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The Extraordinary Synod of 1969: a question of authority.

A. The Synod
On 23 December 1968, Pope Paul officially announced that an Extra­ordinary Synod would take place at Rome the following year.(1) The “permanent” Synod which had grown out of the rediscovery of the concept of collegiality during Vatican II was set up by Pope Paul in his motu proprio, “Apostolica Sollicitudo” in 1965.(2) The first (ordinary) meeting of the Synod took place on 29 September – 29 October 1967 and discussed topics which had grown out of the work of the Council in a more specific way.(3) Two years later, the first “extraordinary” meeting of the Synod was held to attend to “matters involving the good of the Universal Church which call for rapid consideration.”(4)

Since this was an Extraordinary Synod, called to deal with a “crisis” in the church, many have traced its origin to the problems created by the promulgation of and reactions to HV which brought about a crisis of authority.(5) However true this may be, the announced topic of the Synod would be the nature of the episcopal conferences and their relations with the Holy See. The synodal agenda, according to the form set up in “Apostolica Sollicitudo, III,” is wholly determined by the pope so that, al­though many bishops had an expressed desire to discuss the encyclical, this direct issue could not be approached by the Synod. Instead, three areas of discussion were undertaken: the doctrine of collegiality in the church, the relationship between the episcopal conferences and the Holy See, and the relationship between the episcopal conferences themselves.(6)

It is not our purpose here to discuss the proceedings and intricacies of the synodal debate. Nor are the conclusions and final resolutions of the bishops of particular importance for us since these resolutions are still advisory and, although they represent a dynamic perspective on the workings of the hierarchical church, their wording remains cautious and their implementation is not definitive.(7) However, there are some impor­tant notions relevant to our topic which are evident simply from the fact that the synod took place.

First we would note that the direction and outcome of the 1969 Synod served as a kind of post factum recognition of the significance of the statements of episcopal conferences on HV. The large number of official declarations and pastoral letters on this encyclical which were widely published and often the object of commentary themselves, pointed to the fact that a good deal of attention was being paid to episcopal opinions on the subject of the encyclical. These opinions were taken into account not only by the church as a whole and even by the bishops themselves, but also by the Roman hierarchy which sought within a matter of months to clarify the status of independent episcopal conferences by calling a Synod. The bishops’ statements were obviously given importance. The question re­mained, how important were they?

Secondly, the principle of collegiality, at least nominally, had evidently taken hold in the church and was chosen as the object of further investigation in order to meet the demands of a really existing crisis. Alain Woodrow, in an article written before the Synod, points out the significance of the fact that the Synod was called at all.

Why a Synod? After the tempest stirred up by the encyclical Humanae Vitae, some members of the curia and other bishops pressed the pope to publish an encyclical on papal authority. But the pope seems to have excluded this solution in opting for consultation with the world episcopacy. This decision indicates that the pope prefers a “collegial” type of means to a personal one.(8)

This more conciliar approach to given church matters again underlines the importance of episcopal consensus in the church’s teaching. Although it remains consultative, the fact that such consultation is valued in the papal functions of authority, even as a necessary factor – through the establishment of the permanent Synod – gives weight to expressed episcopal opinion.

Thirdly, the calling of the Extraordinary Synod was, in effect, an admission of the fact that there was a crisis in the church. The nature of that crisis was defined by the agenda of the Synod’s work and was mani­festly a question of authority. However, the locus of the question was not hierarchical authority over the whole church per se, but rather the inner workings of the hierarchy itself. This included the implicit admission of the fact that enough bishops were deviating from one common position to warrant special attention to the status of individual conferences. Further­more, the outcome of the Synod did not consist in a reprimand for dissenting voices but rather a call for wider consultation in understanding one another.

Lastly, the manifest crisis of authority in the church which was cli­maxing in the late I960’s, no matter what its general or specific causes, was an issue that had to be discussed before adequate attention could be given to the substance of authoritative pronouncements. This presupposes a double question in the authority issue, only one of which was taken up in the 1969 Synod. On the one hand, the Synod dealt with the question, to whom does authority belong in the church? While its conclusions were not definitive, at least there was widespread recognition by all the parties involved that the bishops do play a role in the concept of church authority.

On the other hand, the Synod did not treat the scope of the context of authoritative pronouncements; the question, what can authority say? In regard to the reactions to HV, this question is highly significant and, for the most part, has not been given enough attention. Ultimately, it lies at the root of the entire issue. Had the pope issued an encyclical on the regulation of births with which all the bishops could substantially agree, we could conceivably ask whether the “authority crisis” would have come to a head in the way that it did. The 1969 Synod cast the question of authority in terms of the bishops’ role in both teaching the faithful and dialoguing with the Holy See. This was the issue and I propose here that it was an issue precisely because a good number of bishops saw themselves in a position where they could and did freely dissent from a part of papal teaching. Obviously, Rome disagreed with this opinion, with the resultant Synod of 1969. But the episcopal opinions on what could be morally taught by the magisterium were evident in that many bishops mitigated the specific prohibitions of the encyclical when it was issued, no conference of bishops withdrew this position after the Synod, and, in fact, some later episcopal conferences initiated new moves which deviated from the papal position.

Perhaps some subsequent Synod of bishops will eventually take up the issue of the scope and limits of magisterial competence in moral teaching. This question, which has remained unresolved since Vatican I, needs to be examined further and can never be answered by the simple issue of a papal statement. Whether or not there is an official recognition of this issue is less important than the fact that the analysis of the reactions of the bishops to HV has shown that operatively, many bishops have different notions about magisterial competence than had been previously recognized.

B. Reflection

The authority issue, then, had achieved a status of its own by the end of the 1960’s not only because Vatican II had chosen to complement the work of the 1870 Council by dealing with the role of bishops in church structure, but also because the mood of the church at this time was concentrating on issues of authority. This was partly the result of a global attitude toward authority in contemporary society. But in the church it must also be re­lated to the controversy over HV and the subsequent role played by the bish­ops in that debate. When we return to our original notion that the bishops offered a kind of limit to the scale of debate and interpretation which should be applied to that encyclical in the church, it appears that some working conclusions can be drawn.

The bishops evidently included themselves as competent participants in the formation of church teaching both here (by their official reactions to HV) and in the future (by their recommendations in the 1969 Synod). While, this does not diminish papal primacy, it certainly is an indirect attempt to recast that notion into the model of ministry and full episcopal cooper­ation. Comparing this attitude with the implicit ecclesiology found in many of the bishops’ reactions to HV, it seems clear that the theological discussion of the relation between the exercise of magisterial authority and the input of data from the church as a whole is still underdeveloped. If an adequate treatment of the scope of the authoritative moral magisterium is yet to be achieved, the principle of dialogue has been affirmed. What is more, that dialogue can and must originate from the “lower” toward the “higher” sectors of the hierarchical structure. Input must move from the bishops to the pope as well as vice versa, but analogously the bishops must be open to data themselves.

