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Positive Reviews of the Catholic Scholars’ Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives

Catholic church’s total ban on contraception challenged by scholars

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – by Jamie Manson | Sep. 21, 2016

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/catholic-churchs-total-ban-contraception-challenged-scholars

Nearly 50 years since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that rejected the use of artificial birth control, a group of prominent Catholic theologians, ethicists and physicians has produced a report reassessing and challenging the papal document.

The report, entitled, “Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives,” was commissioned by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, an independent think-tank based in London.

The 20,000-word academic report, which was co-authored by 22 Catholic scholars from Australia, Colombia, Europe, India, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States, evaluates, from within the Catholic tradition, the morality of using artificial contraceptives for family planning. The authors include U.S. ethicists Michael Lawler and Christine Gudorf and African theologian Nontando Hadebe.

A five-page statement summarizing the report’s key arguments was signed by 149 Catholic scholars from around the world, including former heads of state, members of Parliaments, priests, religious, a bishop and scholars working at Catholic universities.

The statement calls for a development of the doctrine of contraception that would make it compatible with current scientific and theological knowledge. It also calls the Vatican to form a commission to reopen the discussion of the morality of using contraceptives through an independent process of consultation.

Explore Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family with our free study guide.

Signatories included former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and U.S. theologians Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Peter Phan.

The statement was launched during a side event of the U.N. General Assembly called “Keeping the Faith in Development: Gender, Religion and Health,” a symposium that examined the intersections and areas of contention between health, human rights and lived theology.

Luca Badini Confalonieri, director of research at the Wijngaards Institute and the principal author of the report, introduced the statement to an audience of 60 participants that included members of multiple U.N. agencies, as well as Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu religious leaders, and several women religious with posts at the U.N.

Badini Confalonieri explained that the scholarly report, which took nearly a year to produce, concludes that “contraception for the purpose of family planning is not ‘intrinsically evil,'” as Paul VI declared.

“On the contrary, it can be a good, to the extent that family planning is indeed a requirement of what popes call ‘responsible parenthood,'” he said.

“When Paul VI declared that the use of artificial contraception is intrinsically evil, he said that it was always immoral regardless of the intentions of the agents, the circumstances of the situation or the consequences of the action,” Badini Confalonieri continued. “Our report argues that there are circumstances when it can be used legitimately and it can be morally good.”

The Wijngaards report is “grounded in the ethical and social justice teaching of the Church,” Badini Confalonieri said. “According to Catholic teaching, ‘responsible parenthood’ is a moral duty and it requires that couples determine the number, spacing, and timing of their children taking into account their own ‘physical, economic, psychological and social conditions,’ as well as their ability to provide for the health, education and growth of the children.”

Though the church’s ban on contraceptives is often dismissed or ignored by Catholics in the U.S. and Europe, in the developing world the lack of access to contraceptives remains a life or death issue. An estimated 25 percent of healthcare facilities in developing countries are operated by Catholic institutions. The ban on contraceptives continues to be significant point of tension for U.N.-based aid agencies that have declared that sexual and reproductive health care is a Sustainable Development Goal.

The launch of the Wijngaards statement was part of an event initiated by the United Nations’ Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, a group that seeks to foster dialogue between faith-based organizations and development agencies. The symposium was intended to address taboo issues that faith communities encounter when seeking to address sexual and reproductive health challenges in the developing world.

The task force invited the Wijngaards Institute to present their statement in conjunction with the launch of two other reports, “Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunities,” a paper produced jointly by the U.N. Population Fund and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The third report, “Dignity, Freedom and Grace: Christian Perspectives on HIV, AIDS, and Human Rights,” published by The World Council of Churches was also presented. The event was also co-hosted by U.N.AIDS, U.N. Women, and Islamic Relief USA.

The symposium’s ten-person panel discussion offered insights from interfaith voices into the struggle for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health in the poorest regions of the globe. Many speakers emphasized the ways in which the faith-based groups can be either agents for justice or obstacles to progress in parts of the world in which girls and women suffer untold discrimination, poverty and disease.

According to the “Religion, Women’s Health and Rights,” report, each year there are “290,000 maternal deaths, 74 million unintended pregnancies and 3 million newborn deaths.”

It is grim statistics like these that motivated the Wijngaards Institute to challenge the Vatican’s ongoing ban on contraception and to contribute broader Catholic perspectives in a U.N. environment where typically the Holy See is the dominant Catholic presence.

For decades the Holy See, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, has used its influence at the U.N. to object to declarations, charters, and sustainable goals that make reference to sexual and reproductive health, contraception and family planning.

In an attempt to engage the Holy See in dialogue, Miriam Duignan, communications director for the Wijngaards Institute, hand-delivered an invitation to the event and a copy of the statement to the Holy See’s office near the United Nations in New York City.

Duignan says that she received confirmation that the Holy See received and read the materials, but no representative attended the event.

In an emailed response to NCR, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. stated that it had no official comment on the event.

Backlash to the statement and the event, however, was noteworthy at the Catholic University of America, where several members of the faculty produced a counterstatement to the Wijngaards report and hosted a press conference, which was live-streamed on the CUA Facebook page, at the exact time of the U.N.-hosted symposium.

Addressing these objections during the launch, Badini Confalonieri said, “allow me to ease some predictable concerns: we are not advocating sexual promiscuity, abortion, or population control on the part of governments.”

Badini Confalonieri insisted that the report comes out of a deep commitment to the church’s social justice doctrine. In an interview with NCR before the symposium, he said that it is precisely Pope Francis’ “emphasis on the social gospel, sustainability, and care for poorest people” that motivated the Wijngaards Institute to develop the report.

