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JPI & BIRTH CONTROL: from John Allen, National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 2003

John Allen says: Last week I carried an interview with Fr. Diego Lorenzi, the private secretary of Pope John Paul I, on the 25th anniversary of the pope’s election. Lorenzi’s recollections summoned others from readers of “The Word from Rome.” Among other things, a few readers wrote to ask if it was true that prior to becoming pope, Cardinal Albino Luciani had expressed a positive view of birth control.

In short, the answer is yes.

In 1967, when Luciani was still the bishop of Vittorio Veneto, then-Cardinal Giovanni Urbani of Venice asked him to prepare a position paper for the bishops of the Triveneto region on artificial contraception, then under study by Pope Paul VI. The story is told in the superb recent book Papa Luciani: Il Sorriso del Santo, by Andrea Tornielli and Alessandro Zangrando.

Luciani, who attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), had already been wrestling with the problem. In his diary from his days at Vatican II, Un Vescovo al Concilio, published in 1983, he said that the formation of a study commission had produced hope that the teaching might change. Another factor fueling that hope, he wrote, was the “spiritual trauma” the issue was causing for married couples, for whom it represented a “laceration of conscience.”

In January 1965, Luciani gave a retreat for the pastors of the Veneto in which he told the following story:

“A Capuchin bishop told me at the council, ‘Sometimes I thank God that I’m a bishop for only one reason, not for anything else. The reason is that I don’t have to hear confessions at Easter, dealing with painful, difficult cases that are hard to resolve. These blessed Christian couples simply don’t want to convince themselves that the use of contraceptives is a sin. At the end I never knew what to say … What could I say to a young father who already had six children and he was the sole support of the family? I knew that he was a good young man and in every other way obeyed the law of God.’

“I assure you,” Luciani told the pastors, “the bishops would be extremely happy to find a doctrine that would declare licit the use of contraceptives under certain conditions ... If there’s only one possibility in a thousand, we have to find this possibility and see if maybe with the help of the Holy Spirit we can discover something that previously escaped us.”

In a recent interview, Msgr. Mario Senigaglia, Lorenzi’s predecessor as Luciani’s secretary, recalled that his stand was well known. In fact, he said, some Italian wags referred to Luciani at the time as “the bishop of the pill.”

Paul VI got wind of the thinking in the Triveneto and sent his personal theologian, Msgr. Carlo Colombo, to meet with the bishops. Sources say that during the closed-door session, Luciani argued that Colombo’s position was “too abstract” and did not take account of the real-life struggles of couples.

In the spring of 1968, Luciani gave a series of presentations in parishes. In Mogliano Veneto, the birth control question arose. His response has been preserved in an audio recording.

“For me, this is the most serious theological question that has ever been dealt with by the church,” Luciani said. “In the age of Arius and Nestorius, the issue was the two natures of Christ, and these were serious questions, but they were understood only at the very top of the church, among theologians and bishops. The simple people understood nothing of these things and said, ‘I adore Jesus Christ, the Lord who has redeemed me,’ and that was it, there was no danger. Here, on the other hand, it’s a question that no longer regards solely the leadership of the church, but the entire church, all the young families, the young Christian families. It is a truly central point that they are still studying.”

When Paul VI issued Humane Vitae on July 25, 1968, however, Luciani’s adherence was immediate and unwavering. He wrote a letter to his diocese four days after the encyclical appeared.

“I confess that I had hoped in my heart that the extremely grave difficulties could be overcome and that the response of the magisterium, which speaks with special charisms and in the name of the Lord, could have coincided, at least in part, with the hopes held by many spouses.”

Yet, Luciani said, Pope Paul has spoken, and the proper response is assent.

The Pope “knows that he is about to cause bitterness for many; he knows that a different solution would probably have drawn greater human applause; but he’s put his trust in God, and in order to be faithful to His word, he re-proposes the constant teaching of the magisterium, in this most delicate matter, in all its purity.”

As late as 1974, after he had become patriarch of Venice, Luciani publicly acknowledged how difficult this teaching was to enforce.