Also, in the context of at least this one issue of contraception, the bishops have indicated by their own pronouncements that the debate is a continuing one. The Synod did not address itself to this issue, but neither has any episcopal conference withdrawn its original statement about the encyclical. As we shall see shortly, some bishops even went beyond the sit­uation which prevailed after the first year to further mitigate the strict sense of HV. The significance of this emerging consensus for theological discussion indicates that this specific moral question is not a closed one. New arguments, both defending and disagreeing with HV, would attempt to clarify and judge the issues still being faced by a large number of Catho­lics. The bishops, like the theologians they both chastised and listened to, were themselves pluralistic in their expressed opinions.

ll. The later statements

The historical recession of the HV issue has caused a certain amount of journalistic silence about the reactions of bishops to the encyclical. Only a few statements by episcopal conferences have appeared in world print since the end of 1969 causing our attempt at analysis to be extremely limited. But repetition of previous attitudes is hardly newsworthy and the documents we will treat here represent only some lingering ripples in the tide of debate over HV. For the rest of the world episcopacy, it seems it seems safe to assume that the situation must be relatively unchanged.(9)

Nevertheless, there are at least seven statements which were drawn up as a response to HV and the aftermath of its moral controversy after the encyclical’s first anniversary. They are (in chronological order):

Yugo­slavia (2), “The Statement of the Yugoslave Bishops’ Conference,” issued at Zagreb, 5 Dec. 1969;(10)

Malta (2), “Directives for Confessors on ‘The Rela­tions of Married People’ proposed by the Diocesean Theological Commission and Approved by the Maltese Bishops,” issued in Feb. 1972(11)

Indonesia (4), “An Additional Pastoral Clarification on the Letter of the Bishops’ Conference of 1968 Concerning Planned Parenthood,” issued in Nov. 1972;(12)

Mexico (3), a Pastoral Letter issued on 12 Dec. 1972;(13)

South Africa, “Pastoral Directive on Family Planning issued by the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference” on 8 Feb. 1974;(14)

Australia (2), “Pastoral Letter on the Application of Humanae Vitae: Addressed by the Bishops of Australia to their priests,” issued in Sept. 1974;(15) and

Ireland (3), “Human Life is Sacred: Pastoral Letter of the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland to the Clergy, Religious and Faithful,” issued in May 1975.(16)

The method I have used for analyzing these statements is the same as that of our previous chapter and the statements can be found classified accordingly in Appendices A – D. But owing to the limited number of later reactions and the sometimes particular circumstances surrounding their issue, we will treat them more individually than the reactions in the first year and link some common themes.

A. Yugoslavia (2): the end of the reactions

On 5 December 1969, the bishops of Yugoslavia issued a statement to their priests on the implementation of HV. This was a follow-up to their first pastoral,(17) addressed to the faithful, and because of its specific recipients, was more technical and detailed. In a sense we might classify this as the last of the “direct reactions” to the encyclical because after this statement more than two years would elapse before another hierarchy chose to address itself to the topic. The orientation of their statement remained the same as their previous letter, fully endorsing the content and authoritative character of the encyclical.

Although this statement does not specifically elaborate each of the six “catch phrases” which we enumerated as the framework of the papal argument against artificial contraception(18), it does imply each one of them and, more importantly, is aimed at discrediting the ideas which we have labelled “mitigating factors.” Thus the “conflict of duties” and “lesser of two evils” are specifically denied (19) and the “importance of motivation” and a “representation of HV as an ideal” are said to be impossible positions.(20) The last of the arguments, on the interpretive use of “ther­apeutic means,” however, receives such a broad commentary that it might even be speculated that the bishops were violating their own warning against creating “loopholes” in the teaching” (21). In interpreting the general moral principles to be applied in teaching and confessional instruction, they write,

Here it is necessary to set down two moral principles. First of all, the classic principle of the act which has a double effect. Accord­ing to this principle, indirect abortion, indirect sterilization, and the indirect use of contraceptive means, are lawful.

(Here they quote HV,15 in full)

Therefore, it is lawful to take appropriate medicine, for example, to regulate a genuine disorder of the monthly cycle, or to defer ovula­tion before a concert, or a sporting event, or before a journey, or before undergoing examinations, and also, probably, during the lacta­tion period, in order to regulate the body. The other fundamental principle is that of justified and serious self-defense: in this way it is lawful for a woman to employ means to defend herself against a wrongful aggressor as, for example, in the fact of an attack by a rapist. One must remember, however, that in such cases it is not law­ful to prevent conception directly, but only to permit that this should not happen.(22)

One may wonder if the kinds of distinctions employed in these arguments or the broad permission given to menstrual regulation are in keeping with the letter of the papal teaching. At least some pastoral concern seems to have entered into this moral reasoning, although the complex position on poten­tial rape calls for a considerable amount of fine distinctions.

Since this statement was addressed to priests, a good deal of elabora­tion was given to the proper behavior of the confessor in explaining the doctrine to and questioning penitents. At least half of the text, is con­cerned with this problem and the conclusions are strikingly harsh in that priests are expected to pursue the topic in the confessional and even, on occasion, to deny or delay absolution to one who is determined to practice contraception. The basis for this attitude, however, is understandable by the bishops’ notion of sin and its gravity in this case. In what was one of the most explicit positions taken by any bishops’ conference, they wrote,

This is not to say that sins against conjugal morality or those sins committed involving the use of contraceptive devices methods (sic), are not in themselves, speaking objectively, mortal sins. Such an affirmation would be completely contrary to the teaching of the papal encyclical, which offers us the teaching on which depends the eter­nal salvation of the souls of the spouses. Therefore, what are in question here objectively are obligations which are extremely seri­ous, and acts which objectively are mortal sins.(23)

Finally, this statement takes a very strong and negative stand in re­gard to expressing dissent from the encyclical. Priests are forbidden to publicly express any doubts about the papal teaching which the bishops characterize as “certain” and “doctrina catholica” and “about which it is not lawful to have any doubts.”(24) The foundation for this position rests solely on the teaching authority of the church, a line of argumentation which almost places the papal prerogative in a superior and normative re­lation to divine law. In what was one of the most disturbing and perhaps positivistic statements of any of the documents surveyed, the bishops af­firm, “This law is obligatory, not so much because it was created as because it was proclaimed by the Ecclesiastical Magisterium.”(25)

B. Malta (2): a theological position

Three and one half years after Bishop Gonzi’s first pastoral letter on HV,(26) the theological commission drew up, and the Maltese bishops ap­proved, a new set of directives to be used by priests in regard to the “Relations of Married People.”(27) This statement represented a signifi­cant departure from their earlier position and was eventually disapproved of by a “Roman theologian.”(28)

Although the first statement from Malta called for patience and char­ity on the part of the confessor and understood the difficulty with which the teaching would be received, it nevertheless states that such laws of God are never impossible to fulfill if we pray for strength, and bases the authority of the teaching on the idea that “no Catholic will deny the magisterium the right to interpret the natural moral law.”(29) It is clear in the statement that such a “right” is identified with papal authority.

In contrast to this, Malta (2) takes its orientation from GS,50 by characterizing the use of sex in marriage as an expression of legitimate love. This is taken as the primary meaning of the spouses’ exclusive “union of love which of itself is oriented to the transmission of life and education of children.”(30) The statement goes on to quote the much used paragraphs of GS,50 and follows this with a recapitulation of HV’s condemnation of contraception (HV,14).

In what is evidently a recognition of the pastoral problems involved in implementing the encyclical, the document then turns to the conflict created by the presence of exclusive duties: those determined by the need to preserve marital unity and to procreate responsibly, and those flowing from attention to papal teaching. The resolution of this real conflict is seen as a decision of conscience on the part of the spouses in which they must decide “the most urgent and the greatest moral value they must safeguard.”(31) If such a conscientious decision leads to action contrary to the “ideal” found in the encyclical, they say, the spouses “will not be guilty of sin and hence they may not be regarded as not worthy to receive the sacraments.”(32) The statement ends with a special mention of the neces­sary consideration to be given to the motives behind personal decisions and an exhortation for confessors to be charitable and informed on these issues.

