended to be so is not for me to judge but the assertions made are worthy of challenge.

    • Rahner says:

      “Am I in danger of being branded a heretic for keeping it ?” I guess so. But at least you actually read the book!

  23. st.joseph says:

    Claret, as I said in a previous comment James Likoudes has written a review on Richard McBreins Book.
    James Likoudes review felt to me that it touched on the much ultra modernism thinking which I would blame on the lack of faith and bad instruction we have found over the years in the Church and in our schools.I am not against increasing our knowledge, and I wouldnt suggest you burn the book as I am sure you would know the difference between Truth and error. Neverthless I would not like it to be placed in the hands of my children or grandchildren-who would may be led away from the True meaning of the Church that Jesus came to teach us and died for.
    It is like playing into Satans hands- Lead us not into temptation-but deliver us from all evil.Amen. I have seen too much of this thinking for around 30 or 40 years now, and am not surprised that there are not many vocations to the ‘religious life’. Its was very heartwarming to see the youth in Spain for the World Youth Day. It gives us Hope!That they are following the Holy Father and
    listening to his words-because he has the words of Eternal Life.

    • Rahner says:

      “I would not like it to be placed in the hands of my children or grandchildren”…..They won’t have a mature faith if they are confined to an intellectual ghetto.

  24. mike Horsnall says:

    No no no children, the critique is just a long quote from AD 2000-I didnt write it I was just looking at it and found it interesting so I put it up for you… The point by Karl Rahner (posted at 5.01 pm) is as I say a profound thing…put away your flaming torches girls and boys!!

  25. st.joseph says:

    Mike.Then we would be like the unwise virgins, who didnt have enough oil in their lamps

    .

    • st.joseph says:

      Just on a lighter note.Google. ‘Give up yer aul sins ‘and listen to a class room of young children in Dublin- in the 60s speaking on the New Testament. How many children to day would be able to say it like they did.It has won so many animated film awards. A real treasure.

      • John Nolan says:

        A couple of generations ago McBrien’s book would have been placed on the Index and its author excommunicated. Thankfully we have moved on since then. Although his views on a number of issues are clearly heterodox, there is no point in making a martyr of an ageing modernist well past his sell-by date. Owning a heretical book, or even accessing the website of the National Catholic Reporter does not make one a heretic – I have a copy somewhere of Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ – and McBrien and his ilk no longer even irritate me. They belong to the era of Cortina Mk IIIs (canary yellow with a black vynil roof), flared trousers and Abba cassettes, an era which ended more than ten years before the present generation of undergraduates and seminarians was even born.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Ho ho ho ho…thats quite witty really!

  26. Rahner says:

    “A couple of generations ago McBrien’s book would have been placed on the Index and its author excommunicated. Thankfully we have moved on since then.” Careful John! Sounds like dangerous modernism creeping in.

  27. Momangelica says:

    Crumbs!
    “Unless you become like little children you will not get into heaven” Our Lord said; or some phrase like that.
    What a comfort that sentence is as your “high brow” conversations leave me behind. Yet! I know in my heart the truths of the Church without all these dilemma’s of books and opinions.
    I am familiar with Elizabeth Price. She is someone quite prominent in Catholics for a changing Church. ( I always ask the question why? There is the Church of England, which has all the things Mrs Price bangs on about, for her to embrace.) It is not only contraception Mrs Price wants Catholics to accept as a norm.
    The road to Hell is wide and most likely cheerful. The road to Heaven will be hard and rough.
    We have to take up our cross or we are not followers of our Lord.

    My husband and I started out without our own roof over our head and when I became pregnant within three months of our marriage he had not found employment. He had left art college and it was not an easy thing to just walk into a job. By the time I was seven months, still no work; I suggested we prayed the Rosary together which, him being a recent convert, was a strange concept for him. We prayed that he would have a job before the baby was born. While I was on the labour bed he recieved a letter to say he had an acceptance for a job. What a witness for him!
    Six babies later after 34 years of marriage, there was hard work, joys, disappointments, teenage battles etc. But the prayer (which we were not that good at times ) came to our rescue.
    Fidelity! Not just in marriage, to one’s partner but to God and his Churches teachings. You can listen to all the opinions of anybody and everyone and read endless books. (I would throw away the Theology of the Body by Pope JP11 if I were you) But the simplist thing is ask yourself ” Is this co-operation with the instruction to all creation “Go, Multiply,” (Genesis 1)
    Contraception is declared an intrinsic evil by the Holy Father and I believe it is part of the Anti-Christ.
    It kills women and caused the death of babies to name a couple of it’s ills.

