Moral predication, a political predication

Par l'abbé Claude Barthe

French, italiano

As we continue to explore the elements which could be those of a true reform of the Church, we must point out as particularly important the moral predication. It is an invitation to live in the world without being of the world, as during any of the eras of Christianity, but it also implies today, beyond a critic of the morals of the world, by necessity, a critic of the very structure of the world as it has been established by modernity, amoral or immoral, by splitting the law of men from the reference to the law of God to make it the expression of the common will.

Certainly, the world has always been evil, but natural society, and even less Christian society, was not in itself even though both were heavily marked by the sins of its members. Yet, today’s society, though afar yet born of the Revolution, is institutionally constituted of “structures of sin”, the first one of all being exactly in the fact that the law does not seek to punish evil and favor the good intrinsically referred to the will of the Creator, but only to define what is good on the opinion of the majority. And de facto the rules of social life divert ever more from natural good as the evolution of moral evolves which they do not govern but follow. Today, in the advanced state of this evolution,  not all are giving up, but all are pushed to cooperate to sin, as much through so-called laws as through the opinion of the majority, the dictatorship of the media, the overall economical-ideological constraints, and this down to the most personal areas of anyone’s existence.

This is why moral predication which is in itself political as it seeks to amend men, a social being, has today become an anti-modern political predication. And in the mist of this moral teaching, the one on marriage which does not drain, far from it, the field of social moral, constitutes still a particularly sensible criteria of Christian expectations for life in society, the family being naturally the cell of a society itself constituted according to the order willed by God. To abstain from this moral teaching on the family, even more so to substitute a worldly moral to the natural and Christian moral, participates strongly in rallying Catholics to the modern world.

From Casti connubii to Humanæ vitæ

“Increase and multiply, and fill the earth… Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh” (Genesis 1, 28; 2, 24). The mission of marriage – procreate, that is to say in some ways to communicate the creation of God by begetting and educating – realizes itself in and by the community of love of two persons, a male and a female spouse.

One of the gravest harm radically inflicted on the harmonious order inscribed by God in human creation, consisted in promoting the artificial separation between procreation and the acts that are by nature ordained to it.

Malthusianism slowly spread through the West since the end of the XVIII century, in the protestant world, but also, more and more, in the Catholic world. Since the second half of the XIX century, Roman Congregations had to get involved several times (admonitions of confessors; warnings against publications) to stop what many moralists and predicators denounced as a grave plague. Pius XI intervened with a particular vigor in the encyclical Casti connubii, of 31 December 1930: “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.”

Pius XI reminds us, also, that a virtuous continence is always allowed in marriage when both spouses agree to it. Pius XII, in an address of 29 October 1951, to midwives further explained that the choice of this continence during the time of fertility was legitimate under serious medical or economical motives.

The same Pius XII, in the step of Casti connubii, regarding the use of contraceptive pills destined to block fecundation which had just started to be on the market, taught that: “Direct sterilization— that is, whose aim tends as a means or as an end at making procreation impossible—is a grave violation of the moral law and therefore unlawful.” […] We must reject the opinion of several medical doctors and moralists who allow its use, when a medical indication makes undesirable a conception too soon, or when in other similar situations which cannot be mention here; in this case, the use of medications has for a goal to prevent conception by preventing ovulation; it is therefore about direct sterilization” (speech of 12 September 1958). It is the teaching that was found later in Humanæ vitæ, with all the twists and turns as related in the article of Fr. Jean-Michel Perrot on the “History of the difficult gestation of Humanæ vitæ”: “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.”

After Amoris lætitia

Humanæ vitæ had represented in 1968 a sort of anti-liberal miracle in the mist of an ecclesiastic situation where doctrinal liberalism subverted traditional ecclesiology. A moral teaching later developed under John Paul II in a succession of documents, among which Donum vitæ in 1987, Veritatis splendor in 1993. The firm teaching of Pope Wojtyla has in this way allowed the development of a sort of humanæ vitæ world, often alas reduced to a fight for the ‘Moral of life”, with a group of intellectuals, in Rome (Lateran University, Holy Cross) and in other places (Spain, France, America), a pontifical Council on the Family, a Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, a series of international congresses with the authority of a manifesto which represented as many occasions for the moralists of this spiritual family to meet in Rome. Yet, these theologians, these authors, these journalists were paradoxically partisans of the pontifical teaching while at the same time in minority in the mist of a liberal theology, of which the disagreement laid in the symbolic claims of communion for remarried divorcees and the critic of Humanæ vitæ which a cascade of pontifical encyclicals, notes and documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not stop at all. In reality, it is this moral magisterium that was itself in minority, not only by the lack of reception on the part of a good number of theologians won to relativism, but also because it was in itself undermined by magisterial relativization, that of ecumenism for example.

This moral bastion, therefore quite weak, was overthrown with the start of the Martini program by Pope Bergoglio, a program which had for a goal to refute the “rigorism” of Pope Wojtyla. The barrier came down with Amoris lætitia, of which the principle of “mercy” is applicable to all other hot topics of Moral. As such, history was repeating itself: what happened to Wojtylan moral theology during the time of Bergoglio happened before, all else being equal, to the ecclesiology of Pope Pacelli, during the time of the Council and of Pope Montini.

If then, the great weakness of Humanæ vitæ and what came of it was to be a sort anomaly within the process of rallying Catholics to the principles of modern society, a moral predication for the future will have to find new footing not on sand but theoretical teaching, yet very concrete, explaining the way to live morally today in a society built against natural and evangelical laws. For example the denunciation by the shepherds of the Church of unjust laws will have to be accompanied by a reminder on the general principles regarding life in the City, but also of a Catholic survival through the education of young generations, a battle to escape this society based on principles of modernity, even if it might take a long time. One cannot address the topic of family ethics and defense of Life without making them part of a general view to restore the kingship of Christ over the City.

Fr. Claude Barthe