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Our discussion of how the bishops represented the teaching of HV will utilize the tool we have designated in grouping the statements into “clear acceptance,” “clear mitigation” and “uncertain” (respectively referred to as Groups A, B and C; see Appendix B). We begin with a brief description of their orientation to the encyclical as a whole and then pursue a more detailed analysis of the issues. Rather than treat each statement individually, I have chosen a thematic approach to three topics which encompassed most of the debate over HV. But it should be clear that every statement has been evaluated in relation to each theme

The primary topic of HV is the moral issue of regulating procreation by “artificial means.”(1) In conjunction with that, the church’s teaching on the meaning of marriage is also of major importance as it supplies the background for the more specific questions. The intimate connection be tween those two issues demands that they be linked in these pastorally oriented statements. The nature of the third topic on authority and con- science is deserving of separate treatment, although the bishops’ positions in all three areas correlate significantly.

The type of approach used here, following the lines of correspondence with HV and divergence from its strictest meaning, is designed to highlight the moral and ecclesiological perspectives which define the limits of “official, hierarchical” interpretation. Within these limits we must keep in mind certain questions. First, what are the implicit understandings of the moral and authority issues exhibited by the statements? While the reaction are phrased in terms of answers and conclusions, we cannot ignore that each respective position exhibits definite trends and presuppositions. Second, what is the relation, if any, between what the bishops wrote and the situation they were addressing themselves to? Is there any influence of one of these factors upon the other? This correlation – or the lack of it – must form part of the overall assessment of episcopal reaction. Lastly, is the teaching on contraception considered in itself or is it too closely linked with the authority issue? While theological debate on contraception was characterized by much moral argumentation, the issue of accepting the encyclical simply because of its source seemed to be a greater concern of the hierarchy, both here and in defence of HV originating close to Roman authority. As the two issues correlate, we must ask if one became dependent upon the other and, if so, what significance may this have? (2)

I. The general use and orientation toward the encyclical

A. Use of the text

Since HV was independently promulgated and widely published, the text of the encyclical was available to most any Catholic who cared to read it, with the possible exception of some underdeveloped countries. For this reason, some of the episcopal statements contained only a general reference to the encyclical with the assumption that its text and specific teachings were already well known. (3) However, it may be interesting to compare the use of the papal text by those bishops who did quote or specifically refer to the document. Appendix D (pp. 11°-12°) contains a list of all the quotes and references to HV found in the relevant episcopal statements, according to paragraph numbers. The bishops are listed alphabetically in the three groups which we have delineated in Appendix B.

The first impression which we can note is that the statements of Group A contain the greatest frequency of direct reference to the encyclical, followed by Group C and then Group B. Canada, France and Switzerland are the only representatives of Group B to refer to it often, and the reading of these statements shows a decidedly interpretative position taken in respect to its content as opposed to a mere repetition. Those bishops who were more loyal to the papal teaching, Group A, more frequently used the text itself and often simply repeated the same ideas.

The selection of texts also indicates trends which follow group lines. Group A quotes from every part of the encyclical with strong concentrations on the doctrinal part (HV, 7-18) and on the appeal to the clergy to teach the doctrine faithfully while exhibiting pastoral charity (HV, 28-30). Group B, on the other hand, strongly avoids the key part of the ban on contraception (HV, 11-14) as well as the general pastoral directives. (4) Group C has scattered references with an emphasis upon the pastoral dimension of the teaching.

B. Situating the encyclical

Every hierarchy in Group A except Australia (1) draws attention to the fact that the teaching of the encyclical represents the constant, traditional teaching of the church. In Group B, only the West German bishops mention tradition, but specify this to the “values of the traditional doctrine of the Church.” (5)

The statements in Group B tend to characterize HV as a document of pastoral concern in which Pope Paul desired to help couples face the problems involved in the exercise of responsible parenthood. Simultaneously, when these bishops evaluate the significance (rather than the content) of the encyclical, they tend to see it as a theological statement – one which is subsequently open to interpretation.

On the other hand, statements from Group A, and often from Group C, tend to see the encyclical as an unquestionable statement of theological principles. Their evaluation of its status, however, does not so much rely on its theological position (the arguments) as on its papal origin and authoritative character. Some even carry this idea further to make broad statements on the role of papal teaching. The Irish bishops say that “the Pope speaks not as one theologian among many, but as the Vicar of Christ who has the special assistance of the Holy Spirit in teaching the Universal Church,” and the Spanish bishops go so far as to say that “it is certain that this encyclical, on the truth as revealed by God, bears witness to its divine origin.”(6)

While the bishops are almost unanimous in pointing out that the encyclical represents “authoritative” papal teaching, it is Group B which hastens to point out as well that it is not infallible. When Spain and Rhodesia, the only two conferences outside Group B to mention this, take note of its non-infallible character, they are quick to add that this makes no difference in the necessity to follow the teaching. (7)

Finally, there seems to be a preoccupation on the part of many bishops that the papal teaching be accepted. Those in Group B seem only to be concerned that the pope receive reverent and respectful attention, while other bishops usually make it a point that the teaching must be followed exactly as it is put forth.(8)

C. General orientation to the teaching

The statements from Philippines, Portugal, Scotland and Spain are the only ones to echo Paul VI’s characterization of the church as a “Sign of Contradiction” (HV,18 = Lk 2:34). Most other bishops stress the idea that the thrust of the church’s teaching on marriage, if not this particular aspect, is meaningful even to many outside the church and that it appeals to values already recognized by most mature persons.

In the same vein, a good number of bishops characterize HV as an event for dialogue, (9) and some even mention the possibility that the teaching on contraception may still change. (10) More generally speaking, when applying the ban on contraception to the individual case, a number of bishops consider the issue to be an open question (11) while those who fully accept the encyclical see the question as closed and decided.(12)

Even though there may have been bishops who were unhappy with the particulars of this papal teaching, the general orientation to the encyclical was basically positive. A constantly recurring theme throughout all the statements, perhaps prompted by some very strong public criticism of the decision against contraception, is the reaffirmation of the positive aspects of the encyclical and its reinforcement of an integral view of marriage and of mankind. This concentration on the positive aspects sometimes allowed bishops to place the prohibitions of the encyclical into the background. This is the particular perspective of the bishops from Austria, East Germany, France, Switzerland and West Germany.

The idea that HV represents only one small part of the church’s teaching on marriage – and even on morality – was first stated by Pope Paul himself in his allocution of 31 July 1968.

(Humanae Vitae) is a clarification of a fundamental area in man’s personal, marital, familial, and social life, but it is not a complete treatment of all that concerns human existence in the field of marriage, of the family, and of the probity of habitual behaviour. This is an immense field to which the teaching authority of the Church could and perhaps should return on a fuller, more organic and better synthesized basis.

This same idea is found in the statements of thirteen hierarchies (14) who point out that the teaching of the encyclical is not a complete doctrine and cannot be understood alone. But even some of these, as well as the majority of bishops in Group A, may not have taken this too seriously in regard to questions of sexual morality since they see the whole of the church’s teaching in this area based on the same foundation as the encyclical’s prohibition of contraception – namely, a static and biologically determinant view of natural law. (15)

Nevertheless, even if the encyclical of Pope Paul did not contain the complete doctrine of the church in these areas, it did pronounce ideas which are intimately bound up with these teachings and which are connected with a wider view of Catholic morality. This broader view could not be denied to have at least an implicit influence. The exposition and interpretation which the bishops gave to the encyclical’s moral teaching, then, centres around two issues: the prohibition of artificial contraception and the Catholic theology of marriage. These issues can now be examined in the episcopal statements in respect to their correspondence to or divergence from the papal teaching.

ll. Episcopal correspondence to the moral argumentation contained in HV

A. The moral arguments in regard to artificial contraception

As we have already pointed out, some bishops did not repeat or elucidate the arguments of the encyclical because they felt that the faithful were already fully aware of the specifics which the encyclical put forth. However, many saw their declarations as an opportunity to teach the ideas promulgated by the pope, putting them forth as the teaching of the entire hierarchy. Most of the bishops who did this were those in Group A, whose statements we have categorized as totally accepting HV. Some others mention the specific points of the encyclical but within a particular, nuanced framework. These latter are not considered to be in complete agreement with the papal teaching.

There are six points reflected in the episcopal statements which can be said to characterize the moral position of HV in the sum of its teaching on artificial contraception. While these six frequently overlap and can be seen as implicitly or argumentatively contained in each other, they are distinguishable as “catch phrases” pointing toward the whole of the encyclical’s perspective in this matter. They are: the concept of a determined “natural law” as inscribed by the Creator (HV, 4, 10, 11, 13 & 18),the parallel notion of an “objective moral order” which totally precinds the intentionality and motivation of the person (HV, 10 & 16), the notion of the “intrinsic orientation” of sexual intercourse toward procreation (i.e., the inability to separate the two “ends” of marriage even though the biological structure of the marriage act does not always join the two, HV, 11 & 12), the idea that contraceptive intercourse is “intrinsically dishonest or evil” (HV,13), the argument that artificial contraception is evil in each single act and cannot be justified by absorption into the totality of a marital life which is basically fecund (HV,14), and the theory that permitting artificial contraception would lead to innumerable “evil consequences” (HV,17). These six points can be signified by the six “catch phrases”: natural law, objective moral order, intrinsic orientation, intrinsically dishonest, non-totality and evil consequences.

All the bishops in Group A implicitly agree with all these points and most of them specifically mention more than one of them. The bishops in Group C only sometimes mention them with total agreement, most notably Brazil and the U.S.A. The East German bishops say that the concept of nature and natural law must be studied further. They also mention the intrinsic orientation of intercourse to procreation based on an “order of creation,” but qualify this to be an inseparability “in principle” and caution that “the bond of love and fertility must not be seen as purely biological: the whole man as person and as creature of God does not come into view from a purely biological perspective.”(16) None of the bishops of Group B seem to put these ideas forth in a didactic way. If some of these bishops mention one of these six points, either it is done with a nuance or qualification, or the ideas are simply mentioned and are followed by the bishops’ own views.

Only three bishops’ statements, Ceylon, Malta (1) and Spain, repeat the argument of non-totality. Six statements each support the arguments of intrinsic evil (17) and evil, consequences. (18) Eight were concerned to repeat the notion of intrinsic orientation (19) and nine specifically speak of an objective moral order. (20) Fully sixteen bishops’ statements, yet not quite half of those responding to the encyclical, repeat or confirm the notion of the natural law as put forth in HV. (21)

Only four of the bishops in Group B mention one or more of these arguments. C.E.L.A.M. seems to imply the evil consequences of some forms of contraception, but only because of their “alienating and deforming qualities.” The Swiss bishops have a notion of “natural law” but their idea is very different from the encyclical’s. They speak of natural law in the context of conscience and base one of the sources of a correct conscience in an “orientation which the Creator has inscribed in man’s nature itself.” (23) Similarly, the Austrians mention an “order of creation,” but only in terms of the twofold meaning of marriage, not in connection with contraceptive intercourse (24)

The bishops of France are the only ones from Group B who allude to the notion that artificial contraception is “intrinsically dishonest,” or who mention some evil consequences if it is completely accepted. In two places they bring up their unique point of view. In the first context, they are speaking of the link between union and procreation in the conjugal act and end with the phrase that “contraception in itself cannot be good.” (25) In the second instance, they mention as one of their pastoral directives that “Contraception can never be a good. It is always a disorder, but this disorder is not always culpable.” This is immediately followed by their notion of a “conflict of duties.” Since these ideas differ from the teaching of the encyclical significantly, they will be. discussed under that topic.

Two more points of this moral argumentation which are present in the papal teaching are the licitness of the use of periodic continence to achieve a regulation of births (HV,16) and the lawfulness of “therapeutic means” (HV,15). In the first case, most of the bishops in one way or another at least mention this teaching. But a few add a slightly surprising slant to the issue. Generally, the bishops in Group B will point out that periodic continence is licit but quickly add that it is found inadequate or even impossible for some. The Austrians even remind the faithful that the practice of rhythm “is not contrary to morals,” (27) responding perhap to a number of objections raised against it. Similarly, some bishops who place importance on the motivation involved in the use of contraception will equally warn that even the use of periodic continence can be sinful when engaged in for the wrong reasons. (28)

The case of “therapeutic means” is used in a variety of ways. This was the shortest paragraph of the encyclical and yet it contains one of the more referred to ideas. (29) Sixteen bishops’ groups from every outlook referred to the use of “therapeutic means” in connection with the question of birth regulation.(30) Although most of these made only passing reference to the idea, some adding that the meaning of this notion must still be investigated, none of the bishops specifically point out that the pope explicitly excludes the use of such means as an intentional method of birth control. (31) The addition of paragraph 15 to the encyclical is probably just a reference to the traditional teaching meant as a clarification, (32) and not meant to create the possibility of a “loophole.”

A careful reading of the episcopal statements on HV reveals that reference to “the use of therapeutic means” is hardly interpreted in as strict a sense as the papal teaching evidently intended. In the Group B statements, this broad interpretation of HV,15 seems clear. The bishops in Group C seem to see this paragraph as open to interpretation while, most bishops from Group A who refer to this teaching simply mention it without explanation.(33) The exact number of bishops who interpret this idea as a possible “loophole” in the papal teaching will be treated as introducing a new idea.

B. The encyclical’s teaching on Christian marriage

Before building a specific case for his decision against artificial contraception, Pope Paul points to an integral view of man and of Christian marriage. In paragraphs 7 to 10 of the encyclical, Paul refers to the conciliar teaching on marriage as found in GS, quotes the opening lines of GS,50 to the effect that “marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children..,” and refers to the paragraphs of GS 50 and 51 on the need for spouses to be attentive to the teaching of the church. (34)

Irregardless of whether HV remains true to this conciliar teaching or whether the bishops themselves recognize a change in emphasis is not our concern at this moment. Rather, the important fact is that the episcopal statements in general were attentive to the fact that Pope Paul was attempting to parallel his view of marriage with that found in GS. This view of marriage is reflected in the bishops’ statements in an overwhelmingly positive way. Only five of the statements fail to mention that the encyclical emphasizes an “integral view of marriage,” and all five of these are from Group A. (36)

The way in which this “integral view” is interpreted is also significant. While this teaching is always positively endorsed, the bishops who fully accept the encyclical’s negative evaluation of contraception tend to lay stress upon the fact that this “vision” is based upon a natural law understanding of marriage while the other bishops characterize this “vision” as an open and growing reality. Nevertheless, the importance of ascribing to this perspective lies in the fact that most all the bishops accept the fact that marriage in itself, and therefore in Catholic theology, is a multidimensional and profoundly human reality.

