A “Categorical Silence” in the Preparatory Questionnaire for the 2015 Synod

“Make no mistake, my brothers: those who corrupt families will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
—Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians

In his 2007 autobiography, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired Archbishop of Bologna, recalled his surprise during the Second Vatican Council at the stunning “categorical silence” in Gaudium et Spes regarding Communism, in spite of that ideology’s systematic and ongoing persecution of the Church at the very time of the Council.

Communism: the Council does not address this. If one attentively scans the comprehensive index {of the Council documents}, it is stunning to confront this categorical silence. … Communism was, without a doubt, the most imposing, enduring, pervasive historical phenomenon of the twentieth century; and the Council, despite having proposed a Constitution on the Church and the modern world, does not speak of it.

I suspect Cardinal Biffi might be equally surprised by the “categorical silence” on the specific topic of artificial contraception in the questionnaire sent out to prepare for the 2015 Synod on the Family. I know I am.

This surprising lacuna likewise regards an “imposing, enduring, pervasive historical phenomenon of the 20th century,” the phenomena of contraception, and the contraceptive mentality, which undoubtedly has gravely impacted the individual human family, and the family of man now for decades. It is simply a matter of fact that the family, including the Christian family, is under ever grave attacks in the 21st century from decadent cultural forces unleashed in the 20th century. Among those powerful forces is the contraceptive juggernaut which has resulted in a contraceptive culture throughout the world in just a half century.

In 1930, Pius XI declared that contraception was intrinsically evil, and warned that it’s practice would accelerate the “moral ruin of society,” undermine the stability of marriage, and lead to the terrible temptation of abortion. In 1932, the secular editor of the Washington Post warned that the moral acceptance of contraception in marriage would mean “the end of marriage as a holy institution” and “lead to indiscriminate immorality.”  Who can seriously doubt today that those warnings have come true in spades, and that the institution of marriage, as understood in natural law and in revealed religion, is in the gravest trouble. Moreover, there has been yet another grave consequence of the contraceptive mentality, which was not foreseen by the Church itself, or by the secular society, and that is the fact that much of the human family now finds itself threatened by a demographic crisis caused by being seriously below replacement birth rates.

How strange it is, then, that a Special Synod called by the Pope precisely to counteract the contemporary negative forces undermining marriage and the family, and to strengthen the family as the basic institution of human society and the Church, should say little or nothing about the role that the virtually universal practice of contraception has played in causing this crisis. This virtual ignoring of the tremendous impact of contraception on married life and societal stability was confirmed by the absence of a single question in the 2015 Synod lineamenta which deals directly with the problem that contraception plays in the crisis facing marriage and family life in our day.

So how can one explain this peculiar blindness in the Church today regarding the evil of contraception, and its impact on marriage and society, especially given the great intellectual and theological contributions of three great popes, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI? These popes made abundantly clear the moral and social consequences of the evil of contraception, its devastating impact for the perfection and stability of married love, and the stability of the family and human society at large. How their brilliant teaching could be so ignored is not easy to understand.

It’s been nearly 50 years now since Pope Paul VI issued what was certainly his most important encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and 35 years since Saint John Paul II gave us Familiaris Consortio. Both of these great magisterial teachings made it crystal clear how contraception, and the contraceptive mentality, damage marriage, undermine married love, family life, and human society. Yet, those responsible for the preparation of the coming 2015 Synod, for some reason, chose not to submit a single study question in the  lineamenta, directly dealing with the problem of artificial contraception. Obviously, these Church leaders did not see this moral and practical issue as a significant factor in the collapse of marriage and family life over the past half century. It was as if the extensive papal magisterium of Pope Paul, John Paul II, and Benedictin brilliantly analyzing the devastating impact of contraception on married love and marriage stability, as well as on demographic survival of societyhad never taken place.

To appreciate just how truly stunning this really is, we might consider an analogous situation. Suppose an international commission, set up to study the problem of AIDS, and composed of medical experts from around the world, had issued a report or study guide that failed to mention the problem of promiscuous sex in the transmission of this disease, and focused exclusively on the social and political dimensions of the problem. Would that not be stunning? Would the world not be shocked?

Yet, this is what basically happened after the 2014 Synod. The focus of the final report, and the questionnaire for the 2015 Synod, was largely on the political and social and cultural roots of the family crisis, while virtually no attention was given to the moral problem of contraception in undermining family life, values, stability, and unity. There certainly were bishops who raised this issue during the first Synod, and yet their concerns were virtually ignored by those responsible for preparing for the 2015 Synod. Contraception, and the contraceptive mentality, were obviously seen as having little or no importance. Or, perhaps, it was considered a lost cause?  Better to focus on other issues. But contraception is not just one moral issue among others when it comes to the destruction of marriage and society. It is without question, or should be, the single most important contributing cause to our present crises related to marriage and society, regardless of how many Church leaders recognize this fact. It may be ignored intellectually; it will not be ignored without ongoing devastating consequences for the real world.

