A quandary

In the Working Paper for the Synod there is a paragraph which seems to have put the cat amongst the pigeons. It reads:

137. In relation to the rich content of Humanae Vitae and the issues it treats, two principal points emerge which always need to be brought together. One element is the role of conscience as understood to be God’s voice resounding in the human heart which is trained to listen. The other is an objective moral norm which does not permit considering the act of generation a reality to be decided arbitrarily, irrespective of the divine plan of human procreation. A person’s over-emphasizing the subjective aspect runs the risk of easily making selfish choices. An over-emphasis on the other results in seeing the moral norm as an insupportable burden and unresponsive to a person’s needs and resources. Combining the two, under the regular guidance of a competent spiritual guide, will help married people make choices which are humanly fulfilling and ones which conform to God’s will.

It may take you more than a few minutes (as it did for me) to understand just what this means. I even wonder whether it was intended to be too complex for comprehension. But, as far as It can make out, it suggests that there can well be a conflict between the law of God, as witnessed by the Church’s moral authority, and the conclusion of the individual conscience in the light of subjective circumstances. And that neither of these should be over emphasised in the decision.

If I am right, then the document makes explicit two channels of moral thought. One channel says that if we open ourselves to God in the decisions of conscience, we may well conclude that the law as stated does not necessarily apply. We may perhaps believe that the expression of the law is incorrect, or that other moral factors in our situations may overrule the law in this case. Whether we are right or wrong in this, we are bound to follow the conclusion of our reason.

The other view says that if we are truly open to God, we will always conclude that the law, in matters of intrinsic right or wrong, is absolute. Apparent exceptions are illusory because a defiance of God’s law can never be in our true interests. Our failure to see this comes from our unwillingness to listen to the law in our hearts. We are thus at fault. This purports to show that our conscience remains free since the two sources: first, our free rational recognition of the good and, second, the law which explicitly witnesses to the good, are both ultimately from God. And God does not contradict himself.

Since the paragraph is concerned with Humanae Vitae we might test these principles in terms of this statement from its para 11: “The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law…teaches us as absolutely required that any use whatever of marriage must retain its natural potential to procreate human life.” (Italics as in HV)

Have I understood the issue correctly or is there another and better interpretation? If I am correct, should I be concerned about a semi official document which suggests that my subjective evaluation of a moral question could properly take precedence over a law taught through the authority of the Church? Or should I accept that if I cannot recognise the moral law, as the Church happens to teach it, I am failing to open myself to God’s law in my heart?

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About Quentin

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

69 Responses to A quandary

  1. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    Dominating and domineering is the statement, also it is in error, for the Church, God’s people are not under the Law which no man could keep, but under GRACE.
    And who do these people think they are talking to? The world outside the Church needs the Gospel
    about our sinnership. But if this statement is applied to the body of Christ as a whole, they would have us under the Law again. Man in his natural fallen state cannot fulfil the Law.

    also note, that the emphasis in the statement gives their opinion of Gospel truth, but it is far from Gospel truth, Self serving, bullying, threatening the statement is.
    Do they not know the Law condemns us all. The man who is religious, is not necessarily under Grace purchased for us by Christ, and communicated to us and applied by the Holy Spirit.
    So what spirit is behind this statement you have provided?

    • pnyikos says:

      When St. Paul says ‘the Law’ he is speaking of the Torah. Contraception may be an extension of the sin of Onan but that is the only place where the Church’s teaching on the matter of contraception interfaces the innumerable precepts of the Torah .

      And, of course, we ARE under some of the precepts of the Torah including the ten commandments. So I am sure what you are referring to when you say, “they would have us under the Law again.”

      • pnyikos says:

        I meant that I am NOT sure what you are referring to…

      • St.Joseph says:

        pnyikos.
        Pope Pius X1 quoting the Church Fathers, Casti Cannubi 31 December 1930 .It is illicit and shameful for a man to lie with even his wife as to prevent the conception of offspring.
        That is what Onan used to do.

        Are we to believe now that this is not a sin anymore, and does not need the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be forgiven?

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, the ‘sin of Onan’ is nowadays understood to refer to Onan’s refusal to fulfil his obligation to his widowed brother’s wife. Nothing to do with the morality of contraception or masturbation..