Similarly important is the reference made in HV to the concept of “responsible parenthood.”  (37) Careful reading of the encyclical again shows that Pope Paul had very definite ideas about the meaning and limits of this idea, but its repetition in the episcopal reactions shows a variety of interpretations. All the bishops in Group B mention “responsible parenthood” as a mission of the spouses which demands of them a reflective and mature exercise of conscience in determining their duties and responsibilities both toward their own family and toward society as a whole, much the same ideas found in GS. The same could be said of most of the bishops in Group C who employ the concept in their reactions. (38) When we turn to Group A, however, we find that less than half of these bishops even mention the idea of “responsible parenthood.” (39) Of the seven who do employ the concept, Colombia, New Zealand and Spain simply mention the “genuine” teaching on responsible parenthood as put forth by the encyclical . Mexico (2) and Yugoslavia (1) specifically restrict the exercise of responsible parenthood to the use of periodic continence. Only Poland (2) gives some weight to the exercise of a mature conscience in this area, but quickly qualifies this to the limits imposed by the encyclical in the choice of methods.

Another point of the Christian doctrine on marriage which was alluded to in HV and reflected in the bishops’ reactions is the notion of the twofold aspect of marriage: conjugal love and procreation/education of children. But there is a significant difference involved in the episcopal reading of this idea. While HV, 7-9 clearly reflects the evolution in the church’s doctrine on marriage regarding the equal importance, of the “ends of marriage” without referring to “primary and secondary,” paragraphs 11 and 12 make an important transition by applying the two “aspects” of union and procreation not to marriage as a whole but to the “marriage act.” (40)

When the bishops make reference to this concept, they almost always refer to the former idea and not the latter. Excluding Ireland, which as mentioned above is the only group to reaffirm the primary end of marriage as procreation (see above, p. 37), nineteen groups of bishops mention the two aspects. (41) Of these, only four statements, namely, France, Poland (2), Spain and Yugoslavia (1) directly make some application of the two aspects of marriage to the single act of intercourse. (42) France, Poland and Spam mention the connection of union and procreation both with marriage and with the conjugal act, while Yugoslavia alone applies them solely to sexual intercourse.

Finally, there is not one dissenting voice among all the episcopal reactions to HV in regard to the condemnation of abortion. This seemed to be accepted as a matter of course among the bishops, although a certain lack of attention to the topic is understandable since it was not the primary concern of most of these church leaders in these statements. Most of the bishops who do mention it are those whose pastoral situations demanded that the principle be reaffirmed.

C. Evaluation of episcopal correspondence with the encyclical

In examining the episcopal reactions to HV, it is evident that more than half of the groups of bishops involved give at least theoretical assent to the encyclical’s position on artificial contraception. This in- cludes all those bishops listed in Group A (18 groups) plus Brazil, England/Wales, Italy and the United States, although these last four state- ments seem to contain some “loophole.” While these figures are impressive, fully twenty-two episcopates positively responding and accepting the teach- ing as their own, nevertheless, it is not unanimous. Many bishops, especially those in Group B, failed to appreciatively endorse the ban on con- traception as the unique and totally binding teaching of the church. If we add to this number those in Group C who remain silent about the specifics of the teaching or who clearly allow it to recede into the background, namely, Czechoslovakia, England/Wales, India and Japan, the number approaches half the bishops groups responding.

On the other hand, the majority of bishops gave wide acceptance to the positive aspects of the papal teaching. Fully thirty-two of the groups endorse and teach the perspective of an “integral view of Christian marriage” as promulgated in GS and alluded to in HV. Sixteen put forth a dynamic idea of responsible parenthood, regardless of the encyclical’s sometimes limited view of the same concept, and seven more mention the idea, albeit in the same terms as the encyclical. Finally, all the bishops apparently concur with the papal views on abortion and fourteen groups apply the notion of union and procreation not in the restrictive sense of the encyclical as applied to intercourse, but rather to the reality of marriage as a whole, as the teaching of GS promulgates it.

The positive response to HV, then, could be said to be selective. Although most of the bishops reacted very favourably to the general concepts of marriage and the exercise of “responsible parenthood,” fewer gave their complete endorsement to the specific and concrete teachings on artificial contraception as founded on the papal conception of natural law. While the lack of episcopal endorsement of a specific teaching does not necessarily lessen the importance or significance of a papal pronouncement, it still raises questions which must be posed. This can only be done when our picture of the bishops’ reactions is more complete.

III.  The introduction of new ideas by the episcopal statements

While some bishops considered the issue of artificial contraception to be closed with the promulgation of HV, others not only saw a process of dialogue and further investigation going on, but even seemed to carry on that process within their own response to the papal letter. This occasion- ally led to the introduction of new ideas which are not contained in the. encyclical and which might even appear contradictory to the spirit of its teaching, if not the letter.

Some ideas were developed which in no way conflict with HV and even contribute to the substance of its teaching. The concern of the bishops of the Third World that some methods of population control were being forced upon their people in conjunction with programs of economic aid was certainly a call for caution and prudence in respect to their pressing social problems. Similarly, some of the bishops of the more developed countries warned that an increasing reliance on technological knowledge (artificial contraception) to solve human problems (overpopulation, ef- fectively exercising responsible parenthood) posed a threat to man and his environment by opening the door to external manipulation. Lastly, nearly all the bishops who mention the grave social problems facing the world through overpopulation emphasized that the general quality of life would not be increased by fewer numbers alone, but demanded wide social and economic reforms.

However, most of these insights, although relevant and necessarily a part of the broad question of population control, do not really touch upon the central question about the morality of artificial contraception,(43) or even the wider issue of the Catholic doctrine on marriage. The new ideas which are of interest to us here are related to these two issues.

A. New arguments in regard to artificial contraception

There are five concepts which can be found in the bishops’ reactions to HV which may be said to constitute the introduction of a new – an mitigating – idea into the teaching on contraception. While some of these are also related to the topic of conscience and its formation, we mention them here because of their implications for the specific moral teaching on contraception. They are: the notion of a conflict of duties or of con- science, the lesser of two evils (or two different kinds of evil), the importance of one’s motivation, the idea that the encyclical’s teaching represents a moral “ideal,” and the interpretive use of “therapeutic means” (HV,15) .

1 . The conflict of duties

The statements of seven episcopal conferences introduce the argument of a real or apparent conflict of duties or of conscience into the moral reasoning on artificial contraception. (44) To understand why this idea is incompatible with the papal teaching and how it may significantly change one’s perspective on the issue, it is first necessary to briefly review the position of the encyclical.

HV is built upon the concept that it is never licit to interfere with the structure of the marriage act as such and that “any use of marriage whatsoever must remain destined in itself to the procreation of human life.” (45) It also recognizes the “obligations of conjugal love…touching upon responsible parenthood,” (46) but understands by this an attention to the biological, rational and external .factors involved in spouses’ moral decisions, which must be maintained according to a “right order of priorities. (47) Furthermore, the encyclical specifically rules the licitness of employing artificial contraception (i.e., “something which intrinsically contradicts the moral order”) in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a good, on the principle that the end does not justify the means. (48)

According to the reasoning of HV, then, since a primary meaning of “responsible parenthood” is to order all behaviour according to the “moral law” as it is understood in this teaching, and since there is an absolute and objective hierarchy of values present to this particular moral decision, based on the “structure of the conjugal act” (49) and insured by the principle non facere mala ut eveniant bona, there can be no conflict between the demands of responsible parenthood and the obligation to act morally. At the same time, the “obligations of conjugal love and of responsible parenthood” (50) are nowhere in the encyclical equated with the duty to limit the number of births, but at best are restricted to a decision “to choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indefinite period” (51)This decision, as the passage itself states, is immediately qualified by the necessity (praeceptis observatis) to follow the indicated norms which are clearly spelled out m the same paragraph. (52) Finally, the indication of HV,14, non facere mala ut eveniant bona, indicates as well that this decision is subordinate to the necessity to respect the structure of the conjugal act.

Any position, therefore, which sets forth the demands of conjugal love and responsible parenthood as the duty (53) to limit the size of one’s family, is already introducing an argument which is foreign to the encyclical. Further, to equate the “duties” of limiting births and of observing the moral order (or obeying the teaching authority on this issue) in such a way as admits of a conflict, is contrary not only to the specific teachings of the encyclical but also to the presuppositions upon which it is based.

The bishops of Belgium, Canada and England/Wales speak of an “apparent” conflict of duties in the minds of the faithful which might be applicable only to questions of conscience. In their letter to the clergy, the Indonesian bishops also speak of a conflictus conscientiae. (54) However, it cannot be deduced from this characterization of an “apparent” conflict that these bishops, like the pope, believe in the absence of any conflict in the real order because: a) they conceive of this conflict as real for the believer whom they say is in good faith, and they do not attempt to correct any “false notions,” b) they do not ascribe ignorance (invincible or other- wise) to those who hold this position, and c) they counsel confessors to be assured that decisions reached under these circumstances are valid ones. (55)

The French, Indonesian, Italian and American bishops all seem to present the notion of a real conflict of duties stemming from the simultaneous demands of responsible parenthood and conjugal love and the prohibition explicated by the encyclical. Such a situation goes beyond the teaching of HV and introduces a new idea which inevitably lessens the absolute character of the decision to be made. Instead of a simple “yes or no” decision on artificial contraception, one who is acting responsibly could now be seen as torn between the demand to limit family size and the demand to choose a moral means to achieve that end.

The Indonesian bishops do not address themselves to this difficulty aside from advising confessors that they should assume that, in this situation, a mature Christian is acting in good faith.    The Italian and American bishops clearly see the problem but do not see such a situation as poten tially changing the evaluation of contraception. Both groups accept the inner reasoning of the encyclical’s prohibition, although the Italians strongly characterize it as an “ideal.” However, both groups do state that because of the double, conflicting obligations (a case not admitted by the encyclical), if one does chose to use contraception as a means, he is “failing” to live up to the norm but the seriousness of the circumstances reduces the moral guilt.

The French statement, on the other hand, recognized the difficulties of this conflict of duties but attemptes to solve the problem in an entire- new approach to the question and develop their position theologically with the idea of choosing a “lesser of two evils.”

  1. The lesser of two evils

In paragraph 16 of their statement” (56) the French bishops make three connected and important affirmations: contraception is never a good, it is a disorder but this disorder is not always culpable; spouses can find them- selves in a conflict of duties which is real; and “when one has an alterna- tive choice of duties in which whatever decision is taken one cannot avoid evil, traditional wisdom anticipates searching before God which duty, in this circumstance, is the greater one.” (57)

This approach is distinctly different from the teaching of HV, especially in light of its specific teaching, non facere mala ut eveniant bona (HV,14). In the reasoning of the pope, contraception can never be used as a means to a good end because it constitutes, in itself, the perpetration of an evil – understood: moral evil. Evidently, this posture conceives of what may be called “obligations,” i.e., safeguarding conjugal fidelity or procreating responsibly, as ends which are achievable by a number of means. The French approach differs insofar as it recognizes the possibility of a situation wherein there is only one means open to achieve this end, namely, artificial contraception.

Furthermore, even if HV did recognize such a possibility, (the availability of only this one means to achieve this obligation), which it apparently does not, the internal logic of its teaching would have to conclude tht the obligation iself ceased to exist as a dictate for personal behaviour because the only means available to realise this obligation would be morally evil (non facere mala ut eveniant bona, HV,14). Hence, the encyclical’s recognition of a “decision” to limit family size, as pointed out above, can never be seen as an “obligation” in an unqualified way.

But here the French statement also introduces a new idea. If we examine their argument again we note the phrase that the “disorder” which is brought about by the use of artificial contraception “is not always culpable.” If we try to understand the meaning of this statement, there seem to be two possible interpretations. First, the lack of culpability may be attributed to an ignorance of conscience which fails to grasp the immorality of one’s actions. But this hardly seems likely for the French bishops do not try to correct the error and even go so far as to condone the decision on the basis of the lesser of two evils. The second, and more plausible, explanation is that they distinguish two kinds of evil. In this case the use of contraception does not constitute a moral evil (which is assumed in HV) but rather an evil characterized by the loss of a good which is tolerable under certain circumstances. This evil would not of itself be culpable and would thus be a pre-moral or ontic evil. (59) The consideration of “interfering with the biological structure of the marriage act” as a non-moral evil would be a new idea that significantly changes the substance of the teaching of HV.

  1. The importance of motivation

We have already seen that the main feature of the encyclical seems to be the concern to put forth a set of moral principles which are objective and always binding. The application of these principles to personal behavior constitutes the foundation of this papal teaching (60) and little attention is given to the question of one’s intentions in arriving at the pertinent moral decisions.

In contrast to this, many bishops were concerned to point out to the faithful the importance of one’s motivations in taking any moral decision, particularly those which pertain to this area of human sexuality and responsible parenthood. The bishops of West Germany go so far as to speculate that the central concern of the encyclical is linked with this point.

The encyclical is inspired by anxiety about the selfish abuse of human sexuality and the disturbing dangers now emerging of technological manipulation of human beings and of the limits of the state’s power being exceeded in the intimate domain of conjugal life. (61)

Seven other bishops’ statements echo this concern over motivation by specific questions. (62) Three of these statements (63) even remind the faithful that the use of periodic continence (“methods of birth control found licit by the Church”) can be wrong if it is motivated by the wrong reasons, as selfishness or an egotistical desire for pleasure. Most of these bishops reflect the attitude of the Italian bishops who, in considering those couples who “fail” to live up the norm of HV for serious reasons, write, “their behaviour, although not in conformity with the Christian norm, cannot surely be equated in its serious importance with that which might spring solely from motives vitiated by egoism and hedonism.” (64)

In asking about the significance of such ideas in the episcopal response to the encyclical we are first struck by the fact that these bishops are introducing an idea which is largely absent from the papal teaching. Further, it is an idea which clearly has ramifications on one’s evaluation of contraception, particularly since it is stated that use of such “illicit” birth control methods are of less moral gravity than a selfish abuse of sexuality, even selfish use of periodic continence. While these questions are again applicable to the role of conscience in this area, we cannot avoid asking if the bishops who place importance on the motivation one has in making these decisions also have an implicit understanding of the lesser of two (kinds of) evils.