What, then, has happened to the Catholic Church today when the brilliant and incisive moral and social analyses of three great popes can be basically ignored, except for a reference to their championing an attitude of “openness to life.” Pope Paul taught that contraception not only leads inevitably to an anti-life culture among married couples, but that it also gravely undermines the stability and unity of marriage by destroying the unitive meaning of the act of married love. He also warned of the grave consequences this would have on the morality of the young and unmarried as well. How can this be ignored after fifty years of sexual revolution, which depended heavily on the contraceptive culture. This is not simply Catholic or papal opinion. It is a cultural fact, admitted by nearly all social scientists. Pope John Paul II built upon this analysis, and gave us a much more detailed analysis of the way that contraceptive acts, and the consequent contraceptive mentality, undermine conjugal love itself and, thus, conjugal unity. Is this not seen to be relevant for understanding and countering today’s crises?

From this silence of the Synod documents, we can see quite clearly that this papal teaching was obviously not fully embraced by some bishops, and clearly was not faithfully handed on in the seminaries, and other Catholic institutions of learning. What seminarians and lay Catholics often received in instruction was, at best, a bare rule with little or no explanation of this moral norm, and no explanation as to how contraception undermines marriage and married love, while demeaning and minimizing the procreative purpose of marriage. Indeed, what most Catholics, at least in the western world, have received for decades is simply silence on the matter: silence in the pulpit, silence in the confessional, silence in the schools, and silence in the magisterial documents at the diocesan level, and the national level.

Even for many supportive bishops, it was obviously seen as sufficient simply to encourage an openness to life, while never speaking directly and clearly about the actual evil of contraception. Even today, with the federal government trying to force the Catholic Church to fund contraception and abortifacient drugs, the U.S. bishops have mainly approached this regulation as a freedom of religion issue, while generally avoiding any discussion of the reasons the Catholic Church has for condemning contraception. and any discussion of the link between contraception and abortion. Nor has the Church taken any advantage of this current “crisis” by at least instructing Catholics how the practice and mentality of contraception is causing a grave demographic problem in much of the Western world. It’s as if in the minds of many of our leaders, the disastrously low birth rates have mainly to do with economic and social issues, and little to do with the universal practice of contraception. If poverty is the main cause, how do we explain the fact that the European countries with the lowest birth rates are not considered at all poor economically.       

Likewise, when the Synod, or bishops in general, discuss the shortage of vocations in the Catholic priesthood and religious life in this country, and how this relates to family life, the one thing they never choose to mention is the practice of contraception among Catholic couples. You would think there would be some reflection on how this fact has produced  one or two child Catholic families which, understandably, has less openness to any kind of religious vocation. Was there any mention of this in the Synod when they discussed the family as the seed of vocations? There certainly was no question related to this topic in the document sent out to the Bishops conferences.

On another front, it is simply astounding that it has been 50 years since the Council, and still most Catholics, including a good number of clergy, obviously, still cannot see the clear connection between contraception and abortion. The two topics were never clearly connected, even in the Council itself, which is strange enough, and the connections that have been referred to in subsequent magisterial teaching again have not taken hold in the Church at-large. One does not need divine revelation, nor an advanced degree in theology or philosophy, to understand that abortion is the ultimate form of birth control, the “final solution” when contraception fails. Contraception establishes a mentality that rejects life, seeing life as sometimes undesirable, and that mentality will unfortunately lead many to choose abortion as a last resort to eliminate a new life.

The firm hesitancy of the Post-Vatican II Church to take on the evil of contraception, either morally or politically, and its refusal to point out its connection with the greater evil of abortion, is truly a sign of the times. Most churchmen evidently actually believed that they could effectively oppose abortion without ever tying abortion to the practice of contraception. That effort has been largely a failure, not only in the political order, but in the church itself where acceptance of contraception and abortion by Catholics now mirrors the larger society.            

Now all of this hesitancy, including the silence of the Synod, can be traced back to the assault on the Church’s teaching on contraception at Vatican II. This assaultwhich men like Pius XI could never have imaginedcan be seen in the history of the document, Gaudium et Spes, and its treatment of marriage. There was a small number of very influential bishops, and their theological experts, present at the Council who definitely wanted to see the teaching on contraception modified or reversed, or at least silenced. Among those bishops were men like Cardinal Alfrink of Holland, Cardinal Suenens of Belgium, Cardinal Dearden of Detroit, Cardinal Leger of Montréal, and a number of others. Cardinal Leger actually went to the root of the issue, and worked to have the purposes of marriage reversed by the Council. Cardinal Dearden voted with the majority in the birth control commission, who wanted to change the church’s teaching on contraception, and was rewarded by being elected as the first President of the new U.S. Bishops Conference. Cardinals Alfrink and Suenens were prominent figures in the powerful European alliance of bishops and theological experts that so heavily influenced the Council’s deliberations. They were prime moversthe Catholic “Lambeth” bishopsin the effort to reverse thr Church’s teaching on contraception. Their historical effort seems to be repeating itself today in the Synod.

