The day the Pope said no

It is Monday July 29 1968. I have a business meeting north of Marble Arch. At the station I see the Evening Standard placard: “POPE SAYS NO TO BIRTH CONTROL” I have no time to buy a paper but, throughout my meeting, those five words run around inside my head. You will probably need to be in your 70s to remember the day when the final decision of Humanae Vitae was published.

I found myself in the eye of the storm. In our early 30s, we had five children and a miscarriage. My wife has been warned that further conceptions would be dangerous for her. You will not be surprised that seeing that placard nearly fifty years ago remains a vivid physical memory in my mind. I was not the only one in shock. For a long time the Catholic community had assumed that the verdict would be different. Indeed many of them had anticipated it.

The matter had been raised at the Vatican Council but reserved by Paul VI, with no further discussion. In 1963 a Papal Commission was set up to examine the whole question; its aim was to examine population problems and to confirm Catholic arguments based on demographics and modern science. The members quickly discovered that the issues were more fundamental than had been supposed, and so the group was strengthened by top moral theologians. By the final general meeting in 1965 there were 58 members including married couples.

The laity had grown in optimism. While previous teaching had focused on barrier contraceptives, the pill, which did not interfere with the marriage act, was now available – with the additional advantage that women could be in control. It was thought to raise a different moral issue. As the Commission’s sittings continued, rumours began to trickle; it seemed likely that it would recommend change. And once it was known that the Commission had formally recommended this, it was all over bar the shouting. While the detail was not generally known, the six cardinals, 13 archbishops, one bishop and the Pope’s theologian had accepted, by a substantial majority, that contraception was not intrinsically evil and that this verdict was in basic continuity with tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium.

Then there was an 18 month gap. This no doubt led to more Catholics anticipating the result. As Cardinal Heenan said to the late Professor Marshall (a member of the Commission from the beginning) “It does not matter now what the Pope says. It is too late. The people have made up their minds.” However Mgr McReavy, a theologian of repute, argued in the Clergy Review (September 1967) that, although the traditional doctrine was in doubt, statements by Paul VI in 1964 and 1966 required that the existing prohibition must be observed during the interim. Rosemary Haughton, a popular author, wrote a compassionate pamphlet preparing Catholics for a possible change.

On the day of publication the word “hullabaloo” is not, I think, too strong. The first ecclesiastical comment I heard was from Archbishop Roberts SJ (a loose cannon to some, a saint to others): “The encyclical was dead before it hit the ground.” The Economist’s variation was “intellectually deader than the dodo bird”. More constructively, Bishop Butler, a fine theologian, pointed out in the Sunday Times that, since the encyclical was not presented as infallible it was in fact fallible. He accepted that his view might not be popular but that it was theologically true.

The papers were full of it for days with a range of comment articles. A number of priests felt they had to express their disagreement publicly. I have in front of me a letter to the Times signed by over 60 priests expressing their disapproval. The Catholic Herald ran a front page story headlined “Tension mounts as priests face suspension”. Southwark’s letter to parishes referring to “poor simple people misled by disobedient priests” raised an eyebrow. Diocesan bishops published letters to their flocks. For instance, Cardinal Heenan, who had voted for change, loyally accepted the teaching, while exhorting those who disagreed to use the sacraments. Similar letters from dioceses and episcopal conferences varied in emphasis but implicitly established that using contraception in good faith did not exclude one from the Church.

I am concerned here with the history of a short if dramatic period: but it leaves us asking how the future might have been if the decision had been different or if the Catholic population had been obedient. Would Catholic sexual teaching have been seen as more or less relevant to the moral values in society? Would there have been the notable decline in American Catholicism triggered by the encyclical? In this country, would we have seen the number of Catholic marriages per Catholic population dropping from 12 per thousand to 2½ per thousand between 1968 and 2010? How did we lose the children?

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About Quentin

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

52 Responses to The day the Pope said no

  1. John de Waal says:

    I was not emotionally involved at the time. I was still a sixth former – holding down a summer job at Bishopsgate in the City. I saw the same headlines in the evening newspapers. My immediate reaction was to be defensive of the Church. The following day one of my bosses sat me down to explain to him the Church’s teaching! I did my best – which was not very good. Back at school in September – I was taught by the De LaSalle brothers – we studied the encyclical in great detail with historical context. I still have my annotated copy of Humanae Vitae and will be forever grateful to Bro. Thomas More (Thomas Cooney). We learnt about Natural Law. I was disappointed by the reaction of many bishops and priests who seemed to allow their own opinions to outweigh their duty to understand the Church’s teaching and convey it to the people. It was this reluctance which – in my opinion – has been behind the falling away of so many from the Church. Then there was the silence of our bishops.
    Unfortunately, the advances in Natural Family Planning – with the ovulation method/Billings etc -came too late for Humanae Vitae. The likes of Dr John Marshall were well versed in the temperature method but not in Billings so that the public debate was largely about the effectiveness of a method (ie. temperature) which was out of date.

