In anticipation of the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, a group of 100 dissident Catholic academics put out a statement yesterday protesting the Church’s ban on artificial contraception. Here is the full statement from the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research. The statement includes the following summary:
The official papal teaching banning the use of “artificial” 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.” From such a belief, the moral requirement is inferred that couples engaging in sexual intercourse must always be open to procreation.
However, 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.”
As for the intention of the agents, the Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. This is confirmed by the evolutionary biology of human reproduction, and sociology, among other disciplines.
The use of modern contraceptives can facilitate one or more of sexual intercourse’s non-conceptive meanings, as well as have additional morally worthy purposes – e.g. family planning, following the requirements of responsible parenthood (HV §10).
Therefore, the decision to use modern contraceptives can be taken for a variety of morally worthy motives, and so it can be responsible and ethical.
Immediately after the Wijngaards statement was released, a group of faithful Catholic scholars made a statement affirming the Church’s constant teaching on “the gift of human sexuality.” You can see a video of yesterday’s live-streamed press conference at Catholic University of America here.
The statement of affirmation, which has been signed by over 500 Catholic scholars worldwide, says:
The Wijngaards Statement, unfortunately, offers nothing new to discussions about the morality of contraception and, in fact, repeats the arguments that the Church has rejected and that numerous scholars have engaged and refuted since 1968.
The Wijngaards Statement seriously misrepresents the authentic position of the Catholic Church. Among the most erroneous claims made by the Wijngaards Statement is that neither Scripture nor natural law offers any support for the Church’s teaching that contraception is never compatible with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage. During the past half century, there has been an enormous amount of creative scholarly thinking around the Church’s teaching on contraception, thinking that includes profound reflections on the Theology of the Body, personalism, and natural law. In addition, there has been extensive research on and analysis of the negative impact of contraception on individuals, relationships, and culture.
The Wijngaards Statement, rather than engaging recent scholarship in support of the Church’s teaching, misdirects the conversation from the start by claiming that the argument against contraception in Humanae Vitae is based primarily on “biological laws.” Humanae Vitae instead focuses, as it should, on the person’s relationship to God and to other persons.
It is notable that the statement in affirmation of Humanae Vitae burgeons with references to Christ, to scripture, to love, to marriage, to the sacraments, and to reason, while the Wijngaard Statement, in almost twice as many words . . . doesn’t. It offers nothing but a rehash of old ideas, and speaks as if there has been no scholarship in years subsequent to Humanae Vitae — and as if there has been no eerily accurate bearing-out of the predictions that Paul VI made about the damage that widespread contraceptive use would have on family and society.
The Catholic scholars’ affirmation of Church teaching on sexuality is not a mere academic exercise. According to a petition sponsored by The Ruth Institute,
On September 20th, three prominent UN groups will host an event featuring a presentation by the dissident Wijngaards Institute aimed at undermining Catholic moral teaching on contraceptives and human sexuality.
The Wijngaards Institute is a group of rogue scholars whose stated goals involve wholesale alteration of Church theology to suit their own interests. They do not speak for faithful Catholics; the UN has no business giving them a platform to further their goals.
Every signature will go directly Azza Karam, Senior Advisor on Culture at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and one of the event organizers.
Anyone, even non-Catholics, can sign the petition, which “call[s] upon the UN to stop telling Catholics what to believe and to stop hosting dissident Catholic groups.”
Catholic teaching still has tremendous clout around the world, which is why the Wijngaards Institute and other groups will never rest from trying to undermine it. The Church is and always has been the rock to which the poor, the vulnerable, and the suffering can cling. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality will always be worth defending.