This history is very telling for interpreting the confusion at the recent Synod. So powerful was this European alliance at that timeas detailed in  Ralph M, Wiltgen’s 1967 book, The Rhine Flows into the Tiberthat it was, at least, able to partially and effectively frustrate the will of Pope Paul VI, expressed in certain amendments that he sent directly to the Theological Commission. For instance, one amendment was to make a change in the section on the “deformations” detracting from the dignity of conjugal love and family life (section 47). Pope Paul wanted the specific words “artificial contraceptives” added to the list of deformations, including polygamy, divorce, free love, etc. He also provided a footnote to be inserted referring to the specific pages in Pius XI’s Casti Connubii that condemned artificial contraceptives. The Theological Commission, virtually in the control of that European alliance, ignored the specific terminology of artificial contraceptives, and simply referred to “illicit practices against human generation.” It also totally omitted the footnote referring to Casti Connubii, and its condemnation of artificial contraception as such. Indeed, Cardinal Leger reacted as if the Pope really had no right to offer these amendments.

This shocking treatment of a papal directive is stunning in itself, but the language actually chosen by the Council for insertion is even more telling as to the intentions of these alliance members. By ignoring the term “artificial contraceptives,” and referring only to “illicit practices against human generation,” they were, in effect, keeping the question open as to whether all artificial contraceptives, including the new pill, are illicit. The hope of these manipulators was, perhaps, not to reverse the church’s teaching on artificial contraception during the Council, which was clearly impossible, but to wait for the birth control commission, and then do their work there to undo this teaching.

Connected with this issue was another amendment sent by the Pope to the commission to delete the word  “also” in a statement which asserted that procreation was “also” a purpose of marriage. This statement effectively reduced procreation to a secondary end of marriage, which was the objective of certain bishops like Leger. The effort to undo the church’s teaching on contraception has always been closely connected with the similar effort to change the Church’s teaching on the hierarchy of purposes in marriage. Eliminating the constant teaching of the church that the primary end of marriage is procreation, clears the way to deny the evil of contraception in general. We have seen that link for the past 50 years. Interestingly, even the Lambeth conference, which at first asserted that procreation was the primary end of marriage, went on to justify in certain “rare instances” the acceptability of artificial contraception. They would later alter the definition of the ends when the practice was exploding. The editor (mentioned above) of the Washington Post, scoffed as being ludicrous any suggestion that this practice would be “rare.”

Pope Paul sent a third amendment in which he wanted the words “should not” replaced in a sentence stating how Catholics were to treat methods of regulating procreation condemned by the church. The words “should not”use illicit methodswere to be replaced by the words,  “it is not lawful” for Catholics to practice such methods. The words “should not” were rather transparently intended by the Commission to soften the obligation of obedience to the church’s teachings. In addition, the Pope also wanted a footnote added, referring both to Casti Connubii, and to Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the Midwives, which stated that the condemnation of artificial contraceptives was derived from both natural and divine law. While the commission {reluctantly?} added the words “it’s not lawful” to the text, it once again rejected the footnote that Pope Paul had intended. Why Pope Paul acquiesced to this rather insulting rejection was never adequately explained.

Finally, the fourth amendment of Pope Paul which actually referred to contraception and abortion in the same sentence, was directed at recognizing the temptations of married couples to use both of these in their married life, and the necessity for practicing chastity to avoid these temptations. The commission again rather sidestepped the pope’s amendment by adopting the substance of his language about chastity while dropping the language about a temptation to practice artificial contraception, and to resort to abortion. Once again, the language of “artificial contraception” is deliberately avoided, and any association of the two is mentioned only in Section 51, where the text  does make discernible a certain connection: “To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions, indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life.” A certain connection is there, but just barely, and no integral connection between the two “dishonorable solutions” is suggested, let alone argued.

Why is there any importance of this now ancient history of the issue in Vatican II? Because it appears that the same basic strategy is repeating itself today in the Synod on the Family. There is no question that the recent synod was being somewhat manipulated, similarly to Vatican II, by certain key figures, including Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Archbishop Bruno Forte, the synod’s ultra liberal Special Secretary. As with the Theological Commission’s manipulation of the above mentioned amendments in Gaudium et Spes, Cardinal Baldisseri tried to limit our access to the discussions by quashing rather vociferous objections to the way the discussions were being reported, until a virtual rebellion challenged him, and he relented.  And it was Bishop Forte’s outrageous interim report that led to another open revolt of many bishops, unheard of at these meetings, beginning with Cardinal Péter Erdo, the synod’s relator (official reporter/summarizer) who candidly and publically disowned the report by pointing to Forte as the one who composed this distortion of the actual proceedings.