Nevertheless, such argumentation does seem to constitute a new idea in the issue of birth control and, if carried out to its logical conclu sions, a mitigating one. These bishops did not, however, carry out the implications to such a point. But the same idea of motive and intention does reappear at specific points in the reactions of these and other bishops. In the statements from Belgium, Switzerland and West Germany, (65) there is a great stress laid upon one’s decision being conscientious and attentive to the motives one is employing, while the Indonesian bishops accept the fact that one’s intention can justify conclusions other than those of the encyclical. (66) Finally, the statements from Belgium, Canada, C.E.L.A.M., East Germany, France and Scandinavia note that practical or theoretical dissent from the norm found in HV is not to be attributed to selfishness or egoism, and the bishops of Czechoslovakia write, “We do not ascribe bad will to those who have declared reservations on the encyclical.” (67)

  1. The representation of HV as an “ideal”

As we have mentioned above (68) the statements of eleven groups of bishops at least imply that the teaching of HV represents an “ideal”.” Three of these appear to apply this concept only to the general teaching on marriage (69) but the rest seem to link the notion to the specific teaching on contraception. (70)

The most highly developed treatment of this idea appears in the state- ment from the Presidential Council of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The whole of this statement seems to be written with this idea in mind and ap- plies it specifically to the teaching on contraception in the following way.

…spouses cannot but acknowledge in this norm, which is at once humble and sublime, an ideal goal to which they are pledged by their dignity and their conjugal vocation.

The Church, although it must be a benevolent mother that understands and sustains amid difficulties, must likewise be a courageous teacher of what is ideal and must integrally propose it to mankind. (71)

Although this doctrine has been criticised as being unrealistic (72) and we have already mentioned that it may entail problems of communication, it may not be without significance in evaluating how these bishops view the encyclical. First, it must be noted that nowhere does HV characterize its own teaching as an “ideal” one. On the contrary, it puts forth the proposition that artificial means of controlling birth are morally evi and are explicitly forbidden in any personal decision. Therefore, we are dealing with a new idea, one which has obvious implications on the level of pastoral teaching.

Once again it is the Italian bishops who draw out this implication, although in a cryptic way. They write,

The Church, whose task it is to declare the total and perfect goodness, is not unaware that there are laws of growth in goodness, and that at times one passes through stages still imperfect, although with the aim of loyally overcoming them in a constant effort toward the ideal. (73)

This very definitely seems to mitigate the strictness with which the en- cyclical puts forth its prohibition of artificial contraception without changing the nature of the teaching itself. While the bishops who use this form of argumentation, or imply it by labelling the papal position as a “moral ideal,” exhibit a respect for the authority of the pope, they also show a very real sense of pastoral concern, in the difficulties which their faithful may encounter.

  1. The interpretive use of “therapeutic means”

The notion of “therapeutic means” is itself found in IIV. The single sentence of paragraph 15 is devoted to the topic.

However, the Church in no way considers illicit those medical procedures which are necessary for curing diseases of the organism, even if an impediment to procreation consequently arises which is foreseen, as long as this impediment is not directly intended for any reason whatsoever.

This notion is referred to by bishops in sixteen statements on the encyclical, but in a variety of ways. The text is simply quoted by bishops from Ceylon, Mexico (1), Portugal and Spain. The Swiss and Yugoslav bishops give what appears to be an exact interpretation of the meaning of the statement, namely, a reassurance that the use of medical procedures which have an unintended contraceptive side effect are permissible. The Italian and Scandinavian bishops simply mention the idea in passing.” (75)

The way in which the other eight bishops’ groups use this reference, however, is at least ambiguous. The Austrian bishops are the most direct in their interpretation as they write,

Returning to the objections to the rhythm method, the Holy Father himself mentions that for therapeutic, that is, for medical purposes, other means may also be used, as for instance, in the case of irregular monthly cycles. It can also happen that a woman is in need of similar medical treatment following childbirth. The advice of a conscientious physician should be obtained in both cases. (76)

This broad interpretation is echoed by the context, in which the Belgian and Czech statements (77) remind the faithful that the encyclical does not forbid the use of “therapeutic means.” These bishops curiously fail to point out that such means are restricted to medical procedures performed for reasons totally other than contraceptive ones. Similarly, this liber- al interpretation is perhaps desired by the bishops of England/Wales, France and West Germany, (78) but they limit their remarks to say that the meaning of this reference must be investigated.

When we examine the statements from C.E.L.A.M. and Colombia, we encounter a similarly broad interpretation of this notion, but the reference is not given as the encyclical. Perhaps this may account for a certain willingness to go further with this concept because these bishops are actually quoting Pope Paul VI himself, during his opening address to the C.E.L.A.M. Conference, 24 August 1968. They quote the pope as saying,

(the encyclical) does not imply a blind career towards overpopulation; nor does it diminish the responsibility or the freedom of married people: it does not prohibit them from limiting births in a right and reasonable way; nor does it prohibit the use of legitimate therapeutics or the progress of scientific research. (79)

This reference of the pope could easily be understood as a broad interpretation which he himself makes of his own teaching. While it would be unfair to ascribe to the mind of the pope ideas which are the result of one’s own interpretation, the lack of qualification in the papal message did seem to leave open the way to a liberal understanding. (80)

While it may be debated, therefore, whether a liberal or even ambiguous interpretation of HV,15’s teaching on “therapeutic means” is consonant with the papal understanding of this same teaching, it seems certain that, in comparison with the restrictive sense which the encyclical gives to that concept, any broad interpretation given to it by the episcopal statements on HV constitutes the introduction of a new idea – one which may even constitute a “way out” of the encyclical’s prohibition. (81)

B. New arguments in regard to the theology of marriage

It would be difficult to delineate what the bishops said in response to HV in this area that might constitute the introduction of specifically new ideas to the papal teaching. We have already seen that in agreeing with the encyclical, many bishops stress the “positive aspects” of the document even to the point of changing the basic thrust of its teaching. Taking into account some interpretations of “responsible parenthood” and the possible “conflict of duties” which spouses may experience, it is already evident that some bishops were operating from a very different perspective than that of the encyclical.

The major difference, then, present in some of the episcopal reactions to the encyclical, is one of emphasis in respect to the theology of marriage. This emphasis, by and large, took as its starting point the teachings of GS, and did so in a way differing from the encyclical. On the one hand, HV,7 states that it will “accurately define and illustrate” the elements of conjugal love and responsible parenthood, while keeping in mind or referring to (82) the teachings of GS. On the other hand, many bishops exhibit the priority of the conciliar teachings when writing their responses.

The Belgian bishops first give evidence of this inclination when they state that “the ultimate norm of action is conscience which has been duly enlightened  by all the factors presented in Gaudium et Spes (50, par. 2; 51, par.3)” (83) This emphasis on the conciliar teaching was repeated by the East German bishops who said they “will set out from the presentation of Christian marriage given in the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes).” Chronologically, this trend was repeatedly emphasized through the statements from C.E.L.A.M., Italy, Austria, Canada, Scandinavia, Indonesia, France and Switzerland until the last of these virtually interpreted the entire encyclical in terms of Vatican II.

Some of the ideas mentioned in the conciliar document which received little or no attention in HV but which are introduced by the bishops are: a development of the twofold aspect of marriage with a special emphasis upon the unitive meaning of conjugal love, an emphasis upon children as the gift of marriage and not its primary purpose, the stress upon responsible parenthood and the necessarily serious consideration involved in a decision to have children (as opposed to the exceptional decision not to have children), the importance of the fact that it should be the parents themselves who decide in conscience upon the size of their family, the inclusion of the need to “educate” children as an intimate part of the responsibilities involved in procreation, and a recognition of the stress placed upon the family by modern society and the need to foster affection by the exercise of conjugal intimacy.

Not all the bishops mention all these points with particular emphasis except for the need for parents to decide on the size of their families in their own consciences. None of them oppose these ideas to the encyclical’s teaching or find fault with the document for omitting them. However, these ideas do play an important part in presenting a fuller understanding of Christian marriage than is present in HV and introduce the considerations of concepts which, had they been emphasized in the encyclical, would have demanded a fuller treatment of possible conflict situations.

When the encyclical did present its view of marriage (HV, 7-10), it did so in a very brief and schematic way. When it considered the question of contraception, the papal teaching seemed to lose sight of the previously mentioned principles. In the third part of the encyclical, concerned with pastoral directives, HV deals with the problems which its strict prohibition would create, but the way in which it faces this problem is with a call for sacrifice and an emphasis upon an ascetic view of man and of Christian marriage. (85) This ascetic view of self-mastery and Stoic-like emphasis upon the domination of reason over emotions is something which is curiously dropped by most of the bishops. The statements from Philippines and Ireland (2) seem to be the only ones which emphasize this asceticism, though Belgium, Ceylon, Colombia, England/Wales, France and Korea do men- tion the need for self-discipline in passing. Furthermore, the call to renew the strength of a Christian marriage through the sacraments receives a particular slant from a few bishops who recommend the frequenting of the Eucharist but minimize the need for sacramental penance.

We might say, therefore, that new ideas were introduced by some episcopal reaction to HV by means of differing emphases and the proposal of a different perspective on marriage in general. The encyclical tended to view the entire question of birth regulation and contraception from the point of view of an objective moral order founded upon a strict interpretation of a natural law inscribed in the physical world by the act of creation. Many bishops, on the other hand, especially those in Group B, exhibited a conception of marriage which, as the Council taught, was profoundly human and intimately involved with the practical problems of spouses who are sometimes caught in the conflicting situations of an imperfect world. This view did not forsake the charismatic call to Christian perfection, but rather implied that holiness and sanctity could and must be achieved by dealing with the givens of this world. While this view (86) is subtle and open to criticism, it seems to contrast with the ascetic and mind-over-matter, reason-over-emotion conception fostered by the encyclical

C. Evaluation of episcopal divergence from the encyclical

Few episcopal conferences took a position in direct disagreement with the teachings of HV. While some easily understood that a portion of the faithful would find it difficult to accept the teaching or fail to appreciate its argumentation, most of the bishops who may have disagreed with its conclusions were concerned to respectfully acknowledge the authority of a papal teaching and treat such a statement with deference. Only the bishops of the Netherlands in union with their lay and ecclesial Pastoral Council, gave a clearly negative evaluation to the encyclical’s rejection of contraception and openly declared that the questions involved in this area were still open. (87)

Other bishops chose to be more subtle in their positions and to treat the issue of contraception more or less within the framework constructed by the encyclical. This, however, did not exclude the bishops’ willing- ness to introduce some new factors into the argumentation or even, in some cases, to change the entire perspective of the official position. The question posed by this procedure is whether at least some of the episcopal reactions to the encyclical constituted a de facto mitigation of its teachings either by implicitly rejecting some of its conclusions or providing loopholes whereby the strict ban on artificial contraception could be circumvented.

So far we have seen that in the objective moral teaching presented by the bishops, there are arguments and new ideas which, carried to their logical conclusion, could lead to moral decisions completely different from the conclusions of HV (conflict of duties, lesser of two evils). We have also seen ideas which apply a shift of emphasis and cast the papal teaching in a new light by changing its perspective (importance of motivation, seeing the papal position as an “ideal,” grounding the questions related to marriage and the family in the conciliar teaching). Finally, we have raised the question if the right or wrong interpretation of the encyclical’s own arguments might constitute a loophole for the faithful in putting the teaching into practice (therapeutic means).

With these theoretical arguments in mind, we can now turn to the crucial question of the episcopal evaluation of the authority of the encyclical and its effect upon the personal decisions of conscience. To understand how the bishops reacted to HV and subsequently recommended it to the faithful for implementation, we will examine their positions on the encyclical’s authority in general and the possibilities of both theoretical and practical dissent from the norm proposed. We will then consider the bishops’ evaluation of HV’s authority in the teaching on Christian marriage.

lV. The episcopal teachings on authority and conscience in respect to HV

A. The bishops’ evaluation of HV’s authority

It is difficult to give a clear and definitive interpretation of how the bishops collectively viewed the authority of HV. While one might envision an ecclesiology wherein the exact place of various papal pronouncements are defined and situated, it is important to remember that all the bishops do not share the same ecclesiological perspective or even interpret the Conciliar perspective (LG) in the same way. Furthermore, in attempting to analyse what each of the hierarchies thought on this issue, we must be attentive not only to what they wrote directily and indirectly about it, but also to what they did not write.

Concretely, we observe that most all the hierarchies responding characterise HV as “magisterial” or as a statement of the teaching authority of the church. (88) But it seems to be only characteristic of the bishops in Groups A and C to refer to the teaching as “authentic.” This does not necessarily mean that the bishops of Group B (89) do not consider the teaching to be an “authentic” one, but it does introduce the question of why this group of bishops omitted a usual, ecclesial term that found its way into the statements of at least ten other bishops’ conferences. (90)

Another example of omission concerns a key factor enunciated in the encyclical itself. HV,4 states that “no member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her Magisterium to interpret the natural moral law.” (91) This view is accepted and repeated by bishops from Ceylon, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Malta (1), Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines and Spain. (92) It is also evidently admitted by the bishops from Brazil, Dahomey, East Germany, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Scotland, all of whom at least assume this magisterial competence by linking its “authoritative statements” with the need for the faithful to obey. But this idea is by no means unanimously taught by the bishops. A particular silence about magisterial authority in interpreting natural moral law is encountered when we read almost all the statements in Groups B and C. (93)

Thirdly, while nine bishops’ statements stress the need for obedience and the obligation imposed by the papal teaching, the remaining majority of bishops failed to approach this issue, although many of those in Group A perhaps assumed that there was no need to explicitate the encyclical’s obligatory character. In connection with this silence, particularly in regard to the statements in Group B, a further reading of the bishops’ reactions seems to imply that the omission was not accidental or prompted by assumptions in favour of strict obligation.

These negative indications certainly could not produce conclusions in any scientific or absolute manner. But they do contribute to a general feeling which one receives when reading the declarations of the hierarchies on the implementation of HV. Freely translated, this feeling indicates a certain hesitation on the part of at least some bishops to completely endorse the absolute and final character of the encyclical as a whole. While none of the bishops’ conferences outside of the Netherlands clearly indicate that this word on the morality of contraception is not the final one, many of them appear to put the teaching within a broader perspective that incorporates other factors with equal, if not more important, significance.

