INTRO: The Fathers of the Church said it. The Catechism said it. The Popes said it. At last Pope Benedict XVI said it. Now I can make up my mind. Or can I? Pope Benedict in his Dec. 20 address to the Roman Curia said it. The crisis in the world today is caused by the "collapse of the sense of morality." And no power in sight can stop this decline. Because it is a decline due to sin and God will not stop sin. God can only protect the faithful.
1. The Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on Family Planning created a ruse within the Church. The revolt was so noticeable many were surprised there were no excommunications that occurred when the rebellion was deserving of excommunications.
But the Church is always slow in reacting because the root cause of this rebellion is not mere disobedience but a more complicated lost of the sense of morality. The error was not due to ignorance in the natural level but in dragging down everything supernatural down the natural level. It is the absence of Faith!
This is a deeper problem and cannot just be handled with excommunications. We are faced with people who in their ignorance believe deeply that family planning is not evil or better still is a good to be desired. The sense of morality in the Catholic sense is completely non-existing.
2. This is a question on Catholic Ethics or morality. What is right and what is wrong in the eyes of God. Morality was not a problem at the times of the Fathers and even up to the 12th century. The question of morality beleaguered the Church at the time when William of Ockam introduced the heresy of Nominalism into the Theology course of seminarians, specially at the University of Paris. This era was the time of the 'Decline of Catholic civilization' in Europe. The Catholic church was dragged down by philosophies from her supernatural throne to the natural that William, a Franciscan, believed that the Emperor can intervene with Church matters. The Black Death that killed many priests and bishops and the ascendancy of new priests stained with Nominalism saw a generation with no sense of true Catholic morality. How can the sense of morality of the Catholic Church suddenly disappear in the 13th century?
Though the 13 hundreds boasts of great Popes, great saints and new good religious communities the tide towards the lost of the sense of catholic morality could not be stemmed. It was too great. Men were loosing the sense of the supernatural at that early age and with it the sense of morality. Suddenly, even schools of theology could not define morality or ethics correctly up to the 19th hundreds and the stench of nominalism could be traced up to Vatican II blurring the doctrines on ecclesiology and christology that Pope Paul VI had to intervene.
3. The problem of knowing what is right from wrong is the story of Eden where the question was placed before Adam and Eve. Who decides what is moral? Is it God or Adam/Eve? What is moral? Subjection to God or subjection to man? Is it doing God's Will or doing man's self will?
It was only about the 19th century after great attempts to restore the teachings of St. Thomas of Aquinas (initiated by Pope Leo XIII) that moral theology returned to the principles of St. Thomas and recaptured the once treasured principles of morality. Once more the Catholic Church could easily judge what was moral and what was immoral. But ignorance prevailed among the men of the Church and the faithful.
Family planning, abortion, gay clergy, condoms, sex education of children, and such old topics as liberation theology and women's ordination ....are these immoral? Yes, but because the reasons put forward is only in the level of moral philosophy the people are not convinced.
4. Let us redefine Catholic Ethics, the basis of Christian morality as defined by the Fathers of the Church and partially recovered these days for our guide. This is a branch of theology which studies human acts as to direct them to a loving vision of God seen as our true, complete happiness and our final end. This vision is attained by means of grace, the virtues, the gifts in the light of revelation and reason. Note that the basis for morality is in the supernatural level, not in the natural level; it is found in moral theology and not in moral philosophy.
An act is moral if it is a human act directed to the loving vision of God believed as one's true, complete source of happiness and one's final end. This act is known and accomplished with the aid of reason enlightened by Divine revelation. This enlightenment through Revelation is through the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity that comes with grace. And these virtues are fortified by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
5. Note that the elements of a moral act are supernatural elements....what makes an act moral is a supernatural reason. One gets the impression that only saints can do a moral act. Everybody else do immoral acts. But isn't that the definition of a 'good work' ...works done by a good person. It is not the work that is good but the person. And didn't St. Paul say everything outside of Faith is sin....because the person doing it is not good but evil.
6. In analyzing the morality of a "just war" and "family planning" the basis used by moral theologian is moral philosophy and not moral theology. It should be moral theology, the supernatural; whether it is 'my will' or 'God's Will'. Choosing one excludes the other, i.e. to choose 'my will' is to reject ' God's will.