    The consequence has been for so many to follow secular society with sex being divorced from procreation; then being cut off from love and ending up as a form of recreation without commitment. How sad!

  2. That is the most wonderful history lesson. Save it and read it again. I’m ninety now and find I cannot write much so I won’t add a comment, but as I happened to know both Prof John Marshall and Dr John Billings I feel I ought to write something. So, if anyone wants to know what this “no” did to the Church and to the world they can read it under “For Catholics” and under “Karol Wojtyla. Pope John Paul II” in my website http://www.gerrydanaher.com (Karol Wojtyla is the one who – with others -pushed HV through. The hesitant Pope Paul did not have a chance against KW’s certainties.)

  3. Vincent says:

    I look at Quentin’s last question: ‘Would Catholic sexual teaching have been seen as more or less relevant to the moral values in society?’ Whether or not we approve of the encyclical it would seem that a decision which appears to be so sectarian and so unnecessary to the ordinary population may have led the whole Catholic understanding of marriage to be rejected as a form of superstition. That could be why our belief in the importance of marriage and its relation to sexuality has been ignored.

  4. Without any shadow of doubt the Church would now be in far better state if Pope Paul had accepted the decison of the Pontifical Commision on Population, Family and Birth 1964-66; namely that the teaching on the use of artificial contraception should be changed. The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the value of chastity would then have been listened to with far more interest, whilst now the Church’s teaching on these matters is dismissed virtually out of hand. Occasionlly there is a rush of hope across the world as when Pope Francis said that he wanted a poor Church for the poor, but this hope soon disappeared when it became obvous that he didn’t know what to do about it and was not going to change a teaching that causes overpopulation, poverty, hunger, and the migration of millions. We would not now be having a “migrant crisis” if HV’s teaching had not confirmed the ban on the use of artificial contraception. (By the way, this migrant crisis is going to grow and grow and grow as 1000 million are added to the population of Africa and the Middle East every 25 years from now until the end of the century.) HV was a disasterous mistake and our Church does not seem to have any method of putting it right.

    • Vincent says:

      But, Gerald Danaher, I think it’s more complex than that. Artificial contraception appears to be widely used even in Catholic countries already. I bow to your expertise but if birth control leads to higher living standards, it is true that higher living standard leads to birth control. Perhaps our efforts should go first in that direction — and the rest will follow.

  5. Horace says:

    Quentin’s question is very difficult to answer – “Would there have been the notable decline in American Catholicism triggered by the encyclical?”

    Was the decline . . . actually triggered by prohibiting any use of mechanical or chemical contraception? Or was it simply the result of widespread change in social attitudes (the so called ‘Sexual revolution”?).

    In my case both my wife and I believed that although the primary purpose of Marriage was to conceive and raise children, which implied that husband and wife would engage in sexual intercourse, (while any such intercourse outside of marriage was sinful) but it was not in any way wrong to abstain from intercourse when the possibility of conceiving a child was undesirable.
    My wife had a very bad time with her first pregnancy and therefore for the next 5 years we were very careful not to have more children. (NFP had not been invented but as a young doctor I knew sufficient about the physiology of conception to be familiar with and to avoid the ‘fertile period’.)

    I know that practising restraint is very difficult for some people but at the least it would help if they knew something about what they could and shouldn’t do! When did you ever hear a sermon about contraception? Or even about Humanae Vitae?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Horace.
      http://lady-comp.co.uk.
      99.3% accurate, have you any knowledge of that, do doctors recommend it?
      The Daily Mail had an article on it in 2004 saying The Fertility computer
      ‘as good as the Pill. Which can be found on the above site. And very simple to use.
      On reading the articles from women it seems very accurate.£335 lasts for ten years, cheaper than a packet of cigarettes per year.
      Three weeks out of four using condoms makes no sense to me especially when God gave us common sense so why not use it ?
      I am as always speaking about Catholic married couples!!! What others do is non of my business! Although I did teach non Catholics.
      As you say nothing is spoken about NFP from the clergy.

      • Horace says:

        I am afraid I know nothing about these devices – but they sound like a good idea.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Horace thank you.
        They say that they are used by thousands of women foe twenty years and yet as you say they sound like a good idea.
        It a pity that the Catholic papers don’t advertise them!

    • Quentin says:

      Horace, my question was triggered by the late Andrew Greeley who was a prominent US sociologist and a priest. He was quite clear from the statistics that the Catholic decline was triggered by HV rather than Vat II. He noted that Protestantism had also declined, but that the decline was more gradual and not related to any one incident. So I suppose the verdict is that religion in general is declining but the effect of HV on Catholics has been substantially more dramatic..