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Tell me what your thoughts are on Casti Cannubi then?
        I take that also as a sin of the spilling of sperm!
        . Do you not believe that the spilling of sperm is a sin too?
        Or to be ‘blunt’ not placing it where it was ordered by God.
        That does not mean to say that a women needs to be fertile before sexual intercourse, however it does mean that there is a place and time for everything!!

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, I was only pointing out that the Onan incident is not generally thought to be a scriptural prohibition for masturbation or contraception. You would need other arguments for those.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent thank you..

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Your comment ‘under GRACE, is an important statement!
      We do need God’s Grace, it is a supernatural gift from Him.
      I think of those who go to the Sacrament of Reconcillation often some weekly some monthly, I do wonder if one is committing the same sin over and over again, or are more sins being committed along the way, or is the Grace one receives at absolution not enough to remain in the state of grace.and to strenghten us to remain and live in His Grace. without sin?
      Is it possible to live a sinless life in Christ? If so how does one do that.
      I ask you as I think you may know the answer!

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        In my pastoral experience, yes, some do have sins they have great difficulty overcoming,
        particularly the sins of the flesh and of the mind. Even some Saints struggled with such things for many years.

        First, before we go into what GRACE is actually, we need to clearly see what a Christian truly is?
        Secondly, Salvation, all of it, is a work of the Grace of God.
        To answer your last question, let me ask you first, is the priest that gives absolution sinless? All the way up the heirachical ladder to the Pope, even Francis recently refered to himself as a sinner. He is right.

        Grace is God’s unmerited favour, not something we are capable of attaining. In our sinnership we often have the tendency to forget Him, forget whose we are, and Whom we serve, just like the childern of God in the OT and sadly in the NT. Is it any different today –
        I don’t see it.
        The Church, that is all of us are in such a poor state, we don’t need more organization, more pontifical pronouncements, more synodal meeting after meeting, but more GRACE!

        Of course we need organization, and reports, synodal meetings but that is just the general running of the Church, but is not enough, we need more and above the general run of things, don’t we? It is obviously failing, and more meetings and discussions at this level
        is useless, is it not?
        Have we honestly looked at the Christian Church over the say, the last 120 years or so?
        The Churches are not so well attended, the newspapers tell us gloating at us just how small we have become. Sin in all its forms is increasing. The need for Grace of God, and to know God goes with us is vital and obvious dont you think?
        So what are we to do about it?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        Thank you.
        I agree with you. What we do- I dont really know, except prayer, Also teaching our children to pray.
        Are we as parents failing to do that , I hate to say this,but fear of the Lord God Almighty, would nowadays not be a bad place to begin!!
        Of course that would not go down too well, it would probably be called ‘child abuse’!

  2. John de Waal says:

    I have argued in the past that that the Church’s teaching on contraception is absolute but that the responsibility of the individual may vary. The Catechism puts it like this :

    “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments and other psychological or social factors.” (CCC.No.1735).

    Perhaps this explains the passage from the Working Paper.

    • St.Joseph says:

      One must not confuse contraception with abortifacients.
      Ref my 2 comments on conscience on the Up heavel of change!

    • Martha says:

      I think this sums up the situation regarding contraception and marriage and all God’s laws. We need the gold standard of what God requires and how he wishes us to live our lives, and we must hope and pray that it is reaffirmed by the current Synod.

      However, we cannot judge how many of these caveats apply in individual situations, even sometimes with our own choices. We must very often, in difficult situations, pray for enlightenment and courage. If we truly love God, no price is too high, and nothing is too hard, but some of us are far from being saints. Sometimes we can think, this is too hard for me, I am not strong enough, we do not call on God’s grace, or perhaps we cannot. We think God will forgive me, He will temper the wind to the shorn lamb.

      It is very humbling and inspiring to see so many Christians persecuted by Isis who do not renounce their faith and endure cruel deaths rather than deny Christ. Would we all have the courage? Would God forgive us if we betrayed Him?

      We probably all know of a particular man or woman who has been deserted by their spouse, even losing their children as well, and who have remained steadfastly celibate and true to their vows, but many others who find this is something they cannot, or do not understand that they should.

      We must have the ideal to aim for, and good sound teaching to explain it, but ways of understanding those who do not achieve it, which it seems is what the Synod is grappling with.

