Skip to comments.Father John Catoir and The Catholic Free Press on contraception
Posted on 03/10/2012 8:18:18 AM PST by cleghornboy
In a previous post, I noted how The Catholic Free Press [official newspaper of the Diocese of Worcestre, Massachusetts], is now surprised that the government is mandating contraception and I wrote, "Once a people appeal to conscience in order to condone sin, it is only a matter of time before such sin is openly mandated. Long before contraception was being mandated by the government, there were those in the Church - including throughout the Diocese of Worcester - who were unleashing the leaven of infidelity by neglecting to preach against sin or by appealing to a dissenting notion of the primacy of conscience.
Richard Blanchard was documenting this infidelity (within the Worcester Diocese) at the same time I was writing against it in the pages of The Catholic Free Press more than twenty years ago. For example, in his newsletter 'Just The Facts,' No. 6, (1993), Richard noted how a Couple-to-Couple team was teaching CCD students preparing for Confirmation in Leominster, Massachusetts (St. Leo's Parish) that, 'If your conscience convinces you that birth control is right, even if the Church says its wrong, you can practice birth control and not be sinning.' And then Richard explains: 'This has been taught for over 20 years and still is being taught in this diocese [Worcester]. The basis for this teaching is dissent and a dissenting concept of the primacy of conscience which is nothing less than situation ethics.'
In the same newsletter, Richard Blanchard noted that, 'During the episcopate of Timothy J. Harrington...dissent and disobedience has flourished and taken deep roots....in September of 1984 Sister Anna Kane was appointed Vicar of Religious and Director of the then Office of Women, at the same time she became a member of Bishop Harrington's administrative cabinet. She became very militant against Humanae Vitae. Under the administration of Fr. Piermarini, (now Msgr), the religious education department employed Dr. Vincent Forde, Bernard Cooke and Alice Laffey as instructors of the Education in Ministry Program, also known as the Master Catechist Program which has for its goal, master certification for CCD teaching. All [of these instructors] openly strong advocates against the teaching on birth control in Humanae Vitae.'
Within the pages of The Catholic Free Press, Humanae Vitae was openly mocked. For example, in his "Essay in Theology" column entitled "Humanae Vitae; a troubling silence (CFP, August 13, 1993), dissident priest Father Richard P. McBrien referred to the Church as "a dysfunctional family" because it will not change its teaching on the sinfullness of artificial contraception to appease those who just cannot or will not accept it.
As a result of 40 years of poor catechesis - or none at all - and outright complacency throughout the Catholic Church in America, too many people today (including sadly, many Catholics) have come to view conscience as a sort of fortress built so as to shelter them from the exacting demands of truth. In the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "In the Psalms we meet from time to time the prayer that God should free man from his hidden sins. The Psalmist sees as his greatest danger the fact that he no longer recognizes them as sins and thus falls into them in apparently good conscience. Not being able to have a guilty conscience is a sickness...And thus one cannot aprove the maxim that everyone may always do what his conscience allows him to do: In that case the person without a conscience would be permitted to do anything. In truth it is his fault that his conscience is so broken that he no longer sees what he as a man should see. In other words, included in the concept of conscience is an obligation, namely, the obligation to care for it, to form it and educate it. Conscience has a right to respect and obedience in the measure in which the person himself respects it and gives it the care which its dignity deserves. The right of conscience is the obligation of the formation of conscience. Just as we try to develop our use of language and we try to rule our use of rules, so must we also seek the true measure of conscience so that finally the inner word of conscience can arrive at its validity.
For us this means that the Church's magisterium bears the responsibility for correct formation. It makes an appeal, one can say, to the inner vibrations its word causes in the process of the maturing of conscience. It is thus an oversimplification to put a statement of the magisterium in opposition to conscience. In such a case I must ask myself much more. What is it in me that contradicts this word of the magisterium? Is it perhaps only my comfort? My obstinacy? Or is it an estrangement through some way of life that allows me something which the magisterium forbids and that appears to me to be better motivated or more suitable simply because society considers it reasonable? It is only in the context of this kind of struggle that the conscience can be trained, and the magisterium has the right to expect that the conscience will be open to it in a manner befitting the seriousness of the matter. If I believe that the Church has its origins in the Lord, then the teaching office in the Church has a right to expect that it, as it authentically develops, will be accepted as a priority factor in the formation of conscience." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Keynote Address of the Fourth Bishops' Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on "Moral Theology Today: Certitudes and Doubts," February 1984).