      I think the marriages per Catholic population dropping from 12 per thousand to 2½ per thousand between 1968 and 2010 is even more telling. The Catholic faith is not being transmitted effectively to the children or to the children’s children. No doubt the curve will flatten eventually but Catholics will be a smaller proportion of our society, and seen as less relevant, and with little voting power. Some have suggested that Islam will be the largest single religion in our society during this century.

      • Nektarios says:

        Quentin

        Following on from my little study that I did on Church and State, what you say above only highlights the negatives of Churches in confusion.
        For example, we have nowadays, Priests giving not sermons on the Gospel, but political ideas and politicians trying to preach. It is the confusion of Church and State.

        You are doing what they have done over the last two centuries, not communicating that what changes a man,(the positive), but giving statistics and preaching morality.(negative).

        Let us be quite clear about the place of the Church and its work and the work of the State, they are entirely different. You emphasis on the low number of Christians: therefore the State in making its Laws ignores or can afford to ignore the principles by the Church to guide the State. It is obvious therefore that the State needs true Christians in Parliament and local government.

        The work of the State you can see how the Apostles saw it. The Church and the State Romans 13:1-7.
        The place of the State is to essentially to punish evil-doers. The State wants order.
        Now let me ask you, has all the meetings, societies. over the last 180 years stopped one man from being a drunk, or an immoral person form being immoral?

        What does change a man from being a law-breaker, immoral, a drunk to being not just a good man, an upright citizen but a saint? Ephesians 5: 1-5.

        This is the difference between the Church and State. The position, place and activity are different one from another.
        The Churches job is to preach the Gospel and the whole counsel of God, (positive).

  6. Nektarios says:

    I am sorry to cut across this discussion, but I have been listening over the last week or so to the whole historical aspects of Church and State.
    It has given me the insight of why a RCC Pontiff thinks as he does why he thinks he has the right (when actually he doesn’t have the right at all) to interfere in the lives of individuals at all levels, To Pontificate to other countries and nations and Governments.

    Over these many months of the SS blog, matters of sexual issues and morality raises its head with great regularity.
    It is also clear from the hundreds of RCC comments Catholics think the Church has the right to interfere. It doesn’t.

    It all goes back to, and stems from, the days when the RCC filled the gap with the fall of the Roman Empire. This is why it sees itself not only as a Church but also a State.
    This union of Church and State does not exist in the New Testament.

    Going back to the origins of Church and State in the RCC I found out some other matters of import today concerning sexual matters by priests and why the RCC cover it up and deny, or move such priests on.

    Priests belong to the Vatican State and so have diplomatic immunity, so they are not subject to the laws of the land they are in.

    All these moves into and to control the lives of RC Catholics is demonstrating it has no real power in the world, not even in its home country of Italy.

  7. Brendan says:

    This perpetual stargazing we Catholics seem to indulge in reminds me of schizophrenic moths drawn round a bright light !
    Yes , let’s blame poverty and overpopulation in Africa on the Church’s condemnation of secular ‘
    family planning ‘, and ignore a culture of the family ( that used to be natural and largely universal ) that depends on large families just to look after themselves in times of need – and the West’s disastrous economic policy that feeds our greed and keeps them in poverty . Just to avert our eye, in shame we through them scraps ! And what has ‘ material progress ‘ turned us into in our Europe . Just look around ; this is not the Europe of Catholic founding fathers Schumann , de Gaspari and Adenauer – let’s blame Catholic Social Teaching ! Today ( notwithstanding a flicker of light in the east ) we can hardly bring ourselves to say we’re Catholic !
    Why are we so shy of blaming politicians ( structures ) and ourselves ? What on earth has failures in politics in the Middle East got to do with Catholic Church Teaching and tragic mass migration to Europe ? Let’s have a cause for the dying light of Christianity in these ancient lands!
    A reading of Saint Pope John Paul’s biographic life would leave one in no doubt that he was a vigorously heterosexual man who led a full life ; and the suggestion ( adding recent further revelations about his private life) that he did not understand sexuality within marriage is just ‘ bunkum ‘.
    I was 17/18 yrs. old in 1968.I’ve found life impossible to chart without the gift of our Catholic Faith….’ Vanity , vanity, all is vanity….’ we cry ! By the infinite inscrutable grace of God in His Mercy we are still here ! Whatever Popes may say in general and Bishops deny ; ‘ Casti Connubii ‘
    and ‘ Humanae Vitae ‘ are still in the corpus of Church Teaching on sexual morality .
    I prefer Catholic Truth to secular ‘ evolutionist ‘ Catholic theory.

  8. Martha says:

    Nektarios, the Church founded by Christ has the right, in fact a duty, to tell those who accept it and belong, how He wants us to live our lives. This is not interfering. Offering Christ’s teaching to those who have not yet accepted it, is more complicated, and mistakes have been made, as is inevitable in our complicated and muddled human lives. Christ’s message should not be allied to power, but it need to be clearly presented and available for all to have the opportunity of receiving it and following Him. This was His clear commission and it is not interfering.