  3. ignatius says:

    Yes I think thats the spirit of it John. I don’t think its a matter of the ‘subjective’ taking precedence only that the subjective is if you like the field of action for the principle.

  4. pnyikos says:

    Is paragraph 137 official, or is it up for a vote as to whether it is adopted or not?

    In spirit, the statement is midway between the present Magisterium and the generally lax interpretation of “conscience” that prevailed in the USA immediately after Vatican II and is slowly losing momentum. The latter simply says that everyone is allowed to follow his or her conscience if enough thinking has gone into the decision. The canonical interpretation insists that one’s conscience needs to be “well formed” according to the Magisterium.

    As I understood it, these two positions coincide with the two you have given, but presented in the opposite order.

  5. Galerimo says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to this extraordinary statement. I had to read it a few times too in order to try and make sense. I am don’t know if I have succeeded yet. The sanctity of informed conscience and the existence of the objective moral order are the usual prongs of this argument and the “via media” is the personal choice made in God’s grace. There is the “epikeia” that I can and usually do resort to in order to navigate these finely nuanced situations. The emboldened words in your article “and neither of these should be overemphasised” is an interpretation with which I would agree. It feels to me like holding a different lens – a refreshing and enlightening one over the the classic argument that concerns conscience and law.

  6. ignatius says:

    Galerimo,
    Thats well fleshed out, could you just, for my sake, explain what “epikeia” means to you in this context.Being in prison chaplaincy I find this discussion interesting and helpful. If you have time and could also add a few basic words about why you see this ‘different’ lens as refreshing and enlightening over’ the classic argument’ I would be really grateful. Its not easy I find to get these subjects illumined and my understanding is quite rudimentary.

  7. Brendan says:

    You are right Quentin. The Working Document for the 2015 Synod – the contentious ‘ Instrumentum Laboris ‘ ( in effect the relabelling of the ‘ Relatio Synodi ‘ of The Extraordinary Synod of 2014 ) – ….” makes explicit two channels of moral thought. ”
    Reading through it carefully again and again , it has dawned on me how ‘ un-Catholic ‘ and how ‘ pro-Protestant ‘ Chapter 137 in its essence. The immutability of natural law ( in which Gods pleasure is revealed ) cannot be divided into two moral ‘parts ‘. Ch.137 proposes that God can be seen by the world to work separately through His own action and through ‘ historical precedence .’ When this dualistic approach is taken on moral issues , eg. contraception – a compromise inevitably applies. Immutable moral law – the basis of Catholic Teaching – is compromised by the overlay of subjective history ( a second moral channel ) which . apart from spreading confusion among’st the faithful , denies the immutable teaching of the Church which , ‘ ipso facto ‘ passed through Divine authority , cannot change.
    This ‘ this interpretive key ‘ runs right through the ‘ Working Document )

  8. Hock says:

    Perhaps some explanation of the working of the Synod would be helpful in our understanding of this document. Who compiled the paragraph and with what authority as it doesn’t seem to allow for debate but is statement of fact even if the contents are vague?
    What is the link with this and ‘the family,’ Is it to give an amber light to the use contraception?
    Even the commentators on the Synod seem unsure as to what it is debating and are latching on to a few headline grabbing topics ( as you would expect,) but just how well informed are we all. I was one of those who moaned about the original questionnaire that was supposed to give the lay person a voice. This document seems a worthy successor to the confusion already engendered.

    • Quentin says:

      Hock, as I understand it, the Instrumentum Laboris is just the starting point. I wanted to draw attention to it because I assume that the issue it raises here may well come up in such blow by blow discussions as occur. I don’t know who provided it, but it certainly doesn’t bind the bishops at the Synod. The importance of 137, in my view, is that it might result in a clearer account of the relationship between subjective conscience and the objective law of God.

      Perhaps you, and others, would like to review a strong and comprehensive attack on 137, which is posted at https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/09/an-appeal. While this is too long to put on the Blog, the points it makes are readable, vehement and clear.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you Quentin.
        It is interesting that there is over 60 Endorsements to it, many from different countries, however only one from the UK from Prof Luke Gormally, Anscombe Biothics. The Linacre Center, Oxford.