  28. mike Horsnall says:

    Hi Momangelica,

    I would agree with your sentiments completely were it not for the fact that my early church life and hence the dawnings of ‘formal’ religious experience over a period of10 years was devoted to the Charismatic housechurch. They really emphahsise the experiential non theological (no long books and arguments) way of doing things…..trouble is they all argued like cats and dogs and almost no one really believed their doctrines!!!
    So we do have to hammer it out in the here and now. The Karl Rahner quote I posted awhile ago (29th August 501pm) says just what you have said-Christianity is basically experiential not abstract intellectual in its apprehending.

  29. mike Horsnall says:

    Hang on Mr Nolan, I used to wear flares and had my eyes on a Cortina once….Abba cassettes were a little bit liberal for me though being a born again Blues fan….perhaps I should make my first trip to Oscott yet another general confession in the hope of being saved from the flames.

    • John Nolan says:

      Mike, don’t get me wrong – ‘the decade that taste forgot’ was the decade of my 20s and I have many happy memories of it. But it was a disastrous period for the Catholic Church under the leadership of a disillusioned and despairing Pontiff (please pray for him) and things only began to improve after 1978.

  30. Momangelica says:

    Karl Rahner is not a man I would in the least listen to Mike. He has issues with the Catholic Doctrines and is held up as a dissident by many orthodox Catholics.
    I go to the Saints for reference on many occasions, after all they are the signposts and beacons to follow in the dark.
    I have many friends in the Charismatic Movement but it does not convince me. I love reading Mike and particularly religious books but Doctrines are for the Holy Roman Church to give us not self appointed souls. The Pontiff is our leader, not our Bishops; they carry out his commands.
    What I’m trying to say, but poorly, is that it is really very simple to understand how to be a true Catholic without getting tangled in “opinions” and fooling oneself so that you can take the easy road.

  31. st.joseph says:

    Momangelica.
    I appreciate what you say, you speak a lot of sense.But I wouldnt suggest that anyone throw away Blessed John Paul 2nds Theology of the Body .His lectures have been an inspiration to many to help them to understand human sexuality in a spititual sense.
    You are very blessed to have 6 children. I have been blessed with 2 but unfortunately a lot of miscarriages, and a lot of illness. NFP is not contraception and it is the way that
    God made females.We need to understand how our bodies work-to plan a family and space.
    When someone has lost a child as I nearly lost my son also with the miscarriages later, it makes one more aware that we need information about our bodies. It is through ignorance in the past and still why so many babies are aborted.I havent know woman who have used fertility awareness to have used it indiscrimately.

  32. st.joseph says:

    To add to my comment above.Women have been without this knowledge for years.It is not always the case that we are liberated with knowledge about our bodies. Large families were not always happy families,as were small families.Not everyone is able to cope either physically or mentally.Catholics for a Changing Church ,on the other hand I believe that the only way we will be liberated is with knowledge. Not so -the femenist ‘movement’ have got it all wrong!But.. are too blind to see.Virginity is a good and holy thing if that is what one is called to be.Marriage is for the family whether large or small.
    I take Elizabeth Price’s comment on her being an ardent lover with her husband and that does not make her an adultress, but it doesn’t always and I say always ‘not’ make them one either! Especially if their marriage does not consist of a pure heart. I believe that is the meaning of Jesus’s words, ‘Unless you become like little children

