It's therefore extremely good to hear of the Vatican heaping yet more praise on Bishop O'Donoghue, the bishop of Lancaster, (pictured top) and his powerful promotion of the Church's teaching in Humanae Vitae in Fit for Mission: Church?
Last month it was the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who gave the bishop's teaching document strong backing.
Now, Cardinal Antonelli (pictured right), the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has added his warm commendation. Very pointedly, Cardinal Antonelli points to the exact page in Bishop O'Donoghue's Fit for Mission: Church in which he sets out some of the disastrous social consequences - for families, for young people and for respect of the sanctity of human life - of rejecting, arguably, the Catholic Church's most important encyclical letter of the 20th century.
The Cardinal writes:
"The section on Marriage and Family Life is also well done and a good response to the perils of the philosophy of gender which is so widespread nowadays. Your underlining the importance of Self-Gift is also very pertinent as well as giving explicit example and statistics (p.69) regarding the consequences of the culture of death that surrounds us, is also useful in bringing home the point. The encouragement to deepen the notion of the Theology of the Body is also a sound idea to be encouraged."So let's see what Bishop O'Donoghue says about the consequences of separating the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love on page 69 of Fit for Mission: Church?
"10.6.2 The Current Situation"The following statistics provide a snap shot of the health of marriage in our country:
• There were 17.1 million families in the UK in 2006.
• Most families are headed by married couples (71%), although the proportion of cohabiting couple - families increased from 9% in 1996, to 14% in 2006.
• The average number of children per family in the UK has dropped - from 2.0 in 1971 to 1.8 in 2006.
• There were 148,141 divorces in 2006.
• Marriages in England andWales fell by 4% to 236,980 in 2006, the lowest marriage rate since records began in 1895. Religious marriage ceremonies only accounted for 44% of marriages in 2006.
"I believe a reliable indicator of the health of marriages is how it impacts on the well-being of children.
• More than a quarter of British under-16s regularly feel depressed. (UNICEF)
• Around 13 per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys between 13 and 15 years old suffer from mental health problems. (UNICEF)
• More than 1,300 mentally ill children are currently being treated on adult psychiatric wards. (UNICEF).
• The NHS reports that between 2006-2007, 4,241 children under 14 attempted to commit suicide.
• 193,700 unborn children were killed through abortion in 2006; a rise of 3.9%.
• 2,000 potentially handicapped children were killed by their parents through abortion in 2006.
• A total of 40,244 abortions were carried out on girls aged between 15 and 19 years in 2006.
• 3,990 abortions were carried out on girls aged under 16 - the age of consent – in 2006.
• Teenage pregnancy rates for girls under 18 in England and Wales in 2003 was 42.3 conceptions per 1,000 girls.
"These statistics reveal the shocking depth and extent of the suffering and impoverishment of so many families and children due to the separation of the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love, and the wide-spread practice of pre-marital sexual behaviour. I am convinced that there must be profoundly damaging consequences for the family in a country where contraception and abortion are so wide-spread. No wonder so many children are suffering depression and mental illness in a country that is such a hostile environment for human life. Nowonder divorce is so prevalent when family life is so often characterised by a lack of generosity or self-giving love.
"10.6.3 Proclaim the Theology of the Body
"We, the Catholic Church, must be more confident and proactive in presenting our rich and fulfilling understanding of marriage, sexual love and the family. The strength of the Church’s doctrine of the inseparability of sexual love and procreation is that it respects the unity between the spiritual and biological dimensions of humanity. Personal meaning is informed by the biological meaning of the human body, which Pope John Paul II calls ‘the language of the body’.
"The Catholic theology of the body understands the meaning of married, sexual love as follows (cf.WilliamMay, Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life, p. 68-69):
"The Unitive Meaning: Husband and wife become personally ‘one flesh’ in and through sexual intercourse, renewing the covenant they made during the sacrament of marriage. The marital act expresses their sexual complementarity: the husband’s body, which expresses his person as male, has a ‘nuptial significance’, for he is so structured to give himself to his wife by entering into her body, and so give himself to her. The wife’s body which expresses her person as female, also has a nuptial significance, for she is so structured to receive his body into herself, and in receiving him, to give herself to him.
"The Procreative Meaning: In becoming ‘one flesh’ – through the sacrament of marriage – husband and wife also become one complete organism capable of generating human life. Precisely because they are married, they have capacitated themselves – according to revelation – to be co-creators with God in a way that responds to the dignity of persons – self-giving love that is faithful and permanent.
"As a people, culture and Church, we must get over misplaced shyness about sexual matters which inhibits us from spreading the Church’s positive and personal vision of sexual love. We cannot leave this area of human life to the purveyors of pre-marital sex and so called safe sex to the detriment of families and young people. As I wrote in Fit for Mission? Schools, continence outside marriage and fidelity in life-long marriage are the only true and secure ways of protecting our families and young people from physical and psychological harm, such as STDs, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, psychological lack of self esteem and an inability to express love.
"I recommend that clergy and parents study and teach the theology of the body. I recommend the following:
• John Paul II, The Theology of the Body, Boston: Pauline Books, 1997.
• Theology of the Body for Teens programme. www.tobforteens.com
• Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, Ascension Press, 2004. Theology of the Body
Explained, Pauline Books, 2003; Good News about Sex andMarriage, Questions and Answers, Charis Books, 2000."