As a result of this confrontation, the final document was, in fact, somewhat more balanced as to the actual discussions, but even here the Pope interestingly chose to ignore the general rules regarding the contents to be included in the final report, and ordered two statements on controversial issues which had not received the necessary votes to be included. This was going beyond what Pope Paul had done with his suggested amendments to the Council in that Pope Paul was very careful not to override the procedural norms which allowed some of his suggestions to be ignored or modified. This may seem a minor thing given the toned down wording on those two issues, but it is this intervention that may spell more trouble ahead. 

However, the key to all this mess is for the courageous to recognize and remedy the omission of virtually all references to contraception, and the contraceptive mentality, that now rules our world.  It is to admit the near obsession on the part of a powerful, if small, clique of bishops with granting the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Communion; and the bold efforts on the part of some few bishops to give some kind of positive recognition to homosexual unions.  These issues are all certainly to be found in the moral and doctrinal theological systems that have developed in certain European countries.  At Vatican II, some powerful European bishops, and their expert theologians, who came to be known as the “European Alliance,” clearly desired a change in the Church’s moral teaching on artificial contraception, and a loosening on the discipline related to divorceand they worked hard to get this done. But in the end, they failed in both endeavors, both during and after the Council. Still, they evidently never fully gave up, and now it seems that some of their successors in certain European dioceses, and elsewhere, are at it again in this Synodboth positively by promoting Communion for the divorced who are civilly remarried, and also negatively by the old strategy of silence on contraception. In the latter case, the long term strategy all along has been simply to ignore the issue pastorally and, hopefully, let it eventually die, and the silence of this Synod will advance that project if that silence continues.

Now, the theological systems that have dominated many theological faculties in western universities and seminaries, for decades now, are deeply flawed in ways that undermine Church teaching, both doctrinal and moral, at least in certain respects. The present hope for changing the Church’s moral teaching on sexual ethics, and certain doctrinal teachings on marriage, arises from (and is grounded in) a resurgent relativism and consequentialism in ethics, and an epistemological subjectivism related to revelation and Church doctrine.

Modernism, at the turn of the last century, was strongly condemned because it left no creedal dogma safe since it reduced all doctrinal teachings to transient efforts to grasp an enigmatic truth which changes with the culture and times. This radical doctrinal subjectivism is still with us, perhaps in new forms, but today the more dominant relativism has taken hold in new moral systems which seem largely to have been developed to justify dissent on Church moral teachings when it comes to sex and marriage.

In the doctrinal area, the same old denial of objective truth seems to be at work today, undermining the Church’s constant teaching on divorce and remarriage. It was precisely such deviant theological systems that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were counteracting and correcting during their brilliant papacies.  Now we are facing an effort of the dissenters from their papal magisterium, who remained in the shadows for a time, only to make, perhaps, one last effort to remake the Church’s teaching.

For instance, today it is simply a given in many theological circles that there is no true natural law, simply because there is no “nature” that is a given. Moral norms are necessarily relative, then, because they are seen to be grounded, not in an order of nature, but merely in the will of a supreme lawgiver, who evidently can change the moral law quite arbitrarily. Moral theologians, therefore, must search for what God wills today, and they must find this will not in some abstract theory of nature, but mainly in the cultural and social milieu which testifies to the truth today, or, better, to today’s “truth,” precisely as it is understood by a majority of people. Pope Benedict referred, with great clarity and insight, to this modern version of voluntarism in his Regensburg Address, and elsewhere, and he provided a brilliant analysis regarding the impact of this error for our very notion of God, who simply becomes “a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.” Moral relativism is, thus, deeply connected to the problem of God, in every age.

Today, it seems abundantly clear that this new voluntaristic relativism has taken hold, not only in Islam, but in the thinking of many Catholic intellectuals, and Church leaders, as well. Moral norms are reduced to become just contingent, legalistic, voluntaristic “rules” that can and must be changed with the times and cultural evolutions. Moral norms are, thus, no longer seen as rooted in the ontological order, speaking objective truth to us, but in the arbitrary will of a changing and capricious God, whose dictates become embedded in changing cultures. Change the moral norm and, supposedly, nothing happens in objective order of this world, but only in our way of thinking and acting. It’s all a great mind game. The truth of the norm is not securely grounded in the ontologicalin the real order established by divine wisdombut is reduced to a pure product of the mind, determined pragmatically by measuring the supposed positive and negative consequences the norms supposedly produce.

But changing the way men think, and perhaps act, by altering the moral norms of a society, does not, in the end, change reality itself, that is, the nature of things in themselves.  Simply helping men to “think” better of themselves will not, by itself, actually make them better men. If one could convince all the members of a society that there was no such thing as a sin of theft, men who took what did not belong to them would still objectively “be” thieves. And the society that results might have a lot of people who think they are good men, but life would not be better as a result of that thinking. It would, in fact, become chaotic because of just that one obliteration of a moral norm that is rooted in the nature of things, including the nature of a just and good society.