“All of these social justice issues are linked with contraception,” Badini Confalonieri said. “We had an acute awareness that there were so many Catholics with expertise in this field. The lack of debate is glaring.”

The Wijngaards Institute was further emboldened by the pope’s encouragement of frank dialogue during the Synod of Bishops on the family.

“It was stunning,” Badini Confalonieri said, “that there were two meetings by bishops on the family and no formal discussion of contraception. We decided to commission a report to try to kick start dialogue.”

[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her email address is jmanson@ncronline.org.]


Scholars reaffirm Catholic teaching against artificial birth control

NCR from Catholic News Service | Sep. 21, 2016
https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/catholic-churchs-total-ban-contraception-challenged-scholars

A group of Catholic scholars Sept. 20 reaffirmed the Catholic church’s teaching on “the gift of sexuality” and its long-standing prohibition on artificial birth control as outlined in Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical.

In a statement released in Washington, they rejected calls for the church to change its teaching by another group that issued a statement the same day at the United Nations.

“We, the undersigned scholars, affirm that the Catholic Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage and on contraception are true and defensible on many grounds, among them the truths of reason and revelation concerning the dignity of the human person,” they said.

The scholars said the “church’s constant and consistent teaching on human sexuality,” as explained in Humanae Vitae, “has been reaffirmed” by every pope since its release, most recently by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), released in April.

Signatories include: Richard Fehring, professor emeritus and director, Marquette University’s Institute for Natural Family Planning; professor Angela Franks, director of theology programs for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization, St. John’s Seminary in Massachusetts; John Haas, president, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Philadelphia; and George Weigel, senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington.

Explore Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family with our free study guide.

“Scholarly support for the church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage and on contraception has burgeoned in recent decades,” they said. “Moreover, institutes and programs supporting that teaching have been established all over the world. Even some secular feminists and secular programs have begun to acknowledge the harms of contraception.”

The other statement, issued at the U.N., was from an ecumenical group of Catholic and other moral theologians, ethicists and economists from around the world, under the auspices of Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, based in England.

“Our goal is to encourage the Catholic hierarchy to reverse their stance against so-called ‘artificial’ contraceptives,” said the Wijngaards group, which claimed Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”) is based on faulty reasoning.

“The decision to use modern contraceptives can be taken for a variety of morally worthy motives, and so it can be responsible and ethical,” it said in its statement, “On the Ethics of Using Contraceptives.”

Signatories of the Wijngaards declaration include Fr. Charles Curran, who in the 1980s was told by the Vatican that he no longer had permission to teach as a Catholic theologian because of his dissenting positions on church teaching about sexual morality. Another signer is Fr. Peter Phan, who teaches at Georgetown University; his writings on religious relativism, or that many faiths offer valid spiritual paths, came under scrutiny by the Vatican.

The homepage of the institute’s website describes the organization’s mission as “promoting gender equality and shared decision-making in the church.”

The Wijngaards group said it was invited to present its statement at the United Nations Sept. 20. Copies were being made available “to all U.N. departments and development agencies … trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work toward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals,” it said.

“We cannot pretend that it is still 1968 or ignore the harm done by the sexual revolution,” said John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University in Washington. Grabowski, who was an expert at the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, made the comments in a Sept. 20 news release about the scholars’ statement released in Washington.

“Unfortunately, the Wijngaards statement fails to acknowledge the vindication of the teaching of Blessed Paul VI over the last 48 years by the sciences, the social sciences, and its further elaboration by the teaching of St. John Paul II and its support from Pope Francis,” he said.

During a Sept. 20 news conference at Catholic University, a theology professor stressed that the statement presented to the U.N. failed to take into account the spiritual benefits of church teaching against artificial birth control, which allows for “fertility-awareness based methods of family planning.” “There are great benefits to natural family planning,” said Janet Smith, who holds the Fr. Michael J. McGivney chair of life ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and has served as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family.

She said natural family planning improves marriages and brings people closer to God, their spouses and their children. It’s also green since it is free and causes no harm to the environment.

Smith, who addressed the news conference by Skype, said when she first learned of the Wijngaards statement a few weeks ago, she planned to simply write a response to it, but the reaction grew larger and became “an opportunity for us to show the world there are many, many Catholics who support Humanae Vitae.”

She speculated that if the ages of signers of the two different documents could be compared, she would guess that those who signed the document presented to the U.N. were at least 15 years older because she said many younger Catholics support the church’s teaching on contraception, particularly those influenced by St. John Paul II’s “theology of the body” — teachings on human sexuality.

Grabowski and Mary Hasson, who directs the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, also spoke at the news conference and stressed that the church’s teaching on contraception offers something beyond biology.

Grabowski noted that there will be much more to say on this teaching as the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae approaches in 2018.The scholars’ statement said the Wijngaards declaration “misdirects the conversation from the start by claiming that the argument against ‘Humanae Vitae‘ is based primarily on ‘biological laws.’ ‘Humanae Vitae‘ instead focuses, as it should, on the person’s relationship to God and other persons.”

“God is love. … Because God is love — a communion of divine persons — he made men and women in his image: able to reason and to choose freely, with the capacity to love and to be in loving relationships,” the statement said.

“God invites all people to share in his love. … Every person is created to make a gift of self to God and others,” it continued. “The gift of self means living in a way that promotes the good of everyone, especially those with whom one is in close relationship.”

Marriage “was designed by God to enable a man and a woman to live out humanity’s core identity and lovers and givers of life. … Human sexual relations fulfill God’s intent only when they respect the procreative meaning of the sexual act and involve a complete gift of self between married partners.”