In addition to the fact that this later statement takes a decidedly different position from both HV and Malta (1), we may draw attention to the only argument given to justify its conclusions. Paragraph 8 of the directives refers its insights to the earlier statements of many episcopal conferences. This is followed by a rather ambiguous reference to the “teaching of the Magisterium,” which in this case seems to be identified not with papal authority but rather with the teachings of (their own and) “many Episcopal Conferences.” In combination with the statement’s orien­tation taken from G3, this appears to broaden these bishops’ concept of “magisterial teaching.”

C. Indonesia (4) and Mexico (3): revaluation in the developing countries

In the same year that the Maltese bishops re-examined their previous stand on HV, two other episcopal conferences issued statements which went even further in taking a position on the morality of artificial contracep­tion. Both Indonesia and Mexico can be classified as “developing – and over-populated – countries” and both situations exhibited a direct clash between the strict prohibitions of the encyclical and local governmental policy, as well as the pressing pastoral situation. For this reason, it may be relevant to examine the background of these revaluations.

Although the Indonesian bishops’ first letters both to the pope and to their clergy(33) represented rather open positions in respect to HV, their statement to the faithful (34) was ambiguous and at best “uncertain.” Thus, when it came to pastorally implementing the directives of the bishops, there was a great deal of confusion. Catholic medical personnel were generally restricted to advising only those methods of family planning which were approved by the encyclical. But this situation became less ten­able not only because of the physical and psychological conditions which militated against the successful use of “rhythm” but also because of in­creasing government pressure to find more feasible solutions to the pressing problem of overpopulation.(35)

In June 1972 a meeting of moral theologians of Indonesia took a posi­tion which advocated a revaluation of the official stand of the church in this matter. A month later, the First Catholic Medical Conference of Indonesia sent a letter to the Bishops’ Conference asking that greater freedom be officially sanctioned, especially for participating medical personnel. In direct response to these problems and influences, the bish­ops issued a “Clarification” of their earlier statement in November 1972.

The later statement of the Conference, Indonesia (4), consists of seven paragraphs, the first five of which refer both to their 1968 state­ment and to the encyclical. However, there is a significant shift of em­phasis here in the now explicit recognition of a real conflict of con­science and the necessity of one to reach a conscientious decision which it is permissible to follow. More importantly, the very first paragraph states that it is primarily the bishops who have the responsibility to assess a given pastoral situation and to teach their people accordingly.

The conclusions which these bishops arrive at and teach in this respect, which they say is “based upon the customary teaching of the Church,” (para. 5), are found in paragraph 6. This states that: a) parents who feel the need to use methods of artificial contraception in order to responsibly regulate births should not feel that they have sinned, b) Catholic medical personnel and institutions who advise and aid parents in practicing con­traception “do not perform evil,” and c) priests are to be understanding and helpful to the faithful in implementing the stated directives.

Furthermore, the clergy are advised to be tolerant of all the faithful – not only those who choose to use contraception but even those who choose to continue using total or periodic abstinence. This, in itself, repre­sents a change in perspective and a rather independent step by the Indo­nesian bishops.

In similar fashion, the Mexican bishops also found themselves revaluating their position in light of pastoral demands, but in an even more dramatic way. When these bishops wrote their first two pastoral letters,(36) the official government position had been that there was no population problem and that the socio-economic problems of the country were entirely those of development. In 1972, however, the official government position shifted to open recognition of a “demographic explosion” and in September initiated a new medical service “for family planning and responsible parenthood.”(37)

As in the previous case, these bishops responded to the pastoral sit­uation by first taking upon themselves the responsibility to teach in light of existing conditions.(38)  In the beginning of their statement, they write,

We bishops, servants of the People of God, are lively interested in the problem of responsible parenthood, which affects all our nation.

We want to offer a word that collaborates, that serves and that en­lightens the families in that great problem. To what we have said, on the base of the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, we want to add today new pastoral orientation.

Our intervention is an answer to a pastoral duty in an emergency situation, so real and miserable for the majority cf Mexican families is the population explosion, in very many cases under the sign of irresponsible fertility, aggravated by the existence of social-eco­nomic injustice.

The way in which these bishops respond to this “pastoral duty” is to reaffirm the need for spouses to act responsibly in determining the number of children they will have. From this perspective, in respecting the norm given by the teaching authority of the church, they write,

…it corresponds to the married couple to analyze it – together with the elements of the concrete situation – to find the will of God. The decision they take about the means, following in a loyal way that conscience dictates, must leave you in peace of mind, because there is no reason to feel separated of the friendship of God.(40)

These short quotations clearly indicate the general direction of this later pastoral and represent another independent step by an entire bishops’ conference to meet a real pastoral need.(41) But this public step was, as in the Maltese case, responded to by Rome. In 1973, a copy of the episco­pal statement sent to Rome for recognition was returned to the bishops with a “corrected version.” Thus, there are actually two versions of the third Mexican pastoral.

The first version does not seem to be available in full publication, although it has been seen and commented upon m a number of places.(42) The second version was printed as “Mensaje del Episcopado al Pueblo de Mexico sobre la Paternidad Responsable.” (43) While this second, “corrected,” ver­sion remains substantially the same in its orientation to the very difficult problems of the pastoral situation, it lacks the specific state­ment that the decision of the couple “implies the right, and responsibility of deciding upon the means.” Nevertheless, the bishops take a positive attitude toward the government’s population policy (para. Ill,3), empha­size responsible parenthood (1,1-3) and the necessity of taking concrete circumstances into account (IV,2.2 and 2.3), have a rather open attitude toward “therapeutic means” (IV,2.5.7), and develop the. pastoral approach to HV (111,2.5.8. to 2.5.11). The use of contraceptives is nowhere harsh­ly condemned, in contrast to their previous statements, while their rather vague references to conscience do not seem to imply anxiety over any “sin” of contraception (IV,2.5.9). The final version of Mexico (3) would have to be characterized as “uncertain” because it simply quotes HV when the actual question of contraception comes up, but the position of the bishops evidenced by their original statement clearly puts Mexico (3) in the group of those mitigating the encyclical.

D. South Africa and Australia .(2) : return to the original document

In 1974, two bishops’ conferences issued pastorals which were again reactions to the encyclical and addressed themselves to the present situa­tion of Catholics in respect to family planning and the use of contracep­tive methods. A possible motive for these letters was, as the South Afri­can bishops explicitly state, in response to the fact that the United Nations designated 1974 as “World Population Year.” Both of these state­ments originate from rather “developed countries,” although South Africa could hardly be said to be free from social and developmental problems, and neither could be said to be faced with an urgent problem of over-popu­lation, though both respective governments are actively concerned with the problem.

The Pastoral Directive of the South African bishops was issued at the end of their plenary session(44), and begins with a recognition of the re­sponses given to HV in the five years since its publication, both by the national hierarchies and the theological community. After noting current concern over the problems of population growth, the statement begins its development by quoting the often referred to paragraph 50 of GS on respon­sible parenthood as well as paragraph 37 of Populorum Progressio on the same subject. The bishops then point out the complexity of the question of family planning and indicate their own position on the center of re­sponsibility for moral decisions.