Allowing Catholics to receive Communion who are objectively living in adultery will not make them non-adulterers. Even if such Catholics were somehow supposedly made invincibly ignorant by their bishops and priests, they would still “be” divorced and remarried in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of the state as well, and ultimately in their own eyes, and their children’s. They may “feel” better about themselves, but they won’t actually be better. Catholics may be “left alone” in their supposedly invincible ignorance by their priests and bishops regarding contraception, but that ignorance will not prevent the real destructive effects of a contraceptive mentality, that is, selfishness toward life, and ultimately meaningless sex.  Will such “compassionate” clergy, who refuse to properly inform consciences, be the last people left in this world who actually think that maximizing sex though contraception leads to greater conjugal love, and marital stability?  Much more realistic are those who end up totally stripping sex of its marital connection, and seeing it as just another mode of “self-pleasuring,” as they call it today.

No society in our day that has embraced the contraceptive style of life has produced anything but a terrible devastation of marriage and family life. Point to one that has resulted in greater stability of marriage, and greater security of children in the family? Anglicans, since 1930, have perhaps felt better about themselves after they abandoned the nearly two millennia of teaching on unnatural birth control, and divorce and remarriage, but this has hardly made their marriages fruitful, and more stable. So why do these progressive Catholic clerics, and theologians, think that it will cure the problems Catholics are having? It’s like fighting the illness by prescribing more of what has largely caused the illness in the first place. We know that huge majorities of married Catholics have been largely ignoring the Church’s moral teaching on contraception and divorce for decades now, with the encouragement of many of their clergy, and what has resulted is but a repeat of the Anglican experience: huge divorce rates, and plunging birth rates.

Likewise, the effective numbing of the conscience of Catholics on contraception and divorce is hardly going to stem the other grave problem our western societies are facing: their literal and very real demographic suicide. Just when secular authorities seem to be waking up to the crisis at hand, we have the anomaly of Catholic leaders misreading the signs of the times. These bishops and laity live in the midst of the most serious and rapid decline of populations in human history, and they still can’t recognize any connection between this suicidal development, and the contraceptive mentality, and family instability, caused by divorce. Only a change of consciences will slow, and eventually reverse, this societal population crisis, while the tendency among many Church leaders is to harden, rather than to enlighten, the consciences of the people.

This Synod may well be the last practical chance to make a real contribution to the salvation of marriage and family life, and to western society in general. The Church herself is guaranteed to survive this, and every other mess we create by abandoning the natural law, and objective moral principles. The Church has survived great crises in the past. But the marriages of Catholics, and the survival of societies of the western world, are not so guaranteed. People are going to suffer the objective consequences of their actions, regardless of the subjective state of their consciences. Their societies will not survive on “free love” and contraceptives. All the Popes from Pius XI on have warned us about this, and their warnings are coming true in our day.

But it was Pope John Paul who posed the final warning, that contraception is, in the final analysis, not only a sin against marital chastity, but a profound undercutting of, and attack on personal faith, simply because, in the end, it is a practical denial of the true God. Saint John Paul’s most incisive insight is this: that contraception is also a sin against the First Commandment, a refusal to allow God to be the true God, our Creator. The human person is God’s greatest created work, and contraception is the effort to eliminate God, and His divine love, from the generation of men. That can’t be done, of course, but the effort can, and has, and will, shipwreck the faith of countless Catholics and Christians, and frightfully reduce the true dignity and value of every human person. Do the silencers or distorters of conscience not see any connection between the massive recourse to contraception in marriage, and the massive loss of faith among Catholics over the past half century? It is certainly not the only factor. But, can they see it’s significant role in this great apostasy of our day?

Once again, this distortion of consciences can’t change reality, since only God can create the person as such, because God creates the soul which primarily makes us God’s image. But this effort to deny God His wondrous intimacy in the love of man and woman, and their procreative powers, will destroy those who attempt this usurpation of a divine prerogative, and it will, in turn, destroy their society. Today, contraception, and its offspring technologies, are well advanced in destroying the transcendent value of human life itself as a gift from God. In the future, it will utterly destroy human societies who embrace its way of life.  Men who corrupt families, and devalue human life in the process, will surely not, as Ignatius of Antioch said, inherit the Kingdom of God. Contraception is not just one moral issue among a lot of others. The Synod needs to confront this greatest ever threat to man and human society, for time is quite literally running out to reverse the social and moral chaos it has generated.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon About Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary, a former contributing editor of Triumph magazine, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.


  1. Avatar Janet Smith says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Fantastic analysis. It is very sad that the connection between contraception, abortion, and all the offenses against life, made by Saint Pope John Paul II in Evangelium has not caught hold. We will make little to no progress until it does. Paragraph 137 of the Instrumentum Laboris could have been written by Fr. Charles Curren.