    • Nektarios says:

      Martha

      Your first sentence is absolutely correct. Alas, so many churches are not following the Apostolic doctrine and teaching and this is causing a certain amount of confusion in the Churches. I would also bring to your attention that Apostolic doctrine and teaching are solely for Christians, those in Christ.
      I agree with you also that Christ’s teaching which is also the teaching of the Apostles needs to be clearly presented faithfully according to the pattern of the New Testament.
      Again the Churches have failed to do this faithfully for the most part, and an in the world and the Churches are in the state they are in on account of this grave deficit.
      The idea that we Christianise the world is really a false idea, for no man can make a true Christian of another person, that is a work of God alone.
      A great deal of damage has been done on account of over zealous believers to convert others.
      There are ministers, priests, teachers, pastors and evangelists that are gifted to do this work of evangelism, teaching and pastoring Churches. Not all have the same gifts, but such as the Holy Spirit dispenses.

      • Martha says:

        Nektarios, Our Lord asks us all to help Him in His work of conversion. He does not work alone. We are the Church. St. Teresa of Avila famously said that God has no hands but ours to do His work, and we must do the best we can in our own lives and circumstances, and at our own level.

  9. Brendan, you are quite right, families are great. I remember that “Big families are best” was the only advice my father, one of fifteen, gave me when I married for the first time at the age of forty-eight. Indeed they are the best. In the event we had only four. The catch is that if we all had four this would cause repeated doubling of the population resulting in episodes of poverty, hunger, water shortage, conflict, and the migration of huge numbers of desperate people, as we can see in Africa where the fertility rate is just over four children per woman. Only by most couples having small families can a few have four or more without suffering these troubles. Especially honoured should be those who have chosen to remain childless. As the saying goes: “The child you have is a gift to you, the child you do not have is a gift to the community.”
    Surely it is obvious that a population that continues to double every 25-30 years as in Africa must eventually run into trouble. Pope Paul VI certainly thought so.(See Progressio Populorum paragraph 37)

    • Brendan says:

      Firstly Gerald , ( before the blog moves onto Quentin’s questions at present exercising the West ) my interests are not particularly in social science statistics – I don’t relish getting bogged down in numbers, however useful a tool . I’m sure that Pope Paul like many in adult life at the time addressed the problems of the day – Progressio Populorum does just that – and in encyclicals right up to Pope Benedict’s Caritatis in Veritate .
      Pope Paul says , in which you quote… ” When the inalienable right of marriage and procreation is taken away , so is human dignity.” While the notion of ‘ the family’ is central to our civilisation in the political sense and authentic Catholic Teaching , I’m sure we agree on ; that is what we are in danger of losing , if not quite already lost. A year later in response to this we had H.V.and the ongoing development of natural Family Planning the Catholic way . The Worlds response ? Well , one can lead a horse to water …. etc. I’ve mentioned this before about St.Teresa ( Mother Teresa ) and her overwhelming success at the time among’st Indian couples delaying parenthood. No, this does not then preclude couples from choosing not having / restricting their numbers of children by natural ( God-given ) means for purely selfless reasons eg. family coherence and well-being or for the good of a wider ecology, in accordance with our Faith.
      The trouble was ( like many I suspect of my generation ) , that I from the age of 17 to the present day have never heard an utterance from any priest or bishop on this subject from any pulpit or platform. I first heard about as I recall from the media , and informed myself by reading Church Teaching and various Catholic works. My Truth is found always in forming myself through Church Teaching and the my ‘ sensus fidelium ‘.
      Was there moral failure to preach on the part of some if not all Church leaders on this ? I believe Pope Benedict may have had this in mind when apologising for his generation in not passing on the Faith adequately, before he resigned.

  10. Brendan, We seem to have the field almost to ourselves, so here is an explanation to your query in an earlier letter: “What on earth has failures in politics in the Middle East got to do with Catholic Church teaching and tragic mass migration to Europe ?”

    In the 1970s, the US government was seriously concerned about the effect of rapid population growth. All the great departments of State which dealt with world affairs collaborated in producing a policy – National Security Study Memorandum 200. This notes that “World population growth is widely recognized within the Government as a current danger of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures…There is a major risk of severe damage (from continued rapid population growth) to world economic, political, and ecological systems and, as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.” The United Sates at that time aimed to provide all developing countries with family planning by 1980 and to have all countries with fertility rates of 2 by 2000.

    In his book “The Life and Death of NSSM 200. How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy” Stephen Mumford explains in detail how the Vatican torpedoed NSSM. There are a lot of Catholic voters in the USA, and no political party dare antagonize them so NSSM 200 never saw the light of day.