We have already seen that there is a common tendency to accentuate the positive aspects of the encyclical, particularly in respect to its congruence with the teaching of Vatican II on marriage and the family. This tendency is relevant to almost all the bishops’ statements regardless of how they stand on the morality of contraception itself. Those who basically agree with HV, as well as those who go beyond its restrictions, place a significant emphasis upon the equal importance of the two documents. Apart from which document each bishops’ conference might choose to see as the most influential, all the bishops recognize that both must be taken into account.

Admittedly, the consideration of conciliar documents in many cases led to no sense of conflict, between the two perspectives. In some cases, however, the adoption of conciliar ideas is implicitly contrasted with the specific natural law conclusions with regard to contraception in the encyclical. The bishops of Austria, Brazil, England/Wales, Indonesia (3),Italy and West Germany (95) call attention to the fact that further research is needed by scientists as well as theologians to more clearly perceive the exact meaning of the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The bishops of Czechoslovakia, Italy, West Germany and France (96) give much importance to the obligations of responsible parenthood in making personal decisions in regard to fertility, while C.E.L.A.M. (97) adds the need for dialogue between spouses to its emphasis on exercising responsible parenthood. Scandinavia’s and Switzerland’s statements (98)place a very high value on one’s personal decision in conscience as normative and even the East German bishops who are very occupied with distinguishing between general norms and exceptional cases balance their respect for objective moral norms with an acknowledgement of the importance of love in judging conjugal behavior. (99)

With the introduction of several other factors into their approaches, many of the bishops’ statements create the impression that the specific condemnation of artificial contraception in HV is not the unique factor to be considered in making a personal decision in this area. What, then, is the status of the papal decision? Apart from the arguments from which it was deduced or those which are employed to justify its validity or necessity, how, according to the bishops, is one to regard this papal decree that all artificial contraception is to be excluded from one’s conduct?

All the bishops statements we have designted in Group A clearly see this prohibition in terms of law or a rule which cannot be broken and to which one must conform. Though these bishops do not always rest upon papal authority alone, but often place the authority of the prohibition in the natural order identified with the will of God, they clearly assume the papal prerogative to enunciate rules for the church based upon his interpretation of that order. This can also be said of some of the bishops in Group C, namely, Italy, U.S.A. and, to a certain extent, England/Wales.

In contrast to this, many bishops refer to the encyclical not as a law or unbreakable rule, but in general and more flexible terms. The bishops of England/Wales tell the faithful that “an encyclical is a statement of principle, not a detailed personal guide ”(100)The notion of a “guide” is applied to this papal teaching by the bishops from Indonesia (3), who also refer to it as a “general directive,” (101) and Canada, who explicitly state that it is not a “point of divine and Catholic faith.” (102). The idea that the encyclical represents a “general norm” which must still be applied within concrete situations is found in the documents from Belgium and Switzerland, (103) while the broader notion that the papal teaching is a “help” or an “aid” to one’s personal formation of conscience is found in the statements from Austria and Scandinavia. (104)

The bishops of West Germany characterize the force behind the encyclical as a “summons to accept this teaching,” but then point out that one can still arrive at other conclusions.(105) Similarly, the bishops of Brazil see it as “a pedagogy designed to lead married couples to an ideal state” and help them achieve a “lofty ideal of marriage. (106) This notion of an “ideal” teaching, as implied earlier, would seem to indicate the less than absolute binding character of the encyclical and stituate its authority somewhat outside the realm of a practical and concretely applicable norm. Finally, the East German bishops attempted in their statement to establish the fact that HV represented a general norm of morality which cannot be arrived at simply from the analysis of exceptional cases. As such, these bishops recognize the general validity of the norm, but they also acknowledge the possibility of its non-applicability and absorb this into their broader perspective by writing that “without mitigating anything, we could keep the sixth commandment in its place; it is neither the first nor the most important of commandments.” (107)

Not all the bishops, therefore, characterize the authority of HV in the same way, even though they may have employed the same sources for interpreting this authority. By far the most frequently used source in this questionis LG,25 on the non-infallible teaching of the pope. Of the eighteen bishops who include this reference, only eight (108) appear to interpret it as a call to strictlyobey whatever the pope pronounces. The remaining ten (109) seem to give a broader interpretation of the notion of “religious assent” and not to equate “submission of  will and of mind” with a hard and fast rule of conduct in this area.

The general authority which the encyclical carries as a papal pronouncement is nowhere in dispute in the context of the episcopal statements on HV. But the breadth of interpreting the specificity of this authority does not always seem to fall into clearly definable boundaries. While some bishops see their own role simply as one of passing on the papal decree, others were perhaps more attentive to the fourth paragraph of the encyclical in which it is stated that,

Jesus Christ, when he commanded his divine power to Peter and the other apostles and sent them to teach all nations his commandments (Mt 28:18-19), constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law.

A number of bishops, namely, those in Group B and some in C, clearly see themselves incorporated into the recipients of this mandate, at least in practice if not in theory, and exercised their participation “as guardians and interpreters” if not by originating this church teaching, at least by reacting to and interpreting the papal leadership on this question.

B. The bishops evaluation of theoretical dissent from the teaching of HV on contraception

As pastors of the church and sensitive to the fact that HV was not being positively received by all the faithful, many bishops had to face the problem of dissent from papal teaching even among the clergy and members of the theological community. The way in which they reacted to this dissent or to expressed reservations can be taken as indicative of the bishops’ own evaluation of the strength and authority of this teaching.

The area in which the issue of dissent became most sensitive was the role of the preacher or teacher in explaining the doctrine of the encyclical to the faithful. Many bishops even included a special section in their statement on this particular problem, but the results were not always the same. The bishops from Colombia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Portugal and Spain specifically prohibit any deviation from the encyclical in preaching or teaching. (111) The bishops from Australia, Philippines and Poland state that dissent from this teaching constitutes an act of disobedience, (112) while the statements from Brazil, Ceylon, India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Rhodesia and the U.S.A. generally encourage that the doctrine be taught completely and in all its detail.

On the other hand, a significant number of bishops either have nothing to say in regard to how the prohibition should be taught or who advise that caution be taken in teaching the faithful. The bishops from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Scandinavia and Switzerland imply the exercise of restraint, and these same bishops, along with those from West Germany, seem to positively allow for at least personal dissent because they enunciate guidelines to govern differing opinions. These guidelines mainly call for one’s serious conviction free from momentary emotion, an openness to continue one’s inquiry, and a willingness to confront one’s responsibility before God. (113)

A further indication of tolerance toward dissent, although one more applicable to the personal conscience decision, is a recognition that some of the faithful will not even be able to accept the papal conclusions as valid. While the vast majority of bishops recognise the possibility of one accepting the prohibition in theory but experiencing great difficulty in putting it into practice, not one of the statements from Group A allows for the fact that a member of the church might not even accept the position of the Pope. In marked contrast to this, thirteen hierarchies expressly recognize such a possibility in their statements, (114) and attempt to deal with it in a charitable way by appealing to a greater openness on the part of these faithful.

In respect to the general atmosphere which the bishops conveyed in their reactions, it was a common occurrence for the hierarchies to express their solidarity with the pope or exhibit a real appreciation for the difficult position in which he found himself. Simultaneously, they also placed great value on the unity of the entire church and the common progression of leaders and faithful toward the fullness of truth in Jesus Christ. But even here the meaning of solidarity and unity signified different things for different bishops. The statements from bishops in Group A tended to see solidarity and unity in terms of conformity, and the bishops from Colombia, Mexico, Philippines and Poland”^ take pains to elicit the cooperation of the clergy and faithful to “speak with one voice” and eliminate expressions of dissent.

While statements in Group C remained rather silent about the precise meaning of solidarity and unity in the church, the Group B statements appeared to be more tolerant both toward expressions of dissent and a general atmosphere of pluriformity within the church. Most of those bishops seem to take the spirit of Vatican II as their point of departure. The West German statement sees the expression of differing opinions as “a salutary process of clarification,” and considers an openness to new forms of authority and freedom as “an effective contribution to the renewal of the Church on the lines of Vatican 11.”‘^ The Scandinavian bishops are the most forthright in their acceptance of dissent and preach tolerance for all opinions in calling for a sense of proportion and suggesting the following guidelines.

So long as this sense of proportion is preserved, a certain divergence of opinion may even be necessary and beneficial, on condition, however, that mutual peace and harmony, as well as veneration and loyalty towards the Pope, be preserved. All exchange of opinion demands tolerance in the true sense of this word. Let us accept that others have a right to their opinions, and let us help them carry their burden. (117)

Finally, the statement from the church in Canada gives a clear notion of how they see the meaning and purpose of controversy within this situation.

We, the People of God, cannot escape this hour of crisis but there is no reason to believe that it will create division and despair. The unity of the Church does not consist in a bland conformity in all ideas, but rather in a union of faith and heart, in submission to God’s will and a humble but honest and ongoing search for truth…If this sometimes means that in our desire to make the Church more intelligible and more beautiful we must, as pilgrims do, falter in the way or differ as to the way, no one should conclude that our common faith is lost or our loving purpose blunted.(118)

These reflective thoughts are indicative of the attitude of all the bishops who see the church not as an authoritative institution but as the body of all the faithful united in a common search for truth. In such a perspective, the leadership of the hierarchy is indispensable, but such leadership is by no means the only channel through which the Holy Spirit speaks. These bishops who recognize the viability of dissent from this specific teaching, whether motivated by theological speculation or by the daily experience of the faithful, seemed to place a greater importance on the practical reception of this teaching then on its own inner significance. (119)

C. The teaching of the bishops on conscience and practical divergence from the norm of HV regarding contraception

Possibly the most significant indication of where the bishops stood with respect to the authority of this papal encyclical is found in their pastoral teaching on the extent to which the prohibition of contraception is binding in conscience. Again, the positions of the various hierarchies are nuanced in this regard and no group denies that respectful attention must be given to the papal teaching. But the role of conscience also played a great part in what the bishops wrote, and this in turn, was based upon their own interpretation of the meaning and moral significance of artificial contraception.

  1. Artificial contraception and objective sin

An apparently real change in the traditional teaching on contraception occurred in HV with respect to the notion of personal behaviour an personal sin.(120) The relationship between objective and subjective sin subtly took on a greater importance in this encyclical than it had previously received from some earlier pronouncements of the magisterium. But such a change originated in a more positive evaluation of the role of conscience and the evident difficulties experienced by the faithful in living up to the norm, and not in a revaluation of the norm itself.

It seems undeniable that the encyclical would equate the use of artificial contraception with “objective sin” in so far as it represents an act which is “contrary to nature” and thus “intrinsically dishonest.” (121) Whether this is actually the case, however, is suggested by the consistency of the traditional papal teaching and not by HV itself, which nowhere used the terms “objective sin” or “objective evil.” Consequently, the bishops’ reactions to this notion indicate first of all an assumption on their part as to the gravity of contraceptive acts themselves, but the reasons for such gravity remain for the most part unarticulated.

In reviewing all the bishops’ statements in the first year, we find only the American bishops reference to “objective evil” and the. Spanish notion of “objective sin”(122) applied to the use of contraception. The statement from Ceylon says that to disrupt the order of nature “is morally wrong, and hence sinful,” while the French position, as illustrated above, dealt with the problem of this “evil” in non-moral terms. But other statements, particularly those in Group A, restrict their teaching to the notion that contraception is illicit or unlawful, or employ the argument that an authoritative statement of the magisterium must be an integral part of one’s formation of conscience.

The vast majority of bishops say nothing about whether contraception is, in and of itself, a sin. The preoccupation of these statements seems more involved with the relationship of the individual to a magisterial teaching than with the moral argumentation behind that teaching. This lack of consideration for the arguments (124) sometimes led to confusion both in some statements and for those to whom the statements were directed. Unfortunately, the emphjasis upon the fact of the ruling, as opposed to the nature of the ruling, occasionally bothered on a kind of moral positivism. (125) But seen as such a pervasive phenomenon, this reluctance to address themselves to the question of the objective evil of contraception may also be taken as an indication of doubt on the part of the bishops in this areea and imply that they actually do not accept the argumentation of the the encyclical themselves.

  1. Artificial contraception and personal sin

In terms of the teaching on contraception, it would have served the purpose of the bishops much better had they concentrated on the moral argumentation involved in this issue more than on the problems of an authoritative pronouncement. This was the case in some instances, namely, those statements which treated the “conflict of duties,” the “importance of motivation” or the notion of “two evils” as mentioned above. But most bishops placed the thrust of their teaching in developing the idea of subjective behaviour in light of the de facto authoritative prohibition.

The encyclical itself makes only one vague reference to any connection between personal sin and contraception. HV,25. addressed to the spouses themselves, encourages them to have hope and persevere in their efforts to live up to the difficulties of marital life. It then adds the remark, “If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the sacrament of penance.” (126) Though this passage was interpreted in many ways, it seems clear that HV does make some connection between the salient point of its teaching (the prohibition of artificial contraception) and the need for penance as a remedy for sin.

Very few bishops speak of an actual need for penance in their reactions or state that violating the norm constitutes a personal sin. The bishops of Ceylon, England/Wales, Mexico (2), Portugal, U.S.A. and Yugoslavia  (127) make this connection in their statements but do so only by quoting the statement from HV,25 above. The reactions from Austria, Canada and Italy (128) also quote this section of paragraph 25, but specifically omit the phrase “if sin still exercises its hold over them.”     Only the bishops of Brazil rephrase the implication that penance would be necessary because of departing from the norm,(129) and while the Canadian statement contains much on the need for a correct attitude toward penance, (130) it nowhere connects contraception with the actual need for the sacrament. The most divergent view on this subject is expressed by the Austrian bishops who wrote, “if  someone should err against the teaching of the encyclical, he must not feel cut off from God’s love in every case, and may receive Holy Communion without first going to Confession.” (131)

By implication, the same dissociation of using contraception and committing sin is also present in the idea that one who violates the norm should not feel “separated from the love of God.” The notion was first put forth by the Belgian bishops and was repeated by three other groups. Similarly, the Canadian statement says one should not be considered “shut off from the body of the faithful” and the Swiss bishops say those who cannot follow the teaching “should not consider themselves guilty before God.” (133) The Scandinavian statement, further says that “no one should, on account of diverging opinions, be regarded as an inferior Catholic.” (134)

While these seven statements specifically dissociate violating the prohibition from personal sin, the vast majority of bishops, by their silence, imply that although one might use artificial contraception, there is not necessarily a grave personal sin with the need of sacramental penance. The justification for this position can take at least two routes: either one is acting in ignorance of the grave matter, or one’s conscience is for some reason not under an obligation to follow the norm.