Family Planning is immoral because it frustrate the natural goal of procreation...that is what we usually say. But that is only a natural reason. What is the supernatural reason why Family Planning is intrinsically evil.
Writings on 'unjust war' base its morality on whether the war was declare by the proper authorities, whether there is the possibility of righting the wrong and other norms. But all of these norms are norms of moral philosophy. There is no norm on whether it is God's will or not. Many wars in the Old Testament can be considered unjust war waged by the Israelites but because they were commanded by God to go to war they were moral wars for the Istraelites. So an act can be immoral in the natural level but moral in the supernatural level.
Let us try to analyze the morality of Family Planning in general and Natural Family Planning together with the Billings method in particular basing it on the definition given above.
Are these three (namely, Family Planning, Natural Family Planning and Billings method) human acts? If we look at the definition of human acts, they are not.
Do they direct us to the loving vision of God? If they are according to the Will of God they will direct us to the loving vision of God, if otherwise they will not. That is what happened to the angels. Those who obeyed God's will remained as good angels in heaven; and those who did their own will became devils deprived of the loving vision of God. So everything can be reduced to whether we do God's Will or our will.
Will Family Planning direct us to the loving vision of God? Is this God's will or our will? Obviously, Family planning is the decision of an individual in complete disregard of God's will. So it cannot direct us to the loving vision of God. That is what makes it intrinsically evil. It is a direct following of one's individual or subjective will completely disregarding the will of God.
Now let us look at the Natural Family Planning practiced by most Catholics. Paula wants to have a baby but not now. As a Catholic she wants to follow God's will. So she does not practice family planning as prohibited by the Church. She does nothing to harm the foetus. She takes no medication that will prevent the birth of a child. But she does not perform the marital act at times when there is the possibility of having a child. Her reasoning goes this way. My will is not to have a baby right now. Her practice of Natural family planning is to do her will for the present. She is ignoring what could be God's will. Her action is not to accomplish God's will but to accomplish her will. Her act does not comply with the definition of a moral act. Doing her will becomes an immoral act because her act was not directed to doing God's Will. It is possible that God's Will is not for her to have a child but the immorality of the act is based on the fact that she did not direct her action to accomplishing the Will of God but doing her own will.
This could work the other way around. Katrina wants to have a child. She uses the Billings method to precisely have a child. Isn't she using the Billings method to do what she wants...to have a child? What if God does not want her to have a child. If Katrina disregards this possibility and insist in doing her will of having a child would that not make her act in violation of the definition of morality? Because her action is not directed to doing God's Will but doing her own will.
7. The second part of the definition is what gets most of us in trouble. We can have a clear moral vision if we have grace, the theological virtues and 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit guided by Divine Revelation and reason. Without these man cannot perform a perfect human act directed towards a loving vision of God. When the heresy of Nominalism entered the Church, the men of the Church suddenly could not judge the morality of actions. We find everyone floating in the level of moral philosophy. Few could rise up to moral theology.
8. An act is moral if it is guided by grace, by the three theological virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let's boil it down. An act is moral if it is an act of Love of God. "If you love me keep my commands." So an act is moral if it is in accordance to the commands of God.....or if it is in accordance to the Will of God. Paula and Katrina were not open to God's Will in their desire to do their own will. Their desire had become immoral...not because they want a child or they do not want a child....but because they chose their will and not God' Will.
9. When Pope Paul VI declared Family Planning as immoral it is because it is an act of refusal of a creature to subject himself to his creator's Will and therefore an act that will prevent them from attaining their end of happiness in the vision of God.
10. This is the reason why it is difficult to sell the Billings and the Natural Family Planning methods to the Catholic populace. Compared to the condemnable methods there is no difference. All these methods are meant to frustrate the Will of the Creator and impose man's will on God.
There is no difference except for the fact that one uses non-evasive ways while the other uses criminal ways. But the end of both, Pope Benedict states in his Compedium of the Catechism, are intrinsically evil. "I came not to do my will but the will of My Father in heaven." It is 'my will' versus 'God's will.' It is easy to understand this if we simply go back to the sin of the Lucifer and the sin of Adam and Eve. It is 'my will' versus 'God's Will.'