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A papal commission reconsidering Humanae Vitae? No, but...

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 23, 2017

The good news is that, contrary to a widespread rumor, Pope Francis has not ordered a commission to reconsider the teaching of Humanae Vitae in the light of Amoris Laetitia.

The bad news is that the commission exists. Call it a “study group” if you prefer, but there is a scholarly panel, working under the auspices of a pontifical institute, preparing a reappraisal of Humanae Vitae.

Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, who chairs the group, told the Catholic News Agency that “the issue of a conciliation between Amoris Laetitia and Humanae Vitae is not on the agenda.” Less reassuringly, he said that he was not interested in finding “answers to useless questions,” and he favored “decentralization of doctrinal issues.”

Msgr. Marengo’s commission is sponsored by the Pontifical Institute John Paul II for Studies on Studies on Marriage and Family, which—as its name suggests—was established as a bulwark of support for the great Polish Pontiff’s groundbreaking work on human sexuality and the “theology of the body.” But the John Paul Institute has been gutted and remodeled under Pope Francis, as has its parent institution, the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Andrea Gagliarducci that “we should look positively on all those initiatives, such as that of Professor Marengo of the John Paul II Institute, which aim at studying and deepening [Humanae Vitae] in view of the 50th anniversary of its publication.” But we could have relied on the “old” John Paul II Institute to produce a solid defense of the central argument of Humanae Vitae. We can’t expect the same today.

Archbishop Paglia assured Gagliarducci that “there is no pontifical commission called to re-read or to re-interpret Humanae Vitae.” OK, Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission. He didn’t need to. By appointing Archbishop Paglia, and appointing the new members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he ensured that these institutions would take a new direction.

Or put it this way: Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission that is now studying Humanae Vitae. But that commission wouldn’t exist within the Vatican if it didn’t have the Pope’s implicit approval.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jun. 26, 2017 2:38 PM ET USA

    And the attacks on fidelity to the Gospel continue their course under the current pontificate. Clearly, the Church is experiencing a grave crisis, a crisis that became prominent when the hermeneutic of rupture was used to interpret the Second Vatican Council. A crisis that appears to be currently promoted by the pope himself. What the resolution of this crisis will bring is not clear at the moment, but I cannot see anything good coming out of it, at least in the short term.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Jun. 24, 2017 8:25 AM ET USA

    This pontificate seems to be taking a page out of the Obama play book. As he was determined to reduce the U.S. to being just one nation among many, so does this papal administration seem to see the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This rough ride is getting rougher. Lord Jesus, come!

  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 23, 2017 1:55 PM ET USA

    The New Catholic Church, with its first Pope, Francis, has been methodical in dismantling the firewalls installed by P6, JP2, and B16 against the Cultural Marxists. As true of all Marxists, they will never openly declare their intentions until they have complete control. The CMs also know that when it comes to moral destruction, behavior precedes belief—e.g., a boy fornicates long enough, and a boy will begin to believe that it's part of the faith, as the priest stands by mute but smiling yes.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 23, 2017 1:37 PM ET USA

    Even if contraception were not gravely immoral, natural family planning (NFP) techniques would still be highly justified on medical and scientific grounds. On medical grounds: every toxin or potential toxin, mechanical contraption, or barrier has the potential for unintended consequences. NFP has no, nor it can have, undesirable side effects. On scientific grounds: NFP has been demonstrated for more than 20,000 women to be 99%+ effective at regulating natural births (Ryder, BMJ, 1993, p. 723-6).

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 23, 2017 12:04 PM ET USA

    The Holy Spirit will never let the Church fall into error, which doesn't mean that the gates of the netherworld would not make attempts to prevail.