Friday 20 November 2009

Bishop Conry wrong to question Humanae Vitae

I am disappointed that Kieran Conry, Catholic bishop of Arundel and Brighton, has again questioned papal teaching on contraception, specifically as found in the encyclical Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI (pictured). In his latest pastoral letter, Bishop Conry writes:
"[Some Catholics] campaign on the moral issues of the day – someone said recently that a person’s attitude to Humanae Vitae was a ‘litmus test’ of being a Catholic, whereas many might not know what Humanae Vitae is. These are all undoubtedly important issues, but they will never get anywhere near expressing our faith in its entirety, and we can ask if some of these questions are actually fundamental to faith at all."
This latest pastoral letter of Bishop Conry mirrors an interview he gave to The Catholic Herald in December in which the bishop was quoted, inter alia, as saying [extracts]:
"I would disagree that [the teaching of Humanae Vitae is] a key teaching ... It's not a life issue ... [Abortion and Humanae Vitae are] two completely different issues."
Interviewer Andrew M. Brown:
"Does it matter if people disobey that teaching?"
Bishop Conry:
"In the great scheme of things I don't think it's high up the list."
Interviewer Andrew M. Brown:
"Was Humanae Vitae a mistake?"
Bishop Conry:
"I don't know. I don't know."
Interviewer Andrew M. Brown:
"But is the teaching itself wrong?"
Bishop Conry:
"It could be. It's not an infallible teaching."
Interviewer Andrew M. Brown:
"So in a sense it's a matter of opinion?
Bishop Conry:
"Well, it's... It is."
Earlier in the interview, the bishop asserted unequivocally that:
"We've got first of all massive climatic change heading our way inexorably."
I refer readers to my blog earlier today, in which I wrote:
"The claim that man-made carbon dioxide omissions threaten to cause catastrophic global warming is a scientific theory and one that must be considered seriously and objectively. As it is a theory, it cannot be asserted with certainty that people will die if developed countries don't agree to further reductions in carbon omissions ...Whatever the evidence regarding man-made global warming, the right to life and the right to found a family are fundamental, universal human rights..."
Regarding the link between contraception and life issues, which Bishop Conry denies, the late Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae (13):
"[T]he negative values inherent in the "contraceptive mentality" which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected ... [D]espite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree ... The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious."
Bishop Conry's view of the importance of Humanae Vitae is starkly at variance to that of Pope Benedict, who said in May last year:
"The teaching expressed by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae...conforms with the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the world's creation, with respect for nature and in conformity with its needs. Concern for human life and safeguarding the person's dignity require us not to leave anything untried so that all may be involved in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law engraved on the heart of every person."
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Conry said quite rightly:
"If we are to be truly Catholic, then we must be truly human too".
Bishop Conry should therefore read the analysis of Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the "supreme court" of the Catholic Church). According to Archbishop Burke, Pope Benedict has emphasised in his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the message of Humanae vitae is fundamental to achieving authentic human development:
"It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical letter on the Church's social doctrine, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, underscoring its importance "for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes" (Caritas in veritate, no. 15). Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that the teaching in Humanae vitae was not simply a matter of "individual morality," declaring: 'Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium vitae' (Caritas in veritate, no. 15).
" ... The respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the context for the advancement of the culture of life."
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