  33. Elizabeth Price says:

    St.Joseph, You havent got the point about adultery – as the dictionary says it involves a married person having intercourse with (or lustful thoughts about) someone who is not the spouse. What I was trying to convey was that in terms of Mt 19 4-6 the sexual instinct is all about encouraging newly mature young people to leave father and mother, go out courting, finding a spouse to whom they should cleave for life, and that at the consumation of marriage the couple cease to be two seperate individuals and become part of a duality formed by God which man may never pull apart.. Unfortunately in the secular community we live in, casual extra-marital sex at the adolescent stage (leaving father and mother) has become a hideous mess in some instances. Particularly where there is no FATHER, or possibly no loving mother (instead a promiscuous drug addict at worst), so the adolescent goes out to find affection, the quickest route to which is sex because this gives them the feeling of being wanted. Pregnancy results and we have the abortion scenario, or the fatherless child cycle all over again.
    I admit, and am utterly thankful for it, that it was my sense of offending God, who was a lovling Father beyond any father, that kept me (almost) on the straight and narrow till I married at 27.
    Thus I long for Christianity to be the same credible and powerful pull towards morality for other young people as it was to me.
    I believe the ban on contraception is a huge turn off. Very few can see any malice in it. Yes it can be abused as can alcohol, but that does not mean to say that because it can be abused with such awful consequences that alcholol is intrinsicallly evil, as the Church says contraception is.
    I admit I am not up to date with the latest NFP data. Who knows exactly how long the sperm can live for ina hospitable female tract? All I know is we abstained for week on our honeymoon and I came back pregnant. I was of the very fertile type who could only (at that time) “trust” the 10 days before the next period.. That meant abstinence for most of the month had I not got pregnant again, and spent the next happy years either pregnant or lactating (with no ovulation or menstruation) till I weaned the last child to have the next!
    The wider point of my writing is to say the Church has so far been ACT centred in its moralizing. Arguing that fertilization is the most important function of the act, tampering with fertility is sinful. I am pleading that teaching should become RELATIONSHIP based, and that intercourse is intrinsic to the relationship of marriage, and ordering its cessation at given points, as does NFP is to change the nature of marriage because it is saying “No you may not be one flesh unless you risk conceiving the child, an act which at that moment you should avoid for valid reasons.

  34. st.joseph says:

    Elizabeth Price.I think you are mising the point.We have moved on since you and I got married
    We didn’t have the accurate know how of N.F.P. In a way I wouldn’t regret that now as I wouldn’t have the two children I have
    I know all about young girls and teenage pregnancy-having giving them homes-when their parent ‘threw them out0 to use their expression.
    I dont think using the infertile time for responsible family planning is the seperation of flesh-it unites us to the Blessed Trinity with the Sacrament of Marriage.
    The dictionary doesn’t tell us that abortion is killing a unborn child!
    N.F.P is for married couples and the teaching of the Church-I dont suppose for one minute promiscuity is the Churches fault, because She teaches it.
    Perfect marriages as they say -are made in Heaven-and their will be no contraception there!

  35. Elizabeth Price says:

    momangelica I did not know till I was breast feeding my eldest son that the pituitary secretes a hormone – prolactin – which suppresses ovulation and menstruation in lactation. In the 1980s research was done into this in the USA, UK, Mexico and Norway which showed that provided the woman fed at least 6 times for periods of 10 minutes or more she would not conceive because of this hormone. My second son aged 18 months would not go to sleep unless he fed. I therefore dropped my feeding episodes to 2. I ovulated and that ovum was fertilized without any period occurring. I did not realize I was pregnant until my daughter started kicking me..I then breast fed her for 18 months and conceived again with only one period in between. NFP is claimed as “Divine Will” in planning families. I say prolactin is a God-Given contraceptive to space the family, and I cannot see why a bottle feeding woman cannot take the Pill to achieve the same sterility. Similarly as God arranges that a woman becomes sterile at the menopause, why she should not anticipate that sterility with contraception when her family is complete – in terms of responsible parenthood. I had precisely two periods in the first 10 years of my marriage, going from pregnancy to lactation to pregnancy – so I was able, (as I see it) to act as a wife in having sexual intercourse with complete freedom when the need for oneness of the flesh seemed to require it. Contraception also gives that complete freedom. NFP says that in the presence of an ovum which should not be fertilized a wife may not be fully a wife. This demand made by the Church only came into existance when the ovulation cycle became known. Surely if it was God’s will that we should live marriage in this ON/OFF way we would have found out about it sooner.I think, like other mammals we are designed to alternate between pregnancy and lactation. Sadly as momangelica suffered, the female body does not always act perfectly – it miscarries, it has pre-eclampsia and other aberrations like Rh incompatibility.
    As a nurse in the 1950s I saw the moral trauma of many women whose health precluded further pregnancies. One would only have stillbirths at 6 months. She had had six of these. The obstetricians told her to be sterilized. Her priest told her to live as brother and sister with her husband. She said “But I am not his sister I am his wife”. She was stating a profound truth about marriage – sexual intercourse is intrinsic to the marital relationship. Again I ask – what right has any moral authority outside the marriage to impose intermittent continence on a couple as NFP does, or total continence, instead of using condoms in HIV/AIDS?
    The dictum “The primary purpose of marriage is procreation” is to move to stage 2 before state 1 which is to set up and sustain the only relationship in which procreation should occur! Heaven knows we have a very difficult task in convincing people that having children outside marriage is not what God intends, or of any benefit to the children concerned, What we ought to be doing is explaining that the interpersonal sexual magnetism between man and woman is not an instant demand to be gratified outside marriage, but the God-given glue within marriage which should hold us together.
    Sadly in accordance with the thinking of Augustine, this magnetism is still seen, not as the holding power of marriage but the pull of lust resultant upon the Fall. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1606 headed Marriage under the regime of sin states “As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman.. There relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust.” Gen. 3 16 is cited to support this “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall have dominion over you” I am very sorry, I think this is another semantic gaffe of huge magnitude – I can say my desire is for the Lord and he has dominion over me, in a lesser way, so does my husband! Dominion is not domination. The other thing I want to say is that I think this an appalling attack on God himself – to make the relationship he designed most adults to live in, no longer a cause of love and joy, but a miserable sin trap, is impossible to believe. Yes individual actual sin in marriage can be hugely damaging, leading to divorce and the rest, but to see marriage as a constant battle against lust is an appalling misunderstanding!