  9. Brendan says:

    ” subjective conscience …. objective law of God. ”
    From the CCC.1778 ” Conscience is a law of the mind ; yet [ Christians ] would not grant that it is nothing more ; I mean that it is not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility , of duty, of a threat and a promise……. [ ones conscience , direct from God ] … speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives [ The Church Teaching ] ” ( Newman )
    To me then, conscience – ” aboriginal Vicar of Christ ” – is first and foremost a blank slate to be filled and acted on by reason , informed by Church Teaching issuing from God himself.
    In consequence ..”Conscience must be informed and moral judgement enlightened .” CCC.1783
    With this in mind, given this ‘dual ‘ moral stance ( non-binding on the current Synod Fathers ) proposed by Quentin , and my personal piece on this blog disavowing a belief in its veracity , as portending to be the directional teaching of the Church ; thus I have quieted the subjective nature of my own conscience , constantly bombarded with theories of a perverse/ contradictory nature of what I SHOULD believe in our fallen state/world ; which in its ” aboriginal ” state cannot be ‘ supreme ‘ as yet in itself – but made supreme by God , working through His Church.

    • G.D. says:

      Brendan, My CCC has Newman saying ” I mean it is not a dictate ….. of a threat and a promise … [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches us and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.” ……

      I understood that as ………. It is God speaking through his representative, conscience; which, in turn is the aboriginal (first, original form of the) Vicar of Christ. (Or at least the ‘Word spoken’ by Christ to us).

      Is Newman saying conscience is the first & original ‘voice’? (messenger of God). The aboriginal Vicar-of-Christ? ( In the beginning was the Word?)

      (Again, i saw it as saying) A law of God that is known to the reason, yes, and (“yet”) more than the mind, greater than the intellect.

      God speaks from ‘behind the veil’ – is that Newman saying part of which is hidden from the objective ‘reasoning’ of man? Still an ‘uncreated word of God’ we need to listen to?

      And ‘subjective proddings’ from it enlighten beyond the ability of the mind to grasp.

      Could the “both in…” be “nature” as mind/reason “and in grace” as Spirit?

      I only conjecture / assume ………. for the most part …. Have been pondering over this section of the CCC for some time now; why I post this.

  10. John Nolan says:

    Yesterday the Catholic Herald drew attention to another timebomb in the IL, namely para. 128. I think that it can be taken as read that the authors of this overlong document are none other than Baldisseri and Forte, the villains of last years fiasco. Despite its title, it was issued in Italian, so don’t expect clarity, and in no way can it be regarded as being in the least authoritative. By all means hold it up to scrutiny, as First Things has done; let’s hope the bishops who are mulling over it as we speak are as perceptive and rigorous in their analysis.

  11. Brendan says:

    My thoughts are partly formed by Matthew McCusker ( S.P.U.C ) who analysed the ‘ Instrumentum…’ for ‘ ‘ Voice of the Family.’ , an umbrella organisation of pro-life/pro-family groups. Can one detect the influence on Ch. 137 of Cardinal Kasper ( unreconstructed ) and elsewhere , given an ‘ interpretive key ‘ – God/history dualism ?
    In 1967, Father Walter Kasper wrote an article ‘God and History ‘ giving expression and focus to a ‘dualistic ‘ nature of God and History ; condemned later in 1984 by the C.D.F ( under Cardinal Ratzinger ) within an instruction on Liberation Theology. See McCusker.

  12. Brendan says:

    Like St. Joseph , I give my thanks Quentin . Even with my untutored mind the ‘ Instrumentum .. ‘ appears lightweight to say the least against the majestic truth of this group of theologians/philosphers. I feel embarrassed that the ‘ Instrumentum .. ‘ in this form has made it to the Synod.
    The October Rosary/ Divine Chaplet are the road to bring discernment to our Bishops and our Pope through the graces bestowed by The Holy Spirit.

  13. Brendan says:

    St. Joseph – there is a further endorsement, of a Dr. John M. Finnis [ Law ] at Oxford Uni. and Notre Dame Du Lac, Indiana.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan Thank you.
    I have just been thinking about the Gospel reading today or yesterday I am not sure. but it is from Luke.11 15 26. where Jesus speaks about demons- We don’t hear much if anything from the Church with regards to them. Do we not believe in them anymore, have they gone away, does anyone think? Perhaps they are here confusing us!