In regard to the first, only Mexico (1), Portugal and Spain imply that one who deviates from the norm can be excused because of ignorance. The Portuguese bishops carry this implication by distinguishing between “value-judgments deduced from doctrinal instruction and interior spiritual enlightenment.” (135) This idea is perhaps not equivalent to an attribution of direct, personal ignorance, and because of its broad application, became a favourite vehicle for bishops who accepted the encyclical’s position on contraception as well as the fact that many of the faithful could not follow the directive. Thus, the bishops from Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Italy, U.S.A. and France (136) make some provision in their statements to distinguish various “levels of assent” to the papal teaching or “steps of growth” in one’s Christian life.

The other justification for not imputing sin for violating the encyclical’s prohibition is a recognition that one is somehow not bound by the obligation to follow the letter of the papal teaching. The most obvious example of this position is the “conflict of duties” which was mentioned above. But a broader application of this argument can be found in the widespread recognition among the bishops’ statements that many of the faithful would find it difficult to follow the norm exactly. At its very foundation, the basic recognition of this situation implied that many bishops were willing to give a good deal of weight to the problems arising from the implementation of this norm.

A few of the bishops in Group A at least imply that the difficulty of the pastoral situation must be taken into account in applying the papal teaching, especially by confessors. Malta (1), Mexico (2) and Portugal (137) give the clearest examples of this. Almost all the others recognize this problem to some extent but do not credit this factor with any mitigating influence on the strictness of the prohibition. In contrast to this, nearly all the statements from Groups B and C give significant weight to the difficulties encountered by some faithful in their personal situations. (138) Due to their pastoral concern and an attempt to make their teaching meaningful to all the faithful, these bishops specifically avoided framing these principles in strictly objective terms and did not imply that one is bound to follow the norm under pain of sin.

  1. The episcopal teaching on conscience

The opportunity for any episcopal statement to positively evaluate some mitigating factor in the implementation of HV’s norm was directly related to the position they held in regard to the doctrine of conscience. Regardless of the bishops’ own particular stand on the morality of contraception, the fact had to be dealt with that the authoritative magisterium had made a statement on a specific moral issue and the faithful were expected to be attentive to this ruling. The central issue, then, became the relationship of conscience and authority.

The groupings we have made in Appendix B are correlative with the statements’ teachings on the authority-conscience relationship. The reactions in Group A clearly saw the encyclical as a valid, binding doctrine to which conscience must conform; those in Group B generally conceived of conscience being attentive to the authority of the magisterium yet still maintaining its personal and distinct character to act freely in relation to rule and law (often characterized as a “guide,” norm” or “general principle”). The Group C statements were acutely aware of this potential conflict and saw the value of both positions, but their position has been classified as “uncertain” largely because of their inability to clearly deal with the tension.

Seven groups of bishops, all in Group A, clearly teach that conscience is completely subordinate to law (139) and none of the eighteen statements in this Group admit that one’s individual conscience has any responsibility after HV other than conforming one’s behaviour to the papal norm. This view of conscience implies a function of the person whereby norms are received from an external source and put into practice in behaviour. The major role of conscience, as such a function, is to check one’s decisions and continuously recall all subjective desires, needs and intentions to the full implementation of the law promulgated by a rightful authority.

None of the statements m Group B and few of those in Group C (140) even imply that conscience has such a role, strictly subordinate to the law. (141) Many of these statements seem to imply that conscience is still free after HV and remains faced with the responsibility of making a personal decision – one which is not per se restricted to conforming to the norm of the encyclical, albeit one which must take papal teaching into serious consideration. (142)

One of the ways in which such a position is made tenable is by the bishops’ distinction between conscience and the “formation of conscience.” When four statements in Group A treat this idea, their conclusion recognized that a conscience must be “formed,” but their notion of “formation” is equivalent to conforming to a pre-determined rule. (143) In utilising the same distinction, the bishops from Austria, Canada, England/Wales Scandinavia and Switzerland (144) conceive of law and authority as being one of the conditions under which conscience must be formed, but at least imply that there are other factors involved as well. The Scandinavian statement in particular has a well developed doctrine of conscience which symbolized the position of these bishops and seems to underlie that of all the bishops in Group B.

Conscience is not just an instinct or a natural concept. It avails itself also of our powers of apprehension and it applies moral insight to our concrete acts. Hence conscience needs to be educated, formed, and informed. Finally, it needs to mature, whether in human society or through the life of the individual, taking into account, among other things, the fruits of experience.

Conscience does not produce its own norms, but recognizes these as binding, independently of personal inclinations. In order to arrive at a decision in specific cases, conscience requires certain stable and secure norms. The Catholic discovers such norms in divine revelation, in the teaching of the Church, in natural moral law, etc. This, however, by no means guarantees that he is in a position to make clear and unequivocal application of these rules to each detail of every practical decision. But all Christians will, nonetheless, strive towards an ever fuller comprehension of these norms and a steadily increasing refinement of their own conscience.

There can be no disputing that man should never under any circumstance act against his conscience. Possibly his conscience is mistaken, or he ought to examine the existing question more closely. But he must never act against his conscience. If he has done his genuine best to ascertain the true norms, their application becomes in each separate case a matter of purely personal responsibility. No one, not even the Church, is entitled to dispense him from the duty of obeying his conscience and carrying the responsibility for so doing. (145)

  1. The extent of magisterial authority

In what may be a paradigm of the subtlety with which many bishops reacted to HV, the Belgian declaration stated, “We must recognize, according to the traditional teaching, that the ultimate practical norm of action is conscience which has been duly enlightened by all the factors presented in Gauduim et Spes.” (146) The significance of the statement, of course, lies in what is not said, namely, that the practical norm of conscience is the teaching of HV. In many of the statements which followed this early one, the bishops often reminded the faithful of the importance of the conciliar teaching on marriage. Most all the statements in Groups B and C treated GS with a significance at least equivalent to the encyclical and some clearly placed this council document above the papal teaching, especially Belgium, Canada, France, Scandinavia, Switzerland and West Germany.

This certainly does not imply that these bishops subordinate the papal prerogative to any conciliar teaching. The question raised here goes beyond the nineteenth century problems of Gallicanism and Conciliarism and focuses on a major point underlying the whole of this issue, namely, the extent of the authority of the magisterium in teaching on matters of morality. The question of this extent is implicit in the conciliar teaching, in GS, 50 and 51, as well as in LG, Chapter III, and encompasses an area which has never been clearly defined in the history of the church.

Specific to this question is that GS, 50 and 51 point out the. Fact that couples must be attentive in their decisions regarding the regulation of births to the magisterium of the church which interprets the divine law in the light of the Gospel. At least six bishops’ statements indicate this connection between the moral magisterium and the divine law (147) in a way that contrasts with the encyclical. HV,4 extends the competence of the magisterium to the interpretation of natural law and carries out this extension in paragraphs 10 through 18 in a way which envelopes the law of nature as observed by natural human reason and not necessarily connected with divine revelation. As mentioned above, many bishops concur with this opinion, but, in fact, this question has yet to be settled in official church teaching and is still a matter of theological debate.

No episcopal conference questions the competence or authority of the magisterium, particularly that prerogative which belongs to the pope. But few bishops venture to state the extent of that competence definitively, and the significant number of bishops who apparently see some freedom left both for theological and practical dissent after the promulgation of this encyclical, raises the question of how broad and how pervasive that competence may be.

D. The bishops evaluation of HV’s authority on the theology of marriage

In analysing the bishops’ positions on the authority of the encyclical, it is necessary to distinguish their approach to the specific prohibition of artificial contraception from their evaluation of the references to the theology of marriage. HV attributes its own perspective on marriage to the traditional teaching of the church and gives particular credit to GS for its treatment of conjugal love and responsible parenthood. (148) It concretely returns to this reference in paragraphs 9 and 10.

Not one of the episcopal reactions disagrees with the fundamental and positive aspects of the encyclical regarding the theology of marriage. Most of the statements explicitly endorse this perspective and highly recommend it to the faithful. In some instances, this emphasis is used to replace a total endorsement of the teaching on contraception and allowed some bishops to welcome the encyclical with a certain amount of enthusiasm. The bishops of Group B, as well as those from Czechoslovakia, East Germany, England/Wales, Italy, Indonesia (3) and U.S.A. put forth HV as a positive statement rich in the fundamental teachings of the church on marriage. Many statements in Group A also endorse the teaching as a positive statement but give equal importance to its negative proscriptions.

Again, the trend to identify the papal position with a basically positive one is often evident in what is not said by the bishops (149). In identifying the core of the papal teaching they often centre on the notions of conjugal love and responsible parenthood as enunciated in the Council and alluded to in HV, but omit the specific prohibition of the encyclical. The East German statement even reminds priests that those who find difficulty in accepting the ruling on contraception still accept both the principle of magisterial authority as well as the positive aspects of its doctrine. (150)

We could not justifiably contend that this phenomenon constituted a capriciously selective acceptance of HV. The bishops were not arbitrarily accepting or rejecting parts of the papal teaching without attention to the whole of the document and what they conceived to be its basic thrust. On the contrary, it may be hypothesised that in applying the criterion of the encyclical itself, to be true to the traditional teaching of the church, the bishops who mitigated the specific prohibition of artificial contraception were more true to the recent tradition, because it is always evolving, in moral teaching and the older tradition in respect to authority. (151)

When dealing in the broad area of a theology of marriage, both the pope and the bishops recognize that the church’s teaching must be limited to fundamental principles which transcend the historical and cultural evolution of the institution of marriage. These fundamentals incorporate human values such as the dignity of the person, respect for life and the need to act responsibly in the demands of both conjugal love and procreation-education of children, as well as the Christian values of participating in God’s creative intentions, living the sacramentality of marriage and sharing in the life of grace which is concretized in the conjugal relationship.

All the bishops join the pope in teaching these basic concepts. But the encyclical goes beyond these fundamental ideas and incorporates more concrete norms in respect to the achievement of the values which are part of marriage, fully human and fully Christian. It is in these, concrete, material norms, where the papal teaching does not always win episcopal endorsement. The question, therefore, is raised as to the criteria and validity of the bishops’ positions in their reactions to this encyclical. In some cases, bishops unquestioningly accepted the whole of the pronouncement on the grounds that it was an authoritative statement of the magisterium. In others, the reactions were more discriminating in their consonance with the specifics of the papal doctrine.

Analysing the statements of the bishops in this case does not answer these questions. The only conclusion possible from our analysis is that the question must be raised – not only in this specific instance but in a broader and more fundamental way. Our hypothesis suggests that the. Answer to the question of criteria lies in the distinction between fundamental and concrete norms; the basis upon which this criteria may be applied rests in an understanding of the extent and limits of magisterial authority.

V. The actual teaching of the bishops on HV: a summary

Since we are restricting our analysis here to the reactions which they gave to HV in the first year, the approach we will take is limited to their stand in regard to this encyclical alone. Insofar as that position may or may not differ from the papal teaching, we will only consider what was written in the relevant statements.

A. The bishops’ teaching on HV

The bishops’ statements which we have listed in Group A (See Appendix B) are all basically in agreement with the papal teaching on artificial contraception. This involves two factors; first, all these bishops totally accept and endorse the position of the pope that any interference with the biological structure of the marriage act or the reproductive system for contraceptive purposes constitutes a violation of the “natural law” and is hence “intrinsically dishonest” and to be excluded. Secondly, these statements teach that the papal pronouncement is valid and binding in conscience for all Catholics, and is not open to criticism or dissent either in the public forum or in personal practice. These statements constitute approx- imately half of those surveyed.

The statements in Group B clearly mitigate both the specific teaching on contraception and the absolute binding character of the papal pronouncement. This is done in the first place by introducing new arguments into the issue of birth control and/or by changing the perspective of the “church’s teaching” from this encyclical alone to the wider teaching of Vatican II. On the question of the encyclical’s binding character, these bishops characterize the teaching in broader terms than that of “law,” tolerate and even encourage continued dialogue and pluriformity based on the freedom of conscience, specifically avoid the connection of contraception with sin, and imply that the teaching itself does not have a universal and absolute character.

The statements in Group C present a problem both for our categorization and probably for those who were their recipients. Some of the statements appear to take no clear position at all, such as those from India and Japan, while others seem to hold inwardly divergent opinions resulting in the overall impression of ambiguity, such as those from England/Wales and the U.S.A. We have thus labeled these statements as “uncertain,” and it is now appropriate to indicate why each of them cannot be said to completely endorse the encyclical.

The Brazilian statement characterizes HV as an “ideal,” as a pedagogy” rather than as a law, and accepts a certain amount of dissent from its teaching. The Czech bishops accept a “complex” of duties, the importance of motivation, that HV is an “ideal,” and they leave open the “loophole” of therapeutic means and tolerate dissent. The East German statement places a high value on one’s motivation, recognizes the importance of the question of conscience, and develops the conciliar ideas on marriage which implicitly work against the encyclical’s natural law concepts. England/Wales not only ambiguously refers to the use of therapeutic means, but also accepts dissent, sees the encyclical as a “general directive” and teaches that one who deviates is “not separated from the love of God.” India takes virtually no stand at all but does situate the encyclical in the context of a primarily social document, makes only a simple reference to it on the call for tolerance and charity (HV,29), and implies that the teaching itself is an open question to be situated in the realm of more pressing social issues. (152)  The Italian statement clearly represents the papal teaching as an “ideal” and accentuates the importance of motivation as well as the conciliar theology of marriage; they specifically teach that one must go through stages of growth in moral behaviour and emphasize the role of personal conscience. Indonesia’s pastoral letter clearly reflects the mitigating character of the bishops’ other two statements, but does so in a way which is vague by comparison. Japan’s statement says that one who does not follow the papal norm is “not separated from the love of God,” and gives a good deal of weight to the mitigating circumstances of one’s personal situation. Finally, the American statement basically agrees with the encyclical but not without recognizing the “conflict of duties,” the importance of motivation, the role of conscience and the fact that HV is an “ideal” teaching.

B. Correlation of agreement and variance with other factors.

We might now ask the possible reasons which led to the reactions these bishops gave to HV. Basically we feel that at least two important factors influenced the eventual stand which was taken: attention to facts and in puts from sources other than the encyclical itself, and the way in which the question of responding was conceived.