  36. st.joseph says:

    The Art of Natural Family Planning-by John and Sheila Kippley.
    First published in 1979,second publication 1982.
    This knowledge was always there but was not accepted as a Family Planning Method,as so many women were already taking te pill
    This book is mainly for teachers put nevertless I dont see why it can’t be given to all women to read-althou we have plenty of info on the Web.
    Page 217.
    Can any mother nurse? In the briefest terms yes,yes; any any normal women can nurse.However,the ignorance and misinformation about breast-feeding in a bottle feeding culture have led many women to think that they could not nurse successfully.
    Nature intends the baby to nurse more frequently,and it is ‘frequent’ suckling that normally provides the side effect of extended natural infertility. No woman can nurse while taking any form of the birth control pill,including the mini-pill. The pill may decrease or dry up the mother’s milk supply, the artificial hormones may affect the baby through the mothers milk and the Pill can significantly reduce the protein content of breastmilk
    Menstruation and pregnancy are not reasons to wean.
    One reading this book will realise that information was available as this was printed,long before 1982,it is just that through ignorance, no one found out-very much like to-day!.
    We are not speaking about HIV here!
    The presence of ovum when a wife can not be a wife is a rather ridiculous statement. A wife is life long committment-through all trials and errors, not during the fertile time only.
    We know the damage a contraceptive pill can endanger a wife- I am sure consideration from the husband must come into their relationship. Releasing an ovum does not make for a happy marriage as many women are infertile.
    The statistics for divorce and I can find them if anyone would like to know is practically nil with those using NFP.

  37. hs905883 says:

    Elisabeth Price:

    “…..What we ought to be doing is explaining that the interpersonal sexual magnetism between man and woman is not an instant demand to be gratified outside marriage, but the God-given glue within marriage which should hold us together….”

    I don’t think this could have been put better. I wonder if the demands of celibacy make neccessary a more negative view of sexuality hence the identification of sexual magnetism as ‘lust’ even within marriage.

  38. st.joseph says:

    Do you believe the reason why priests dont marry is because the church thinks its lustful!
    There is plenty of reading about the Sacrament in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have never read that is lustful!I think that you may be interpreting it wrongly!
    We all know that proper sexual education is needed in our schools.
    Bishop O’Donoghue had the proper answer- but no one took it up. Chastity is not a virtue to-day!
    What is wrong with proper marriage instructions including NFP.
    Girls wouldn’be single mothers if boys were made to face up to their responsilitys.
    Boys dont become pregnant You dont see many single boys pregnant.
    No -but you will see plenty outside Marie Stopes abortion Clinics!Waiting for them.
    We can not pick and choose the churches teachings-we get married in church, there for we ought to respect what it teaches,or else why bother
    I didnt get married so that I could have intercourse ,but to have a family,thats the glue that stuck us together

    • st.joseph says:

      I dont think we should be now confusing the issue with conraception.We are perhaps falling into a little trap here-by changing the subject ‘slightly’!!!!!!.
      The point that Elizabeth Price made if I have it right was the Pill and our free will to have intercourse when want, and contraception was against Gods Will in marriage.

  39. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, I would like to thank Elizabeth Price for replying to my request for her comments.
    I do hope these have been helpful to her!

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