Quoting Humanae Vitae, the group said: “There is an unbreakable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning … and both are inherent in the marital act. … The teaching that contraception is always against God’s plan for sexuality, marriage and happiness is not based on human law,” the group said.

The statement also said that to live out “God’s design for married love,” husbands and wives need “moral family planning methods,” which are available to them in “the many forms of natural family planning.” Natural methods based on fertility awareness “are fully consistent with the church’s teaching on marital chastity.”

“Several well-argued versions of ‘natural law’ defenses support the church’s teaching that contraception is not in accord with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage,” it said, noting that St. John Paul II’s theology of the body “provides a powerful defense” of the teaching in “Humanae Vitae.”

Humanae Vitae also “speaks against the distorted view of human sexuality and intimate relationships that many in the modern world promote,” it added.


Scholars call for end to church ban on artificial contraception

THE TABLET – 22 September 2016 | by Sarah Mac Donald

More than 100 international experts on biology, ethics and theology have called for an end to the Church’s ban on artificial contraceptives for family planning, in advance of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The report on the ethical use of contraceptives is the product of a year-long collaboration which included a number of UK-based academics. One of the report’s main findings is that the responsible use of contraceptives fits within the moral framework of the Catholic faith.

The report was launched this week at a “Keeping the Faith in Development” symposium in New York by Dr Luca Badini-Confalonieri, the lead author and research director of the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, an international network of reform-minded Catholics. The summary statement has been signed by more than 100 prominent Catholic scholars from around the world, including the former president of Ireland, Dr Mary McAleese.

The report calls for an update to church teaching on contraception to make it compatible with current scientific and theological knowledge, and an official re-opening of the discussion on the morality of using contraceptives. The best way to do this, say the academics, is through an independent process of consultation similar to the commission on women deacons that Pope Francis recently announced.

Speaking to The Tablet, Miriam Duignan of the Wijngaards Institute said the ban on modern contraception can harm marriage and family life by burdening couples with more children than they can care for and, therefore, subject them to a life of poverty, stress and sickness. The signatories say they believe the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are ready for a development of doctrine.

Supporting the initiative, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, patron of the Wijngaards Institute, said, “The Church has to recognise the reality of people’s lives. The gulf between practice and teaching is too great and causes serious anxiety to many people.”

It is contradictory to affirm, on the one hand, that as a general principle “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive [is] intrinsically wrong”, and on the other that it is morally legitimate to practise natural family planning with the “intention to avoid children”, the report finds.

All co-authors agreed that abortifacient drugs should be avoided, unless there is proportionate reason for doing otherwise.

In addition to its main findings, the report also calls for the Vatican to make public an as yet unpublished 2006 document by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, which states barrier methods of contraception can be morally legitimate for prophylactic (disease-preventing) purposes.