  2. Thank you for this incisive analysis.

    I agree with the point that the embrace of contraception is really (also) a sin against the first commandment. God has joined together sex and procreation in his creature, man, and when I contracept I’m saying “I don’t want to be your creature.” But when I say yes to the way I am made by rejecting contraception, I’m (also) saying, “I want to live the way you have made me, Lord.”

  3. Avatar Beverly Malona says:

    Thank you, Father. You took my breath away. Marxist thought on man, woman, nature,and marriage has been adopted by many Catholic intellectuals, then and now. I find it fascinating that you opened with your first paragraph about Vatican II ignoring the communist threat. It was almost like “the church” was apologizing for Pope Pius XII’s staunch anti-communist stand. I remember, the parade of individuals from Eastern block countries, marching enclosed in barbered wire, to demonstrate to John XXIII that they were not happy.
    You mentioned the names of Vatican II Bishops/Cardinals who tried to change marriage’s meaning, and the church’s teaching on contraception. Aside from Marxist social thought, I charge these men with fundamentally disordered lives as I would charge the men from Germany now. There is a fundamental issue, an elephant in the parlor, which few dare mention out loud. I worked as a diocesan department head for almost 20 years, and witnessed first-hand how the disordered lives of priests and Bishops robbed them of any moral authority. Catherine of Sienna addressed this problem in the thirteenth century; who has the courage to expose it now? How could the “disordered” not fight for the justification of their own lives and, at the same time, destroy what makes them most uncomfortable: natural law, the nature of man and woman, marriage between man and woman–all this a thorn in their flesh.

  4. Avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Thank you for having the courage to say these things so clearly and forcefully. Unless Pope Frances alters the path on which he seems to be travelling, the upcoming Synod on the family will mark the end of the magnificent effort of the last several Popes to center the Church on the path laid out by God and reinforced by the sacrifice of Christ. In spite of his seeming holiness and embrace of the poor Frances’ apparent naiveté (or active support of, its hard to say which) in the face of these powerful movements will speed us to the reality of the ‘Faithfull Remnant’. I fear for the Church that my grandchildren will inherit because of the sinfulness and rejection of Truth of our generation and the failure of our shepherds to “shepherd my people”.

  5. Avatar Sheryl Temaat says:

    As long as no one is in danger of going to hell, the bad effects of sin stop right here in this life where there are drugs, surgeries, medicines, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other means to fix problems.

    The thought of eternal punishment has been banned from discussions, yet when I left high school in 1959, the last thing I heard was that the Church would not change her teaching on birth control, and that any use of it was a mortal sin.

    Those dedicated priests and nuns meant to save our souls. Their teaching was undermined by the total refusal by almost EVERYONE since to teach sin, death, heaven, and hell.

    Now we hear that we should want to do the right thing because we love God not because we fear Him. That has worked about as well as the present political negotiations with our sworn enemies.

  6. Avatar Marie Carpenter says:

    I have felt like Alice living in Wonderland all of the 45 years of marriage resisting the contraceptive mentality in the world. The teachings of Pope JPII and Benedict XVI were so encouraging! Now I feel like Alice in Wonderland in the Church with the chaos and confusion being instigated by Francis. Perhaps it’s true: the inmates are now running the asylum.

  7. Let me add one point that is implied, but I think needs shouting:

    Contraception denies God the Father, and in doing so, denies fatherhood.

    Contraception destroys the family by destroying the presence of fatherhood.

    And so, any synod on the family that denies discuss contraception cannot discuss what is now even more profound a crisis: that the West does not know what a father IS, what it looks like to be a father, or how a father is to act.

    Once you don’t recognize fatherhood, you can’t experience Gid as Father. There can be no belief in an ever faithful father if you have never had a father yourself. God as Father is not comprehend able.

    Our bishops have not been authentic fathers. Their silence on contraception and on divorce and remarriage means they do not point to God the Father either.

    The synod on the family must teach the West what Fatherhood is. And who God the Father is. And why He is forever procreative and faithful.

  8. Avatar Alexander Rodriguez says:

    You are definitely a legalist! Legalists uphold the letter of posited law in all circumstances and are loathe to admit of any exceptions. Legalism, in doubtful cases, may be the safest course, but it is not always the only permissible one – and to place a heavy burden unnecessarily on someone who is likely to fall under its weight was the sin of the Pharisees, which was so detested by Jesus. Having said that, contraception is wrong, particularly in marriage, in which it is a kind of sacrilege; but to admit of no exceptions, especially in dire medical circumstances is to not see the forest for the trees. And with regard to divorce: marriage is a contract binding until death, but there is no society in the history of the world in which the marriage contract – or any agreement for that matter – has ever been deemed indissoluble in every circumstance. And if the church, in her official teaching, can speak of different grades of indissolubility of the marriage bond – and has for the past 1000 years and, most notably, during the Council of Trent, has passed on condemning the practice of the Orthodox church of dissolving marriages – then it doesn’t believe in absolute indissolubility either. Therefore, now is the time to stop keeping the power of the keys from our faithful and to unlock and open wide the doors of mercy to them.