Hence it is not possible to furnish those simple, clear and decisive rules which many perhaps desire: much must be left to the decision of the individual conscience and the serious views of medical and other competent advisors.(45)

However, despite the fact that these bishops recognize a great deal of responsibility falling upon the individual conscience, they do not withdraw from what they consider their own role in leading and teaching the faithful in these matters. The essence of that role seems to be cen­tered around teaching the general principles which must be considered in making conscientious decisions in this area. In the paragraphs following the above quote, the bishops “stress those positive aspects of Christian marriage and of human sexuality which are a primary consideration in the unfolding of Church teaching.” These positive aspects consist in the idea of marriage as a “covenant of love,” the responsibilities of parents in deciding to have children, the necessary link of sex with both expres­sions of love and procreation, and the statement that “it cannot be said that contraception as such is a good or that it does not matter.”

This final statement points to the main principle underlying the epis­copal directive, namely, that contraception is not condemned as a (moral) evil, as it is in the encyclical, but is characterized more in terms of a pre-moral possibility. This is substantiated in what follows as the application of these principles. The bishops recognize a real conflict of duties demanding a responsible decision by the spouses which may fall short of the “ideal” but which is “subjectively defensible” since it is not motivated by “the selfish exclusion of pregnancy.” The whole of their position places a great deal of emphasis upon the couple’s motivation and on the concept of HV’s teaching as an “ideal.”

Following the statement of their positon, the bishops then go on to condemn abortion as a method of population control, state the need for Catholics to act in light of the global and national problems of popula­tion growth rate, and recognize the benefits of organized family planning programs while warning of the need to limit government action and preserve the free decision of individual conscience. Finally, the bishops expli­citly condone the work of Catholic medical personnel and Catholic institu­tions to “make available appropriate information regarding population trends and family planning, so long as the inalienable rights of married couples to reach the final decision are respected.”

The statement from the South African bishops clearly seems to be among those which we have characterized as “mitigating” the strict prohi­bitions of HV. Host of the considerations which must have influenced and explicitly appeared in their pastoral are taken both from GS and from the reactions of other episcopal conferences. The single reference given to the encyclical itself (HV,25) is a reminder that Christian spouses need the strength and spirit of sacrifice in their married life which comes from faith and hope in God and the benefits of prayer and the sacraments. The bishops’ letter nowhere explicitly repeats the encyclical’s condemna­tion of artificial contraception as (morally) evil or intrinsically dis­honest.

In contrast to this rather open approach, the bishops of Australia issued a pastoral letter to their priests, also in 1974, which in its basic orientation did not go far beyond their previous statement of 1968.(46) This later statement once again recognizes the exact nature and core of the papal teaching on contraception (finding it “intrinsically wrong and always illicit”) and identifies its force with the fact that this has been “ac­cepted Catholic teaching.” At the same time, the bishops point out that the prohibition is only a part of the teaching which as a whole underlines “the great values that a Christian must recognize in marriage.”

With this theoretical basis, the Australian bishops then introduce the question of a personal decision in conscience. They caution that con­science is a “practical judgment” of a given situation which does not form laws or doctrine but must be guided by “Christian principles and values.” Further, reference is given to the statement of the Canadian bishops on HV,(47) GS,50 and LG,25. At this point, however, the bishops begin to depart from their previous position and even from the papal teaching itself.

The significant difference here consists in the explicit recognition of the possibility that one can validly come to and hold a position at variance with the papal teaching. They write,

It is not impossible, however, that an individual may fully ac­cept the teaching authority of the Pope in general, may be aware of his teaching in this matter, and yet reach a position after honest study and prayer that is at variance with the papal teaching. Such a person could be without blame; he would certainly not have cut him­self off from the Church; and in acting in acordance with his con­science he could be without subjective fault.(48)

This position is substantiated by a lengthy quote from the West German bishops’ statement on HV, issued in September 1968.

The resulting position of these bishops can only be classified as “uncertain” because they simultaneously accept the binding validity of the papal teaching and the possibility that one can act differently as a re­sult of a dictate of conscience, but do not develop these ideas much fur­ther. In contrast to their previously accepting statement, the conclu­sions drawn from this perspective seem to accept the decision to use con­traceptives because of “special circumstances” because the bishops advise that at times the priest “may leave such a person in good faith.” Further, their attention to what other episcopal conferences had to say on the mat­ter shows a broader notion of magisterial teaching than their previous statement.

The pastoral understanding which appears to have motivated this epis­copal statement is indeed a broad one based, as they write, on “the teach­ings of sound moral theology.” But it seems equally obvious that these, conclusions are not the same as those of the encyclical, which taught that an “intrinsically dishonest” act could never be employed to bring about a good. The only conclusion we can draw, therefore, is that while these bishops prohibit teaching “that contraception, in any circumstances what­soever, is objectively good,” they evidently do not consider it a “moral evil.” Unfortunately, these points are never explicitly stated and the general endorsement given to the overall validity of the papal positon leaves the reader of the statement wondering what the actual positon of these bishops truly is. Because the logical conclusions of different parts of their statement appear contradictory, it is impossible to give a certain classification of their final position, even though the rights granted to individual conscience clearly mitigate the conclusions of the encyclical.

E. Ireland (3)

In early 1975 the Irish bishops issued 4 pastoral letters meant to be taken together as one continuous development. When all appeared, they were republished together as “Human Life is Sacred.” Parts One and Two deal with “Life” or rights of the unborn child, housing, education, wel­fare, euthanasia, old age, dying, drugs and violence. Parts Tree and Four are on “Love” or, respectively, problems facing marriage in Ireland and “parenthood, children, and a restatement of the Catholic teaching on birth regulation.(50)

In the course of this Letter, the bishops try to be attentive to the problems of the pastoral situation, including those facing marriage in the state of Ireland. Their attitude seems to have mellowed since their last pastoral on the subject which took an inspiration from the Council of Florence,(51) and more attention is paid to the teachings of GS, 47-52. While the attitude toward sex still carried an implicit negative valuation, the bishops go out of their way to exalt the “Christian view of sexuality” in ideal terms. When Part Four turns to the question of procreation, the entire doctrine of HV is reaffirmed. A special emphasis is found here on the “evil consequences” which would come about were contraception found to be acceptable. This is an unfortunate approach to take in this case be­cause the progression of ideas here is non-sequitur and both misleading and insulting to many who think differently than the bishops. They write, “It is significant that many of those who have been most prominent in cam­paigns for contraception are also found among the leading advocates for abortion.”(52) This type of insinuation is indicative of the “hard line” the letter takes in this fourth part and may be due at least in part to a reaction to Ireland’s particular situation.(53) While one commentator felt that this pastoral is evidence of the remoteness of the bishops from their people,(54) still it does seem an attempt to bridge a growing gap between church teaching and growing social change. In doing so, the bishops have been attentive to the problems, but have located their solutions entirely in “traditional teaching.”

III. Evolution in episcopal teaching

Although the seven later statements on HV we have surveyed constitute a vey small sample of episcopal opinion, they nevertheless give us an indication of the perspective that was emerging among some bishops. Such a survey cannot lead to definitive conclusions, but it does indicate the presence of certain trends. Here we simply would like to explicate those trends, remembering as well the positions already present in some earlier- statements. Taken together, we may find a more complete frame of reference within which to situate our preliminary conclusions.

A. The direction of change

In a kind of “argument from silence” it might be held that there were a number of bishops’ conferences which initially chose to endorse and teach the conclusions of HV and maintain their solidarity with the pope up to the present. But on the other hand, those bishops who chose to later express themselves on the issues may be said to indicate a “liberalizing trend.”

