Thursday, September 26, 2019



One of the most vital, on the sacredness of human life, papal teachings preceding the great encyclical of St. John Paul: Evangelium Vitae [1], is Humane Vitae of St. Paul VI [2]. As Pope Pius XI did more than forty years earlier with his Encyclical MIT BRENNENDER SORGE, shining a light to expose fully the evil of Nazism, so Pope Paul VI shined a light on the evil of the emerging contraceptive-abortive-hedonistic culture of death.

Humane Vitae is the unambiguous teaching of the Church on the sacredness of human life. Every human being is a, and has the dignity of being person, created in the image and likeness of God, the Divine Person. All this is rooted in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and the transmission of this gift, the creating by God of a new person occurs in cooperation with Him, as a sacred act in the Sacrament of Holy Marriage, between the spouses. Yet so lavish is God, who is Love, with His gift of life, that He does not refuse to breath an immortal soul, that is to create a human person in His image and likeness, even if the man and woman are by some other fashion, engaging in a natural law act outside of the sacredness of the sacrament.

Here is not that place for a protracted dissertation on Humane Vitae, rather it is to point in the direction of both the irreducible treasury of wisdom and compassion therein, and as well to consider briefly one of the major acts of dissent, albeit coached in episcopal bureaucratic lingo.

Humane Vitae caused an uproar not simply by defining artificial contraception as evil but in an unwritten between-the-lines subtext exposes the reality of the Antichrist: The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement….. the Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism… especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. [3]

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number. [1 Jn. 2:18,19]

Remembering the ‘last hour’ does not mean a specific sixty minute period, but rather is in fact every moment of every day since the Ascension of Our Lord, hence its apparent millennial slowness to arrive is perhaps excruciatingly frustrating for some Christians who focus on the hour, rather than the merciful magnanimity of the Holy Trinity both giving time for more brothers and sisters to be born, to come to know Christ and be His and for us already alive to be converted anew every day until we no longer live but Christ lives in us.

 One day the Antichrist will come: a human being who introduces an order of things in which rebellion against God will attain its ultimate power….. Then it will be clear what the Christian essence really is: that which stems not from the world, but from the heart of God; victory of grace over the world; redemption of the world, for her true essence is not to be found in herself, but in God from Whom she has received it. When God becomes all in all, the world will burst into flower. [4]

The distortions regarding human life, freedom, faith, etc., etc., spawned by the dark forces of the culture of death in the Sixties, continue to poison the souls, hearts, minds, choices of humanity today, a poison which infects even bishops and priests. This from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is particularly germane:  Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms…… At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society……..There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is about more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life. Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence….there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life…..Faith is a journey and a way of life. [5]

Humane Vitae begins with a simple, clear, powerful statement which encapsulates the entire truth about human life and the gifting of life by the Holy Trinity: The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships. The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings. [6]

At the end of September, 1968, as a prime example of the reaction within the Church itself, aided and abetted by a cacophony of dissenters in various fields from theology to rights movements, the Canadian Conference of Bishops issued their response to Pope Paul’s encyclical, which has evermore been known as the ‘Winnipeg Statement’:  It is a fact that a certain number of Catholics, although admittedly subject to the teaching of the encyclical, find it either extremely difficult or even impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine. In particular, the argumentation and rational foundation of the encyclical, which are only briefly indicated, have failed in some cases to win the assent of men of science, or indeed of some men of culture and education who share in the contemporary empirical and scientific mode of thought. We must appreciate the difficulty experienced by contemporary man in understanding and appropriating some of the points of this encyclical, and we must make every effort to learn from the insights of Catholic scientists and intellectuals, who are of undoubted loyalty to Christian truth, to the Church and to the authority of the Holy See. Since they are not denying any point of divine and Catholic faith nor rejecting the teaching authority of the Church, these Catholics should not be considered or consider themselves, shut off from the body of the faithful. But they should remember that their good faith will be dependent on a sincere self-examination to determine the true motives and grounds for such suspension of assent and on continued effort to understand and deepen their knowledge of the teaching of the Church. [ 7]

The continuing tragedy and danger in the above is twofold: 1] it opens the door to the misuse of ‘conscience’ by people then and now to excuse actions which no fully matured and informed conscience would allow and 2] it implies a parallelism between science, the notions of intellectuals, indeed almost a superiority to Catholic teaching, in clear opposition to the primacy of revealed truth and orthodox theology.

