The good fight

Jerry Salyer:

In my view the contraception affair should be seen as opportunity rather than crisis, for it will have had a positive result if it forces Catholics to recognize the necessity of making a choice.  Either we must somehow set ourselves apart from the corrupting influence of American society as it slides further and further away from the Church – call it the ghetto option, the catacomb option, the secessionist option, the Benedict option, the Amish option – or so far as possible we must actively seek to dislodge and replace liberalism’s decaying tenets with those of the Church.  The first step is acknowledging that — no matter how many times George Bush may have repeated the word in his speeches — freedom is not the Good.  So long as Catholic voters agree to be fettered by the phrase “separation of Church and State” and conservative Catholic politicians fear to run on explicitly Catholic principles, they are no different from President Kennedy.  The faith which can be set aside before the voting booth or campaign or political office is no faith at all; it is a hobby.

Peter Colosi:

Cardinal Dolan seems to me to imply that this lack of catechesis constitutes a reason for which Church spokespersons, when asked about that teaching, keep saying that this is not about contraception. But, I don’t see when the opportune moment might be, other than now. There was just such a towering catechetical challenge in 1968, and in paragraph 30 of Humanae vitae, speaking to world’s Bishops, Pope Paul VI said,

We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests…and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage…Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence: economic, cultural and social.

The urgency of that summons was due to the ripeness of the teaching moment. This moment right now is a reincarnation of 1968 in the sense that in both cases the whole world had/has its ears perked up concerning Catholicism and contraception. The first time there was deafening silence from the pulpit, and in two ways I think that was understandable: I don’t think they knew what to say and I don’t think people wanted to hear it. Things are very different now. Now we know more, now we can explain the teaching. It’s like that old saying, “if I only knew back then, what I know now.” Well, it’s back then, right now. How often in life are you given a second chance like this? And secondly, now people are thirsting for this teaching. Consider this heartening account of a priest who recently gave a homily on contraception and after a few moments of pregnant silence the congregation erupted in applause.

How happy we should be, my friends, that the Enemy has picked a fight over contraception.  What more glorious cause could we be offered, but the holiness of the conjugal embrace?  How the martyrs of lesser disputes must envy us!  The Enemy has struck not on some obscure procedural point, like our form of government or economy.  For once he has come to the point: is the creation of life a sacred mystery in which we participate through a calling written in our bodies, or are our bodies and bodily relations mere raw material for the gratification of autonomous wills?  It often seems to me that all the important battles were already fought, and already lost, before I was born.  All of my most passionate beliefs are things the collective “we” of American culture have already decided against.  “That’s already settled”, they say.  I would be very happy to have a core issue unsettled, and that the Enemy has himself done the work of unsettling it is that much the better.

12 thoughts on “The good fight

  1. The Church-militant laymen ought to be the ones standing up for religious liberty and the 1st Amendment with politically-passionate outrage and Constitutional debate, while clergymen should be the ones rationally clarifying and defending the Church’s specific sexual ethics (natural law, Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, etc.).

    Currently, it seems to be the other way around; however, let’s hold out hope that the Bishops are still planning to directly engage the apparently taboo subject of artificial contraception with dogmatic force after this broad public gathering of purely patriotic support. (And let’s further hope that — regardless of whether it’s in reaction to a sermon against contraception, as above, or an inspiring July 4th homily about “freedom”, as I witnessed — Catholics will always remember that it’s never OK to applaud in the pews during the holy, sacrificial Mass.)

  2. As a Protestant—a Quaker even—I recognize that up till the 50s, most Protestants agreed with most Catholics about contraception. Then, we changed our mind—not for any good theological reason mind you, but mostly because of the spirit of the age. My gut is to confess that the collective we were wrong and you were right—it’s just too bad that the Catholic church hasn’t behaved as if it believed it were right.
    .

    • Protestantism’s surrender on the issue of contraception was a peculiar thing, I mean how sudden and complete it was. The story we always hear is that in 1930 the Anglicans gave in, and then everybody else fell in line quickly thereafter. But this is strange. Just because the Anglicans gave in, why should the Lutherans, the Calvinists, the Baptists, the Mormons, and so forth? The Protestant denominations have no trouble disagreeing on other issues. What one might have expected would have been a separate huge fight in each denomination, with some of them going one way and some the other. My understanding is that there were many Protestants who were appalled by the Lambeth decision at the time, but then opposition quickly collapsed. Can anyone tell me why that was?

  3. Carlson’s article at Touchstone last year made it out like Sanger managed to make contraception a wedge issue between Protestants and Catholics… and that explains, without much difficulty, how mainline prots get on board, pretty quickly by historical standards, with contraception. Carlson notes that the Fundies were pretty much against early on (“Billy Sunday says ‘I am Catholic’ on this question), but he doesn’t tell us what made (most of) them turn eventually too. And by the 70’s you’ve got even the Fundies on board with contracteption. Hell, even ol’ WA (friggin) Criswell was on board with abortion at first–anything, please god, not to seem Catholic, I suppose.

    So it seems like there was an initial onslaught in the 30s and 40s where the Mainliners, the truest sworn enemies of Rome, capitulated. That part is understandable. And then, because of <insert data>, most of the fundies capitulated in the 60s and 70s. By the time Moral Majority is in its heyday, contraception is not an issue, anywhere (of which I’m aware) on the Protestant horizon.

    • Hell, even ol’ WA (friggin) Criswell was on board with abortion at first–anything, please god, not to seem Catholic, I suppose.

      I’ve noticed this attitude among at least some Protestants. The wise ones, like Alan, are immune to it, but most aren’t wise, I guess. Is it really so horrible to even resemble a Catholic that you’d prefer infanticide to it?

      I wonder if this is the same mysterious hatred that crucified Christ. It sure seems like it, and it compels me to double-down on Catholicism.

  4. I am a non-contracepting Protestant mother of five. I do not know why Protestants gave in on this issue, but I do know that it changing at the edges so to speak. I can point you toward Doug Wilson at Vision Forum if you are interested in the Protestant theology that is used here, but it is to Psalm 127 which we look for guidance on this issue. Non-contraceptive Protestants are sometimes called “quiverfull” as you probably know, but lately this word is eschewed because of feminist charges that such women are being abused by their husbands (just google “quiverfull women abused” to get a sense of the horrible and untrue things that are said about us).

    Bonald wrote, How happy we should be, my friends, that the Enemy has picked a fight over contraception. What more glorious cause could we be offered, but the holiness of the conjugal embrace? How the martyrs of lesser disputes must envy us! The Enemy has struck not on some obscure procedural point, like our form of government or economy. For once he has come to the point: is the creation of life a sacred mystery in which we participate through a calling written in our bodies, or are our bodies and bodily relations mere raw material for the gratification of autonomous wills

    How beautifully said!

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