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John Paul II Says that the Church Will Never Change Her Teaching on Marriage

Of interest to our readers is the very important statement by Archbishop John R. Quinn, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the United States. We reproduce here in full his statement as it appeared in the October 6, 1980 issue of the English weekly edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

Statement of Archbishop John R. Quinn

“Because of confusing reports about the American Bishops and about the substance and intent of my speech to the Synod of Bishops on Monday, I find it necessary to make some clarifications.

In the first place, neither I nor the American Bishops’ Conference reject or challenge the doctrine of the Catholic Church on contraception. I stated this in my speech and I repeat it now.

Neither I nor the American Bishops’ Conference are calling for a change in the doctrine of the Catholic Church on contraception.

In my speech I offered proposals to the Synod for dealing in a constructive way with the personal and demographic problems of the modern world which must be recognized if they are to be dealt with.

The intent of my speech was to suggest possible ways of making the Church’s teaching on contraception better understood and more widely accepted.”

To help our readers understand what Archbishop Quinn meant when he used the words, “the Doctrine of the Church on Contraception,” that is, to explain what this doctrine is, we present the following classic passage from the Encyclical on Christian Marriage, by Pope Pius XI, who in this passage gives not only the teaching of the Church but also points out that it is a continuous tradition of the Church back to the Fathers.

53.) And now, Venerable Brethren, We shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the grounds that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.

54.) But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose, sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

55.) Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, “Conjugal relations even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.”

56.) Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian traditions some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises Her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.

57.) We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, who may, God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.” (Matt. 15:14)

58.) As regards the evil use of matrimony, to pass over the arguments which are shameful, not infrequently others that are false and exaggerated are put forward. Holy Mother Church very well understands and clearly appreciates all that is said regarding the health of the mother and the danger to her life. And who would not grieve to think of these things? Who is not filled with the greatest admiration when he sees a mother risking her life with heroic fortitude, that she may preserve the life of the offspring which she has conceived? God alone, all bountiful and all merciful as He is, can reward her for the fulfillment of the office allotted to her by nature, and will assuredly repay her in a measure full to overflowing.” (see Luke 6:38).

In more recent times the Popes have again clearly enunciated the law of God, as is their duty to do, on this subject. As everyone knows, Pope Paul VI spoke in favor of human life and our obligations to protect human life, in his Encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”. Here is a key paragraph of Pope Paul VI’s teaching, and Pope Paul VI is careful to point out that he teaches this “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ”. (See Humanae Vitae paragraph 6). This means that the Pope is teaching us by the authority of His Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. This means that Jesus Christ is speaking to us in this matter through the Pope as He said to St. Peter: “He who hears you, hears Me.” Therefore we must believe that this teaching comes from God Himself. Reputable theologians hold that Pope Paul VI is here teaching this doctrine infallibly with His Ordinary Magisterium.

14. In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian vision of marriage, We must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.

“Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.

“To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that such acts would constitute a whole together with the fecund acts already performed or to follow later, and hence would share in one and the same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes licit to tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a greater good, it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom; that is, to make into the object of a positive act of the will something which is intrinsically disordered, and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social well-being. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify a deliberately contraceptive conjugal act which is intrinsically wrong.”

Our Lord said to St. Peter and his successors, “He who hears you, hears Me.” (Luke 10:16).

As many papers have reported, Pope John Paul II has confirmed this teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium which clearly indicates that contraception is intrinsically evil. He reiterated the teaching of the Church on contraception on various occasions in 1980, particularly at the Synod of Bishops which met in Rome to discuss the family.

Even more recently, Pope John Paul II re-emphasized that the Church’s teaching on marriage would never change. Here are his words at Cebu City in the Philippines on February 19, 1981, as reported in the Catholic Register of Toronto in the March 7, 1981 issue.

“The Catholic Church has consistently taught — and I repeat it here with the conviction that springs from my office as chief pastor and teacher — that marriage was established by God; that marriage is a covenant of love between one man and one woman; that the bond uniting husband and wife is by God’s will indissoluble; that marriage between Christians is a sacrament symbolizing the union of Christ and His Church; and that marriage must be open to the transmission of human life.”

More specifically, Pope John Paul II further explains the Church’s teaching on marriage, in the same speech, where he says:

5. For these reasons, the Church will never dilute or change her teaching on marriage and the family. For these reasons, the Church condemns any attempt through the practice of polygamy to destroy the unity of marriage and any attempt through divorce to destroy the marriage bond. For these reasons also the Church states clearly that marriage should be open to the transmission of human life. God willed the loving union of husband and wife to be the source of new life. He wishes to share, as it were, His creative power with husbands and wives, endowing them with procreative power. God desires that this tremendous power to procreate a new human life should be willingly and lovingly accepted by the couple when they freely choose to marry. Parenthood has a dignity all of its own, guaranteed by God Himself. On my part I owe it to my Apostolic Office to reaffirm as clearly and as strongly as possible what the Church of Christ teaches in this respect, and to reiterate vigorously her condemnation of artificial contraception and abortion.” (from page 12 of The Catholic Register, March 12, 1981.)