Furthermore, it contradicts this teaching from Humane Vitae: Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. …..Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary…..Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. ….Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these.  [ 2 -op. cit. para. 14]

So messed up are Catholics, Christians in general, about ‘conscience’, that when, in 2002, a Catholic student sues his Catholic High School to bring his boyfriend as his prom date, it was the Catholic teachers themselves, who as ‘friends of the court’, argued in support of the young man; currently in Canada there is NO abortion law, unlike other countries who legalized abortion and have time limits as to when in the pregnancy abortions cannot be done, Canada has no such limitations; Canada has a limitless contraceptive mentality expressed most egregiously through its legalization of so-called gay ‘marriage’, a totally sterile divergent simulacrum of the real thing, and, not satisfied with legalizing murder at the beginning a of a human person’s life Canada now legalizes so called ‘assisted dying’, an ambiguous way of avoiding stating the obvious: assisted self murder.

St. John Paul, in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, reminds us that: The Second Vatican Council mentioned the Catholic teaching on conscience when it spoke about man's vocation and in particular about the dignity of the human person. It is precisely the conscience in particular which determines this dignity. For the conscience is "the most secret core and sanctuary of a man, where he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths." It "can ...speak to his heart more specifically: do this, shun that." ….The conscience therefore is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil…. the conscience is the "secret sanctuary" in which "God's voice echoes." The conscience is "the voice of God," even when man recognizes in it nothing more than the principle of the moral order which it is not humanly possible to doubt, even without any direct reference to the Creator. It is precisely in reference to this that the conscience always finds its foundation and justification. The Gospel's "convincing concerning sin" under the influence of the Spirit of truth can be accomplished in man in no other way except through the conscience. If the conscience is upright, it serves "to resolve according to truth the moral problems which arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationships"; then "persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct."…..A result of an upright conscience is, first of all, to call good and evil by their proper name…….[8]

While it may appear that the chaos, disorder, nihilism, relativism, hedonism of the Sixties, is even more expansive in our own day, found primarily in the angers, divisions, within nations and between nations – [without ignoring that some aspects of the Sixties, such as the spread of civil and human rights, continue to benefit the human family], the real battlefield, the real place of damage done, and where metanoia must occur if we are to live the fullness of human dignity and the fullness of our Baptismal vocation, is the human heart.

So vital is Humane Vitae as a gift to the treasury of the Church’s teaching on human dignity,  St. John Paul, through a series of General Audiences between 1979 and 1984, including reflections on Humane Vitae,  his 1988 Apostolic Letter on The Dignity and Vocation of Women, his 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, developed in depth what has become known as “the theology of the body”:  The heart has become a battlefield between love and lust. The more lust dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the body. It becomes less sensitive to the gift of the person…The truth and power of love are shown in the ability to place oneself between the forces of good and evil which are fighting in man and around him, because love is confident in the victory of good and is ready to do everything so that good may conquer. [9]

The 1968 uproar and dissent around Humanae Vitae, the ever deepening and darkening of the culture of death as more powerful than the Light of Christ and the Gospel of Life is mere illusion, a satanic trick to confuse and discourage. Our best protection with the help of the Most Holy Spirit, Our Blessed Mother, the Angels and Saints, from such confusion and discouragement is, the mutual strengthening love we have for one another, to be faithful to our vocation as disciples of and witnesses to Christ.

We, with Christ, are sowers of seeds of the Gospel of life through our living the Gospel with our lives without compromise. We have no control over where the seeds land: on rock, on sand, in good earth. We sow, we water with our tears and prayers, and He, who loves every human being is the One who will – who does – give life in abundance, and therein lies true hope and joy.

Because we the Baptized are alive at this precise time in history, at this precise period of intense spiritual warfare, while feeling the weight of the culture of darkness and death, the pain, of seeing so many of our brothers and sisters lead lives not simply antithetical to the very existence of Christians as the leaven of society, of culture, of the broader human family, but who are persecutorial in numerous ways, and not just by attitude and words, for many of our Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters it is also martyrdom by blood, all this is for us a way of sharing in the pain of Christ for souls, sharing in His Cross, in His redemptive suffering for all humanity.

We should not be discouraged, no matter the intensity of the pain and weariness experienced and embraced as we are striving to be light in the darkness and salt of the earth for: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us….We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings…….Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. [from Romans 8:18-39 & 2 Corinthians 1:3-5]



[3]  Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.676

[4] THE LORD; Fr. Romano Guardini; p. 513; Henry Regnery Company, 1954



[7]       cf.para.17


[9] The Theology of the Body, Human Love in the Divine Plan; John Paul II; pp. 126 & 376; Pauline Media 1997

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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