    • Brendan says:

      They are hammering on the doors of The Synod right now. But the good news is from CNA News and Catholic Herald websites …. voiced by Archbishop Chaput ( Rapporteur of English -speaking group’D’ ) … that the key to them opening the ‘ door ‘ to corrupt the proceedings has been wrenched from their grasp…. for the time being. ” Instrumentum Laboris….. is flawed and inadequate …!

  15. Quentin says:

    As we get deeper into this, we might also like to bear three questions in mind.

    We are talking about a law of God. Do we all agree that the prohibition of artificial contraception is such a law? Or is it a fallible inference drawn from the structure of the sexual act thus creating an absolute rule without exceptions?

    Is someone who genuinely decides that the rule does not always apply at fault for failing to recognise the truth? And is he/she in a better or worse moral position than someone who accepts the rule but feels too weak to observe it?

    Do we hold that anyone who opens himself completely to God’s grace, is bound to recognise the truth in the rule which the Church has articulated?

  16. Brendan says:

    Artificial contraception is against the law of God. It contravenes the design that God builds into human beings , which is called ‘ natural law.’ Church Teaching on this cannot be fallible on this issue by virtue of its Divine origin.
    ” I have no window into another mans conscience ” – or to decide their moral stance given their personal circumstances .At this point a pastoral approach by the Church is fundamental to discern the state of the man/womans ‘ journey in faith ‘ at the present time.
    By wise discerning of the persons position during their ‘ journey of faith ‘ envisaged in the pastoral approach; at some point I hold … ” that anyone who opens him/herself completely to God’s grace , is bound to recognise the truth in the rule which the Church has articulated .” It is of necessity that the ‘ worshiping community ‘ through their Bishop , be there to support any recognition of truth – by individuals through their family – put into concrete action.

    • Quentin says:

      Brendan, the biological approach to Natural Law, which you cite here, is not an unquestionable one. It is not of Divine origin in the sense in which you use the phrase because it is the outcome of evolution. We cannot conclude simply from such an argument that there are no circumstances in which it would be justified. Indeed the papal commission which preceded HV, which was peopled by experts in all the aspects, was clear about this – and a majority of the bishops appointed to the commission agreed. (My favourite is Josef Fuchs, the doyen of natural law theology, who reversed his opinion in the light of the arguments.) Now the commission may of course have been wrong and the Church may be right, but the very fact that the commission could arrive at such a conclusion makes it clear that the Church’s decision is not demonstrable by reason alone. And it has always been clear that HV was not an infallible ruling; the Church has had 50 years to assert that it was – but has chosen not to do so.

      • Brendan says:

        That is the tragedy Quentin . Whatever the definition of the Church ( The Pope speaking ‘ex cathedra ‘ or not ) pronouncing on Humanae Vitae – and our theologians seemly endless arguments on that point alone; The Church ( our Bishops ) has NOT made it clear – among’st many things that is not being made clear today……..’ smoke of Satan ‘ ?
        I am clear about its essential truth in my own life and mind where many find difficulty – even if I can’t fully express it sometimes – by Gods grace everything has made sense to me and my consequent intimate relations with others overtime , flowing from that encyclical integrated into the Catholic Faith.
        I would not judge people who cannot keep to Church Teaching issuing from Popes other than saying ; to really love means personal sacrifice…. always. One cannot legislate for that. But there lies the true path , not of this world.

      • Quentin says:

        Brendan, I think the essence of HV is immensely important. Within our society we are rapidly losing the concept of marriage as a committed relationship inherently connected with procreation in its full sense. The total giving of ourselves, which requires such commitment, is now taken as a casual activity. It’s ironic that all the argument about HV has distracted us from this. Our champion on this Blog is St Joseph, who has indefatigably defended natural family planning, and in doing so, has pointed to the ideal way (for most people) to reflect this in their own marriages.

        However, as my wife and I approach our 60th anniversary it is quite a consolation to know that a conception at this stage would require another book in the Bible!

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    Can I ask you what you believe to be ‘artificial contraception’ before I give any more thought to your questions?

