(It would not be possible, let alone practical, to consider or even posit the teachings of the Catholic Church as they relate to marriage and sexual morality without primarily including Jesus’ teachings. Thus, it would be worthwhile to review his assertions as they appear in Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12.)
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, as reported by the Catholic News Agency, “500 Catholic scholars lash back at Humanae Vitae critics.” This respectful rejoinder came in the form of a document titled Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality, which was posted on the webpage for The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies. This document was in direct response to dissenting theologians who were ardently making haste to the United Nations in an attempt to subvert the Catholic Church’s nearly two-thousand-year-old teachings regarding the beauty of human sexuality, including a charity-laden openness to new life on the part of the husband and wife, for the welfare of the family foremost, and of society subsequently. Prominent signatories of the document include Dr. John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, Dr. Helen M. Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University, and hundreds of other faithful contributors comprising moral theologians, biblical scholars and exegetes, priests, religious, professors, academicians, philosophers, canon lawyers, civil lawyers, physicians, historians, humanitarians, cultural anthropologists, political scientists, and those with expertise in various other fields.
The document’s opening signals the key point at stake: “We, the undersigned scholars, affirm that the Catholic Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage, and on contraception are true and defensible on many grounds, among them the truths of reason and revelation concerning the dignity of the human person. Scholarly support for the Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage, and on contraception has burgeoned in recent decades. Moreover, institutes and programs supporting that teaching have been established all over the world. Even some secular feminists and secular programs have begun to acknowledge the harms of contraception.”
Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality is centered on Blessed Pope Paul VI’s watershed 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth, in which Blessed Paul VI took the culturally unpopular – yet inherently pastoral and theologically robust – stance of speaking out against the multiple pitfalls and shortcomings of the contraceptive mentality that was snaking its way through the West in the midst of the Sexual Revolution, which is still raging, and whose societal fallout has been evidenced on a grand scale.
The declaration that the faithful theologians signed highlights eleven critical points, with one paragraph provided per point. One of these points references Saint Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” which was a series of instructions that spanned over five years (September 1979 – November 1984, essentially in the early years of the late Holy Father’s legendary papacy).
The Affirmation document itself actually has a much more extensive (twenty-eight page) addendum titled Self-Giving: The Heart of Humanae Vitae, as well as a mammoth twenty-seven page bibliography. In light of the defense of Christ’s teachings on human sexuality as reinforced by Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, and myriad theologians who celebrate fidelity to the Gospel, the faithful are encouraged to pray for an outpouring of understanding throughout society, in order to foster a greater appreciation for the full scope and broader context of the beauty of the Lord’s gift of human sexuality and chastity, rightly understood.
Blessed Pope Paul VI, pray for us!
Saint Pope John Paul II, pray for us!