  1. Attention to extraneous data

One general and striking phenomenon which seems to separate those bishops who totally endorse the encyclical from those who do not is the amount of attention and sensitivity to the pastoral situation of the faithful and the problems which this papal teaching presented for them. Most all the statements in Group A are theoretical and abstract statements of theological principles which pay little attention to the importance of common human experience or the difficulties which married couples encounter in approaching parenthood responsibly. With the possible exception of the statements from Colombia, Dahomey and Senegal which apparently seized upon the promulgation of HV to renounce the interference of other countries in the internal social and moral situations of their people, most of these bishops do not address themselves to concrete situations and a large number of them seem to ignore or even deny the fact of any necessity to limit family size. Furthermore, the conception of marriage underlying these statements is evidently built upon the same rational, “natural order” ideal as the encyclical’s and does not allow for experimental pluriformity in conjugal lifestyles or variations in the expression of marital intimacy. Lastly, all these bishops assume the priority of HV over the teaching of GS and interpret that council document in terms of the encyclical.

In contrast to this, the bishops in Group B and many in C can be characterized by a genuine appreciation of the pastoral situation and the pressures which bear on the modern family. These bishops seemed more concerned with the problems of implementing the encyclical than its theological justification, and gave more attention to the question of conscience and its relationship with (magisterial) authority. Most importantly, these bishops have a positive evaluation of the freedom of conscience and give significant credit to the input of practical experience.

One concrete example of this is the evaluation of “other factors” in the decision to regulate births. HV,7 opens with a recognition of these factors, but it tends to place them in a secondary position in terms of the conscience decision, seeing them as “partial perspectives.” (153) Only two statements in Group A refer to these other factors but also call the partial.” (154)By contrast, every one of the statements in B and C not only take account of these “other factors” themselves and evaluate them positively, but they remind the faithful that they, too, must consider all these things in their decisions.

The reactions resulting from this different viewpoint tended to situ- ate HV in a wider perspective than the question of contraception and construct a pastoral framework for approaching the teaching on marriage and the family that was less abstract and more engaged in daily experience. This was done by positively incorporating other data into their statements such as the doctrine of conscience, the whole teaching of the church on marriage, and the fundamental norms in this area enunciated in the Pastoral Constitution, GS. The statements in Group B tended to interpret HV in terms of this conciliar teaching and not the opposite.

The “uncertain” statements also appeared to be attentive to factors outside the encyclical itself such as the data of experience and different theological perspectives. But these bishops did not choose one orientation as a primary motivation and attempted to present often conflicting points of view as equally significant. Apparently this perspective does not see any conflict between the teaching of the encyclical and the experience of the faithful or the conciliar teaching on marriage. The resulting documents in Group C tended toward an ambiguity that was left open to interpretation.

In summary, then, the tendency to mitigate the strictness of HV seems to be correlative with the bishops’ attention to the data which was extraneous to this one church document. This data became influential in the bishops’ reactions via their sensitivity to the sensus fidelium, their openness to the theological community and other channels of information, and their willingness to participate in collegial methods on the local as well as ecumenical level. By means of all these inputs, the corresponding reactions of these bishops can be seen as turning to questions much wider than the encyclical itself.

  1. The formulation of the question for response

The statements of bishops that agreed with IP/ (Group A) responded directly to the encyclical itself and to a felt need to join with and defend magisterial authority. We can only speculate on the particular ecclesiology of each of these bishops’ conferences by examining them individually. But generally we can detect a trend to accept the same ecclesiological perspective that was implicitly operant in the encyclical itself. In untechnical terms, these bishops saw the church as primarily hierarchical, the decision-making powers of which lay on the highest levels of the institution and extend throughout the realm of morality, even to specific and concrete questions. The resulting pronouncements of this central moral magisterium are then universally applicable and binding on the consciences of all Catholics who must conform to promulgated law without dissent.

The other bishops we have surveyed, however, particularly those who more clearly mitigate the encyclical’s teachings on contraception, tended to see the questions themselves as different and, both as cause and result, had a different ecclesiological perspective. These bishops were not responding simply to the encyclical, but mainly to the needs and difficulties of the faithful who were the recipients of the papal teaching. In this situation, the questions ranged much wider into fields of social responsibility, responsible parenthood, cultural diversity, the role of authority, and especially freedom of conscience and dissent. The general underlying ecclesiology in these reactions saw the church as a community with the necessity of a leadership invested with authority and demanding respect and attention. In the field of morality, the most important aspect of this leadership appeared to be, for these bishops, the consistent teaching of fundamental norms and values attended by some, more concrete, sug- gestions to serve as aids in applying these norms.

As was stated earlier, attention must be paid to the fact that none of the reactions to HV were written in a vacuum. The questions being posed to the church in this area were many and various. Demographic problems (and the connected issues of social justice), problems of understanding conjugal love and intimacy, socio-cultural problems challenging the role and meaning of the church as a social and spiritual force, and related to all these, the problem of understanding the dynamics of personal conscience and legitimate authority were all issues which were raised when the encyclical was promulgated. Those bishops who saw only a specificallytuation in which they found themselves. Those bishops who were aware – or were made aware – of the larger and more complex issues because of their pastoral situation, did not treat this encyclical as a definitive statement.

The relation between the moral and authority issues, then, does seem to correlate along specific lines. Generally, where authority was the main concern, the moral issues and all their possible nuances receded into the background. In contrast to this, those statements which addressed the moral issues directly exhibited a much more open and community-oriented conception of church authority.

C. Transition

An analysis of the collective episcopal reactions to HV during the first year after is promulgation has revealed a striking diversity among the bishops both in regard to the content of their respective statements and especially in respect to the perspectives which each group employed. The interpretation of this data, however, must be approached cautiously, lest we read our own conclusions into the documentation. It would be too easy to conclude that the response was somewhat negative because at least half of the bishops responding failed to give a clear and definitive endorsement to the whole teaching, particularly that concerned with artificial contraception. But it would be equally dubious to claim that he teahing of this papal encyclical was received and taught by the bishops in an unqualified way. Between these two positions we will seek out the limits the bishops have suggested in interpreting the enyclical and draw upon their reactions to establish a “style” for further (independent) theological debate. Thois will be done in our conclusions to Part One.

Nevertheless, it does seem justifiable to draw some conclusions at this point regarding the above mentioned correlation between episcopal positions and the context of their statements. As we have indicated, when the bishops addressed themselves solely to the matter of the papal document, their response entailed little more than a repetition of the same ideas with perhaps some mention of the need to accept and follow the teaching. But those bishops who in some way mitigated the strict teaching appeared to be influenced by factors outside the letter itself and addressed themselves to much wider issues which were implicit in the entire debate about birth control. These bishops were in effect putting forth their own teaching on the question and going even further to treat questions which inevitably formed part of the debate in the church after July 1968.

Perhaps the most pertinent conclusions which we can draw from this analysis will really have to be stated in the form of questions: issues which demand further theological investigation. The variety and diversity of these reactions gave evidence of a significant pluriformity within the hierarchy of the church itself. Thus, the issues raised go far beyond the consideration of this moral teaching and touch upon not only what was said but on how and why many of the bishops could react the way in which they did. In this way, HV was a focal point for a much larger debate, rather than an isolated issue in itself. This further debate is still being carried on within the church, even when the concrete question of artificial contraception seems to have passed into history. (155) The most prudent conclusion to draw from the analys is itself is that, although the papal teaching on contraception was fully accepted and taught by a number of bishops and the present position of the Vatican appears to remain unchanged on this issue,there was an episcopal divergence from the papal norm present in a significant number of reactions to HV and there are a large number of questions as yet to be answered both in the moral issues and in connection with the role of magisterial authority in respect to moral teaching.

In considering only those bishops who mitigated the teaching of HV, we can see the growing importance placed upon the development and functioning of personal conscience with respect to the central authority of the church in moral issues. The position of the individual in this case seemed to be granted a significant amount of latitude by these bishops in terms of implementing the specific, concrete norm of the encyclical. But the teaching of these same bishops never separated conscientious personal decisions from the broader influence of the church’s overall and fundamental teachings on Christian marriage, responsible moral behaviour, and the “religious assent” to the respected teaching authority. Because all the bishops responding could be seen in agreement with these fundamental issues, albeit in in different and sometimes divergent ways, and the greatest amount of disagreement centred around the concrete and specific questions of artificial contraception and the role of conscience in this area, it appears that this distinction will be an important key in evaluating the whole debate initiated by the controversy over HV.

With this in mind, we must now turn briefly to the later statements of collective bishops related to HV. After 1969, the contraception issue shifted away from the encyclical and toward the moral question itself. Thus, while the later statements were written at a time which historically had to include the fact of the encyclical, they were freer to more specifically address the moral issue and become less embroiled in the debate about papal authority. Indeed by this point, the two issues had already become independent and exhibited their own respective amount of urgency. We will deal with the climax of the authority issue among the bishops in terms of the extraordinary Synod of 1969. Then we will turn to the “later reactions” to HV as some indication of the present status questions.

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or return to Index.


  1. The nuanced question of what constitutes “artificial means” as well as the issue of the moral acceptability of family planning in general wil emerge in the theological discussion. Here the bishops do not address themselves to these questions except for a few comments concerning the licitness of exercising responsible parenthood.
  2. Some of the more radical opposition to HV characterized the encyclical not as a moral statement but as an attempt to reassert papal authority in the post-conciliar church. While it cannot be denied that there was a strong emphasis on “tradition” in the papal decision and perhaps an over-concern for maintaining the teaching of Paul VI’s predecessors, it remains a question if the authority issue was really a motivating factor in the promulgation of HV. The question we put here, whether the bishops’ ecclesiological conceptions influenced their positions on the encyclical, is addressed to the wider issues of the post-HV debate and not to the situation before the pope “made up his mind”.
  3. This may explain the total absence of specific reference to the encyclical in the statements from Australia (1), Brazil, Dahomey, East Germany, India, Ireland (1), Japan, Korea, Malta (12), Netherlands, Poland (1) and Rhodesia.,
  4. Austria, Canada and Scandinavia quote HV,25 to the effect that couples should persevere in living their lives as Christians.
  5. HVB, p. 305
  6. HVB, pp. 138 and 247 respectively.
  7. See Spain, HVB, p. 247 and Rhodesia, Pour Relire, p. 5.
  8. Especially: Brazil, Scotland, U.S.A. and Yugoslavia. A similar argument is found in the statements from Australia (1), Philippines and Poland who emphasize that dissent from the teaching constitutes an act of disobedience.
  9. Canada, C.E.L.A.M. Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Indonesia, Netherlands, Switzerland and West Germany.
  10. Czechoslovakia, Indonesia, Scandinavia and West Germany.
  11. Except for C.E.L.A.M., which did not approach the issue in this way, this includes all the statements in Group B plus Czechoslovakia, East Germany, England/Wales, Indonesia (3) and Italy.
  12. Besides those in Group A, this includes Brazil and the U.S.A.
  13. Papal Allocution of 31 July 1968, AAS 60(1968), pp. 527-30. An English translation of the full text of this speech appears in “How the Pope Made up his Mind,” in Herder Correspondence 5(1968), n. 11, pp. 336-7.
  14. Austria, Belgium, Canada, East Germany, England/Wales, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal and West Germany.
  15. Besides those statements which explicitly put forth these ideas on natural law, the same attitude can be found in those who also put forth the encyclical’s warning about the grave consequences which would flow from permitting artificial birth control (HV,17).
  16. Pour Relire, p. 110.
  17. Ireland, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, Spain and Yugoslavia.
  18. Colombia, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines and Rhodesia.
  19. Ceylon, Dahomey, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, U.S.A. and Yugoslavia.
  20. Dahomey, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, U.S.A. and Yugoslavia.
  21. Australia, Brazil, Ceylon, Colombia, Dahomey, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, U.S.A. and Yugoslavia.
  22. CELAM II, p. 90 (= HVB, p. 84). The French could also be said to have the notion of evil consequences implicitly in their ideas on the “contraceptive mentality,” see. above, p. 40.
  23. The passage reads: “conscience is correct, in effect, insofar as i conforms to the divine law; this law is perceived, on the one hand, by the light of revelation, and on the other, by the orientation which the Creator has inscribed in man’s nature itself. It is up to him to apply these forms of illumination to the circumstances of each concrete situation.” HVB, p. 258.
  24. HVB, p. 59.
  25. “La contraception ne peut en elle-meme etre un bien.” Pour Relire, p. 151 (= HVB, 122).
  26. “La contraception ne peut jamais etre un bien. Elle est toujours un desordre, mais ce desordre n’est pas toujours coupable.” Pour Relire, p. 154 (= HVB, p. 125).
  27. HVB, p. 60.
  28. See, for instance, East Germany (Pour Relire, p. 110), France (Pour Relire, p. 154), and U.S.A. (HVB, p. 269).
  29. The frequency of reference to this is not recognizable in Appendix D because it was often only indirectly referred to and not necessarily attributed to the encyclical itself.
  30. From Group A: Colombia, Ceylon, Mexico (1,2), Portugal, Spain (2.) and Yugoslavia;

Group B: Austria, Belgium, C.E.L.A.M., France, Scandinavia, Switzerland and West Germany;          Group C: Czechoslovakia, England/Wales and Italy.

  1. The “illas medendi rationes” of HV,15, which is most often translated “the use of therapeutic means,” is perhaps ambiguous in that “the use of therapy” may imply some vagueness in the teaching. Perhaps it would be better to freely translate “the Church in no way considers illicit those medical procedures which are necessary for curing diseases of the organism…” This may clarify that the teaching is consistent with its own interpretation of double effect, as implied in HV,14, and that within its framework the use of some procedures considered “therapeutic” because, of their fertility regulating effects would be proscribed. Ap- parently most bishops did not choose to make this perfectly clear. See below, p. 77-9.
  2. Footnote 19, attached to the end of HV,15 refers to “Pius XII, Address to the twenty-sixth Congress of the Italian Association of Urology, MS 45(1953), pp. 674-75; to the Society of Haematology, AAS 50(1958), pp. 734-35.”
  3. The second Mexican statement does give some treatment of this in terms of double effect, but their explanation is still left ambiguous. Later we will see that the bishops of Yugoslavia who simply quote HV,15 in their first statement give it a rather liberal interpretation in their later pastoral.
  4. This reference is at the end of HV,10 and seems to refer to the same two passages which the bishops quote so frequently (see above, pp. 52-4). The encyclical changes this teaching in a way by substituting the council’s call to be attentive to “the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law” (GS,51) by the idea that spouses “must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church.” (emphasis added).
  5. Cf. Philippe Delhaye, art. cit., and Chapter Four, below.
  6. Dahomey, Korea, Malta (1), Poland (1) and Yugoslavia.
  7. HV,7 has a slightly negative approach to this concept, saying that many try to justify artificial contraception by appealing to “the demands both of conjugal love and of ‘responsible parenthood”‘ (sive coniugalis amoris, sive paternitatis sui officii consciae requisita). HV,10 attempts to explicitate what the Pope felt “must be exactly understood” about the spouses’ mission of “responsible parenthood” (paternitatem consciam).