    • Quentin says:

      There may be additional reasons why a particular type of contraception is wrong, but, since we are examining a principle, we need only to take a single example. I would suggest the use of a condom, for the purposes of discussion.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Yes we will take a condom as an example.as an ‘artificial preventative’ for the spread of a disease, whilst saying that, for that reason alone will never be 100% effective. There fore runs the risks of passing it on also to babies, then having to resort to an abortion.

        We are speaking I believe about God’s Law, and Catholic Marriage (although the Church’s teaching is for everyone, but only obligtory for us who are’ practicing catholics’ who have a duty to obey it if possible, if we fail there is the Sacrament of Confession!.
        The responsibility lies with the couple as to how they overcome this problem, perhaps the answer would be as I see it is to have sexual intercourse as the church teaches during the infertile time, then no sin of contraception- however still the risk of spreading disease.
        Obviously being aware of ones fertility does not exclude the sin of’ contraception’ if used indiscrimately when planning a family for selfish and unnecessary reasons.
        Just my thoughts.I am open on more discussion on this subject, we all need enlightnment!

      • Quentin says:

        St Joseph, I wonder what you would say to a married couple, one of whom has an HIV infection. Their choice would be between perpetual abstinence or using a condom. I say ‘married’ because the Church has no teaching about contraception between the unmarried.
        Your point about the ‘selfish’ use of nfp is an important one, and rarely remembered.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Thank you, I made the second part of my comment applicable to catholics within marriage.
        One can not encroach on their conscience, however mine was advice as what to do. during the infertile time.
        One could say using a condom for any reason,would be sinful,but as for medical reasons for safety even though not 100% effective during the infertile time as I said, then it is the couples conscience, and also there is also Confession if they wish to feel they are staying on the ‘right side of God and the Church!
        They are married and entitled to have a sexual relationship-which I believe is ‘not only’ for sexual satisfaction! It is much more of a deeper spiritual committment to each other within marriage! I believe this is where the Sacrament is a ongoing relationship with the Trinity.

  18. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph

    The Gospel passage (Luke 11, 14-28) to which you refer would once have been familiar to congregations as the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Lent. The compilers of the Novus Ordo’s lectionary knew what they were doing when they relegated it to a weekday where few would hear it.

  19. St.Joseph says:

    John Nolan
    Thank you for that, does that mean that ‘demons’ dont exist according to the Church.

    • St.Joseph says:

      PS.
      John. Probably why the prayer to St Michael is not said after Holy Mass anymore!

    • John Nolan says:

      St Joseph, it was all part and parcel of a bowdlerization which expurgated the Psalms for the Divine Office (57, 82 and 108 were removed altogether, 62, 109 and 136 were censored – numbering as per the Vulgate); which scrapped the ancient rites for the the Dead and replaced them with an anodyne ‘funeral liturgy’; and which removed from the Good Friday intercessions any mention of heretics, schismatics and heathens. While we’re at it, the Novus Ordo prayer for the Jews is worse than the one it replaced, although I can appreciate why Benedict XVI re-wrote it. To pray for the conversion of the Jews is legitimate. To pray that they may ‘advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant’ (in other words to be good Jews) is impertinent and patronizing.

      When I listen to some of the bishops I am tempted to pray with the Psalmist in one of the banned Psalms: Fiant dies ejus pauci, et episcopatus ejus accipiat alter. (Translation, Douay-Rheims ed. Challoner: ‘May his days be few, and his bishopric let another take.’)

      I hope, by the end of this Synod which is rapidly degenerating into acrimony and farce, that I shall not be applying this imprecation to the Bishop of Rome.

      • John Nolan says:

        Sorry, it should be ‘episcopatum’. The nominative case renders the sentence meaningless. A pity that the Instrumentum Laboris wasn’t in Latin.

  20. John de Waal says:

    Conscience is, surely, not permissive but imperative. It is not something which allows us to do something – or not – as the whim takes us. It demands something of us. A good example is, perhaps, the difference between Henry VIII and St Thomas More. Henry’s ‘conscience’ allowed him to do what pleased him. More’s conscience led him to the scaffold.

    • John Nolan says:

      John, one of the best writers on conscience, Bl. John Henry Newman, described it as a ‘stern monitor’. Ironically he is often cited by those who equate conscience with private judgement on the basis of an after-dinner joke which is lost on those who, because they don’t read enough, can’t understand the Victorian mind.