    All the severe damage to economic, political, and ecological systems, and to humanitarian values feared by the NSSM contributors can now be seen in Africa and the Middle East from Palestine to Pakistan. This region would be far better off if the fertiltiy rate there was 2 or under and not 4 or over. And, of course, there would be far fewer trying to get to Europe.

    • Brendan says:

      Gerald – To my mind the rational question is : I presume from that scenario that the U.S. as the foremost economic superpower at the time , with its belief ( set in stone ) that there appeared no limits to prosperity , if only poorer nations would ‘ tow the line.’ – could they relly look into the future and see ‘ utopia ‘ ? Put this against the complex politics and mismanagement and just plain flawed human nature endemic among’st that milieu , and it seems now like a poor long-shot. We will never know however as this NSSM was not enacted. While Catholic Teaching remains intact to my mind , democracies at least would appear to need it now a then more than we needed them.
      Another scenario that comes to mind. Who was there to stop China’s disastrous one-child policy – and now that the bubble appear to be bursting for them – which will incur massive problems for future generations trying to keep an greatly increased aging population following forced lowering of birthrate ………ominously signalling the same for aging European nations a well.

  11. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios, as a Byzantine Christian you are not best placed to criticize the RCC as you persist in calling it – which, I must add, is offensive to most Catholics – for Caesaro-Papalism which is pretty well synonymous with the Orthodox Church. Read some history.

    I can’t fault HV in terms of its understanding of Natural Law; I understand the enquiry was as to whether the oral contraceptive (a recent development) could be allowed. Other forms of family planning were and are approved. However, I know of Catholic couples who have used artificial contraception from time to time but were not against having a fruitful marriage, and went on to do so. In my (probably flawed) opinion, long term intention might, just might, override legal positivism.

    Does the Orthodox have any teaching on the matter? Or are they more interested in persuading Vladimir Putin into accepting the title of Tsar of All the Russias? When, at one point during the first millennium, the papacy was under the sway of the Greek emperor it is seen as a low point in the history of Christendom.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      This is precisely what I am doing, reading history of the long history of the Church.

      As I have said to St. Joseph recently, the Orthodox position on contraception is one of conscience. It is against abortifacients and abortion.

      I am not out to judge or condemn any particular Church, but to see it in the light of History
      and as far as Church and State goes, what the Apostolic doctrine and teaching is.
      Have a look at Romans 13 : 1-7

      There are a lot of questions that need to be asked, such as what is the place and function of the Church and what of the State?
      What is the relationship of the individual Christian to the Church and the individual’s relation to the State.
      What was the Apostles view towards the Church and State?

  12. John de Waal says:

    It seems wide of the mark to criticise the Church for overpopulation when we are told so many Catholics ignore Catholic teaching and, besides, mot of those areas with growing populations have few Catholics in them.
    The bottom line is what is true. Sadly, so many bishops and priests have failed to explain Catholic teaching on Marriage. Also, social attitudes have been largely negative, secularism and consumerism hold sway in many lives. Nevertheless, the truth is the truth no matter how many or few follow it.
    If the views of those who rejected catholic teaching are so good then the world would be a much better place than the mess it is at present.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John de Waal.
      Never a truer word has been spoken.

      It seems some don’t want to hear the truth, that shows where no one except Horace made a comment on the http:www.lady-comp.co.uk.
      It would be good to hear some opinions. ! Especially as there were negative comments on fertility awareness used as a protection of the Zika virus! Which was in connection to Pope Francis’s remarks to avoid pregnancy!!
      It would be good to hear some thoughts!

    • Alan says:

      If the important principle (and I may well have misunderstood or misheard this) is to be open to the possibility of conception then isn’t a condom more open to that possibility than a system that is 99.6% effective when used properly?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan, yes I believe you have misunderstood the meaning of being ‘open to conception’!

      • Alan says:

        Can you explain what it means St Joseph?

      • Quentin says:

        Yes ‘open to conception’ has a technical meaning. The structure of sexual intercourse is ordered to conception. Even if you restrict it deliberately to when you are infertile it remains so ordered. If you use a condom you change the structure of the act. The Catholic argument turn on the question of whether you think there is a moral difference between the two.

        On the lady-comp question I would need to know how the reliability was measured. Was it, for instance, based on perfect use or use in practice? What was the sample size? What disinterested studies have been done, and where have they been published?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Thank you.
        If you go into the web site that I posted and read all instructions on the top of the picture, it gives lots and lots of information and details,.No different to the Sympto Thermal Method which I taught, I did not teach Billings I did not believe it to be as accurate as the STM.which had more indices, which however one can still use with the Lady-Comp. It will not replace a teacher however it is accurate and can be used straight away , better than contraception, a move in the right direction, and going on for years.
        Also as you say teaching couples and teaching teachers will take a long time.
        A couple in 1983 developed it from the Couple to Couple league if I understood it properly.
        There are plenty of info to read.
        Alan