Critique of Birth Control Ban Paves Way for Okaying Same-Gender Relationships

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2016

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the opposition.  They are often the best source for learning important news about positive Catholic LGBT items—though, of course, they don’t see these news items as very positive. This week, I learned about an important statement by an international group of moral theologians and physicians only because I read a news story about a group of conservative scholars who opposed the statement.  News about the progressive statement did not, at first, make big news, so it had not come to my attention until the conservative group opposed it.
The progressive statement to which I am referring is known as the Wijngaards Declaration, and its focus is to oppose the magisterial condemnation of what is referred to as “artificial contraception.”  The declaration takes its name from the Wijngaards Institute, a London-based Catholic think tank, which organized and released the statement.   The report, whose official title is “Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives,” does a careful and specific critique of Humanae Vitae (HV), the 1968 encyclical which re-affirmed the magisterial opposition to couples using birth control.  A summary of the 20,000-word report can be found by clicking here (and it is very readable, so highly recommended).
While the declaration does not mention LGBT topics directly, it is important for Catholic advocates of LGBT issues to be aware of because it contains some critical theological arguments that could be used to advance the Church’s approval of same-gender relationships.
First, a little background as to how these ideas are connected.  In Catholic teaching on both birth control and same-gender relationships share an important common argument:  the magisterium’s claim that the natural order dictates that all sexual activity be open to procreation.  So birth control is not permitted because, depending on the method, it prevents the union of sperm and egg.  Likewise, homosexual relationships are not permitted because they are biologically non-procreative.
The Wijngaards Declaration very convincingly challenges HV’s idea that the natural order reveals that all sexual activity is designed for procreation.  In simple, though technical, language, the Declaration points out an important error in HV’s argument:
“HV’s argument is that because the biological ‘laws of conception’ reveal that sexual intercourse has a ‘capacity to transmit life’ (HV §13), each and every act of sexual intercourse has a ‘procreative significance’ (HV §12) and ‘finality’ (HV §3), and an ‘intrinsic relationship’ to procreation (HV §11).
“This misinterprets the biological evidence. The causal relationship between insemination and, on the other hand, fertilization, implantation, and ultimately procreation, is statistical, not necessary. The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological ‘capacity’ for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their ‘finality’ or ‘significance.’ “
Their critique dispels the notion that all sexual activity is “naturally” procreative.  By pointing out that a great number of acts of sexual intercourse do not result in procreation indicates that it is not in God’s design for sexual activity to so intimately connected to procreation that all sexual activity must be open to it.
The report also argues that Scriptures reveal that it is not a requirement for all sexual activity to be open to procreation.  Instead, other motivations exist which would make sexual activity morally approved.  The report states:
“The Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. This is confirmed by evolutionary biology and modern sociological surveys, among other disciplines.
“Those non-conceptive motives for sexual intercourse include pleasure, love, comfort, celebration and companionship. They are morally worthy even without the concurrent occurrence of either a ‘procreative significance’ of the biological ‘laws of conception,’ or the agents’ procreative intention.”
A third critique refutes the argument from authority that church officials often use to condemn birth control and same-gender relationships.  This argument from authority is often stated along the lines that the Church has always condemned these activities, so there can be no change towards approving them.  The Wijngaards report observes that this kind or reasoning raises the teaching on birth control (and, by extension, this could also apply to same-gender relationships) to the level of an infallible teaching—which it clearly is not.  The report states:
“. . . [A]ccording to Catholic theology, for a doctrine – including a moral doctrine – to be able to be defined infallibly and thus irreformably it must be either revealed or required for the defense or explanation of revealed truth (Cf. CDF: Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), DH 4536 [AAS 65 (1973) 401]). If it is not, then it cannot be defined infallibly.
“The teaching that using ‘artificial contraception is an intrinsic wrong always and everywhere is not revealed, nor has it ever been shown to be essential for the truth of the Christian revelation. Accordingly, it cannot become the object of an infallible definition.
“Hence, the appeal to a supposed constant tradition of magisterial teaching on the subject cannot by itself settle the question and foreclose the discussion, because the requirements for an infallible definition are not met.”
The report also argues that the use of contraceptives helps the common good by promoting women’s health, by preventing the spread of HIV, and by providing for better care for children and their development, among other things.  This argument for the promotion of the common good has also been used by theologians to argue for the approval of same-gender relationships. In the latter case, theologians argue that since healthy and committed same-gender relationships provide increased personal benefits to the spouses, the common good also benefits because the spouses can often better contribute their gifts to society.
In the conclusion, the Wijngaards report notes that the reasoning they applied to contraception can be applied to other topics, including some related to LGBT issues.  They note that the process of consulting science and reason, as well as paying attention to people’s experiences must also be followed in the future development of church teaching on sexual matters.  The report states:
“In societies such as the Catholic Church there are many specialized and complementary domains of expertise. The collaboration between those different domains is important for the common good of the society.
“Therefore, we recommend that the Catholic magisterium seek the opinion of Christian theologians and experts in other relevant disciplines with regard to the ethics of using modern non-abortifacient contraceptives for the purposes of family planning.
“We also recommend that their opinion be sought on the other areas of Catholic sexual ethics which will likely be affected by a revision of the present teaching banning the use of contraceptives for family planning, namely the negative evaluation of masturbation, homosexual relationships, and in vitro fertilization.
“Regardless of the consultation process adopted, the opinions gathered should be independent, representative of the majority view of the pertinent academic communities, and made public.”
Of the 143 international Catholic scholars who signed the report, seven of them have spoken at New Ways Ministry’s educational events:  Christine Gudorf, Joseph Selling, Gregory Baum, Sidney Callahan, Rev. Charles Curran, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and Susan Ross.
The Wijngaards report is a major step forward in the discussion of Catholic sexual morality.  Its implications reach far beyond just the discussion of birth control.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why the conservative backlash against it was so swift.  It is as if they seem to recognize that a change in this one area of teaching could affect a myriad of change in other areas as well.  Wouldn’t that be great?


Catholic Scholars Duel Over Contraception

AMERICA MAGAZINE, Michael O’Loughlin | Sep 21 2016

What’s old is new again.

That is the argument being levied by a group of Catholic theologians against a report by other theologians who argue that the Catholic Church’s prohibition on artificial contraception is not rooted in Scripture or theology. That perspective was presented at a symposium on Sept. 20 about international aid held in conjunction with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

In August, the U.K.-based Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research published a report in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical banning the use of contraception. The statement, signed by more than 150 Catholic scholars, argues, “The choice to use contraceptives for either family planning or prophylactic purposes can be a responsible and ethical decision and even, at times, an ethical imperative.”

According to the group’s website, the full report was “made available to all U.N. departments and development agencies who are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women’s health as they work towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Catholic Church teaches that any sexual acts that are closed to pregnancy are morally illicit and bans the use of condoms, hormonal birth control pills and sterilization. On Tuesday, another group of Catholic theologians released their own statement in support of that teaching.

Their statement, signed by more than 500 scholars and presented at a press event at the Catholic University of America, says the Wijngaards statement “repeats the arguments that the Church has rejected and that numerous scholars have engaged and refuted since 1968.”

It says those pushing for the church to lift its ban on artificial contraception have failed to take into account findings from the past five decades that, they say, show contraception harms women and destabilizes relationships.

“Abundant studies show that contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, can cause serious health problems for women,” the statement says.

“The widespread use of contraception,” it continues, “appears to have contributed greatly to the increase of sex outside of marriage, to an increase of unwed pregnancies, abortion, single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, poverty, the exploitation of women, to declining marriage rates as well as to declining population growth in many parts of the world.”

Miriam Duignan, communications director for the Wijngaards Institute, rejected those claims and called access to contraception a social justice issue, especially for women in the developing world.

“We are not advocating population control; we are not advocating abortion; we are not condoning anything that leads to promiscuity,” she told America. “We want to open up a discussion about the use of contraception for family planning and to show that the use of contraception falls squarely within papal teaching for responsible parenthood.”

John S. Grabowski, an ethics professor at the Catholic University of America and a co-author of the statement supporting the church’s ban on contraception, told America that it is important for U.S. Catholics to know that there are many in the scholarly world who stand by the church’s teaching.

“People might stop and reconsider what we know now compared to 1968,” he said.