Of the seven statements, two, Yugoslavia (2) and Ireland (3), remained in the same category (55) and one, South Africa, was a first declaration, while the remaining four showed perspectives more open and more “mitigating” than their earlier positions. Since South Africa’s pastoral was indicative of the same trend, we might ask ourselves if the episcopal consensus on the question-of contraception took a definite direction after 1969.

In addition to the conclusions of these later statements, we can also be attentive to the type of argumentation and kinds of concerns which motivated their orientation. The principle issue involved in these pas­torals appears to be the strictly moral issue of birth control and not so much the question of conforming to papal teaching. Indeed the entire ques­tion of authority in moral teaching seems less to be the preoccupation of these bishops than the advice they might give to pressing pastoral prob­lems. Though we still see concern over the related issue of the rights and duties of conscience (as it may relate to authoritative pronouncements) the phrasing of the question has taken on a new tone. It is no longer being asked “what is conscience to do in respect to authority?” but rather “what is conscience to do in respect to the moral issues involved?”

Significantly, there is no instance in which a formerly “mitigating” or “uncertain” episcopal position changed to take a more “accepting” stance toward the encyclical. Thus, while we might only say that episcopal consensus may have been moving away from the papal teaching, we could certainly not say that it was moving toward eventually wider acceptance.

C. The collegial process

When we examine the middle five statements to be written in later response to HV, it becomes immediately evident that their source of authori­tative input was founded upon a much broader basis than the 1968 encycli­cal alone. Two factors had an important influence on these bishops’ teachings, namely, the teachings of Vatican II and the statements of other episcopal conferences. Many of the ideas which are characteristic of earlier “mitigating” reactions played an important role in these statements, especially those of conflicting duties, the lesser of two (kinds of) evils and the importance of motivation. More importantly, the starting point of evaluating the moral issue of contraception was very often the teaching of Vatican II which shared, if it did not supersede, the authority of the papal statement. This orientation toward a wider scope of influence was significantly different from the encyclical itself.

While those concerned with the preparation of HV evidently chose to discount the consensus of bishops on the topic of contraception either at the Second Vatican Council (prohibiting discussion) or in the time between the Council and the encyclical,(56) in the reactions to HV, the spontaneous, though partial, formation of a mitigating consensus was not without, its own influence. Many ideas could be seen running through the first year of episcopal reaction to the encyclical and these ideas were still actively influential in the later reactions under discussion. Malta (2) and South Africa not only acknowledge the work of other hierarchies in this matter but their statements, along with that of Indonesia (4), show a direct in­fluence of some of the more open ideas, and Australia (2) even quotes the work of the Canadian and West German bishops.

This series of events suggests at least two possible conclusions. First, it seems that after a period of years the papal encyclical was no longer looked upon as the central and most important factor in discussing the question of contraception, although it did have to be respectfully dealt with. Secondly, although Roman opinion on this question had not sub­stantially changed, nevertheless, the teaching of some hierarchies was changing, perhaps even establishing more episcopal credibility by their independent initiative to address local pastoral problems without taking Roman authority as a point of departure. In itself, this situation opens the questions of the meaning and importance of consensus in the church and has a bearing on the entire evaluation of the bishops’ reactions to HV.

C. The concern for the faithful

One more factor which has already been mentioned but which deserves to be singled out for attention is the fact that the later statements of the bishops were largely the result of attending to real, immediate pas­toral problems. The situations which caused bishops to publicly offer a new commentary on HV up to seven years after its promulgation were the result of changing historical, cultural and demographic factors. In this case it was not the bishops who were taking the initiative in teaching the faithful but rather was it the hierarchy who were responding to the spon­taneously changing situation within the church.

The most explicit example of this was the shift in the Mexican posi­tion. In 1968-9, the bishops followed both Rome and the local government in phrasing their response to HV in terms which ignored the real, complex problems of demographic pressure upon the whole question of soci-economic development. Three years later, when the public was much aware of, and the government officially recognized, the pressing need for some feasible program of family planning, the official position of the local hierarchy also changed and followed the lead of the existing realities.

This is certainly not to suggest that the entire evaluation of moral teaching is directly dependent upon the experience and influence of situ­ations rather than upon the moral leadership of the teaching church. On the contrary, much is still being taught by the hierarchy, especially in regard to the Christian concept of marriage and the fundamental principles of morality. Even in situations which go against the will and opinion of very many in the world, such as in the question of abortion, the church has been constant and forthright in teaching the fundamental value and dignity of human life.

However, it is evident that the experience of some members of the church, be they clerical, professional theologians or ordinary laypersons, does have some influential value, at least in explicating the real prob­lems and conflicts involved in leading a moral, Christian life. Occasion­ally, the insights of this experience have a bearing on the formation of specific questions and even upon the formation of a “consensus,” used here in a provisional way to denote the actual thoughts and feelings of a significant portion of the people of God on a given topic.

It is presently beyond the scope of this survey of episcopal reac­tions to analyze and determine the doctrinal meaning of any such consensus in respect to the specific teachings of Pope Paul VI in HV. But we may ask if, in fact, any such consensus does exist. The classification of the statements of the bishops on the encyclical seems to indicate the presence of certain trends which were again evident in the last episcopal reflec­tions to be drawn up on the topic. Further, in considering only these later documents, one trend – to “mitigate” the strict prohibitions of HV – also appeared to become dominant. With respect to the nature and background of these statements, we must take note of the significance of the role played by practical pastoral experience in the formation of the respective episcopal positions.

IV, Conclusions to Part One

In Chapter One we began with the hope that through their own teaching and interpretation of HV the bishops would provide some notion of the limits that the wider historical understanding of that encyclical would follow. Before we can indicate what the meaning of those limits may be, we must first summarize the general character of the episcopal response as a whole. In our analysis we have used the tool of classifying what the episcopal statements have said. The overall picture we can draw from this classification is evident in Appendix B and consists of the following:

acceptance:                   25  documents from   18  countries

mitigation:                       16  documents from   13   countries

uncertain:                       11  documents from   10  countires

Perhaps a more accurate picture would be gained by considering only the final documents of each representative group of bishops, in which case the picture changes slightly:

acceptance:      16           mitigation: 13          uncertain: 9

Nothing can be truly gained, however, by a purely statistical analysis of expressed episcopal opinion. To ask of the significance of these find­ings entails a consideration of the reasons behind these differing opin­ions and ultimately an analysis of the entire situation within which such a phenomenon could take place. Some of the reasons, we feel, are evident from the statements themselves and can be extrapolated in a general way. We can now assess the implicit moral theology and ecclesiology operative in these statements by defining our lines of interpretation.

A. The characteristics of episcopal response to HV

A clear fact that was evident in the bishops’statements, and echoed in the theological, reaction to the encyclical, was that the issues involved in the birth control debate were very complex ones. Not only was the moral issue itself complex, dealing with fundamental questions of morality and the whole of the theology of marriage as well as the specific question posed, but the promulgation of an authoritative statement on the subject further introjected questions of authority, conscience and even fundamental ecclesiology. All of these factors played a part in most of the bishops’ responses, most frequently with attitudes in one area being reflected in the conclusions of another.

