Faithful Catholic Scholars Fight Back Against Dissent From Humanae Vitae

marriage-handsOn the same day dissenting theologians are presenting a statement at the United Nations in New York intended to change Catholic Church teaching on contraception, more than 500 Catholic intellectuals released their own statement affirming the Church’s teaching during a press conference yesterday at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The statement of the faithful Catholic scholars, “Affirmation of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality,” outlines how contraception “is not in accord with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage.”

“We, the undersigned Catholic scholars, hold that the Church’s teaching on contraception is true and defensible on the basis of Scripture and reason. We hold that Catholic teaching respects the true dignity of the human person and is conducive to happiness,” the statement reads in part.

Among the signatories of the statement are Dr. Janet Smith, the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich. — one of the nation’s leading Catholic scholars on the use of contraceptives — and representatives from almost every Newman Guide-recommended college.

Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, was also one of the supporting signers of the “Affirmation” statement along with the Newman Society’s Dr. Dan Guernsey, Dr. Denise Donahue and Dr. Jamie Arthur. The presidents of six Newman Guide-recommended Catholic colleges also signed in support of the statement, including John Garvey of The Catholic University of America, Dr. Glenn Arbery of Wyoming Catholic College, Dr. William Fahey of The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Dr. George Harne of Northeast Catholic College, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell of Christendom College, and Dr. William Thierfelder of Belmont Abbey College.

The statement refutes claims made in the report being released by the dissident Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research at the U.N., “On the Ethics of Using Contraceptives.” The signatories of the Wijngaards Institute report include more than two dozen professors associated with Catholic colleges in the U.S.

The Cardinal Newman Society reported last week on the planned release of the Wijngaards Institute report, issued in response to the upcoming 50th anniversary in 2018 of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. The erroneous conclusions espoused by the dissident theologians who signed the statement misrepresent the Church’s teachings on contraception and human sexuality.

Despite claiming that the Church does not have the authority to teach definitively on the use of contraceptives, the authors of the statement aim to “encourage the Catholic hierarchy to reverse their stance against so called ‘artificial’ contraceptives.” The report denies the inherent connection between the sexual act and procreation and claims that artificial contraception and Natural Family Planning are “morally equivalent.” The authors also urge considering changes  to Catholic teaching on masturbation, homosexual relationships and in vitro fertilization.

The “Affirmation” statement released yesterday on Catholic University of America’s website counters the unoriginal and previously refuted objections to Church teaching raised by the authors of the Wijngaards Institute report through contemporary developments in theology, like St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, as well as traditional understandings of human sexuality and love that the Church has held since its inception. The statement supports the Church’s authority to teach on the use of contraception and articulates the truths that underlie the Church’s teaching on contraception.

“The Wijngaards Statement seriously misrepresents the authentic position of the Catholic Church,” faithful Catholic scholars argue in the “Affirmation” statement. “Among the most erroneous claims made by the Wijngaards Statement is that neither Scripture nor natural law offers any support for the Church’s teaching that contraception is never compatible with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage.

“During the past half century, there has been an enormous amount of creative scholarly thinking around the Church’s teaching on contraception, thinking that includes profound reflections on the Theology of the Body, personalism, and natural law. In addition, there has been extensive research on and analysis of the negative impact of contraception on individuals, relationships, and culture,” the statement continued.

But the faithful Catholic scholars argue that the authors of the Wijngaards Institute report ignore all of this recent research and scholarship, instead “misdirect[ing] the conversation from the start” by characterizing Humanae Vitae as based primarily on “biological laws” instead of focusing on human beings’ relationship to God and to others.

The faithful Catholic scholars affirm that the Church’s teaching on contraception is true and defensible on the basis of Scripture and reason and that Catholic teaching respects the true dignity of the human person and is conducive to happiness

The scholars behind the “Affirmation” plan to release a longer document in the next few days entitled “Self-gift: The Heart of Humanae Vitae” that will elaborate upon the points made in the shorter document released yesterday and will issue a point-by-point response to the Wijngaards Statement within the next month.

A complete list of the scholars and clergy who signed the “Affirmation” can be found here. The lead signers of the “Affirmation of the Catholic Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality” include:

Helen M. Alvare’, J.D.
Professor of Law
Scalia Law School at George Mason University
Editor, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves

Maria Fedoryka, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Ave Maria University

John H. Garvey, J.D.
The Catholic University of America

Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P.
Theologian of the Papal Household
Vatican City

John S. Grabowski, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director of Moral Theology/Ethics, School of Theology & Religious Studies,
The Catholic University of America
Board Member, The Academy of Catholic Theology
Author, Sex and Virtue: An Introduction to Sexual Ethics

Prof. John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., M.Div., K.M.,
President, The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care for Health Care Workers, Vatican
Member, Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican
Member of the Directive Council for the Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican

Mary Rice Hasson, J.D.
Director, Catholic Women’s Forum, Ethics and Public Policy Center;
Editor, Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church

Stephen M. Krason, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies
Franciscan University of Steubenville
President, Society of Catholic Social Scientists
Co-Editor, Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy

Mary Hayden Lemmons, Ph.D.
Association Professor of Philosophy, President of the University Faculty for Life
University of St. Thomas, MN
Founding President, Society for Thomistic Personalism
Editor, Women as Prophet in the Home and the World: Interdisciplinary Investigations

Steven A. Long, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University
Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome
Author, The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
The Ruth Institute
Author, Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World

Michael Novak
Distinguished Visiting Professor
The Catholic University of America
Author, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Rev. Thomas Petri, O.P., S.T.D.
Vice President and Academic Dean
Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception
The Dominican House of Studies

Deborah M. Savage, Ph.D.
St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity
University of St. Thomas (MN)

Mary Shivanandan, M.A. (Cantab), S.T.L., S.T.D.
Former Professor of Theology
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family at The Catholic University of America
Author, Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology

Janet E. Smith, Ph.D.
Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Author, Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later

Mary Elizabeth Stewart, M.S., M.F.S., M.Ph., Ph.D.
Vice President General, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations
President-Elect, National Council of Catholic Women

Michael Waldstein, Ph.D., Th.D.
Max Seckler Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University, Florida
Translator, John Paul II, Theology of the Body

Helen Watt, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow
Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford
Author: The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth:  Exploring Moral Choices in Childbearing

George Weigel
Distinguished Senior Fellow
Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.
Author of two-volume biography of Pope St. John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning

Originally published by The Cardinal Newman Society.