“Among couples with few children, some maintain a heroic self-control that merits admiration,” he said at a convention. “Others … find themselves in difficulties so serious that, on the objective plane, not even the confessor sometimes has the courage to pronounce on the gravity of the sin, entrusting everything to the merciful judgment of the Lord.”

The story invites a historical “what if?” If Luciani’s papacy had endured longer than 33 days, how would he have handled the birth control issue?

It’s virtually certain he would not have reversed Paul VI’s teaching. The church does not lurch from position to position like that, and Luciani was no doctrinal radical. Moreover, in Venice some saw a hardening of his stands as the years went by. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that John Paul I would not have insisted upon the negative judgment in Humanae Vitae as aggressively and publicly as John Paul II, and probably would not have treated it as a quasi-infallible teaching. It would have remained a more “open” question.

Whether that would have been good or bad obviously depends upon one’s point of view

Who knows. I've certainly heard those rumours.  Hardly matters though does it?  He's dead.
He seems to have been wrestling with the issue, but I doubt he would have tried to compromise anything.

Or maybe he would have compromised. In that case, maybe God exercises "pope control" by taking him out early.
(Excerpt)

Paul VI, more a demagogue than a utopian, posed himself the abstract question of whether artificial means of contraception were contrary to the natural moral law. At the end of three years, he was still none the wiser. He consulted masses of people, but all in vain. The yes and the no were so well balanced in his Hamlet-like mind that he remained totally undecided. When at last he was forced to answer, he pronounced that absolute condemnation, that terrible “no” which contradicted his years of uncertainty. The world was waiting for his oracle as people wait for the results of bets placed on Saturday afternoon. Heads or tails? It was heads, and so all the illusions cultivated about the Church, the Council and the Pope were shattered in one go. So much so that the whole of morality and religion were up for questioning.

John Paul II, more of a utopian than a demagogue, enthusiastically applauded Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

It is against such a background that our dear John Paul I, a man of doctrine, a man of the right and therefore as far removed from utopianism as from demagogy, knowing his flock and condescending to their wretchedness, was unable, except through obedience and death in his soul, to enter into this stupid, worldly, yes-or-no bet on the pill as the panacea to all conjugal troubles, which the Pope was – o terrible suspense! – either going to authorize or forbid for hundreds of millions of couples. He could foresee the hue and outcry that would follow any but a liberating decision, together with its baneful consequences.

    Was he in favour of the contraceptive pill?  I very much doubt it. But as a good moralist, he felt bound to examine the very complex problems of intention and circumstance. Only the publication of his report to Pope Paul VI on this subject of “conjugal ethics” would enable us to know his exact position. Above all, he was anxious, as we were at the time, to begin by placing this thorny question in the context of the Church’s entire religious and moral doctrine, just as he was equally anxious to see the answer to it find its place in the fullness of the sacramental and supernatural life of Christians. Outside that context, a proclamation via the media to millions of indifferent modern pagans that the pill was banned would make the entire planet bristle with hatred and contempt. And again, outside that context, such an announcement banning the pill made to lukewarm Catholics, incited by the conciliar Church to am intense, obsessive and totally unrestrained love life, could only provoke them to abandoning the sacraments, to indifference concerning the state of grace and, before long, to forgetting God altogether. The masses cannot be thrown into a state of perpetual lust without impunity. To incite their lust and then to forbid them the indispensable contraceptive or abortive complement is derisory. O foolish clergy! You cannot forbid the one without forbidding the other.

He would have preferred the Magisterium to modulate the expression, the promulgation and application of this ban. So would we. For what is involved is none other than “casuistry”, that marvel of human and supernatural wisdom, thanks to which laws do not crush souls, but enlighten and strengthen them. He knew where he wanted to lead his people, and he intended to lead them there “with cords of humanity”. But do not ask utopians and demagogues to condescend to casuistry!