In the same address, Cardinal Ratzinger explains that, "Conscience is understood by many as a sort of deification of subjectivity, a rock of bronze on which even the magisterium is shattered....Conscience appears finally as subjectivity raised to the ultimate standard."
If anyone is naive enough to think that this mindset isn't to be found within the Worcester Diocese any longer, they deceive themselves. This week's Catholic Free Press features an article written by Father John Catoir. In his article entitled "Birth-Control Revisited," the confused priest does his best to deify the subjective conscience writing, "The condemnation of contraceptives by the Church has led to great turmoil in the past.." Of course, Fr. Catoir neglects to mention why: the fact that Charles Curran and a host of other dissidents led a campaign against Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae. Fr. Catoir continues: "..but no one in authority condemns any individual who is not able to comply with the letter of the law." That is certainly true. The Church doesn't condemn the sinner. The sinner condemns himself or herself in this case by rejecting God's plan for marriage and family.
Fr. Catoir: "The grave responsibilities of raising a large family are daunting, nevertheless the grace of God abounds. Most married couples are generous in doing what they can, even if it is less than the ideal. Our culture makes raising a large family extremely difficult for most couples, consequently, the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral letter, 'On Human Life,' back in 1968 to help them form their conscience. Here is an excerpt from that document: 'In the final analysis, conscience is inviolable, and no person is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her conscience, as the moral tradition of the Church attests...'
Of course, Fr. Catoir - being the intellectually dishonest cleric that he is - conveniently omits the Church's teaching, as reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, regarding the formation of conscience which Pope Benedict XVI addressed above:
"Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings." (CCC, 1783)
"The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart." (CCC, 1784).
"In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church." (CCC, 1785).
So Fr. Catoir is simply regurgitating that devilish and (in the words of Richard Blanchard) that "dissenting concept of the primacy of conscience which is nothing less than situation ethics."
Back to Fr. Catoir, the charitable Catholic priest who would allow married couples to remain in grave sin and so be eternally lost: "The fact that a very high percentage of Catholics have found it necessary to use contraceptives in order to limit the number of their children, is not the issue behind the bishop's reaction to Obama-care. The bishops are not trying to force anyone to do what they deem to be beyond their strength..."
Do you see what Fr. Catoir is saying here? That a "very high percentage of Catholics" has decided to contracept because they deem the Church's teaching [which is Christ's teaching] to be too difficult and that this is "okay" because such people are merely following the dictates of their own conscience, a conscience which is inviolable. Fr. Catoir is really doing the devil's work here. And so is The Catholic Free Press by publishing his garbage. But then, those who produce the CFP obviously share his defeatist view. This represents a real tragedy. The first Bishop of Worcester, John J. Wright - later made a Cardinal - writing about Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, stated that, "The pressures on Pope Paul VI to speak on contraception other than he did have been massive. They have been pressures of human respect, politics, prestigious opinion, emotional torment, threats that Church unity might be destroyed or ecumenical hopes dimmed....What Pope Paul has done, what he had to do, is recall to a generation that does not like the word, the fact that sin exists; that artificial contraception is objectively sinful; that those who impose it, foster it, counsel it, whether they be governments, experts, or - God forgive them! - spiritual directors, impose, foster and counsel objective sin."
Isn't this exactly what Fr. Catoir - and The Catholic Free Press by extension since they published his views - are doing? Fostering objective sin?
What of Fr. Catoir's implication that the Church's teaching regarding artificial contraception is "beyond the strength" of many Catholics? Hard yes. But beyond the strength of these Catholics? God always provides His grace, His special help, to those who seek (honestly) to fulfill this law as well as all His commands. The Lord Jesus did not promise anyone an easy, carefree life in this world. In fact, He wraned us all - religious, married or single - that there is a price which must be paid to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16: 24).
Father Catoir, and those who produce The Catholic Free Press, apparently do not accept this teaching of the Master. For them, it is "beyond the strength" of ordinary Catholics. And when the Lord says [to us all] "My grace is sufficient for thee," He is obviously mistaken.
Pray for them.
Typo: Worcester Diocese. My apologies.
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