A 2012 Gallup Poll found that more than eight in 10 U.S. Catholics think using artificial birth control is moral. Another poll two years later by the Spanish-language television network Univision found large majorities of Catholics in countries in Latin America, Europe and the Philippines also approved the use of contraception. By contrast, fewer than half of those Catholics polled in Congo and Uganda said it was morally permissible.

The church, of course, is not a democracy, and the 1968 ban promulgated in Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” and supported by subsequent popes still stands. Married couples who wish to delay pregnancy are encouraged by some Catholic groups to use Natural Family Planning, which tracks a woman’s fertility cycle to determine when she is least like to conceive.

Critics of the church’s ban on condoms and birth control pills contend that the intent of both artificial contraception and N.F.P. is the same, thus the ban does not make sense. But the Catholic University statement rebuffs this criticism.

“Couples using these methods make no attempt to thwart the power of acts that could result in the procreation of new human persons,” the statement says. “They respect God’s design for sexuality; they help individuals grow in self-mastery; they have the potential to strengthen marriages and respect the physical and psychological health of women.”

Duignan said the Wijngaards Institute made its report available during the U.N. symposium because some international aid agencies have expressed frustration to her group that faith-based organizations stymie efforts to make contraception available in the developing world. She said her organization wanted to show that not all Catholics are against contraception and indeed some see it as a social good.

“We’re really trying to help tackle the injustice for people who live in countries where the Catholic Church has the authority and power to impact healthcare,” she said.

She pointed to instances of women with many children living in extreme poverty who do not wish to get pregnant but either cannot afford contraception or do not have access to it, as well as couples where one partner is infected with H.I.V.

“It’s not just a theory or philosophical debate,” she said. “This is a life or death matter for people.”

Grabowski, on the other hand, said that he and his colleagues have heard a different story, one more in line with pronouncements from Pope Francis who has repeatedly condemned “ideological colonization,” which some interpret as criticism against international aid packages that include money earmarked for contraception. (The pope has also suggested, however, that there may be special cases in which couples have understandable reasons for wanting to limit family size.)

“What we’re hearing from people in the developing world is that they’re grateful that Catholic scholars are speaking out on issues like this because they’re dealing with contraception imperialism from the U.S. and other countries that link aid to contraception,” Grabowski said.


Two groups of Catholic academics have issued competing statements criticizing and endorsing Pope Paul VI’s teaching on artificial birth control.

GLOBAL PULSE – September 22, 2016

Scholars clash over Humanae Vitae as 50th anniversary approaches

Two groups of Catholic scholars have issued competing statements regarding Pope Paul VI’s teaching in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae rejecting artificial birth control.

Earlier this month, the London-based Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research issued a 20,000 word report entitled “Promoting Good Health and Good Conscience: The Ethics of Using Contraceptives.”

The report was co-authored by 22 Catholic scholars from Australia, Colombia, Europe, India, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States, NCR Online reports.

They include US ethicists Michael Lawler and Christine Gudorf and African theologian Nontando Hadebe. Another 149 scholars signed a five-page statement summarizing the document.

Principal author Badini Confalonieri told NCR that the report comes out of a deep commitment to the Church’s social justice doctrine. He said that it was precisely Pope Francis’ “emphasis on the social gospel, sustainability, and care for poorest people” that motivated the Wijngaards Institute to develop the report.

“All of these social justice issues are linked with contraception,” he added. “The lack of debate is glaring.”

In response another group of Catholic scholars prepared an opposing statement defending the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

“We, the undersigned scholars, affirm that the Catholic Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage, and on contraception are true and defensible on many grounds, among them the truths of reason and revelation concerning the dignity of the human person,” they said in a statement signed by 500 academics.

They said that the “Church’s constant and consistent teaching on human sexuality,” as explained in Humanae Vitae, “has been reaffirmed” by every pope since its release, most recently in Amoris Laetitia.

Signatories included papal theologian, Fr Wojciech Giertych O.P., John H. Garvey, president of Catholic University of America (CUA), Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family in Melbourne, Australia and Helen M. Alvaré, law professor at George Mason University.

“We cannot pretend that it is still 1968 or ignore the harm done by the sexual revolution,” said John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at CUA.


Catholic heavyweights clash over teaching on contraception

Rival documents published by leading academics on artificial means of birth control
THE IRISH TIMES, Patsy McGarry, 21 September 2016 – http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/catholic-heavyweights-clash-over-teaching-on-contraception-1.2798788

Two documents were published by Catholic Church scholars on Tuesday advocating rival stances on the church’s teaching on artificial means of contraception.

Former president Mary McAleese was among more than 100 international Catholic academics who have signed a Scholars’ Statement challenging the church’s ban. The statement was published at an event hosted by the UN Population Fund in New York.

Among its Irish-based signatories are theologians Fr Gabriel Daly, Fr Donal Dorr, Fr Wilfrid Harrington, Dr Gina Menzies, Prof David Smith, and Fr Joseph O’Leary of Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

Meanwhile a statement in Affirmation of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality, was published at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC also.

Among its approximately 500 signatories is former Prof of Moral Theology at St Patrick’s ,College, Maynooth, Fr Vincent Twomey.

Other Irish-based signatories include Dr Mary McCaughey of the Priory Institute, Dublin, Geraldine McSweeney, Dublin-based President of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants and Dr William A Thomas, professor of Theology/Mariology at Newman College Ireland.

Prohibition

The Scholars’s Statement says that the church ban on contraceptives for family planning “is based on the belief that the biological “laws of conception” show that each and every act of sexual intercourse has procreation as their natural “finality” and “significance”. But “the vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological ‘capacity’ for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their ‘finality’ or ‘significance’,” it says.

