Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ales Rarus on Humanae Vitae, 37 years later

Funky Dung offers his reflection here. He demonstrates how far many Catholics have fallen when it comes to obeying the teaching of Humanae Vitae. He observes this sad phenomena at play in Allegheny county:
In Allegheny county, which is 69.8% Catholic, there are only 4 doctors (that I have found) who do not prescribe, perform, or refer for contraception, sterilization, abortion, or in vitro fertilization. That's right, there are only 4 physicians who live out the Church teaching on sexuality and life issues in a county that is almost 70% Catholic. That seems a little ridiculous to me. Of those 4, 2 are pediatricians, 1 is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), and 1 specializes in occupational/preventive medicine. None of them do gynecology work, not even the preventive medicine doctor. I called and asked. So, if you are a practicing Catholic woman in Allegheny county, you need to go elsewhere to find a gynecologist who shares your values.
Why have many Catholics become so Foolable on Humanae Vitae? Mr. Dung believes the poor state of catechism and preaching today may be a cause:
Personally, although I grew up Catholic, I didn't understand the Church's teaching until college. I remember learning there was a Church rule against birth control. I didn't have the impression that that the rule was still followed or "enforced". I never even knew that natural family planning existed, nor did I know that there were requirements for its use to be just. I think I had a pretty typical experience in this regard. I grew up in your average parish, attended Mass on Sunday and all Holy Days of Obligation, went to Catholic school and CCD during public high school. It was only through an orthodox Newman center that is very effective at catechesis that I learned the Church's teaching on sexuality and Her reason for it. Why didn't my paernts, who are supposed to be my primary catechists, mention it? Why did I not learn this in catechism class? Why had I never heard about it in a homily? The first time I ever heard the Church's teaching on contraception mentioned in a homily, I was in Denver and Mass was being celebrated by Archbishop Chaput. He is very much the exception to the rule, though. In my experience, there are very few priests who have the spine to talk about such a contraversial issue in a Sunday homly. Where are the bishops? Why are more bishops not talking about it? Why are the bishops not encouraging their priests to talk about the issue?
I've shared his experience. Twelve years of catholic education did not explain to me why the Church taught Humanae Vitae. I still haven't heard "theology of the body" mentioned in a homily. In fact, I rarely, if ever, here Humanae Vitae even mentioned.

This does not surprise me. The dissent so common from Catholic "liberals" today stems from opposition to Humanae Vitae. The movers and shakers of the Church, flush with enthusiasm for implementing the council (in all the wrong ways, it turns out), were shocked (shocked!) that Pope Paul VI dared not overturn centuries of Catholic teaching on contraception. They could not stand that some part of the modern world would still be held illicit by Rome. Did they not understand what the council was about? Why, the Church was to learn from the world. It didn't have all the answers! Why, then, did Pope Paul VI act so Foolishly?

Their outrage hardened into defiance. As they gained prominance in parishes and chaunceries, they soon found other issues with Roman Catholicism. Catechism soon became little more than a series of seventies affirmations on how God was Love and how Jesus loved us and forgives us everything, at least in suburban New York. Sexual morality, if it was mentioned in high school religion at all, was discussed in psychological, not doctrinal, terms. I didn't understand the Church's teachings on sex until well into my twenties, and not because of any parish-based program. I learned from Christopher West.

What we believe matters. We act on our beliefs. Because of our inclination towards sin, it's all the more important to believe right. We struggle to act on right beliefs; we act on wrong beliefs with much greater ease. However, actions from wrong beliefs produce wrong consequences. A tree is known by its fruit. If we want better fruit for our culture, we had better nourish the ground of our hearts and minds so that we can sow the seeds of Truth. Then, and only then, will our culture have a chance.