Thus it would be almost impossible for a statement on the one hand to radically affirm the authoritative and binding character of the papal teaching and simultaneously to put forth ideas opposed to the substance of that teaching. Nor does it seem likely that a response which took a free and liberal interpretation of the moral argumentation involved would have a closed and dictatorial notion about the authority-conscience relation­ship. These correlative positions, then, could be indicative of one an­other and do, in fact, seem to be substantiated by the evidence. Bishops seemed to share certain ecclesiological outlooks which became manifest in the positions they took toward the more specific moral issues, as well as their evaluations of the role of conscience.

Further, the various positions on the moral issues involved were also interrelated. The specific question of regulating births is directly tied to the fundamental attitudes toward the person, human sexuality, the mean­ing of marriage, the concept of moral norms and the perspective toward the natural law approach taken in the encyclical. There was a definite con­nection between the bishops’ general perspectives in these questions and the conclusions which they drew. In some cases, the teaching of GS ap­pears to be influential in shaping a view of marriage less consonant with that of the encyclical, although quotation of the conciliar document did not guarantee any given perspective. The difference occurred in episcopal reference to these ideas when they were taken as a point of departure. Those bishops who quoted conciliar teachings as proof texts for their statements did not seem to be influenced by, or even aware of, a possible discrepancy.

Generally then, we may say that there was an implicit theology opera­tive behind each one of the bishops’ reactions to HV which becomes evident when all the statements are read as a whole. It has not been our purpose here to individually analyze each statement, but rather to approach the body of the material thematically. On the basis of the foregoing analysis and the correlation of general themes, we can now characterize the “type” of statement (and its implicit theology) which was classified as agreeing with or mitigating the specific prohibitions of the encyclical. Three major theological perspectives, concerning ecclesiology, an outlook on moral theology and the idea of the authority-conscience relationship, ap­pear indicative of whatever position was taken. The uncertain statements can be said to have mixed various aspects of these perspectives.

1. Agreement and acceptance of HV

The bishops who completely accepted the encyclical and seemed to agree with each one of its points, including the specific condemnation of artifi­cial contraception and the arguments leading to this conclusion, generally manifested a primarily hierarchical view of the church and saw the faithful principally as recipients of papal teaching. Their ecclesiology assumed the central authority of the magisterium to have supreme power to fully teach the most specific details of morality and attributed the faithful with little more responsibility than to passively accept and obey the pro­mulgated law.

The moral outlook of this position was remarkably similar to that of the encyclical itself. In this attitude, all decisions can be reached in an abstract and theoretical way, primarily by experts (or authority) in theology and moral philosophy, and subsequently must be taught to the faithful who have the duty to implement them. The principal form of ar­gumentation in this particular moral question is the “natural law approach” which assumes a static, created order of life which can never be violated. Contraception is evaluated in these abstract terms to be “dishonest” and a moral evil, hence constituting an objective sin which can never be know­ingly perpetrated without incurring personal sin.

In this scheme, authority is seen as the most fundamental criterion for moral decisions and conscience plays a secondary role, functioning mainly to check one’s personal behavior against the ruling of official teaching. Although one may reach a decision in conscience which differs from that of the papal teaching, the understanding of conscience is such that this can only come about through ignorance or blindness (often at­tributed to selfishness or sin). Conscience in this case, does not direct­ly know or discover moral norms but is purely the recipient and implemen­tor of official teaching.

2. Disagreement or mitigation of HV’s negative conclusions

While no bishops could be said to have totally rejected the encycli­cal, some did take exception to specific parts of its teaching on artifi­cial contraception and on its view of the authority-conscience question. The underlying ecclesiology which permitted this view seemed to be broader and more communitarian than the previous position. In this outlook, the magisterium was seen as respected and authoritative, although all its pro­nouncements were not characterized as absolute. The teachings of the authoritative church here are necessary and serve as a valuable witness to moral behavior, but this authority does not seem to extend to the most specific, concrete details, nor are its teachings always evident as law. Rather, the church as moral teacher provides principles, guidelines and pastoral help to the faithful who take an intimate and significant role in the church as a whole. Simultaneously, the teachings of the bishops them­selves, especially when acting together and personally involved with the local pastoral situation, have a more active role in teaching practical morality.

The moral outlook from this perspective implies a more open and less static theology. These bishops apparently do not agree with the idea that the whole of the church’s teaching on sexual morality will stand or fall depending upon the acceptance of the natural law argumentation upon which the condemnation of artificial contraception is built. Instead, we see an implicit morality which takes as its foundation the nature of the person, the whole meaning of marriage as a covenant of love, and the moral signifi­cance of one’s intentions and motivation. In these terms, contraception is generally evaluated as less than an ideal, incorporating the notions of disorder or pre-moral evil, but it is not seen as per se morally evil or objective sin. One’s perpetration of contraceptive acts is not automati­cally sinful, but still depends upon the incorporation of other factors into the moral decision. The notion of morality here, as well as the concept of sin, is less tied to a “natural order” idea of creation and assumes the character of a dynamic personalism.

The doctrine of conscience in this attitude plays a major role in the moral questions being raised and differs significantly from the ideas of the first “type” of approach. Conscience is seen to have an active, integrating function which not only enters into dialogue with official moral teaching, but is essentially capable of reaching true moral norms through its own activity aided by the grace of God. Consequently, one may reach a position different than that of the papal teaching and which is both subjectively and objectively defensible and not necessarily attrib­utable to ignorance. The arrival at differing positions with respect to contraceptive practices is not only specifically dissociated from the necessary causal influences of selfishness and sinfulness, but extends to theoretical dissent as well as to practical decision making.

3. The uncertain positions

Most of those responses which have been classified as “uncertain” seem to exhibit a mixture of the preceeding ideas. Generally, these posi­tions accept the essentially hierarchical nature of the church extending into the area of concrete moral teaching, but simultaneously show a great deal of compassion for individuals in difficult circumstances. This out­look on the one hand accepts the validity of the natural law argumentation of the encyclical, but on the other, also realizes that implementing the conclusions of this teaching will cause great difficulty for many of the faithful. The doctrine of conscience, then, becomes important for these bishops but tends to be somewhere in the middle of the other two positions.

Conscience is first seen as subordinate to the moral authority but it is by no means empty of its own findings and the data of experience. The tension created by this situation is generally resolved by characterizing personal conscience as being in a continual state of growth, simultaneously aware of some authoritatively taught.”ideal” behavior and yet limited by the unfortunate exigencies of the real situation. The resultant moral decisions are evaluated either in terms of the inability to grasp the ideal state of Christian perfection or as taking place in situations which dimin­ish moral culpability.

B.The style of interpretation

Within six months of the promulgation of HV, Karl Rahner and Bernard Haring published a book (57) which was rather calm in comparison to the then raging controversy over HV, and Haring gave an interview in Rome which some saw as a concession to the papal position.(58) But these attitudes were probably more accurately harbingers of the direction that debate over the encyclical would take. In short, it acknowledges that the pope has taken a position, the bishops of the world are adding to our understanding of the church’s teaching, and the theological discussion can and will continue. Significantly, a heavy emphasis was placed on the data of episcopal response by many of the most notable theologians. This response offered “a suggestion and a direction for a ‘style’ of criticism,” as Haring pointed out (59); criticism that was both positive and negative and that pointed to the limits of further theological expansion. Because Part Two of this study deals with that theological development, we will offer some brief comments on the nature and meaning of those limits.