It continues that “the Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse,” and that contraceptives “can facilitate one or more of sexual intercourse’s non-conceptive meanings”.

In their “Affirmation” academics defending church teaching say they “hold that the church’s teaching on contraception is true and defensible on the basis of scripture and reason”.

Fr Twomey said arguments presented by the Scholars’ Statement had “long since been dealt with by serious theology”. Over the past 40 years there had been “major developments in the area of natural family planning as a means of birth control and the means to achieve it,” he said.


High profile Catholics demand the Church change on contraception

Australian Broadcasing Corporation, Andrew West, Wednesday 21 September 2016 5:30PM — (view full episode)


Image: a billboard promoting the use of condoms by US-based group ‘Catholics for Choice’ in Nairobi (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

One hundred and fifty leading Catholic scholars say the Vatican needs to end its ban on artificial contraception, such as condoms.

The statement from the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research – and released this week at the United Nations – challenges the 1968 papal statement titled Humanae Vitae, or Of Human Life, which says artificial birth control is against “moral natural law”.

The Pew Foundation also found recently that two thirds of U.S. Catholics don’t believe artificial birth control is a sin.

The signatories to the Wijngaards statement include two prominent Australians – retired Catholic bishop Geoffrey Robinson and former New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally.

We speak to one signatory , British theologian Professor Tina Beattie of Roehampton University.


Mary McAleese challenges Catholic ban on contraception

Former president joins more than 100 academics in signing ‘Scholars’ Statement’

The IRISH TIMES – Patsy McGarry – 19 September 2016
Former president Mary McAleese is among more than 100 international Catholic academics who have signed a ‘Scholars’ Statement’ challenging the church’s banning of artificial contraception.
Prepared by independent think tank the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, it will be published in New York tomorrow at an event hosted by the UN Population Fund.
Among the Irish-based signatories to the statement are theologians Fr Gabriel Daly of the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College Dublin; Fr Donal Dorr; Fr Wilfrid Harrington of Dublin’s Milltown Institute and Church of Ireland Theological College; Dr Gina Menzies and Prof David Smith of Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons; and Fr Joseph O’Leary of Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.
Damage inflicted
Endorsing the statement, Mrs McAleese said of the church’s teaching on contraception: “The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself, is a millstone around our necks and we are drowning.
“It needs to be removed in conscience, in justice and in Christ for, as this Scholars’ Statement explains compellingly, it has no basis in divine law.”
For her the issue was “personal,” as “the oldest of nine children and one of the 69 live children my mother and her siblings produced. Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family.
Strong
“Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith, they never encouraged us to have the big families they had.”
Her generation “largely rejected Humanae Vitae’s ban on artificial contraception, along with it magisterial control over family size. Our small families testify to that”.
Mrs McAleese said all over the world “good, decent, faith-filled men and women are infantilised and robbed” by the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae of their “God-given right and obligation to make sensible adult decisions in the best interests of their health, their relationships and their children”


McAleese calls for Vatican to end contraception ban

THE SUNDAY TIMES (UK) by Justine McCarthy, September 18 2016, 12:01am,
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mcaleese-calls-for-vatican-to-end-contraception-ban-dkg6fv0g2

Former Irish president Mary McAleese is supporting a campaign by a Catholic think tank to persuade the Vatican to revoke its 48-year-old ban on contraception.
A canon lawyer, McAleese is one of more than 130 international signatories backing a campaign by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research to overturn the encyclical Humanae vitae issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968. In her endorsement of its aims she has revealed that a priest once “lambasted” her mother for undergoing a hysterectomy.
In a message to be published at a UN conference in New York on Tuesday, she says: “I still remember the evening our parish priest, in front of us children, lambasted my 40-year old mother for having had a hysterectomy without his permission and while still of child-bearing age.
“She had by then had 11 pregnancies and a history of haemorrhages which had left her dangerously ill and chronically weak. He left her in a spiritual agony which lingers even today.”
McAleese describes herself as the eldest of nine children and “one of 60 live children” born to her mother and her siblings. “Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family,” she says. “Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith, they never encouraged us to have the big families they had.
“They had their reasons and they were too obvious to need to be stated. My generation largely rejected Humanae vitae’s ban on artificial contraception . . . our small families testify to that.”
The signatories are backing a statement that “there are no grounds, either from the Bible or from nature”, to justify the church’s contraceptive ban. It is being launched jointly by the UN Population Fund and Wijngaards Institute in New York on Tuesday.
McAleese’s endorsement states: “The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself, is a millstone around our necks. It needs to be removed . . . as it has no basis in divine law.”
The former president completed a semester last June as a professor of Irish studies at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, southwest London, acknowledged to be the oldest Catholic university in the UK, and is currently writing a book on baptism.
Miriam Duignan, a London-based organiser of the campaign, said: “It’s surprising people have dared put their careers on the line to sign it and say enough is enough. Mary recently told me she loves teaching in Catholic universities. Signing this may be somewhat of a risk in terms of her next job.”
However, McAleese said: “I am no longer taking on future teaching commitments, so the reference to jobs does not apply to me, but may to others.”


It Is Time to Revisit Church’s Stance on Contraception

Sep 06, 2016 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/celia-wexler/it-is-time-to-revisit-chu_b_11879144.html

by Celia Wexler Catholic feminist, journalist, former public interest lobbyist

Also in the Progressive Catholic Voice, Wednesday, September 7, 2016 – http://theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/it-is-time-to-revisit-churchs-stance-on.html?m=0

In the immortal words of John Oliver, “How is this still a thing?”