    For the rest, the immense problem confronting humanity today, of a calamitous fall in the birth rate in one part of the world and galloping overpopulation in the other, was something that preoccupied John Paul I. To oblige millions of children to be born out of respect for a natural law strictly applied, to keep them alive by means of a scientific struggle against mortality, only to leave them to die in a famine with no hope other than an appalling life... The Americans, become the tutors and food suppliers to the Third World are seeing to this problem. Their remedy is sterilization and contraception practised on a vast scale. It is well to condemn them. Even so, we ought to help them to save peoples from famine or else find practicable moral solutions for them. John Paul I did not think it was all that simple.

http://www.crc-internet.org/oct84a.htm
Quote:probably would not have treated it as a quasi-infallible teaching

It's not really infallible? I'd think it belonged to the infallible Ordinary Magisterium. 
Quote:What could I say to a young father who already had six children and he was the sole support of the family?
Not to trivialize the problem of the financial support of a large family, but, why was this suddenly such a burning question? Did they just discover fertility in the 60s? :pregnant: For thousands of years, people have had 6, 7, 13 kids. What suddenly changed to make all these bishops scurry around looking for a solution to the problem of fertility?
(09-22-2011, 01:40 AM)charlesh Wrote: [ -> ]Not to trivialize the problem of the financial support of a large family, but, why was this suddenly such a burning question? Did they just discover fertility in the 60s? :pregnant: For thousands of years, people have had 6, 7, 13 kids. What suddenly changed to make all these bishops scurry around looking for a solution to the problem of fertility?

Not exactly. On the contrary, for thousands of years one was just as likely as not to die miscarried, stillborn or from diseases before the age of 2. So the average number of kids for a common couple was about 2. Noble couples had an average of 4. I don't think these averages changed much until 1750 in England.

So Jacob's 12 children, for example, make an exceptional case... and he had 4 wives. But when you read about medieval kings, who had better healthcare than anyone else, you see that they typically did not have more than 3 siblings at most.

Therefore, large families are indeed a relatively new challenge in an age of better living standards.
Why the need to give credibility to the National Catholic Rag?  It has nothing of content to say today as well as in 2003.  This is a piece of calumny if I ever smelled one.  I'd just file this under the
abuse of the frivolous tongue and the workings of a stultified and vacant mind.  I don't bother to read anything from John Allen; he has nothing of substance to say about the Church.
Whether that would have been good or bad obviously depends upon one’s point of view

No, it depends on God's point of view.
(09-22-2011, 08:14 AM)The_Harlequin_King Wrote: [ -> ]
(09-22-2011, 01:40 AM)charlesh Wrote: [ -> ]Not to trivialize the problem of the financial support of a large family, but, why was this suddenly such a burning question? Did they just discover fertility in the 60s? :pregnant: For thousands of years, people have had 6, 7, 13 kids. What suddenly changed to make all these bishops scurry around looking for a solution to the problem of fertility?

Not exactly. On the contrary, for thousands of years one was just as likely as not to die miscarried, stillborn or from diseases before the age of 2. So the average number of kids for a common couple was about 2. Noble couples had an average of 4. I don't think these averages changed much until 1750 in England.

So Jacob's 12 children, for example, make an exceptional case... and he had 4 wives. But when you read about medieval kings, who had better healthcare than anyone else, you see that they typically did not have more than 3 siblings at most.

Therefore, large families are indeed a relatively new challenge in an age of better living standards.

There were plenty of saints that came from families of 10+ children. They were dirt poor, often. Poverty, for a long time, was considered a mark of holiness. One of the big problems with modernists is that they will but temporal well being before spiritual well being. The social justice crowd thinks that if we reduce people's poverty through socialism (ha ha) then it will be easier for people to be holy.

Not to say you're wrong. I think large families will always be the exception for one reason or another. But let's not pretend the law of averages means anything. God's law is more important.
(09-23-2011, 06:20 AM)GeorgeT Wrote: [ -> ]There were plenty of saints that came from families of 10+ children.

And plenty of saints who were only children. But I would challenge you to name as many saints as you can who, living before 1750, had 9+ living siblings.

At any rate, my previous post was meant only to show that large families are a modern problem, in many ways; not a challenge that's been around for thousands of years. We also leave the nuclear family to take care of themselves far more often than in the past. In the Middle Ages, particularly, several generations of a single family would live in the same house, along with servants. Even peasant families would send off or take other children in to work for other households. So yes, a situation where a medieval couple would have to raise more than 5 kids without the help of extended family or servants is really unthinkable, for the most part. We don't do ourselves any favors by pretending the nuclear family/large number of kids scenario is how the world has always worked.
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