The moral issue of contraception, according to many bishops, is still far from adequately resolved. HV was a brief, if not terse, statement of papal conclusions based upon unarticulated presuppositions and an implicit fundamental morality. The arguments found in the encyclical stand in need of explanation and evaluation and it is not outside the scope of episcopal interpretation to introduce new arguments, both pro and con. Theological development must take up some of those proposals of the bishops and try to find others which will help shed more light on the exact nature of the moral questions facing many people in respect to regulating births. Like many of the episcopal statements surveyed, this process will have to in­clude the data of experience; not only the abstract consideration of theoretical issues, but the testimony of the faithful and of experts in the various fields connected with this question. The core of this theo­logical development, however, will remain the close examination of the encyclical itself whose message must be investigated in light of disin­terested reason.

Nowhere in these issues is the need for further development more ob­vious than in the theology of marriage and the fundamental questions re­garding human sexuality and the “nature of the person and his acts,” Pope Paul VI himself (31 July 1968) noted that the church’s teaching in these areas needs to be much more investigated and elaborated. This must ulti­mately be done in the context of Vatican II (GS, 47-52) which serves as a point of departure for the encyclical, for episcopal reaction and for the general teaching of the church. Whether development on these points re­mains loyal to the spirit of GS is itself a question that shows the need for further exploration into the conciliar teaching itself. The theologi­cal treatment of this issue has gone far beyond reaction to HV since 1968 and an overall assessment of its state lies outside our scope of consider­ation. But certain important areas must be covered in relation to the encyclical, including the above mentioned conciliar teaching, elaboration of the notion of responsible parenthood and a close scrutiny of the tra­ditional ends of marriage. The bishops have indicated here a useful tool in describing the limits of further investigation: while most every epis­copal statement substantially agreed with the fundamental issues in these areas, echoing Paul Vi’s call for an “integral vision of man,” their dif­ferences occur on the level of the concrete delineation of norms and the evaluation of HV’s specific findings. Here the Christian view of man is normative, albeit in need of clarification, while specific rules for con­duct remain open to concrete elaboration in light of the data of experience.

While the issue of authority came somewhat to a climax, as far as the bishops were concerned, with the Extraordinary Synod of 1969 and the re­assertion of the collegial process, there remain a great number of ques­tions to be raised in regard to the theoretical and concrete exercise of magisterial authority. Specifically, the area of magisterial competence is still to be explained in the realm of moral teaching. Practically, the historical fact that the pope and a significant number of bishops took distinctive positions in this one moral question raises the issue of how the moral magisterium is in fact being exercised. The further notice of widespread difficulty within the church to fully appropriate the norm laid down by papal authority raises the issue of “reception” in the promulgation of church teaching. Theoretically, the controversy over HV has brought to the fore some unanswered problems latent in the entire concept of magiste­rial authority. The church has always presumed competence in teaching the faithful in fides et mores, a traditional delineation which evolved into something very specific in Vatican I’s assertion of papal infallibility.

Up to very recent times, most discussion of authority has centered upon the area of fides, whereas the specific problem of the post-HV understand­ing of magisterial authority must deal with competence in the area of mores.

The bishops have clearly stated that this authoritative statement must be respected and received with an open mind, but in their own teach­ing they have Jane much beyond the letter of the papal norm. It remains for theology to raise the questions this situation implies and to determine the competent use of authority within the limits of episcopal interpreta­tion. This lies on the level of both the present controversy and in re­spect to the tradition involved with this issue. What is the nature of this tradition, its status and its present state of evolution?

Finally, something must be said about the exercise of conscience., not because it was at issue in the encyclical but because so many bishops took refuge in this area to mitigate the confrontation between the strict encyc­lical teaching and the pastoral situations they faced. ‘We have seen var­ious notions of conscience arise in the episcopal statements which were hardly consonant. Perhaps here is the vaguest area of limits suggested by bishops because little of traditional, official teaching devotes attention to the question of personal conscience in moral decisions and different bishops faced such widely divergent pastoral situations it was impossible to elaborate a common teaching. Whereas the other issues at hand have been with the church for a long time, the area of conscience and its re­lationship with authority is a fairly recent question. Like the moral- authority issue itself, it was brought to high relief during this specific controversy.

With these areas of investigation somewhat defined, we can now turn to the contemporaneous reaction to HV on the general and theological level.

Go to Chapter 4
or return to Index


(1). The plan for the 1969 Synod was unofficially known earlier through the preparatory work of Bishop Rubin who was permanent General Secretary of the bishops’ Synod. The “official” announcement, however, was not made until 23 Dec. 1968 by Pope Paul. The Synod was held on 11-27 Oct. 1969.

(2). AAS 57(1965), pp. 775-80.

(3). Five topics were discussed: the reform of Canon Law, dangerous opinions, seminaries, mixed marriages and the liturgy. For a summary of the com­position and work of the first two Synods, see Pro Mundi Vita, “Special Note 17: The Synodal Institution. Analysis and Evaluation,” April 1971.

(4). Although the designation of an “Extraordinary Synod” takes its meaning from the need to handle some pressing issue in the church at a given time, the functional difference from an “Ordinary Synod” consists mainly in its composition. Cf. Ibid., and N. St. John-Stevas, op. cit, p. 207, n. 2. “Apostolica Sollicitudo” outlines the nature of this composition in sect. V and VI. Briefly, the Ordinary Synod of 1967 included 200 members most of whom (135) were elected by the bishops as their repre­sentatives; the Extraordinary Synod of 1969 consisted of 149 members of whom the 93 bishops acting as representatives for all the bishops of the world were appointed ex officio as presidents of episcopal conferences.

(5) While this may be true and was often put forth in the press as the mo­tivating influence, we must admit that the situation of the church in general manifested the need for some kind of open dialogue. Pro Mundi Vita, op. cit., p. 9, takes a longer view of this “crisis” and points out that there were many issues involved.

It is still not generally known precisely why an extraordinary synod was convoked. What is certain is that an increasing number of tensions had become apparent in the Church. In a relatively short time the phenomenon of contestation had also made itself felt within the Catholic Church.

The following can be indicated as examples of this: the Dutch Catechism (1.3.1966-1968); the Pope’s Credo (30.6.1968); Humanae Vitae (25.7.3968); violence in Latin America (Bogota, August 3968); ■the German ‘Katholikentag’ (Essen, September 1968); Isolotto (Novem­ber 1968).

These examples demonstrate the harassing questions confronting the Church of today. One of the most important seems to be the maintaining of meaningful dialogue.

(6). Donald R. Campion, “Letter From the Synod V: Balancing the Results,” in America 121(1969), n. 16, pp. 457-62. Cf. Fr. Campion’s four previous “Letters From the Synod,” in America 121(1969), pp. 351, 379, 412 and 41

(7). N. St. John-Stevas, op. cit., devotes a section of his work to the Synod as a reaction to HV, pp. 206-21, but limits himself mostly to explaining the events as thev took place. His conclusions, that the Synod poten­tially inaugurated a new system for continual dialogue within which an­other event like HV could not happen again, are echoed by many com­mentators, although this ideal structure has yet to be fully implemen­ted or even given authoritative status.

(8).  Alain Woodrow, “Pour suivre le synod,” in ICI (1 Oct. 3969), n. 345, 4-11, p. 5.

(9). We are restricted here to episcopal statements originating from regional conferences which explicitly address the encyclical HV and either pro­mote or take issue with its contents. Thus we will not deal with such events as local synods which largely were restatements of previous positions or which dealt with related issues but not the encyclical.