The this, in this case, is the Catholic church’s official stance on contraception. Since most American Catholic women clearly have decided that the institutional church was out of touch when it deemed artificial birth control ‘intrinsically wrong’, many of us believed that battle largely was won, if only by attrition. (Even by conservative estimates, it appears that about seven out of ten Catholic women in the U.S. have used artificial birth control.)

But, of course, that’s not true. Contraception, which could do so much good, continues to be a religious minefield. In Africa and Latin America, millions of Catholics follow the church on this issue.

Catholic hospitals and women religious, who should be at the forefront helping the disadvantaged plan their families, are stymied by the wrongheadedness of a long-dead pope.

The church has long had concerns about the morality of contraception, but so did the rest of society. In 1916, birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger was jailed for her advocacy. It took Congress to actually repeal provisions of the federal law imposing restrictions on contraception. Courts invalidated many state laws.

As women pushed for equality and autonomy, scientists were developing a birth control pill that would place the decision solely in women’s hands. The problem was, the church was not progressing along the same timeline, although there was reason to hope for change.

In 1930, Pope Pius XII had strongly condemned artificial birth control, when there was worry about a declining birthrate after the deaths of so many young men in World War I. But by the 1950s, the church had relaxed that ban to permit natural family planning, which allows couples to schedule intercourse when the woman is not fertile.

In 1962, Pope John XXIII convened a commission to examine the ethical implications of birth control, a commission which was expanded and continued under Pope Paul VI. The commission, which included Catholic married couples and physicians, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to lift the Vatican’s blanket ban on artificial birth control, and to permit married couples to prudently plan their families.

But that hope was dashed in 1968, when Paul VI, writing in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, once more declared artificial contraception “intrinsically wrong.”

A re-thinking of the church’s official position is long overdue. The progressive Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, recently issued a lengthy and detailed rebuttal to Humanae Vitae, which has done so much harm in the fifty years since it was issued — harm not only to women, but to the church itself. To date, the statement has been signed by more than 80 scholars, ethicists and scientists.

Effective birth control gives women control over their own bodies, helps lift families out of the poverty caused by too many children, and shows careful stewardship of our over-taxed planet.

In this time of Zika, contraception may be the most effective way to prevent tens of thousands of infants from being born with serious, debilitating birth defects. As long as AIDS continues to threaten African women, including married women, and their offspring, condoms are vital.

Contraception may also limit the collateral damage of rape and sexual assault in countries where women have few defenses against predators.

The institutional church itself has suffered from this papal decision. Twenty-five years after Humanae Vitae was released, the late Jesuit moral theologian Richard A. McCormick regretted its aftermath – a cleric’s position on birth control became a “litmus test” for priests who aspired to be bishops; it discouraged theological discourse on sexual ethics, and it caused many Catholics to no longer rely on the church for moral guidance.

The scholars’ recent statement notes that a quarter of the world’s health-care facilities and schools are run by Catholic institutions, making a reversal of the church’s position very urgent.

The scholars contend that if the church permits natural family planning, which is a way to prevent conception, it should realize that other forms of birth control are equivalent.

They ask that the institutional church make clear that all birth control methods that do not induce abortions are approved for use by Catholic healthcare providers. (Birth control methods that do induce abortions should be evaluated on a case by case basis, applying ethical principles such as whether their use would be the “lesser evil.”)

They also urge that Catholic theologians whose opposition to Humanae Vitae caused them to be censured have their reputations restored.

A half a century is a long time for a mistake to go uncorrected. If Pope Francis really wants to leave behind a reform legacy, this would be a good place to start.


The Wijngaards Institute for Research & Mary McAleese

Association of Catholics in Ireland — 15th September 2016

“The Wijngaards Institute is an international not-for-profit Christian educator founded in 1983 by theologian Dr John Wijngaards, then lecturer at the Missionary Institute London.”

The institute describes itself as “an international network of advisers, cooperators and volunteers.

“We focus on research in key areas of Christian theology where the official Catholic teachings and practice are in need of reform. Our network includes university professors, researchers, translators, leaders in commerce and industry, religious, clergy, teachers, and so on. They work in institutions all over the world, from Canada to Indonesia and China, and contribute, each in their own way, by providing free ad hoc assistance with regard to academic research, translations, and other tasks.”

For the website of the Wijngaards Institute, click here.

Among the academics associated with the institute is Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, with high qualifications in both civil and canon law.

Here she contributes to the Institute on the impact of Humanae Vitae on her family – the papal document banning the use of ‘artificial’ contraceptives for family planning.

“This is personal. I am the oldest of nine children and one of the sixty live children my mother and her siblings produced. Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family. Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith they never encouraged us to have the big families they had. They had their reasons and they were too obvious to need to be stated. The baton like the proverbial penny was already dropping. My generation largely rejected Humanae Vitae‘s ban on artificial contraception and along with it magisterial control over family size. Our small families testify to that.”

“I still remember the evening our parish priest, in front of us children, lambasted my forty year old mother for having had a hysterectomy without his permission and while still of child-bearing age. She had by then had eleven pregnancies and a history of haemorrhages which had left her dangerously ill and chronically weak. He left her in a spiritual agony which lingers even today.

“All over the world good, decent, faith-filled men and women are infantilised and robbed by Humanae Vitae of their God-given right and obligation to make sensible adult decisions in the best interests of their health, their relationships and their children. The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the Church itself, is a millstone around our necks and we are drowning. It needs to be removed in conscience, in justice and in Christ for as this Scholars’ Statement explains compellingly it has no basis in divine law.”

Prof Mary McAleese, Distinguished Professor in Irish Studies at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London; previously Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Queen’s University, Belfast.