  21. Iona says:

    I have had another read-through of Quentin’s post and particularly the quoted passage from the working paper. Quentin, I see you say it “put the cat among the pigeons” but don’t enlarge on this. Which pigeons in particular have been flapping?

  22. Brendan says:

    I take great consolation and peace of mind from my ‘ sensus fidei ‘ arising from my own conscience being king.
    Thanks be, for people like St.Joseph ; and lest I forget as time can be fleeting – Happy Diamond Anniversary to you and your wife !

  23. Brendan says:

    Yes Quentin , the big challenge arising out of the Synod for Catholic Bishops , is the preservation of ‘ the family ‘ through the Church’s understanding of the institution of marriage.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin and Brendan
    Thank you for your kind words.
    Quentin many congratulations to you and your wife on your forth coming Diamond Anniversary.
    I attended a celebration last week for two Religious Sisters- a Silver and a Diamond,It was quite a day as I am sure it will be for you both.You will be in my prayers.
    Speaking of prayer,I would be grateful for them on Friday,when I have a full back MRI Scan , to detect cancer in my spine .at last the consultant has decided to allow it as having some metal stents could effect me, and as the cancer in my pancreas and liver is staying stable., I am positive it is from all your prayers on this SS blog and as well as others who are continually praying for me. My doctor says ( I look disgustingly healthy).over 18 months of treatment. I thank God for our Health Service.

  25. Brendan says:

    Returning to the contentious ‘ Chapter 137 ‘ ; it would seem a ‘ sine qua non ‘ for a good conscience to be well informed , particularly against worldly thinking running contrary to at least the ‘ sensus fidelium’. Pope St. John Paul warned against the Church absorbing philosophical theories such as dualism, gradualness, leading ultimately to moral relativism . Pope Emeritus Benedict has likewise sounded the alarm.
    The nature of ‘ the family ‘ and therefore Catholic Teaching has been under attack accelerating since Humanae Vitae. Artificial contraception, the availability of quick divorce , same – sex marriage, are the flag -waver in the overarching secular principle of ‘ absolute equality ‘ ; the anthropology of which has created a life of its own , contrary to laws governing Church Teaching.
    Many people are now beginning to see that these philosophical trends wrapped in political imperatives given the stamp of approval through absolute equality eg. same-sex marriage , are but a pretext for something greater and more destructive – a universal gender theory.
    This is the ‘ holy grail ‘ of equality ; the principle that one is not born male or female , one can decide ones gender. I see in the press in the minds of the public – the advanced guard has already arrived !

  26. John Nolan says:

    Humanae Vitae per se might not be infallible (although there are many who argue that it is) but if it confirms ‘quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est’ and belongs to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium it most certainly is.

    This applies a fortiori to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1984) although there are still some who think that unless the pope proclaims it ‘ex cathedra’, invoking the Extraordinary Magisterium, which has only happened once since 1870, it is up for grabs. Nothing can be further from the truth.

    • John L says:

      Matthew 23, V4

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L.
        Do you have anything particularly in mind when you quote Matthew 23.V4?
        Or is it the whole Authority of the Church?

      • John L says:

        Only when we sweat and strain over teachings which have no direct basis in scripture or the Lord’s words but which are a human, repeat human, development claiming to be consequential on some other teaching. Is or is not Humanae Vitae ‘infallible’ teaching? I would say not, but that parts of it, and in particular the birth control issue, skate perilously close to the verse quoted.
        I have now been explicit enough to lay myself open to abuse. I would just say “if the cap fits…”

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L.
        I am still confused with what you mean , also as to why you feel you have left yourself open to abuse.?