    • To me this article says people are made for the rules, instead of rules for the people. The reason Catholics continue to use contraception is that they find the practice good for marriage and family life. All the bad things that some in the church say will happen, don’t happen. Moreover, they find that the so called contraceptive mentality does not really exist because they don’t automatically accept all that other stuff(abortion,euthanasia, same sex marriage) as some in the church say they will. Contraception has allowed women to have a fuller life. As important as having babies is, women have been given lots of other gifts to contribute to society. Motherhood is not the primary identity of all women; their role in society has enlarged greatly over the last 50+ years, all for the betterment of themselves and society at large. Contraception is not bad in itself, but it can be used badly outside of marriage. Nevertheless, the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water. Other inventions, like TV, movies, the Internet, can and do contribute to sexual immorality, but we don’t ban the use of them. These have been my consistent observations over the years.

      • Onan of the Old Testament would like you.

      • Sheryl, Assuming your Onan comment was meant for the linred comment above, I feel compelled to say your response was neither serious nor intelligent. Better left unsaid rather than reflect badly on you. REALLY!!!

  9. Avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Catholic Marriage is not a contract. It is a Covenant with the Husband, Wife and God as participants. God has made several covenants with both the Jewish people and through Christ with His people ‘The Church’ over time. Listen to the words of the Consecration which you should hear each time you attend Mass. Christ clearly explained to his dumbfounded Disciples that His Father had intended that from the very beginning and only allowed Moses to allow it because of the obstinacy of the Jewish People. From the time of Christ and the founding of His Church the indissolubility of a properly formed and consummated Marriage is clear in Catholic teaching.

    • Avatar Alexander Rodriguez says:

      Covenant is an archaic word for contract, but there is no difference between them. They’re legal agreements. Contracts or covenants, yes, even in the Old Testament are routinely broken on the part of man, even Divnely formed ones. To not admit that man can break a covenant is like the Protestant error of saying man has no free will to break the commandments. It repudiates reality and defies common sense. Agreements binding for an hour can be broken within that hour in the same manner as agreements binding for a life-time. I agree that marriage is meant to be life-long “covenant” naturally dissoluble only upon the death of a partner. But it is not an agreement that cannot or even should not be broken, under certain circumstances.

      • Avatar Brendan Marshall says:

        Read Ephesians.

        The marriage covenant between a man and woman is a mirror of Christ’s relationship to the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, as Scripture tells us.

        Christ’s relationship to the Church is not conditional nor dissoluble “under certain circumstances”. It is eternal, irrevocable and sacred. Sorry, Alexander, Christ is not a bigamist “under certain circumstances”.

        Furthermore, your obligatory reference to Pharisees is also well wide of the mark. Jesus told the Jews to obey the Pharisees since they were the doctors of the law but not to follow their example.


  10. Avatar Ted Heywood says:

    The ‘Keys’ were given to Peter, not to the faithful!

  11. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Fr Pilon does your or anyone’s Catagorical thinking leave room for God’s mercy? How do you account for the experience of millions of people living the covenant of marriage, even though they used artificial contraception? How do you propose to be in dialogue with a world that rejects the western ontological world view but does not reject divine revelation? Do people [Japanese] whose world view is fundamentally different than yours mean that they reject nature?

    • Hello Tom McGuire,

      I’m not speaking for Fr. Pilon, of course, but as an “anyone” – a Catholic trying to be a faithful disciple, by His holy grace.

      Moral theology – and evangelization – require clarity and precision, because they are concerned with truth. Revealed truth is not ambiguous, and Christian teachings which flow from revealed truth ought to be clear, clean, precise. Jesus IS the truth, and there is no lie, no “middle ground” in Him. He cannot lie; He cannot offer a compromise position, a shade of grey where many men ever seek an easier “middle way”, seeking to have this world and the Kingdom too, seeking to love what is of this world – the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life – while not offending God too much as to alienate Him.

      Our call to holiness is hard to hear and hard to live! It is impossible apart from Him! It is a call to complete self-gift! And that IS our call. There was no “contraception” separating and isolating Christ from the world of sinners, when He poured out His life to make life possible in us! He gave Himself completely, in totality, in divine love, in His sacred humanity. Thus husband, love your wife as Christ loved the Church! Do not put on a lie, while you profess your love for her. Do not desecrate the marriage bed. Do not desecrate your marriage! Contraception is a lie.

      The mission of the Church is to make saints – faithful disciples of the one Son, God made man, Jesus. “Therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Yes, God is merciful, and a human lifetime is a process allowing growth in truth, in wisdom, in Him. Therefore, fortunately for us, there is abundant grace now, in this world, and there is also “plan B” – purgatory.

