2. Feb, 2018

"Humanae vitae" under siege. But they will have to pass on the bodies of Wojtyla and Caffarra

By Sandro Magister


Fifty years after its publication, the encyclical of Paul VI " Humanae vitae " against artificial contraception is now in the middle of a rebuilding site, as Settimo Cielo has documented in the previous post .

And it is evident the intention of Pope Francis to make the breakthrough - that is, in practice to legitimize contraceptives - in the most reassuring ways, as if it were a natural and proper evolution, free from breakage, in perfect continuity with the previous magisterium of the Church and with the same "true" profound dynamics of the encyclical.

But if you just look a little 'before, this artifice does not appear at all easy to achieve. There are words of Francis's predecessors who rise up like mountains against a change in the doctrine of "Humanae Vitae".

These are words that the proponents of change look at from quoting. But they are there, unavoidable.

There is in particular a speech by John Paul II of 12 November 1988 that would suffice alone to block the road.

Twenty years had passed since the publication of "Humanae Vitae" and Pope Karol Wojtyla took the opportunity to defend it as much as possible, sculpting words like the following in the rock:

"This is not a doctrine invented by man: it has been inscribed by the creative hand of God in the same nature as the human person and has been confirmed by him in revelation, thus putting it into question is tantamount to rejecting God himself. obedience of our intelligence is equivalent to preferring the light of our reason to the light of divine wisdom, thus falling into the darkness of error and ending up to undermine other fundamental cornerstones of Christian doctrine ".

Before him there were bishops and theologians from all over the world, gathered in Rome for a large congress on "Humanae Vitae".

And John Paul II precisely wanted to identify and refute the reasons that had led so many theologians and pastors to reject what was taught by Paul VI in that encyclical.


The first of these reasons - he said - concerns a wrong understanding of the role of consciousness:

"During these years, following the contestation of 'Humanae Vitae', the same Christian doctrine of moral conscience has been questioned, accepting the idea of ​​conscience creating the moral norm, in this way the bond of obedience has been radically broken. to the holy will of the Creator, in which the same dignity of man consists.In fact, consciousness is the 'place' in which man is illuminated by a light that does not derive from his created and always fallible reason, but from the very wisdom of the Word, in which everything was created. "Conscience - Vatican II writes admirably - is the most secret nucleus and the shrine of man, where he is alone with God, whose voice resounds in his own intimacy '(Gaudium et Spes, 16) ".

From this - he continued - springs a bad understanding of the Magisterium of the Church:

"Since the Magisterium of the Church was instituted by Christ the Lord to enlighten the conscience, [...] it can not therefore be said that a faithful has put in place a diligent search for the truth, if he does not take into account what the Magisterium teaches if he equates him to any other source of knowledge, he is a judge, if in doubt he pursues his own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure teaching of the Magisterium ".

How also the binding force of the moral norm is affected:

"Paul VI, by describing the contraceptive act as intrinsically illicit, intended to teach that the moral norm is such that it does not admit exceptions: no personal or social circumstance has ever been able, and can make such an order in itself. existence of particular norms in order to the intra-mundane action of man, endowed with such obligatory force to always exclude the possibility of exceptions, is a constant teaching of the Tradition and of the Magisterium of the Church that can not be questioned from the Catholic theologian ".

The error is so serious - continued John Paul II - that it puts into question the holiness of God:

"Here we touch upon a central point of Christian doctrine concerning God and man: if we look closely at what is put into question by rejecting that teaching, it is the very idea of ​​God's holiness. Predestining us to be holy and immaculate to his He created us in Christ Jesus for the good works He has prepared for us to practice them "(Eph 2:10): those moral norms are simply the requirement, from which no historical circumstance can dispense, of the holiness of God that we participate concretely, not in the abstract, in the single human person ".

He venerates the cross of Christ:

"Not only that, but that denial renders the cross of Christ vain (1 Cor 1: 17) In becoming incarnate, the Word has entered fully into our daily existence, which is articulated in concrete human acts, dying for our sins, he He has re-created us in the original holiness, which must be expressed in our daily intra-worldly activity ".

And finally it involves the loss of man:

"And yet: that negation implies, as a logical consequence, that there is no truth of man taken away from the flow of historical becoming." The vanishing of the mystery of God, as always, ends in the vanishing of the mystery of man, and the non-recognition of the rights of God, as always, ends in the denial of human dignity ".


In closing this speech, John Paul II urged the professors of moral theology in the seminaries to transmit the message of "Humanae Vitae" with absolute fidelity. In particular, he entrusted this task to the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which he founded in Rome a few years earlier and which in 1988, in 1988, had created its first foreign branch in Washington.

At that time, the dean of the institute was a theologian named Carlo Caffarra, who was also a consultor to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith presided over by Joseph Ratzinger at the time, as well as one of Pope Wojtyla's closest collaborators in matters concerning life and the family.

And the mind and the pen of Caffarra are well recognizable in the text of the speech mentioned above.

Caffarra was archbishop of Bologna from 2003 to 2015 and was one of the four cardinals who in 2016 submitted to Pope Francis five " dubia " on the correct interpretation of "Amoris laetitia", the post-synodal exhortation from which we would like today to bring down a change of paradigm in the interpretation of "Humanae vitae":

> Reread "Humanae vitae" in the light of "Amoris laetitia"

Francis never responded to the "dubia" or to the request to give an audience to the proposing cardinals, forwarded to him by letter from Caffarra in the spring of 2017.

On September 6, Caffarra died and even after that, the Pope refrained from any sign of understanding and esteem for him, not even on October 1 when he visited Bologna.

As for the pontifical institute that still bears the name of John Paul II, Pope Francis refounded it last year with a new name: "For the Sciences of Marriage and the Family", and especially with a new Grand Chancellor in the person of Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, very busy to "rethink" the encyclical "Humanae vitae" and therefore to legitimize contraceptives, because - he says - "the norms are for living human beings, not for making robots work".


(The above quotation is not, however, the only one in which John Paul II re-proposed and defended the teaching of "Humanae Vitae." Another of June 5, 1987, addressed to the participants in a study meeting on the regulation natural fertility and not less important are the references to "Humanae vitae" which he included in the " Familiaris Consortio " exhortation of 1981 and in the encyclical " Veritatis splendor " of 1993).