This past week, a Feeneyite came and engaged me on a recent post regarding Baptism of Desire (BOD) and Baptism of Blood (BOB). The exchange can be read at the bottom of the comments section at the following post:
http://introiboadaltaredei2.blogspot.com/2019/07/feeneyite-follies.html. Besides the same old script I've come to expect from the followers of Fred and Bobby Dimond's "Most Holy Family Monastery" (MHFM), there is another disturbing error they propagate which causes no small amount of angst among married Traditionalist couples; the absurd notion that the married are bound (by the natural law and Divine positive law) to have the most children possible. In response to the Feeneyite's attack on BOD and BOB, I cited Pope Pius XII's 1951 Address to the Congress of the Italian Catholic Association of Midwives:
"If what We have said up to now deals with the protection and the care of natural life, it should hold all the more in regard to the supernatural life which the newly born infant receives with Baptism. In the present economy there is no other way of communicating this life to the child who has not yet the use of reason. But, nevertheless, the state of grace at the moment of death is absolutely necessary for salvation. Without it, it is not possible to attain supernatural happiness, the beatific vision of God. An act of love can suffice for an adult to obtain sanctifying grace and supply for the absence of Baptism; for the unborn child or for the newly born, this way is not open..."(Emphasis mine).
In response, the Feeneyite had this to write: "Pope Pius XII was wrong in his Address to Midwives, it's normal, he was not protected by infallibility. Pius XII and theologians considered "limiting children" using natural family planning even though Pius IX wrote against this. Even though this is not natural. It's not natural to limit the number of children, but Pope Pius XII thought it was, he also thought in that case BOD could fit his desire to explain what he wanted, but he was also wrong."
This is so loaded with errors, it's sad. First, they believe it possible for a pope in his official capacity to teach error as long as it's not ex cathedra. Second, the followers of MHFM don't follow this line of thought to its logical conclusion: If Pope Pius XII taught heresy as a private theologian, he would by Divine Law fall from the pontificate; yet Fred and Bobby consider Pope Pius XII a true pope.
What I really want to revisit is Church teaching on the use of periodic abstinence ("PA") sometimes called "the rhythm method," or "Natural Family Planning" (NFP). I am talking about authentic Church teaching and not the NFP taught by the Vatican II sect. In Genesis 1:28 we read about Adam and Eve: "And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth." (Emphasis mine). However, does this mandate require married couples to have as many children as physically possible? Was Pope Pius IX against PA? Is it "unnatural" to use PA, and a mortal sin as claimed by Fred and Bobby Dimond? The answers to these questions will be examined.
Church Teaching on Marriage
1. Marriage is of Divine Institution
"God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time. And this union of man and woman, that it might answer more fittingly to the infinite wise counsels of God, even from the beginning manifested chiefly two most excellent properties - deeply sealed, as it were, and signed upon it-namely, unity and perpetuity. From the Gospel we see clearly that this doctrine was declared and openly confirmed by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. He bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that the marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (See encyclical Arcanum Divinae para. # 3; Emphasis mine).
2. Marriage was Raised by Jesus Christ to the Dignity of a Sacrament
From the Council of Trent:
CANON I.-If any one saith, that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the New law, instituted by Christ the Lord; but that it has been invented by men in the Church; and that it does not confer grace; let him be anathema.
3. The Primary Purpose of Marriage is the Procreation and Education of Children
The Code of Canon Law (1917), Canon 1013 section 1 states, "The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children. It’s secondary end is mutual help and the allaying of concupiscence."
4. The Secondary Purpose of Marriage is Mutual Help and Allaying of Concupiscence
In addition to the Code just cited, we have the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Arcanum Divinae:
"Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity." (para. #11)
Is Periodic Continence The Same As Artificial Contraception and Thereby Evil?
Periodic Abstinence (or "PA" as above) is the practice of purposefully limiting the marital act to sterile periods. Feeneyites, and others who hold to the absurd idea that PA is the moral equivalent of contraception, fail to make various distinctions. First and foremost, they reject the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium (UOM). The unanimous teachings of the approved theologians is to be discarded, and only private interpretations of ex cathedra statements is to be believed. They fall under the condemnation of Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors:
CONDEMNED PROPOSITION #22:The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.
The UOM is equally infallible to the Extraordinary Magisterium. Nevertheless, we are bound in conscience to believe e.g., teachings of papal encyclicals, decrees of Roman Congregations, etc., with reverential acceptance. Pope Pius IX taught in Tuas Libenter :
The Church has always held artificial contraception to be intrinsically evil. Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii:
"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." (para. #54; Emphasis mine).
The dogma of the Indefectibility of the Church guarantees that the Church cannot give to Her members that which is evil or erroneous. Hence, if PA was equivalent to artificial contraception, it would indeed be against both the Natural Law and Divine Positive Law. The Church would be incapable of sanctioning PA if it were intrinsically evil. Yet, as will be shown below, the Church has sanctioned PA, therefore it is not the equivalent of artificial contraception, nor in any sense "intrinsically evil."
1. Three Times the Holy Office of the Sacred Penitentiary Approved PA
The Sacred Penitentiary, the official Church body that decides definitively questions of morality, especially as they pertain to the sacrament of Penance, rendered three decisions on PA under three different popes.
March 2, 1853. During the reign of Pope Pius IX, the Sacred Penitentiary was asked, "Should those spouses be reprehended who make use of marriage only on those days when (in the opinion of some doctors) conception is impossible?"
Reply of the Sacred Penitentiary: "After mature examination, we have decided that such spouses should not be disturbed [or disquieted], provided they do nothing that impedes generation."
This gives the lie to the Feeneyite who claimed Pope Pius IX condemned PA.