  12. Linered and Tom McGuire,

    God’s mercy is always available to anyone who has engaged in distorting the twofold gift of human sexuality which is biologically designed to be both unitive and procreative, if they discover the truth of these actions and how they draw couples away from each other and from him and they repent. It is not loving to condone actions which are sinful and lead to further disharmony and death.

    When we divide the two purposes of the gift, we open a pandora’s box:

    –I want the untitive but not the procreative: so I want pre-marital, extra-marital, homosexual, masturbatory, or just plain old self gratifying sex which leads to selfishness. I’m willing to maim or malfunction my healthy body (or require my partner to) with Class A carcinogenics in order to achieve this end. I will cooperate with lustful desire rather than gain true freedom and the true meaning of sacrificial love through self-mastery. If said procedures fail me and an “unwanted” child is formed against my will, I will have a much higher chance of resorting to the slaughter and disposal of the child through abortion.

    –On the other hand, I want the procreative aspect but not the unitive so I will create 20 souls in a pitre dish which have a high average of birth defects, and kill off 18 or 19 of them in order to get the one (usually a boy, with blue eyes and lighter skin, higher intelligence…etc.) I want.


  13. As I have written in Contraception’s Cascading Rampage, http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/01/29/contraceptions-cascading-rampage, a clear and scientifically irrefutable relationship exists between the use of contraceptives, the epidemic of narcissism and the plague of divorce, with its life-long damage to millions upon millions of children, young adults, loyal spouses, and their families worldwide. Many days in my work as a psychiatrist over the past 40 years, I have felt like an army medic on a battlefield strewn with people of various ages and conditions, severely wounded by something essentially ignored.

    The failure to address the psychological and sociological science related to this damage to Catholic marriage and familes needs to be corrected – and the subject directly confronted – in October’s Ordinary Synod on the Family.

  14. Avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Dr. Rick,
    Agree completely…but…don’t set yourself up for big disappointment if the Synod doesn’t address contraception in any but a passing way. Only the Synod itself will indicate where Frances places this and related issues, Abortion, Euthanasia, etc. in his priority list. Indications so far are not promising.

  15. Avatar Anastasia says:

    Here is a quote from Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) book “Love amd Responsibility” on the hierarchy of marriage which is probably this last time anyone ever heard of ths teaching.

    “The Church, as has been mentioned previously, teaches, and has always taught, that the primary end of marriage is “procreatio”, but that it has a secondary end, defined in Latin terminoly as “mutuum adiutorium”. Apart from these a tertiary aim is mentioned- “remidium concupiscentiae”. Marriage, objectively considered, must provide first of all the means of continueing existence, secondly a conjugal life for man and woman, and thirdly a legitimate orientation for desire….. By reason of the fact that they are persons a man and a woman must consciously seek to realize the aims of marriage according to the order of priority given above, because this order is objective, accessible to reason, and therefor binding on human persons……The same principle also guarantees that the ends will be achieved in the order of importance accorded to them here, for any deviation from this is incompatible with the objective dignity of the person. The practical realization of all the purposes of marriage must then also mean the successful practice as love as a virtue – for only as a virtue does love satisfy the commandment of the Gospel and the demands of the personalistic norm embodied in that commandment. The idea that the purposes of marriage could be realized on some basis other then the personalistic norm would be uterly un-Christian, because it would not conform to the fundamental ethical postulate of the Gospels. For this reason we too must be on guard against trivialization of the teaching of the purposes of marriage.
    With this in mind, it seems equally clearly indicated that the “mutuum adiutorium” mentioned in the teaching of the Church on the purposes of marriage as second in importance after procreation must not be interprted as it often is- to mean ‘mutual love’. Those who do this may mistakenly come to believe that procreation as the primary end is something distinct from ‘love’, as also is the tertiary end, “remidium concupiscentiae”, whereas both procreation and “remedium concupiscentiae” as purposes of marriage must result from love as a virtue, and so fit in with the personalistic norm. “Mutuum adiutorium” as a purpose of marriage is likewise only a result of love as a virtue. There are no grounds for interprting the phrase “mutuum adiutorium” to mean ‘love’. For the Church, in arranging the objective purposes of love in a particular order, seeks to emphazise that procreation is objectively, ontologically, a more important purpose than that man and woman should live together, complement each other and support each other (mutuum adiutorium), just as this second purpose is in turn more important than the appeasement of natural desire. But there is no question of opposing love to procreation nor yet of suggesting that procreation takes precedence over love.”

  16. Avatar Jim Anderson says:

    Thank you, Fr. Pilon! Continue to speak the truth, even if it falls upon deaf ears. I see the results of the contraceptive mentality/sexual revolution, even in my workplace, where many, many people come from broken families. Western civilization is destroying itself, with a blindfold on, of course.


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