      • John L says:

        This is getting a bit laboured. Briefly, Our Blessed Lord said nothing about birth control. Its condemnation is a later theology subject to human error. I see it as a “binding up of burdens…” Pope Paul was advised against the condemnation but chose to ignore the advice. That was his privilege, but look at the consequences…
        I am open to abuse because those who dare question H V are often abused,.
        ‘Nuff said.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L.
        Not Nuff said yet.!
        You are right Our Lord did not say anything about birth control, where does the church tell us how many children we should have?.
        They do teach we ought to be open to life,!
        God said to Adam and Eve ‘Go forth and multiply’!
        If you wish to quote Scripture.!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      John L
      Thank you for your reply.
      You like so many do not understand the meaning of ‘birth control’.
      I spoke about it in my the comments above regarding conscience, you must not confuse birth control with abortfacients and as I explained where one stands with regards to their conscience.
      What people forget is the Church also has a conscience and a duty to teach the truth.
      Maybe Jesus did not need to speak about birth control in his day. there were no condoms, no pills, no sterilisation maybe coitus interuptus,(perhaps someone will enlighten me on that. He told sinners to go and show themselves to a priest!
      That is why we have the Sacrament of Reconcilation! Holy Mother Church does not relate itself to Matthew as to Holy Mother Church releasing us from our conscience in.23,V4′ I can quote many parables relating to the Wedding Feast- reference to the Kingdom of Heaven, also the man not dressed properly- and many more!.
      This is why we have the Church so that people will not decide for themselves what is sinful and what not. .
      He did not leave us wanting!
      However we all can live by conscience, but God sent His Son to be Sacrificed so that He could leave His Church without confusion otherwise I would not be a Christian!
      It is mind boggling that science has enlightened the world so much now with perhaps water on Mars .but when a female is fertile and infertile how many years since Adam and Eve’?We have to me responsible for our own soul when we reach the age of reason
      There are times I do despair when ‘common sense is not used.

      • John L says:

        I understand, perhaps more than you give me credit for. I support Church teaching on marriage, but my Matthew comment was intended as the same as Our Lord’s intention, namely let not lawyers make life more difficult than it need be.
        My wife and I are not willing to forego the normal physical relationship of marriage. I am not willing to keep my wife in a permanent state of pregnancy.
        Let those who admire huge families do so. Where the ‘safe period’ works then let it do so.
        I agree abortifacients are evil.
        ” maybe coitus interuptus,(perhaps someone will enlighten me on that.)” – well that seems to be forbidden (see Onan) and I take it that the lawyers see the use of condoms as the same thing.
        My personal approach to the problem leaves me with as clear a conscience as I believe most of us can aspire to.
        Final remark: I repeat ” let not lawyers make life more difficult than it need be” namely Matt 23:4.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John L
        Thank you. Amen.

  27. Nektarios says:

    I wonder how far we have got with this issue under discussion, and as there are a myriad of other issues all clamouring for our attention, causing some concern to us and to the Church, the people of God?
    Take your eyes off the problem just for a moment, and I write this also in answer to St. Joseph’s faced with these problems does not know what to do – at least she is honest, she says we must pray – she is right.

    I believe so much of the problems of the Church, is we have forgotten what we know of God, who God is in all His majesty and power and glory. Some are scared, frightened by what they see in the world and sadly what they are witnessing in the Church and in their own lives perhaps. Many have stopped really praying, perhaps some don’t know what it is to really pray to God.
    But here was Isaiah, praying. He does not start with all the problems and their worries – oh we are so self sentred are we not, that is why we start with ourselves and problems, but not Isaiah, He remembers God. He remembers the history of God with His people – a people of God now in captivity.

    Hear him, Isaiah 64: 1-12 In verse 1. Oh, that You would rend the heavens, that You would come down that the mountains might flow at Thy presence.
    Those mountains that seem everlasting, those mountains that have always seemed to be there,
    like so many of our problems like insurrountable mountains, but when God rends the heavens and comes down no mountain is insurrountable to God, Verse 3 `When Thou did terrible things which we looked not for, the mountains flowed down at Thy presence.’

    When God comes among His people, God is the God of the unexpected. God did awesome things which they did not look for. Is not that just our problem with God, He is too small in power, too small in greatness to alter any situation. He who will wrap up the universe and recreate a new heaven and earth – too small?
    I have to stop here, it is but an encouragement to us that in prayer to God we must not limit ourselves, for our God is God Almighty and can do more that we think or ask or think. Seek Him and we will find Him when seek Him with all our hearts. Can we pray God like Isaiah, in our personal situation, our Church situation, our relationship to Him situation, `Oh that Thou would rend the heavens, that Thou would come down…..’
    Look to God!

    Isaiah could see the problems of his day, God’s people carried off into captivity to Babylon

  28. Nektarios says:

    Ignore the last paragraph at the end – don’t what happened there.

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