38. India and Japan both fail to mention the concept, probably because of the brevity of their statements.

  1. The concept of responsible parenthood is only discussed in the statements from Colombia (HVB, p. 93), Mexico (2) (HVB, p. 183), New Zealand (HVB, p. 194), Poland (2) (HVB, p. 216), Rhodesia (Pour Relire., p. 5) Spain (HVB, p. 249) and Yugoslavia (Pour Relire, p. 214) 67
  2. HV,11 refers to “coniugali congressioni” and “matrimonii usus” and HV,12 to “actu coniugali” and “actus coniugii.”

41. From Group A: Ceylon, Mexico (2), New Zealand, Philippines, Poland (1,2), Spain and Yugoslavia;

Group B: Austria, Belgium, Canada, C.E.L.A.M., France, Scandinavia, Switzerland and West Germany;

Group C: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Italy and the U.S.A.

  1. The East German bishops recall that the “marriage act is ordained to the inception of human life,” but in context it is seen: a) that they do not directly apply the teaching on the “two aspects” exclusively to intercourse, and b) that this phrase is preceeded by a warning not to reduce our view of man to the biological perspective. See, Pour Relire, pp. 109-10.
  2. The Report of the Tilburg Symposium, PPCR, states “even if the serious- ness of the population problem is acknowledged sometimes the economic and social solution is stressed in such a way that population policy seems of little importance,” (p. 216). This concern reflects the re- cent trend in the discussions on the population problem such as those at the U.N. Conference on World Population held at Bucharest in Aug. 1974, to emphasize the social and economic solution too much. The difficulty is that while these solutions are all necessary, they are in themselves inadequate. – just as is the solution to limit population size. Prof. Janssen , co-ordinator of the Symposium, privately ex- pressed the opinion, held by many of the participants, that belief in the immorality of artificial contraception was today being masked by an overemphasis upon the need for socio-economic development tha even excludes consideration of population size as a problem. While such a position cannot be challenged without being labelled “neo-colonialist” or “imperialist,” it constitutes a barrier to a cooperative effort to find a total solution to underdevelopment. Cf. above, p. 34, n. 91.
  3. The Belgian (HVB, p. 66), Canadian (HVB, p. 81) and English/Welsh (HVB, pp. 115-6) bishops speak of an “apparent” conflict of duties which nevertheless seems real to persons in forming their decisions. The French (Pour Relire, p. 154) and Indonesians (Pour Relire, p. 90 and HVB, p. 135) see a real conflict of duties, introducing a totally new idea into the question. The American bishops (HVB, p. 274) recognize genuine conflicting duties and the Italian episcopate (HVB, p. 167) admits the problem of “reconciling the demands of responsible parenthood with those…of mutual love,” but neither of these see a discrepancy be- tween this and the teaching of the encyclical. The Czech bishops speak of a “complex of duties” in marriage but not of a “conflict” directly (HVB, p. 98).
  4. “necessarium esse, ut quilibet matrimonii usus ad vitam humanam pro- creandam per se destinatus permaneat.” (HV,11).
  5. “Quas ab causas amor coniugum ab ipsis exigit, ut munus suum probe nov- erint paternitatem consciam attingens…” (HV,10, emphasis added).
  6. “Quapropter paternitatis consciae munus id postulat, ut coniuges suant, rerum bonorumque ordine recte servato” (HV,10). The “right order” is implicit in this paragraph itself which begins its list of the meanings of responsible parenthood with “biologicos processus… cognitionem et observantiam munerum, ad eos attinentium” and ends th list with “ordinem moralem, quem obiectivum vocant.”
  7. “numquam tamen licet, ne ob gravissimas quidem causas, facere mala ut eveniant bona: videi licet in id voluntatem conferre, quod ex propria natura moralem ordinem transgrediatur…” (HV,14).
  8. “Etenim propter intimam suam rationem, coniugii actus, duiri maritum et uxorem artissimo sociat vinculo, eos idoneios etiam facit ad novam vitam gignendum, secundum legis in ipsa viri et mulieris natura in- scriptas,” (HV,12).
  9. See above, n. 46. The closest that the encyclical ever comes to at- taching the notion of “obligations” to the concept of responsible parenthood is in para. 7: “Quoniamque, qui multi artificiosas vias de- fendere conantur, quibus liberorum numerus coerceatur, iidem sive con- iugalis amoris, sive paternitatis sui officii consciae requisita prae- texunt…” (emphasis added). This is a rather negative outlook on such “obligations” and one which in this paragraph and through the whole encyclical, the teaching of the pope seems intent to defeat, or at least mitigate.
  10. “ii paternitate conscia fungi dicendi sunt, qui…seriis causis moral- ibusque praeceptis observatis, animum inducunt ut, vel ad certum vel ad incertum tempus, alium filium non gignant.” (HV,10, emphasis added)
  11. See above, p. 70, n. 47.
  12. This “duty” can be characterized in at least two ways, both of which can be seen in conflict with the observance of the teaching of HV on contraception. The first, which we are using here because it appears in all seven of the relevant bishops’ responses, is the duty of re- sponsible parenthood to regulate births. The second, which two of these seven, the French and the Indonesian, also mention, is the duty to safeguard conjugal fidelity and intimacy. This idea, found in GS, 51 b (cf. Appendix C) is also referred to by the bishops from Czechoslovakia, Mexico (2), Scandinavia and Switzerland. It might also represent the introduction of a new idea in the teaching, albeit one which reveived little attention from the bishops.
  13. Pour Relire, p. 90. In the same context, however, they write, “II est sur que certaines situations seront a ce point difficiles qu’elles re- clameront de l’homme et de la femme soucieux de suivre les directives de HV, un heroisme tel qu’ils ne pourront le pratiquer sans mettre en peril d’autres interets primordiaux.” (Emphasis added)
  14. This last point is not found in the Belgian statement because thes bishops did not give specific directives to priests in this declaration. However, it is found in the two pastoral letters issued by four bishops of Belgium as referred to above. See, p. 18, n. 48, and Pour Relire, pp. 134 arid 140.
  15. Pour Relire, pp. 154-5.
  16. “Quand on est dans une alternative de devoirs ou, quelle que soit la decision prise on ne peut. eviter un trial, la sagesse traditionnelle prevoit de rechercher devant Dieu quel devoir, en 1’occurrence, est majeur.” Ibid., p. 155
  17. “La contraception ne peut jamais etre un bien. Elle est toujours un desordre, mais ce desordre n’est pas toujours coupable.” Ibid., p. 154.
  18. The idea of the type of evil involved with respect to contraception will be developed more fully in the discussion on the theological re- action to HV.
  19. “Porro ea, de qua loquimur, conscia paternitas praecipue aliam eamque intimam secum fert rationem, pert i noatem ad ordinem moralem, quern obiectivum vocant, a Deoque statutum, cuius recta conscientia est vera interpres.” (HV, 1O).
  20. HVB, p. 305.
  21. In HVB, see Austria (pp. 59 & 62), Czechoslovakia (p. 96), Italy (p. 167), Scandinavia (p. 239) and U.S.A. (p. 269); in Pour Relire, East Germany (p. 110) and France (pp. 152 & 154).
  22. East Germany, France and U.S.A., loc. cit.
  23. HVB, p. 167.
  24. Respectively, HVB, pp. 64, 259 and 311.
  25. Pour Relire, p. 90.
  26. HVB, p. 99. Cf. below, pp. 88-91.
  27. See above, pp. 46-7, nn. 123-4.
  28. In HVB, see Brazil (p. 72), Scandinavia (p. 237) and Switzerland (p. 254)
  29. From Group A: Poland (HVB, p. 219), Portugal (HVB, p. 226) and Spain (HVB, p. 248);

Group B: Austria (HVB, p. 59), and C.E.L.A.M. (CELAM, II, p. 91);

Group C: Czechoslovakia (HVB, p. 99), Italy (HVB, pp. 164 & 168) and U.S.A. (HVB, pp. 271-2).