        Yes as we say NFP can not be used indiscrimetely, but God gives us the right within our own conscience to be responsible within marriage to have sexual intercourse during the infertile time knowing that we wont become pregnant. As the little one minute video points out
        To be open to life is to ‘not’ use Sexual Intercourse in the fertile time only for conception.
        There could be a reason during the infertile time to use a condom to protect against disease I think although the WHO does not agree with that as the HIV and other diseases it is not safe. Knowing ones fertility is not only for birth control which is allowed in Church teaching but for the health of a women.
        Ref Pope Francis misunderstanding!!!!There are thousands of petitions for him to make that clear.
        His other mistake was to say Catholics don’t have to breed like rabbits, totally insulting to big families . Also very misleading in the formation of ones conscience!
        I don’t believe I have to explain all this it is so much common sense!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan if you or anyone else would like more information on fertility awareness or would like to become a teacher, one will find it on the web site of NFPTA. Natural Family Planning Teachers Association. who I studied with in 1983.And still a member.
        I notice that the Catholic Herald advertises the Billings. I wonder if they get a lot of enquires. It was the late Bishop Mervyn of Clifton who gave me the opportunity, even though I was reluctant at the time.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan,
        In case one may think it inconvenient in the morning. I take my temp 3 time a day, BP twice a day, Insulin jabs twice a day, Blood test 6 times a day plus 12 tablets a day plus chemo once a week. And I thank God for it!. Where there is a will there is a way! Plus trust in God and His Blessed Mother. That is what Catholics do!

  13. Thanks Brendan,
    My favourite generalization these days is to stop considering the answers to world problems as good or bad, but rather as bad or very bad, or even bad, very bad or very very bad. Eg Rule by Assad, bad; civil war, very bad; rule by Islamic State, very very bad. Or, effects of one child policy, bad; effects of no one child policy very bad.

    • Brendan says:

      Gerald – I can sometimes be persuaded into the ‘ nightmare ‘ of 24/7 global news . With too much ‘ doom and gloom ‘ it becomes horrendously dystopian but for the certainties of our Catholic Faith incurring visible Divine Providence.
      I feel blessed to be part of a parish Community that I am certain is a counter to the culture of death ( in the spirit ) that pervades in Britain today. Why? Because The Catholic Faith from altar to pulpit to pew to society outside the sphere of parish influence is taught and practised in season and out of season . No one is coerced into anything or felt to be an outsider. It seems that someone is found to emerge when ever anything needs doing…eg. in schools, hospitals, nursing homes ,pilgrimages , out reach to unobservant Catholics ….and more . – even persons in desperate need who come knocking on the parish door. Our church is open from morning ’till night seven days a week.
      No, this is not utopia ! But this little ‘ kingdom of God ‘ is held together and enthused and orchestrated by one thing……. OUR PARISH PRIEST.

  14. Brendan says:

    ….” How did we lose the children ?” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the ‘parish system.’
    Since Vatican ii ; because of confusion over once solid doctrinal belief, timidity in passing on that doctrine resulting in lax catechesis, disobedience by those who were looked up to, too pass on the Faith , post-conciliar changes that where rushed in and not explained fully by bishops/priests to the faithful , certain sullenness and resentment and lack of confidence from clergy fed down to the laity ; have contributed to Catholic disillusionment with the Church ( not necessarily with doctrine initially ) and the consequent falling away from practice of the Faith. I know because I fell away…. not too far, but far enough ! The adverse winds of unanticipated social change of the period devastated a generation of Catholic youth, in which the Church could barely stand.
    The answer in this Year of Mercy is for those who ‘remember ‘ ; to return back to the practice of the Faith they knew and loved and enjoyed , confident in their youth ; but with new knowledge now in a new (” reformed ”[ St. Paul ] in the Spirit as expressed in Vat.ii ) way – for the new youth to see and know and love…. ………
    Emeritus Pope Benedict likened visible Catholicism to a ” symphony ”- ” Jesus of Nazareth ”, and so it is with palpable evidence through Gods grace in our lives and families and parishes. This is Gods Kingdom on Earth until its final fulfillment in Heaven. With old language used ‘ anew ‘ then …. ….” The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds , but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree , so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches .” Matthew 13:31-32 ( and in all the Synoptic writers ).
    That’s the time-honoured way to bring back our youth and attract future generations to The Faith. I rejoice in being part of that kind of parish community.

  15. Brendan, considering your last comment but one, some people think that I am being too critical of  the Church, when I’m not being  critical of the Church at all, I’m not critical of all those wonderful parish priests like your own. I’m not critical of gospel based teaching, but I am critical of non-gospel based teaching. It is only of theologians that I am critical, in these days those who believe that the use of artificial contraception is sinful and the other group who believe that something like communism is better than capitalism. Their terrible certainty, so damaging to the Church and to the world and especially damaging to the poor, needs criticising as strongly as possible.