June 16, 1880. During the reign of Pope Leo XIII, two pertinent questions were submitted to the Sacred Penitentiary:
1. Whether married couples may have intercourse during such sterile periods without committing mortal or venial sin?
2. Whether the confessor may suggest such a procedure either to the wife who detests the onanism (i.e., "withdrawal") of her husband but cannot correct him; or to either spouse who shrinks from having numerous children?
Reply of the Sacred Penitentiary: "Married couples who use their marriage right in the aforesaid manner are not to be disturbed, and the confessor may suggest the opinion in question, cautiously however, to those married people whom he has tried in vain by other means to dissuade from the detestable crime of onanism."
June 20, 1932. Under Pope Pius XI, the Sacred Penitentiary was asked, "Whether the practice is licit in itself by which spouses who, for just and grave causes, wish to avoid offspring in a morally upright way, abstain from the use of marriage – by mutual consent and with upright motives – except on those days which, according to certain recent [medical] theories, conception is impossible for natural reasons."
Reply of the Sacred Penitentiary: "Provided for by the Response of the Sacred Penitentiary of June 16, 1880." [It reaffirmed the 1880 decision in full].
2. The Teachings of the approved theologians give the green light to PA
The decisions of the Sacred Penitentiary should end the matter. However, we also have the testimony of the approved theologians who teach in favor of PA. None of them were ever censured for their teachings. Had PA been against Natural and Divine positive Law, the popes would have an obligation to condemn those teachings and the theologians who taught them. What good is a Magisterium that can't teach and allows error to go unchecked? The Church would be allowing Her children to believe and practice something evil; but the Indefectibility of the Church will not allow such. Here is a sampling of some of the major approved theologians of the 20th century before Vatican II:
According to theologian Jone:
"Abstaining from intercourse during this [infertile] period has come to be known as the Rhythm Method of Birth Control [later NFP]. For a proportionate reason and with the mutual consent of husband and wife it is lawful intentionally to practice periodic continence, i.e., restrict intercourse to those times when conception is impossible...[it is subject to three conditions] (1) Both parties must freely agree to the restrictions it involves; (2)The practice must not constitute an occasion of sin, especially the sin of incontinence; (3) There must be a proportionately grave reason for not having children, at least for the time being." ( See Moral Theology, , pg. 542).
According to theologian Prummer:
"To make use of the so-called safe period has been declared lawful..." (See Handbook of Moral Theology, , pg. 413).
According to theologians McHugh and Callan:
"(b) If birth control refers to a means of family limitation, it is lawful when that means is continence or abstinence from marital relations, not if it is onanism or the use of mechanical or chemical means to prevent conception." (See Moral Theology, , 2:604; Emphasis in original).
The primary theologian who drafted the monumental encyclical Casti Connubii (1930), which condemned artificial contraception, was Fr. Arthur Vermeersch. The encyclical was a response the the Anglican sect which became the first denomination calling itself "Christian" to allow artificial contraception among married couples. I mention Vermeersch because one of the biggest complaints by MHFM supporters against PA is that the intention and purpose of PA is the same as artificial contraception.
Let us remember that the intrinsic end of an action is that which tends towards it's very nature. (For example, almsgiving has the intrinsic purpose of giving relief to one in need). Extrinsic motives don't change the nature of an action. For example, someone might engage in the act of almsgiving to flaunt his wealth and to receive praise from people rather than caring for the poor. However, the nature of the act is unaffected--the poor do indeed obtain relief. (See e.g., theologian Prummer, Ibid, pg. 5).
Vermeersch and canonist Bouscaren, in What is Marriage?(1932), a catechism based on Casti Connubii, point out:
"As long as the [marital] act takes place normally it remains objectively directed towards its primary end, which is generation; and since, according to the maxim that the purpose of the law is not within the matter of the law (finis legis non cadit sub legem), there is no obligation, while observing the law, to intend the end for which it was promulgated, it follows that the act is not necessarily vitiated by deliberately choosing a certain time with the intention of avoiding conception. (pg. 44; Emphasis mine)
Who better would understand the intent of the encyclical than the theologian who wrote it under the direction of Pope Pius XI? However, is it the purpose of marriage to have as many children as physically possible? In a word: No. This will be discussed in the next section.
3. The Practice of the Church
That the Church has not "defined" marriage as a Sacrament meant only and exclusively to be used as a vehicle by which the marital act must produce as many children as physically possible is proven by: (a) the fact that the Church does not prohibit couples past their fertile years from engaging in the marital act, and (b) She has never condemned or prohibited senior citizens (e.g., a 70 year old widower and a 68 year old widow) from getting married even though it is obvious the union cannot produce any children.
To those who object that married couples are required to have as many children as physically possible (usually citing St. Catherine of Sienna who was the 25th of 25 children), the Church teaches no such thing. Married couples should be generous and have many children. However, God's plan is different for each couple. According to theologian John O'Brien, "Contrary to the impression that prevails in some quarters, there is no obligation on any couple to beget any specific number of children, much less to give birth to the largest number possible." (See Lawful Birth Control, , pgs. 61-62).
The proper principle is to use the sacrament of Matrimony as God intended; to bring the man and woman closer to each other and closer to Him; begetting children insofar as the couple may be able to do so under their circumstances in life.
Married couples should be as generous as possible in having and properly educating children. PA should be used for serious reason after consulting a Traditionalist priest. The reasons for using PA may be explored in a future post. For now, I want to dispel the errors of MHFM and their followers who reject Church teaching in yet another area, and burden the conscience of married couples unnecessarily. Married couples should multiply and fill the Earth with good Traditionalist Catholic children; but do so only after you add the true teaching and wisdom of the Church to your actions, divided from the errors of MHFM and their followers.