  1. HVB, p. 164.
  2. Cf.,for instance,James Good,art.cit., pp.386-7,and above,p.5, n.6.
  3. HVB, p.168.
  4. “Ecclesia autem illas medendi rationes haud illicitas existimat, quae ad morbos corporis curandos necessariae sunt, etiamsi exinde oriatur procreationis impedireenturn, licet praevisum, dummondo ne hoc impedimentum ob quamlibet rationem directo intendatur.” Cf. above, p. 64 n. 31.
  5. In HVB, see Ceylon (p. 88), Italy (p. 168), Portugal (p. 234), Scandin-avia (p. 240), Spain (p. 250), Switzerland (p. 256) and in Pour Relire, Mexico (1) (p. 74) and Yugoslavia (p. 213).
  6. HVB, p. 61.
  7. Belgium (HVB, p. 66) and Czechoslovakia (HVB, p. 98).
  8. England/Wales (HVB, p. 116), France (Pour Relire, p. 153) and West Germany (HVB, p. 311).
  9. The quote, as appears in the Colombian bishops’ statement (HVB, p. 93) is taken from the Opening Address of Pope Paul IV to the C.E.L.A.M. (CELAM I, p. 42 = II, p. 32). This same speech, four sentences later, contains another idea referred to by the West German bishops, “God grant also that the lively discussion which our encyclical has aroused may lead to a better knowledge of the will of God and a conduct that withholds nothing…”
  10. We must recall at this point that the authorship of HV has not yet been definitively established and remains a point of controversy. (See, for example, “The Background to the Encyclical,” in The Tablet 222(17 Aug. 1968), n. 6691, p. 827; and “Postkonziliare Hintergrunde einer Enzyklika,” in Herder Korrespondenz 22(1968), n. 11, pp. 525-36.) To my knowledge, no official Vatican commentary on the document has drawn attention to the fact that HV,15 and the attendant n. 19 which establishes the origin of the thought in earlier papal documents, are very restrictive in their application. Some speculation has it that the “Billings method” of rhythm is currently being encouraged by the Vatican as a “scientifically reliable method of birth control.” But this does not seem to fit the situation which existed in 1968.
  11. Msgr. Lambruschini said in his press conference of 30 July 1968, “Even though it is not directly mentioned, the lawfulness of ‘the pill’ is excluded.” (art. cit.., in Catholic Mind, p. 56.) This seems obvious from a strict reading of the encyclical, but it would be interesting to pose the question to the bishops whether need for “therapeutic means” might still justify the use of “the pill.” See the reference to the later statement from Yugoslavia in Chapter Three. 80
  12. “ea praecipue in memoriam redigentes…” (HV,7).
  13. HVB, p. 67, emphasis added.
  14. HVB, p. 102, emphasis added.
  15. Cf. HV,21: “…sibi ac suis motibus perfecte moderari consuescant. Nihil profecto est dubii, quin naturae impetibus, rationis liberaeque voluntatis ope, imperare asceseos sit opus, ut nempe amoris significa- tions, coniugalis vitae propriae, cum recto ordine congruant…” This is echoed in HV,25 which, seeing the difficulties set upon couples offers the quote from Mt 7:14, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.” The teaching recommends frequent use of the sacra ments and offers some pastoral concern for those who – apparently be- cause. of these difficulties – “remain under the yoke of sin.” We will return to this cryptic phrase shortly in our treatment of sin and conscience in the encyclical.
  16. That is, the view of marriage which I have concluded was implicitly functioning in many of the episcopal statements.
  17. The conclusions of the work of the Dutch Pastoral Council, issued 18 Jan. 1969, read in full:
  • 1. The Plenary assembly asks for a more searching dialogue with the world episcopate, the Pope, married people and experts, on a present-day Christian outlook on marriage.
  • 2. The assembly considers that the encyclical’s total rejection of contraceptive methods is not convincing on the basis of the arguments put forward. The factors that determine the well-considered decision of conscience of married couples must be respected.
  • 3. For this reason the judgment of the plenary assembly is that discussions on. the way marriage is lived are not closed and that all activities in the field of pastoral work and spiritual health must be continued, taking this into account. (HVB, p. 192).
  1. While it is true that bishops of every perspective generally acknowledge the encyclical to be a statement of the teaching authority, they do not all use the term “magisterium” in their documents. More precisely, the technical characterization of “ordinary magisterium” is mostly avoided and receives a clear expression only in the statement from Australia (HVB, p. 57).
  2. The only bishops in Group B who refer to HV as authentic are from West Germany. In their short initial statement they call the teaching “an authentic, that is to say, authoritative but non-infallible decision,” (HVB, p. 303).
  3. Australia, Brazil, Ceylon, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, U.S.A., West Germany and Yugoslavia. The nuanced meanings of “authentic,” “authoritative,” and “ordinary magisterium” are discussed below in Chapter Six.
  4. “Nemo sane christifidelium est infitias, ad Ecclesiae Magisterium interpretationem legis moralis naturalis spectare.” See above, the statement of Msgr. Lambruschini on this topic, p. 10. 92. References to this can be found in HVB, pp. 89, 92, 95, 175, 179, 184, 194, 200 and 247 respectively.
  5. In Groups B and C, only Brazil, Czechoslovakia and East Germany addressed themselves to this topic on magisterial authority in morality. The silence on this issue is found not only in the remaining statements from B and C but in the statements from Australia, Rhodesia, Puerto Rico and Yugoslavia as well.
  6. In HVB, see Australia (p. 57), Ceylon (p. 91), Japan (p. 169), Korea (p. 174), Mexico (pp. 182-3), Philippines (p. 198) Scotland (p. 243) and U.S.A. (p. 270); in Pour Relire, Senegal (p. 8). –
  7. See respecitvely, HVB, pp. 62, 71-3, 116, 132-3, 165-6 and 303.
  8. See respectively, HVB, pp. 99, 165-6, 303; and Pour Relire, pp. 152–3.
  9. CELAM II, pp. 92-3.
  10. HVB, pp. 238 and 259-60.
  11. “Si a l’heure actuelle, on dit a juste titre que l’amour entre per- sonnes est le bien supreme dans le inariage, alors il nous faut renfor- cer cette conviction et promouvoir tout ce qui soutient la communaute conjugale souvent menacee de nos jours. Toutefois, nous devons dire egalement que 1’amour entre personnes seul ne decide pas de la legi- timite de tel acte et de tel moyen, mais qu’il offre un critere en vue de 1’appreciation a porter sur la conduite des epoux.” (Pour Relire, p. 113).
  12.  “Si a l’heure actuelle, on dit a juste titre que l’amour entre per- sonnes est le bien supreme dans le inariage, alors il nous faut renfor- cer cette conviction et promouvoir tout ce qui soutient la communaute conjugale souvent menacee de nos jours. Toutefois, nous devons dire egalement que 1’amour entre personnes seul ne decide pas de la legi- timite de tel acte et de tel moyen, mais qu’il offre un critere en vue de 1’appreciation a porter sur la conduite des epoux.” (Pour Relire, p. 113).
  13.          HVB, p. 114.
  1. HVB, pp. 132 and 135.
  2. HVB, pp. 78 and 79.
  3. HVB, pp. 64 and 259.
  4. HVB, pp. 60-1 and 237.
  5. HVB, pp. 309-10.
  6. HVB, p. 72.
  7. “Sans rien cacher, nous pouvons laisser le sixieme commandement a sa place; ce n’est ni le premier, ni le plus important des commandments.” (Pour Relire, p. 114).
  8. Colombia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Senegal and U.S.A.
  9. Austria, Belgium, Canada, East Germany, England/Wales, France, Italy, Scandinavia., Switzerland and West Germany.
  10. “Christum Jesum, cum Petrum certerosque Apostolos divinae potestatis suae participavisset, eosque ad omnes gentes praeceptis suis docendas misisset, illos ipsos totius de moribus legis certos custodes inter- pretesque instituisse.11 (HV,4, emphasis added.)
  11. See respectively, HVB, pp. 94, 185, 205, 218, 227 and 250-1.
  12. HVB, pp. 57, 198 and 218.
  13. HVB, pp. 61, 65-6, 79, 238, 260 and 310.
  14. In HVB, see: Austria (p. 61), Belgium (p. 66-7), Brazil (p. 74), Canada (p. 79), Czechoslovakia (p. 99), England/Wales (p. 115), Netherlands (pp. 191-2), Scandinavia (pp. 237-8), Switzerland (p. 260) and West Germany (p. 307); in Pour Relire, see: East Germany (p. 112), France (p. 156) and Indonesia (p. 87).
  15. See respectively, HVB, pp. 94, 185-6, 205-6 and 217-8.
  16. HVB, p. 308.
  17. HVB, p. 241.
  18. HVB, p. 83.
  19. The question of “reception” in respect to magisterial teaching is an inescapable one in the analysis of any “Reactions to…” one or another official teaching. While the fuller treatment of the significance and meaning of HV will be given below (Chapter Six), I have omitted its inclusion here because the bishops themselves do not directly introduce the question. The single reference to any such idea in all the bishops’ statements occurs in the curious choice of words which the U.S. bishops used in their treatment of theological dissent. The professional theologian, they write, must follow the norms of licit dissent in respect to “non-infallible received teaching” (HVB, p. 276). Why this qualification is added is never explained, and no other episcopal statement refers to it.
  20. Cf., for instance, Gustave Martelet, L’Existence humaine et l’amour, op. cit., pp. 20-24.
  21. “coniugalem actum, sua fecunditate ex industria destitutum, ideoque intrinsece inhonestum…” (HV,14).
  22. HVB, pp. 274 and 248 respectively. The statement from, Puerto Rico “speaks of “objective morality” but not about “objective sin.” (HVB, p. 2.34).
  23. HVB, p. 87.
  24. The aversion to dealing with the arguments upon which the prohibition of contraception isi based was evidently inspired by the encyclical itself which stated that “obedience, as you well know, obliges not only because of the reasons adduced, but rather because of the light of the Holy Spirit.” (HV, 28, C.T.S. translation). Cf. above, p. 45, n. 118. Only the Belgian and English/Welsh statements make any referene to this idea. For a fuller discussion, see chapter six, below.
  25. The English/Welsh statement, in recognising a real situation of doubt as existing before HV, wrote, “It was soon widely believed that a change in the Church’s attitude would be announced. Understandably many wives and husbands, anticipating the promised statement of the Pope, have come to rely on contraception. In this they have acted conscientiously and often after seeking pastoral advice. They may now be unabe to see that, at least in their personal circumstance, the use of contraception is wrong.” (HVB, P. 115).
  26. “Si autem peccatis adhuc retineantur, ne concidant animo, sed humiles et constantes ad Dei misericordiam confugiant, quam abunde Paenitentiae Sacramentum dilargitur.” (HV,25) It is to the credit of HV that it was pastorally concerned and did not take a hard line on sin as Casti Connubii had (cf. Martelet, loc. cit.). However, the tolerance of what might be called recidivism could only serve to weaken its overall teaching on the need to exclude all methods of artificial contraception
  27. See, HVB, pp. 90, 117, 187, 228, 274, and Pour Relire, p. 215 respectively.
  28. See, HVB, pp. 62, 80-1, 165-6. Ireland (2), Scandinavia and Scotland also quote HV,25, but a different part of the section.
  29. “Let those who have not yet become convinced of the truth the Pope sets forth not give up frequenting the sacraments of confession and Communion…” (HVB, p. 74).
  30. HVB, pp. 80-1.
  31. HVB, p. 61.
  32. In HVB, the Belgian phrase (p. 66) is repeated by Austria (p. 61), England/Wales (p. 117) and Japan (p. 170).
  33. HVB, pp. 79 and 26.
  34. HVB, p. 238.
  35. HVB, p. 225.
  36. Respectively, HVB, pp. 74, 99, 167-8, 273, and Pour Relire, p. 128.
  37. 137.HVB, pp. 180, 188 and 227.
  38. The bishops of C.E.L.A.M., India and the Netherlands do not address themselves to this issue because of the nature and limited scope of their statements about the encyclical.
  39. In HVB, Ireland (2) (p. 159), Korea (p. 174), Philippines (pp. 198 & 200), Poland (2) (pp. 217-8), Scotland (p. 243), Spain (p. 248); and in Pour Relire, Mexico (1) (p. 75).
  40. Notably, Brazil and the U.S.A.
  41. The possible exception to this is the statement from Switzerland which says that conscience must be conformed to divine law (see the full quote above, p. 63, n. 23, from HVB, p. 258). This nuance will be taken up in relation to the bishops’ view of the extent of magisterial authority.
  42. In HVB, see Austria (pp. 60-1), Belgium (p. 67), Canada (p. 80), England/Wales (p. 116), Netherlands (p. 192), Scandinavia (pp. 238-40), Switzerland (p. 259), U.S.A. (p. 273) and West Germany (p. 311); in Pour Relire, East Germany (p. 113), France (pp. 154-5) and Indonesia (2.) (p. 90). The particular passage of the East German statement, to which French translation instead of the English. The last phrase of the paragraph reads in English, “Conscience cannot simply be the confirma-tion of personal opinion, or of the prevailing opinion of the time,” (HVB, p. 109). In Pour Relire we find the sentence is rather differ-ent and more in keeping with the tone of the entire passage. It reads “La conscience peut tres bien ne pas etre simplement la confirmation de 1’opinion propre ou de 1’opinion de ce temps,” (p. 113). Since the original German version was unavailable to me, I compared this text with its own source, Katholiek Archief 23(1967), n. 43, c. 1077, which reads, “Het geweten kan helemaal niet eenvoudig de bevestiging van de eigen mening of van de mening van deze tijd zijn.”
  43. In HVB, see Ireland (2) (pp. 158-9), Philippines (p. 200) and Scotland (p. 244); in Pour Relire, Mexico (1) (p. 75).
  44. HVB, pp. 60, 78, 116-7, 238-9 and 258 respectively.
  45. HVB, pp. 238-9.
  46. HVB, p. 67. On the same day of publication, the West German bishops said virtually the same thing in their statement: “Moreover the competence of the Church’s magisterium in regard to the moral order of married life must not be disputed at all. The Church’s teaching on marriage includes truths which are unquestionable for all the faithful, especially the truth that marriage in its entirety is under the law of Christ. We must maintain with Vatican II (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 51) that the question whether and in what circumstances birth control is permissible cannot be left to the arbitrary discretion of the married couple. They must seek and find the answer to that question by conscientious examination in the light of objective norms and criteria. The actual way of achieving responsible parenthood must not be injurious to the dignity of the human person nor endanger marriage as a creative community of love.” (HVB, p. 310) 147. In HVB, see Austria (p. 60), Belgium (pp. 64-5), Switzerland (p. 258), U.S.A. (p. 273) and West Germany (p. 310); and in Pour Relire, East Germany (p. 111). Other bishops quote the pertinent texts (in Appendix C, see reference to GS, 50 h and 51 f) but do not draw attention to this qualification or expand on its significance. See above, p. 53, n. 138; and below, the discussion of natural law, in Chapter Five.
  47.  In HVB, see Austria (p.60), Belgium (pp.64-5), Switzerland (p.258), USA (p.273) and West Germany (p.310); and in ‘Pour Relire’ East Germany (p.111). Other bishops quote the pertinent texts (in Appendix C, see reference to GS, 50h and 51f) but do not draw attention to this qualification or expand on its significance. See above, p53, n.138: and below, the discussion onnatural law, in chapter five.
  48. “Quoniamque, qui multi artificiosas vias defendere conantur, quibus ternitatis sui officii consciae requisita praetexunt, necesse idcirco est, duo haec gravia vitae matrimonialis elementa accurate defiuire atque illustrare. Quod sane facturi sumus, ea praecipue in memoriam redigentes, quae recens hac de re Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutione pastorali edita a verbis Gaudlum et spes incipiente, summa auctoritate exposuit.” (HV,7) Cf. above, pp. 70-1 and n. 50.
  49. The Belgian declaration states, “Your bishops join with him (the pope) in his appeal concerning the sacredness of human life, the happiness and enrichment and development of conjugal love between spouses, and their sincere and enlightened generosity in the transmission of human life. They are convinced that the acceptance of these values, in the spirit of the Gospel, and with the courage of sacrifice, which must be a part of every Christian life, will result in spiritual growth and human enrichment.” (HVB, p. 67). See also, in HVB, Austria (pp. 58-9), Canada (p. 80), Scandinavia (p. 236), Switzerland (p. 254) and West Germany (pp. 305 & 309); and Pour Relire, France (pp. 150-2).
  50. “C’est avec beaucoup de patience et d1amour, enfin, que nous irons a la rencontre de ceux qui, dans la question des methodes de regulation des naissances, croient ne pouvoir apporter leur adhesion au magistere de l’Eglise; nous essaierons de les comprendre et de les aider. Nous prendrons en consideration, en premier leiu, que, en tant que croyants, ils sont d’accord avec le magistere de l’Eglise sur tous les autres points de la conception chretienne du mariage: dignite de l’homme, fidelite conjugale, indissolubility du mariage, acquiescement de principe a 1’enfant, valeur de 1’amour de personne a personne.” (Pour Relire, p. 112).
  51. It must be remembered that the issue here is twofold. Attempting to legitimate this hypostheis on moral grounds would entail explicating the positions of Vatican II, the Papal Birth Control Commission and the recent teachings of the bishops themselves in regard to contraception, and aligning these with the historical and continuous doctrine of the church as it is developing up to the present. On the grounds of the competence of magisterial authority, the question would demand an exposition of the doctrine of Vatican I on the role of the moral magisterium and the later interpretation of that doctrine including the teaching of Vatican II which links this authority with the extent of divine law and revelation. While Part II of our study touches on these issues, their full development is beyond the scope of our present work.
  52. The general orientation of the Indian position is here not simply extrapolated from this single statement itself (HVB, pp. 130-1), but also takes into account the work of the All India Seminar in which the bishops formed a consenting minority. The work of this seminar and its consequent position clearly mitigates the teaching of HV, but the bishops themselves were unclear at first and their own statement of 4 Oct. 1968, which represents only a few bishops, takes no definitive stand. See above, pp. 33-4, nn. 89-90. 105
  53. “De propaganda prole quaestio, non secus atque quaelibet quaestio humanam vitam attingens, ultra particulares alias eiusdem rationes – cuius modi eae sunt, quae biologicae vel psychologicae, demographicae aut sociologicae appellantur…” (HV,7, emphasis added).
  54. In HVB, see Ceylon (p. 88) and New Zealand (p. 194).
  55. An interesting witness to the passage of artificial contraception from the realm of important moral issues can be seen in the rapid disappearance of such discussion within a short time after HV’s first anniversary. Evan many bishops considered the question of diminishing importance, at least as evidenced by their lack of attention to it. During 1970, the hierarchy of England sponsored months of preparation for an overall statement on the current state of morality which was issued on 31 Dec. of that year. The final statement (“Moral Questions of Today,” in The Tablet 225(3 Jan. 1971), n. 6813, pp. 17-22) does not even mention the issue of artificial contraception or the encyclical, although it does address itself to questions of marriage, sexuality and particularly abortion.
  56. It seems quite evident that Pope Paul VI’s position on contraception has not changed since he issued his encyclical on the subject and that the Vatican is still actively trying to promote its point of view on a global scale. Two examples of this are the role played by Vatican representatives at the world Population Conference sponsored by the United Nations at Bucharest, 19-30 Aug. 1974(see the U.N. documents of intervention by the Holy See, Edouard Ganon, representative, numbered E/CONF. 60/WG/L.28 and Add.  1, of 22 and 24 Aug. 1974; and “The Vatican and World Population:  Note to Episcopal Conferences, “ in The Tablet 228 (1974), n. 6976-8, pp. 277-8, 302-3, 333-5) and the intervention of the Vatican at the UN. World Food Conference  at Rome in November 1974 (see L’OR (English ed.) 21 Nov. 1974, pp. 10-14).  Within the church itself, the Vatican has also been active in attempting to eliminate criticism of its own teaching on the issue.  Most recently we can note the pressure to prohibit the “Nemi  Report,”  the collective findings of a seminar of the Jesuit Socio-Economic Development Secretariat on population problems (see “The Tablet Notebook:  Report Withheld,”  in The Tablet 229 (8 Feb. 1975), n. 7023, p. 135).

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