  16. G.D. says:

    As sexuality is the major creative urge/instinct that unites (and transcends) the physical & the spiritual it has always been an obvious symptom of moral corruption. (By that i mean disunity of body & spirit). A sore thumb that demands attention! But it is only a symptom, and often a misleading one, when treated in isolation from the real causes of seeming lack of faith.

    One of the major reasons that many of the last generation(s) has ‘fallen away’ from ‘the faith’ is that the ‘catechises’ given no longer facilitates a true ‘initiation experience’ of the living presence of God.
    It teaches the doctrine and rules (logic & reason) but doesn’t present the spiritual experiences they are based in. A teaching needed to challenge & sustain an ongoing developmental relationship with God. There are some who can be satisfied with logic & reason, there are others who seek a more intuitive awareness. (For a growing proportion of people ‘i told you so’ isn’t a viable gateway into that experience any longer).

    Today’s young people (particularly teens, but some adults too) are developing a consciousness that is seeking an experiential dimension of faith. It is no longer enough to ‘put in’ what others know intellectually, as it used to be; the growth in mankind’s relationship with it’s creator is asking for an experiential ‘knowledge’ of God. God is asking man to grow up!

    Still ‘faith’ based because it will never be ‘proven’, but more akin to the ‘apostolic’ experiences of the early church, and of the lost indigenous ‘initiations’ with the sacred, only with a lot more science/logic to contend (integrate?) with.
    With the advancement of science, and intuition, there is the ability to correlate (unite?) the physical/logical with the esoteric-al/spiritual aspects of existence. As we see happening with science and faith (spirit) leaning towards the same explanations – mystical and quantum theory for instance, and the illusive ‘substance’ of consciousness itself .

    We have been through the ‘superstitious’ phase of childhood. The intellectual phase of early adulthood is now starting to wane. The elder years where both can exist in harmony are upon us.
    (The Spirit of Vatican ii tried to address this development in man’s consciousness; and did initially. But man, still so immature and childish, not childlike as a mature adult is able to be, swung the pendulum’s momentum too far.

    The lack of acceptance of ‘God’ within world culture has a lot to do with the above.
    God is working to redress the imbalances, and this generation is just as aware of ‘spirit’ if not more so than previous ones. Not more ‘religious’ maybe. But the Spirit is still very much alive and active in them.

    One more major aspect – that relates to the sexual instinct/drive and it’s misuses. ….
    There are three types of people 1. Those who give in to the need for control. 2. Those who give in to the need to be controlled 3. Those who desire neither.
    I suggest the latter (3) are becoming more the ‘norm’. And are in harmony with the Spirit’s attempt to bring creation to a fuller realisation of God. Integration of creation (physical/intellect) with it’s creator (Spirit/intuitive).
    We are living through the contractions leading to the ‘birth’ of a new & fuller realisation of God.

    All mere conjecture of course.

    • twr57 says:

      I remember someone commenting, in the 1960’s, that it was better than being eaten by lions. An over-simplification, doubtless.

  17. Peter Foster says:

    Past excursions into this subject have been fruitless because the HVers have a belief which is not open to discussion, being based on the concept of infallibility. To their opponents, their postulates seem so far remote from the actual life of the married as to seem a peculiar cult.

    Can we find a common starting point from which to work forward?
    I suggest the starting point is Christ who said nothing on this subject.
    We can then work forward through time to identify the genesis of their ideas.

    In antiquity and until the eighteenth century the balance between population and war, famine and disease was effected by society’s requirement that women bear about eight children. An example of what this can mean is given by Thomas Jefferson who dearly loved his wife but gave her nine children; some of them died, with the later ones her health suffered and she died.
    With improvements in agriculture, clean water, sewage disposal and the now ongoing advances in medicine, the balance has shifted which relaxes that burden on women.

    Can we be sure that intercourse “open to life” (in spite of the thermometers?) is not an echo from that historical role of women?

    We are also blind to the fact that the Church has developed in the context of medieval “science”.

    Despite the near infinite range of shapes and forms to be seen in nature, the material world was universally understood to be composed of just four essential building blocks the elements of earth, water, air and fire. Their combinations accounted for the near infinite variety of bodies visible in nature by “increasing or decreasing the parts”. The qualities associated with the elements were: hot cold dry and moist and belonged to the region between the earth and the moon. These properties acted upon the terrestrial elements through the influence of the celestial bodies.

    These theories and their elaborations in cosmology, physiology, and agriculture etcetera are depicted in the circular diagrams (rota) by, for example, Bishop Isidore of Seville (560-636) and Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Their influence persisted into the eighteenth century in medicine, the theory of humours with bloodletting, and in society: women regarded as too weak minded to attend funerals. Their influence on church thinking would make an interesting topic for a thesis.

