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Why most Catholics disobey Church doctrine September 9, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Abortion, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, scandals.

According to the highly esteemed Sandro Magister of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso, it’s because clergy and bishops don’t treat contraceptive use as a serious moral issue, and tend to shrug it off in the confessional:

Vatican analyst Sandro Magister highlighted a recent book that shows a link between the widespread usage of contraception among Catholics in the early 20th century and the silence of clergy in presenting Church teachings on the subject.In a Sept. 8 article in the Chiesa section of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso, Magister discussed the 2010 book from author Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, a professor of demography at the University of Padua. The book, explained Magister, “analyzes and thoroughly explains for the first time – with documents never studied before – why the Church did not stop the spread of contraception” in the early 20th century.

Magister began his piece by stating that a “divergence” has existed between the teachings of the Church and individual Catholic practice long before contraceptives were even on the market. The Vatican analyst then discussed how the book cites a case study involving a model Catholic area in Italy during the first half of the 1900s.

“Rural Veneto was at the time the most Catholic region in Italy, with an extremely solid, grassroots presence of the Church,” Magister explained. “But even in Veneto in the first half of the twentieth century – where almost everyone went to Mass on Sundays and to confession at least once a year – the birth rate was cut in half in the span of one generation.”

“It went from 5 children per woman in 1921 to 2.5 children per woman in 1951 because of generalized recourse to contraceptive practices, the most widespread of which was coitus interruptus.”
Magister said that the author attributes these numbers to silence on the part of the Catholic clergy at the time, who were employing the “theory of good faith” taught by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

“According to this theory,” said Magister, “in the presence of a penitent who is suspected of committing contraceptive actions but appears unaware of the gravity of the sin and in practice incapable of correcting his behavior, it is best to respect his silence and take his good faith into account, absolving him without posing any further questions.”

However, Magister wrote that “a change took place in 1931” with the publication by Pius XI’s encyclical “Casti Connubii.”

“From then on, at the behest of the hierarchy, conjugal morality became a bigger part of preaching. And therefore the room for inculpable ignorance was reduced,” Magister noted. “A few priests wrote about this: once it has been said in public what is good and what is evil between spouses, ‘good faith can no longer be admitted.’”

“But decades of silence, interpreted by most of the faithful as consent to their contraceptive practice, had left its mark,” the Vatican analyst stressed. “In their answers to the question about birth control – a dozen years after ‘Casti Connubii’ – some priests recognized that their preaching on this matter made no impression.”

“In the meantime, in Catholic Veneto the birth rate had fallen to levels near zero growth,” he added. “But the distance between Church teaching and the use of contraceptives continues to be perceived by most of the population as neither a sin nor a rebellion.”

“Even afterward – and this brings us up to today – the condemnation of contraceptives would be the subject of papal documents, but already at the level of the bishops it would hardly appear in preaching.”

“The clergy, for their part, would be almost completely silent on it. And would continue to be very understanding and indulgent in the confessional,” Magister concluded

I recently read a book on the Doctors of the Church.  In the chapter on St. Alphonsus Ligouri, I found this doctrine he supported, “the theory of good faith,” to be hopelessly naive.  Now, I know I’m a hard case – I have a sordid past, and it is only by turning away from serious sin and embracing the Truth revealed by Christ through his Church that I have been able to turn my life around (through the Grace of God and many prayers by others).  I found this idea of Ligouri’s, that priests should basically trust the faithful to always be doing the right thing to be seriously mistaken – from my experience, that would have been a disaster for me, personally.  I take a darker view of human nature – I think fallen man has a strong tendency to bend the truth, to present things in a light that will obtain the results he/she wants.  I don’t think people can be trusted to always do the right thing; there needs to be a strong moral doctrine in place to help guide them to the narrow path of Salvation.  Many of the earlier doctors of the Church (and other Saints) would agree with me.  The simple fact is, 96% of US Catholics use contraception at some point in their lives, and a large majority use contraception throughout their fecund years.  This has led to a collapse in Catholic birth rates, with enormous consequences socially, morally, and economically for this country. In Europe, the situation is far worse.  Europe as we know it will disappear in a century or less if present birth rates hold.   And far too many in the Church either ignore it entirely, or when confronted with it, tend to either reject Church doctrine or make excuses for those violating one of the prime moral precepts of the Faith. 

 I have railed on this issue many times in the past, and I know I’m largely talking to myself , but I’ll say it again – this is a huge issue.  When one pulls back from God on the issue of having children, it’s taking a huge part of their lives away from God and saying “Sorry God, I’ll follow your Will here and here, but not in this big area here.”  It is so fundamental, and I know from personal experience that opening up to God and letting Him decide how many and when children will come can have a transformative effect on one’s faith.

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