Lincoln's Bishop Conley challenges faithful to embrace life, eschew contraception
March 25, 2014
In a pastoral letter released on March 25, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, has challenged the faithful to embrace married love and to reject the use of birth control.
“Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage,” the bishop writes. “I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.”
Bishop Conley opens his pastoral by citing the observation of Mother Teresa, who said that sacrifice is the language of love. “We live in a world short on love,” he says, noting that popular culture thinks of love in terms of “romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment.” That vision of love is ultimately unsatisfactory, he says, whereas Christian marriage allows man and woman to dedicate themselves freely and “inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new.”
“Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities,” Bishop Conley writes. He points to the “prophetic message” of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, and strongly recommends that Catholics read the document. He observes that Pope Paul accurately foresaw the dangers of the contraceptive mentality, which “has been so pervasive and so devastating.”
The bishop says that he was also moved by a pastoral letter written by his predecessor in Lincoln, Bishop Glennon Flavin, in 1991. That earlier pastoral, which explained and underlined the Church’s teaching against contraception, had an important influence on him during his early years of priestly ministry, Bishop Conley says.
In the pastoral—which is entitled “The language of love,” and will be distributed to all registered Catholics in the Lincoln diocese—Bishop Conley acknowledges that some couples will have good reason to delay or to space out the births of their children. In such instances, he says, natural family planning offers “an integrated, organic, and holistic approach to fertility care.”
“There is no legitimate medical reason to aid in the acts of contraception or sterilization,” Bishop Conley writes, in a message directed to health-care professionals. “No Catholic physician can honestly argue otherwise.”
Addressing himself to priests, the bishop urges them to “preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.”
“Today, openness to children is rarely celebrated, rarely understood, and rarely supported,” Bishop Conley says as he nears his conclusion. His pastoral letter is formally dated March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, in recognition of the Virgin Mary’s radical willingness to embrace God’s plan for her life.
- The language of love (Full text of pastoral)
- Contraception disrupts 'language of love,' Bishop Conley teaches (CNA)