    Given the complex beauty and functioning of living things it was logical to suppose that God had directly designed the elements of nature. However, we now know that if the anthropomorphic concept of design has any validity it would have to be placed in the basic structure of matter. In an evolutionary world the idea of what is natural has become a very messy business. The HVers with their certainties are unprepared to address the world as it is. They vigorously deny others (intrinsically evil they say) the right to find their own way of life through Christ.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Peter Foster.
      I am not too sure what you say in all your post, however the grift of it which I did read was the fact of 8 children.
      Years ago children were not planned, women did not understand their fertility.
      Every child is a wanted child as the saying goes, yes they ought to be, but sadly that does not happen hence the need to conceive when the time is right the way God made us in the beginning.
      God did say ‘Go forth and multiply, He did not say how many!
      Jesus was planned, no accident.
      Probably population could be controlled perfectly if one knew when they were fertile or not.
      If you understand what I am ‘Saying’!

    • Vincent says:

      Peter I think it’s a little hard to chide HVers, either because they agree with the teaching or because they accept it humbly from the Church. Nor do I see how medieval arguments affect the validity of the teaching. It is generally accepted that the integral relationship between married sexuality and procreation is fundamental to our understanding of marriage. Certainly there are those who cannot accept the full consequences of this in terms of contraception or in good conscience find themselves unable to follow the ideal. But surely we must accept the ideal and respect each other, and particularly when we disagree.

      • Peter Foster says:

        I suppose what gives me unchristian thoughts about the HVers is their reliance on what Bishop Butler calls creeping infallibility which is “not only an offence against truth but is pastorally disastrous.”

        From where do we get “intrinsically evil”? Casti Connubii (para 55) jumps to Augustine who jumps to biblical Onan (a disputed interpretation) to get “intrinsically immoral” (para 54) and firms it with “intrinsically evil” in para 61.

        Amazingly in Humanae Vitae Paul VI admits he does not even examine the issue:
        The Magisterium’s Reply
        6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. [so it is still a serious question which he avoids – so much for infallibility. We burden Popes with too many expectations, like Peter they are human]

        The text of Humanae Vitae relies on the concept of the Natural Law, Casti Connubii and also the Council of Trent Roman Catechism Part II ch.8 which does not address the matter.
        There is a discontinuity between the concept of God’s design in the Natural Law in the Middle Ages and even as it troubled Darwin, AND NOW.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Peter Foster.
        Of course no one has to believe HV, especially if they are comfortable using condoms all their life also abortfacients etc. also unplanned pregnancies which develops into abortions So be it.
        We all have free will.

      • Quentin says:

        You are right to mention evolution. It is an important element in studying natural law. The fertility rate in humans evolved to a level where it was high enough to enable the human race to reproduce itself. Because of early mortality this required it to be about three times too high for conditions nowadays in developed and developing societies. The argument that we should correct this mismatch through human action is strong. Although I have been writing about this over more than a decade, the argument doesn’t seem to have made much progress yet. Still, as St Joseph reminds us, abortion cannot be the answer.

  18. twr57 says:

    PF, you seem to go too far. Sins are intrinsically evil (and some worse than others). Sinners are not. God loves us. Probably you don’t mean your phrase in brackets to apply to ‘others’?

  19. Geordie says:

    PF, I think your contribution was thoughtful and useful. HVers do seem to have a narrow view of life. They desire the certainties in life but God gives us few certainties. He expects us to develop into mature, thinking adults by prayer and reflection; not by a blinkered acceptance of every statement from the Vatican.
    My parish priest told me about one of his friends who claimed to be “a very, very good Catholic but a poor Christian”. I think many of us are like that. We think that following the Church blindly will excuse all of our other faults.

    • ian.cairns1@tiscali.co.uk says:

      I am already a subscriber to secondsightblog. Have been for a few years. Today it didn’t fill in the details automatically for some reason.

      >

  20. St.Joseph says:

    Geordie.
    Satan’s greatest victory is to confuse people..
    I don’t really understand your last comment- ‘following the Church blindly will excuse all of our other faults..
    A bit of a contradiction don’t you think!!

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    Upon reading you post in the beginning with regards to your wife life in danger if she had another child,
    Would that not be a reason for sterilization on medical grounds.? It was for me.

    • Quentin says:

      St Joseph, I can’t of course give a verdict in your case; I can only give the rule. Sterilisation is accepted when it is a byproduct of a medical procedure required to heal. Thus, for instance, hysterectomy is justified when the womb is cancerous. Similarly temporary sterilisation via the pill is justified for regulating cycles or managing endometriosis.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you Quentin.
        Mine was a hysterectomy, placenta ruptures and suspect cancer, no cancer however very enlarged womb like 6 months pregnancy. I would have thought that in the case for health reasons and a family of five ones conscience would be sufficient in cases like that.
        That is where mine would be
        and trust in God!

      • Quentin says:

        Better to trust God rather than Quentin. But, from your description, you are in the clear.

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