(10). HVB, pp. 313-32.

(11). An original copy of this statement was received from Arthur McCormack of the Population and Development Office in Rome. Para. 5-7 of this state­ment were published as “Malta: Clash on Contraception,” in The Tablet 226(13 May 1972), n. 6883, p. 458.

(12). Published in N.C. Documentary Service: Origins 3(1973), n. 16. This letter was also reprinted in full in PPCR, pp. 54-7.

(13). This document represents a special case which will be discussed below. Portions of the original letter were published in PPCR, pp. 167-8 and 198-9; and in “Mexico: Contraception,” in The Tablet 227(6 Jah. 1973), n. 6914, p. 20.

(14). The full title of this work is taken from an official copy received from Archibishop Dennis E. Hurley O.M.l. of Durban. The text was pub­lished as “South Africa: Family Planning,” in The Tablet 228(23 May 1974), n. 6977, pp. 298-300.

(15).  I received the full text of this letter via John Boyd-Boland O.F.M., a priest of Australia and former doctoral student at Louvain.

(16).  Published as one document in Dublin (Veritas Publication, 1975), this was originally a four part pastoral letter with which our major concern is “Part Four: Love Gives Life,” para. 107-27 (pp. 54-64) on birth con­trol and contraception.

(17). Pour Relire, pp. 211-5.

(18). See above, pp. 61-2. These are: natural law, objective moral order, intrinsic orientation, intrinsically dishonest, non-totality and evil consequences. The last two of these are specifically mentioned (HVB, pp. 323 and 317 respectively) while the others are definitely operative in the writing of the entire statement.

(19). HVB, p. 317,

(20). HVB, p. 325.

(21). At the beginning of their statement (HVB, pp. 313-5) the bishops take great effort to chastise those who would reinterpret or stretch the meaning of the encyclcial to create loopholes or ambiguity. The basis for this position is that “the Pope’s conclusions concerning the trans­mission of human life are certain.” (HVB, p. 313).

(22). HVB, op. 316-7.

(23).  HVB, p. 322. Compare this position with the stand of the preceeding statements on artificial contraception and sin above, pp. 92-6. This represents a very “conservative” departure from the vast majority of bishops’ statements.

(24). HVB, p. 319.

(25). HVB, p. 327.

(26). Issued 6 Aug. 1968; see. HVB, pp. 179-81.

(27). Issued in Feb. 1972; see above, p„ 116, n. 11.

(28). See, “Malta: Clash on Contraception,” art. cit.

(29). HVB, p. 179. (Cf. HV,4).

(30). Para. 2, emphasis added. Note that the orientation to transmit life grows out of the union of love and does not originate in the nature of sex. This is a very significant, conciliar inspired, shift in orientation.

(31). Para. 6.

(32). Para. 7.

(33). Pour Relire, pp. 87-91.

(34). HVB, pp. 132-7.

(35). For a full description of the situation in Indonesia in regard to population regulation and. the influence it had on the evolution of Catholic teaching, see Aloysius Mariono, “The Population Problem in Indonesia – Controlling its Growth through Family Planning and Com­munity Health Care Development,” in. PPCR, pp. 39-53.

(36). Issued 9 Aug. 1968, Pour Relire, pp. 73-5; and 11 April 1969, HVB, pp.182-90.

(37). For background on this situation, see Enrique Brito, “Mexico: Toward a New Population Policy?” in PPCR, pp. 156-70.

(38). The sensitivity to the pastoral situation was evidently even more sympathetic to the already established conscience decisions of the people themselves. Bernard Haring, in “Some Theological Reflections about the Population Problem,” in PPCR, pp. 184-20.3, quotes the original Mexican (3) statement as saying, “The Feeling of the people of God is an important clue for forming a moral conscience. In fact, for many Christians, it can be a decisive element.” (p. 198).

(39). PPCR, p. 167.

(40). PPCR, pp. 167—8, “Mexico: Contraception,” art. cit., gives a similar quotation from the bishops’ statement: “This decision concerning the question of whether or not they should have another child implies the right and responsibility of deciding upon the means.”

(41). The Tablet article (Ibid.) notes that “The letter was opposed by some bishops but signed by all (80) of them as the will of the majority.”

(42). Besides the two places mentioned above in n. 13, see Bernard Haring’s commentary (art. cit., in n. 38). Arthur McCormack (see above, n. 11) has sent me a commentary on the original statement along with a summary of the treatment given in National Catholic Reporter. I have also dis­cussed the two statements with Louis H. Janssens at Tilburg in Nov.1974 (see above, p. 34, n. 91).

(43). Mexico City: Ediciones del Secretariado General des Episcopado, 1972 (32 pp. with notes).

(44). Held 4-8 Feb. 1974. The statement was published in The Tablet, see above, p. 116, n. 14.

(45). “South Africa: Family Planning,” art. cit., p. 299. All further quotes given are from this same place. An interesting insight into some of the ideas contained in this Directive may be gained by reading Arch­bishop Dennis E, Hurley’s “Population Control and the Catholic Con­science: Responsibility of the Magisterium,” in Theological Studies 35(1974), n. 1, pp. 154-63.

(46). The first Australian pastoral, the very first reaction to the encyc­lical, was issued on 5 Aug. 1968. See, HVB, p 57. The later state­ment was issued in Sept. 1974.

(47). This refers to the openness of conscience and is a very short quote of a much larger development.

(48). From the original document, distributed to the priests of Australia and reprinted in my own Licentiate thesis (K.U. Leuven, 1975).

(49). See above, p. 117, n. 16, The four parts were also published sepa­rately in Doctrine and Life.

(50). Introduction, p. 3.

(51). See above, p. 37.

(52). Para. 112, p. 56. While this is similar to the encyclical’s type of reasoning it goes beyond HV and even further connects the issue of euthanasia.

(53). For the first time in history, birth control and contraceptive infor­mation (as well as some supplies) are available in the Irish Republic, even if on a quasi-legal basis. There is also a growing “liberaliza­tion” of opinion in regard to it (a national poll showed 47% of the people would welcome repeal of laws against contraceptives) and a gen­eral change in social attitudes which some trace to Ireland’s entrance into the Common Market in January 1973. See, “Having a Devil of a Time,” in Time (7 Feb. 1977), pp. 14-15.

(54). See, I.. McRedmond, “The Irish Bishops and ‘Humanae Vitae’,” in The Tablet 229 (7 June 1975), n. 7041, pp. 526-8.

(55). Yugoslavia (2) not only stayed in the category of “clear acceptance,” it even seemed to solidify and offer further arguments for its posi­tion. But one may still question the significance of its somewhat broad interpretation of the “therapeutic means.” Ireland (3), on the other hand, took a new look at pastoral problems but remained essen­tially the same.

(56). Although it was admitted that bishops over the world were questioned on this matter, no mention or appeal was ever given to the fact or result of this possible consensus. See the papal allocution of 31 July 1968.

(57). K. Rahner and B. Haring, Riflessioni sull’enciclica “Humanae Vitae” (Rome: Ed, Pacline, 1968; see bibliography). Cf., also, Franz Bockle and C. Holenstein (eds.) Die Enzyklika in der Diskussion: ein _ orientierende Documentation zu “Humanae Vitae” (Koln: Benzinger, 1968; see bibliography).

(58). The interview is reported and positively interpreted by F.V. Joannes, The Bitter Pill, op. cit., pp. 389-90.

(59). Ibid., p 390.

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