Humanae Vitae in the United Nations after 50 years

by Ricardo Chica Revista Javeriana – 8 Septembre 2016 – pp. 68-71

Excerpt translated from the Spanish

July 25, 2018, will be the 50th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae (hv), which marked a milestone in the confrontation between the Church and the world and modern science. It demonstrated an absence of discussion on economic development because contraception is increasingly seen as a pivot of this, as shown by the importance contraception is given in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

This is unfortunate, since Paul VI published the Encyclical a few months before a very important document on the issue of development. It established a contradiction between Christian morality and social inequality social. In the Revista Javeriana I have mentioned the encyclical Humanae Vitae as the perfect illustration of the gap which the Church has created between itself and not only the world & modern science but also between itself and women & the poor . . .

Now the Wijngaards Institute has assembled an interdisciplinary group of experts to reassess the ethical use of contraception. The conclusions of their Statement of Catholic Scholars are based on interdisciplinary scientific knowledge that can be independently verified. For this reason, they present it to a broader global support, launching it at a meeting organized by the UN on September 20, 2016 in New York . . . Full text in Spanish here!


È tempo di rivedere l’Humanae Vitae. Un appello dal mondo teologico e accademico

Adista, Rome 09/09/2016 – Ingrid Colanicchia – http://www.adista.it/articolo/56575

Excerpt translated from the Italian

“There are no grounds, either from the Bible or from nature, to support current Catholic teaching according to which each and every act of sexual intercourse has a procreative significance and finality, and that consequently using “artificial” contraceptives for the purposes of family planning is always wrong, or “intrinsically wrong” (HV §14). On the contrary, the choice to use contraceptives for either family planning or prophylactic purposes can be a responsible and ethical decision and even, at times, an ethical imperative.”

“This is, in summary, the core of the Report drawn up by a large group of theologians and scholars at the urging of the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research (founded in 1983 by the English theologian  John Wijngaards  in order to promote ‘adult faith formation’) that, in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, wanted to bring together an interdisciplinary task force of experts to review the doctrine concerning contraception and “encourage the Catholic hierarchy to change its position on so-called contraceptives & ‘artificial ‘ birth control. Broadcast in a reduced form as a Statement in August and open for signature (already a hundred signatures added at the bottom), the document will be officially launched in New York, at the United Nations Headquarters, on 20 September. . . .”

“It is not the first time that John Wijngaards has promoted initiatives of this kind. Already in 2013, in view of the Bishops Synod on the family called by Pope Francis for the following year, the Theological Research Institute had issued a manifest in which they showed how the ‘teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality is based on abstract notions and outdated views of natural law and conceptions not scientifically based, thus being incomprehensible to the majority of the faithful (v. Adista Documents no. 45/13).”

“Again, as was the case three years ago, the document has collected many of the theological and academic personality adhesions: from Maria Pilar Aquino, a professor at San Diego University and co-founder of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians, to Gregory Baum of McGill University in Montreal; Tina Beattie, a professor at the University of Roehampton in London, and John F. Haught of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University; from Vietnamese origin theologian Peter Phan to the bishop emeritus of Sidney Geoffrey Robinson and ending with Charles E. Curran, former professor of Moral Theology at Catholic University of America . . . .” See full text in Italian here.


Theologenstrijd over anticonceptie

NEDERLANDS DAGBLAD, Hendro Munsterman 26 September 2016, p. 9.

Bijna zeshonderd rooms-katholieke academici noemen het katholieke verbod op anticonceptie ‘profetisch’. Zij reageren daarmee op honderdvijftig van hun collega’s die onlangs een verklaring ondertekenden met een oproep om de katholieke regels hieromtrent aan te passen.
Aanleiding was de recente verklaring van het Britse Wijngaard Institute voor Catholic Research, waarin alle Bijbelse en theologische argumenten voor het verbod op kunstmatige geboortebeperkende middelen worden afgewezen. ‘Integendeel, de keuze voor het gebruik van anticonceptie kan een verantwoordelijke en morele keuze zijn, en zelfs – in bepaalde gevallen – een ethische plicht’, schrijven de opstellers.
Onder de 22 schrijvers bevindt zich de oprichter van het instituut, de van oorsprong Nederlandse, in Indonesië geboren John (Hans) Wijngaards (80) die in 1998 het priesterambt verliet uit protest tegen het verbod op vrouwelijke priesters. Verder schreven ook de moraaltheologen Jan Jans (Tilburg) en Roger Burggraeve (Leuven) aan de verklaring mee. Onder de ondertekenaars bevinden zich verder de moraaltheologen René van Eijden (Utrecht) en Hermann Häring (Nijmegen).
De verklaring werd gepubliceerd in de aanloop naar de vijftigste verjaardag van de encycliek Humanae Vitae (1968), waarin paus Paulus VI het gebruik van voorbehoedsmiddelen afwees opdat de band tussen geslachtsverkeer en voortplanting behouden zou blijven. Volgens het Wijngaards Institute zal het aantal ondertekenaars de komende weken toenemen.
Voorstanders van het verbod hebben daarop niet gewacht. Inmiddels zo’n zeshonderd onder hen – voornamelijk uit de Verenigde Staten – ondertekenden een verklaring van de Catholic University of America waarin de huidige leer ‘op vele gronden’ verdedigd wordt. Zij voegen daaraan toe dat er ‘uitvoerig onderzoek is verricht waaruit de negatieve invloed van kunstmatige anticonceptie op personen, relaties en de cultuur is gebleken’. Onder de ondertekenaars bevindt zich de aan de Universiteit van Tilburg verbonden filosoof Jörgen Vijgen.

Read texts here.