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Discussion about Humanae vitae of 1968.

(Editor: As we come closer to the 30th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae vitae (Pope Paul VI, July 1968), Catholic Insight is encouraging further discussion of this document.)

Toronto - His Eminence Emmett Cardinal Carter in a letter to all Toronto Archdiocesan parish priests, has written about the 1968 Winnipeg Statement "to rectify some of the errors of recent memos". This is an undoubted reference to Msgr. Vincent Foy's recent booklet, Did Pope Paul VI Approve The Winnipeg Statement (see C.I., May 1997).

The Cardinal says the bishops in no way intended to dissent from the Pope. Msgr. Foy did not say they did.

The Cardinal said the bishops were concerned about couples finding it impossible to follow the encyclical and still do justice to their marriage. That is a different story. Pastoral concern is one thing; sound doctrine another. A couple's subjective appreciation of marriage, and what marriage actually is, are not necessarily the same. Far from being a threat to marriage, the encyclical is a guarantee of a marriage's health.

Cardinal Carter's document is valuable historically. The turmoil and haste at Winnipeg come through clearly. So does the fact that the bishops were working with "the basic recommendations of the Theological Commission." So does the fact that the famous clause, "Pope Paul VI has taken cognisance of the document with satisfaction" is eminently understandable as a way of saying, "Thank you for writing", whether one agrees with what is written or not.

What is not in doubt is the way the Winnipeg Statement was received. Catholic Insight is in possession of a recent government document which cites Msgr. Foy's booklet as a "dissenting view." Why? Because it "challenges mainstream Catholic doctrine." Why? Because the Winnipeg Statement is "a viewpoint endorsed by the Canadian Roman Catholic bishops which expresses the view that the papal encyclical Humanae vitae stands for the proposition that the use of contraception is a matter of private conscience". We think that this 1997 private interpretation by a government official is typical of how the Winnipeg Statement came to be seen by rank and file Canadians.

Far from saying that contraception was a matter of private conscience, yes, the encyclical said it was objectively immoral. Even the Winnipeg Statement did not say it was just a matter of private conscience. But that was the way it was received. That perception has not been addressed. Only God knows the harm it has done. On the principle of "By their fruits you shall know them", the Winnipeg Statement should be withdrawn, for contraception has begotten prenatal infanticide, homosexuality and many other social disorders.

Copies of Msgr. Vincent Foy's booklet (68 pages, $6.95 and photocopies of Cardinal Carter's letter plus appendices (15 pages) are available from Catholic Insight @ $9.00, including postage.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 1997
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